Stop (Bill Gunn, 1970)

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Dylan
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Stop (Bill Gunn, 1970)

#1 Post by Dylan » Fri Mar 27, 2009 10:37 pm

beamish13 wrote:These stills may be from "Stop". It looks VERY intriguing. It's amazing how gusty WB was in the early seventies, when stuff like this and Mike Nichols' planned adaptation of Terry Southern's "Blue Movie" (which was going to have hardcore sex scenes) were being conceived.
Has anybody seen Stop?

From All Movie Guide:
Yuppie-type Michael Berger (Edward Bell) and his bitter wife Lee (Linda Marsh) can barely stand each other as it is. Things don't get much better when they move to Puerto Rico to a house he just inherited from his brother, and the circumstances aren't all that auspicious. It seems his brother murdered his wife before committing suicide. Since they don't see much future in their marriage anyway, they agree to try the then-popular sport of wife-swapping. In this movie, however, more than just wives are swapped, as explicit sexual references and lesbian encounters also take place. Michael goes ballistic from time to time, and his wife is a real queen of sarcasm. Their dislike of each other grows throughout the film, but the bonds which hold them together have never seemed more unbreakable. This movie was produced in 1970 and went commercially unreleased for almost 20 years.
It sounds interesting, and I'm surprised Warner never found even the most limited of releases for it in the increasingly liberated atmosphere of seventies cinema. IMDB says it has shown in festivals and universities, but there are no reviews online I can locate. It was the first film shot by Owen Roizman (The Exorcist, Network).

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Re: Stop (Bill Gunn, 1970)

#2 Post by Perkins Cobb » Mon Mar 30, 2009 12:21 pm

I think I've said before that (based on my enthusiasm for Bill Gunn's Ganja and Hess) this is a film I'd very much like to see. I think I read somewhere (maybe on this forum) that the Film Forum in New York showed Stop after Gunn died in 1989.

If WB had a print then, I'm surprised it hasn't surfaced elsewhere since, particularly given that AllDay's DVD releases of Ganja and Hess have raised Gunn's profile considerably during the last decade.

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GaryC
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Re: Stop (Bill Gunn, 1970)

#3 Post by GaryC » Mon Mar 30, 2009 7:42 pm

Perkins Cobb wrote:I think I've said before that (based on my enthusiasm for Bill Gunn's Ganja and Hess) this is a film I'd very much like to see. I think I read somewhere (maybe on this forum) that the Film Forum in New York showed Stop after Gunn died in 1989.

If WB had a print then, I'm surprised it hasn't surfaced elsewhere since, particularly given that AllDay's DVD releases of Ganja and Hess have raised Gunn's profile considerably during the last decade.
I do remember a review in Variety around the time of the Film Forum showing, whenever that was. Stop was given a MPAA X rating in 1970, which may have contributed to Warners' decision to shelve it.

beamish13
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Re: Stop (Bill Gunn, 1970)

#4 Post by beamish13 » Tue Mar 31, 2009 1:48 am

I wonder if the film's rating could possibly deter WB from touching it for the indefinite future. Don't they have a policy which stipulates that they will not release unrated or NC-17 cuts of films?

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Re: Stop (Bill Gunn, 1970)

#5 Post by Antoine Doinel » Tue Mar 31, 2009 7:10 am

beamish13 wrote:Don't they have a policy which stipulates that they will not release unrated or NC-17 cuts of films?
I don't know about NC-17 material, but they certainly don't have a problem with unrated releases.

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Re: Stop (Bill Gunn, 1970)

#6 Post by jesus the mexican boi » Fri Apr 03, 2009 5:09 am

Pretty thorough exploration here.

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Re: Stop (Bill Gunn, 1970)

#8 Post by Perkins Cobb » Wed Mar 17, 2010 5:00 pm

BAM will be screening Stop in April ... on VHS.

Also Gunn's Private Property (1980), presumably on some format other than VHS.

