CineSavant Column

Saturday October 5, 2019


Here’s something we saw on TCM that felt like reverse-double-whammy déjà vu: TCM showed a fine HD widescreen version of John Frankenheimer’s The Young Stranger last week, an RKO film from 1957 that plays like what it is, an expanded TV drama. It’s pretty good, especially for a first feature; James MacArthur plays a disgruntled Beverly Hills high schooler, who, under the thrall of questionable ’50s psychology, decides that his father’s neglect entitles him to be a smart-aleck jerk. He gets in trouble when he tangles with a theater manager in Westwood, and gets arrested for assault and battery.

About halfway through the picture, MacArthur’s mother (Kim Hunter) drives him back to Westwood to pick up his car … and we get a series of shots almost identical to Quentin Tarantino’s camera angles in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, when Sharon Tate decides to take in a matinee of The Wrecking Crew at Westwood’s Bruin Theater. The angle where she walks across the street IS identical. Frankenheimer frames things really well. There’s even a straight-on shot of the Bruin facade, and a nice wide view down the street, allowing me to see the parking lot where I worked as a typical starving student in 1971.

This production still shows not the Bruin but the Westwood Theater across the street (you can open it in a new window to read the marquee). MacArthur is taking the parking ticket from his car after being dropped off by his mom Kim Hunter, seated in the car behind. In the white shirt, John Frankenheimer is perhaps getting his first taste of filming in the hot California sun.

This helpful movie locations website shows three separate Los Angeles addresses seen in The Young Stranger. So many movies were filmed on the streets of Los Angeles, that I know that one day, ONE DAY I’ll be watching something and I’ll see my own house go by. (Being non-immortalized in last year’s Christmas episode of NCIS Los Angeles doesn’t count.) Scenes from Buster Keaton’s 1923 Sherlock Jr. were filmed just half a block away, close but no cigar.

And I didn’t get the disc in time to write it up for today, but my review for the new WAC Blu of The Fearless Vampire Killers will definitely be up Tuesday. I’m very happy with it — the copy on this favorite doesn’t say it’s a new scan, but it must be — the show is clearer and more colorful than I’ve ever seen it, and the audio is improved as well. It may be the most beautifully designed gothic horror picture ever made. In the interest of new Sharon Tate fans, I have to say that I think it’s her best movie, too. It was fun seeing her The Wrecking Crew clips in the Tarantino movie, but those were bad scenes in an almost unwatchable picture. Here she’s funny, pretty and sexy. ( → )

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson