Mention New York filmmakers, and Scorcese is of course not far from the mind; however, if there’s any name that for me is synonymous with capturing the Apple’s rotten core, it’s that of Abel Ferrara. His grimy, scummy street-level view is New York – at least, the New York by which I first became captivated.
In terms of scouting his movies, the big one would always be ‘Driller Killer’; but alas, most of the locations for this still elude me at present. There are glimpses of general areas that are identifiable – the taxi ride along Central Park, broadly identifiable neighbourhoods – but nothing concrete. Even with some clue from interviews and snippets from the director’s commentary (when he’s not utterly slurring hilarious drunken nonsense), the grainy 16mm footage, shot mostly at night, affords few readily verifiable location hits. I’ve tried freeze framing and using Google Streetview around the general areas I think scenes might have been filmed, but of course gentrification and the big clean-up of the city make this undertaking extremely challenging.
So, one day some more concerted efforts may see me finally cracking some of the DK locations; in the meantime, here we are with a couple of locations from other movies of his that were somewhat easier to track down.
Angel Of Vengeance (Ms. 45)
As with ‘Driller Killer’, much of the action takes place in a New York that only partly now exists; albeit, that some of the street scenes that are shot at daylight should be easier to pick out (I’ve not yet tried in any concerted form). But one of the film’s most balletic set piece scenes is easy enough to locate, taking place around the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park.
Here we pick up Zoe Tamerlis (heavily in shadow) heading round the Jackie Kennedy-Onassis Reservoir, along with a nighttime shot I took in 2009, when it was much safer for those besides Warriors and Avenging Angels to mix with the Park’s nighttime denizens:
Moving on, she descends the steps from Terrace Drive – I appear to not have taken any photos showing the staircase in full view, just one very close up shot of a decaying duck (!), so that’ll have to do:
Note: I’m fairly sure that the duck is actually on one of the two ‘grand’ staircases that come down onto the lower terrace; Thana descends the ‘lesser’ staircase that takes you under Terrace Drive. (But we’ll count it eh.) The lower passage gallery has been restored in latter years to its – quite dazzling – former glory; but in Abel’s New York, it was dirty and graffiti-ridden; probably not a place you’d want to be hanging out after dark:
From the terrace end of the gallery, you see the lower terrace with the Bethesda Fountain, topped by the famous ‘Angel of the Waters’:
And, finally we look down on the lower terrace from above. at the mosaic tiling floor where, in a strikingly Sergio Leone-esque sequence, Thana springs the trap she has set. would-be hunters becoming prey to her .45 calibre rampage:
So there we have it, a little walk in Thana’s footsteps through Central Park.
The King Of New York
Ah, what a movie this is; I really should watch it again and try to pin down more of the locations. (I’m sure there are some more obvious ones that I’ve already visited; I’ve just never watched the film with a ‘location scouting head on’, as such. If I ever do, I may come back and add them in here.) So far, I have only one that I happened to know of at a point where I was in NYC with time to wander. It can be found in the now-upscaled (of course) DUMBO area of Brooklyn, right in the shadows of the Brooklyn Bridge, and formed the scene of one of the many bloodbath shootouts instigated by Frank White and his crew:
Here it is in daylight, in a time where the coffee costs more and the craft beer is plentiful (hey I’m not knocking it, I love both of those things too!):
The location is pretty easy to find, but what the hey – I’ll drop a pin for it anyway as it’s a little less on the ‘normal’ tourist trail for the typical NYC visitor. It’s at 45 Water Street in Brooklyn, and the building is actually “St. Anne’s Warehouse”, which now lists itself as an ‘Avant garde theater and concert venue’. How very. A quick jaunt there on Google Street View shows that, much as you would expect, it’s been completely refurbished since this shot which was taken in 2014. So there we are. As a little bonus, just up the street from here is an iconic view that appears in ‘Once Upon A Time In America’; I’ve got a photo of that, but this a Ferrara post so that’ll have to wait for another time.
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