What’s Screening: October 5 – 11

A Jewish werewolf, a Borsht Belt monster, and a very scary Alan Arkin. Sounds like a Yiddish Halloween! Also migrating birds, Chinese exploitation, and (of course), Ingmar Bergan. Also, five film festivals.


Promising events

An American Werewolf in London, Castro, Thursday, 7:00

I loved this horror comedy when I saw it in the early 80s. If I recall, it deftly balances laughs and thrills, with a touching romantic subplot and a dead friend walking, talking, and decomposing. It could more truthfully be called A Jewish American Werewolf in London.

Great double bills

A Young Frankenstein & A The Producers, Castro, Saturday

Young Frankenstein: Mel Brooks at his best directs this sweet-natured, 1974 parody and tribute to the Universal horror movies of the 1930s. Screenwriter Gene Wilder plays the infamous doctor’s grandson, who sets out to create his own monster. The cast of brilliant comedians includes Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman, and Peter Boyle as the lovable but clumsy creature.
The Producers: Mel Brooks was never funnier than in his directorial debut. Both Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder (in his breakout performance) play comedy to the hilt as a desperate pair scheming to make a fortune off a very bad Broadway musical called Springtime for Hitler. A gorgeous, laugh-inducing gem. Read my report.

Recommended revivals

A- Winged Migration, BAMPFA, Saturday, 3:30

You won’t actually learn much from this almost narration-free documentary, but if you have any taste for the majestic beauty of nature, you’ll be in heaven from beginning to end. Part of the ever-lasting series Movie Matinees for All Ages.

A- The Goddess, BAMPFA, Friday, 7:00

What a poor woman must do to protect her child! This touching, sad story, from the last days of the Chinese silent cinema, brings us into the life of a prostitute (Ruan Lingyu) trying to raise her young son. To do so, she must not only sell her body, but also fend off the prejudice of respectable people and the greedy exploitation of her cruel pimp. With piano accompaniment by Judith Rosenberg. Paul Fonoroff and Peter Zhou will discuss the film. The opening night film of the series Chinese Cinema Classics: Screen Idols and Stardom Reexamined.

B+ Winter Light, BAMPFA, Wednesday, 3:10

Ingmar Bergman made a lot of films about the apparent absence of God, but none more directly than this chamber piece. A small-town, emotionally-stunted minister wonders about the reality of what he preaches. He tries to help a terrified man without success. A woman tries to marry him, but the widowed minister has no interest in her and says so directly. And the church janitor appears to understand Jesus better than the minister. This is a very slow and talky film, full of sad people. You must concentrate to understand it. But if you have any curiosity about faith, it’s worth the effort. Part of the series In Focus: Ingmar Bergman; with a lecture by Linda H. Rugg.

B Wait Until Dark, Cerrito, Thursday, 7:00

Audrey Hepburn stars as a blind housewife stalked by drug dealers who are themselves stalked by a vicious killer (a surprisingly scary Alan Arkin). This effective thriller has one very original, very effective shock moment (I can’t give it away) that has since been ruined by overuse. But this, I believe, was the first time it was done.

Continuing engagements

Frequently-revived classics