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Isaiah Kelly
Isaiah Kelly

Summer Of Sam

It is the summer of 1977, and New York City lives in fear of the ".44 Caliber Killer", who shoots young women and their male companions. The killer, David Berkowitz, later identifies himself as "Son of Sam" in a note left at a murder scene. Berkowitz lives in a messy apartment, where he is driven crazy by the barking of a neighbor's large black labrador, Harvey, the dog of Sam Carr, and has a vision of the dog directing him to kill.

Summer of Sam

The film was largely shot during the summer of 1998 and set in the Italian-American neighborhoods of Country Club, Morris Park and Throggs Neck sections of the Bronx, with some scenes filmed in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Although most of the Son of Sam murders actually took place in Queens, the double shooting that Vinny narrowly escapes has been called an accurate depiction of the April 1977 killing of Alexander Esau and Valentina Suriani in the Bronx.[3] Marie's Beauty Lounge, the salon where Vinny works, was a real salon on Morris Park Avenue, between Williamsbridge Road and Bronxdale Avenue. The real CBGB club was also used; the band L.E.S. Stitches shown playing there was a contemporary punk band from New York's Lower East Side.

Spike Lee's "Summer of Sam" is his first film with no major African-American characters, but it has a theme familiar to blacks and other minorities: scapegoating. In the summer of 1977, when New York City is gripped by paranoid fear of the serial killer who called himself the Son of Sam, the residents of an Italian-American neighborhood in the Bronx are looking for a suspect. Anyone who stands out from the crowd is a candidate.

Lee is a city kid himself, from Brooklyn, and makes the city's background noise into a sort of parallel soundtrack. There's the voice of Phil Rizzuto doing play by play as Reggie Jackson slams the Yankees into the World Series. The hit songs of the summer, disco and otherwise. The almost sexual quality of gossip; people are turned on by spreading rumors and feed off one another's excitement. The tone is set by the opening shot of columnist Jimmy Breslin, introducing the film. It was to Breslin that the killer wrote the first of his famous notes to the papers, identifying himself as the monster, and saying he would kill again.

The summer of 1977 was the height of the so-called sexual revolution; Plato's Retreat was famous and AIDS unheard of, and both of the principal couples are caught up in the fever. Vinny and Dionna experiment at a sex club, and Ritchie gets involved in gay porno films. In a confused way he believes his career as a sex worker is connected to his (mostly imaginary) career as a punk rock star. For him, all forms of show business feel more or less the same.

"Summer of Sam" is like a companion piece to Lee's "Do the Right Thing" (1989). In a different neighborhood, in a different summer, the same process takes place: The neighborhood feels threatened and needs to project its fear on an outsider. It is often lamented that in modern city neighborhoods, people don't get to know their neighbors. That may be a blessing in disguise.

Welcome back to summer! Get set to soak up Summer at SAM with live music, art making, and performances throughout the park produced in partnership with Nepantla Cultural Arts Gallery.

As for Berkowitz himself, his murder spree began in the summer of 1976. The Son of Sam, who would also be referred to as the .44 Calibre Killer, wreaked havoc on New York City and eventually pleaded guilty to eight shootings, killing six people and wounding a further seven.

That may be standard practice for the summer of 1999, but it still invites some second thoughts. In a season when Austin Powers has schoolchildren kidding about Swedish penis enhancers and the casual props for "Wild Wild West" include bondage gear and a severed head, it's time to wonder how much the traffic will bear.

"Summer of Sam," which easily accommodates a brief scene at Plato's Retreat and the knock-down, drag-out marital fight that follows it, is intent on making this a long, hot summer in more ways than one.

Sam's reign of terror was given all the more reach by its bombastic coverage in the New York Post and the New York Daily News, the city's two leading tabloids. The Post and the Daily News were at the height of their rivalry that summer, media folks often recall, and were constantly trying to out-dramatize each other.

A Smithsonian Channel production, The Lost Tapes' fourth episode faithfully recounts all of Berkowitz's publicized murders through local newscasts, personal recordings, and police footage of the time. Instead of just focusing on the summer of 1977, the documentary aims at going right back to the start when the killer started hunting down his earliest victims in the previous year.

Released to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the New York Yankees' win in the 1977 World Series, The Bronx is Burning focuses on the rivalry between Yankees' right fielder Reggie Jackson (Daniel Sunjata) and manager Billy Martin (John Turturro) in a tumultuous summer.

