SOME POSSIBLE SPOILERS...
I just attended a fabulous double bill at the American Cinematheque in Los Angeles, featuring Wild in the Streets (one of my all-time favorite guilty pleasures) and Three in the Attic. Actor Larry Bishop was there to discuss both films and to talk about Christopher Jones, who he hinted was actually in the theater somewhere watching the films.
I haven't seen Attic since the mid-80's and have kept an eye out for it ever since, to no avail. I had often wondered why, with Streets cult status and Christopher Jones a Tarantino icon, this film hadn't been released on DVD.
Oddly, I had remembered it as something much more exploitative, owing probably to the plot line that stood out - 3 women lock a guy in an attic and almost pleasure him to death. What surprised me most about the film was the maturity and quality of the dialogue. Whereas many of AIP's films of the period stressed exploitation over multidimensional character depth and dialogue, Attic was actually handled with a surprising degree of investigation into the aftermath of the sexual revolution.
I also found the romance between Jones and ethereal beauty Yvette Mimeux to be entirely believable and sweet, and ultimately emotionally painful for the characters. Scenes that take place in Provinceown, when they first live together, rival similar scenes in Love Story and carry the naturalness of the escaped lobster scene in Annie Hall. There was actually time spent getting to know the couple.
Yvette says "couples are supposed to fight. How come we never fight." So he throws a dish on the floor, then hands one to her to do the same. Very cute.
Surprises abound. Yvette's father's reaction upon discovering that his daughter is living in sin is classic. He understands Jones' side of things. The female dean of the college smoking a pipe - and understanding Yvette's side of things. Jones has trouble bedding the hippie chick so he tells her he is gay - but he turns to the camera so we can see the expression of hope and fabrication on his face.
No, the film is not perfect but it's certainly well acted, well written and well shot - and it's no more dated than The Graduate or Easy Rider. The New England locations are utilized well and Attic has one of the best end title sequences I've ever seen. I won't give it away in case you are ever surprised by this film, but it's hilarious and completely original. Eulice was a bit of a stereotype but she was a strong woman which made her appealing.
And of course there's Christopher Jones. For my money, one of the greatest losses in cinema was his departure from the screen. As I watched the naturalness of his performance, and his Johnny Depp/James Dean good looks, I spent much of the film seeing him in other roles of the 70's. He could have easily pulled off Cuckoo's Nest or Deerhunter or Serpico.
Bishop told us that he was about to begin directing a Quentin Tarantino produced biker film and that he hoped to bring Christopher Jones back to the big screen, as he did when directing Mad Dog Time. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
The American Cinematheque traditionally finds the best copies of a film available for their screenings and in some cases, the only surviving prints. The film they screened was in pristine condition until the last two or three reels, when much of the color had faded so that everything had a pink tone. Perhaps this is why a DVD release of the film hasn't happened yet. Such a shame if this film is lost to time.
If you ever get a chance to see Three in the Attic, check it out. Very enjoyable
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