Posts Tagged ‘new beverly cinema’

The Third Annual All Night Horror Show @ The New Bev!

October 12, 2010

It was that magical time of the year again! That time when Phil Blankenship hosts his Third Annual All Night Horror Show at the fabulous New Beverly Cinema here in L.A. I’ve attended the first two all nighters and I was there again for another heaping helping of scary flicks shown over a 12 hour period. It’s a serious endurance test for all horror movie maniacs and if you can make it all the way to the end, you’re one of the proud, the brave and the insane. This year was without a doubt, the best one I’ve ever attended. Each selection made me very happy and I’m marking the days on my calendar ’till next year’s all nighter. The following is a hazy recollection filtered through various chemicals (actually it was only a lot of caffeine and sugar this year ’cause I’m on the wagon):

1st movie:

DARIO ARGENTO’S TENEBRAE (1982) is my second favorite giallo of all time, right after Argento’s DEEP RED. It was a joy to watch this on the big screen with an audience. This fun filled and extremely violent movie is about a famous giallo writer who has come to Rome to promote his new book, Tenebrae. In an unsuspected bit of unwanted publicity, a black gloved killer is slicing women up and stuffing pages from the book in their mouths. Argento is clearly having fun with the genre as everyone is a suspect in this flick and the red herrings are tossed around like a trip to an Asian fish market. At one point even a vicious doberman is a possible killer (by the way, the dog is one of the best actors I’ve ever seen, and at one point it actually sizes up a tall fence, backs up and jumps it in a single bound). Even the actual killer turns out to be a red herring for yet another mysterious killer! The bloody murders are incredibly stylish as usual, especially one where a woman has her arm chopped off with an ax that sprays a geyser of blood against a wall like an abstract artist painting his canvas. The audience ate this one up and it was a great way to start things off.

2nd movie:

What better way to follow up a great Italian horror movie then with another great Italian horror movie. LUCIO FULCI’S THE GATES OF HELL (A.K.A. THE CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD) is a wonderfully insane supernatural zombie flick. It’s about a priest who happens to hang himself in a cemetery over one of the 7 portals of Hell, in a town call Dunwich. Bad choice, because all kinds of crazy hell breaks loose, literally. Before long the residents are having the back of their heads ripped off by zombies that can actually teleport. Let me tell ya, there is nothing more unfair than a zombie that can just materialize out of thin air directly behind you. You can’t defend yourself against that. How about the suicidal priest coming back as a demon who can telepathically make your eyes bleed and cause you to puke out your guts? Not cool. And just when you thought everyone was safe and sound inside the house, cue the maggot storm! That’s right, real maggots showering you from head to toe. These events have their toll on the towns people’s patience, as clearly shown when a protective father shoves a guys head through a power drill because he catches him smoking weed with his daughter. This movie’s plot is all over the map and concludes with a final shot that I still don’t really understand, but I don’t care. I love this movie and it really plays well with an audience. Nobody does crazy fucked up horror as well as the Italians do. Bravo!

3rd movie:

THE EVIL is a creepy little haunted house movie from 1978 that I’ve never seen before. Richard Crenna and Joanna Pettet play a couple who have just purchased an old, cob web filled mansion. They invite a group of friends and some former psychiatric patients of Crenna to help clean the place up. But when Crenna opens up a door in the basement that’s sealed with a weird looking crucifix (bad sign) an evil presence seals the home up making escape impossible. A ghostly apparition tries to help, but one by one the guests drop like flies. There are lots of electrocutions, a dog pushes a woman down a flight of stairs, Andrew Prine (wearing a weird pair of sailor pants) gets stuck in quick sand, and Victor Buono plays the goddamned Devil. What more can I say?

??Surprise movie??

Last year’s surprise movie almost created a near riot when three episodes of TALES FROM THE CRYPT were shown and met with a fairly negative reaction. Well, Phil made up for it this year with a very well received presentation of the 80s Heavy Metal Horror classic TRICK OR TREAT (1986). It was just what everyone wanted at exactly the right time. The fourth film in the night is the RALLY movie where you really need to invigorate the crowd and this one did just that. I’ve never seen TRICK OR TREAT before, so it was a great TREAT for me to finally see it on the big screen with an extremely enthusiastic crowd. The plot concerns a high school metalhead named Eddie Weinbauer (played by Marc Price A.K.A. Skippy from FAMILY TIES) who is constantly being bullied by a group of mean jocks. He is the number one fan of a devil worshipping metal God named Sammi Curr, who is killed in a accidental hotel fire. Heartbroken Eddie seeks support from a metal DJ named Nuke (Gene Simmons) and is given a rare demo album the deceased rock star cut before his untimely death. Eddie soon realizes that Sammi Curr is trying to return to life through the backwards passages on his record. Before long, he starts getting back at the bullies who’ve wronged him as the homicidal rocker returns to the world of the living. This movie was a lot of fucking fun! The awesome music was by the hair band FASTWAY and it was directed by actor Charles Martin Smith (AMERICAN GRAFFITI, STARMAN). Rock on!

5th movie:

Global panic ensues when it is revealed that a mysterious UFO is actually a giant bird that flies at supersonic speed and has no regard for life or architecture. – IMDB plot description for THE GIANT CLAW.

I remember seeing scenes from THE GIANT CLAW (1957) as part of the incredible MOVIE ORGY that Joe Dante edited together along with a handful of other shlocky creature features from the 50s. This one peaked my interest because it featured a giant rubbery looking vulture swooping down and destroying buildings and knocking airplanes out of the sky. This was an inspired choice. A nice taste of old school monster movie madness. It’s about a hot shot jet pilot (are there any other kind?) who spies a UFO “as big as a battleship” one day while flying a test mission. He’s dismissed as a crackpot, but when it becomes apparent that there is actually a giant bird destroying shit and gobbling people up, he becomes the hero who must save the day. Turns out the creature is from some antimatter universe and can only be destroyed with antimatter weaponry (pure nonsensical 50s logic). This movie was a surprising amount of campy fun that kept me chuckling as we pressed further into the early morning hours.

