Cast & Crew
At the Midtown Theater in Manhattan, the short subject cartoon is interrupted when the film strip breaks, causing the audience to erupt in boos and hisses. In the projection booth, projectionist Chuck McCann quickly rethreads the film while listening to a radio news report about an elderly man attacked on the Lower East Side. Chuck then imagines himself witnessing the attack. Hurrying into a phone booth, he clumsily begins to pull off his clothes, revealing his Capt. Flash hero suit underneath. Chuck's thoughts return to the present when Harry, one of the theater ushers, enters the booth complaining about the theater's curmudgeonly manager, Renaldi. As Chuck tells Harry about sighting The Girl, a beautiful woman walking in the plaza that morning, Renaldi bursts in and chastises Harry for entering the projection booth, which he has designated "off limits" to his ushers. After warning Chuck to stop smoking in the booth, Renaldi leaves and Chuck threads up the coming attractions. As the film runs, Chuck envisions a trailer for The Terrible World of Tomorrow , dealing with "the horror of total holocaust" in which man is destroyed by his own technology. Once the day's screenings are over, Chuck scrutinizes the photos of Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart and other stars he has pasted along the walls and performs impersonations of them. He then climbs down the stairs from the projection booth, stopping to look at the blank screen. Chuck's thoughts then return to Capt. Flash as Flash confronts the assailants and saves their victim, an elderly scientist who explains that the thug's leader, the Bat, is after the x-ray machine the scientist has developed. As the scientist relates his story, Capt. Flash spots a clue the assailant has left behind, a matchbook from Rick's Café Americain. The scientist then invites Capt. Flash to his castle, and after passing through a landscape peopled by the Wolf Man, Dracula and Frankenstein, they reach the castle. The next morning, Capt. Flash sees the scientist's beautiful daughter and is smitten. As the couple strolls off into the garden, the Bat's assailants attack the scientist again and Capt. Flash rushes back to aid him. His thoughts returning to the present, Chuck walks into the lobby where Renaldi is dressing down the ushers for their slovenly appearance. Chuck then proceeds to the candy counter where the elderly clerk complains about Renaldi's brusque treatment. When Renaldi sees the clerk slip Chuck a free box of candy, the manager insists that he pay for the candy, then instructs the clerk to put more salt in the popcorn so the audience will buy more soda. Leaving the theater, Chuck continues down the street where he sees an ad for the film Barbarella , which triggers his thoughts to another coming attraction, The Wonderful World of Tomorrow , in which the golden age of science heralds peace on earth and good will toward men. As Chuck continues walking along the street, he begins to daydream about Capt. Flash overpowering several of the thugs who have attacked the scientist. The rest of the group has kidnapped the scientist's daughter, however, and so Capt. Flash, disguised in a business suit, heads off to Rick's Café Americain, hoping to find a clue to her whereabouts. There he finds a discarded business card with a map sketched on the back. Back in his Capt. Flash uniform, he follows the clue to a cave-like hideout inhabited by idol worshippers and a prehistoric monster. Chuck's thoughts return the present as he passes a theater marquis advertising the premiere of the film Star! Noticing the crowds out in front, Chuck imagines himself being interviewed by an adoring press as his film, The Projectionist , opens. Chuck's fantasy ends as he approaches the pool room where he is to meet Harry. After finishing the pool game, Chuck returns home and switches on his television. The next morning, Chuck ventures onto the street as his thoughts turn back to Capt. Flash in the cave. Knocked unconscious by one of the Bat's thugs, Capt. Flash is taken to the Bat's sanctuary where he is chained to the wall. Boasting he will one day rule the world, the Bat orders that Capt. Flash and the scientist's daughter will perish in the snake pit. As the guards walk them to the brink of the pit, the scientist's daughter karate chops several of the thugs while Capt. Flash throttles the others. The Bat then unleashes an attack by the Ku Klux Klan, Hitler, invading Martians and other evil-doers. In response, Gunga Din then summons the forces of good, represented by Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne, Flash Gordon and Sgt. York, among others. The clash ends as Good defeats Evil and the U.S. flag is raised on Iwo Jima. The Bat has survived, however, and Capt. Flash chases him into the hills where a well-placed punch sends the Bat hurtling off the side of a cliff. Back at the castle, the scientist's daughter and Capt. Flash dance in victory, whirling onto the movie theater stage, where they waltz in front of the screen peopled by Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and the Busby Berkeley dancing girls.
