Blake Edwards is a name that arguably, if known at all by a modern audience, is known for the PINK PANTHER movies. But true film fans know him as one of the greatest directors of that transitional period between the all powerful studio system and the rise of auteur directors and Independent Film-making.
Cutting his teeth in fast paced, often live television, (his most notable Television work being the excellent and both evocative and ahead of its time PETER GUNN) like his contemporary Don Siegel he brought a frenetic new pace and tempo to film making. Starting with the use of jazz to denote the soundtracks of his film, rather than the more orchestral, staid, European classical influences of earlier films, his films looked to modern composers, most notably Henry Mancini to tell uniquely American tales. Also his use of pacing and editing and shot selection were all revelatory.
And his use of characters of color stands out, one of the earliest directors to use background actors of color in non-stereotypical roles, to show an America peopled with more than just the traditional studio system view of an all white America. Seeing a mixed crowd, or a crowd with people o f color and whites just sharing the same space, as people, while taken for granted today, during the making of this film… it was groundbreaking. And many theaters in the south, the film could not be shown without cuts being done to it.
Directors like him, and Don Siegel, and Stanley Kramer and Joseph L. Mankiewicz and Richard Brooks, helped transition a very blinders on/white-washed 1950s America, into the more multicultural 1960s, and they did this through our entertainment, our films and our tv shows.
They, and the actors and editors and writers helped drag a more honest view of the American landscape into the light, a view full of different people and different backgrounds, and different challenges.. Both feeding and being fed by, the civil and human rights battles being fought at home and abroad, their veracity as filmmakers, helped open the door to this concept of film as something progressive and capable of change.
From these new daring Filmmakers like Blake Edwards, we begin to get film-making that transcends complete artifice, and stereotyping.
We get the French New Wave Films, The Pan African Films, the Neo-Realist films of Italy, and at home we get the Independent Film Movement, to include the Black New Wave Films of the 70s ( dismissively titled Blaxpoitation by people who do not realize that Black Exploitation is the first 60 years of Hollywood Films. Where people of color had no positive representation in films, most films with no persons of color at all, and the few that did have people of color, offered them typically only one token person of Color in a film, in a menial/demeaning role. Actors like Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby, Harry Belafonte and directors like Gordon Parks, and Ossie Davis, helping to pave a view of an America that actually reflected the multitude of people in it, formerly invisible).
It is a thread, the evolution of film, that allows us to evolve from DW Griffith’s 1915’s THE BIRTH OF A NATION (which shamefully was the predominant mindset of Hollywood Film-making, both behind and in-front the camera, for the greater part of the 20th century). An evolution filled with achievements small and large, and filmmakers lauded and forgotten. A lot of films and a lot of filmmakers, and a lot of steps forwards, and moments of stumbling backward, to in a little over a hundred years go from THE BIRTH OF A NATION, to Ryan Coogler’s justifiably lauded BLACK PANTHER in 2018.
The films of Blake Edward are part of that thread. Not in any overt political manifesto, but just in his love of showing an America peopled with… the people he would see in the streets and in the crowds, his love for a veracity that transcended stereotype.
EXPERIMENT IN TERROR, is a pure thriller of a film, with not a wasted pound. And it has people of color in it, not because they are people of color, but because they are people, it is San Francisco of the time, before gentrification, where people you would see, came in multiple creeds and colors. It is a fantastic film that has nothing to do with ethnicity, but everything to do with being true to telling a story in a place and a time.
It is one of Blake Edward’s best films. However, Blake Edwards very rarely made anything that was not a ‘best’ film.
It is a uniquely tense, and thrilling film, even by Blake Edwards standard. I mean the tension in it holds up today. Lee Remick is one of the most beautiful women from an age of beautiful women, and she is also like most of Edwards leading ladies… delivering a phenomenally written and ground breaking tour de force performance.
Also starring the great Glenn Ford, who like the movie does not waste a moment, everything propels the story and the moment. Glenn Ford was one of those actors who never delivered a bad performance, and elevates everything he is in.
A stunning cast. A stunning script. And sumptuous film-making makes for a film that can be watched for free courtesy of AMAZON PRIME this month, but deserves in the age of digital to be owned on DVD/Blu-Ray.
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I would also recommend picking up the gorgeous poster with the stunning Lee Remick as well as the CD and Album. Please use my links as they earn this blog a few, well needed, pennies. 🙂 .
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