The first film from Martin Scorsese Who’s That Knocking At My Door serves as an introduction to the visual style and thematic discourse that would run through the director’s filmography.
The story centres around J.R played by a fresh faced Harvey Keitel as young Italian-American who hangs around with his core group of friends drinking and goofing around.
He meets a cute girl on the Staten Island Ferry over a French magazine and John Ford’s The Searchers. The relationship is going great, he’s shying away from his boozy ways and decides she’s the girl he wants to marry so won’t express his physical love for her until the wedding night.
She tells JR about a serious sexual assault with an ex boyfriend, this messes up his head and after a wild night of drinking goes to make up with her which ends in horrible confusion, seeking answers from someone who can’t speak… the Catholic church.
Who’s That Knocking At My Door is a Frankenstein movie filmed over the course of several years. It went under many changes splicing a student short film called Bring on the Dancing Girls shot with help from friends in the Italian New York neighbourhood where he grew up. The romance sub plot of Keitel & Bethune in 1967 with the title of I Call First and was screened at that years Chicago International Film Festival which received a glowing review from the late movie critic Roger Ebert.
The film was bought by exploitation distributor Joseph Brenne the following year but he insisted that a sex scene and the first time Harvey Keitel was naked on screen scored to The End by Jim Morrison & The Door added to the movie for marketing purposes.
While the story has a childish perspective at certain themes, what can’t be faulted is how strong the directorial style is and how influential the cutting of Thelma Schoonmaker would become to the language of cinema even today; any film that has a scene with images of Howard Hawk’s Rio Bravo scored to Junior Walkers Shotgun deserves a special mention.
This BFI release is in conjunction with their recent two month retrospective season of the Oscar winning helmer movies at the Southbank. Who’s That Knocking At My Door might only be for Scorsese completists but its a interesting introduction to the world that the auteur created.
The disc sadly contains the same supplemental material from the 2004 Warner bros dvd release with no new insight, only the partial director commentary where he talks about the influences on his first movie alongside a 13 minute featurette with Scorsese collaborator turned screenwriter Mardik Martin who served as directorial assistant on this film’s production.
Dir: Martin Scorsese
Scr: Martin Scorsese
Pro: Joseph Weill, Betzi Manoogian, Haig Manoogian
Cast: Harvey Keitel, Zina Bethune
DOP: Michael Wadley, Richard Coll
Run time: 90 minutes
Who’s That Knocking At My Door available on DVD now