ON THE BLOCK," the feature film produced and directed by Baltimore's Steve Yeager, will have its American premiere tonight at 6:45 at the Senator Theater, Baltimore's premier and premiere theater.
"On the Block," filmed in Baltimore in and around The Block, is a melodrama about a young woman who leaves home to become a stripper in a club on The Block. In time, she becomes a star dancer at Blaze Starr's 2 O'Clock Club. While there, she attracts the attention of a maniacal police lieutenant who loves the girl more than he should.
Moving around in the background is Clayton Beasley, played by Howard Rollins, the Baltimore-born actor who currently is in 'In The Heat of The Night" on television.
It is Beasley who is orchestrating the demise of The Block, an area that was originally five blocks long but today is scarcely more than one block. Time and progress are the enemies of the area, one that enjoyed its best period during and after World War II.
"On the Block" had its genesis in a 10-minute "sample reel" that was made in 1986 and presented as part of the Independent Feature Project in October 1986.
Two years later, shooting began on a feature-length version. It continued until November of last year. A "fine cut" of the film was finished in January of this year, then post production began in March.
The total cost of the film was $360,000. The shooting took 25 days.
Marilyn Jones plays Libby, the girl who becomes a stripper. Jones was a regular on the television series "King's Crossing" and has done guest shots on a number of series. She was Bruce Willis' ex-wife in "Moonlighting" and was Betty White's daughter on "Golden Girls." She appeared in the film "The Men's Club."
Rollins, who is expected to take part in the premiere festivities tonight, began his acting career at the Spotlighters where he was first cast in a production of "Of Mice and Men." The director was Yeager.
Rollins would later move to New York where he did theater. Roles on the stage led to movie roles in "A Soldier's Story" and "Ragtime." The continuing role in "In the Heat of the Night" followed. Rollins' co-star in the series is Carroll O'Connor.
Also appearing in "On the Block" is Starr, whose life story was dramatized in the recent Hollywood-produced film "Blaze." Lolita Davidovich played Starr, who had a cameo role in the film. She does another cameo in "On the Block," as herself.
Tonight's program begins at 6:15 with a commemorative sidewalk dedication, meaning the premiere will be immortalized, along with others that have taken place at the Senator, in a square of concrete outside the theater.
The screening will begin at 6:45 p.m. It will be followed by a "Block Party" on the 12th floor of the Belvedere Hotel. Tickets are $35 a person and dress is "creative black tie."
Yeager, president of Steve Yeager Films, is a Baltimore native. He has worked as a cinematographer, editor, director and producer for more than 15 years. His film company, organized in 1982, produces commercials, industrial, dramatic and documentary tapes.
"On the Block" has its good points, the strongest of which is the locale. The Block is the star, and Yeager gives it his full attention.
The sound is good, and the photography is professional, but there are very few surprises in the story, one that includes familiar types: the stripper with the heart of gold, the handyman who adores the girl, the cop who wants to declare his love for the stripper but doesn't know how to.
The vice cop, played by Jerry Whiddon, is very Catholic. He has spent some time at the seminary. He left when he knew he wasn't cut out to be a priest. He isn't cut out to be a cop, either, but he won't admit that.
Jones does well. So does Michael Gabel as the handyman, a Vietnam veteran, but they do have the better lines.
Rollins plays a rather mysterious figure, a businessman who wants to buy up all the properties on The Block, tear them down and use the sites for new construction. He apparently did the role as a favor to Yeager.
"On the Block" moves at a rather measured pace, but if flesh turns you on, there is a lot here. This is, after all, The Block. We also get to look inside the 2 O'Clock Club and other establishments on The Block.
Yeager hopes to find a distributor for his movie. If that doesn't happen, the film could make it as a cassette.
"On the Block" * A young girl becomes a stripper on the Block where she is menaced by a maniacal vice cop.
CAST: Marilyn Jones, Jerry Whiddon, Michael Gabel, Erika Bogren, Howard Rollins
DIRECTOR: Steve Yeager
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes