THERE are many people who slip through the cracks of Hollywood lore. Beyond the moguls, the stars and the directors who've become legends are scores of less-known individuals who helped popularize cinema during its first century. The stories of the filmmakers and entrepreneurs who made B (and sometimes Z) movies are often as compelling as those of their famous counterparts.
The American Cinematheque pays tribute to one such man, Jack Broder -- an exhibitor, distributor and producer whose career spanned Hollywood's golden age. Born in Russia in 1903, Broder immigrated to the U.S. as a young man, settling in Detroit. With his brother Paul, he moved into exhibition in 1935, before launching a chain of theaters in the 1940s.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday March 14, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 1 inches; 40 words Type of Material: Correction
3-D film -- The Screening Room column in Thursday's Calendar Weekend referred to the 3-D film that Jack Broder produced as "Hannah Mae." The correct title of the 1953 film is "Hannah Lee"; it was later reissued as "Outlaw Territory."
Broder Theaters was followed by the creation of Realart Pictures, which acquired the rights to and successfully re-released films from the Universal catalog -- "Son of Frankenstein," "The Bride of Frankenstein" and the like. In the early 1950s, Broder moved into producing, financing approximately a dozen films, including the 3-D western "Hannah Mae," starring Macdonald Carey, Joanne Dru and John Ireland.
Screening tonight are the rarely seen "Kid Monk Baroni," an earnest boxing melodrama starring a very young Leonard Nimoy as a street tough turned pugilist, and "Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla," featuring the horror icon and Martin-and-Lewis impersonators Duke Mitchell and Sammy Petrillo in a farce that plays like a proto-episode of "Gilligan's Island." The films, both released in 1952, have a type of charm that has largely been lost. "Baroni" cast members Nimoy, Jack Larson, Mona Knox and producer Judd Benard are scheduled to participate in a discussion of Broder's career between films.
The great indoors
Jennifer Reeves' penetrating "The Time We Killed," presented by FilmForum, is an expressionistic representation of a young writer's unsteady life.
Poet Lisa Jarnot plays Robyn, an agoraphobic New Yorker whose stream-of-consciousness thoughts, poems and chapters of an in-progress novel form the film's avant-garde narrative.
Set in November 2002 and April 2003, the film frames Robyn's apartment-bound life with bursts of work, the impending war in Iraq playing on her television and her eavesdropping on the lives of her neighbors. Filtered memories of travel and past lovers tumble together in a mix of truth and fiction that leave you feeling as if you've overheard the innermost secrets of a stranger. Reeves varies the contrast of the black-and-white project, using 16-millimeter film and digital video to create an intimate, diary-like piece.
At UCLA, swords are drawn, limbs are severed and rivals vanquished in the 1967 film "Band of Ninja," but the action is all an illusion. Oshima Nagisa, the noted Japanese director of "In the Realm of the Senses," magically transforms the black-and-white drawings of Shirato Sampei's popular 16-part \o7manga\f7 into a masterful martial arts adventure. Oshima uses camera movement and fast-paced editing to enhance the tale of a slain feudal lord's son and his quest to avenge the death of his father.
Filming illustrated pages may not sound like the most exciting way to create a film, but the images kinetically leap to the screen under Oshima's revolutionary direction. Dialogue and sound effects embellish the original drawings as a rebellion is fomented among the peasants and farmers recruited by a ninja to aid the feudal lord's son.
Adrift in the world
"Chain," a hybrid of documentary and fiction techniques by filmmaker Jem Cohen ("Benjamin Smoke") screening at REDCAT, maps the global branding of contemporary society through the comparison of the lives of two very different young women. A collage of images shot in North America, Europe and Australia, the film is a whirl of airports, hotels, motels, amusement parks, shopping malls and exurban sprawl, splattered with the commoditizing effects of logos and advertising.
Tamiko (Miho Nikaido) is a globetrotting Japanese business executive researching projects for her employer. Amanda (Mira Billotte) is a drifter whose world revolves around a large generic shopping center, where she struggles to survive on minimum wage or no wage at all and sleeps in the basement of an abandoned house across the street or in a shared room at extended-stay motel. Cohen subtly but clearly shows the narcotizing, dehumanizing effects the environments have on the women.
Thomas Allen Harris, whose 2002 film "E Minha Cara" (That's My Face) was a poetic quest in search of his roots that paralleled a similar journey his mother made in the 1970s, again synthesizes a personal story with journalistic methods in "Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela: A Son's Tribute to Unsung Heroes." Harris traces the lives of his stepfather, B. Pule "Lee" Leinaeng, and his comrades in the African National Congress, the political party that opposed apartheid in South Africa, as they risked their lives for freedom.