The appealing but paper-thin premise of “Footprints” rides on unraveling the identity of a female amnesiac found collapsed on the celeb-marked entryway of Grauman’s Chinese Theater. This low-budget directorial debut by playwright Steve Peros (whose “The Cat’s Meow” likewise wallowed in Tinseltown detritus) exhibits stray instances of intrigue and wit, and makes nostalgic hay with its enshrinement of old-timers Pippa Scott and H.M. Wynant, but ultimately suggests a too-writerly, over-padded “Twilight Zone” episode. Ambitious if airlessly microcosmic pic, preeming April 15 in New York and Los Angeles, could wind up enjoying sporadic cable play.
Tracking Grauman’s walkway, the camera first discovers the unknown woman(Sybil Temtchine, star of “The Passion of Ayn Rand”) lying next to a square of pavement commemorating the perhaps now-obscure Ann Harding. Encounters with a homeless street person (Jeris Lee Poindexter) and two friendly tour guides (Charley Rossman, John Brickner) lead her to lunch with the dapperly western-garbed and well-spoken Victor (H.M. Wynant), who begins to bring her out of her void.
Most of the information to clear up the enigma is provided either by Wynant or Pippa Scott, effectively essaying the role of a former B-starlet from the ’50s.
Peros sometimes promotes immersion in Celluloid City fandom and geeky collectibles; one clue comes from a memorabilia story, and another takes the shape of an ersatz vintage movie poster for “Lola, the Tiger Girl.” Cleverly, Peros puts a class-conscious spin on the solution to the mystery before a final supernatural twist — inevitable in a film that resides in an alternate Hollywood universe where past and present intermingle.
To fabricate this sealed-off space, director Peros needed to select a couple of evocative Hollywood city blocks; cordon off excess pedestrian traffic for one or two key shots; and secure permission from the Egyptian, the Shelly Cafe, the Snow White Cafe, the Hollywood Book and Poster Co., the Walk of Fame and, of course, Grauman’s Chinese. Yet despite the use of actual relics and real estate, the picture feels disconcertingly hollow.
Christopher Caliendo’s retro-leaning soft-jazz quintet advances things adequately, and technically, Adam Teichman’s HD photography holds up OK, especially in a spooky, under-the-credits traveling shot of an empty parking lot billboarding huge images of Elizabeth Taylor, Shirley Temple, Jean Harlow, etc. But overall, in a mood piece like “Footprints,” basically a benign variation on Herk Harvey’s “Carnival of Souls,” a stronger visual imagination is required than the one supplied.