The great Joe Dante has returned to the world famous, New Beverly Cinema for another of his amazing festivals. I already reported extensively on the “second” in a lifetime screening of THE MOVIE ORGY, but that wasn’t the only cinematic chestnut to behold that evening. At midnight, after 5 hours of orgy, we all stayed in our seats and were treated to a rare “preview print” of one of my favorite Joe Dante movies, GREMLINS!
It contained two scenes that were cut from the theatrical release. One scene shows Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates snooping in the bank head’s office and finding Miss Deagle’s sinister plan to take control of the entire town. In the other scene, Zach and Phoebe discover Judge Reinhold’s character has gone crazy and locked himself in the bank vault, where they leave him. It was cool to see these scenes, but I can understand why they were cut, since they don’t really add anything to the story.
GREMLINS is a lot of fun to watch with an audience. I’ve always regarded it as one of my favorite Christmas movies. It’s like, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE on acid and has a unique blend of horror and comedy. The scene where the Mom single-handedly fights off the evil gremlins is a great example. I love it when she nukes the little green fucker in the microwave. GREMLINS was an awesome “nightcap” to a great evening.
The first night of the festival was a screening of Dante’s underrated, suburban-nightmare comedy, THE ‘BURBS, which was on a double bill with the Michael Ritchie satire, SMILE. Star BRUCE DERN was a special guest and he told some great stories about the industry and his days working with ROGER CORMAN. He also talked a little about how great it was to work again with Joe Dante on his upcoming, THE HOLE 3-D.
THE ‘BURBS is a very weird black comedy from 1989, that I had not seen since then. I remembered liking it the first time, but I was a lot more impressed with the suburban-paranoia satire this time around. Dante shot the film in sequence and a great deal of improvisation was thrown in. TOM HANK’S character really goes on a journey from normalcy to insanity that was a lot of fun to watch. I recommend picking it up on Net Flix if you haven’t seen it. Another great Joe Dante film to rediscover is the wonderful, MATINEE.
This film somehow escaped me upon it’s initial release and I remember giving it an unfocused look on VHS, back in the day. I enjoyed this film so much more now and I think it’s at the top of my list of Dante’s best. Set in Key West, Florida in 1962 when America was gripped in the panic of the “Cuban missile crisis”, it tells the story of a movie producer/showman, Lawrence Woolsey (modeled after the great WILLIAM CASTLE), played perfectly by JOHN GOODMAN. He is bringing his latest gimmick-laden monster movie, MANT to the local movie house and creates an amazing amount of hoopla in the process. It’s a really fun and nostalgic look back at that time period and Dante nails it perfectly, as usual. MATINEE was on a special, “end of the world” double bill with the fantastic, MIRACLE MILE.
The writer and director, STEVE DE JARNATT was there to tell us about how difficult it was to get such a “downer” of a movie made. The ending scared all the major studios away and the film was finally made independently. MIRACLE MILE is a tense, brilliant film that still somehow makes me feel really “anxious”, even though the threat of nuclear war is no longer as frightening as it was in 1988. Check it out if you’ve never seen it before. But the evening was not over yet….
After MIRACLE MILE, we received a special “bonus” surprise for the night! Joe Dante showed us all the footage he had shot for MANT, the movie within a movie, that’s featured in MATINEE. It was hilarious stuff and reminded me of all the atomic-mutant-monster movies that were featured in THE MOVIE ORGY. It’s clear that Dante’s influences are always a big part of his style as a filmmaker. He said that when the studio saw the 25 minutes of MANT they suggested doing a feature length version, but Dante felt the parody would only go so far. He maybe right, but I think it would have been awesome if he had!
I think it’s interesting the way Joe Dante is often regarded as a “horror” film director, when he’s actually one of the most original “satirists” working in film today. With the exceptions of PIRANHA and THE HOWLING (which are both filled with lots of humorous “inside” jokes) most all of Dante’s films are comedies with a great deal of social commentary. The last night of the festival I attended was a double bill of two scorching 70’s satires, COLD TURKEY and THE PRESIDENT’S ANALYST. I’d never seen them before and both films were equally funny and smart, just like the man who programmed them. I look forward to Dante’s upcoming return to horror with, THE HOLE 3-D. It’ll be nice to see him go back to his roots once again and make a genre film like only he can.