6th movie:

BREEDERS (1986) had been described to me previously as “80 minutes of alien rape” and that’s exactly what it was. This was the HOLY FUCKING SHIT movie of the night and at a time when my attention was drifting towards sleep, it perked me up and kept me glued to the screen with its ridiculous plot, cheesy gore, excessive nudity and the worst acting ever committed to film. The single women of New York are being attacked and raped by a creature that mutates from human form into a nasty, slimy monster with tentacles and a huge penis-finger. The women are all virgins, which is a tough nut to swallow considering all the actresses are in their late twenties, live in the largest city in the world and it’s the 80s. One of the virgin victims is a bathing suit model who snorts cocaine for lunch and does nude aerobics in the studio. The only two people who can crack the case are the world’s dumbest police detective and an equally dumb female doctor with huge hair, who also happens to be a virgin. They uncover a hidden lair in the subway tunnels where the rape victims bathe in a hot tub full of alien semen so they can transform into something more horrifying. This movie was like SEX AND THE CITY meets HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP. Pure madness and I loved every second of it.

7th movie:

I blacked out from exhaustion following BREEDERS, but I managed to stir awake just in time to catch the last half of THE OUTING (1987). Another wacky 80s horror flick that I somehow missed back in the day. This one (from what I can gather) was about a group of teenagers who somehow awaken an evil monster genie from a bottle. The kids have decided to spend the night in a museum and that’s where the genie starts magically killing them off one by one. One girl is bitten to death by cobras while she takes a bath and two wannabe rapist jocks are murdered with their own masks. It all leads to a showdown with the giant rubber genie chasing the main girl and her parents through the museum as they attempt to destroy the magic lamp. I always thought genies were supposed to be helpful and grant you three wishes and shit. This movie felt like a surreal dream that I was having or how I really wanted NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM to actually play. It closed the All Night Horror Show with a bang!

My fellow Horror Show veteran, Grae Drake (who couldn’t make it all the way through last year) and I stumbled out into the bright early morning sun feeling like we really accomplished something. Anyone can hang for part of the night, but it takes a certain kind of geek warrior to make it ’till the very end. It’s what separates the men from the boys. Or the normal from the crazy. Can’t wait until next year!

 

Wide awake and ready to be scared at the start of the All Night Horror Show.

 

 

12 hours later. We survived.

 

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I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE REMAKE: This is definitely not a date movie!

September 22, 2010

MINOR SPOILERS.

Last night, I attended a sneak preview screening of the remake of the 1978 rape revenge classic, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE. I saw the original film only once when I was 12 years old in my friend’s basement on an old pop up loading VCR. The grimy little exploitation flick disturbed me on such a visceral level, that to this day I have been unable to even attempt to try to watch it again.

When I walked into the New Beverly Cinema to see the updated version, my stomach was filled with knots. Everything that I had heard had told me to expect this to be even more brutal than the first. I can remember only certain details about the original. The rape scene in particular was absolutely gut wrenching to watch and the bathtub castration made me wince for about a month afterwards. I was prepared to be completely and utterly disturbed, and I was, but in a manner I didn’t think I would be.

The story is a simple one. Jennifer Hills (Sarah Butler) is an attractive young writer from the big city who has rented a remote cabin in the woods to work on her new novel. One stop at a local gas station attracts the attention of a depraved group of country bumpkins, led by a lascivious gas attendant named Johnny (Jeff Branson).

There is a really well structured build up to what we all know is going to inevitably happen to her. The movie takes its time in creating an atmosphere of tension and then it unleashes its violence at you in such an overwhelming way, I almost couldn’t bare it. The rape scene is horrifying, disgusting and grueling to watch, but what happens to Jennifer afterwards is even more unsettling than I could have imagined.

The bumpkins are all perfectly played monsters. Jeff Branson and Daniel (MEAN GIRLS, BULLY) Franzese are excellent at making the audience wish them the most violent retaliation possible. But it’s the performance of Andrew Howard as Sheriff Storch that really makes the film enter into another realm of unease. He appears at first as a savior when Jennifer manages to momentarily escape her attackers, only to become the spider that has recaptured her in his web for the other insects to feed on. The performance is nuanced in such a way as to actually make you think the guy is a decent family man who truly loves his wife and daughter. There is a brilliantly written moment where he answers a call from his child while the rape plays on in the background that sent chills down my spine. His character is one of pure evil disguised as the protective guardian and doting family man. What makes it even more fucked up is that we actually believe he’s a great dad and husband to two women while savagely destroying another.

After she is beaten and gang raped, Jennifer escapes her attackers by plunging herself into the lake below. There is a great deal of tension among the perpetrators as to whether or not she’s still alive, followed by the tying up of loose ends (that includes the murder of the only nice hick represented on the screen – character actor Tracey Walters as Earl). Then the men continue on with their mundane backwoods lives, but this a revenge film and these bastards have a lot to answer for. And they do.

The character of Jennifer Hills and the intense performance by Sarah Butler is what really sets this film apart from the ’78 film and other subsequent tales of rape and revenge like THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. Even Ms. 45 would give her pause when she starts to take these guys out in absolutely the most sickening and depraved ways imaginable. I couldn’t help but think that she herself has become as big a monster as they were. The murders of these scumbags is deserved, but the ferocity and incredibly intricate designs of torture and death she devises makes you think that this woman has taken all the violence she’s experienced and turned it into something beyond mere retaliation. She goes through a transformation that leaves the audience not so much rooting for her, as stunned by her own lack of morality in her hunger for vengeance. She’s been damaged so severely, that she herself has become one of them and this as unsettling as anything else in this bleak, yet powerful film. It will be released unrated on October 8th. Don’t bring a date.

