Oregon Movies, A to Z

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Handy Guide To Urban Themed Oregon Films

February 12th, 2014 by Anne Richardson · No Comments · Handy guide series

Police face off against antiwar demonstrators in The Seventh Day, a 1970 documentary shot by Portland State University students.

A long list of American filmmakers have chosen The City as a subject in documentaries, educational films, and narrative features. The following list is of films/filmmakers with an Oregon connection.

This list includes both fiction and non-fiction films. It is NOT comprehensive!

The Boy Mayor 1914, directed by Henry McRae. Starring teenager Eugene J. Rich, Portland’s real Boy Mayor. The fictional plot line depicts the “clean up the streets” motive behind the Boy Mayor campaign. Restored by National Film Preservation Foundation, thanks to Michele Kribs, Oregon Historical Society’s film archivist. Shot in Los Angeles.

Dementia 1953, retitled Daughter of Horror 1955, directed by John Parker, Jr.  The City is a moody, expressionist dreamscape in this combination art film/horror film made by the son of Portland theater chain owner, J. J. Parker. Score by George Antheil. Shot in Los Angeles.

Portland Expose 1957, directed by Harold Schuster. Exploitation film, based on real events. The plot line had to be fictionalized so it could be believed. In real life, it was a well known crime boss, not an upstanding small businessman, who blew the whistle on the corrupt union leader who was muscling in on his vice world territory. Shot in Portland.

The Olive Trees Of Justice 1962, directed by James Blue. Banks of barbed wire surround buildings, police are everywhere, bombs go off, tanks roll by, and yet somehow everyday life still goes on.  A young French colonialist tries to locate his childhood friends, and his own identity, in the middle of the chaos. Shot in Algiers.

The Seventh Day 1970, directed by students at PSU’s Center For The Moving Image. Documentary coverage of an anti-war demonstration which erupts into violence. Made by Tjeck Dusseldorp, with Charles Auch and future music video superstar Jim Blashfield. Shot in Portland.

We Are The City 1972, directed by Tom Chamberlin. Portland is never named in this educational film, made for Encyclopedia Britannica. Includes Mayor Terry Shrunk and Neil Goldschimdt (another Boy Mayor, but at that time still a City Councilman). The footage is 95% Portland.

The Case Of The Kitchen Killer 1976, directed by Tim Smith. Self taught 16mm filmmaker’s black comedy uses Portland locations sensitively. Smith was just out of high school when he made this film. The hand of crew member Matt Groening makes a cameo appearance holding a murder weapon. Ben Padrow provides the voice over narration. Shot in Portland.

Who Killed Fourth Ward? (1976-77) and The Invisible City: Houston Housing Crisis (1978-79), directed by James Blue. Oregon’s first Oscar nominee focused on urban housing conditions for his two longest docs, made for Houston public television. Shot in Houston.

Property 1977, directed by Penny Allen. Eight Portland friends respond to gentrification by deciding to band together to buy a house in their Lair Hill neighborhood. Not a documentary, but inspired by real life events, with some of the participants in the real events joining the cast, playing themselves. Cinematography by Eric Ericson, sound by Gus Van Sant. Shot in Portland.

Mahagonny 1980, directed by Harry Smith. “(Smith’s) cinematic transformation of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s caustically satirical opera is an allegory that explores human needs and desires amid the rituals of daily life in New York City. The film is a collage composed from a variety of film genres, intercutting portraits of important avant-garde figures, New York City landmarks, and Smith’s visionary animation.” Shot in New York.

Talk Radio 1988, directed by Oliver Stone. Based on a play written by Portland artist Tad Savinar and New York actor Eric Bogosian. The play is about urban discontent, but the real reason the movie Talk Radio is on this list is that Savinar combines his career as a fine artist with his career as an urban designer. Currently he is Vice Chair of the Portland Design Review Commission. Shot in Dallas.

Drugstore Cowboy 1989, directed by Gus Van Sant. The fictionalized memoir of a real life felon provides a portrait of a city. Shot as a period piece, set in the 1970’s. Starring Matt Dillon, Kelly Lynch and William Burroughs. Van Sant’s ascension to stardom branded Portland as an indie capital. Shot in Portland.

Portlandia 2011 – 2018, directed by Jonathan Krisel. Writer-producer-stars Carrie Brownstein & Fred Armisen, plus producer David Cress. Award winning television series sending up Portland’s middle brow quirkiness. Shot in Portland.

Alien Boy 2012, directed by Brian Lindstrom. Documentary examining Portland’s response to the death of James Chasse, Jr., who died in police custody. Shot in Portland.

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