FSLC spotlights Edgar G. Ulmer: Back from the Margins

Posted by on 12.23.2013

THE FILM SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER
SPOTLIGHTS
Edgar G. Ulmer: Back From the Margins

NEW YORK, NY (December 23, 2013) – The Film Society of Lincoln Center announced Edgar G. Ulmer: Back From The Margins, a spotlight on the near-forgotten émigré filmmaker, taking place January 10, 11, 17 and 18.

Ulmer enjoyed a 35-year career as a director. Born in Olmütz (in what is today the Czech Republic) in 1904, and raised in Vienna, he first traveled to America in 1924 with Max Reinhardt’s theater company to help stage The Miracle at New York’s Century Theatre. His sprawling, eclectic body of work includes daring and original horror films; a startling variety of ethnic films, ranging from an all-black musical drama to a pair of Ukrainian operettas and four powerful Yiddish features; numerous acclaimed B-pictures of diverse genres, including science fiction, melodrama, and the western; and such film noir classics as Detour (1945), his best-known work.

Additional highlights include Ruthless (1948), a film considered to be Ullmer’s “Citizen Kane on the cheap”, his classic shtetl film about star-crossed lovers, The Light Ahead (1939), and The Naked Dawn (1955), the film, featuring a love-triangle was hailed as a “small gift from Hollywood” by none other than François Truffaut.

Long overshadowed by the more celebrated careers of his fellow Austrian- and German-born peers, Ulmer’s work is finally receiving a new wave of critical appreciation over four decades after his death. Co-curated by Noah Isenberg, director of Screen Studies at the New School and author of the new book Edgar G. Ulmer: A Filmmaker at the Margins.

Tickets on sale now. Single screening tickets are $13; $9 for students and seniors (62+); and $8 for members of the Film Society and the Jewish Museum. A three-film package is $30; $24 for students and seniors (62+); and $21 for Film Society members. The package discount prices apply with the purchase of tickets to three films or more. For more information, visit www.filmlinc.com.


FILMS, SCHEDULE & DESCRIPTIONS

BEYOND THE TIME BARRIER (1960) 75m; 35mm
Director: Edgar G. Ulmer
Country: USA
Many of Ulmer’s films were family affairs, with his wife Shirley handling the scripts and his daughter Arianne (credited as Arianne Arden) in front of the camera—here as Captain Markova. This Z-budget sci-fi, shot on a hangar at the abandoned Texas state fairgrounds, reflects a Cold War pessimism found in other of his films from the era. Air Force major William Allison (Robert Clarke) sets out to explore the limits of time travel and finds himself catapulted to the year 2024, a futuristic wasteland even darker than what Fritz Lang had imagined.
Jan 17 at 7:30pm (Arianne Ulmer and Noah Isenberg in person)

EDGAR G. ULMER: THE MAN OFF-SCREEN
(2004) 77m
Director: Michael Palm
Country: USA/Austria/Germany
A "well wrought investigation of the often mysterious life of Edgar G. Ulmer," (Village Voice) that ambitiously blends film clips, interviews, audio tapes and vintage music cues into a fascinating documentary, Edgar G. Ulmer: The Man Off-Screen is "a nice homage" (New York Times) to the filmmaking genius behind The Black Cat, Detour, and The Man From Planet X. Featuring testimonials from Roger Corman, John Landis, Joe Dante, Wim Wenders, and Detour’s ultimate femme fatale Ann Savage, The Man Off-Screen paints a vividly impressionistic portrait of a no-budget auteur stylistically able to "take a rat and make Thanksgiving dinner out of it."

On his own and in collaboration with movie legends F.W. Murnau, Fritz Lang and Billy Wilder, from Berlin’s legendary UFA Studios to poverty-row purgatory in Hollywood (where he was blackballed for stealing a studio exec's daughter-in-law), Ulmer created a unique and heady blend of old world culture and 20th century pulp pizzazz.

As a bonus, Kino pairs The Man Off-Screen with Isle of Forgotten Sins (aka Monsoon), a characteristically lurid Ulmer-helmed South Seas island adventure from 1943 that pits John Carradine (The Grapes of Wrath) and Gale Sondergaard against Sidney "Charlie Chan" Toler in a deadly hunt for deep sea gold. —Kino
Jan 10 at 4:15pm
Jan 17 at 3:10pm

THE LIGHT AHEAD (a.k.a. FISHKE THE LAME)
(1939) 94m; 35mm
Director: Edgar G. Ulmer
Country: USA
Possibly the greatest of Edgar G. Ulmer’s shtetl films, here the director counterpoints his pastoral Green Fields to criticize the poverty and superstition that oppress a pair of star-crossed lovers. Made on the eve of World War II, The Light Ahead is at once romantic, expressionistic, and painfully conscious of the danger about to engulf European Jews.