THE VHS JUNKIE’S LATEST FIX: THE KINDRED (1987)

April 12, 2010

I recently purchased a brand new Panasonic Bluray/VHS combo player and I’ve been going on scavenger hunts all over the city and internet, looking for rare movies on video tape. Thanks to my good friend,  New Beverly Cinema Queen Julia Marchese, I found a small independent video store that’s selling off its entire VHS inventory. The place turned out to be a virtual treasure trove, where I was able to purchase TONS of old movies for peanuts, that are either not available on DVD, out of print, or so obscure even I have never seen them before. I’m gonna write up some reviews of certain select titles from my new collection.

THE KINDRED (1987) is a good old fashioned slimy 80’s monster movie, that is still CRIMINALLY unavailable on DVD. It stars Academy Award-winning actors, ROD STEIGER and KIM HUNTER as two scientists that have been screwing around with something called Hemocyanin and performing genetic experiments on cats and the occasional odd human.

Crazy Dr. Phillip Lloyd (ROD STEIGER) pays off ambulance drivers to bring him the freshest injured patients to work on. But, when his supplier asks him for more money, he is fed to the mutants the doctor keeps caged up in his laboratory. Blame it on the damn recession!

On her death bed, Dr. Amanda Hollins (KIM HUNTER) confides to her son John, that he has a half brother named Anthony and that she’s been working on experiments with him at the old family home. After her death, John brings a group of his pre-med friends to the abandoned isolated house (including a mysterious and hot british scientist played by AMANDA PAYS), so that they can help him figure out his mother’s “Anthony journals”.

Not long after they arrive, it becomes clear that they are not alone. A slimy, tentacled green monster starts killing the guests off one by one (including Duke the dog!) and there is an amazing scene involving the monster and a watermelon that is simply INCREDIBLE!

Soon, they all discover that John’s mother extracted tissue from him when he was young and the monster is his half brother, Anthony. AMANDA PAYS has been hired by STEIGER to capture Anthony and bring him back to the lab. In payment, she will receive stronger medicine to stop her from turning into a gilled fish-monster, because she too is a mutant! Don’t worry, she turns into one on screen and it’s AWESOME!

There is an incredible showdown between Anthony and the heroes, and (in typical 80’s fashion) the monster is electrocuted and explodes in a geyser of squirting goo and puss! Even a screaming ROD STEIGER gets slimed!

I LOVE THE KINDRED!!! The acting and direction are surprisingly good and the cheap special effects are wonderful to behold. I found it really refreshing to watch the practical, non-CGI FX in this movie. THE KINDRED is a great example of how awesome looking that stuff was, (no matter how rubbery the monster puppet looks) because it was real, tangible and right there on camera.

When it comes to 80’s monster horror, THE KINDRED is a really fun, gooey movie and a rare, underrated gem. I would LOVE to see PHIL BLANKENSHIP play this movie at the New Beverly Cinema as a midnight flick. It would totally ROCK the house! Until next time you vidiots, be kind and rewind! Nerd out!

A Grindhouse Christmas @ the New Bev!

December 18, 2009

“CHRISTMAS EVIL is the best seasonal film of all time. I wish I had kids. I’d make them watch it every year and, if they didn’t like it, they’d be punished!” – John Waters

For the past three years I’ve made it a yuletide tradition here in L.A. to attend the annual Grindhouse Film Festival Christmas show at the New Beverly Cinema. The first year I went, it was a double bill of the perennial favorite BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974) and the incredible Santa Claus slasher from Utah, SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984). Last year it was once again BLACK CHRISTMAS along with a haunted house Xmas movie called SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT (1974). This year it was the amazing CHRISTMAS EVIL (1980) along with once again, the ever popular BLACK CHRISTMAS. It was a rockin’ show.

I’d seen CHRISTMAS EVIL awhile ago on cable and thought it was good, but I really loved watching it again with the Grindhouse crowd and it has now become one of my holiday favorites. Before the show, the star of the film BRANDON MAGGERT came out to introduce it. He did a brief and very amusing Q and A, but had to cut it short because he hadn’t eaten dinner yet and wanted to get home. I’d like to mention how great it was that over the last 30 years his hair has turned white and he now sports a beard and square framed reading glasses that really make him look a lot like old St. Nick. If you’ve seen the film before, you’ll understand how awesome this is.

BRANDON MAGGERT discusses the finer points of CHRISTMAS EVIL.

Before the movie there was a special Xmas trailer reel that included two really bizarre looking films called SANTA CLAUS (looked like a Grimm’s fairy tale version of the story) and THE CHRISTMAS THAT ALMOST WASN’T (like a Hammer horror version of a Xmas film), an anime HEIDI clip and LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (why I don’t know).

CHRISTMAS EVIL (A.K.A. YOU BETTER WATCH OUT, which was the title on the director’s print we saw) tells the tale of Harry Stadling (BRANDON MAGGERT), a worker in a toy factory called JOLLY TIMES TOYS, who is really obsessed with all things Christmas. He’s taken to spying on the local kids in the neighborhood, to see who’s being naughty and nice. The closer he gets to the 25th of December, the more manic his obsession grows, until finally he decides to actually “become” Santa Claus. Donning a Santa suit and converting his van into a sleigh (complete with reindeer painted on the side), he takes off on Christmas eve night to teach the city the true meaning of the holiday, even if he has to commit murder to prove it!

