On Feb. 22, SCAD's Cinema Circle continues its season of Dynamic Film Duos with a public showing of masterful director Sidney Lumet's classic crime drama "Dog Day Afternoon."
The gripping 1975 film stars a young Al Pacino ("The Godfather Saga," "Cruising," "Glengarry Glen Ross," "Scent of a Woman," "Donnie Brasco") and the late, lamented character actor John Cazale ("The Godfather Saga," "The Deer Hunter," "The Conversation") as two troubled and somewhat bumbling - yet not comically so - Brooklyn bank robbers who find themselves stuck in an incredibly tense hostage situation after their ill-conceived summertime heist goes awry.
It was based closely on a real-life crime which took place in 1972 and was later recounted in a noted Life Magazine article.
Upon initial release, it was nominated for an impressive six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Pacino), Best Supporting Actor (Chris Sarandon), Best Film Editing and Best Original Screenplay - the last of which it wound up winning.
Lumet, an unusually prolific filmmaker and honorary Oscar winner responsible for handfuls of unforgettable pictures in his lengthy career (including his debut, "12 Angry Men," "Long Day's Journey Into Night," "The Pawnbroker," "Fail-Safe," "Serpico," "Network," "Equus," "Prince of the City," "Deathtrap" and his final effort, "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead") crafted a snapshot of the tumultuous post-Vietnam War era in the U.S. that is now recognized as one of the finest and most nuanced contemporary filmic reflections on that dark period of national ennui and hopelessness.
The film also deftly touches on a number of societal topics, such as homosexuality, transgender issues and hard drug addiction, which were rarely portrayed or even discussed candidly on the big screen (at least in mainstream domestic cinemas). Pacino's character in particular emerges as a "hero" in the least traditional sense imaginable.
It is that character's relationship with his partner-in-crime which led Cinema Circle programmer Sheila Lynne Bolda to include the movie in this series.
"'Dog Day Afternoon' was chosen based on Pacino and Cazale's longstanding friendship and performances in this film," she says. "It also fits in nicely with the other two dynamic duo 'crime' films we've shown this quarter, 'Bonnie & Clyde' and 'The Sting.' I am also excited to discuss the role of media in the film, in that the film's true origin story actually wound up changing police procedures.
Not to mention the underlying gay themes, which are often forgotten or overlooked by viewers."
Of the live, post-screening talk hosted by Bolda and Duncan Pittman (a graduate of the school's Cinema Studies program), she enthuses, "It will be a very exciting discussion."
Showtime for the film, which is recommended for mature viewers only due to its adult subject matter and graphic depictions, is 7 p.m. at Trustees Theater, with an admission cost of $8. Concessions will be available.
On Feb. 26, the Psychotronic Film Society heads into a somewhat similar "counterculture" territory with the next installment in its ongoing series of little-known and unique features. This time around, it's an extremely rare public screening of British director Norman J. Warren's forgotten "art-house" horror flick "Prey."
Released theatrically in 1978 and alternately known as "Alien Prey," this incredibly strange movie mixes science-fiction (of the alien invasion variety), vampire and zombie lore and overt gay themes into a flawed yet ambitious and somewhat mesmerizing whole that's quite unlike anything most viewers would likely ever see elsewhere.
Warren, who is also known for the gory, low-budget "Alien" rip-off film "Inseminoid" (aka "Horror Planet"), once said of his affinity for working in the field of fantastic cinema, "The horror genre allows you to explore situations and emotions which would not be possible with a drama set in the world of reality."
That is certainly the case with this icy and grim ultra-obscurity in which an alien spaceship lands in a remote section of the U.K., and its occupant takes the form of a human it has killed.
In that guise, it befriends a young lesbian couple who share a farmhouse. As the couple begins to sense something sinister about their mysterious guest, his true (and truly horrifying) mission begins to come into focus.
Shot in just 10 days with a script that was constantly evolving (reportedly, much of it was actually written on-set during production) and a cast that used their own clothes as wardrobe, this is an experimental feature cleverly hiding underneath a patina of drive-in schlock.
True to Warren's ethos above, the movie, which has been likened to earlier cryptic and densely layered thrillers such as Nic Roeg's "The Man Who Fell To Earth," Sam Peckinpah's "Straw Dogs" and Roman Polanski's "Cul-De-Sac," finds unexpected vantage points for subtle commentary on the themes of sexism, love, adultery, betrayal and racism - all within the context of a gay-alien-zombie-vampire gore-fest.
Okay, okay, so with that kind of subject matter, "Prey" is not for everyone. But what film is?
And, in all candor, wouldn't a film that was ideal viewing for everyone basically wind up as an insufferably miserable excuse for a motion picture, devoid of character and insight and hardly worth watching, let alone pondering?
Seeking out and uncovering fiercely individualistic movies (regardless of how successful or slick they are in their execution) is the overarching mission of the PFS, and this peculiar little picture is a very good example of just such a "tough" film. If it sounds like your cup of tea, it probably is. And if it doesn't, well, it just might be. Who knows?
Showtime at The Sentient Bean is 8 p.m. with $7 admission for mature viewers only. Craft beer and organic wine is available, as well as a full menu of fair-trade coffees and teas and award-winning vegetarian and vegan cuisine.
Until next week, see you at the movies, and don't forget to turn off that cell phone. We all know what that can lead to.
Jim Reed directs the Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah. Read more at www.filmsavannah.com.