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Re: Stop (Bill Gunn, 1970)

#9 Post by royalton » Thu Apr 01, 2010 11:18 pm

Personal Problems was wonderful at BAM; no one seems to know if there is more to the program than what we got tonight (almost 3 hours' worth), but Jake Perlin said he thought there might be audio-only episodes. It is exactly what it calls itself: Avant-garde soap opera. Very much both. Looking forward to Stop over the weekend.

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Re: Stop (Bill Gunn, 1970)

#10 Post by Perkins Cobb » Fri Apr 02, 2010 12:14 pm

Thanks for the report ... wish I could've gone. What format did BAM show it on, i.e., what's the likelihood of a copy making the rounds now?

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Re: Stop (Bill Gunn, 1970)

#11 Post by royalton » Fri Apr 02, 2010 5:18 pm

From what I understand, it was either one or two very old VHS tapes from The Kitchen, apparently transferred to digi-beta or something; the tapes are apparently no longer available due to The Kitchen beginning the process of overhauling and transferring its supply. We saw "Volume 1 and 2." Google has the University of Delaware listing other volumes, possibly only available on audio. Info is scant and inconsistent - when BAM first prepped the screening, then believed we'd only be watching an hour and forty minutes - instead we got 160. I don't know how much of the program was shown on PBS in the '80s, but that's how it got funding and that's where some of it, at least, did screen.

As for what we got, Personal Problems really is like if you mashed-up, say, Performance and 1970s-era Days of our Lives. The narrative is fragmented and non-linear, there's all sorts of moments of lyricism and abstraction, but the plot is pure soap. That's not a bad thing. Vertamae Grosvenor as Johnnie Mae, the nurse working at Harlem Hospital, is the central focus, and she could easily be Susan Lucci and Erica Kane in the early years, before Erica became rich and a glamour goddess. Like Lucci's character on All My Children, Johnnie Mae is introduced as living in modest surroundings she disdains, wanting more out of her lot in life, wanting to pursue her poetry instead of working round the clock in the ER. She cheats on her surly husband Charles (the great Walter Cotton) with a vaguely obnoxious musician who gives her a taste of the high life, and lets her 'lean on' instead of always being leaned on by her friends and family. She longs to leave NY and go back to South Carolina, as her friend is doing, yet she and her girlfriends seem to also enjoy moments of living above their means in these sort of rough, prototypical Candace Bushnell-esque cocktail klatches. It's a lot of self-delusion; Johnnie Mae puts on a gauzy dress and a floppy hat and prances along the banks of the Hudson with her lover, but at the end of the day it's back to her tiny apartment which is housing her, Charles, his father, and her ne'er-do-well half-brother and his wife, who have run into trouble with the law and have yet to retrieve their child, who was left behind in California with Social Services.

There is some occasional, fourth-wall-breaking direct address where someone (Gunn?) puts Johnnie Mae and others through a Q&A about their feelings and motivations. And we never figure out when a scene takes place where Johnnie Mae finds Charles in bed with his own mistress, but judging by the end of Volume 2 it must have come before the events of that episode. The script was apparently totally improvised by the actors after discussion with Gunn and Ishmael Reed, and there are some hilarious moments, including a scene where Johnnie Mae suggests Charles' get-rich-quick scheme sounds like Sidney Poitier's in A Raisin In The Sun, but no one in the household can remember the name of the film, and her father-in-low is convinced it's Cabin In The Sky. It's a long, languid riff, but priceless. Ishmael Reed also turns up as an obnoxious upper-middle-class businessman who voted for Reagan, arguing with a white radical (played by one of the production staff) and citing that any Hollywood actor who can bring his own monkey to the White House (from Bedtime For Bonzo) has his vote. Later, he appears again at a posh party Johnnie Mae attends with her lover, where the disparate stories (just like on daytime) begin to intersect. While spending a night in jail, Johnnie Mae's brother has spoken to another guy in the cellblock about getting 'an introduction' to mysterious crime boss "Mr. Damian" (Bill Gunn), who, unbeknownst to Johnnie Mae, is also at the cocktail party. At the party, Johnnie Mae's relationship with her musician lover unravels as it is clear she is out of place in the plasticine world he prefers, despite her love of the finer things, and she is drawn back to Charles and her home. I don't know where the story went from there (or maybe just would have gone), but I'm dying to find out. As a stand-alone, closed piece, however, it also pretty much works.

