George Abagnalo comments on "Ninety Degrees in the Shade"[Webmistress's Note: George Abagnalo is the co-screenwriter of Andy Warhol's last production, Andy Warhol's Bad (1977), and the author of the novel Boy On A Pony (2001). --db]
5/17/06Dear Diana,"90 Degrees" opened in New York City in November, 1966 at what was then a notable art theatre, the Cinema Rendezvous on West 57th Street. I was a young teen at the time, but a lover of serious films. The film received poor reviews, even from those critics who usually appreciated such films. It closed very quickly; I'm sure it was within ten days; just before I was able to catch it. It never played at another theatre, not even as a co-feature or revival house novelty. At some time in the late sixties or early seventies, it showed late one night on a local television station, but due to some calamity I was only able to catch a few minutes. Miraculously, in the early eighties, it was scheduled for one showing only at the Bleecker Street Cinema, an art/revival house in the West Village; I was going to New York University at the time. I'm not sure, but I got the impression the film was lent to the theatre by an instructor I had heard about, who was in the film department of NYU, and who had worked on the film in some capacity. I imagined this person might have owned a print of it. Unfortunately the film showed the night before a final exam I was very fearful of and for which I had to study diligently. Again I was destined to miss this film.
With your assistance, Diana, I have finally seen "90 Degrees." The film was up to my expectations; I could see the black and white photography was of the highest quality; the script was uncontrived and beautifully done; jazz score effective; performances excellent. And what a powerful film it must have been for Czech audiences at the time!
James Booth was excellent in "90 Degrees." I had never seen him displaying that kind of animal magnetism before. It was believable that Anne Heyward's character was sexually addicted to Booth; that she knew that if she accepted the blame for the theft, while knowing that he never really loved her, she wouldn't be able to respect herself; but also that if she allowed him to go to prison she wouldn't be able to forgive herself, and that he would use that as an excuse for hating her upon his release. Thus, her suicide was completely believable. This only worked because Booth was "hot" enough for the audience, and that heat was in his performance as well as his physical presence.I recall James Booth from two of my favorite films, both with Rod Taylor: the contrived but fascinating "Darker Than Amber" (in my opinion, Booth's role really should have been given to an aging Irish actor in this one), and the powerful "The Man Who Had Power Over Women."It's great to have met someone who knows about this film, and who is obviously one who appreciates some very non-commercial cinema.Best regards,