THE DRIVER’S SEAT (aka The Three Lives of Identikit, aka Psychotic)
Dir. Giuseppe Patroni-Griffi
Italy, 1974
105 mins. English.

SUNDAY, MAY 5 – 10:00 PM
SATURDAY, MAY 25 – 10:00 PM
FRIDAY, MAY 31 – 7:30 PM

Of the many Euro arthouse B-pictures that didn’t make their way into the official story of Elizabeth Taylor’s career as she was eulogized in 2011, the variously titled Identikit – released in the U.S. under the original novella title The Driver’s Seat – is a bizarre curio from her Europhase, roughly 1968-74. During this period, Taylor — facing middle age and a mid-career slump, as well as an increasingly zaftig figure — took on roles from English and Continental directors offering riskier, more experimental work, which better accommodated her searching, passionate acting style like a muumuu. Among the menagerie of films were two in which she co-starred with her husband Richard Burton, Joseph Losey’s Boom! (1968, the film version of Tennessee Williams’ “The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore”) and Under Milk Wood (1972), both notoriously ill-begotten literary adaptations, if a hoot to watch. Losey’s underappreciated Secret Ceremony (also 1968), with a spooked and brunette Mia Farrow, typifies Taylor’s career during this period, in which she sinks her teeth into stark, enigmatic dialogue as she interprets characters of murky origin, motives and morality.

Identikit, adapted from Scottish novelist Muriel Spark’s (“The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie”) novella by Raffaele La Capria and Giuseppe Patroni Griffi (its director) sank like a stone at the box office when it was released in the U.S. in 1975 as an arthouse second bill. Its second life, as an Avco-Embassy video release in the 1980s, built up a new audience (when I first discovered it, dusty and rarely rented in a college town video store) as a Seventies relic that seemed to be the perfect accompaniment to box wine, marijuana and pizza. Now, in recent years, it seems to be entering a third, post-video phase of its cinematic life, as a number of gay critics have been dusting it off for a second look. Critics David Ehrenstein and Doug Bonner’s recent articles argue convincingly that its merits may add up to a film better than its historic “so-bad-it’s-good” reputation. It seems as though this orphan film is finally finding a home — and rightly so — within the queer canon.

Read David Savage's full introductory essay HERE: spectacletheater.com/349/

Trailer by Miguel Martinez

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