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Hollywood 1978: 12 Neglected Features

Wednesday, August 8, 1979
7:30 p.m. Casey's Shadow & Halloween
Martin Ritt
John Carpenter (USA,1978)

Casey's Shadow

Those who admired Martin Ritt’s achievement in Norma Rae might wish to take a look at the film he made just before, Casey’s Shadow, which flopped terribly in its Spring 1978 release, despite almost unanimous critical praise. In New West, Stephen Farber noted: “It’s rare to find a family movie that an adult can watch without getting nauseous. Therefore, Casey’s Shadow arrives as a delightful surprise. Martin Ritt’s film tells an old-fashioned sentimental story - about a Cajun family raising a horse for the All-American Futurity sweepstakes - but tells it sensitively, without insulting the audience’s intelligence. Carol Sobieski’s script plays against cliche. The characters and relationships are observed with uncommon clarity and perception. The central figure, the disheveled horse trainer Lloyd Bourdelle (Walter Matthau), is coolly, honestly characterized.” Even Les Blank was impressed with Ritt’s evocation of Cajun life in Southwest Louisiana!

• Directed by Martin Ritt. Produced by Ray Stark. Screenplay by Carol Sobieski, suggested by John McPhee’s New Yorker piece, “Ruidoso.” Photographed by John A. Alonzo. With Walter Matthau, Alexis Smith, Andrew A. Rubin, Steve Burns, Susan Myers, Murray Hamilton, Harry Caesar, Michael Hershewe. (1978, 117 mins, color, 35mm, Print from Columbia Pictures)

Halloween

A low-budget horror film about an escaped lunatic/murderer, as frightening as The Exorcist, without relying on special effects, hailed for its “stylistic elegance” and “mythological reverberations” by Tom Allen (The Village Voice) and David Ansen (Newsweek). Director John Carpenter is 30 years old, a graduate of USC’s film school, and made his debut with Dark Star eight years ago; wrote the original screenplay for Eyes Of Laura Mars (it went through a dozen rewrites); his second feature was Assault On Precinct 13, now a cult sensation in England. Andrew Sarris notes that Carpenter acknowledges “the influence and inspiration of Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock, Luis Bunuel, and Roman Polanski.... Yet... he is far from being an eclectic throwback to older and wiser directors. Halloween may strike us as a fusion of Meet Me In St. Louis and Psycho, but Carpenter’s intoxicatingly fluid camera movements evoke a very original metaphysical instability that is thoroughly modern.... That he composed the mournfully melodious and perfectly appropriate score... suggests an awesome range of talent with respect to the rhythm and structure of narrative films....”
• Directed by John Carpenter. Written by Carpenter and Debra Hill. Music by Carpenter. Photographed by Dean Cunday. With Donald Pleasance, Jamie Lee Curtis, Nancy Loomis, P.J. Soles. (1978, 91 mins, color, 35mm, Print from Compass International)