Natural Enemies (1979)

R | 100 mins | Drama | 1979

Director:

Jeff Kanew

Writer:

Jeff Kanew

Producer:

John E. Quill

Cinematographer:

Richard E. Brooks

Editor:

Jeff Kanew

Production Designer:

Hank Aldrich

Production Company:

Natural Enemies Company
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HISTORY

End credits include “Special thanks to” the following: Eastern Steamship Line, Summit Hotel, Long Island Railroad, Grand Central Station, Metropolitan Transit Authority, Metropolitan Hospital, Joe Wizan, Elliott Kastner, Robert Redford, Howard Deutch, David Weitzner. Several names listed under “Special Thanks” were indecipherable onscreen and could not be verified from the available research material.
       In a 9 Nov 1979 NYT news item, director-writer-editor Jeff Kanew stated that he purchased the rights to the 1975 novel Natural Enemies by Julius Horwitz and was the sole financier of the film. Although he attempted to interest studios in the project, they rejected the material as “too depressing.” The initial budget of $500,000 escalated to $700,000 by the end of production. Kanew had established a successful career as a film editor and founded a company that produced trailers for feature films. Its reputation was launched with a campaign for The Graduate (1967, see entry), as reported in a 17 Sep 1982 NYT column. Kanew sold the profitable business in 1978 to help fund Natural Enemies, his directorial debut.
       Critical reaction was mixed. The 7 Dec 1979 LAT provided an appreciative review, stating that “Kanew confronts us with our feelings about own lives and the world in which we live,” and concluded that the film was surprisingly “affirmative” considering its focus on despair. Reviewers in the 31 Oct 1979 Var and the 1 Nov 1979 NYT felt the picture was repetitive and unconvincing. The NYT critic noted that the film “is full of material that must surely read ... More Less

End credits include “Special thanks to” the following: Eastern Steamship Line, Summit Hotel, Long Island Railroad, Grand Central Station, Metropolitan Transit Authority, Metropolitan Hospital, Joe Wizan, Elliott Kastner, Robert Redford, Howard Deutch, David Weitzner. Several names listed under “Special Thanks” were indecipherable onscreen and could not be verified from the available research material.
       In a 9 Nov 1979 NYT news item, director-writer-editor Jeff Kanew stated that he purchased the rights to the 1975 novel Natural Enemies by Julius Horwitz and was the sole financier of the film. Although he attempted to interest studios in the project, they rejected the material as “too depressing.” The initial budget of $500,000 escalated to $700,000 by the end of production. Kanew had established a successful career as a film editor and founded a company that produced trailers for feature films. Its reputation was launched with a campaign for The Graduate (1967, see entry), as reported in a 17 Sep 1982 NYT column. Kanew sold the profitable business in 1978 to help fund Natural Enemies, his directorial debut.
       Critical reaction was mixed. The 7 Dec 1979 LAT provided an appreciative review, stating that “Kanew confronts us with our feelings about own lives and the world in which we live,” and concluded that the film was surprisingly “affirmative” considering its focus on despair. Reviewers in the 31 Oct 1979 Var and the 1 Nov 1979 NYT felt the picture was repetitive and unconvincing. The NYT critic noted that the film “is full of material that must surely read better than it plays.”

More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Hollywood Reporter
16 Nov 1979
p. 25.
Los Angeles Times
7 Dec 1979
Section G, p. 42.
New York Times
1 Nov 1979
Section C, p. 21.
New York Times
9 Nov 1979
Section C, p. 16.
New York Times
17 Sep 1982
Section C, p. 6.
Variety
31 Oct 1979
p. 14.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Utopia Production
A Film by Jeff Kanew
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
DGA trainee
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Asst cam
Asst cam
2d asst cam
Key grip
Grip
Best boy
Cam equip
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Ed asst
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
Prop asst
COSTUMES
Cost des
Female dresser
MUSIC
Mus
Mus ed
SOUND
Prod mixer
Boom man
Sd ed
Sd eff
Re-rec mixer
Sd transfers and mix
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles by
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hair
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod coord
Asst to the prod
Scr supv
Transportation capt
Prod comptroller
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Casting dir
Extras casting
Accounting services
Accounting services
Insurance
Script typist
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col grader
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Natural Enemies by Julius Horwitz (London, 1975).
DETAILS
Release Date:
1979
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 1 November 1979
Los Angeles opening: 6 December 1979
Copyright Claimant:
Natural Enemies Company
Copyright Date:
23 December 1980
Copyright Number:
PA88911
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses/Prints
Panaflex equipment by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
100
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