"You talkin' to me, Santa? You talkin' to me?"

Simply the greatest image ever and next year's Xmas card.

CHRISTMAS EVIL is a highly entertaining black comedy horror film that is kinda like TAXI DRIVER if Travis Bickle was a violent Santa Claus impersonator. There is nothing more pleasing to my twisted holiday senses then watching an angry mob of torch wielding New Yorkers chase Santa Claus through the streets of Queens. It went over very well and afterwards we were treated to a nice Q and A from the director, LEWIS JACKSON.

LEWIS JACKSON tells the New Bev crowd the joys and sorrows of directing CHRISTMAS EVIL.

There was a brief intermission, followed by the second feature…

If you’ve never seen Bob Clark’s Canadian made prototype holiday slasher classic BLACK CHRISTMAS before and think you’re hip on the genre, you’re not. This is the FIRST of its kind and is clearly a major influence for JOHN CARPENTER’S HALLOWEEN. It started all the staples of the slasher formula, including the killer POV shot, the one by one stalk and kill and the lone survivor girl. It also happens to be one of the most effectively frightening of its kind.

A hapless victim of the deranged killer.

This image consistently raises the hairs on the back of my head every single time I watch it.

A group of sorority sisters are all preparing to go home for Christmas vacation, completely unaware that a psychotic killer is hiding in their attic, ready to pick them all off one by one. The unknown maniac taunts them from time to time with a series of the creepiest obscene phone calls imaginable, while the inept police try to trace them. After eliminating a huge red hearing, the film concludes with one of the most erie endings ever, where the killer is still loose in the house with the last survivor and we still have no idea who he is or why he’s doing it. It’s brilliant and I think it’s a lot more frightening than if we were told his motivations and he were caught or killed.

It was another amazing Christmas at the Grindhouse and Brian Quinn told me he’s going to try to get a print of the sublime street corner Santa slashing epic DON’T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS for next year. Can’t wait for then and in the meantime, I’ll try to be a little nicer and a little less naughty. If I can. Merry Christmas to everyone from Planet of the Nerds and a Happy New Year too! And stay tuned for my BEST OF 2009 list coming soon!

MOPAR madness double feature and QT too!!!

October 7, 2009
09 bev QT

Polaroid by Cat.

I’ve been so busy doing crazy nerd stuff lately, I almost forgot to tell you about this very cool double bill at the New Beverly Cinema last week. It was a one night only screening of the European cut of QUENTIN TARANTINO’S DEATH PROOF (never before screened in the U.S.) and one of the greatest and most intelligent car chase movies ever made, VANISHING POINT (1971). Being a big fan of both films, as well as a HUGE gearhead, I had no choice but to jump behind the wheel of my own muscle car and race to the theatre to catch a double dose of MOPAR madness!

This is the white 1970 Dodge Challenger that is the star of both DEATH PROOF and VANISHING POINT.

This is the white 1970 Dodge Challenger that is the star of both DEATH PROOF and VANISHING POINT.

For those of you who are not in the know, MOPAR stands for MOtor PARts that are exclusively made by CHRYSLER and used on certain vehicles under the CHRYSLER, DODGE and PLYMOUTH banner, which had it’s heyday in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Cars like the CHARGER, SUPER BEE, ROAD RUNNER, DEMON, GTX, BARRACUDA, DUSTER and the CHALLENGER are all classic MOPAR’S that ruled the streets with their big block engines (440-6, HEMI), bright paint jobs (HEMI-ORANGE, SUB-LIME GREEN) and incredible designs and engineering. They were among the coolest and most badass muscle cars of that, or any other era in American automotive history. Drive one and you’ll understand why nothing beats Detroit metal and no imported tuner car can hold a candle to them.

The white 1970 DODGE CHALLENGER is a major part of both DEATH PROOF and VANISHING POINT. DEATH PROOF references VANISHING POINT a lot and is the reason ZOE BELL wants to ride on the hood of a CHALLENGER so much. The ’70 CHALLENGERS in both films are pushed to the limit of their awesome powers and are featured in incredible car chases.

Before DEATH PROOF started, we received a pretty awesome surprise. QUENTIN TARANTINO was in the house and came up to the stage to introduce his film. If you’ve never seen QT talk about one of his own movies before, his enthusiasm is infectious and makes you love the film in question even more.

QT revs up the New Bev crowd! Photo by Cat.

QT revs up the New Bev crowd! Polaroid by Cat.

QT is such a huge nerd that he actually wore his own costume from DEATH PROOF to the screening! He talked about how this was his cut of the film that was shown at Cannes in 2007 and released in Europe. He was very happy with the fact that DEATH PROOF is really loved and admired in France, where it is known as BOULEVARD DE LA MORT. After his intro, he took a seat in the packed theatre with the rest of us and we all sat back and watched DEATH PROOF. It was fucking great!

death-proof-alternate-movie-poster1

I loved DEATH PROOF back in 2007, when it was released as the second feature of GRINDHOUSE, along with ROBERT RODRIGUEZ’S PLANET TERROR. I remember thinking that it was not only the better overall film between the two, but that it was also the only thing about GRINDHOUSE that wasn’t a parody of some sort. I was expecting it to be a slasher movie with a car (which the first half is), but I didn’t expect it to turn into a cross between a 70’s car chase epic and a RUSS MEYER film (which the second half does brilliantly). It rounded out the whole GRINDHOUSE experience and elevated it to a level of high art, while totally appealing to my love for 80’s slasher films, hot girls and muscle cars, all in one film! I love how the first act (there are only two) is a slow build and you’re not really sure what’s going on until the big car crash, where Stuntman Mike’s motivations become all too clear. The final car chase is brilliant and exciting, but most importantly, it is a showdown between not one, but two of the greatest classic MOPAR’S ever created. THE 1970 DODGE CHALLENGER VS. THE 1970 DODGE CHARGER, which is the muscle car equivalent to KING KONG VS. GODZILLA!

