Author Archives: Chicago Film Society

Find Out What’s the Matter with Helen? in Curtis Harrington’s Macabre Masterwork of Moppets & Murder

The Auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University – Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave
General Admission: $5 • NEIU Students: $2

Wednesday, March 1 @ 7:30 PM
WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH HELEN?
Directed by Curtis Harrington • 1971
After their sons are convicted of a grisly murder, Debbie Reynolds and Shelley Winters flee the death threats and small-town scorn of Depression-era Braddock, Iowa, and make their way to Hollywood. Galvanized by the success of Shirley Temple, Reynolds decides to open a dance academy for “moppets with ambitious moms,” while repressed evangelical Winters, who hasn’t seen a movie since King of Kings, endlessly thumps out “Goody Goody” on the piano. Reynolds quickly woos a Texas gazillionaire, but Winters can’t surrender to the California sun, finding ever-present reminders of past traumas. A superlative entry in the hag horror cycle penned by the subgenre’s originator, Henry Farrell (What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte), What’s the Matter with Helen? was a perfect project for Hollywood historian, avant-garde wunderkind, and exploitation maven Curtis Harrington. The supporting cast boasts assorted crazies (Timothy Carey as a hobo) and macabre Orson Welles collaborators (Dennis Weaver as Reynolds’s paramour, Agnes Moorehead riffing on radio evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, and Micheál MacLiammóir as the elocution coach who believes “your moppets must learn to speak distinctly, as well as shake their fat little legs”). Despite the release being sabotaged by a half-assed, spoiler-packed marketing campaign, Harrington cited Helen as his personal favorite among his films. (KW)
101 min • Filmways Pictures/Raymax Productions • 35mm from Park Circus
Preceded by: Thelma Todd & Patsy Kelly in “Beauty and the Bus” (Gus Meins, 1933) – 16mm – 18 min

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Forget Special Victims Unit and Criminal Intent:
Here’s the Original Law and Order in 35mm

The Auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University – Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave
General Admission: $5 • NEIU Students: $2

Tuesday, February 21 @ 7:30 PM
LAW AND ORDER
Directed by Edward L. Cahn • 1932
Before John Huston directed his father Walter to an Academy Award in The Treasure of Sierra Madre, Huston père et fils collaborated on an equally stark frontier morality play—Law and Order, a loose retelling of the Wyatt Earp saga. Walter Huston stars as Frame Johnson, the man who “cleaned up Kansas and killed thirty-five men, one for each year of his life.” Upon his arrival in Tombstone, he reluctantly takes up the mantle of town marshal, only to learn that his new constituents hold niceties like the rule of law in low regard. Scripted by John Huston from a W. R. Burnett novel, Law and Order is further enlivened by the prowling, energetic camera sense of Edward L. Cahn, a longtime editor and apprentice of Paul Leni and Paul Fejos who began his solo directorial career with this film. Curator Dave Kehr and filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier have recently touted the vigor of Cahn’s early work, but the late historian William K. Everson sang the praises of Law and Order as far back as 1962, citing it as the only sound Western to match the “documentary-like austerity” of William S. Hart’s magisterial silent efforts. Avoid the 1952 Technicolor remake with Ronald Reagan! (KW)
75 min • Universal Pictures • 35mm from Universal
Preceded by: “Willie the Kid” (Robert Cannon, 1952) – 16mm – 7 min

 

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Here’s the Original Law and Order in 35mm

“An Oasis of Estrogen Ennui” – Faye Dunaway in Jerry Schatzberg’s Puzzle of a Downfall Child – 35mm Screening

The Auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University – Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave
General Admission: $5 • NEIU Students: $2

Wednesday, February 15 @ 7:30 PM
PUZZLE OF A DOWNFALL CHILD
Directed by Jerry Schatzberg • 1970
The first feature from Jerry Schatzberg, the Bronx-born fashion photographer who contributed to Vogue and Esquire and shot the album jacket for Blonde on Blonde, is the kind of purposefully obtuse, awesomely ambiguous, sharp-as-a-stiletto psychological melodrama that could only have emerged from early ’70s Hollywood.  A character study of troubled fashion model Lou Andreas Sand (Faye Dunaway, stunning), Puzzle of a Downfall Child assays a fragmented, nonlinear narrative style to match the mindset of its profoundly unreliable narrator. It plays like an art house version of Valley of the Dolls, as if directed by Alain Resnais. (The masterful editing is the work of Evan Lottman, who would evoke a similar sense of unease in The Exorcist and The Muppets Take Manhattan.) Recalling her career from her beachside cottage after a nervous breakdown, Lou sketches a journey marked by professional betrayal and sexual predation from mentors (Viveca Lindfors), suitors (Barry Primus), and ad execs (Roy Scheider). Written by Five Easy Pieces scribe Carole Eastman under her usual pseudonym Adrien Joyce, Puzzle remains notable, in the words of film blogger Ken Anderson, as “an oasis of estrogen ennui in the testosterone-laden desert of male-centric ’70s films romanticizing male identity crises and masculine existential moments-of-reckoning.” Long regarded as a classic in France but practically invisible in the US, this beguiling Puzzle deserves to be unlocked. (KW)
104 min • Universal Pictures • 35mm from Universal
Short: “Confessions of a Stardreamer” (John Canemaker, 1978) – 16mm – 9 min