I forgot to ask about PP's potential future availability but given the truly home-video quality of the picture and sound I have my doubts. But I would kill to have it all - video format, audio-only, you name it.

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Re: Stop (Bill Gunn, 1970)

#12 Post by royalton » Sun Apr 04, 2010 5:37 pm

Re: Stop -

One of the actors, Edward Bell (who plays the lead, boorish poet Michael), was in attendance today and spoke at length about the making of the film. According to him, Stop was released by Warner Bros, very briefly, in Texas, of all places, where it died hard. Most importantly, he believes the Warner Archive will be releasing the picture next year, but there is of course no date on that.

It's really something, is all I can say for now. Similar territory is well-trod today - broken marriages, partner-swapping, drug-fueled walks on the wild side - but it's groundbreaking for its time and its rhythms are still very unique to Gunn's work; he does so much with silence and stillness. One can see why WB found it unreleasable, with both the husband and wife pairing off with same-sex lovers in fairly explicit sequences for the time. Great music by Ry Cooder. You can see portents of Ganja & Hess; I noticed a similarity in the husband's suicidal-dilettante ramblings to those of Gunn's character Meda in the later film. I thought the female lead, Linda Marsh (who Edward Bell said was a very proper actress, somewhat removed from the rest of the freewheeling cast and crew), was really the mesmerizing centerpiece, but that may be due to what Bell describes as the WB recutting the film from Gunn's vision into the in-between version we saw - he claims they made it more of "a women's film."

Also, for the Hollywood Babylon file: Bell alleged that Gunn was one of James Dean's lovers, and that he was "close" to Montgomery Clift.

P.S. - I'll be curious to hear anyone else who's seen the film's take on the sequence near the end, with Michael fleeing from Richard through the barren forest.
Last edited by royalton on Mon Apr 05, 2010 4:24 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Stop (Bill Gunn, 1970)

#13 Post by Perkins Cobb » Mon Apr 05, 2010 4:22 am

Thanks for the info, Royalton. Would be wonderful if Stop really does make it into the Warner Archive. Hopefully that's not just wishful thinking on Mr. Bell's part. I think Linda Marsh lives in New York now -- too bad she didn't show up!

As to Gunn's relationships with Dean and Clift, that's been pretty well documented, if not totally substantiated -- it goes back to Pat Bosworth's bio of Clift from the 70s, at least. William Bast's book on Dean has a lot of material on Gunn and accuses him of breaking into Dean's NY apartment and stealing stuff after Dean's death, although I think a lot of people who knew Dean dispute much of that book (Bast was a roommate of Dean's and claimed to have been one of his lovers as well).

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Re: Stop (Bill Gunn, 1970)

#14 Post by royalton » Mon Apr 05, 2010 4:27 am

Is there no limit to Jimmy Dean's conquests?

Stop does demand repeat viewing, it's still gnawing at me at 4 AM; the final narrative-breaking image alone (a visual play on the title) is a stunner. I'm going to see if there's some way to email the Warner Archive folks for information, but failing that, I wonder if it'll ever end up on some private tracker.

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Re: Stop (Bill Gunn, 1970)

#15 Post by impossiblefunky » Wed Mar 05, 2014 9:26 pm

Warner Archives says, "We were close to moving forward with a release, but came to a halt due to lack of necessary information in corporate files to confirm clearances. Nothing likely to happen until that is resolved. Very disappointing."

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Re: Stop (Bill Gunn, 1970)

#16 Post by JamesF » Thu Mar 06, 2014 9:35 am

Booooooo. Big fan of Ganja & Hess (I put on what I'm pretty sure was the first UK screening of the director's cut a couple of years ago, with Chiz Schultz's permission), as well as Gunn's script for The Landlord, and would love to see how this stacks up next to them.

