Michael Roemer had no idea what he was getting into when he decided to give his children a gift of his 1969 feature film “The Plot Against Harry”. What had earlier begun as a mere video snowballed into post-production investment of $24,000 out of Roemer’s own pocket. The film will be featured on January 12 at Cinema Studio, almost 21 years after Roemer finished making it.
“I suppose it is unheard of,” he says.
It is possible that Harry just wasn’t meant for mass consumption in the late sixties, the era of small, independent films that were supposed to have a lesson for the viewers. The plot of Harry revolves around a small-time Jewish numbers racketeer in the Bronx, while the film itself is a black-and-white existential comedy. Roemer and his cameraman, Robert M. Young (who had recently directed Triumph of the Spirit), have managed to make Harry something transcendent, just like Fellini Goes to the Grand Concourse.
“People were soundly confused by it – very intelligent people couldn’t follow it back then,” says Roemer, 62, who resides in Yonkers. “But when I brought the film to the lab last year, in order to make a half-inch video, the guy doing the transfer started to laugh. It startled me because nobody laughed in 1969. I started thinking, Maybe this thing has some life I didn’t know about. “
Roemer had wanted a mixed ethnicity portrayal which led him to cast several amateur and unknown actors, including art dealer Holly Solomon (credited under the name of Hollis Culver). She makes a guest appearance as a call girl. “For me, it was the chance to create a wonderful character,” says Martin Priest, the film’s star, who is going to come to New York from California for the much-awaited opening and a cast reunion at Fine & Schapiro. “Now my only hope is that people in the industry will recognize that the talent and the craft that went into creating that part is still alive and that they don’t say, “For our next film, go out and get me a younger Martin Priest. Then it’s over before it begins.
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