Wednesday 29 June 2016

100 Essential Films that Deserve more Attention - 3. The Incident

People embrace the enchanting glow of the big screen for all manner of reasons; to journey to faraway places they could only ever imagine, to experience the escapism of a captivating story, or maybe to indulge in an obsession with the world of cinema. For me, all three of these reasons apply - and many more - but first and foremost is the satisfaction of recommending obscure films to other like-minded individuals who adopt them as their new favourites.

With over 100 years worth of films to choose from, and many of these now available at the click of a button, it can be extremely difficult to narrow your choices down to pick a film to watch. Although cinema has been around for over four times longer than my life on this earth, I have spent what some may consider an unhealthy amount of these years delving into the history of films to discover some of the best hidden gems out there.

This series of articles aims to highlight the overlooked masterpieces that I have unearthed whilst exploring the forgotten recesses of cinema. Take a gamble on any one of these films and I guarantee that you will be eagerly awaiting all future instalments in this series. You may well have heard of a number of these films; my aim isn't merely to shine a spotlight on the most obscure films out there, but to share my enjoyment of those films which don't have the cult following I believe they deserve.

The Incident
Director - Larry Peerce
Country - USA
Year - 1967
Runtime - 107 Minutes

1967 was a milestone year for American cinema. The success of ground-breaking films such as Bonnie & Clyde, The Graduate and In the Heat of the Night paved the way for film-makers to show more violence and tackle subjects that were previously deemed too risqué or controversial for the general public. One such film also released in 1967 that is arguably more provocative than the aforementioned titles, yet didn't receive the same critical acclaim as they did, is Larry Peerce's superb thriller, The Incident.

In a scene that would not feel out of place in Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets we are introduced to two foul-mannered delinquents, Artie (Martin Sheen) and Joe (Tony Musante, pictured below), playing billiards and tormenting the owner of a snooker hall by refusing to acknowledge it is well past closing time. When they eventually head out into the night we begin to see the full force of their volatile and violent nature as they take over a subway carriage and refuse to let an innocent group of passengers leave.

Although it starts out as a playful joke, the situation soon turns sour and the two hoodlums become hostile, berating every traveller in turn. With each passing moment the audience hopes that someone will intervene, particularly as there are two soldiers on board the carriage (albeit one with a broken arm) but no-one steps forward as they are all too fearful of becoming their assailant's next victim.

 Where The Incident really succeeds is in the portrayal of its victims. By taking the time to show each and every passenger prior to them boarding the tube, Peerce adds to the pervasive air of unease as the audience can relate to their predicament by empathising with the passengers. There are people of all ages who represent many different walks of life and we get to see them all fall apart under the scrutiny of their attackers. Peerce knowingly provokes us with the uncomfortable question - 'Would you intervene?' No-one knows for certain how they would react in such a situation but it poses a difficult question by challenging the audience's courage in the face of moral dilemma.

As well as putting forth an important social message, The Incident works on its own merit as a gripping thriller but the underlying meaning adds power and depth to Peerce's film and prevents it from being just another blistering assault on the senses. In this way, The Incident is likely to resonate with audiences who have a penchant for exploitation films as much as those who relish a thought-provoking commentary on society. If you are open to both of these attention-grabbing approaches of storytelling then I am certain that The Incident will appeal to you just as much as it did to me, and I urge you to seek out this obscure gem as soon as possible.

If you take the time to watch The Incident then it would be awesome if you could also take the time to let me know what you thought of it, either by commenting below or tweeting me @filmbantha. Thanks, and enjoy!

For previous instalments in the series click here

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