Irma E. Levin
James F. Yoham
The Projectionist (1971) - The Projectionist
The Projectionist was born from the dissatisfaction of writer-director Hurwitz, who had at the time quit his job as a professor of first year film production at New York University. The New York City native had already shot a 20-minute, 16mm version of his scenario, entitled Penny Arcade, and enlisted a former student to help him finance a feature-length remake. The grandson of a Vaudeville booking agent whose client list included Harry Houdini, Roy Frumkes proved instrumental in raising $50,000 for principal photography and accompanied Hurwitz on junkets to the major studios to license the film clips necessary to etch The Projectionist's flights of cinematic fancy. Only Universal held out, fearing Hurwitz's film too closely resembled Bob Rafelson's Head (1968); other studios waived licensing fees for a 1% cut of the film's projected profits. Hurwitz and Frumkes spent seven months screening clips before the screenplay for The Projectionist could be completed, selecting key scenes from The Birth of a Nation (1915), Intolerance (1916), Dante's Inferno (1924), Flash Gordon (1936), Gunga Din (1939), The Maltese Falcon (1941), Citizen Kane (1941), The Devil Commands (1941), Sergeant York (1941), Casablanca (1942) and It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955) . This level of studio cooperation was as astonishing as it was short-lived; within a few years, many of the major studios had been sold off and restructured and their film vaults locked tight by parent companies unable to appreciate the value of their assets.
The title role of The Projectionist was offered originally to Huntz Hall, a surviving member of the Dead End Kids/Bowery Boys. When Hall's health precluded his traveling from Los Angeles, a young Canadian actor named David Steinberg auditioned for the part. (Now a veteran film and TV director, Steinberg would play a cinema owner in the romantic comedy Something Short of Paradise in 1979.) A year into preproduction, Hurwitz offered the role to Chuck McCann. The son of a bandleader and music arranger for CBS, McCann had as a precocious 12 year-old cold-called Stan Laurel in retirement in California and remained a personal friend of the aging silent film comedian until Laurel's death in 1965. By then, McCann was a star in his own right as a children's TV show host, a semi-regular on The Steve Allen Show and a busy commercial actor and voiceover artist. McCann's devotion to silent film comedians (he had played Oliver Hardy to Dick Van Dyke's Laurel in a sketch on The Garry Moore Show in 1958) and a talent for mimicry made him a perfect fit for The Projectionist but Hurwitz's one-page pitch nearly went into the ash can; had his New York agent not been obliged by law to show him the offer, McCann never would have known about the project. Another casting coup was comic Rodney Dangerfield, who had just changed his stage name from Jack Roy; Dangerfield's fame grew immeasurably during production of The Projectionist, giving the finished film added clout with potential distributors.
Principal photography for The Projectionist lasted twenty-five days, with Hurwitz's camera operated by Victor Petrashevic, a 250 lb. Russian émigré whose background in ballet allowed him to navigate a crowded midtown without attracting undue attention. The film's main setting, a once-lush Times Square movie house, was composited with the façade of an Upper West Side cinema and the projection booth of an Asbury Park theater donated by the Walter Reade Organization in return for the courtesy of a first look. (An early scene in the cinema interior was filmed in the screening room of a midtown film laboratory.) While shooting exteriors, Hurwitz and his crew lucked upon the New York premiere of Blake Edwards Star! (1968) and returned to Times Square a year later to grab shots of the premiere of Bernard Kowalski's Krakatoa, East of Java (1969), feathering the footage for a fantasy sequence in which McCann's character imagines himself a Hollywood player.
With $110,000 in finishing funds donated by a cineaste who had inherited a large sum of money, Hurwitz shopped the completed film to the major studios, all of whom passed despite initial encouragement from United Artists. (UA CEO David Picker later produced the similar Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid  as a vehicle for Steve Martin.) After its October 1970 premiere at the Rochester Film Festival, The Projectionist opened in January 1971 to praise from critics and film scholars but proved a box office non-starter. The film's noble failure helped urge distributor Maron Films, which also handled the posthumous Edie Sedgwick vehicle Ciao, Manhattan! (1973) and the import of Luis Buñuel's Tristana (1970), to file for bankruptcy the following year.
