Karen Black Film Retrospective, Sanctioned By Her

Categories: Film

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Lovable kook and daring actress Karen Black is ill, which makes Nitehawk Cinema's series homaging her even more eye-crossingly special.

The Williamsburg cinema center has arranged for the following Black oeuvres, compiled with the help of her own actual input:


APRIL 5 and APRIL 6 - MIDNITE

EASY RIDER

Dennis Hopper • 1969 • 95 Mins. • USA • English • 35mm • Starring Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson, and Karen Black

Easy Rider is a landmark American film about the encroaching disillusionment of the country's counter culture movement in the late 1960s. It is part of our mini-retrospective series, THE WORKS: KAREN BLACK.

They're not scared of you. They're scared of what you represent...Freedom.

Directed by Dennis Hopper, Easy Rider shows the real and metaphorical journey of two bikers Captain America and Billy (Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper) as they travel from New Orleans to Los Angeles. Along the way they realize the fabric of American culture is so fundamentally flawed that the promise of change invoked by the counter culture in the early 1960s seems to fade away. And although the tagline says that's about "a man who went looking for American...but couldn't find it", it seems more dangerous to suggest that perhaps he did.

In one of her first film roles Karen Black, along with dance legend Toni Basil, plays one of the New Orleans prostitutes who takes up with Billy and Captain America during Mardi Gras and ends up in the Big Easy graveyard doing LSD, amongst other naughty deeds.


APRIL 12 and APRIL 13 - MIDNITE

BURNT OFFERINGS

Dan Curtis • 1976 • 116 Mins. • USA • English • 35mm • Starring Karen Black, Oliver Reed, Burgess Meredith, Eileen Heckart, and Bette Davis

Based on Robert Marasco's chilling novel, Burnt Offerings epitomizes the phrase "if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is." It is part of our mini-retrospective series, THE WORKS: KAREN BLACK.

Desperate to escape the city, Ben and Marion Rolf, along with their son David, take over a dilapidated house for the summer to get some much needed family time. It's super affordable but there's a catch - they have to take care of the old recluse "Mrs. Allardyce" during their stay. Burnt Offerings tackles domesticity in a very frightful way. The house has a mysterious life force of its own, one that slowly absorbs Marion into the honorable role of its "mother" while killing the others in order to complete its ritualistic rejuvenation. Hazy shots and slow narrative build only compound the eery since that something is changing the Rolfs. The breakdown of the family is scary enough but it's the dream-induced chauffeur character who has been the stuff of nightmares ever since.

Burnt Offerings is packed with incredible performances by Karen Black, Oliver Reed, Burgess Meredith, Eileen Heckart, and Bette Davis, no less. In the role of Marion Rolf, Karen Black plays a woman who becomes obsessed, and possessed, by a house; leaving her family behind for a new role as "mother."


MAY 3 and MAY 5 - MIDNITE

FIVE EASY PIECES

Bob Rafelson • 1970 • 98 Mins. • USA • English • DCP • Starring Jack Nicholson, Karen Black, Billy Green Bush, Fannie Flagg

A brilliant film about escaping your past, hating your present, and being fearful of the future while attempting to embrace life to the fullest.

Jack Nicholson's portrayal of Robert, an upper class man who has left it all behind for a working class existence, is at uncomfortable, riveting, and a bit devastating. His constant struggle to distract himself with who he is and where he might be going (whether with girls, booze, or working in an oil field) makes him one mean fellow. Scenes such as the infamous diner order or the intimate conversation with his father make him relatable but that all comes crashing down at the end.

Stand by your man. Karen Black plays Robert's beautiful but overly eager girlfriend Rayette, an aspiring singer who begs her man to love her when she probably shouldn't.


MAY 17 and MAY 18

FAMILY PLOT

Alfred Hitchcock • 1976 • 120 Mins. • USA • English • 35mm • Starring Karen Black, Bruce Dern, William Devane, and Barbara Harris.

Fake psychics, a family inheritance, forced adoption, faked deaths, jewelry, automobiles, twists, turns, blondes, suspense, and of course...murder.

While somewhat light-hearted, Family Plot is still an Alfred Hitchcock film so revealing too much of its plot defeats the whole purpose of experiencing it in the cinema. Still, we will say that Karen Black stars as Fran, part of a kidnapping and jewelry heist duo, who winds up involved in a plot to receive a family inheritance. As Hitchcock does so well, characters and plots intertwine, providing revealing clues to the audience while the people on-screen still solve the mystery and get the money. Plus, Karen Black wears a blond wig and becomes the ultimate Hitchcock woman.


MAY 31 and JUNE 1

AIRPORT 1975 featuring an introduction by ALAN CUMMING on the Friday screening!

Jack Smight • 1974 • 107 Mins. • USA • English • 35mm • Starring Karen Black, Charlton Heston, George Kennedy, Susan Clark, Helen Reddy, Linda Blair, Sid Caesar, and Gloria Swanson

The unthinkable happens when a small plane collides into a 747 and a flight attendant has to take captain's seat. Luckily Karen Black and Charlton Heston are there to save the day!

Bound for Los Angeles, the Columbia Airlines' Flight 409 is full of interesting passengers (you'll can see them parodied in the 1980 spoof Airplane) including an aging film star, a sick little girl, and a guitar-singing nun. Things take off fine at first but when a man has a heart attack while flying his small plane and then crashing into Flight 409, things take a disastrous turn. After all pilots are either sucked out or dying, flight attendant Nancy Pryor (Karen Black) takes charge of the plane that is miraculously still in the air but the only problem is that she can't land it. Enter - literally onto the plane via helicopter - Nancy's man-friend Captain Murdock (played by Charlton Heston, naturally) to help her get everyone back safely on the ground.


JUNE 14 and JUNE 15

THE DAY OF THE LOCUST

John Schlesinger • 1975 • 144 Mins. • USA • English • Digital • Starring Karen Black, Donald Sutherland, Burgess Meredith, and William Atherton

Love and dreams of stardom in 1930s Hollywood come crashing down in this sensational film adaptation of the Nathanael West novel. Part of our mini-retrospective series, THE WORKS: KAREN BLACK.

The Day of the Locust uses Hollywood and its locusts (aka the mass of people who arrive to make it big, the sycophants) as a metaphor for 1930s America as it moved out of the depression-era into war-time. Focusing on a love-triangle between three people: Tod Hackett as the east-coast transplant looking to become a screenwriter who becomes obsessed with Faye Greener, an aspiring actress played by Karen Black who is incapable of true feelings but interested in using the dopey Homer Simpson (yes, that's where the name came from) for money. Add in aspiring child actors and waning vaudeville stars, and The Day of the Locust becomes a surrealist vision of the apocalypse. In the end, things come crashing down in one of the more violent, bizarre, and over-the-top scenes in film history.


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6 comments
msizelove
msizelove

"Come Back to the Five & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean"! Why has this never gotten a DVD release?! Cher, Karen, Sandy Dennis... what more could ya want?

williamHK
williamHK

Agree, "5 Easy Pieces" is a slow paced, meandering bore.  Love "Day of the Lost", 'though, and "Trilogy of Terror."

Used2BMelinda9
Used2BMelinda9

Karen Black is the best thing about 5 Easy Pieces - not the greatest film in my opinion.

nostradavid
nostradavid

A great selection of Karen's films. She was good in Nashville, too. 

I would put her Rayette (Five Easy Pieces) up against Ann-Margret's Bobbie (Carnal Knowledge) anytime. Jack Nicholson was lucky to attract two infamous ball-busters like that only a year apart. 

Love Karen. Her films are always fun with a hit of LSD under your tongue.

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