The Slender Thread (1965) is a time capsule set in a Seattle that’s pre-Microsoft, pre-Amazon, heck, even pre-Starbucks. Sidney Poitier plays a psychology student working at the Crisis Clinic who takes a phone call from Inga (Anne Bancroft), a housewife who confesses she’s taken a potentially lethal dose of sleeping pills. Now the race is on to trace the call before she dies. It’s a sign of how far technology has advanced; that wouldn’t be much of a plotline today, but in 1965, phone calls could take over an hour to trace.
The film was based on a Life magazine article about Seattle’s actual Crisis Clinic, which had just opened in 1964 (and where serial killer Ted Bundy would later work alongside true crime author Ann Rule in the 1970s). Being shot in black and white gives it a documentary feel. Even longtime residents might be surprised at what’s revealed in this look at the Seattle of over half a century ago. Who remembers a lawn in front of the UW’s Suzzallo Library before it was paved for “Red Square”? And beyond the film’s leads, there’s an impressive cast and crew. It was director Sydney Pollack’s feature film debut, and up-and-comers among the cast include Ed Asner, Telly Savalas, Dabney Coleman, and Steven Hill. In a final nod to the city, the score is by Garfield High School graduate Quincy Jones.
The Slender Thread is part of SIFF’s “Reel Black: Sidney Poitier and the Legacy of Black Film,” which will conclude with screenings of A Raisin in the Sun (11/1) and the documentary Sidney, which will be followed by a panel discussion (12/6).
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