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July 09, 2010


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James Keepnews

"It's a long hustle, but it keeps me real busy..." -- that ended up being sampled on some X-ecutioners mixtape-on-CD, maybe solo Rob Swift.

Ryan Kelly

I'd never noticed that "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" was playing in the theater in the background of this shot. What a great touch.


Damn, I don't have the DVD right now to check it, but I remember seeing billboards for films starring Burt Lancaster and Charles Bronson.

And I've always wondered... when Travis and Betsy are in the porno theater, watching that Swedish movie, and in the screen there's a man and a woman talking, then it cuts to some microscope images, then suddenly to the middle of an orgy... has anybody actually seen the original film to check if it's actually edited that way? It was as nonsensical as the editing in 'The man who saves the Earth' AKA 'Turkish Star Wars' as seen in some Youtube clips... except, when I saw the entire movie, I could convince myself that yes, the clips were taken unedited from the movie. Gloriously so.


This has always been my favorite shot in this movie.


Someday I want to sit down with a copy of Shadows and a notebook, and jot down every movie title appearing on the marquees in that film. I've never heard of any of them (and there's a lot of them!)

The First Bill C

@I.B.: Aren't those "microscopic images" actually reflections off the mirror of the projector? They're so unfathomable in any case that I always thought they were effective in putting us temporarily in Betsy's head.


When I visited Manhattan for the first time, I was sure to photograph a yellow cab driving through NYC's street-level steam.

Admittedly it was only a puff of steam on 5th Avenue in broad daylight, but still...

Mike Mazurki

The film was "Sometimes Sweet Susan" and yes, it was actually edited that way! Was available for a while from Something Wierd as part of their infamous "Bucky Beaver" series...

Okay, probably a bit obsessive to admit to knowing all that, but hey!


Yeah, that was one crazy porno. Pretty difficult to get that one to work for you, I would think.


@ The First Bill C: no, no, I meant shots of an ovum. Travis and Betsy sit down, and then we see on the theater screen: 1) a woman talking with a doctor (or the other way around, I can't remember well), 2) the ovum, while the doctor is enumerating in Swedish distinct cells and reproductive organs, and 3) a naked man and a woman on a bed, at which point the film cuts to Betsy staring down and touching her forehead, then cutting to a full-blown orgy which compels Betsy to get up and leave, eliciting protests from other customers. It is implied that 1-2-3 are continuous and unedited from the porn movie, and Schrader indicates in the script that Betsy is shocked by the sudden cut to explicit sex.

@ Mike Mazurki: thanks! I always found that montage extremely clumsy even for porn, though I have to admit I've never seen an 'erotic' film from the '70s. OK, 'Emmanuelle', but that was pretty conventional (i.e., mainstream).

By the way, the scene in the script was funnier: Betsy is sickened by the sex on the screen, but she decides to leave only after Travis complains about forgetting to buy popcorn!

Tom Block

Betsy is funny there for a second, when she tries to be a sport by squnching up her face and trying to see what's good in the movie. For a brief second she looks like Tracy Jordan when he's taking in fatherly advice from Jack Donaghy.

Mike Mazurki

Shucks I.B., you need to see more adult 70s cinema, as it gets a lot clunkier than that! Emanuelle is great, but it doesn't really count...

Dan Coyle

Nearly thirty five years later, and it remains a film that sticks with you for a long, long time.

Peter Nellhaus

Even though I only stepped into that flea pit twice, I feel a twinge of nostalgia when I see the Variety Photoplays marquee glimpsed in "Taxi Driver". I think that I also went to almost every theater on 42nd Street at least once to catch some great double features there at about the time the film was made.

The Jake Leg Kid

In its own way, TAXI DRIVER presents one of the most romanticized visions of NYC ever. Those lusturous colors... certainly the film that made me want to move here. Anyway, this still has inspired me to re-read "Sleazoid Express," Bill Landis and Michelle Clifford's fabulous literary tour of the Times Square grindhouses.

Glenn Kenny

@ Jake Leg: Indeed. While there's a certain "documentary" value to what's seen here (I did a piece in the Voice many years ago about the various now-extinct Manhattan landmarks captured in the film; the article itself has now disappeared from the paper's online archive), the picture's depiction of NYC really is a hellish fantasia. My friend Joseph Failla points out that the whole film in miniature is contained in the shot above, as the cab first passes the "Texas Chainsaw" marquee and then the flashing neon sign of the pinball arcade called "Fascination." Indeed.

In any event, and more to your point, the only time I hung out in that area (and I hung out there WAY TOO MUCH back in the day) and it looked as it did in "Taxi Driver," I was on acid.

Stephen Bowie

Most of this stuff was long gone before I moved to NYC, but I live in (well, near) the neighborhood where the Variety Theatre used to be, and took great joy in the fact that both the Variety and the furniture store next door looked EXACTLY as they did in TAXI DRIVER (they're actually most prominent in the background of the scenes where Keitel is standing on his pimp-stoop, which was on 13th St. between 2nd and 3rd). Then the bums tore the theater down (and the furniture store got a new sign):


The coffee shop where DeNiro and the other taxi drivers hang out was even closer to me, on Park Avenue at 28th Street, which is also, coincidentally, home to the 6 train station where Robert Shaw et. al. hijack the subway in THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123. Apart from the unrelenting crappiness of the remake, I was seriously cheesed off that they used a different station.

Sean Anderson

I saw the film the week it opened in February 1976 at the Coronet Theater on Third Avenue. So it was a bit surreal when there was a shot of Travis driving by the very theater I was sitting it watching the movie...


"They took my baby away from me..."

Stephen Whitty

Wish I could read that VV piece now, Glenn. I used to live in that neighborhood, and remember those sleazoid landmarks well.

Next to the Variety, of course, was the Dugout bar, with a cardboard sign advertising "Frosty Mugs O' Beer, 50 Cents."

I went there once on a St. Patrick's Day when they were also advertising a "Free Lunch!" Queried on this, the weary bartender finally set up a buffet consisting of paper plates and two large plastic salad bowls, one containing iceberg lettuce and the other full of creamed corn.

A couple of blocks away were some great, dusty used-book stores, too, all gone now, crushed under the behemoth of the Strand. And the bar Broadway Charlie's, which boasted a pool table and a three-legged dog. Every morning, just before closing at 4 a.m., the sanitation workers used to roll in for eyeopeners of Fleischman's, 90 cents.

Ah youth.

While we're nostalgically speaking, Glenn, I hope we haven't seen the last of your end-of-week "Questions, Exercises..." posts. Always enjoyed the sort of Thank-Godard-It's-Friday nature of those, and I'll miss them if they're gone.

The Jake Leg Kid

@Glenn, Too bad about the disappearance of your piece from the Voice archives. It would make for fascinating reading, I'm sure. The first movie title I remember spotting on a Times Square marquee was NEW WAVE HOOKERS back when I was eight or nine. The hooker part I got, but what the hell was new wave? Anyway, really feel like I missed out on a lot.

Sean Anderson

Did anybody ever go into the Variety Photoplays theater ? I ventured in there once, about 1985, and what any experience... I won't go into details, but let's say the balcony area was something only Caligula could imagine !


any chance for a higher res capture Glenn? I'm moving across the country and my dvds are packed away, but that makes for an amazing desktop wallpaper! Not having the collection at my fingertips is bad enough...but this image has me salivating at the opportunity to revisit this.

Sean Anderson

There's an article similar to Glenn's on the website www.scoutingny.com , where the guy post a lot of "then and now" shots of various "Taxi Driver" locations.

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