Friday, January 2, 2009

Writers Institute to kick off Spring 2009 Classic Film Series with Edgar G. Ulmer Double Feature

Working with very small budgets, Edgar G. Ulmer developed a reputation for “spinning straw into gold” during his career as a director on “Poverty Row,” the Hollywood name for the short-lived, independent studios of the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s. We present two of his best short features, each of them shot in only six days.

DETOUR (United States, 1945, 67 minutes, b/w)
Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer
Starring Tom Neal, Ann Savage, Claudia Drake
Hailed by some as the best “B movie” ever made, Detour follows the bad luck of a musician who hitchhikes from New York to L.A., only to find himself trapped in a web of murder and intrigue. Critic David Thomson has called the film, “beyond remarkable…. a portrait of hell, and brilliantly done.”

BLUEBEARD (United States, 1944, 70 minutes, b/w)
Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer
Starring John Carradine, Jean Parker, Nils Asther
This enduring cult classic features a Parisian painter and puppeteer who murders his models after he paints them. A recent review in Time Out London called the film, “a triumph of mind, eye and talent over the matter handed him by a [tight studio] budget.”

J. Hoberman, Village Voice film critic:

"One of the most versatile and resourceful filmmakers in movie history, Edgar George Ulmer (1900-1972), worked in a bewildering variety of genres, countries, and languages. Ulmer was born in what is now the Czech republic and raised in imperial Vienna; originally a student of architecture, he broke into the film industry as a teenager and, serving mainly as a set designer, shuttled back and forth between Berlin and Hollywood through the early ‘30s. After directing a highly successful horror film, The Black Cat, for Universal in 1934, Ulmer relocated to New York City where for five years he directed an assortment of independent “ethnic” features—including a quartet of Yiddish-language talkies that have since become classics. (Jewish, but not Yiddish-speaking, Ulmer worked with many of the leading actors and writers of New York’s Yiddish theater.) In 1941, Ulmer returned to Hollywood. There, among many other low-budget genre films, he made the quintessential film noir, Detour in 1945; his last movies were produced in Europe."

"An underground auteur, largely unrecognized during his lifetime, Ulmer has since taken his place among cinema’s legendary figures—an inspiration for the French new wave and a precursor of the American independent film movement, as well as an innovative and unique stylist in his own right."

Note: The films will be screened on Friday, January 30 at 7:30 PM in Page Hall, 135 Western Ave., on the University at Albany's downtown campus.