The following is a guest post by Matt Barton, Recorded Sound Curator for the Library of Congress.
Friday, April 22 (7:30 p.m.)
Citizen’s Band (aka Handle with Care) (Paramount, 1977)
The CB radio craze was at its peak of popularity and impact when this clever comedy was released, but still the film failed to find an audience. The film has languished ever since and has not been released on DVD, in spite of being one of Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme’s earliest efforts. Citizen’s Band reunited Paul Le Mat and Candy Clark from the cast of American Graffiti with Le Mat as Spider, a beleaguered Nebraskan CB radio repairman and volunteer first-responder to local highway emergencies. Clark plays his ex-fiancée, one of too many local CB operators in the area who are hilariously but dangerously misusing the Citizen’s Band, leading Spider to launch a one-man crusade against a rogue’s gallery of homegrown troublemakers with handles like “The Red Baron,” “The Hustler,” and “Chrome Angel” that he can hear, but not see. 98 minutes.
Saturday, April 23 (2 p.m.)
The Wiz (Universal, 1978)
Charlie Smalls’s jazzy, updated version of The Wizard of Oz won seven Tony Awards on Broadway in 1975, and was brought to the screen three years later with Diana Ross taking the lead role of a grown up, urban Dorothy that Stephanie Mills originated on Broadway. In spite of a wonderful score, Oscar winner Sidney Lumet’s direction and an all-start cast that included Michael Jackson as Scarecrow, Nipsey Russell as the Tinman, Lena Horne as Glinda the Good Witch, and Richard Pryor in the title role, The Wiz was not a major hit, though the soundtrack album was a bestseller. The film, its music, and its message has since found an audience over the years, and the 2015 live network television production of the show created further interest in the production. 134 minutes.
Saturday, April 23 (7:30 p.m.)
Soul Power (Sony Pictures Classics, 2008)
As part of the build-up to the 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” heavyweight title bout between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Zaire, three nights of all-star concerts were held in the capital city of Kinshasa to celebrate the music and culture of Africa and the Americas. Due to legal problems, the film of these concerts went unseen for 34 years before it was finally assembled by director Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and billed as “the greatest musical festival you have never seen.” Indeed! Soul Power features James Brown, the Spinners, B.B. King, Bill Withers, Sister Sledge, the Crusaders, Manu Dibango, Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masakela, Johnny Pacheco, Celia Cruz and the Fania All-Stars at the peak of their careers in an amazing montage of live performances, along with Muhammad Ali himself. Soul Power had a successful theatrical run in 2008, when critic A.O. Scott observed that: “it offers a vivid glimpse of a fascinating moment in musical history. A tremendous amount of work clearly went into the Zaire ’74 festival and into winnowing its bounty into a feature film… and the intense labor of the performers is also in evidence. You understand the effort and practice involved in making something that seems so spontaneous, natural and free. Soul Power, as aptly and succinctly titled a movie as I have ever seen, takes you to a place where the discipline that produces great popular art is indistinguishable from the ecstasy that art creates.” 92 minutes.
For more information on our programs, please visit the website at: www.loc.gov/avconservation/theater/.