The first review of Martin Scorcese’s first feature, “Who’s That Knocking At My Door” was written way back in 1967, by some young pup named Roger Ebert. Our contributor Kartina Richardson takes a look at her favorite scene from that movie. “Who’s That Knocking At My Door” is about young,
In 1967 Martin Scorsese directed his first feature film, “Who’s That Knocking At My Door?” Now, we all love “Goodfellas,” “Raging Bull” and “Taxi Driver,” but this lesser known Scorsese movie has a few gems of it’s own.
“Who’s that Knocking At My Door?” is about young, aimless, rambunctious men. One of these men, J.R., played by Harvey Keitel in his very first role discovers the girl he wants to marry has once raped. He struggles with intense Catholic guilt while deciding to continue or end the relationship.
Now, the film isn’t the most polished movie, but as Scorsese’s first feature it shouldn’t be. At times it’s more concerned with style and showcasing music, but that’s exactly why I like it. Sometimes I want to see shots that thrill me in a simple, powerful way. I need to see three men in dark suits and skinny ties listening to doo-wop and know immediately; this is supposed to be really cool. And it is. But in this film there is a scene that makes my heart and brain explode with excitement every time I see it.
The scene itself is simple and without dialogue. J.R. and his friends have a boys night. They drink, they laugh, they smoke, and they play with a gun. The sequence consists of long, slow motion tracking shots from left to right that dissolve into one another. Accompanying this throbbing camera work is the equally pulsating song “El Watusi” by Ray Barretto. Scorsese understands music, he can find a song’s secret brightness or darkness and apply it magically to a scene. The Ronnettes “Be My Baby” for example has the sound and rhythm for starting things just as Junior Walker’s “Shotgun” breaks the spell of the slow motion sequence. “El Watusi” on the other hand is not a song for beginnings.
Both the song and the scene have a languid energy; a steady sleepiness that undercuts the excitement. This undercutting mirrors the frustration that men have in their lives. They’re bursting with energy but they have no where to direct it.
Maybe this is one reason why the scene creates such an intense reaction. We feel this frustration, too. We want to bolt into the scene to be part of the excitement, to reach out and grab Harvey Keitel’s hair, to have fun behind the heavy, slow motion curtain, but the scene never lets us. We’re in a constant state of wanting; doomed to spend the rest of our lives fantasizing the simplest, most exciting movie scenes of all time.
Okay, thank you so much Kartina. And that’s very cool looking back. Roger discovered him. There you go.