By Scott Michael Bosco
What are PEARLS? PEARLS are films when released weren't accepted by the public and resulted in financial disaster for the studio, and garnered a general negative reputation. Despite this reaction these films have found their way to being accepted either in other countries, garnering awards, and a fan base. These films are in their own way, are gems holding meanings, and a stature becoming cult favorites. They are worth a second look now long disassociated from their original release publicity. Now they are gems, or PEARLS, rare finds.
When films are produced it is usually with good intentions with the single notion to succeed with a profit. Sometimes films, produced with good intentions completely fail and fall into oblivion.
In 1980 Universal Studios released a film entitled, RESURRECTION. It stared Ellen Burstyn who was still riding her success in starring in THE EXORCIST.
The film was modest in budget but was detailed with some extremely notable cast and crew members. At the helm director Daniel Petrie who made a name for himself with A RASIN IN THE SUN, and had success with, FORT APACHE THE BRONX, BUSTER AND BILLIE, LIFEGUARD, SYBIL, and COCOON THE RETURN.
Also in the film was actor and play write, Sam Shepard. Richard Farnwsorth, Eva Le Gallienne a stage actress, producer, director, translator, and author.
The film was packed with a higher caliber talent and an extremely emotional screenplay.
Ellen Burstyn had accounted that the script was originally based on the concept of, “what if Christ had returned, but as a woman”? How would this affect the teaching, and presence in a modern world. The script was eventually fined tuned, altered and changed to a simpler narrative, but retained some of the more interesting and thought provoking aspects – to mention the emotional ones.
It seems that Ellen Burstyn’s son had experienced a bad accident while riding a horse. Doctors had been pushed to their limits in providing help leaving him unhealed. Burstyn however wouldn’t give up. She searched out help via other practices – healers. People who claimed to have the ability to heal others by purely a laying on of hands.
In the end Burstyn’s son was healed out of the medical realm.
When RESURRECTION was brought to her it was a natural fit in some ways mimicking her personal experience.
When the film was theatrically released in September, on the 26th 1980 it was done with some fan-fair with TV commercials, and theatrical trailer publicizing the premiere. However, it didn’t seem to attract attention. For some reason people stayed away in droves. Star Ellen Burstyn even gave out pamphlets outside the New York theater hoping to gain the film attention. With only an intake of under 4 million dollars the film was taken out of circulation and end up on cable; it was also noted it aired with a changed score.
I had not seen it in the theater since it came and went so quickly, and film never played near me. My first viewing was on cable. …and the experience was profound. Every person I knew who saw it fell under its spell taken by the emotional impact it delivered.
Why the film didn’t draw in an audience is beyond me. It did however find one once shown on cable, and later released onto home video. It was a constant rental on VHS and not one person I met was disappointed.
There were reports of theatrical audience members crying during the presentation, and I can confirm it affects people the same way on home video.
It’s not a religious film, yet it clearly deals with a mystical element. It’s heart felt in many ways affecting people in different ways. At its heart it is affecting at a purely gut level that touches perhaps on a more basic need. Simplistic to its core it hides nothing but presents basic events and presents them straight forward. But these events are resolved in a way that satisfies the viewer’s soul.
I can go forward on concepts but I rather not expose the plot and give away too much.
The film was available through Amazon, as a MOD DVD. The quality was only ok. It was a matted transfer, and there were audio issues. The film was mixed in MONO but there were phase errors that caused sound leakage from the front center into the surrounds. (If played in Dolby Pro-logic mode) It was available for a few years seemingly abandoned by UNIVERSAL.
I noticed on certain forums there were posts asking about the film, and hope it would re-released onto blu-ray.
Knowing certain smaller studios, like SHOUT, were getting allowance into the UNIVERSAL vaults I inquired, but to no avail.
Finally, it was announced that UNIVERSAL would be releasing the film themselves on to the blu-ray format on November 5th, 2019.
The film looks fine and sound well too. It however one of the cheapest releases from a major studio I’ve ever seen. First the film’s packaging showcases a new front artwork over the theatrical poster art. Standard color visuals are on the back. There is no booklet or insert.
The disc is devoid of a menu! The film play upon loading. There are chapters, but no way to view them since there is no menu. No audio, or subtitle selection. No extras, not even the theatrical trailer. It is without a doubt the cheapest release by a major studio.
Why UNIVERSAL choose to release this film doesn’t make sense. If given over to another studio it could have been handled much better with extras. This is a shame considering some connected with the film have since passed on, including the director, and co-star Eva Le Gallienne. Ellen Burstyn is still with us and I believe would have given a wonderful audio commentary if given the chance.
Unlike other articles within this series of “Pearls” which delve into plots, sub-plots and the like I can’t and won’t with this film.
Unlike most film this one runs so deep, and personal in affecting the view the less said is more to experience.
On every level this film simplistically, and carefully delivers an incredible emotional charge that must be experienced.
Now that it is available on blu-ray it can be, and should be shared. UNIVERSAL has short changed the consumer in lack of a more finished product, but the film itself rises above their poor handling.
I knew a person who worked in the publicity department of UNIVERSAL and was privy to screenings, thus seeing films prior to being changed. I remember him telling me of seeing a slightly longer edit of this film – certain scenes have been leaked via photo thought to be publicity, one of which is actually on the current blu-ray packaging. Perhaps if this films gets a second chance a better edition can be made via a pick-up company with interest. Until then, get it, watching it.
As the poster slogan stated, “It’s not suppose to happen. Be there when it does.”