Scorsese had been working on Who’s That Knocking At My Door? since he was in film school at NYU, and as per his “assistant,” the film had changed titles (aka I Call First) and expanded storylines at least three times. Harvey Keitel was cast in the lead from a response to an ad for actors, and though at times his dialogue feels a little unrefined, a little unsure, it also feels like the Keitel we know today. Thereby (unintentionally) providing an added sinister undercurrent that a viewer may not have otherwise picked up on in 1968.
The story is fairly straight forward as most American independent movies of this period tended to be. Keitel plays a young Italian American named J.R. The film wavers between J.R.’s interactions with his male friends and his female friends, one female in particular which he meets while waiting for a ferry he “never usually takes.” In addition to his close (nearly interpretable as homoerotic) interaction with his male friends and on top of his disgusted reaction when Zina confides in him about her “impurity,” he is your average sexually repressed 70s male. Scorsese keeps very close to his Catholic roots in this film, not only with the overt actions of J.R., but the whole ending sequence which is basically a montage of Catholic iconography set to a rather obvious soundtrack for the movie’s overall style. Well worth a watch if you’ve sat through all the student films by Scorsese first.