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May 23, 2017

Obsessions revisited

obsessions cult epics.jpg

Bezeten - Het gat in de muur
Pim de la Parra - 1969
Cult Epics BD Regions ABC / Region 0 DVD two disc set

Ten months after my review of the German blu-ray, Cult Epics has made available a stateside release of the Dutch thriller cowritten by Martin Scorsese. Making this very much worth the wait is that this version is loaded with extras. Carried over from the German version is the introduction and interview with German actor-producer Dieter Geissler, at the time a rising star who shifted full time to film production a few years later. The Cult Epics version also has an introduction and interview with Pim de la Parra, an overview of the Dutch production company Scorpio, a transcript of a telephone interview with Scorsese made by Amsterdam's EYE Institute this past February, the organization that restored Obsessions, and a copy of the screenplay with Scorsese's notes. Just that one blu-ray bonus of the full screenplay, with notes by Scorsese, plus some by de la Parra, makes this arguably one of the most important home video releases of this year.


The screenplay may not be in the same realm as The Power and the Glory, Preston Sturges' debut as a screen writer, with a film noted as having influenced the structure of Citizen Kane. Be that as it may, the screenplay notes by Scorsese are worth reading to get an idea of Scorsese's thoughts on filmmaking at that time, with several notes of advice for de la Parra. This is the kind of material one usually is only able to find in film archives, and often under restricted circumstances. One bit that did not make it from page to screen was having the film end with Dean Martin on the soundtrack singing, "Return to Me".

The more casual viewer may wonder what makes Obsessions important if they see the film without bothering with the supplements. The first Dutch film produced in English was a world-wide hit, starring Canadian actress, Alexandra Stewart, highly regarded in Europe at the time. Aside from the restoration of this film more than fifty years after its release, Obsessions was not even shown in the U.S., even though it had exploitable elements, especially the nudity. Scorsese was initially in Amsterdam to film a fantasy sequence with nudity for Who's that Knocking on my Door, following the request of exploitation distributor Joseph Brenner to make the film more commercial. Additionally, de la Parra points out that one of the uncredited actresses in that scene, Marieke Boonstra, is also in Obsessions. There's no explanation as to why none of the smaller distributors passed on Obsessions, even when Martin Scorsese's name would have been a selling point. Curiously, Joseph Brenner did provide U.S. distribution for Because of the Cats, an early film by Dutch director Fons Rademakers, who has a small role here, in a film also starring Alexandra Stewart.

Aside from the historical significance of Obsessions in the history of Dutch cinema, and the careers of several filmmakers, the supplements here make this two-disc set worthy of the serious cineaste.


Posted by Peter Nellhaus at May 23, 2017 09:16 AM