Scorsese Spotlight: Who’s That Knocking at My Door? (Cinemaniac Reviews)

Today we have another guest review in this ongoing segment courtesy of Alexander over at Cinemaniac Reviews.  Alexander also gave a great review of The Color of Money earlier in this series, which you can find here.  I’d like to thank Alexander for joining me a second time, and without further ado I present to you his review of Scorsese’s first feature-length film; Who’s That Knocking at My Door.

Who's_That_Knocking_at_My_Door_film_poster“Well, I’m not used to admitting I like Westerns.”                          – The Girl (Zina Bethune)

I’ve come to notice, recently, that a director’s feature debut rarely represents his or her later work. This isn’t the case with Martin Scorsese. We look at his filmography and notice that a number of the films are all different, but essentially the same.

Many of his films are hardboiled, upbeat, nostalgic dramas; we’re given a likable, male lead and then shown how leading a double-life makes him so easily lose his touch with his surroundings. If you don’t believe me, take a look at Mean StreetsTaxi DriverRaging BullGoodFellas, and The Aviator. And, of course, Who’s That Knocking at My Door , the overlooked masterpiece that heads the list.

Who’s That Knocking at My Door centers on J.R. (Harvey Keitel) and an unnamed tumblr_lats63oW791qzm6iko1_500woman (Zina Bethune) with whom he falls in love the moment their eyes meet. She’s trying to remain unnoticed as she reads a French magazine in a café, despite not knowing a word of French. He approaches her and points out a still of John Wayne in the magazine, leading them to discuss The Searchers. It’s a casual, genuine conversation that makes the couple as lovably amusing to us as they are to each other.

But once J.R. has taken her to his apartment, he finds that he’s hiding something from her. He’s unemployed; he’s a Catholic Italian-American in NYC; he’s taking her money behind her back when he needs it; he’s constantly warning her not to touch his belongings; and yet he has limited spare time with her. Considering the director, a crime aficionado, it may seem obvious that he’s a Mafia member, but it’s shockingly nothing all that obvious.

I thoroughly enjoyed Who’s That Knocking at My Door, and although it’s not as who-s-that-knocking-at-my-dooreasily recognizable as the director’s later work, it’s a work of genius. The film was independently produced on a minimal budget; it was limited to, most namely, black-and-white footage and lesser known players (this was Keitel’s first appearance on film). Yet the cinematography and performances still manage to greatly enhance whatever J.R. and “the girl” are feeling. Who’s That Knocking at My Door is an authentic psychodrama seen subtly through two pairs of eyes.

Postscript: The film was first released to the Chicago International Film Festival in 1967 as “I Call First”. In 1968, it adopted its most common title, “Who’s That Knocking at My Door”, for its New York premiere. In 1970, a handful of countries overseas began using another alternate title, “J.R.” Regardless, it’s the same movie, and it’s highly recommended.

The Verdict: 10/10

 Once again, you can find Alexander at The Cinemaniac or follow him on Twitter at @moviefreakblog

About r361n4

I'm a student at the University of Washington Majoring Business. I've always loved movies and my goal is to work on the financial side of the film industry. Until then though, I figure I'll spare my friends from my opinions and shout them from a digital mountaintop for anyone who's interested. After all, if a tree falls in a forest and nobody blogs about it, does it really happen?
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1 Response to Scorsese Spotlight: Who’s That Knocking at My Door? (Cinemaniac Reviews)

  1. Fantastic review, Alexander 🙂

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