An accomplished painter and printmaker whose works reside in the permanent collections of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York University, the Philadelphia Museum of Fine Art, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., Harry Hurwitz went on to an intermittent Hollywood career that found him doing duty as one of many writers credited for the screenplay of the Chevy Chase misfire Under the Rainbow (1981) and directing a number of low budget films under the alias Harry Tampa (whom Hurwitz described with self-deprecating levity as "a legend in his own slime"). Hurwitz reunited with many of his The Projectionist players for The Comeback Trail (1982), which boasts one of the last performances by former serial star Buster Crabbe, and his film industry spoof That's Adequate (1989), which was nominated for a special jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival. More of a reference than a memory for many movie-lovers under the age of fifty, The Projectionist nonetheless has remained a critical darling for forty years; critic turned filmmaker Joe Dante once told Hurwitz that there was a little of The Projectionist in every film he ever made. The Projectionist was honored by the Museum of Modern Art as one of the most important films of 1971, putting it in the esteemed company of Luchino Visconti'sDeath in Venice and Robert Altman's McCabe and Mrs. Miller.
Producer: Harry Hurwitz
Director: Harry Hurwitz
Screenplay: Harry Hurwitz
Cinematography: Victor Petrashevic
Music: Igo Kantor, Erma E. Levin
Film Editing: Harry Hurwitz
Cast: Chuck McCann (Projectionist / Captain Flash), Ina Balin (The Girl), Rodney Dangerfield (Renaldi / The Bat), Jára Kohout (Candy Man / Scientist), Harry Hurwitz (Friendly Usher), Michael Gentry (Usher / Henchman), Lucky Kargo (Usher / Henchman), David Holliday (Fat Man / Bat's Henchman), Sam Stewart (Usher/Henchman), Alex Stevens (Usher/Henchman).
by Richard Harland Smith
Chuck McCann interview by Steve Fritz, 2006
Chuck McCann interview by Billy Ingram, 2007
Harry Hurwitz interview by Michael Singer, A Cut Above: 50 Film Directors Talk About Their Craft.
Harry Hurwitz obituary, The New York Times>, October 11, 1995
Roy Frumkes interview, National Board of Review
Telephone conversation with Roy Frumkes, January 8, 2011
The Projectionist (1971) - The Projectionist
The film opens with the actual screen credits from the short cartoon Gerald Mcboing Boing's Symphony. Among the organizations and individuals acknowleged in The Projectionist's onscreen credits are: United Artists Corp., RKO General Inc., Columbia Pictures Corp. and the Walter Reade Organization. The film is dedicated to Benjamin Hurwitz.
Throughout the film, "Chuck's" fantasies are shown in black and white, while the present-day reality of the theater scenes are shown in color. The "Capt. Flash" sequences are presented without dialogue in the style of silent films. The Projectionist features clips from the following films: Gone With the Wind, Citizen Kane, Fort Apache, The Birth of a Nation, Casablanca, Gunga Din, Sergeant York, The Maltese Falcon and Barbarella (for more information about those films, please see entries above and below). The clips are woven into the story at various points, for example, when Chuck, as Capt. Flash, actually appears to enter the Rick's Café Americain scene from Casablanca. When Chuck leaves the Midtown Theater after finishing work, the marquis reads: "The Projectionist starring Chuck McCann, Ina Balin and Rodney Dangerfield." Many of the actors play dual roles, as theater employees in the theater scenes, and as characters in Chuck's fantasies.
According to the New York magazine review and an interview with independent filmmaker/artist Harry Hurwitz in the LA Free Press, Hurwitz filmed The Projectionist in New York in four weeks, then spent a year and a half editing it. The project was a cooperative effort of the cast and crew by which all the cast and crew members drew minimal salaries in return for a percentage of the film. According to a October 29, 1969 article in the Asbury Park Evening Press, the scenes inside the movie theater were shot at the closed Paramount Theatre in New York and the premiere scene was filmed at the Mayfair Theatre in Asbury Park.
The film marked Hurwitz' debut as a feature director and the screen debut of comedian Rodney Dangerfield (22 November 1921-5 October 2004). Jara Kohout, who played "The Candy Man," was a star of the Czech cinema in the 1930s and 1940s. He marked his American film debut in What's So Bad About Feeling Good? (see below). McCann and Kohout also appeared together in Hurwitz's 1982 film The Comeback Trail.
Released in United States 1971
Released in United States 1971