Back in early 2008, I was a sophomore undergrad student at Northwestern University enrolled in a course called "Shakespeare and Music." For a writing assignment, we were required to research and report on a stage, screen, or otherwise musical Shakespearean adaptation. That was when I discovered pop music impresario Jack Good's CATCH MY SOUL, a screen version of OTHELLO born first on the London stage with Jerry Lee Lewis as Iago and thought to be forever lost to film history. What I did not know at the time were two things: for the assignment in question, each student was supposed to have watched their selection (something that I blatantly lied about in my oral presentation due to its understood impossibility) and that my initial interest in this rare, weird, and unseeable object would in the many weeks, months, and years to come portend as the subject of a seven-year* obsession.
CATCH MY SOUL is a 1974 rock 'n' roll musical version of OTHELLO set in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It stars Richie Havens as Othello, Lance LeGault as Iago, Tony Joe White as Cassio, Susan Tyrrell as Emilia, and Season Hubley as Desdemona. It was photographed by the legendary Academy Award-winning cinematographer Conrad L. Hall (BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID; AMERICAN BEAUTY) and edited by fellow Academy Award-winner Richard A. Harris (TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY; TITANIC). Finally, it is the only feature film ever directed by Patrick McGoohan (star of TV's THE PRISONER and SECRET AGENT). And apart from a sparsely attended single week in New York City and spotty re-release engagements thereafter under the alternate title SANTA FE SATAN, it was more or less unavailable anywhere. It had never even been released on any home video format... until now.
Today marks the release of CATCH MY SOUL on Blu-Ray / DVD, which I produced alongside Etiquette Pictures. I am immensely proud of the work that we have done and simply could not be more excited for people anywhere - everywhere! - to see this deep, wonderful, and energizing film. The special features and booklet essay go into extensive detail about the production history, initial release, and the reasons it was considered lost for so long, but on the occasion of its release I wanted to share an excerpt from one of several conversations I had with the late Richie Havens. While I cannot claim to have known Richie, the few times we talked - both in person and over the phone - were among the most pleasurable moments I have known. This excerpt is from our conversation on April 28th, 2009. It reveals a well of sensitivity in Richie's approach to the Othello role, a desire to communicate thoughts rather than perform actions. As a result, his acting is small, quiet, and reserved until Othello's thoughts turn violent. I was still a relatively novice interviewer in April 2009, but as you can hear from the very start, there were a lot of laughs. You cannot ask for much more in a conversation than laughter on both sides, in my opinion.
Between Spring 2008 and today, I wrote and thought a great deal about CATCH MY SOUL, spoke with many of the cast and crew members associated with the film, and unfortunately watched in stunned silence as five of the aforementioned cast and crew passed away before the hope of restoring and releasing the film became a reality. Such is the incidental risk one runs when making business of the past. While I am grateful for my experiences, I will always especially wish that I had a chance to speak at length with and get to know Susan Tyrrell, who died mere weeks before I moved to Austin, TX in 2012 (where she lived). The most colorful stories are always about Susan "Susu" Tyrrell. Although this title and project were rife with challenges, it took much too long to complete. In the early stages, a professor of mine even called it "doomed." But he was wrong. It is not doomed. It is done.
If even one person discovers this film and finds something beautiful in it, all seven years will have been worth it.
- Samuel B. Prime
Founder, LA Ciné Salon
*My work on CATCH MY SOUL began in earnest around January 2009.