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Bob Furmanek & Ted Okuda Introduce Jerry Lewis’s
The Errand Boy in a Rare 35mm Screening

The Auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University – Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave
General Admission: $5 • NEIU Students: $2

Wednesday, February 8 @ 7:30 PM
THE ERRAND BOY
Directed by Jerry Lewis • 1961
If I see if it says I go to a place, I go there, but if I don’t, ’cause then it won’t be clear… Paramutual Pictures is bleeding money and nobody can figure out where from, so studio head Tom ‘T.P.’ Paramutual (Brian Donlevy) hires Morty S. Tashman (Jerry Lewis)–“someone so stupid he won’t realize he’s eavesdropping”–as a spy. What follows is an episodic collection of some of Jerry Lewis’s best scenes: a heart-to-heart with a stuffed ostrich and a tiny clown, an elevator-as-sardine-can skit from hell, and a pantomime to the Count Basie Orchestra’s Blues in Hoss, Flat which has inspired several hundred YouTube parodies. An obfuscation of the English language and the rules of comedy, The Errand Boy turns Hollywood on its head, gleefully shaking out every nickel and jelly bean and tooting a gleeful “screw you!” to moviegoers who just don’t get Jerry Lewis. Hardcore Three Stooges fans will recognize Joe Besser in a small supporting role as a studio projectionist. (JA)
92 min • Paramount Pictures • 35mm from NWCFS collections, courtesy of Jerry Lewis.
Film Stock: Agfa Gevaert
Preceded by: Outtakes from The Ladies Man – 35mm – 4 min
Introduced by Jerry Lewis historians Bob Furmanek and Ted Okuda

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The Errand Boy in a Rare 35mm Screening

Life Ain’t No Candy Mountain: Punk Out with Robert Frank and Rudy Wurlitzer’s Cult Weirdo Road Movie in 35mm

Music Box Theatre – 3733 N. Southport Ave.
General Admission: $7

Monday, February 6 @ 7:30 PM
CANDY MOUNTAIN
Directed by Robert Frank and Rudy Wurlitzer • 1987
The cult rock ‘n’ roll weirdo road movie of your dreams, the wildly underseen and very funny Candy Mountain somehow manages to be both a lark and a creative and thematic apotheosis for both of its codirectors, photographer/filmmaker Robert Frank and novelist/screenwriter Rudy Wurlitzer. Mediocre musician and all-around jackass Julius (Kevin J. O’Connor) insinuates himself into a deal to track down legendary and reclusive guitar maker Elmore Silk, an oblique figure who has left a trail of disgruntled family members and forlorn ex-lovers in his wake. Julius finds that nothing about his assignment is easy as he loses vehicle after vehicle, drinks himself into a stupor, and meets innumerable deranged personalities (a great many of whom are played by notable musicians, including Tom Waits as a yuppie, Joe Strummer and Arto Lindsay as the world’s worst no wave band, and Dr. John as a wheelchair-bound psychopath) whom he invariably leaves frustrated, confused, or enraged. Given that Frank and Wurlitzer were best known, respectively, for the photography book The Americans and the screenplay for Two-Lane Blacktop, it should come as no shock that their feature film collaboration would so greatly concern itself with America’s preoccupation with the road and wayward notions of freedom. Nor should its deeply odd, dead-end splendor surprise us, given the tremendous creative brain trust involved. (CW)
91 min • Xanadu Films  • 35mm from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Preceded by: “Energy and How to Get It” (Robert Frank, Rudy Wurlitzer, and Gary Hill, 1981) – 16mm – 28 min

Buy Tickets in advance on Brown Paper Tickets.

