Friday, February 24, 2012

Short Film: A Day in the Death of Donny B. (USA, 1969)

This seems to be the only known film of the director, Carl Fick (whose last name, by the way, means "Fuck" in German). Fick, born in Evanston, Illinois, in 1918, graduated from Cornell University in 1940 with a Bachelor of Arts degree; according to the only on-line source we would locate, he died in 1990. Aside from this film, he was also active as an author and published two novels of his own, The Danziger Transcript (1971) and A Disturbance in Paris (1982), and co-authored From Mexico with Death (1977) with Jose Luis Guzman.
Made for the U.S. Department of Education, Health & Welfare, A Day in the Death of Donny B. is a truly interesting, forgotten anti-drug film from the late 60s that now easily transcends its didactic intentions. To what extent the verisimilitude of this docu-drama is true can in no way be surmised today – Donny B., for example, looks a little too healthy and his Converse are much too clean for a real junkie, and although he does have the posture down pat he never does the gravity-defying standing nod-out that junkies tend to do – but the basic structure of the film is that of Donny B.'s search in the ghettos of NYC to come up with the money for his next fix; interspersed are statements from other junkies and ex-junkies as well as members of his family and cops.
Shot in a cinema-verite style and in B&W, the film captures a New York City long gone where white folks didn't go, accompanied by a haunting and memorably funky psychedelic blues tune composed and sung by the unknown Harry Holt, who never did another film and doesn't seem to have any records out there (though he may have co-written a song entitled He's An Aries Man, sung by the unknown groups The Superbs [in 1981] and Starbright [year unknown]).
As an anti-drug film, it offers little that you haven't heard before – you're stupid if you do drugs and it's your fault if you become a junkie – but it isn't because the film's simplistic, unnuanced stance that we have chosen
A Day in the Death of Donny B. for our Film of the Month for February, so we won't take its message to task. A Day in the Death of Donny B. is being presented for its fascinating amalgamation of qualities both original (the cinematography and music) and gained (the time-capsule element). May you find it as fascinating as we did.


Anonymous said...

I love this little flick! I wondered what became of Donny B not even considering that he might have been an actor.

aerodarts said...

Having some trouble figuring out who wrote the review about the short film A DAY IN THE DEATH OF DONNY B.(196

Is it bobby sherman?

I posted a link to TCM. The video was shown on the channel.

Anonymous said...

I ran across this flick today by accident and realized the actor was my chilhood martial arts hero, (and still is...
the first Black Action Marital Arts Hero to explode on the big screen...Jim Kelly!)

This short must have been the very
film he starred in, (being this was 1969). His first full movie appearance
Was in a film entitled "Malinda" (1972) and then the year following the
Epic Kung Fu Classic Enter The Dragon which made him internationally known.

Wow! What a great surprise to find a piece of film history like this. With his trade mark Afro and porkchop side burns,this really made my day. R.I.P. Mr Kelly the first Black Action Hero.


Abraham said...

What a trip… it never even occurred to us that "Donny B" might be Jim Kelly. Had it, we would've at least included the short as a "maybe project" when we did our Jim Kelly R.I.P. career review a few years ago. Thanks for bringing the similarity / possibility to our attention.

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