Watch Peter Falk in the Oscar-winning Doc “Scared Straight!” and “A Constant Forge”

“These teenagers are going to prison.”

That’s the first line (excluding a warning about language) spoken by Peter Falk, who passed away yesterday, in the Oscar-winning 1978 documentary “Scared Straight!” Out of context it would sound like “Columbo” had solved a case involving youths, and Falk’s famous TV role is likely why he was hired to narrate (and momentarily appear in) the introductory part of Arnold Shapiro’s legendary film. Really the teens are going to Rahway State Prison for a three-hour “sentence” to be, yes, “scared straight” by a number of threatening, foul-mouthed (hence the language warning) inmates.

Even if you haven’t seen the original doc, you’ve likely seen any one of the many parodies it inspired, such as a recent one on “Saturday Night Live.” And if you have seen the doc, you might have seen the Apted-like revisited version hosted by Danny Glover which shows us what’s happened to those teens in the 20 years since the film was made. I would embed this version as it’s on YouTube, but due to copyright issues the video is silent, which means you can only see Falk, not hear him. But you can check it out with sound now at or rent the whole DVD from Netflix.

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Watch: Robert Greene’s Short Doc “Goodbye Engineer”

Filmmaker Robert Greene (“Kati With an I”) would like to share a gift of sorts this Father’s Day. “Goodbye Engineer” is a 20 minute documentary commemorating the passing of Greene’s grandfather, Robert Sr. (the filmmaker is a III), who died of lung cancer June 11, 2010. The film features the voice, over the phone, of grandmother Dee Greene. She tells of meeting her husband and their life together right up to his last morning as home movie and other archival footage (and some new shots, too) illustrate the somber story. “It’s personal and emotional and all that so be prepared,” Greene wrote of the short. Even with preparation it’s pretty devastating in the end.

The film is also a very sad reminder, particularly through its inclusion of a bit of a 30-year-old “20/20” news story on the first ten years of the War on Cancer (and the National Cancer Act of 1971), that it’s been four decades and we’re still without a cure. Sure, there is some great medical magic going on, like the sort that kind of ‘cured’ my own father’s cancer by removing and rearranging some organs, but even then his after effects (combined with other complications) have been unpleasant enough to keep him from attending my wedding last weekend (also June 11).

Anyway, never mind my own personal and emotional story for right now and instead watch Greene’s film after the jump. And happy father’s day to all dads, living or not.

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Watch Martin Scorsese’s “A Letter to Elia”

Last week was a good one for fans of Martin Scorsese documentaries. First, his new Fran Lebowitz showcase, “Public Speaking,” hit home video on Tuesday (see my review here). Then, a day later, his other recent doc, “A Letter to Elia,” became available for free on This second film, an ode to filmmaker Elia Kazan, had aired as an episode of PBS’ “American Masters” program. It’s also a supplement to the DVD box set The Elia Kazan Collection, which features 15 films curated by Scorsese himself. Before all this, it screened at the 2010 New York Film Festival, where I reviewed it. Here’s an excerpt:

it’s a film as appropriate, if not more so, for a Scorsese retrospective since it’s as much about himself as it is his idol…and it’s worth addressing the fact that nobody but Scorsese, who has previously made personal “journeys” through Italian and American cinemas, could make such a subjective tribute like this and have anyone caring. This is fine, it’s mostly for those people who will pay $150 for a set of 15 Kazan films personally selected by Scorsese, but the doc isn’t just for die-hard Kazan fans. You have to be a die-hard Scorsese fan, too.

The film is only an hour, and I’m sure there are plenty of readers who are seriously into both Kazan and Scorsese, so go ahead and watch the whole film at the “American Masters” site (apparently PBS video embeds are not supported by WordPress, so my apologies on not being able to watch here).

[via Gordon and the Whale]