Stuntman Mike has some serious sexual hang ups.

Stuntman Mike has some serious sexual hang ups.

He also shares a foot fetish with the director.

He also shares a foot fetish with the director.

A gearhead's wet dream of a car chase! '70 DODGE CHALLENGER VS. '70 DODGE CHARGER!

A gearhead's wet dream of a car chase! '70 DODGE CHALLENGER VS. '70 DODGE CHARGER!

After the movie, QT took the stage and conducted a 45 minute Q and A session, where he talked a lot about the film and how much he enjoyed making it. There were a few cast and crew members in attendance, including former Basterd, OMAR DOOM. All the great music from the Texas Chili Parlor scene is from QT’S own jukebox AMi, which is the one in the movie. He also said, that listening to the laughter and applause from the New Bev audience for his movie was music to his ears and he thanked us for that. I hadn’t seen DEATH PROOF in awhile and I must say that after watching it by itself in the theatre, it is truly a great movie. Next up was ZOE BELL’S favorite movie…

vanish

VANISHING POINT is about a man named Kowalski (played by BARRY NEWMAN) who takes a job to drive a brand new, white ’70 Dodge Challenger from Colorado to California. When he picks up some speed from his drug dealer for the trip, they make a crazy bet on how fast he can get there for the cost of the drugs. Almost immediately the cops are on his tail as he drives top speed through the state, but they can’t catch Kowalski in his killer Challenger and he becomes a folk hero with the aid of a blind disc jockey, played by CLEAVON LITTLE.

This is Kowalski! You can't stop him!

This is Kowalski! You can't stop him!

But they do try.

But they do try.

A naked hippie babe on a chopper!

A naked hippie babe on a chopper!

VANISHING POINT is like one long car chase of a movie with an existentialist riff on alienation and how freedom has been sacrificed for conformity in the post-industrial age. Seriously, this is one deep movie! Kowalski is a hero, simply because he refuses to stop for the police and I love the living shit out of it for that. The ending of this movie is the perfect statement of non-conformity. If you’ve never seen it before, you must!

That was one great double feature with an awesome surprise appearance by QT! Programming those two together was genius. Thanks again New Bev! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to look through the latest Auto Trader for an old MOPAR to fix up!

Vanishing Point

Both D

An evening with John Carpenter, The Thing and the Prince Of Darkness.

September 30, 2009

IMG_0260

There are certain filmmakers from the 70’s and 80’s that contributed in raising me and turning me into the kind of movie nerd that I’ve become. And there were none more prolific than John Carpenter, whose films I literally grew up watching since my family first took me to see HALLOWEEN in ’79. There was a new John Carpenter movie out pretty much every single year of my early childhood and teen years in the 1980’s and I would always be there on opening day. THE FOG, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, CHRISTINE, STARMAN, BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, THEY LIVE and the two that I’m gonna talk about now, ruled that decade and have provided the creatively bankrupt movie industry of today with a whole bunch of original properties to remake and ruin.

This week the New Beverly Cinema programmed a great double feature of Carpenter’s all-time masterpiece THE THING (1982) along with the criminally underrated PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1987). I joined the rest of the “real” geek squad on Sunday night, but almost didn’t make it inside when I was attacked in line by Max Landis, who was wearing an original ROB BOTTIN mask mold from the movie!

Max Landis attempts to "assimilate" me!

Max Landis attempts to "assimilate" me!

I distracted him with my TROLL 2 shirt and ran inside to take a seat and watch one of my favorite horror films of all time…

thing

The New Bev’s own Julia Marchese interviewed actor Joel Polis before the film and he talked about how THE THING failed at the box office when it was first released in 1982, because it was sandwhiched in between E.T. and POLTERGEIST.  I remember seeing all three of them, one after another, that summer. 1982 was definitely one of the greatest genre movie summers ever.

He also told us a few stories about the production, including an explanation of why the audience never gets to see the demise of his character Fuchs. Apparently, they actually shot an entire scene in which Fuchs is hung up on a door with an axe in his chest and all covered in blood. Carpenter decided that the Thing just wouldn’t kill someone this way and that it was way too slasher-ish, so they came up with what you see in the movie instead. I personally like that it’s ambiguous as to whether or not Fuchs burned himself up or if someone or some-THING else did.

The New Bev's Julia Marchese interviews actor Joel Polis about The Thing.

The New Bev's Julia Marchese interviews actor Joel Polis about The Thing.

Then the film started and for 2 hours you couldn’t hear a pin drop, except for the screams. THE THING is a great film with a brilliant script, cast and direction. I love so many things about it and I really enjoy watching it with an audience and people that have never seen it before. It’s a testament to how effective the film still is when they continue to jump and scream like crazy at all those classic moments. Like the dog kennel scene. Or the scene where Copper gets his arms bitten off by Norris. Or my favorite scene with the blood test where Palmer goes berserk.

YIKES!

YIKES!

Kurt Russell in another badass iconic role for John Carpenter.

Kurt Russell in another badass iconic role for John Carpenter.

I want this!

I want this!

Other things that are awesome about THE THING:

KURT RUSSELL coming off an iconic badass performance for John Carpenter as SNAKE PLISSKEN, creates another iconic badass performance with R.J. MacREADY!

ROB BOTTIN delivers a tour de force of the greatest makeup effects ever created and what he couldn’t finish, the late great STAN WINSTON contributed!

