Friday, October 14, 2005

Movie: Blind Spot (1947)

It has been pointed out by many writers that endings are a bitch. But titles aren’t a walk in the park either. At times, they can be the inspiration for all that follows, like MARS NEEDS WOMEN or I CHANGED MY SEX.

They can arrive with the original idea or show up a few weeks later as if by fourth-class mail. Occasionally, a suitable one never presents itself. And then you’re left hanging.

Last year an entire screenplay fell into my head. Plot, characters, dialogue ... everything but a title. I wrote it in a white heat – now there’s a title – then slapped a placeholder on it. THE NEXT LEVEL. As in, “I’m gonna take this to ...”

My manager is very enthusiastic about the script but says we’ve got to call it something else. Out of curiosity I ask why.

“When I hear that phrase,” he says, “I think of video games.”

“Damn,” says the PlayStation-less I. “We’ve got to call it something else.”

Thus began the title fight. The two of us come up with a dozen alternates. Friends and associates contribute even more. The winner, by almost unanimous decision, is BLIND SPOT. It suits a noir-style thriller, and has certain thematic resonance. That’s the title it was optioned under earlier this year.

Other movies have gone by that name. There’s the acclaimed documentary about Hitler’s secretary. And a 1947 mystery which is unavailable on video.

I vowed that at some point, I would track that BLIND SPOT down.

One of the highlights of the fall cinema season in this neck of the woods is the Seattle Art Museum’s film noir series, which always sells out instantly. A few days after that happened, I took a look at this year’s program.

October 13. Blind Spot. 1947.

This is where I’m supposed to explain how difficult it was for me to land a ticket. Nope. A friend put me in touch with SAM’s film curator. When I told him why I had to see the movie, he said, “Don’t worry. We’ll make room for you.”

This is where I’m supposed to say that the 1947 film is a hidden treasure. After all, Leonard Maltin gives it three stars and calls it a “tight little mystery.” Can’t do that, either. It’s got a clever premise. Chester ‘Boston Blackie’ Morris plays an alcoholic writer forced to prove that he didn’t murder his publisher using the method he devised for his next novel. There are some nice jabs at the book business, and Constance Dowling is on hand to look lovely.

The print we watched came from the U.K. and by all accounts is the only one in existence other than the original negative. I was one of the younger people in the audience last night, and it’s strange to think that someday I could be one of the few people who has seen this particular film.

But with any luck, it will live on through the title. A huge grin split my face when it came up on screen and stayed there throughout the movie. Although when the film ended, I did have this thought:

My BLIND SPOT will be better.