TRIBUTE TO FRANK PT.12: 'EMERGENCY WARD'
Welcome to a hot summer 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 above.
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, was 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 around 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 went on to a career in medicine. He was twenty-six in 1962 which means he was born in 1936 which means he'd be eighty years old this year, making the odds good that 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. It's 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 with most of Andrews screen work--this somehow works to his advantage.
Enjoy. And watch the very ending for one of the most astounding zoom shots you'll ever see...
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Posted by Raymond De Felitta at 9:14 AM