Carpenter has scored the music for every single one of his films (and a few he didn’t direct too), but didn’t have time to do it for THE THING. But that’s fine because he got the genius Italian composer ENNIO MORRICONE to do it! It’s also cool how the score is very much like Carpenter and very unlike Morricone.

The entirely male ensemble cast lends a lot to the intensity of the film with their performances. There is an increasing amount of hostility that comes out of the men as the paranoia begins to rise and it’s due to some superb acting that includes KEITH DAVID, WILFORD BRIMLEY and T.K. CARTER.

When the movie was over, there was a short break and then…

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I saw PRINCE OF DARKNESS in the cineplex back in 1987. I think it is one of Carpenter’s most overlooked films and it was a great pairing with THE THING because even though they are very different in tone and pacing, they have a very similar set up and story.

PRINCE OF DARKNESS tells the tale of an old Catholic church in downtown Los Angeles that has been keeping a lid on Satan as he sleeps in a large container of swirling green energy. DONALD PLEASENCE is the priest in charge of keeping it a secret, but it has become apparent to him that the church’s unwanted guest is starting to awake and illicit others to do his bidding. He brings in a group of quantum physics students and their professor to help figure out a way to stop it, but they are slowly taken over by Satan’s will.

This is a horror movie about the coming of the Anti-Christ that has a heavier emphasis on science than religion. It is much more atmospheric than any of Carpenter’s other films and has a slower dreamlike pace that feels like it was influenced a lot by DARIO ARGENTO.

For me, one of the creepiest moments in the film is when everyone has that weird “dream” of the dark figure walking out of the church. It becomes even creepier to learn that these are actually video messages being sent back in time from the future to warn them that if they fail, the world will be taken over by the Devil. Every time we see one of them I always get goose bumps, never fail.

This image never ceases to scare the HELL out of me!

This image never ceases to scare the HELL out of me!

Alice Cooper as a homeless disciple of Satan.

Alice Cooper as a homeless disciple of Satan.

This lady got a degree in demonology.

This lady got a degree in demonology.

Before the film there was an intro and interview with script supervisor and wife of John Carpenter, Sandy King and actors, Anne Marie Howard and Peter Jason (who’s been in a lot of Carpenter and Walter Hill’s movies). The actors told us how they all had private “zombie” meetings with John Carpenter to discuss how their character would return from the dead. Actor David Warner suggested to Peter Jason to play the part like he was in constant pain and that’s what he did. Sandy King told us how the movie was made for about 3 million bucks and was a union shoot that was mostly shot in her living room. She also said that when Carpenter started writing it, he told her to go out and “get everything you can on quantum physics”, which she did. When someone asked her if POD will ever be remade she said that it was the only one that they haven’t been approached with a remake offer. Thank god! POD is it’s own unique little snow flake and nobody can provide as much fright on such a small budget as Carpenter could.

Sandy King, Anne Marie Howard and Peter Jason talk PRINCE OF DARKNESS.

Sandy King, Anne Marie Howard and Peter Jason talk PRINCE OF DARKNESS.

This was another great double bill at the New Beverly Cinema. This Saturday at midnight they are showing SHOCKER and WES CRAVEN will be introducing it! See you there! And if you see some-THING that looks like Max Landis, RUN!

“Breaker 1-9…Breaker 1-9…You got your ears on? We got an all-day TRUCKATHON at the New Beverly. Come on.”

September 21, 2009
An all-day marathon of movies about trucks and the men who drive them!

An all-day marathon of movies about trucks and the men who drive them!

There was a time in America when TRUCKS, TRUCKERS and C.B. RADIOS were a pop culture phenomenon. The professional truck driver’s life style was the inspiration for many songs, movies, T.V. shows and even a famous bumper sticker that informed us all to “Keep on Truckin’…”. It was a strange time of Shlitz beer drinking, cap wearing, chew spittin’, good ole boys who drove their big rigs hard and loved their women even harder. They were men of principals and they formed a brotherhood that had a code of ethics and language all of it’s own. Therefore a new genre of film called TRUXPLOITATION emerged that glamorized these blue collar road warriors in films like the SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT trilogy, CONVOY (based on the hit country song) and let’s not forget the B.J. AND THE BEAR television series (as well as it’s spin-off SHERIFF LOBO). After all, the trucking industry is the backbone of American commerce, so it only seems fitting to celebrate this glorious bygone era of trucker-worship with an all-day movie TRUCKATHON, right? And whom better to host such an event than midnight movie cult leader Phil Blankenship and the nerd sanctuary that is the New Beverly Cinema, right? That’s a big 10-4 good buddy!

Phil handed out a list of  trucker terms with translations included and in between the films we were treated to several truxploitation movie trailers that included, HIGH BALLIN’ (starring Jerry Reed and Peter Fonda), BREAKER, BREAKER (starring a clean shaven Chuck Norris in one of his earliest roles), CONVOY (Kris Kristofferson), CONVOY BUSTERS (an Italian action film involving trucks), a French trailer for Steven Spielberg’s DUEL, SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT 1 AND 2, and RACE WITH THE DEVIL.

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The first film up was a wacky little sex comedy from 1978 called C.B. HUSTLERS. The very “skimpy” plot had something to do with three big breasted hookers who service passing truckers from a C.B. equipped van on the side of the road in some redneck town. Practically every scene in the movie had a naked girl in it. The hookers and the truckers team up to outwit the local police that are out to “bust” them. OH!

