AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Return of the Secaucus 7
Alternate Title: Return of the Secaucus Seven
Director: John Sayles (Dir)
Release Date:   11 Apr 1980
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 11 Apr 1980; Los Angeles opening: 5 Nov 1980
Production Date:   fall 1978 in North Conway, NH
Duration (in mins):   106
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Cast:   Bruce MacDonald (Mike [Donnelly])  
    Maggie Renzi (Katie [Cipriano])  
    Adam LeFevre (J. T.)  
    Maggie Cousineau (Frances)  
    Gordon Clapp (Chip [Hollister])  
    Jean Passanante (Irene [Rosenbloom])  
    Karen Trott (Maura [Tolliver])  
    Mark Arnott (Jeff)  
    David Strathairn (Ron)  
    John Sayles (Howie)  
    Marisa Smith (Carol)  
    Amy Schewel (Lacey)  
    Carolyn Brooks (Meg)  
    Eric Forsythe (Captain)  
    Nancy Mette (Lee)  
    Betsy Julia Robinson (Amy)  
    Cora Bennett (Singer)  
    John Mendillo (Bartender)  
    Steven Zaitz (Singer)  
    Brian Johnston (Norman [Gaddis])  
    Ernie Bashaw (Officer)  
    Jack LaValle (Booking officer)  
    Jessica MacDonald (Stacey)  
    Benjamin Zaitz (Benjamin)  
    Jeffrey Nelson (The Man)  