——

And join us again next week for our regularly scheduled program at:

The Auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University – Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave
General Admission: $5 • NEIU Students: $2

Wednesday, February 8 @ 7:30 PM
THE ERRAND BOY
Directed by Jerry Lewis • 1961
If I see if it says I go to a place, I go there, but if I don’t, ’cause then it won’t be clear… Paramutual Pictures is bleeding money and nobody can figure out where from, so studio head Tom ‘T.P.’ Paramutual (Brian Donlevy) hires Morty S. Tashman (Jerry Lewis)–“someone so stupid he won’t realize he’s eavesdropping”–as a spy. What follows is an episodic collection of some of Jerry Lewis’s best scenes: a heart-to-heart with a stuffed ostrich and a tiny clown, an elevator-as-sardine-can skit from hell, and a pantomime to the Count Basie Orchestra’s Blues in Hoss, Flat which has inspired several hundred YouTube parodies. An obfuscation of the English language and the rules of comedy, The Errand Boy turns Hollywood on its head, gleefully shaking out every nickel and jelly bean and tooting a gleeful “screw you!” to moviegoers who just don’t get Jerry Lewis. Hardcore Three Stooges fans will recognize Joe Besser in a small supporting role as a studio projectionist. (JA)
92 min • Paramount Pictures • 35mm from NWCFS collections, courtesy of Jerry Lewis.
Preceded by: Outtakes from The Ladies Man – 35mm – 4 min
Introduced by Jerry Lewis historians Bob Furmanek and Ted Okuda

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Where To?: Jim Jarmusch’s Late Nite Classic
Night on Earth — 35mm Screening

The Auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University – Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave
General Admission: $5 • NEIU Students: $2

Wednesday, February 1 @ 7:30 PM
NIGHT ON EARTH
Directed by Jim Jarmusch • 1991
The fifth feature from Jim Jarmusch, patron saint of wandering souls, the heavily cosmopolitan Night on Earth is one of his three “vignette” films, sitting between Mystery Train and Coffee and Cigarettes. Taking place in five different cities around the world, each segment shows strangers in the night coming together in that most underrated of intimate spaces, the taxicab. Like most of Jarmusch’s films, Night on Earth is thematically huge and small at the same time; the phrase “Where to?”, uttered from the cab drivers to their fares, can and does elicit an infinite variety of answers, profound and otherwise. Night on Earth features a dizzying array of actors, including (but not limited to) Béatrice Dalle, Isaach De Bankóle, Roberto Benigni, Giancarlo Esposito, Rosie Perez, Gena Rowlands, and Winona Ryder, epitomizing early ’90s chic. (Jarmusch apparently chose the cities–Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Rome, and Helsinki–based on who he wanted to work with.) With brooding cinematography by longtime Jarmusch collaborator Frederick Elmes (Blue Velvet, The Ice Storm) and a soundtrack by Tom Waits at his most guttural. Come for the actors and stay for the taxis, including Ryder’s 1981 Chevy Caprice Wagon, a true thing of beauty. (RL)
128 min •  JVC Entertainment Networks • 35mm from Janus Films
Film Stock: Eastman LPP (1991)
Preceded by: Alvin and the Chipmunks in “Finiculi Finicula” (1960) – 16mm – 3 min

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Night on Earth — 35mm Screening

Eat or Be Et: Nicholas Ray and Budd Schulberg’s
Wind Across the Everglades in Gatorific 35mm

The Auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University – Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave
General Admission: $5 • NEIU Students: $2

Wednesday, January 25 @ 7:30 PM
WIND ACROSS THE EVERGLADES
Directed by Nicholas Ray • 1958
Dead in the midst of another brutal Chicago winter, we may look upon the vision of balmy South Florida seen in Nicholas Ray’s brilliantly haphazard environmentalist swamp western Wind Across the Everglades for a glimpse of all we’re missing: fever, drunken madness, and death by any one of the region’s plethora of toxic flora and fauna. Having just arrived in turn-of-the-century Miami, outspoken conservationist Walt Murdock (Christopher Plummer) is summarily hired as game warden for the Everglades and immediately tasked with going after a gang of poachers who are killing off the region’s birds and selling their feathers. A career-best Burl Ives leads the gang as Cottonmouth, named for the venomous snake kept in his pocket, who lives by the philosophy of “eat or be et”, and prides himself on being “swamp-born, swamp-fattened.” The all-location production of Wind Across the Everglades was notoriously tempestuous, with cast and crew members sick or soused for much of its making. Ray himself was fired before the film wrapped due to his erratic behavior and conspicuous heroin habit. While Wind Across the Everglades certainly bears the scars of its troubled makings, it remains a key film in Ray’s filmography. It’s hard to imagine a smoother shoot yielding a film so unique, vigorous, or full of life. (CW)
93 min •  Warner Bros. • 35mm from Warner Bros.
Film Stock: Kodak 2383 (2002)
Preceded by: “Weekend at Weeki Wachee” (1964) – 35mm – 12 min

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Wind Across the Everglades in Gatorific 35mm

Morning Post Editor Saves Hanged Man, Colleague:
The Front Page – Chicago Restoration Premiere in 35mm

Music Box Theatre – 3733 N. Southport Ave.
General Admission: $7

Monday, January 23 @ 7:00 PM / Chicago Restoration Premiere
THE FRONT PAGE
Directed by Lewis Milestone • 1931
Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s 1928 play is one of the most durable comedies in the American repertory, and Lewis Milestone’s brash and brisk screen adaptation deserves a place of pride alongside it. Set in Prohibition-era Chicago, this cynical valentine to the ink-stained wretches of the world chronicles ace reporter Hildy Johnson’s fitful efforts to get married, settle down, and leave his yellow profession behind. But Hildy’s hard-assed editor, Walter Burns, can’t lose his best scrivener, especially when the imminent execution of a Red rabble-rouser is worth its weight in column inches. The play would be adapted for the screen another half-dozen times (including formidable efforts by Howard Hawks and Billy Wilder), but Milestone’s 1931 version with Pat O’Brien and Adolphe Menjou comes closest to matching Hecht and MacArthur’s devil-may-care immediacy; it’s not a period piece, but a vulgar salute ripping through the air. Contemporary reviewers lavished The Front Page with superlatives: Harry Alan Potamkin anointed Milestone the first major cinema innovator since D. W. Griffith, and Pare Lorentz urged his readers to see this “extraordinary movie” before “Mr. Hays, Mr. Akerson, or the Republican Committee on Humor burn all the available prints.” No prints were burned, but we’ve had to suffice with a toned-down version prepared for European audiences from alternate takes — until now. Finally restored to the original American release version for the first time in decades, The Front Page is a pre-Code marvel with a machine-gun stride. (KW)
Restored in 2016 by the Academy Film Archive and The Film Foundation. Restoration funding provided by the George Lucas Family Foundation. Elements for this restoration provided by The Howard Hughes Corporation, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas College of Fine Arts, Department of Film and its Howard Hughes Collection at the Academy Film Archive.
98 min • The Caddo Company • 35mm from Academy Film Archive
Film Stock: Kodak Lab: Fotokem
Preceded by: Betty Boop in “Admission Free” (Dave Fleischer, 1932) – 16mm – 7 min

Buy Tickets in advance on Brown Paper Tickets.

——

And join us again next week for our regularly scheduled program at:

The Auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University – Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave
General Admission: $5 • NEIU Students: $2

Wednesday, January 25 @ 7:30 PM / NEIU
WIND ACROSS THE EVERGLADES
Directed by Nicholas Ray • 1958
Dead in the midst of another brutal Chicago winter, we may look upon the vision of balmy South Florida seen in Nicholas Ray’s brilliantly haphazard environmentalist swamp western Wind Across the Everglades for a glimpse of all we’re missing: fever, drunken madness, and death by any one of the region’s plethora of toxic flora and fauna. Having just arrived in turn-of-the-century Miami, outspoken conservationist Walt Murdock (Christopher Plummer) is summarily hired as game warden for the Everglades and immediately tasked with going after a gang of poachers who are killing off the region’s birds and selling their feathers. A career-best Burl Ives leads the gang as Cottonmouth, named for the venomous snake kept in his pocket, who lives by the philosophy of “eat or be et”, and prides himself on being “swamp-born, swamp-fattened.” The all-location production of Wind Across the Everglades was notoriously tempestuous, with cast and crew members sick or soused for much of its making. Ray himself was fired before the film wrapped due to his erratic behavior and conspicuous heroin habit. While Wind Across the Everglades certainly bears the scars of its troubled makings, it remains a key film in Ray’s filmography. It’s hard to imagine a smoother shoot yielding a film so unique, vigorous, or full of life. (CW)
93 min •  Warner Bros. • 35mm from Warner Bros.
Preceded by: “Weekend at Weeki Wachee” (1964) – 35mm – 12 min

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The Front Page – Chicago Restoration Premiere in 35mm

Credit Card Cinema: Robert Townsend’s Hilarious
Satire Hollywood Shuffle Returns in 35mm

The Auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University – Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave
General Admission: $5 • NEIU Students: $2

