At the beginning of the year, I sat in my room staring at the unopened Blu-rays I had got for Christmas, I didn’t know when I’d get to them as the pile I’d accumulated had become too big to handle. I felt it was time to get on this, I had multiple movies from well-known directors at my disposal and I couldn’t believe hadn’t seen them yet (took me ages to think of the name). I needed to change it.
So, we begin our journey with the filmography of Martin Scorsese (remember, the ones I’ve not seen). A man who doesn’t need much of an introduction. Regarded by many as one of the greatest filmmakers to ever live with a career spanning over 50 years, known for his gangster movies, his ongoing partnerships with DeNiro and DiCaprio and, his love affair with New York City. He felt like a good place to start, many of his films are readily available on streaming services and I had amassed a tidy collection of some of the bigger names on Blu-ray.
Who’s That Knocking At My Door
- Year: 1967
- Viewed on: Chili Cinema (Rental)
Kicking off with Scorsese’s debut feature and also, Harvey Keitel’s debut acting gig. He stars as J.R in this fast-paced drama following a couple and a mans disgust at the fact his new girlfriend was raped in a previous relationship. Yeah, in that aspect you can’t really say its aged well. It shows the fragile masculinity of a man in the 60s, and there isn’t a brilliant ending for this character and his sudden change in goals (in a good way). Scorsese doesn’t completely deep dive on this and felt that it was almost underbaked.
While being rough around the edges as many low budget films of the time are there is a lot of quality to be found. For one, it never misses a beat running at a snappy 90 minutes nothing is ever wasted (even if it doesn’t go far enough). And, being low on budget and major production aspects with the sounds in the background or the fuzzy looking picture added to the film in a way, feeling more like a documentary or home movie. I also can’t stress enough just how good Harvey Kietal is in this film providing a lead performance that will have you transfixed on the screen.
- Year: 1972
- Viewed on: Google Play (Rental)
Loosely based on a fake-true story set during the great depression. Boxcar Bertha follows Bertha and her criminal friends out for revenge. It is awkward and unlike WTKOMD the low budget doesn’t help its case. Maybe his worst film but there is still time for me to be disappointed yet.
Scorsese’s 2nd is an interesting one. He was hired to do this by Roger Corman and has many traits of exploitation cinema mixed in with crime drama. So naturally, contained in this interesting 90 minutes is a lot of stylised, but brutal violence and overly sexualised female protagonist. What I mean by that is ten minutes in you feel already like you’ve paid for soft-core porn. Coming from the time that they would slap breasts, sex and butts into anything to make it sell and not “for the art”. There is also a lot of casual racism and while it may be period accurate in both the time the film is set and when it was filmed it doesn’t feel like it is in the right place. This sort of stuff is expected of an exploitation film but you can’t help but feel grimy after watching… even if it is Scorsese.
- Year: 1973
- Viewed on: Netflix
“Here we go,” I thought to myself. We’re talking DeNiro, Keitel and others who are known for being gangsters, known for being brilliant and they are. Its central conflict with Charlie (Keitel) is brilliant and interesting, the style of the movie is insane and wholly original, And, while being groundbreaking at the time, and I can see why it was, I couldn’t help but compare it to those I’ve already seen from Scorsese like Goodfellas. It’s hard not to when you’ve seen them out of order, the beautiful cinematography, neon-drenched bars and a gorgeous looking New York stand out. There is also the soundtrack, a “banging” one at that too, that it has in common with more of his gangster movies. I did chuckle to myself a few times at the New York accent and way of speaking. So many “wadda ya mean”s are being thrown about in this film that I couldn’t help myself.
And, here there was just something ultimately missing from Scorsese’s third flick. He didn’t yet have the experience to pull off masterpieces like Goodfellas or Casino. Mean Street features a cast that goes on to do great things with Martin Scorsese in the future but, here together as a group it feels much more like a proof of concept of his better mafia movies.
There is MUCH MUCH more to come! Make sure you follow @OHHIFilms on Twitter to see when it drops (usually on a Monday or Friday). There is also the OH HI Films podcast returning very very soon. While you wait why not check out the last couple of episodes!