Thursday, October 6, 2016

Famous Director's First Theatrical Movies, Part 2

                In this, the second in the series of famous director’s first theatrical movies, the focus will be on Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, and George Lucas.  While some directors’ first theatrical movies are released nationwide, other directors’ first-time movies receive minimal exposure, for example, the movie is released at a film festival but does not make it beyond that.  Still, most are available to watch somewhere, either to order on Amazon or watch/order on DVD through Netflix.  Here are the first time movies of three of the most famous directors.
                Martin Scorsese is known for films like Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The King of Comedy, Goodfellas and Casino, which feature, many times, Italian or Sicilian characters in a New York setting, though he has made many films which do not feature that setting or characters, such as The Last Temptation of Christ, The Aviator, Shutter Island and Hugo.  But back in 1965, Scorsese was making student short film called Bring on the Dancing Girls.  But Scorsese returned to his movie with a romance plot, which was introduced to the storyline.   The movie was released as I Call First at the Chicago Film Festival in 1967 but was later called Who’s That Knocking at My Door, and then after adding a sex scene to market for exploitation film purposes, the movie was released to the public as J.R. in 1970.  The story concerns a young Italian-American man, J.R., who at first just stays close to his friends, drinking without a care.  He then meets a girl, played by Zina Bethune, who makes him want to marry and settle down.  But her past, and J.R’s struggles with “Catholic guilt,” complicate their relationship.  The film was released on November 15, 1967, at the Chicago Film Festival, and can be found today under the name Who’s That Knocking at My Door.
Woody Allen has a neurotic comedic style that features New York in a very different way from the dramatic and many times violent style of Scorsese.  His most famous films are the ones which feature New York prominently and Allen starring in a comedic role, such as Annie Hall, Manhattan and Hannah and Her Sisters, though he considers his best films which feature other characters, such as Stardust Memories, The Purple Rose of Cairo and Match Point.  In the early 1960s, Allen was given the opportunity to write the screenplay for the movie, What’s New Pussycat?  However, he was disappointed with the final film, so he decided to direct all the subsequent movies he wrote, so to have creative control over his works.  The first film he was able to direct was called, What’s Up, Tiger Lily?  The movie was actually an overdubbed Japanese movie called (in the English Translation) International Secret Police: Key of Keys.  Instead of the original dialogue, Allen dubbed comedic lines onto a Japanese movie that was made like a James Bond thriller.  In his story, Phil Moskowitz searches for stolen egg salad recipe.  Just like in the movie What’s New Pussycat?, several changes were made to the film after Allen had finished filming it, so in all subsequent projects, he assumed creative control of his works. The movie was released in April 1966.
                George Lucas will be forever linked to his most famous creation, the original Star Wars Trilogy from 1977 to 1983, and the prequel trilogy from 1999 to 2005.  Other than his 1950s nostalgia film American Graffiti, his only other work is his first film, THX-1138.  George Lucas based the feature-length movie on his student film Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB.  In the late 1960s, Lucas and Coppola co-founded American Zoetrope Studio Company.  One of the first films on the list was THX-1138, in which totalitarian control from the State is exerted over the people where romantic engagements are outlawed, who have shaved heads, are forced to take drugs to control their mind and have designations like THX-1138 instead of names.  THX-1138 is a factory worker who has a female roommate named LUH 3147, who works surveillance.  After LUH secretly places her drugs instead of THX’s, THX is freed from his drugs and falls in love with LUH…but the truth of their relationship is soon discovered by the State and they are both put in danger.  But when the finished film was turned over to Warner Brothers, they were unhappy with the finished product and cut four minutes, and released on March 11, 1971.  In 1977, George Lucas re-released THX-1138 with the cut scenes reinserted, and this version is the one originally released to home video.  As George Lucas is prone to do, he released a 2004 Director’s Cut, digitally remastered with new background scenes added. 

                With these films, studio interference can directly influence the direction of filmmakers in the future, such as George Lucas or Woody Allen, and that during the making of the movie, several different version may exist, such as Scorsese’s movie or Lucas’ film.  However, it is still fascinating to see first time director’s efforts.  Check out these first movies from famous directors.  

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