Reel People

Irv Slifkin, Film Scholar

By Matt Prigge
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Dec. 6, 2006

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Deserves props for: Being "Movie Irv" on WIP-AM and an all-around walking encyclopedia of filmic knowledge. Has authored VideoHound's invaluable and dense Groovy Movies: Far-out Films of the Psychedelic Era and, as of last week, Filmadelphia, about all the films shot and/or set in our city.

What films do you think best portray Philly?

"Blow Out is a terrific portrayal of the city--not only of the seedier parts, but also Center City in a down time. One that really blew me away that I hadn't seen before I started writing the book was My Architect: A Son's Journey. Not only was it a compelling human interest story, but I also learned so much about the city and some history I had no clue about before."

Is there a dominant trait in cinematic representations of Philly, kind of like, say, Woody Allen and Manhattan?

"There are two polar views of the city. One is working class: Rocky, Kensington and so on. And the other is the opposite: highly sophisticated, Main Line, the Philadelphia Story version of the city. Some films have a nice cross section. Shadowboxer really uses Philadelphia well. You see some of the seedier parts: You see people living in luxury apartments in Center City, and you also see life in the suburbs."

What are some of the obscurities you're proud of excavating in Filmadelphia?

"Pride of the Marines, a John Garfield picture, which was a pretty famous movie in its time but has never been fully available. The Burglar with Jayne Mansfield and Dan Duryea. The one film I was never able to find a copy of was The Block from the early '60s. Some say it's a lost film."

What are some rare films you hope the book will direct readers to?

"One is The House of God. That was a film shot here in the '80s, mostly at Graduate Hospital. It had a terrific cast--a lot of people in early roles--and it was shelved. It never opened theatrically that I can recall. If they can find The House of God, I think people will be pleasantly surprised. I called it in the book: 'If Robert Altman directed an episode of ER.'"

Tell me about your friendship with the late Russ Meyer.

"I considered him my perverted uncle. In the early days of home video I found out his movies were available, so I called the number and discovered the guy I was talking to was Russ Meyer. I couldn't believe the guy who directed Vixen! and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! was actually taking orders for videotapes. And that's just the way he was. He would call me from airports in West Germany to see if we wanted to order more videotapes. He was just very hands-on."

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