UPDATE 3/9/07: First, I want to apologize for the lack of new material on SLIFR over the last week. As I suspected it might eventually, life finally caught up with me after I posted this last Wednesday and gave me a severe whuppin'. (More on that later.) But I've been very happy to see the comments thread on this post extend as far as it has and would love to keep it going for a little while longer anyway. But that's not to say that there won't, in the next few days, finally be some more new stuff posted. There will. But that whuppin' life doled out to me has made me realize that the posts might not be coming as fast or as furious (or as meekly, depending on my mood) as they have in the past. That said, I got out to see two movies that made me feel like writing this past week-- Craig Brewer's Black Snake Moan and David Fincher's Zodiac-- and write on them I shall for this weekend. (I have to say, it was quite a chore NOT reading the reviews that looked to be raves for Zodiac coming from Jim Emerson, Manhola Dargis, David Edelstein and others, but now that I've seen the movie I look forward to swimming in their thoughts about it a bit too.) Also up for this weekend, some general thoughts wrapped around one of my favorite relatively unsung stars of the '30s and '40s, as well as a write-up on my first pass through the New Beverly grindhouse coming up this Sunday night-- Rolling Thunder and The Town That Dreaded Sundown. Thanks, everybody, for staying tuned even when the lights have been dimmed just a bit this week. Marquee on full power very soon!
P.S. Here's Chris Oliver's report from the first week of the Los Angeles Grindhouse Fest 2007.
P.P.S. Here's a new theatrical trailer for Grindhouse that I saw before Zodiac last night. Oh, boy!
I have been known to express my weariness with life in Los Angeles on occasion, and I would still characterize my mindset as a whole lot more small-town these days than my immediate environment would suggest. But let me, at the risk of annoying everyone who doesn’t live in the Los Angeles area, say that sometimes it is good to live this close to Hollywood. The American Cinematheque and its monthly wonders are one reason. The cathedral that sits at the edge of downtown in a place called Chavez Ravine is another. And this month, in preparation for his upcoming project with Robert Rodriguez entitled Grindhouse, professional geek, ex-video store employee, scenester, politically incorrect raconteur and occasional movie director Quentin Tarantino is providing local cinephiles with another exceptional benefit to calling Los Angeles home. It seems that the New Beverly Cinema, the city’s only remaining seven-day-a-week operating revival house, has turned over programming duties to Tarantino for the months of March and April. (As film fans in Austin will tell you, Tarantino has done this sort of thing before.)
The director has responded to the New Beverly's generosity by lining up a gut-bucket cornucopia of authentic grindhouse trash cinema to celebrate not only his upcoming movie, but the whole experience of seeing sleazy cinema classics in the only movie house left in L.A. (outside of the Vine on Hollywood Boulevard) that feels physically, spatially and, yes, spiritually related to the downtown second-run trash palaces that fed Tarantino’s (and everyone else’s) desire for this kind of rotgut, low-rent fun to begin with.
Officially titled The Los Angeles Grindhouse Festival 2007, this two-month calendar of delights is exactly the kind of thing that revival houses should be doing to keep the atmosphere fresh and their own scheduling sensibilities from ossifying into an endlessly repeated series of favorites. (One of the New Beverly’s most reliable, and undoubtedly profitable, double features is Blade Runner and Chinatown, and it seems to come around once every five or six months.) Tarantino's treasure chest is crammed with plenty of familiar names and places, sure-to-be new faves and even some titles you may never even heard of. Some of us like to think we’re pretty well travelled on the rails that make up the route of the Sleazoid Express, and some of us most definitely are much more so than others. But Tarantino is seizing this opportunity to claim a sort of geek supremacy over this catalog of cinematic crumbs and crimes, all the name of spreading the gospel of grindhouse (and, of course, Grindhouse), and it's hard to deny him his enthusiastic moment when one gets a glance at the treats he’s got lined up.