02 Hollywood SHuffle 600

Wednesday, January 18 @ 7:30 PM
HOLLYWOOD SHUFFLE
Directed by Robert Townsend • 1987
Bobby Taylor works for the Winky-Dinky-Dog stand but dreams of stardom and sets out for Hollywood despite the advice of his coworkers. A funny-as-hell, take-no-prisoners critique of Hollywood’s stereotypical portrayal of African Americans, Hollywood Shuffle was inspired by Chicago-born Robert Townsend’s own experiences in show business after his starring role in A Soldier’s Story: “I started getting calls for slaves, pimps, muggers, and rapists, and I said ‘I can’t do this…’ so I said ‘I’ll go do my own film. I didn’t go to film school, but I had seen enough bad movies to know what I don’t like.’” Made for $100,000 using Townsend’s savings and credit cards, Hollywood Shuffle’s energy is manic and infectious, so much so that it made its budget back fifty times over. The jokes still cut close to the bone, and, per the Washington Post, “should thoroughly embarrass those studios that routinely offer up badly made, multimillion-dollar disasters.” (JA)
82 min •  Conquering Unicorn • 35mm from Park Circus
Film Stock: Eastman LPP (1986)
Preceded by: “Uptown Saturday Night” Production Short – 16mm – 9 min

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Satire Hollywood Shuffle Returns in 35mm

Experience Boardinghouse in All the Psychedelic Madness of Horror Vision – Music Box Midnights – 35mm Screening

Music Box Theatre – 3733 N. Southport Ave.
General Admission: $9

01A Boardinghouse 600Friday, January 13 & Saturday, January 14 @ 11:59 PM
BOARDINGHOUSE
Directed by John Wintergate • 1982
Co-presented by Odd Obsession, Chicago Film Society, and the Music Box Theatre
A decade after a series of unexplained deaths occurred on the property, new age meditation specialist and psychic warrior Jim Royce has inherited the ominous Hoffman house and opened it as a residence for “unattached and beautiful” women. Soon enough, people begin dying in gruesome and mysterious ways and it’s up to Jim and one of his psychically gifted tenants to go to battle with the dark forces attached to the house. The brainchild of new age workshop leaders and rock musicians Johnima and Kalassu Wintergate (playing the leads, with Johnima also writing and directing) and prominently featuring the music of their band Lightstorm (who’ve recently been feted with a greatest hits compilation courtesy of Drag City Records), Boardinghouse found the couple’s spiritual concerns inscrutably butting up against the excesses of sex and violence endemic to the independent horror marketplace. Possessed with a bizarre energy all its own, as well as an arbitrarily deployed “Horror Vision” gimmick, Boardinghouse manages to never coast or sit still throughout its runtime, ping-ponging between stalk-and-slash fakeouts, psychedelic video effects-laden freakouts, and legitimately eerie paranormal creep-outs. The first horror film to be shot on oh-so-80s analog video, Boardinghouse is an essential piece of lunatic cinema, complete with requisite high levels of gore and camp and presented in an archival 35mm print! (CW)
98 min • Blustarr • 35mm from the American Genre Film Archive

——

And join us again next week for our regularly scheduled program at:

The Auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University – Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave
General Admission: $5 • NEIU Students: $2

02 Hollywood SHuffle 600

Wednesday, January 18 @ 7:30 PM
HOLLYWOOD SHUFFLE
Directed by Robert Townsend • 1987
Bobby Taylor works for the Winky-Dinky-Dog stand but dreams of stardom and sets out for Hollywood despite the advice of his coworkers. A funny-as-hell, take-no-prisoners critique of Hollywood’s stereotypical portrayal of African Americans, Hollywood Shuffle was inspired by Chicago-born Robert Townsend’s own experiences in show business after his starring role in A Soldier’s Story: “I started getting calls for slaves, pimps, muggers, and rapists, and I said ‘I can’t do this…’ so I said ‘I’ll go do my own film. I didn’t go to film school, but I had seen enough bad movies to know what I don’t like.’” Made for $100,000 using Townsend’s savings and credit cards, Hollywood Shuffle’s energy is manic and infectious, so much so that it made its budget back fifty times over. The jokes still cut close to the bone, and, per the Washington Post, “should thoroughly embarrass those studios that routinely offer up badly made, multimillion-dollar disasters.” (JA)
82 min •  Conquering Unicorn • 35mm Park Circus
Preceded by: “Uptown Saturday Night” Production Short – 16mm – 9 min

Posted in News | Comments Off on Experience Boardinghouse in All the Psychedelic Madness of Horror Vision – Music Box Midnights – 35mm Screening