Sunday, November 15, 2015

cinema obscura: Buzz Kulik's "To Find a Man" (1972)

Lloyd Bridges and Pamela Sue Martin in Kulik's lost film, "To Find a Man"
Buzz Kulik, who died in 1999 at age 77, worked mostly in TV and is perhaps best known for his superior male weepie, "Brian's Song" (1971), about the friendship of NFLers Brian Piccolo (James Caan) and Gale Sayers (Billy Dee Williams) and the eventual, tragic death of Piccolo.

He started his career on the tube and ended there. But for a brief period, Kulik - a selfless craftsman, if there ever was one - ventured onto the big screen with such titles as "Warning Shot" (1967), starring David Janssen; "Riot" (1969), with Jim Brown and Gene Hackman, and Burt Reynolds' "Shamus" (1973), co-starring a game Dyan Cannon.

And then there was "To Find a Man" (1972), a tiny gem-like feature, adapted from the S.J. Wilson novel by Arnold Schulman - an extremely well-cast piece about a young girl who, as they used to say, is in trouble and about the brave boy who steps up and shyly helps her out.

With this film and Peter Hyams' also underrated "Our Time" (1974), the young Pamela Sue Martin positioned herself as a starlet to watch before becoming waylaid by the "Dallas" TV series. She's cast opposite Darren O'Connor (brother of Glynnis), seen here in his only feature film.

They make a naturalistic, affecting couple.

The ace supporting cast includes Lloyd Bridges and Phyllis Newman as Martin's parents; Tom Ewell, cast against type as a doctor who performs abortions and Tom Bosely who, as another doctor, has the film's most memorable line. When Martin asks him what the fetus of her unborn child looks like, Bosley deadpans, "a tadpole." Also on hand are veteran character actress Antonia Rey and the then-newcomer Miles Chapin who would appear together a few years later in Milos Foreman's "Hair" (1979).

Yes, "To Find a Man" is a matter-of-fact abortion film, made when people could talk about the topic without seething.  It could never been made today - never - given the hyper-hysterical sociopolitical climate surrounding the issue (pro or con). All reason has disappeared.

Kulik's small film brims with compassion and, in Martin, it has an unstoppable life force. The director's affection for his material and his characters (and this actress) has never been more fervent - something that's revealed in the fully-realized performances that dot "To Find a Man."


Ginger said...

I loved this film growing up and miss the opportunity to see it. Thanks for honoring it.

Tom said...

The line was "Was it a boy or a girl?" and the Dr. replied "It was a tadpole". This was a great film that ran constantly on TV in the 70's and has not been seen since.

Brian Lucas said...

Good heavens, I had forgotten this movie, but remember seeing it in 1972, and it was puzzling because so many of the elements seemed to be typical for some made-for-TV teen drama. Yet it had an impact that I didn't expect. It didn't shy from the upheaval and horror that teens feel when they're in predicaments which they can't get out of, and I remember that the scenes when the kids are looking for an abortionist were tough. All in all, a movie which has been overlooked, but seems ripe for rediscovery.

joe baltake said...

Well said, Brian. I knew if anyone would remember this tiny gem, it would be you.

Kiki said...

Joe! I never heard of this movie but you're right -- it could never have been made today because of the draconian political stance on abortion. Every time I hear these politicians (if you can call them that) anti-abortion platforms, I always say . . . "duh, didn't they ever hear of Wade/Roe?" There was a movie out a few years ago where a teenage gets pregnant (Joseph Cera was the boyfriend) and goes full term but gives the baby away to Jennifer Garner. I suppose that's as liberal as it gets these days. "you don't want it, you have to have it but it's ok to give it away to a horrid woman". Pathetic.

The tadpole line would never make it through without mass demonstrations. Talk about progress!

joe baltake said...

Kiki- That Jen Garner movie was “Juno,” which I never liked. Jason Bateman is the only watchable element in it.

marvin said...

Thank you, Joe. I am going to attempt to obtain both films mentioned in your article about Pamela Sue Martin. M