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Something Wild

Screening on Film
Directed by Jack Garfein.
With Carroll Baker, Ralph Meeker, Mildred Dunnock.
US, 1961, 35mm, black & white, 112 min.
Print source: Park Circus

Jack Garfein is a Holocaust survivor who was liberated by British soldiers from the Bergen-Belsen camp at war’s end. A longtime theater director and teacher at the Actors’ Studio, he made just two feature films, both startlingly modern and controversial for their era, and still startling to this day. The Strange One (1957), a story about sadistic hazing rituals and sexual bullying at a military academy, was cast and crewed entirely by Actors’ Studio members, most notably the young Ben Gazzara. Then came Something Wild, starring Garfein’s wife Carroll Baker as a rape survivor spiraling into depression. She accepts timely help from a mechanic (Meeker), only to find herself in a new species of nightmare. The candor and sensitivity with which Garfein and Baker tell this story had never been seen in American film before, while the psychology of Baker’s character is honest, uncomfortable—and controversial. Aaron Copland supplies the score, Saul Bass the opening credits—not bad for an indie filmmaker’s second outing! Final outing, it turns out: Garfein was considered meat too strong by the American film industry, and he returned to work in theater. At 85 years of age, he continues to teach acting at the Studio Jack Garfein in Paris.

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