I first wrote about this oddball curiosity some three years ago back when it was beginning to develop a genuine cult following. Something which is somewhat more surprising since practically no one has ever seen it. How obscure is it? So obscure that even I have never seen it. However, that’s going to change very soon, and I’ll get to that in a minute. But indulge me first.
The film I’m referring to is the 1974 dramatic musical, “Catch My Soul”. Never heard of it? It went in and out of theaters so fast that one didn’t have time to blink. And it’s been hard to see since it has been never been released on DVD or even on VHS.
The film is a rock musical version of “Othello,” with folk singer Richie Havens (who passed away in 2013 at the age of 72) in the lead role, and who, in this version, is an evangelist preacher in New Mexico led to believe that his wife, Desdemona, is cheating on him with the treacherous Iago. Of course, we all know how the the story ends.
The film was based on a late 1960’s London stage production, produced by and starring the British television and music producer, Jack Good as Othello, and who was, at the time, the U.K. version of Dick Clark. Since he was white, he either removed the racial aspects of Shakespeare’s play from his stage version or, unfortunately, he might have played the role on stage in blackface, as white actors who played Othello have done. Though Good also produced the film version, they wisely got a black man to play the role in the film; although, according to reviews, Havens wasn’t that good in the film.
“Catch My Soul” came out around the same time as director Norman Jewison’s very successful film version of the very popular stage musical, “Jesus Christ Superstar,” so there were hopes that the film would follow in “Superstar’s” footsteps. However, bad reviews and poor box office pretty much killed it. The film was later re-released and retitled “Santa Fe Satan,” one supposes, to fool people into believing that it was some sort of “Exorcist” rip-off, and released in drive-ins, but it still did no business.
But what was also interesting is that the film was the only one directed by the eccentric actor Patrick McGoohan, who is better known for roles in films like “Ice Station Zebra,” “Braveheart,” “Silver Streak,” “A Time to Kill,” and most famously, in the great and bizarre late 60’s TV cult classic, “The Prisoner,” which he also created and produced.
However, as a director, McGoohan might have been somewhat lacking. I recall seeing a TV interview many years ago with Havens in which he briefly talked about the film and said that McGoohan wasn’t a great communicator, and was always vague about what exactly he wanted from his actors.
McGoohan, for his part, later laid the blame on Good, claiming that he “got religion” during the making of the film, converting to Catholicism, and recut the film, adding “more religious stuff”. McGoohan said that when he saw the final result, the film was “a disaster” and tried to get his name taken off the credits, to no avail.
But now everyone will now finally get a chance to see it, since the new specialty DVD label, Etiquette Pictures, is finally releasing the film this week, in a brand new blu-ray package, restored from the film’s original 35 MM negative.
Finally film lovers will get their chance to discover for themselves if “Catch My Soul” is truly worthy of its cult status… or maybe not.