Who’s That Knocking at My Door (1968): Scorsese’s Directing Debut

Originally titled I Called First, Martin Scorseses debut feature was made while he was an instructor at the NYU’s film school. Like all of Scorsese’s films, this small-scale drama, about an Italian-American youth, has strong autobiographical elements.

This movie already shows what would become the directors forte: Strong, complex characterization rather than conventional plot.

In his first screen role, Harvey Keitel plays J.R., a street rough caught between an affair with an upper-crust blonde and the lure of gang life.

The film’s milieu and characters would reappear in Mean Street, a better film, and other future works.

However, several of Scorsese’s signature thematic and stylistic elements are evident: the Catholic themes of guilt, salvation, and redemption; the critique of masculinity; the use of dynamic, restless camera; the depiction of sudden, brutal violence in slow motion; meticulous tracking shots.

On the commentary track, Scorsese revisits his childhood as a son of immigrant working-class parents, and his early passion for film.  “I had no direction in my life,” Scorsese recalls, “but I was obsessed with movies, which I saw at the Thalia and other theaters.”

He also tells how, to please his potential distributor, Joseph Brenner, he agreed to film a nude, though by that time the film had already finished shooting.

Some of Scorseses best and most important films were made at Warner.  This five-film collection, covering the years of 1973 to 1990, includes the film that put Scorsese on the map, Mean Streets, as well as one of his most acclaimed, GoodFellas.

The impressive set is a must-have for viewers interested in the evolution of the New American Cinema and in the career of the most brilliant director working in Hollywood today.

Whos That Knocking at My Door is part of Warner DVD Scorsese Collection that also includes: Mean Streets (1973), Alice Doesnt Live Here Anymore (1974), After Hours (1985), and GoodFellas (1990). (See individual reviews for these pictures).