CineSavant Column

Tuesday August 2, 2022



A nice tip-off from that beacon of graciousness David J. Schow . . . a 1973 public service spot that seems familiar, but that I probably haven’t seen because it’s English in origin. It’s better than many horror movies, and gets a chilling boost from a voiceover by none other than Donald Pleasance — as The Grim Reaper. It’s well directed too. It’s called Lonely Water.

I remember seeing numerous grim, weird PSAs like this in the 1960s — local TV stations would slip them in before they signed off for the night with the U.S. flag spot. One was about the danger of discarded refrigerators. Other religious-themed poetic spots were hardly uplifting, what with silky voices speaking words of Doom for weak humanity. Very weird !



I was writing about a movie that reminded me of the ‘film blanc’ genre, or style, when I realized that I hadn’t checked up lately on Bill Shepard’s essential website Film Blanc – The Cinema of Feel-Good Fantasies. It’s a recommended side destination for CineSavant readers. Film Blanc is the opposite of Film Noir — I defined it back then as “fantasies, whimsical visions of life that deal with the great beyond, the afterlife, heaven and hell. They are usually romances or light morality plays, sometimes satirical, often sentimental.”

I think the website began when Mr. Shepard and I corresponded about my worthy if disorganized ‘MGM Video Savant’ article on Film Blanc, from 1998. In it I praised Fritz Lang’s Liliom, and then had great fun poking holes in things I really didn’t care for in Richard Matheson’s afterlife fantasy What Dreams May Come.

It seemed as if our discussion preceded Shepard starting the website, so perhaps I had a role in inspiring it. I said I had read of the term in a ’70s Film Magazine, and Shepard tracked down the writer who initially coined the phrase ‘film blanc.’ Bill still maintains a database and part-synopsis for hundreds of films blanc. No spoilers, either, unless you wish to see them.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson