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CinemaTexas Notes

CinemaTexas Notes
The Early Days of Austin Film Culture

Written to accompany movies screened by the Radio-Television-Film Department at the University of Texas, the CinemaTexas Notes open a fascinating window on the early Austin film scene and the rise of film studies.

February 2018
416 pages | 6 x 9 | 29 b&w photos |

Austin’s thriving film culture, renowned for international events such as SXSW and the Austin Film Festival, extends back to the early 1970s when students in the Department of Radio-Television-Film at the University of Texas at Austin ran a film programming unit that screened movies for students and the public. Dubbed CinemaTexas, the program offered viewers a wide variety of films—old and new, mainstream, classic, and cult—at a time when finding and watching films after their first run was very difficult and prohibitively expensive. For each film, RTF graduate students wrote program notes that included production details, a sampling of critical reactions, and an original essay that placed the film and its director within context and explained the movie’s historical significance. Over time, CinemaTexas Program Notes became more ambitious and were distributed around the world, including to luminaries such as film critic Pauline Kael.

This anthology gathers a sampling of CinemaTexas Program Notes, organized into four sections: “USA Film History,” “Hollywood Auteurs,” “Cinema-Fist: Renegade Talents,” and “America’s Shadow Cinema.” Many of the note writers have become prominent film studies scholars, as well as leading figures in the film, TV, music, and video game industries. As a collection, CinemaTexas Notes strongly contradicts the notion of an effortlessly formed American film canon, showing instead how local film cultures—whether in Austin, New York, or Europe—have forwarded the development of film studies as a discipline.

  • Preface
  • Introduction to CinemaTexas, by Charles Ramírez Berg
  • Reflections on CinemaTexas, by George Lellis, Lauren Rabinovitz, D. N. Rodowick, and Louis Black
  • I. USA Film History
    • Introduction, by Steve Fore and Louis Black
    • Intolerance (dir. D. W. Griffith, 1916), by Charles Ramírez Berg
    • Sunrise (dir. F. W. Murnau, 1927), by Warren Spector
    • Long Pants (dir. Frank Capra, 1927), by D. N. Rodowick
    • Sherlock Jr. (dir. Buster Keaton, 1924), by D. N. Rodowick
    • All Quiet on the Western Front (dir. Lewis Milestone, 1930), by George Lellis
    • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (dir. Frank Capra, 1939), by Marie Mahoney
    • Citizen Kane (dir. Orson Welles, 1941), by John Henley
    • North by Northwest (dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1959), by Ed Lowry
    • Corruption of the Damned (dir. George Kuchar, 1965), by Nick Barbaro
    • Necrology (dir. Standish Lawder, 1971), by Nick Barbaro
    • Five Easy Pieces (dir. Bob Rafelson, 1970), by Michael Selig
    • Nashville (dir. Robert Altman, 1975), by Lauren Rabinovitz
  • II. Hollywood Auteurs: Ford, Hawkes, Sturges, Minnelli, Sirk
    • Introduction, by Steve Fore and Louis Black
    • Stagecoach (dir. John Ford, 1939), by Ed Lowry
    • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (dir. John Ford, 1962), by Don Hartack
    • His Girl Friday (dir. Howard Hawks, 1940), by Lauren Rabinovitz
    • Red River (dir. Howard Hawks, 1948), by Charles Ramírez Berg
    • Sullivan’s Travels (dir. Preston Sturges, 1941), by Ann Laemmle
    • Hail the Conquering Hero (dir. Preston Sturges, 1944), by Michael Selig
    • Meet Me in St. Louis (dir. Vincente Minnelli, 1944), by George Lellis
    • Band Wagon (dir. Vincente Minnelli, 1953), by Ed Lowry and D. N. Rodowick
    • All That Heaven Allows (dir. Douglas Sirk, 1955), by Valentin Almendarez
    • Imitation of Life (dir. Douglas Sirk, 1959), by D. N. Rodowick
  • III. Cinema-Fist: Renegade Talents: Ulmer, Ray, Aldrich, Fuller, Welles, Peckinpah
    • Introduction, by Steve Fore and Louis Black
    • Detour (dir. Edgar G. Ulmer, 1945), by D. N. Rodowick
    • They Live by Night (dir. Nicholas Ray, 1948), by Marjorie Baumgarten
    • In a Lonely Place (dir. Nicholas Ray, 1950), by Ellen Draper
    • Kiss Me Deadly (dir. Robert Aldrich, 1955), by Steve Fore
    • Ulzana’s Band (dir. Robert Aldrich, 1972), by Steve Fore
    • Forty Guns (dir. Samuel Fuller, 1957), by Valentin Almendarez
    • Naked Kiss (dir. Samuel Fuller, 1964), by Ed Lowry
    • Touch of Evil (dir. Orson Welles, 1958), by D. N. Rodowick
    • The Wild Bunch (dir. Sam Peckinpah, 1969), by Nick Barbaro
    • Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (dir. Sam Peckinpah, 1974), by Louis Black
  • IV. America’s Shadow Cinema: B Movies, Exploitation Films, and the Avant-Garde
    • Introduction, by Steve Fore and Louis Black
    • Hollywood’s Shadow Cinema
    • My Name is Julia Ross (dir. Joseph H. Lewis, 1945), by Louis Black
    • Gun Crazy (dir. Joseph H. Lewis, 1950), by Ed Lowry
    • Films of Maya Deren (dir. Maya Deren, 1943–1958), by Lauren Rabinovitz and Marjorie Baumgarten
    • Scorpio Rising (dir. Kenneth Anger, 1964), by Ed Lowry
    • Two Thousand Maniacs! (dir. Herschell Gordon Lewis, 1964), by Brian Hanson, Warren Spector, and Louis Black
    • The Last Movie (dir. Dennis Hopper, 1971), by Nick Barbaro, Louis Black, and Ed Lowry
    • Cage Heat (dir. Jonathan Demme, 1974), by Louis Black
    • Caged Heat: Second Thoughts, by Marjorie Baumgarten
    • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (dir. Tobe Hooper, 1974), by Rita TheBerge, Ed Lowry, and Louis Black
    • Assault on Precinct 13 (dir. John Carpenter, 1976), by Ann Laemmle
  • Appendix. Original Scanned CinemaTexas Note: Night of the Living Dead (dir. George Romero, 1968), by Kelly Greene
  • Bibliography
  • Contributors
  • Index