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The second movie of the day was a little gem from our old friends at CANNON FILMS called THUNDER RUN from 1986. The movie was a little like SORCERER if William Friedkin was missing a chromosome or two. Forrest (F TROOP) Tucker is offered 500,000 dollars to drive a big rig full of plutonium to a secret military base in an effort to flush out a dangerous gang of coed, multicultural terrorists that drive Volkswagen beetles armed with roof-rockets. If he can make it through the desert in one piece, he’s still got to deactivate the laser tunnel at the entrance of the army base or he’ll be incinerated. The fate of the free world in the hands of Forrest Tucker? Holy shit!

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"My name is Carol Jo Hummer and I'm looking for work!"

"My name is Carrol Jo Hummer and I'm looking for work!"

The third film was the working class hero epic WHITE LINE FEVER which is the NORMA RAE of trucking movies! Jan Michael Vincent is Carrol Jo Hummer, a simple young man who is living the American dream as an owner/operator of his very own big rig. But when he refuses to run illegal contraband, he’s blacklisted and forced to go to extremes to support his pregnant, beer guzzling wife. With shotgun in hand, Carrol Jo bucks the corrupt system and drives his big rig through a giant corporate sign! Yee-hah!

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Stacy Keach and Jamie Lee Curtis have great chemistry in Roadgames.

Stacy Keach and Jamie Lee Curtis have great chemistry in Road Games.

ROAD GAMES was the fourth movie on the schedule and my favorite movie of the night. Stacy Keach plays an American truck driver working the highways of the Australian outback who picks up a pretty young hitchiker played by Jamie Lee Curtis. In a plot borrowed heavily from Alfred Hitchcock’s REAR WINDOW, the two track a psychotic killer who is murdering young ladies on the road. The killer is played by none other than the infamous Aussie daredevil stuntman GRANT PAGE and the film features several awesome car stunts including one that involves two trucks, an anchor and a boat. This is a really cool movie with a tight script and terrific chemistry between the two leads, Keach and Curtis.

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Patrick Swayze has his hands full with Meatloaf.

Patrick Swayze has his hands full with Meatloaf.

The final movie of the evening was 1998’s BLACK DOG, starring the late Patrick Swayze as an ex-con who needs to make some fast money in order to save his family home. He accepts a job for 10,000 dollars from a guy named Red (Meatloaf) to haul a rig to Atlanta, but the load he’s carrying is full of illegal weapons and he’s been set up. Swayze has to deal with the F.B.I., hijackers led by Meatloaf and the legend of the black dog itself, in order to save his happy home. This was a highly energetic way to end the marathon and a nice tribute to Patrick Swayze.

The TRUCKATHON was a long haul but I really enjoyed the ride. Once again, The New Beverly Cinema dropped the hammer down and kept the Smokeys off our backs. Until next time, keep your pedal to the medal and stay out of those bear traps, good buddy!

An American Werewolf in Los Angeles!

September 17, 2009
Thank god there wasn't a full moon!

Thank god there wasn't a full moon!

On Monday the 14th of September, the world famous New Beverly Cinema hosted a special presentation of the 1981 John Landis horror-comedy AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and the world premiere of its new documentary BEWARE THE MOON. There were several guests in attendance that included the makers of the doc, legendary producer George Folsey Jr. and makeup effects maestro Rick Baker plus a few members of his original team. The evening started with the screening of a beautiful 35mm print of the classic…

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I saw AMERICAN WEREWOLF about 5 times in the theatre back in ’81 and dozens of times on home video. It’s easy to forget how monumental a film this was for the horror genre back then. It’s influence has been so big that it’s now become a standard to combine humor with startling violence. John Landis was not the first guy to mix horror with comedy, but he was the first one to balance it so perfectly and while the movie featured “modern” effects (at least at the time they were) it was also paying homage to the great movie monsters of the past.

This shot never ceases to scare the living crap out of me!

This shot never ceases to scare the living crap out of me!

Simply the greatest transformation sequence EVER!!

Simply the greatest transformation sequence EVER!!

Hungry like the wolf.

Hungry like the wolf.

In the documentary BEWARE THE MOON, John Landis tells of how he came up with this crazy movie. He was working on the crew of KELLEY’S HEROES in Yugoslavia, when he came across two men burying a corpse by the side of the road. The body was being covered with garlic and other strange things and when he asked why, he was told the man was a violent criminal and they didn’t want him to rise out of the grave and kill anyone. John Landis said the fact that they had just put a man on the moon and here were two guys that were still afraid of zombies was the impetus for him to write AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON.

Rick Baker’s transformation scene is still the best one ever put on film. Everything about that sequence is still so amazing to look at and at the screening that night, it received a huge applause from the New Bev audience. Listening to Rick Baker talk about it’s evolution from concept to reality was very interesting.

Makeup effects GOD, Rick Baker discusses his work on AMERICAN WEREWOLF.

Makeup effects GOD, Rick Baker discusses his work on AMERICAN WEREWOLF.

I had a question about the movie, but I waited until the documentary was over, because we were told that it pretty much covers everything about the film. My question was in regards to an old article I remember reading back in the day, when the film was first released. In an interview with John Landis, he stated that he had cut the attack of the werewolf against the three homeless guys in the junkyard because the “preview” audience’s reaction was so strong, they kept talking for 5 minutes after the scene was over. Landis was afraid that audiences would miss out on the next scene because the last one was so wild, so he cut it. In the doc he admits that he should have left it in and I was hoping to see some footage, but alas, there was none.

Lucky for me, I had the entire sequence described to me by none other than Max Landis (yes, that’s the son of John), who was also there that night. A group of us fans were discussing the movie, when Max Landis walked up and started telling us some stories about it. The description he gave me of the scene in question, sounded awesome  and made me wish I could see it even more. Also, the fact that it was described to me by Max, who looks and acts almost exactly like his dad was pretty damn amazing too. Max is a screenwriter and a really cool guy. Thanks again, Max!

