They keep saying that the DVD format is on its last legs and yet they still keep coming out with very interesting and worthwhile releases and especially older catalog studio titles (most of which are new to DVD) and for which there is still obviously a significant demand for.
The latest case in point are two fascinating releases coming out on both standard and Blu-ray DVD in October from Olive Films which has been regularly releasing many older Paramount and other studio titles for the first time on DVD.
The first one is Syndey Pollack’s 1965 film The Slender Thread with Sidney Poitier, Anne Bancroft and Telly Savalas which Tambay reviewed and discussed on S & A back in May abd which you can read HERE.
It’s a well acted, solidly made, suspense drama in which Poitier plays an overnight voulinteer at a suicide prevention crisis center who spends the entire night trying to keep a unkonwn woman on the phone (Bancroft) from killing herslf. And having seen this film a couiple of times myself, I definitely agree with Tambay that it’s well worth watching.
But the even more intriguing release, also coming out that month, is director Jules Dassin’s rarely seen 1968 black revolutionary drama Up Tight! made by Paramount which was released in December 1968.
It’s hard to imagine any major studio backing and releasing, let alone even this even thinking about, making a film like this today. And though it may look very dated and didactic today, it was quite cutting edge and shocking when it first came out. In fact the film even makes references to the Martin Luther King assasination which occured just 8 months earlier, so the film must have seemed as if it was made just the previous week to audiences back then.
So hot was this film that it has never even been released on VHS tape (execpt for some crappy bootleg copies) and I can’t recall any TV broadcasts of the film unless it’s been shown on cable TV at one time.
The film was actually a remake of John Fords’s 1935 film The Informer in which an Irish Republican Army member informs on his freinds and his hunted down and eventually killed by them.
Dassin, had long had an idea to make a black adaptation of Ford’s film, especially after the “black power” movement came into full bloom during the late 1960’s. (Ahhhh… those were the good old days) But Dassin by then had already had share fair share of controversay,
He had been a major Hollywood studio film director making some terrfific tough crime dramas such as Brute Force, Night and the City and The Naked City, all three films “absolute must” viewing But by the early 1950’s he had been blacklisted by Hollywood, along with many other directors, writers and actors, during Senator Joe McCarthy’s and the Congressional House of Un-American Activities Committee “Red Scare” witch huint because of his leftist politics and left for Europe to continue his cacreer. He continued making films such as the classic heist film Rififi in France and the more comic version of it Topkapi in 1964, among other films.
Up Tight! was his only American made film after resettling in Europe (and after the “witch hunt” had died down and the alcoholic McCarthy totally discredited) shooting the film in Cleveland and Los Angeles. And the film starred what seemed like every important black actor and actress at the time (including Rudy Dee who also co-wrote the film with Dassin) except for Poitier and Harry Belafonte.
However Dassin, perhaps feeling he had been away from Hollywood too long and since his films, from the early 60’s, were being financed by American studios, returned to Europe to continue his directing career. He passed away in 2008 at the age of 96 in Athens where he had made his home for many years.
But despite whatever faults it may have, I still think Up Tight! is an important film from what I still consider to be the most fascinating and maybe most important period in American filmmaking and well worth a look.
Check out the clip below from the film. Though obviously the image quality is pretty lousy, no doubt rest assured the blu-ray will look a whole lot better.