Summary: When teachers Katie Cipriano and Mike Donnelly rent a New Hampshire cottage for the weekend, they wait for the arrival of old friends. As they clean, they wonder about their schoolmate, Irene Rosenbloom, and her latest beau, Chip Hollister, who work as political aides for a U.S. senator. Elsewhere, musician J. T. hitchhikes, and Frances, a medical student and old friend, gives him a ride. When they arrive at the cottage, Frances learns from Katie that Irene has become more conservative now that she is with Chip. During their drive, Irene instructs Chip on how to behave around her friends, which makes him nervous. Soon, the travellers stop at a gas station to use the restrooms, and an attendant named Ron recognizes Irene, and is glad to hear that Frances is in town for the weekend. As the hosts feed guests, they explain that friends, Maura Tolliver, a children’s theater actress, and Jeff, director of a methadone drug clinic, could not join them because of a large family reunion. The friends are also told that Lacey, an actress friend, is performing in a period comedy, and has provided them with free tickets. Maura suddenly telephones Katie, saying that she has left Jeff, traveled by bus, and needs a ride. When Katie meets Maura in town, her friend has a hard time explaining the reason for her breakup. As the women embrace, Maura is excited to hear that J. T. is visiting for the weekend. Later at the theater, Frances explains to Chip that Lacey, Katie, and Maura were roommates during their freshman year at college. Lacey went to live with a boyfriend, while the other women roomed together until Maura joined VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), a national social services program. Backstage after the play, Lacey is chatty, but chooses to go to the closing night party instead of spending time with her college friends. After the show, Maura and J. T. walk home, and she confesses that she and Jeff were stuck in a rut until she had the courage to leave the relationship. J. T. assures Maura that he will not abandon her, even though he and Jeff are best friends. Back at the house, the friends drink beer, and play charades. Later on the sofa, Maura cannot sleep and wakes J. T. She confesses that she feels adrift since her breakup, and is attracted to J. T. He admits that he has always liked her, and the two make love. Meanwhile, Katie postpones going to the bathroom when she hears lovers in the living room. She and Mike assume that Frances and J. T. are in the throes of passion. Once Katie treks to the bathroom, she and Mike are surprised to learn that the lovers are Maura and J. T. The next day, Mike and Chip sit on the sidelines during a volleyball game and Mike gives a more detailed account of how everyone met in college. Jeff arrives unexpectedly. While his friends are happy to see him, Maura gives him a cool reception. Later, J. T. plays guitar, and admits to Maura that he feels guilty about sleeping with her. He confesses his indiscretion to Jeff, who takes the news calmly, but accuses J. T. of having poor instincts with women. Elsewhere, Katie warns Maura that J. T. is not very responsible or discriminating when it comes to women. As Irene and Frances walk together, they also discuss J. T.’s inability to handle responsibility and how much harder it will be to have a successful music career as he gets older. Ron and Howie, a local hotel manager, challenge the guys to a game of basketball. Soon, J. T. slams his head into a pole, is dazed, and blames Jeff for causing the accident. The women play Clue, a board game, and gossip. Later, the friends skinny-dip in the river. J. T. confesses to Mike that he is broke, but lent money to a friend in Boston, Massachusetts, and expects to be reimbursed. Ron tells Frances he is interested in a career promoting snowmobile competitions. The friends gather to prepare lunch, and remark how nice it would be to get high. Chip shares the marijuana cigarettes he has stored in his glove compartment. Later, the friends relax over beers at the local bar. Jeff and J. T. flirt with two women, hoping to score sexual favors. Then, Jeff admits he is not ready to start dating. J. T. whips out his guitar and entertains bar patrons, while Frances explains to Ron how the personalities of doctors in various specialties differ. He, in turn, admits to being a popular athlete in high school, but says he is now known around town as a top car mechanic. He invites her to spend the evening in one of Howie’s spare hotel rooms, and she agrees. Meanwhile, Maura and Jeff loudly confront each other about their failings. Neither will back down, and they lean on friends for support. On the drive home, the group stops to examine a dead deer in the road. A police officer arrests the friends on suspicion of illegal hunting. The group shares a cell with town drunk Norman Gaddis, the former high school referee, who recognizes Mike. Norman advises them to plead self-defense to beat the charges. J. T. then announces that their situation is practically a reunion of the “Secaucus Seven.” Mike explains that during college the friends were on their way to a protest march in Washington, D. C., when police searched their borrowed car and found a rifle and an ounce of marijuana. They were thrown in jail in Secaucus, New Jersey, where they anointed themselves “The Secaucus Seven,” and acted out scenes from James Cagney and George Raft prison movies to pass the time. After they were released, the case was eventually thrown out of court. In the present, history repeats itself, and the group is released from jail. Back at the cottage, J. T. describes his plan to sell his songs in Los Angeles, California, when he and Jeff hear the sounds of vomiting. They take turns guessing the identity of the wretched soul, which turns out to be Katie, and J. T. wants to know if Jeff is still angry with him. Jeff admits he is annoyed, but it will pass. The next day, J. T. also tells Irene about his plans for the West Coast, and she agrees to invest in his career. He is uncomfortable borrowing a large amount of money, but she insists. As Maura and Jeff wash dishes, they divide up their possessions. J. T. turns down Irene’s offer because he is determined to succeed on his own. Soon, it is time for the guests to leave. Maura announces that Jeff has disappeared because he hates to say goodbye. Katie drops Maura and J. T. at the bus station, where Maura insists on buying him a ticket. Meanwhile, Jeff chops wood, then leaves a short note for Katie and Mike, apologizing for his hasty departure. Frances passes out on the sofa after her late night with Ron, as Katie and Mike fold the volleyball net and put it in storage.  

Production Company: Salsipuedes Productions  
Distribution Company: Specialty  
  Libra Films  
Director: John Sayles (Dir)
  Maggie Renzi (Unit mgr)
Producer: Jeffrey Nelson (Co-prod)
  William Aydelott (Co-prod)
Writer: John Sayles (Wrt)
Photography: Austin de Besche (Dir of photog)
  William Aydelott (Cam)
  Frank Coleman (Asst cam)
  David Arndt (Gaffer/Key grip)
  Fred Burnham (Loc stills)
  Du Art Film Labs (Printing)
Film Editor: John Sayles (Ed)
  Steven Zaitz (Asst ed)
  Maggie Renzi (Asst ed)
  Tri Film Services (Negative cutting)
Costumes: Deborah Shaw (Cos consultant)
Music: Mason Daring (Score dir and prod by)
  Guy Van Duser ([Score] written and performed by)
  Bill Staines ([Score] written and performed by)
  Timothy Jackson ([Score] written and performed by)
  Mason Daring ([Score] written and performed by)
  Delta Mirror Studio Somerville, Massachusetts ([Score] rec at )
Sound: Wayne Wadhams (Sd)
  Fred Burnham (Asst sd)
  Bill Gitt (Sd transfer)
  Magno Sound (Mix)
Special Effects: EFX Unlimited (Titles)
Production Misc: Michael Rubin (Tech asst)
  Elizabeth Shafer (Scr supv)
  Fred Burnham (Credit)
  Donald McLane (Asst to dir)
  Logan Goodman (Prod asst)
  Wendell Lees (Prod asst)
  Carolyn Brooks (Prod asst)
  Ita Roberts (Caterer)
  Steven Zaitz (Loc )
  Aydelott Associates (Post prod services)
MPAA Rating: R
Country: United States
Language: English