If you’re a fan, I would definitely buy AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON on Blu Ray, because it also includes the fantastic documentary BEWARE THE MOON. It’s very well made and covers everything you would ever want to know about this great film. Until next time, stay off the moors and beware the moon.

One of us needs a shave!

One of us needs a shave!

The Return Of Dante’s Inferno!

August 14, 2009

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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!

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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.

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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.

Joe Dante and Bruce Dern.

Joe Dante and Bruce Dern.

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.

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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.

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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….

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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!

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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.

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I attended an orgy. THE MOVIE ORGY, that is!

August 11, 2009
New Bev presents Joe Dante's The Movie Orgy!

New Bev presents Joe Dante's The Movie Orgy!

In April of 2008, the New Beverly Cinema hosted a festival curated by one of my favorite all-time directors, Joe Dante. It was called DANTE’S INFERNO and one of the highlights was a screening of something suspiciously titled, THE MOVIE ORGY. It was one night only and free admission to the general public.

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Apparently, back in 1968 when Joe Dante and Jon Davison were in college, they compiled a huge collection of old film footage and edited it all together in a very clever and self referential way. The result was called THE MOVIE ORGY or 2001: A SPLICE ODYSSEY. It originally ran almost 7 hours long and toured college campuses around the country. The idea was that “baby boomers” could walk in and experience a steady wave of nostalgia wash over them as they view a seemingly random selection of 50’s and early 60’s pop culture. They were invited to have fun and to feel free to leave and come back at their leisure. How sixties, man!

On that night back in April ’08, the full house in attendance was treated to an edited down version that ran about 4 hours and 20 minutes long. It was shown on digital video, because the original film was in such old condition, the possibility of it burning up in the projector was high. When Joe Dante introduced the show he told the audience, “Feel free to leave whenever you’d like. You can go out and get a pizza.This thing was designed to walk out on.” Easier said then done, because for those of us lucky enough to see it that night, it instantly makes the list of ALL TIME COOLEST CINEMATIC EXPERIENCES EVER! It was something that my friends and I have talked about and quoted over and over again. That legendary screening has been whispered about in nerd circles everywhere. Geeks all over L.A. demanding an encore performance and on Saturday, August 8th 2009 they were given a second shot!

Joe Dante is back at the New Beverly with THE RETURN OF DANTE’S INFERNO from August 5th to the 13th. He’s curated another amazing program of films and I will be reporting on some of those later, but the highlight of course was another showing of the orgy. And this time we got an extra 45 minutes of stuff to watch. It was actually called in the title cards, SON OF THE MOVIE ORGY STRIKES AGAIN! Once again my friends all met up at the New Bev for 5 hours of fun.

First off, to make things even more awesome, the New Bev has NEW SEATS and they are a welcome addition to anyone who patrons there frequently. Sitting through a long event like this one was made much easier and I’m grateful for that. I grabbed a pizza and my brand spankin’ new seat and bunkered down for the onslaught of imagery.

How do I explain THE MOVIE ORGY? I guess, for me it’s an amazingly entertaining compilation of footage I’ve never seen before. Everything shown is from before I was born and yet I still get the sixties cynical humor that’s being juxtaposed here. The 5 hours virtually flew by and made me wish for more when it was over. What does it contain, you ask? Here’s a sample of some of my favorite things…

Don't crowd this guy!

Don't crowd this guy!

Andy Devine sings a chilling rendition of "Jesus loves me" to an audience of children...

Andy Devine sings a chilling rendition of "Jesus loves me" to an audience of children...

...while a cat plays the piano...

...while a "drugged" cat plays the piano...

...and a hamster plays the drum.

...and a hamster plays the drum.

A giant bird attacking the shit out of Washington D.C.

A giant bird attacking the shit out of Washington D.C.

Some of the “favorite” things in THE MOVIE ORGY include clips from a juvenile delinquent/road racer movie called, SPEED CRAZY! We meet a guy named Nick Barrow who likes to drive his car fast, love his ladies hard, and he doesn’t want anyone crowding him. He hates it! His intro monologue is SO AMAZING we instantly want to see more of him. He reappears throughout the course of the show and really creates a hilarious arc that truly builds a momentum.

I also love this segment from THE ANDY DEVINE SHOW, where the pedophile vibe-inducing Devine sings a rendition of JESUS LOVES ME to an audience full of children. It did an incredible job of creeping me out while making me howl with laughter simultaneously. In addition to Andy’s singing we watch a seemingly “drugged” looking cat play a piano and a hamster who appears to be “glued” to a small drum. It’s an incredible, “What the fuck?!” moment.

The Andy Divine Show for children. Good Christ!

The Andy Divine Show for children. Good Christ!

Other stuff includes TEENAGERS FROM OUTER SPACE , ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN, bizarre BUFFERIN commercials “for sensitive people”, weird cigarette commercials (one featuring a surgeon performing an operation), EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS, ELVIS singing YOU AIN’T NOTHING BUT A HOUND DOG to an actual hound dog, a racist LONE RANGER segment, ABBOTT AND COSTELLO trying to sell hats, “monster movies” featuring giant GILA MONSTERS, TARANTULAS, and VULTURES attacking things, GROUCHO MARX interviewing a muscle head, THE ANIMALS performing “House of the Rising Sun”, THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN and much more.

It was once again, an amazing event for all in attendance and something no one will forget anytime soon. Coming up in future posts, I will be reporting on screenings of Dante’s THE ‘BURBS, MATINEE, and a “special preview print” of GREMLINS with six minutes of additional footage never seen before! Until then, DON’T CROWD ME!!!

My hero, Nick Barrow!

My hero, Nick Barrow!