Anyone who’s been a regular reader of S & A knows that I love to to discuss and bring to attention long ago, forgotten films and TV shows that I think may be of interest to our readers.
As I like to say, when it comes to black films and black images on screen, how do you know where you’re going, if you don’t know where you’ve been? So, I intend to keep writing about forgotten black films and other pictures of interest, basically for you to gain some knowledge, because I like to do it, and maybe, hopefully these lost films and TV series will be seen again.
So, for today, let’s focus on the 1974 film “Catch My Soul.”
Never heard of it? It was in and out of theaters so fast that one didn’t have time to blink. I’ve never even seen the film myself, but I’ve always heard about it and been curious to see it. Up until recently, it had never been released on DVD or even on VHS, though there might have been previous bootleg copies of it floating around somewhere.
The film is a rock musical version of “Othello,” with folk singer Richie Havens in the lead, who, in this version, is an evangelical preacher in New Mexico who is led to believe that his wife Desdemona is cheating on him, by the treacherous Iago. Of course, we all know how that story ends.
The film was based on a late 60’s London stage production, produced by and starring Jack Good as Othello, who was, at the time, the U.K. version of Dick Clark. Since he was white, of course, we have to assume that he played the role on stage in blackface. Though Good also produced the film version, they wisely got a black man to play the lead in the film, although, according to reviews, Havens’ performance wasn’t very good.
The film was released at the same time as director Norman Jewison’s very successful film version of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” so there were hopes that “Catch My Soul” would follow in “Supertsar’s” footsteps. However, bad reviews and lackluster box office pretty much killed it.
The film was later retitled “Santa Fe Satan” and released in drive-ins, but still it did no business.
What’s also interesting is that it was the only film directed by actor Patrick McGoohan, who is better known for his roles in films like “Ice Station Zebra,” “Bravehaert,” “A Time to Kill,” and most famously, in the 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 “Catch My Soul” and said that McGoohan wasn’t a great communicator, and was always vague about what exactly he wanted from his actors.
McGooghan, for his part, later laid the blame on producer Jack Good, claiming that he “got religion’ during the making of the film, converting to Catholicism, and he recut the film adding “more religious stuff.” McGoohan also said that, when he saw the final result, the film was “a disaster,” and he tried to get his name taken off the credits, but to no avail.
For years, the film seemed to be lost, unseen, and maybe for good, as it wasn’t clear whether there was even a decent print anywhere to be found. But, thankfully, an outfit called Etiquette Pictures released “Catch my Soul” in a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack just last November (2015), so you can all now check it out. It’s a genuine curio. Pick up a copy for yourself here.
I couldn’t even find a trailer or clips from the film online, but someone was able to upload music from the film’s soundtrack on YouTube. Listen to one song below by Tony Joe White, titled “Working on a Building.”