Austin, Texas

Black was one of the original writers of the CinemaTexas Program Notes. He cofounded The Austin Chronicle, where he was the editor for thirty-six years, and SXSW, where he is a director, and was a founding board member of the Austin Film Society. He has written extensively on film, music, and politics. In 2016, he and Karen Bernstein directed the documentary Richard Linklater: Dream Is Destiny, which made its world premiere at Sundance Film Festival.

Austin, TexasA recent MA graduate of the Department of Radio-Television-Film at the University of Texas at Austin, Swords is a creative assistant to Louis Black, with whom he works in project development, promotion, outreach, editing, and archival research.


“Austin is known as a film-watching city, but that reputation doesn't come from nowhere. Its seeds were planted in CinemaTexas, the film programming unit of UT's Department of Radio-Television-Film. . . [the CinemaTexas Program Notes] were Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb, and Cahiers du Cinéma melded into zine form.”
Austin Chronicle

“In the early 1970s film scholarship was still in its (relative) infancy, hampered by the difficulty of gaining access to the films themselves. At the University of Texas, Austin, a group of ambitious graduate students took on the challenge of writing program notes for a wide-ranging film series, based on fresh viewings of the movies. . . [There is] a nostalgia for the time and place these essays evoke, before the emergence of home video and streaming. Contributor Charles Ramirez Berg accurately describes them as “love letters to the cinema” and they are well worth reading.”
Leonard Maltin

“Put this on your Austin shelf next to Alison Macor's essential history, 'Chainsaws, Slackers, and Spy Kids,' and Mike Blizzard's documentary film 'Also Starring Austin.'...Along with a bit of history, we are lucky enough to read in this book the incredibly well-researched--especially for the pre-internet days--program notes from CinemaTexas days. ”

“This collection is nothing less than the DNA of Austin’s film culture. It paints a fascinating picture of the attitudes and tastes that formed the beginning of Austin’s very idiosyncratic film scene. It’s a very interesting walk through the Austin time tunnel and an important cultural and historical resource.”
Lars Nilsen, lead programmer for the Austin Film Society


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