Legendary local actress Brooke Adams will be on the big screen and live in-person at the Grange Hall this weekend to debut her recently released 1984 film, “Vengeance Is Mine,” by Michael Roemer.
The movie was filmed early on in Adams’ acting career, but not before “Days of Heaven,” and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” For Adams, it was a departure from some of her other roles — she plays a recently divorced woman who seeks connection by enmeshing herself in a damaged family. It’s a powerful part that illustrates Adams’ scope as an actor.
“My agent called me and asked me if I wanted to audition for this film. He gave me the script, and Michael Roemer just recently reminded me that back then, I said I wouldn’t put myself on tape; ‘There’s plenty of film of me,’ but I honestly don’t remember saying that to anyone. I’m proud of myself if I did,” Adams laughed during a phone conversation with The Times.
Back in 1984, the movie was never officially released, apart from a short stint on PBS and a film forum. Adams admits she was shocked when she read the film review in the New York Times and saw the film no longer under the original title of “Haunted.”
Adams credits film distributor Jake Perlin, creative director of Cinema Conservancy and founder of FilmDesk, for getting the word out about “Vengeance Is Mine.” “It’s all Jake, he got somebody to do the New York Times review, he is amazing and is doing it all,” Adams said.
For Adams, one of the main themes she identified in the film is mental illness, largely represented by unstable neighbor Donna (Trish Van Devere) — whom Adams’ character, Jo, connects with after divorcing her husband.
Adams said she enjoyed playing the role, and said it was a pleasure working with Roemer. “I liked pretty much everyone in the film. Trish was a little tricky, but her character in the film was tricky, so that worked,” Adams said. “When I was working, I always enjoyed working. I love acting — that’s not the hard part. Getting the job, that’s the hard part. And that’s kind of why I stopped. Now I am a painter, and that’s a lot more my thing. I don’t have to wait for anyone to point the cameras at me.”
She said getting into her role of Jo, just like in any other film, requires her to find the character she wants to play, then find herself in that character. “It certainly was different, but I don’t recall it being particularly harder than any other role I’ve done,” Adams said.
Brian Ditchfield, executive director of Circuit Arts, said he and Adams were speaking at a screening over the summer, and he asked her if she had any projects she was working on. “She said that interestingly enough, she had a past project,” Ditchfield said. “We were immediately intrigued, and were in touch with the distributor. We had the privilege of seeing the film, then we reached out to Brooke to schedule a time where she could be at the Grange Hall to discuss the film.”
Ditchfield said Circuit Arts has worked with Adams as an actor in the community with live performances, and has screened some of her other works in the past, including a web series called “All Downhill From Here,” that Adams and her sister, Lynne Adams, wrote and starred in.
Ditchfield said Adams is an example of the amazing talent that fills the Island, and he is excited to use the new theater at the Grange to share her work with the community.
According to Ditchfield, the film took decades to receive a full release because it was so ahead of its time. The movie deals with issues of domestic violence, mental illness, and other topics that modern audiences are able to handle in a way “that was so outside the box in 1984,” Ditchfield said. He voiced his pride in small distribution companies, like the one led by Perlin, that are seeking out these works from the past and helping them find today’s audiences.
According to Minah Oh, programming director for Circuit Arts, “Vengeance Is Mine” being screened at the Grange is a reinforcement of the work that Circuit Arts has done this year. “We really have leaned into our local community and the local talent here, always trying to be a platform to showcase their works,” Oh said.
Oh said she is grateful to get the chance to share a film led by a talented local actor with a long history of showing the world her talent in different ways. To have the opportunity to “go back in time” and share one of Adams’ earlier works, Oh said, is a high honor for the organization. “Adams’ onscreen presence is dynamic, raw, and fearless. We are just thrilled to see it premiere,” she said.
In 1984, Oh said, scripts where the woman plays a powerful lead role are few and far between. Adams’ role in the film shows the courage she had, even relatively early in her acting career. “Brooke took on a gutsy role that usually scripts weren’t written for women with those kinds of points of view,” Oh said. She added that being involved in this kind of social commentary also had to take extreme courage during that time period. “This was before domestic violence was a really common adjective to describe some of the things that were happening in some households,” Oh said.
“This film is so visceral, it’s tough to sit through. But that’s something that people need to know about, it’s something that is so essential to film — showing the truth,” Oh said.
People can go to circuitarts.org or tmvff.org to get tickets for the screening of “Vengeance Is Mine,” at the Grange Hall on Friday, Sept. 16, and Saturday, Sept. 17, at 7 pm. The screening is pay what you can, and will be followed by a Q and A with starring actor Brooke Adams.