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September 16 – September 17

A Tribute to Curtis Harrington

Marginalized by film historians and largely overlooked during his lifetime, the late Curtis Harrington (1928-2007) was a key figure in the West Coast experimental film scene and among the most wholly original directors to work in the Hollywood studio system.  An ardent cinephile since his earliest years, Harrington began his film career as an errand boy at Paramount and eventually became a successful A-list director at Universal in the 1960s. An early protégé of Maya Deren and a close friend of Kenneth Anger and Gregory Markopoulos, Harrington’s first works were poetic trance films that revealed his careful eye and distinctive style. During his youth Harrington also befriended two of his greatest idols, iconoclastic studio directors James Whale and Joseph Von Sternberg, uncompromising aesthetes whose refined—and at times, perverse— tastes and wicked sense of humor would remain major influences on all of Harrington’s major films. This series pays tribute to an artist who never lost sight of his youthful ideals and produced a dazzling body of work ripe for rediscovery. 


Sunday September 16 at 7 pm

Night Tide

Directed by Curtis Harrington
With Dennis Hopper, Linda Lawson, Gavin Muir
US 1961, 35mm, b/w, 84 min.

A hauntingly sincere fable of unrequited love, Harrington's feature debut is an unacknowledged masterpiece. In his first leading role, a startlingly young Dennis Hopper brings a fervent energy to his portrayal of Johnny, a sailor who is enamored with the bewitching Mora, a shimmering apparition of a woman gripped by a dark secret. One of the first wholly independent productions shot on the West Coast, Night Tide used locations in Venice, California to wonderful effect while also turning to studio veterans such as master film composer David Raskin (Laura), who gifted the film with a gorgeous score. One of the most essential postwar American independent films.

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Sunday September 16 at 9 pm

Curtis Harrington Shorts Program

Tonight's screening is courtesy of the estate of Curtis Harrington. These films have been preserved by and come from the collection of the Academy Film Archive.

A Fragment of Seeking

Directed by Curtis Harrington
US 1946, 16mm, b/w, 14 min.

Made while Harrington was a student at the University of Southern California, where the film was also shot, Fragment features a youthful Harrington in a revealing double role. "A climactic fragment from the existence of an adolescent Narcissus," wrote Harrington to describe his breakthrough film which so impressed maverick director Albert Lewin that he recommended Harrington for his first creative job in the studio system, as an assistant to producer Jerry Wald.

Picnic

Directed by Curtis Harrington
US 1948, 16mm, b/w, 23 min.

One of Harrington's most fragile and beautiful shorts, Picnic was much admired by Jacques Rivette, who praised the film's "poetic expression." Harrington's described the film thus: "a satirical comment on middle class life frames a dream-like continuity in which the protagonist pursues an illusory object of desire."

On the Edge

Directed by Curtis Harrington
US 1949, 16mm, b/w, 6 min.

A beautiful and frightening allegory of human frailty. Harrington cast his mother and father in the lead roles of his poetic short.

The Wormwood Star

Directed by Curtis Harrington
US 1956, 16mm, b/w, 10 min.

A fascinating portrait of legendary West Coast painter and occultist Cameron - a devotee of Alistair Crowley and wife and muse to Jet Propulsion Laboratory founder Jack Parsons. The Wormwood Star is among Harrington's most visually arresting works.

The Assignation

Directed by Curtis Harrington
US 1952, 16mm, b/w, 8 min.

Long considered lost, Harrington's recently restored first color film follows a mysterious masked figure through the canals of Venice and builds to a splendid climax.

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Monday September 17 at 7 pm

Games

Directed by Curtis Harrington
With James Caan, Katharine Ross, Simone Signoret
US 1967, 35mm, color, 100 min.

Harrington channels Franju in his lavish, kinky tale of a swinging New York couple determined to live on the edge but unaware of the dangers invited by their reckless lifestyle. With James Caan and Katherine Ross wonderfully cast as the irresponsible couple and a sultry Simone Signoret as the mysterious neighbor who weaves her way into their lives, Games casts a dark and stylish web of intrigue and suspense. Print courtesy of Universal Pictures.

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Monday September 17 at 9 pm

Queen of Blood

Directed by Curtis Harrington
With Basil Rathbone, Judi Meredith, Dennis Hopper
US 1966, 16mm, color, 81 min.

Working briefly for legendary B-producer Roger Corman, Harrington
made this little known gem by creatively reinterpreting footage from a Russian science fiction film, Planet of Storms, pirated by Corman. Starring Dennis Hopper as a lonely space explorer, Queen of Blood is a fascinating work considered by many to be the best of the so-called "Corman Cut-Ups." Print courtesy of the University of Calfornia Los Angeles Film and Television Archive.

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Harvard Film Archive • Carpenter Center • 24 Quincy Street • Cambridge MA 02138 • 617-495-4700