Even though he didn't direct it, I'd also love to see Kathleen Collins' 1982 film Losing Ground, where Gunn is reunited onscreen with Duane Jones.

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Re: Stop (Bill Gunn, 1970)

#17 Post by beamish13 » Wed Mar 19, 2014 2:03 am

I wonder if WB needs to make a visit to the files they donated to USC...

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Re: Stop (Bill Gunn, 1970)

#18 Post by Perkins Cobb » Wed Mar 19, 2014 8:01 am

beamish13 wrote:I wonder if WB needs to make a visit to the files they donated to USC...
Those cut off at 1968, alas.

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Re: Stop (Bill Gunn, 1970)

#19 Post by beamish13 » Wed Apr 01, 2015 5:09 pm

Depressing update on the film from the WAC Facebook Page, after they were asked about giving it a theatrical re-release.
The film cannot be cleared for ANY distribution in any media due to the lack of proper documentation in our company files. Many people have searched for years, and until we what is needed is found, no one can do anything with the film.

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Re: Stop (Bill Gunn, 1970)

#20 Post by Dentists » Mon Jun 06, 2016 9:25 pm

beamish13 wrote:Depressing update on the film from the WAC Facebook Page, after they were asked about giving it a theatrical re-release.
The film cannot be cleared for ANY distribution in any media due to the lack of proper documentation in our company files. Many people have searched for years, and until we what is needed is found, no one can do anything with the film.

I'm friends with Sam Waymon (it's a sensitive subject but most likely if they need Bill Gunn's "rights" Sam Waymon probably owns them.
Is that what WB is talking about?

I LOVE Ganja & Hess, all Bill Gunn's 3 novels, & even Losing Ground so it would be amazing to see Stop! & Personal Problems.

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Re: Stop (Bill Gunn, 1970)

#21 Post by JamesF » Tue Jun 07, 2016 6:40 am

It would certainly be worth seeing whether Waymon holds the chain of title and other documents Warner may be missing, yes. He's the executor of Gunn's estate, isn't he?

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Re: Stop (Bill Gunn, 1970)

#22 Post by beamish13 » Tue Jun 07, 2016 11:46 am

Dentists wrote:
beamish13 wrote:Depressing update on the film from the WAC Facebook Page, after they were asked about giving it a theatrical re-release.
The film cannot be cleared for ANY distribution in any media due to the lack of proper documentation in our company files. Many people have searched for years, and until we what is needed is found, no one can do anything with the film.

I'm friends with Sam Waymon (it's a sensitive subject but most likely if they need Bill Gunn's "rights" Sam Waymon probably owns them.
Is that what WB is talking about?

I LOVE Ganja & Hess, all Bill Gunn's 3 novels, & even Losing Ground so it would be amazing to see Stop! & Personal Problems.

WOW! Yes, you should definitely contact Mr. Waymon regarding this. It would be phenomenal to see it get unearthed.

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Re: Stop (Bill Gunn, 1970)

#23 Post by Manny Karp » Tue Jun 07, 2016 4:12 pm

Yes, very interesting artist. And the urgency is there -- gotta get this out before Li'l Spike swipes it, begs us for money, calls it his own and then chastises us for his own failure.

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Re: Stop (Bill Gunn, 1970)

#24 Post by Dentists » Tue Jun 07, 2016 6:09 pm

is the problem with WB releasing Stop the rights?

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Re: Stop (Bill Gunn, 1970)

#25 Post by Dentists » Tue Jun 07, 2016 8:18 pm

Manny Karp wrote:Yes, very interesting artist. And the urgency is there -- gotta get this out before Li'l Spike swipes it, begs us for money, calls it his own and then chastises us for his own failure.
Spike Lee's remake ehh God bless him for having good taste & getting Chiz Schultz & Sam Waymon back for the movie but utimately the remake failed due to being shot for shot & having a stiff cast that left the movie feeling cold. I'm friends with some of the cast of the original G&H & one of the actors hates Spike so much for how he treated her on a previous project she refuses to watch his remake.

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