Spring Night, Summer Night - Spring Night, Summer Night(Blu Ray) [Powerhouse - 2020]In the early-to-late1970ís when American exploitation cinema was at it most virile, & often brutal/ sleazed, along came Spring Night, Summer Night- a decidedly lo-key rural drama about a growing romance between two young adults, who may or not be blood linked. The film seesaws from glum moodiness, to busy & bustling local color, through to gritty drama. On Powerhouse here, we have recent Blu Ray release of this lesser-seen US drama- taking in a new 4k scan of the film, and a good selection of extras.
Filmed in 1967, but not shown until 1970 in a very limited form Spring Night, Summer Night was the first feature-length film directed & co-written Joseph L. Anderson. He only had two other credits to his name- 1961ís Football as It Is Played Today- a six-minute short about the game day at The Ohio State University, and 1972ís America First- a little-seen film about an isolated Appalachian region thatís visited by a group of strangers & a TV crew. So clearly he had very regional & earthy groundings in his film making subjects & settings. Following this trend on Spring Night, Summer Night is set in & around small-town rural south-eastern Ohio, featuring a cast made up of largely amateur & none actors- all filmed in stark-to-unflattering black & white.
The film focuses in on the family of middle age coal miner-turned-farmer- heís on his second marriage to tired alcoholic lush, with a large family who all live in a rundown farmhouse a mile or so from a small town. To begin with, we move between atmospherically stark shots of landscape/ dusty & dilapidated farm buildings and the busy & crowded daily life of the family. But slowly but surely the focus turns to the relationship between Jessica- the shy & homely older daughter of the family, and Carl who may or may not be her full or half brother. As the pair hit the town, going to bustling & sweaty bar- itís clear Carl's feelings go beyond brother & sister care, as he overreacts to her dancing- after a scuffle the pair make their way home, stopping in a stark moon lite field to quickly make love. Then we fast forward some months- going from spring to summer, Carl returns from working away to find Jessica pregnant, and their ties/relationship grows deeper.
Spring Night, Summer Night is score-less, and when music appears in just in the background- be in vibrate & sweaty bluegrass of the local bar, or more sleek & smooth easy listening of the car stereo of the traveling salesman who drops Carl back at the homestead. The acting performances are extremely naturalistic, and at times a little wobbly- but this adds to both the films' emotional honesty & lo-fi key charm. The film runs at one hour and twenty-two minutes, and at times the pacing does go off a little, meaning at points things do drag somewhat- but hang in there and we get rewarded with either nicely atmospheric shots of tired & rundown rural Americain, bustling & boozed-up local characters, or moody-to-tense interactions between the family. Thereís no doubt that Spring Night, Summer Night certainly stands out as one of the few independently made & wholly grounded drama of this time in US cinema, and itís great to see Powerhouse putting the film out- but I personally found it a little too wondering & loose in itís unfold, with not enough tension & gritty in the more confrontational moments- not sure if this is down to the acting, writing, directing, or all three. Iíd say if your looking for powerful & fraught drama you will be disappointed, but if your after a largely atmospheric & lo-key character study set in an often rundown rural location Spring Night, Summer Night will fit your needs.
Moving onto the new Blu Ray- and we get a nice crisp & defined monochrome print of the film, which really emphasizes the moody landscape & building shots. On the extras we get a twenty-four-minute featurette with the directors/ producers, and actors discussing the film now 50 years later. Next, thereís Iím Goiní to Straitsville- a fourteen revisiting of the locations from the film. Thereís In the Middle of the Nights: From Arthouse to Grindhouse and Back Again- a thirteen-minute video essay about the film, which also touches on the sexploitation re-cut of the film Miss Jessica Is Pregnant. We get a few archived things- a forty-eight minute with the cast & crew from 2016, 16 mm behind the scene footage from the film with optional director/producer commentary, and a selection of four early films from the director.
Once again Powerhouse has done a great job uncovering & reissuing Spring Night, Summer Night- as itís certainly a unique and distinct for this period in independent American film. Through personal I wished it had more edge & emotionally fraught moments, Iíd say if youíre either a fan of moody & atmospheric rural drama, or interested in this period of American independent cinema- then this is most certainly something youíll need to pick up.