In 1978, Paul Steward awakens, looks out the window of his West Redding, Connecticut, home, and contemplates killing himself, his wife Miriam, and their three children. He loads a rifle and hides it in the closet. Since Miriam’s nervous breakdown five years ago, Paul sleeps in the guest bedroom, but occasionally has sex with his wife in keeping with their mostly silent communication. As Miriam drives Paul to the train station for his morning commute to New York City, she suggests they take the children to a restaurant that evening, but Paul does not think he will have the energy. On the train, Paul listens to a fellow commuter, Fred Russo, but his mind wanders, thinking about whether he should have divorced Miriam before their first child was born. Paul arrives for his job at a respected magazine called The Scientific Man, which he purchased in 1967. There, he remembers when he and Miriam were happy in the early days of their marriage, living in a small Manhattan apartment. During his morning appointments, Paul discourages astronaut Arthur Eaton from writing about his life-affirming experience on the moon. He is distracted by thoughts of visiting Miriam in the mental hospital and yelling at the doctor for administering shock treatments without permission. He also recalls taking care of Miriam when she returned home. Later, at the office, Paul meets friend Harry Rosenthal, a concentration camp survivor, and seeks his opinion regarding recent newspaper headlines about men who kill their families. Concerned, Harry questions Paul’s lifestyle, commuting from the suburbs, and his struggles with Miriam, but Paul ... +


In 1978, Paul Steward awakens, looks out the window of his West Redding, Connecticut, home, and contemplates killing himself, his wife Miriam, and their three children. He loads a rifle and hides it in the closet. Since Miriam’s nervous breakdown five years ago, Paul sleeps in the guest bedroom, but occasionally has sex with his wife in keeping with their mostly silent communication. As Miriam drives Paul to the train station for his morning commute to New York City, she suggests they take the children to a restaurant that evening, but Paul does not think he will have the energy. On the train, Paul listens to a fellow commuter, Fred Russo, but his mind wanders, thinking about whether he should have divorced Miriam before their first child was born. Paul arrives for his job at a respected magazine called The Scientific Man, which he purchased in 1967. There, he remembers when he and Miriam were happy in the early days of their marriage, living in a small Manhattan apartment. During his morning appointments, Paul discourages astronaut Arthur Eaton from writing about his life-affirming experience on the moon. He is distracted by thoughts of visiting Miriam in the mental hospital and yelling at the doctor for administering shock treatments without permission. He also recalls taking care of Miriam when she returned home. Later, at the office, Paul meets friend Harry Rosenthal, a concentration camp survivor, and seeks his opinion regarding recent newspaper headlines about men who kill their families. Concerned, Harry questions Paul’s lifestyle, commuting from the suburbs, and his struggles with Miriam, but Paul reassures Harry that he is fine. Meanwhile, back at home, Miriam takes the rifle from the closet and is troubled to find it loaded. During lunch, Paul visits a brothel and requests five prostitutes at the same time, explaining to the madame that he is researching an article on male erotic fantasies. In bed with five women, Paul reveals his wife’s sexual inhibitions and describes a trip to Europe, after Miriam’s breakdown, when she confronted him with their marital problems. Paul also refers to the newspaper stories of family slayings, and thinks Miriam wants to shoot him and the children. When Paul telephones his wife from the office, she asks about the loaded rifle, but Paul claims he inserted the bullets after hearing an animal outside. He agrees they should talk when he arrives home on the evening train. Later that afternoon, a female psychoanalyst and friend named Dr. Baker visits the office, and discusses her pessimism about America. As a segue, Paul seeks her opinion on men who kill their families and themselves. Dr. Baker describes Paul’s obsession as an “escapist fantasy,” while advising him that a therapist can help him cope with life. When Harry and Paul meet for drinks after work, Harry reveals that Miriam told him about the loaded rifle, and says he is worried about Paul’s state of mind. While Paul shares his feelings of despair, Harry reminds him about the determination of concentration camp prisoners and refuses to watch his friend self-destruct. On the train home, Paul believes that he will not miss New York City and places such as Grand Central, that he once found so majestic. During the route, the train stops and the lights go dim due to a power outage. A woman sitting next to Paul initiates a conversation, revealing intimate details about her marriage. After Paul confesses that he and his wife are strangers, the woman asks Paul to seduce her. When Paul arrives at the West Redding station, Miriam confronts him about the rifle, demanding to know the real reason for his unusual behavior, but he withholds the truth. Back at home, Paul discovers that Miriam has emptied the guest room and moved his clothes back to their master bedroom. He also finds the rifle hidden underneath the mattress. At the dinner table, Paul declares that Miriam is overacting about his unhappiness. As she urges him to reveal his feelings, he exclaims his hatred of life and himself. Refusing to give in to her husband’s despair, she proposes they take a long vacation; she believes that surviving her nervous breakdown provides a lesson to help them move forward. The couple takes a walk, and Miriam exposes her knowledge of Paul’s preoccupation with family killings. Even as he discussed the topic at the dinner table in front of the children, she recognized he was expressing a fantasy. Paul is surprised by her awareness and continues to listen as Miriam identifies reasons to continue living. However, Paul appears doubtful and remains unresponsive when Miriam expresses her love. Later, a radio newscast reports on a tragedy in Connecticut involving a man named Paul Steward, who killed his wife and three children before shooting himself. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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