Scen.: Joseph L. Anderson, Franklin Miller, Doug Rapp. F.: Brian Blauser, David Prince, Art Stifel. M.: Joseph L. Anderson, Franklin Miller. Scgf.: Dennis Livingston. Int.: Larue Hall (Jessica), Ted Heim (Carl), Marj Johnson (la madre), John Crawford (il padre), Tracy Smith (la sorella di Jessica), David Ayres (il benzinaio). Prod.: Joseph L. Anderson, Franklin Miller per Triskele. DCP. D.: 84’. Bn.
A ‘missing link’ of American independent cinema, filmed in rural ‘coal country’ in Ohio, Spring Night, Summer Night tells the story of an ill-advised romance between a brother and half-sister, who may actually not be related by blood at all. That aching ambiguity is the key to this gorgeous film, deeply inspired by Italian neorealism of the era, and the only feature film to be released by its director.
Forced by its original distributor to be brutally re-edited and re-titled, and then abandoned for almost 40 years, the film has been entirely reconstructed to its original vision with the co-operation of its co-creators, Joseph L. Anderson and Franklin Miller. For the first time, audiences can see the gorgeous detail as photographed in vivid 35mm black and white, as the original release suffered from poor lab work, which is now eliminated.
It was Peter Conheim of the Guild Cinema in Albuquerque who alerted me to the existence of a mysterious 1967 film by J.L. Anderson called Spring Night, Summer Night. This wasn’t just a nice, obscure film that would speak to a few cinephiles like ourselves, but a compelling and beautiful drama that held its own with the very best of independent cinema.[…]
I had gradually been realising the existence of an unknown and completely accidental – but surprisingly coherent – body of American neorealism. These works used non-actors playing themselves alongside trained or semi-trained actors, location shooting with existing-light cinematography, and loose-at-best storylines to depict a gritty underbelly of American life unseen on screens on or off Hollywood. […]
Set in rural south-eastern Ohio, Spring Night, Summer Night tells the story of a conflicted love affair with a distinctly hillbilly twist. The story becomes just one part of a landscape of Americana in which the characters are engulfed by a larger reality from which there might be no escape, even in solitude.
Anderson and co-writer, producer and editor Miller originally sought to adapt a 1920s story by Wilbur Daniel Steele set in Appalachia. They spent two years scouting locations in the remote coal-mining hills of Ohio, picking up speech patterns and dialects, and writing the script. For the lead roles of Jessie and Carl they cast Larue Hall and Ted Heim, who had backgrounds in community theatre, and who convey all the tortured hope of youth. Cast and crew volunteered their time against a share of future profits, which unsurprisingly never materialised.
Ross Lipman, Lost and Found: Spring Night, Summer Night, “Sight & Sound”, 6 June 2012