Monday, January 12, 2015

cinema obscura: Otto Preminger's "Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon" (1970)

While the resourceful Olive Films, which has access to the sadly neglected films in the Paramount library, has come to the rescue of two latter-day Otto Preminger films - 1967's “Hurry Sundown,” based on Preminger's favorite source, the bestsellers, and 1972's “Such Good Friends,” a dip into trendiness via Elain May's pseudonymous script - the title that came between these two is still missing.

"Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon," based on another best-seller (by Marjoria Kellogg), was released in 1970, the year of Altman's "M*A*S*H," Wadleigh's "Woodstock" and, yes, Hiller's "Love Story." It seemed to fit in nowhere - neither in the radical cinema of Altman nor the more traditional mode of Erich Segal. Which made sense, given that the film itself is about a ragtag family of misfits.

This most affecting "little" film features Liza Minnelli in the title role as a young woman with a grotesquely scarred face (courtesy of battery acid tossed at her by her boy friend) and, as her roomies, Ken Howard as an epileptic and the late stage (and occasional film) director Robert Moore as a wheelchair-using gay man.

James Coco, who would star along with Howard again in "Such Good Friends," was also in the cast.

"Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon" was an anomaly for Hollywood at the time, as was Coppola's "The Rain People" - namely, an art film made within the constraints of a hulking studio. It didn't stand a chance. It was doomed. It also appears to be lost.

Note in Passing: Robert Moore would direct a trio of Neil Simon films - "The Cheap Detective," "Murder by Death" and "Chapter Two" - before his death in 1984; he also helmed the 1976 televison version of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," with Natalie Wood, Robert Wagner, Laurence Olivier, and Maureen Stapleton.


will branch said...

Junie Moon no doubt deserves critical attention, and is all the more timely given the long-delayed DVD releases of Hurry Sundown and Such Good Friends.

Peter Coley said...

“Tell Me That You Love Me Junie Moon” is a fascinating curio. I’m happy that suddenly there's a new auteurist study of Preminger.

p.r. said...

So glad to see you writing of Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon. What's strange to me is that such a good film would now be considered forgotten. Wonderful script, performances, direction, etc. I also recall how genuinely disturbing the scene was where Liza is scarred; she awakes (regains consciousness?) on the ground with the battery acid dripping onto her face, and starts screaming. Just awful, and so well done.

John said...

From what I remember, Minnelli gave a very touching performance in this neglected film.