Thursday, June 2, 2011
Welcome to a hot summer's evening in New York City in 1962. The setting: Bellevue Hosptial. It don't get more glamorous. We are in the "EMERGENCY WARD"--which is the name of the documentary film that my father, Frank De Felitta, shot during that sweltering summer of '62 and which is posted, in part, below.
The film is a fascinating look at a single intern and a typical night in his life. Of course it wasn't shot in a single night but over a course of weeks. The reason, according to my father, is that the mandate from NBC--the network who commissioned the show--was to show an intern losing one patient and saving another. This didn't happen every night. It barely happened that summer. But after weeks of arduous shooting and waiting and becoming a serious annoyance to the staff, my father and his crew delivered. Dr. Martin Mulnar--the young, blonde Tab Hunter-ish intern who they chose to follow--first lost and then finally saved a patients life. The film wrapped, NBC had their one hour movie, and Dr. Mulnar presumbaly went on to a career in medicine.( I can't find anything about him on the internet, which is why I say presumably). He was twenty-six in 1962 which means he was born in 1936 which means he'd be seventy-four years old which means the odds are good he's alive. I hope he's forgiven my father and his crew for making that summer immeasurably more complicated for him than it needed to be. Still, he got on TV--something that doctors (back then) rarely did.
"Emergency Ward" was actually a one hour segment of a larger anthology show called "The DuPont Show Of the Week". The show ran for three seasons--1961-64--and the episode list makes many of the shows sound quite tempting. I dig my fathers film for reasons that go beyond the family connection. It's a genuine cinema verite noir--a look at "Naked City" New York complete with period characters--doctors who smoke, beat-up drunks from the Bowery etc.--and is shot in a wonderful, unobtrusive style that was influenced by D.A. Pennebaker and Albert Maysles...except that it was made while they had barely begun their documentary careers. The narrator of the film is Dana Andrews who speaks his lines as if he hadn't bothered to watch the film. (He was probably in a hospital himself when they recorded him...) Strangely enough--as in most of Andrews screen work--this somehow works to his advantage.
I think you'll find the first two parts of this time capsule urban drama quite seriously compelling. As usual if you just want to watch the whole thing in one gulp, go to Movies Til Dawn's Youtube channel where the whole thing is posted.
Calling Dr. Mulnar, Dr. Mulnar...
Posted by Raymond De Felitta at 4:56 PM