and John Huston's The Asphalt Jungle.
Back Street Jane is the first feature film directed by Ronnie Cramer, guitarist/songwriter for the underground rock group Alarming Trends (who provided the film's score). In addition to his many years of musical and audio background, Cramer has directed dozens of cable programs, industrials, music videos, public service announcements and commercials.
Stylishly shot (on black and white 16mm film) and superbly acted, Jane is a contemporary 'film noir.' It deals with the criminal element of American society, and tells the story of two petty thieves who get more than they bargain for during a burglary/extortion attempt.
All filming and post production was completed in the Denver area. The mostly local cast includes Monica McFarland, Marlene Shapiro, Michael Ford and Sheila Ivy Traister, all veterans of stage, television and feature films.
Distribution of the Back Street Jane videocassette is being handled domestically by Scorched Earth Productions through various wholesalers, and in foreign markets by Australia's Home Cinema Group.
This low budget wonder is a study of greed and deception. Although shot in black and white, this is a good first effort from a director who shows a promising start.
The film definitely has a film noir look, which enhances the movie greatly. This is well worth the effort to find it if you can; it's well worth the price!
Psychotronic Video Magazine
(87, Scorched Earth) D/editor/cinematographer/animation/music Ronnie Cramer
Six songs (and one instrumental) by Cramer's Denver, Colorado based band Alarming Trends are heard in this excellent black and white 30 minute long video. Cramer has worked on industrials and commercials, where he obviously learned a lot. He also must have seen Rumble Fish a few times because this tape has the same great look (and even features animated fish that decapitate people). He uses fast and slow motion, clever FX and surprising animation. Some parts are shown on a TV set. Rebecca Watson, the band's singer, stars. Cramer is the guitarist/songwriter. The songs are from the LP 'You Make Me Live in a Trailer.' The music is well-produced simple punk/pop (sometimes kind of like early Siouxsie and the Banshees). 'What Does Your Heart Say' is an especially good ballad. The album and/or video are well worth looking for.
Back Street Jane
(89, Scorched Earth) P/D/D/ed/co-cine./music Ronnie Cramer
Ronnie Cramer's first feature (16mm black and white) isn't as visually fascinating as the rock vids, but it's a perfect, great looking blank generation look at people who live for drugs. Two bored, unemployed friend, 'Diane' (Monica McFarland) and 'Jane' (Marlene Shapiro) sneak into a dealer's house to rip him off. They find him murdered, so they slowly and methodically track down the killers and blackmail them. Nicole, a Eurasian dragon lady (Sheila Ivy Traister) kills her male partner and gives half her coke stash to the blackmailers - after she puts arsenic in it. She goes to stay with two guys, gets high and talks about monster movies before they all nod out. There's effective (offscreen) sex and violence and nonstop doublecrosses and plot surprises in the tradition of movies like The Killing and The Asphalt Jungle. The actors, who all do fine, low key work, have all been in plays or TV shows.
Film Threat Video Guide
Back Street Jane
B&W/16mm/93min Scorched Earth Productions
Made by writer/producer/director Ronnie Cramer for a measly $15,000, this film is a good example of what can be accomplished even within a miniscule budget. By writing a story he knew he could shoot and keeping the overall film fairly tight and narratively economical, Cramer bypassed most of the problems that independent filmmakers run into by trying to do something beyond their experience or ability.
Following two petty criminals (exceptionally well played by Marlene Shapiro and Monica McFarland) through the twists and turns of an extortion attempt turned drug heist, Back Street Jane is a pretty good thriller that eschews the romance and dramatics of a film like Drugstore Cowboy. Instead, the flavor is a more realistic (yet sometimes tedious); a grittiness that lends well to the characters' desperation and willingness to backstab each other. A lack of budget obviously played into this stark simplicity, but a lot of credit goes to Cramer for making the most of what he had.
Although Back Street Jane is really a feature only by sheer length, it manages to be consistent and engrossing throughout. The role-reversal angle headed by 'Jane' (Shapiro) and 'Diane' (McFarland) is well thought out and capably supported by Sheila Ivy Traister's performance as the murderous 'Nicole,' the drug-dealer whose bi-sexuality and fierce needs for both tenderness and revenge add good dimensions to what could have been a one-note character.
Despite its shortcomings, Back Street Jane's fine acting and straightforward malevolence make it a good addition to any noir library. Hopefully, Ronnie Cramer's feature debut will lead to future projects.
B&W/16mm/30min Scorched Earth Productions
An earlier, funnier effort by director Ronnie Cramer (Back Street Jane), this tape is billed as a 'music film' as opposed to a collection of music videos. Not your typical MTV ilk, Alarming Trends is about music, but sans the rock star posturing that goes with the genre. Instead, we're introduced to a surreal world where 'giant man-eating trout fill the sky,' 'seltzer tablets and interdimensional travel begin each day' and 'aliens take the form of sandwiches and destroy young people...' Sound far out? Well, in a way, it really is!
This tape offers some well-produced fun. No brooding black-leather boys with hair extensions here. Nope, just some goofy good times and zany sight gags.
Back Street Jane
D: Ronnie Cramer S: Monica McFarland, Marlene Shapiro. Shot on film.
An above-average film about dope dealing, deceit, death and so on. The two heroines of the film are petty criminals who try to blackmail a dope dealer. They get a bit more than they bargain for however (geez, when are petty criminals going to learn they can't screw professionals?). The photography is quite good (the film's in black and white, and the director knows enough about b&w to use it to its maximum effect). The low budget ($15,000) shows occasionally, but overall it's an effective thriller.
Back Street Jane is a really low budget ($15,000) film shot on glorious black and white 16mm film. Made by Ronnie Cramer (who is guitarist/songwriter for the rock group Alarming Trends) the film centers around young women who witness a murder and then decide to blackmail the man and woman responsible. What they don't count on is that the murderess is one mean bitch! The film is really pretty good and rates higher with us than some so-called 'reality' films Hollywood has schlepped out in recent years.
Back Street Jane
1989. Scorched Earth Productions.
Considering that this black and white film was made for $15,000 - and is actually quite good - should open Hollywood's eyes to just how good a film can be when so little money is involved.
The plot concerns two young women who, by accident, witness the murder of a drug dealer by a man and woman. This sets in motion a plan to blackmail the murderers; if they'll give them the drugs, the two women will keep quiet. It all seems like a fairly safe operation: The killers hand over the cocaine, the two women turn around and sell it, make a little money, and everybody lives happily ever after.
but not so fast; the female half of the killing team has her own ideas on how to handle the problem. She begins by lacing the coke with poison before handing it over...
Back Street Jane is an interesting look into the world of small-time drug hustling. Although the film has an overly-extended slow-moving segment where the two heroes/anti-heroes endlessly travel up and down the streets of Denver (where the film was made) looking for the killers' car, the film as a whole will surely keep your attention.
It's interesting the way writer, producer, director Ronnie Cramer fleshes out the characters of the two female extortionists; throughout the film you find yourself at first rooting for the women, then realizing they are just as bad as the killers...then again you hope they can pull it off. The ending is rather shocking...but then again, maybe not. - Todd Bearny