My Picks for UCLA Film and Television Archive's 2015 Festival of Preservation
February 17, 2015
The UCLA Festival of Preservation only comes around once every two years, usually in March, and you can bet that my March calendar has been blocked off for the past five or six months.
When the Archive unveiled the 2015 schedule in early February, I clicked the link with excitement. The event always promises a mixture of film and television rediscoveries across a multitude of genres - after all, it’s called the UCLA Film and Television Archive, the second part I sometimes forget - and this year was no different.
Though I’ve lived in Los Angeles since 2009, I only stumbled upon the riches of the UCLA Film and Television Archive's public programs in 2012, and the first Festival of Preservation I attended was the 2013 edition, which I bought a pass for. At the time, I was considering applying for UCLA’s Moving Image Archive Studies Masters program, and several students in the program had passes too. I remember hanging out with them at the opening night reception and around town in Westwood, partly for fun and partly to pick their brains about school. It amazes me that two years have flown by so quickly; all the students I met back then have graduated and are working hard in the archival field now!
The 2013 Festival's opening night film, Gun Crazy.
One of my favorite films, Gun Crazy (1950), kicked off the 2013 Festival of Preservation, with Russ Tamblyn in attendance. Other highlights of mine included two ABC Stage ’67 episodes, one with Olivia de Havilland and the other starring Ingrid Bergman, and one of the first feature-length war documentaries, With the Greeks in the Firing Line, from 1913. I also couldn’t put my finger on where I heard Rose Marie speak, but it was here, for a screening of 1933’s International House. I really wish I had my blog back then so I would have at least recorded Marie's discussion for posterity; she was just as feisty and hilarious as she was all those years ago on The Dick Van Dyke Show (and yes, at 89, she still wore her signature bow in her hair).
The 2015 schedule shared several similarities to 2013's calendar: both included an abundance of film noirs, a handful of silents, an afternoon of Laurel and Hardy, clips from the LA Rebellion, episodes from Playhouse 90, updates to the Archive's Hearst Newsreel collection, and more.
2015's Festival of Preservation (via cinema.ucla.edu)
With that said, below are some of my must-see picks and a few screenings I'm sad that I'll have to miss out on:
March 5 – Men in War (1957) – I’m not normally a big fan of war films, but 1. It’s opening night, 2. It’s Robert Ryan, 3. It’s Anthony Mann, and 4. One of the actors, L.Q. Jones, will be in attendance alongside UCLA Film and Television Archive Director Jan-Christopher Horak.
March 6 – Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street (1972) – The title caught my eye. Plus, this 1972 German made-for-TV movie is the Archive’s 1st digital restoration AND it was directed by Sam Fuller (what the what...). Also, the summary hinted at some comedic elements, and I love when suspense stories add a nice dose of humor to even out the tone. Plus, it will be interesting to hear the Archive's digital media strategist, Randy Yantek, speak.
March 7 – Too Late for Tears (1949) and The Guilty (1947) – Sadly, the day this schedule was announced was also the day most of the world first learned of Lizabeth Scott's passing. Ironically, I had just mentioned to someone that Too Late for Tears was one of my favorite of her films, so I'm definitely making this screening a priority. As an added bonus, I finally get to see The Guilty, which was one of the movies I missed at Noir City this year. Bonita Granville tackles two roles AND it's not available on DVD or streaming. Not to be missed.
Too Late for Tears can get a bit intense.
March 8 – Bachelor's Affairs (1932) and Society Girl (1932) – Two pre-codes, one boasting an early Spencer Tracy performance. They had me at 'pre-code.'
March 13 – Private Property (1960) – Leslie Stevens' directorial debut, made for a microscopic $60,000, was "condemned by the National Catholic Legion of Decency," according to the Festival's website. I'm always so curious as to what must have triggered that censure, and what better way to find out then seeing it on the big screen! Plus, Stevens would go on to create The Outer Limits, and David J. Schow, author of The Outer Limits Companion, will be on hand for the screening.
March 20 – Brandy in the Wilderness (1969) – The summary online sounds a lot like an indie flick I would watch in theaters, today...but this was made over 40 years ago. As a big fan of independent film, I'm very happy to see UCLA preserving the history of this significant genre. It's hard enough for archives to try to save all the films in their libraries before it's too late, but indies pose an additional hurdle: most of them aren't as famous, or there are no well-known names involved, or they aren't deemed a potential financial bonanza, or all of the above. However, that's where programs like the National Film Registry come into play; luckily, Brandy in the Wilderness was added to the Library of Congress' list in 2013 to recognize films that are "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant, which I'm sure is at least part of the reason UCLA included it in the festival.
March 21 – White Zombie (1932) and Ouanga (1935) – Death threats, yellow fever, barracuda attacks, mud bogs...there's a reason director George Terwillger never made another movie after Ouanga, as UCLA notes. After reading about this British film's background, I am absolutely pumped to see it. Plus, the first picture on the bill this evening, White Zombie, is a cheap, pre-code horror flick with Bela Lugosi. Sounds like a wonderful companion piece to Ouanga - the more bizarre, the better, as far as I'm concerned (see also: the poster below).
The Love Wanga, aka Ouanga. The movie has a pretty bad rating on IMDb, but how can you not want to watch it after seeing this poster?!
March 22 (afternoon) – The Crime of Doctor Crespi (1935) and The Drums of Jeopardy (1931) – Both of these movies were independently made in the early 30s, so the fact that they still exist at all is exciting. The Drums of Jeopardy in particular was said to be "deteriorated to the brink of total extinction;" the restored print was assembled from a total of six different elements, meaning this film will basically be coming back to life right in front of us!
March 22 (evening) – Silent Fragments - I have film festival screening sessions that take up my Sunday evenings each week through April, so the timing of this event usually would be prohibitive. Usually. I may have to skip the film fest screenings this week, though, because I really enjoy watching the silent fragments UCLA programs. These bits and pieces represent a tiny fraction of what has survived against the odds, as a good 90% of silent films are thought lost. Of course, those that are known to exist sit in archives, private collections, and the like, but many aren't complete or preserved, which makes these selections all the more rare. Furthermore, some of these shorts are over a century old, and I often wonder if those involved with the making of these films thought they'd still be entertaining - and viewed! - all these years later.
One of the silent pieces programmed is Chapter 11 of The Adventures of Tarzan: "The Hidden Foe."
March 28 (afternoon) – Playhouse 90: “Alas, Babylon” – What a cast: Kim Hunter, Rita Moreno, Dana Andrews (in voiceover), and Barbara Rush and Don Murray, both of whom are scheduled to be in attendance. Plus, I always find it quite interesting to watch nuclear themed films and TV from the 50s and 60s to see how the industry reacted to the dawning of the nuclear age (and all the fear and uncertainly that came with it). Alas, the TCM Film Festival will be in full swing by March 28, so I doubt I'll be able to make it to Westwood from Hollywood in the middle of the day for this screening.
March 28 (evening) – Spring Night, Summer Night (1967) – Another captivating title, another intriguing (sounding) early indie flick that I'll unfortunately have to miss because the screening coincides with the TCM Classic Film Festival. After this movie was dropped from the 1968 New York Film Festival, it was snatched up by an exploitation distributor and re-titled Miss Jessica is Pregnant. How the title went from Spring Night, Summer Night to Miss Jessica is Pregnant, I have no clue, but I have to admit that I'm even more intrigued now...and even more upset that I have to skip out on this one.
My festival pass is secured, and I'm looking forward to catching as many of the 25 screenings as possible! Will anyone else be attending this year?