Film editor Frank Mazzola has unearthed a lost 1971 short by cult British helmer Donald Cammell, titled “The Argument.”
The surrealistic 12- to 14-minute short was shot in Utah by Cammell, cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond and Mazzola over the course of seven days in 1971. But the collaborators never had enough money to finish the film and they ditched it.
In late 1996, six months after the nihilistic Cammell committed suicide by shooting himself in the head, Mazzola was clearing out his garage when he found a box of “Argument” negatives, abandoned 25 years ago.
Now, at a cost of $100,000 — which he raised through services in kind from companies such as Warner Bros., Deluxe and Cinema Research — Mazzola has struck a new neg. He even persuaded some of the original actors to redub their dialogue.
Mazzola had a long professional association with Cammell, cutting two of the maven’s most successful pics: the 1970 hallucinatory thriller “Performance,” which Cammell co-directed with Nicolas Roeg, and which starred James Fox and Mick Jagger; and the 1977 horror flick “Demon Seed,” which starred Julie Christie.
However, Cammell’s career ended on a disappointing note. He took his name off his last film, the 1995 erotic thriller “Wild Side,” which was recut without his approval and released straight to video by Hallmark. “Wild” starred Christopher Walken, Joan Chen, Steven Bauer and a then unknown Anne Heche.
Cammell’s only other directing credit is the 1987 thriller “White of the Eye,” starring David Keith and Cathy Moriarty.
Mazzola started out as an actor, co-starring with his friend James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause” before moving into the cutting room. His other editing credits include the Peter Fonda-directed Western “The Hired Hand.”
Mazzola, who is trying to arrange screenings for the finished print of “Argument,” hopes it will serve as an epitaph for Cammell.