Impoverished and disabled lovers Fishke and Hodel dream of life in the big city of Odessa, free from the poverty and stifling old-world prejudices of the shtetl. The benevolent and enlightened bookseller Mendele helps them, turning small-town superstitions to their advantage. Based on Mendele Mokher Seforim's story of love frustrated by small-town ignorance, this luminous allegory of escape marries Edgar G. Ulmer's masterful direction with superb acting by members of New York's Artef and Yiddish Art Theaters. Film restoration and new English subtitles by The National Center for Jewish Film (www.jewishfilm.org).
Jan 10 at 6:30pm (Noah Isenberg and Sharon Rivo will be in person)
Jan 17 at 1:00pm

MURDER IS MY BEAT
(1955) 77m ; 35mm
Director: Edgar G. Ulmer
Country: USA
Fans of pointy Fifties boobs take note: this poverty row noir is for you. The first half of Edgar G. Ulmer’s 1955 film economically unravels a seemingly bland murder mystery through stock footage and the narrated flashbacks of detective Ray Patrick (Paul Langton). But what raises doubts about whodunit in the mind of the Brylcreem-addicted cop—and effectively ends his career—are the curves and possible innocence of tried-and-convicted Eden Lane (the tragic starlet Barbara Payton, in her penultimate screen appearance). Jumping with Eden from the train taking her to prison, Patrick attempts to find the man who actually committed the murder and instead discovers a blackmail plot. Most of its expressionist-tinged visual flourishes are withheld until the very end, with a final twist that’s legitimately thrilling.  —Violet Lucca, Film Comment
Jan 11 at 4:00pm
Jan 17 at 9:45pm

THE NAKED DAWN
(1955) 82m; 35mm
Director: Edgar G. Ulmer
Country: USA
Hailed as a “small gift from Hollywood” by François Truffaut, who drew much of his inspiration for Jules et Jim from the love triangle Ulmer portrays, this lyrical Western shot in Technicolor belongs to the director’s most cherished productions. Co-starring Arthur Kennedy, Betta St. John and Eugene Iglesias, the story—scripted by yet another blacklisted author, Julian Halevy—pits a rugged and romantic wanderer (Kennedy) against a compromising modern man (Iglesias) tempted by the venal impulses of financial gain, with his magnificent wife (St. John) standing between them. —Noah Isenberg
Jan 10 at 9:00pm (Noah Isenberg will be in person)
Jan 18 at 1:00pm (Noah Isenberg will be in person)

PEOPLE ON SUNDAY
(1930) 73m; 35mm
Director: Robert Siodmak & Edgar G. Ulmer
Country: Germany
Years before they became major players in Hollywood, a group of young German filmmakers—including eventual noir masters Robert Siodmak and Edgar G. Ulmer and future Oscar winners Billy Wilder and Fred Zinnemann—worked together on the once-in-a-lifetime collaboration People on Sunday (Menschen am Sonntag). This effervescent, sunlit silent about a handful of city dwellers (a charming cast of nonprofessionals) enjoying a weekend outing offers a rare glimpse of Weimar-era Berlin. A unique hybrid of documentary and fictional storytelling, People on Sunday was both an experiment and a mainstream hit that would influence generations of film artists around the world. —Noah Isenberg
Jan 17 at 5:15pm

RUTHLESS
(1948) 104m; 35mm
Director: Edgar G. Ulmer
Country: USA
Often thought of as Ulmer’s Citizen Kane on the cheap, his study of American capitalism and runaway greed—scripted, without formal credit, by blacklisted writer Alvah Bessie—boasts the A-list acting talent of Zachary Scott and Sidney Greenstreet, both on loan-out from Warner Bros. Chronicling the rise and fall of Horace Vendig (Scott)—a tale lifted from the pages of Dayton Stoddart’s Prelude to Night—the film presents an archetypal man who craves and ultimately captures all that others have. Its core message, riddled with delicious cynicism, hasn’t lost any of its timeliness. —Noah Isenberg. Restored 35mm print courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Preservation funding provided by The Film Foundation and the Franco American Cultural Fund.
Jan 11 at 1:15pm (Noah Isenberg will be in person)
Jan 18 at 3:30pm (Noah Isenberg will be in person)


Public Screening Schedule

Screening Venue:
Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
144 West 65th Street

Friday, January 10
4:15pm         EDGAR G. ULMER: THE MAN OFF-SCREEN (77m)
6:30pm        THE LIGHT AHEAD (FISHKE THE LAME) (94m) *
9:00pm        THE NAKED DAWN (82m) *

Saturday, January 11
1:15pm         RUTHLESS (104m) *
4:00pm        MURDER IS MY BEAT (77m)

Friday, January 17
1:00pm         THE LIGHT AHEAD (FISHKE THE LAME) (94m)
3:10pm         EDGAR G. ULMER: THE MAN OFF-SCREEN (77m)
5:15pm         PEOPLE ON SUNDAY (73m)
7:30pm        BEYOND THE TIME BARRIER (75m)*
9:45pm         MURDER IS MY BEAT (77m)

Saturday, January 18
1:00pm         THE NAKED DAWN (82m)*
3:30pm        RUTHLESS (104m)*

Film Society of Lincoln Center
Founded in 1969 to celebrate American and international cinema, the Film Society of Lincoln Center works to recognize established and emerging filmmakers, support important new work, and to enhance the awareness, accessibility and understanding of the moving image. Film Society produces the renowned New York Film Festival, a curated selection of the year's most significant new film work, and presents or collaborates on other annual New York City festivals including Dance on Camera, Film Comment Selects, Human Rights Watch Film Festival, LatinBeat, New Directors/New Films, NewFest, New York African Film Festival, New York Asian Film Festival, New York Jewish Film Festival, Open Roads: New Italian Cinema and Rendez-vous With French Cinema. In addition to publishing the award-winning Film Comment Magazine, Film Society recognizes an artist's unique achievement in film with the prestigious "Chaplin Award." The Film Society's state-of-the-art Walter Reade Theater and the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, located at Lincoln Center, provide a home for year round programs and the New York City film community.

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