Thursday, January 28, 2010

But I Might Die Tonight

My good friend Brian (aka bigbobfreelander) was able to interview Cult Movies and Guide for the Film Fanatic author Danny Peary last week for an upcoming magazine piece. Since Peary is a personal hero for both of us, and we are all UW-Madison alums, it was quite a thrill when Brian sent me an MP3 of the freshly recorded interview. Peary hasn't published a film-related book in nearly 20 years. Instead, he's focused on his other passion--baseball (which, as it happens, is my 2nd love after cinema). Tim McCarver's never been a favorite of mine, but he rises several notches in my personal rankings for having Peary as the writer of his nationally syndicated show.

I won't reveal too much before Brian's interview is published, but one of the most illuminating moments came when Peary discussed the way some of his pieces, particularly from the Cult Movies books, have followed him all these years later. Take Jerzy Skolimowksi's Deep End, for instance, a film I first learned of when I read its entry in the inaugural Cult Movies volume. The film has never been available on home video in the U.S. and tv screenings are rare. I finally saw it for the first time about a month ago when Brian sent me a bootleg. It turns out that quite a few other people were introduced to Deep End by Peary's article as well. When TCM aired the movie for the first time ever a couple weeks ago, Peary's e-mailbox and Facebook account were filled with messages from readers excited about the TCM broadcast of the film and crediting him with alerting them to the film.


The good news about Deep End doesn't end there. While TCM's print was very ragged, Bavaria, has restored the film and it will be coming to DVD from a variety of labels, including BFI and, hopefully, Criterion. In addition, Paramount, acting on the demand of several repertory programmers, struck a new print of the film in 2008, which is still making the rounds. Bavaria promises extra, previously unseen vault materials--I hope this means the alternate ending mentioned in a 1992 Scarlet Street interview with star John Moulder-Brown. I can't wait to see Skolimowski and d.p Charly Steinberger's vivid use of colors, particularly red, in HD (unless that new 35 print shows up in my neighborhood first).

Skolimowski's tale of a young bathhouse worker (Moulder-Brown) in London who becomes obsessed with his slightly older, beautiful colleague (Jane Asher) lived up to the expectations I had built up over the years, based on reviews like Peary's and how much I enjoyed the other Skolimowski films I had seen (The Shout, Moonlighting). This one begins as a coming-of-age story, but it becomes a lot more disturbing as it goes along and ultimately resists many of the conventions of the genre.


It goes without saying that Cat Stevens' "But I Might Die Tonight," used as Deep End's theme, will stay lodged in your head for days afterward in the same way that the Cat Stevens soundtrack from another famous 1971 Paramount film does and, if you're at all like me (read: possessing a weakness for stylish beauties, particularly French or British, of the mid-late '60s), you will have Jane Asher on the brain while you hum that tune.

And, just for the record, in my scorebook, Deep End continues the winning streak of films utilizing the music of Can or members of Can. Can keyboardist Irmin Schmidt contributed one of my favorite electronic scores to one of my favorite New German Cinema films, Knife in the Head. Can, inexplicably credited as "The Can" in Deep End's credits (similar to Goblin's "The Goblins" credit in Dawn of the Dead), contributes the spacey, guitar-dominated 14+ minute "Mother Sky" to one of the film's most memorable sequences.

You can hear the film version of "But I Might Die Tonight," outside of the film, here. One fan's valuable Film Fanatic resource is here.

Diane Dors, in a state we probably did not need to see her in, contributes one of the funniest and most cringe-inducing scenes of the film.

8 comments:

bobfreelander said...

Was so great to be able to talk to Peary like that! As you know, he has been a HUGE influence on my film tastes and my life as a result!

Ned Merrill said...

bobfreelander,

I was very excited for you and look forward to seeing the published interview along with the Dante one! Let me know what's next on the horizon.

McBeardo said...

Peary is the preeminent influence on my life as a both a professional writer and a critical-minded film fan.

The more I learn that there is a whole generation of us who were essentially "raised" by Peary, the more delirious it makes me.

About 10 years ago, I looked up Peary's number in the Manhattan phone book and called him. He answered and was incredibly gracious.

I also ran an interview with him by J.R. Taylor five years back at Mr. Skin (link contains some NSFW surroundings):

http://blog.mrskin.com/danny-peary-the-mack-midnight-movies---584

Ned Merrill said...

McBeardo- Thanks so much for your comments. I will surely take a listen to that interview you linked. I guess if there are Kaelites there can be Pearyites or Pearytes.

I agree with your findings that we are part of the "Peary generation" and am always enthused when I meet fellow Peary readers--it's somewhat akin to finding fellow fans of an obscure film or "cult movie" that, until then, you thought no one else knew existed.

I wrote Peary a letter when I was a teenager requesting films to be included in CULT MOVIES 4. But, I never had the moxie to call him up. Cheers to you for doing that!

christian said...

I've been wondering what happened to Peary as his books are some of the most readable and fascinating on my shelf. I miss his film writing.

Dean Treadway said...

I second the love displayed here of Mr. Peary's film writing, as you will see here at http://filmicability.blogspot.com/search/label/40%20best%20film%20books. I can say no more than I do in my piece, except that I despair that there will be no more new film books from him. A tremendous influence on me as a lover of film and a writer. And good news about DEEP END. I have a one-sheet for it that I'd like to value a little more by seeing the darn thing!

Ned Merrill said...

Dean,

Thanks for sharing your link. DEEP END has been showing on TCM lately and a DVD / Blu-ray is supposed to be forthcoming from BFI soon and, hopefully, Criterion a little later. Bavaria restored it recently.

Michael O'Sullivan said...

From not being available at all, we now have the 3-disk BFI release: the film, the Blu-ray and an extra disk of extras,including long interview with Jane Asher and John Moulder-Brown. I have admired Jane for decades but that very mysterious actor Moulder-Brown (his IMDB page has nothing about him) looks great 40 years later ... fascinating stuff. Jane's apricot hair and that yellow mac - what a colour combination. Like Antonioni and Polanski before him Skolimowski shows us a whole new side of London.