Mortality has taken such a heavy toll of movie stars this year -- Natalie Wood, William Holden, Romy Schneider, Patrick Dewaere, Curt Jurgens, Vic Morrow, Henry Fonda, Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly -- that a significant number of bookings have also turned into memorial programs. Perhaps the most striking example occurred last week at the Biograph, where Kelly's death coincided with advance bookings of "Dial M for Murder" and "To Catch a Thief" as part of a HITCHCOCK RETROSPECTIVE. Moreover, the former happened to be double-billed with "The Wrong Man," which starred Fonda. As the series heads toward a conclusion, this weekend brings "Notorious," the best of Bergman's three pictures with Hitchcock, on a double bill with "Rebecca."
Following the 14th edition of EXPOSE YOURSELF, an ongoing showcase for new works by Washington area filmmakers next Wednesday and Thursday, the Biograph resumes repertory programming with a series devoted to AUSTRALIAN FEATURES. "My Brilliant Career" and "Picnic at Hanging Rock" open the retrospective on Friday, October 1, and a number of titles will have their first local theatrical exposure -- "The Picture Show Man," "Caddie," "Sunday Too Far Away," "The Plumber," "Homesdale" and "Backroads." Fred Schepisi's extraordinary autobiographical comedy-drama about boy seminarians, "The Devil's Playground," mysteriously neglected in this hotbed of ex- seminarians when it played earlier this year, returns October 22 to 25 on a bill with the far less wise or amiable "The Getting of Wisdom."
The caprices of distributors have already caused a number of changes in the FALL RELEASE SCHEDULE. Caleb Deschanel's "The Escape Artist," which figured to be one of this week's better attractions, was suddenly withdrawn by Warners on the day it was being press-screened -- and inspiring a unanimously favorable response, unless I totally misread the audience that evening. At any rate, it's in limbo again, along with another beleaguered Zoetrope project, Wim Wenders' "Hammett," and the new John Sayles comedy, "Baby, It's You," originally announced as an October release from Paramount. "Creepshow" abandons the Halloween weekend to "National Lampoon's Class Reunion" and "Poltergeist" in order to take advantage of the mid-November booking void. Francis Ford Coppola's "The Outsiders" has been definitely erased from the October slate and penciled into the Christmas season by Warners, which simultaneously informed exhibitors that the new Woody Allen comedy was being bumped from Christmas into a tentative spring premiere. "Kiss Me Goodbye," a romantic comedy that evidently reworks the "Blithe Spirit" premise, has been added to the Christmas schedule by 20th Century-Fox. Sally Field plays a widow whose affair with Jeff Bridges is disrupted by the ghostly reappearance of her late, jealous mate, James Caan.
A substantially expanded version of the on-location documentary "Burden of Dreams," Les Blank's chronicle of the troubled shooting history of Werner Herzog's FITZCARRALDO, begins a limited run at the Inner Circle on October 8, paving the way for "Fitzcarraldo" itself two or three weeks later. Coincidentally, "Burden of Dreams" has also been scheduled for showings at the Hirshhorn on October 14 and 15 as part of programmer Sidney Lawrence's reliably off- beat attractions for the fall. Speaking of those, Lawrence has dredged up the original, uncut, undubbed "Godzilla" for three performances, October 7 to 9.
The 20th edition of the New York Film Festival begins today at Lincoln Center with one of the last Fassbinder features, VERONIKA VOSS, and closes October 10 with "Fitzcarraldo." All the more or less prominent titles in the festival appear to be headed this way some time in October or November. The University of Maryland gets the jump on "Veronika Voss" with a benefit premiere showing at Hoff Theater on October 6 at 8 p.m. The beneficiary is the Radio, TV and Film Department. For information about reservations call 454-2594.