Our star movie columnist Kathy Shaidle is off this week, so your humble host has to fill in. Among the casualties of this lost summer is the summer blockbuster: for the first time since the mid-seventies, when Steven Spielberg and George Lucas seized the season for sharks and space aliens, the season has passed blockbuster-free. On the other hand, summer-in-the-city-wise, we seem back to the Seventies of Death Wish, of looting and random violence, and no law and order to be found. It isn't really a return to Death Wish New York, of course: the wholesale demographic transformation of American cities means the Paul Kersey types are long fled to red states, and the old ethnic solidarities are long gone; yell "Yo, Vinny!" in any ancient Italian-American neighborhood and get a thousand baffled Somalis and Uzbeks staring back at you.

Still, I find myself in the mood for a film of urban summer, in which you can feel the temperature rising, and the tensions too. In Billy Wilder's Seven Year Itch, Marilyn Monroe beats the New York heat by keeping her underwear in the freezer. In Spike Lee's 1999 film Summer of Sam, despite Mira Sorvino & Co taking turns ducking into a restaurant freezer, there's no way to beat the heat, and everyone's underwear is steaming: Summer of Sam is heavy on summer, and light on Sam - the Son of Sam, that is, the big serial killer of the city's 1977 record heat wave. By the end of Lee's long hot movie about that long hot summer, as the sun fries the brains and frazzles the nerves, the Son of Sam's craziness is merely a matter of degree.

In some ways, Summer of Sam has the arc of a musical, a foul-mouthed hybrid of On the Town and West Side Story, where, instead of Sharks versus Jets, it comes down to disco versus punk. Spike Lee, not for the first time, has hit on a brilliant idea and failed to do it justice. But so what? He still deserves credit for getting to it, and for assembling a superb cast - Bebe Neuwirth as the steely-hard salon madam, Patti LuPone as Ritchie's blousy mom. Two decades back, Spike Lee was shooting on the run, one film a year, with too much going on and the unfocused energy of a rampaging bull. But, if we have to have flawed masterpieces from celebrity auteurs, this one is pretty good - a luxuriant soak in the manners and mores of a sweltering summer that came close to boiling over.

Calling himself the "Son of Sam" in a letter left at one of the crime scenes, Berkowitz claimed voices were ordering him to kill -- starting in the summer of 1976, he went on a 13-month spree of impulse killings in New York City that left six dead and seven injured.

Less than a minute into its run time, Summer of Sam has already posed challenging questions about politics and history. Instead of taking these questions seriously, critics were ready to conclude that the director had once again bitten off more than he could chew.2 Summer of Sam finds Lee in an unusual mode, to which he has yet to return: there are too many bodies packed into each frame, too many important events compressed into too little time, and a strange sense of repetitiveness offset by sudden splashes of grotesque violence. It is, in other words, the appropriate mode for a film about the Bronx in the summer of 1977.

The film follows two young men from a predominantly Italian-American section of the Bronx. Vinny (John Leguizamo) is a serial adulterer trying to save his marriage with Dionna (Mira Sorvino) and Ritchie (Adrien Brody), a childhood friend who has reinvented himself as a punk. As events unfold over that long, hot, historic summer, we watch as their lives intersect with death, irrevocably shaping their futures.

Spike Lee's take on the "Son of Sam" murders in New York City during the summer of 1977 centering on the residents of an Italian-American South Bronx neighborhood who live in fear and distrust of one another.

wow! this has to be one of spike's wildest works of sustained tone as this bronx community is slowly melted and torn apart by an entire feverish summer spent scared shitless by the son of sam serial killer; the fear that any sweaty, sexy night on the town could end in horror exacerbating all the previously existing social tensions. lee translates this feeling into an extreme stylistic expression of pleasure and paranoia in equal measure (that baba o'riley montage, my god), switching off between the two so frequently that they become intertwined in this electric, musical haze less about a killer than about a specific time and collective psychological headspace of 70s new york. adrien brody in a mohawk! a talking dog! how is this not talked about more? between this and Memories of Murder you could probably jerry rig a new cut of Zodiac together.

goodfellas and boogie nights and zodiac and the great american epic all doused in spike lee flair. the euphoria of a long hot summer exploding into the panic of a community watching their world burn out. careens from moments that are laugh out loud funny to scenes that genuinely made me almost tear up. it's New York in it's entirety- it would be impossible to get the feel of every person living in that city in those few torrid months of 1977 but by god does spike get close. 041b061a72


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