Songs: “Bad Apple Blues,” Trad./ Arr. ©1979 Sweet Melodies Publishing, arranged by Cora Bennett; “Coast To Coast,” ©1978 Sal Baglio, © 1978 Double Eagle Records, written by Sal Baglio, performed by The Stompers; “The Boots They Come And The Boots They Go,” ©1977 Folk Legacy Inc., ©1978 Daring Enterprises, written by Bill Staines, performed by Mason Daring and Jeanie Stahl; “Barbecue Rag,” ©1979 Guy Van Duser; “Free, White And 21,” ©Sweet Melodies Publishing, written by Adam LeFevre; “Mean To Me,” ©Sweet Melodies Publishing, written by Adam LeFevre; “I Brake For Animals,” ©Sweet Melodies Publishing, written by Adam LeFevre.
Composer: Sal Baglio
  Adam LeFevre
  Bill Staines
Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Salsipuedes Productions, Inc. 18/5/1981 dd/mm/yyyy PA107733

Physical Properties: Sd:

Genre: Drama
Subjects (Major): College life
  False arrests
  Love affairs
  New Hampshire
  Voyages and travel
Subjects (Minor): Adventures
  Folk music
  Folk songs
  Gas stations
  Medical students
  New Jersey
  Romantic rivalry

Note: The following acknowledgments appear in end credits: “Thanks to: Mount Washington Valley Theatre Co., Donald Johnson – Dunkin’ Donuts, Tom Mulkern – Oak Lee Lodge, Jean Lees, Eastern Mountain Sports, Cranmore Inn, Carol Reed, 6,000 Salad Bowls.” Acknowledgements are followed by the statement: “Filmed in North Conway, New Hampshire.”
       According to a 12 Mar 1980 LAT article, writer-director John Sayles said the independent film evolved out of a starting budget of $40,000, not a creative idea. He was then able to put together the story of a reunion once he had determined the extent of his resources. A 28 Apr 1980 New York article reported that Sayles raised an additional $20,000 to pay for film laboratory costs. The 12 Mar 1980 LAT stated that the film was shot on a twenty-five day schedule with very little improvisation. The tight timeframe meant adapting to weather changes and delays. Sayles paid $800 to rent a ski lodge in North Conway, NH, which served as primary location and provided accommodations for the actors. A 1980 Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Filmex) press release in AMPAS library files reported the movie was shot in the fall of 1978 for $60,000.
       According to an 11 Apr 1980 NYT article, the picture debuted as part of the New Directors/New Films series at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. It was number eight on LAT film critic Charles Champlin’s 1980 Top Ten list of the best films of the year, as reported in a 28 Dec 1980 LAT news brief. According to an 8 Jan 1981 LAT article, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association gave Sayles an award for best screenplay.

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Hollywood Reporter   18 Sep 1980   p. 2.
Los Angeles Times   12 Mar 1980.   
Los Angeles Times   19 Mar 1980   p. 14.
Los Angeles Times   28 Dec 1980.   
Los Angeles Times   8 Jan 1981   Part IV, p. 2.
New York   28 Apr 1980   p. 62-63.
New York Times   11 Apr 1980   p. 12.
Variety   26 Mar 1980   p. 21.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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