Sunday, 17 May 2009

The Projectionist (1971)

It's ages since I watched this movie for the first time and I had forgotten what a treat it is for the movie buff. Like the French flick "One Hundred Years for Mr. Cinema" which has also never been available here, it's one of those movies filled with classic clips and one can happily play "spot the reference". This small independent film stars one Chuck McCann (no, I never heard of him either) playing the projectionist at a New York moviehouse that has obviously seen better days. He wiles away the lonely hours losing himself in the projected films, dreaming conversations with his movie heroes, and imagining a world where he plays superhero Captain Flash, slaying his enemies, and winning the fair damsel.

The theatre manager is a brash Rodney Dangerfield in his first film role, trying to pretend that he is running a first-class house, and browbeating the projectionist and the other downtrodden staff. These scenes of reality are in garish colour, while the fantasy sequences are in black and white. Dangerfield morphs into Captain Flash's nemesis, the Bat, until he is finally vanquished by our daydreaming hero. There is incredibly clever use of clips from far better-known films slipped seamlessly into McCann's imagination, which are used to flesh out his quest and to create make-believe scenarios and a hilarious 'end-of-the-world' trailer. Considering how much fun this film is, I was somewhat surprised to see its relatively low IMDb rating of 5.6 out of 10. Granted the film is uneven and the Flash scenario a little clunky at times, but it is hard to dislike such a sweet film and to my mind it is the perfect cult movie. Then again, not everyone is quite so demented about movies as I am.

I was hoping for some end credits to see if the various clips were acknowledged, but there were none, although IMDb do have a page listing the various film references, both in action sequences and clips. One wonders how such an obviously low-budget effort managed to obtain clearance for so many studio clips and it would not surprise me to learn that this was guerilla film-making without the necessary clearances. Had the movie been more successful, I suspect someone would have jumped upon it with jackboots and this oddity might have been lost to us. And that would be a pity...

I shall be away for the rest of the week, so no new posts for the next few days.
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