The New Beverly has the entire Tarantino Los Angeles Grindhouse Festival 2007 Calendar online. This link will serve you well with theater information, prices and showtimes, plus IMDb links to every movie, just in case some might be unfamiliar. So rather than duplicate the New Beverly’s valuable service here, I thought I’d take the opportunity to highlight each of the double features by taking a look at the original poster art of some of these masterworks. In the event that I could not find the actual one-sheet for a film (there may not be actual one-sheets for some of these films!) I substituted representative DVD art or art from some other source in the hopes of giving an adequate visual representation of the movie. (The images vary in size and quality and are presented here as well as I could render them.) Back in the mid ‘70s when those of us who frequented movies like this were looking for information, very often all we had to go on were the ads on the movie page or, if we were really lucky, the one-sheet posted in the “Coming Attractions” window of the theater. And after we'd seen enough of these programmers we knew that often the posters were far better than the actual movies. So, in the spirit of letting the exploitation art speak for itself, as it had to then, let’s take a look at Tarantino’s double (and triple) features night by night. (I’ve provided links to other pertinent info about the film when available that you can access by clicking the film’s title.)
March 4-6 Max Julien and Richard Pryor in the blaxploitation classic The Mack (1973), plus The Chinese Mack (1974)!
March 7-8 AARON GRAHAM ALERT! How fast can you make it to L.A. for this screening of John Cassavettes and Britt Eklund in Guiliani Montaldo's Machine Gun McCain (1968), plus Henry Silva and Richard Conte in Wipeout (1973)?
March 9-10 Crown International's masterpiece The Van (1977) starring Stuart Getz and, yes, Danny De Vito, heads up a triple feature that really gets filled out by Pick-up Summer 1980) and Summer Camp (1979).
March 11-13 The movie which inspired the name of Tarantino's short-lived Miramax offshoot Rolling Thunder Pictures gets a rare screening. It's Rolling Thunder (1977), directed by John Flynn, written by Paul Schrader and Heywood Gould, and starring William Devane and Tommy Lee Jones. The co-feature is a rarity that was a personal favorite of mine in the mid-'70s-- director Charles B. Pierce, who also brought you the indelible frights of The Legend of Boggy Creek, returned in 1977 with the southern-fried Friday the 13th pre-cursor The Town That Dreaded Sundown.
March 14-15 Chinese Hercules (1973) and Black Dragon (1974) come to town, and they're pissed!
March 16-17 Sex! Sex! Sex! Sex with a Smile (1976), Sex on the Run (1977) and Raquel Welch et al in The Oldest Profession (1967).
March 18-20 More blaxploitation thrills from The Brotherhood of Death (1976) and Johnny Tough (1974).
March 21-22 Giallo fans, rejoice! Autopsy (1975) and Eyeball (1975) together at last!
March 23-24 Ralph Bakshi's rarely screened and controversial Coonskin (1975) screens on a triple with French cartoonist Pichu's Shame of the Jungle (1975) and Neal Israel's Tunnelvision (1976).
March 25-27 One of my must-see double features of the festival. Rock Hudson, Telly Savalas and, yes, Angie Dickinson, in Roger Vadim's Pretty Maids All In a Row (1971), presented with co-hit Revenge of the Cheerleaders (1976).
March 28-29 More kung fu! Cue overcaffienated foley artists! Fearless Fighters (1971) and Supermanchu (1973)!
March 30-31 Another excellent triple feature sports lots of bright red grue courtesy of The Blood Spattered Bride (1972), Asylum of Blood (1971) and (attention, K!) Juan Carlos Moctezuma's Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary (1975) starring Christina Ferrare(!)
April 1-3 Lewis Teague and John Sayles spin the story of Dillinger's Lady in Red (1979) starring Pamela Sue Martin, plus a taste of Bare Knuckles (1977).
April 4 only A feminist response to Sam Peckinpah? We'll see. The Female Bunch (1969) plus co-hit Wonder Women (1973) starring, among others, Nancy Kwan.
On April 5 the New Beverly Cinema is given over to a sneak preview of a 2007 release (could it be this?). Details forthcoming. Keep an eye on the New Beverly Web site.
April 6-7 Another fave from my hgh school days sees the glory of the silver screen again! It's Jonathan Kaplan's rough-and-ready White Line Fever (1975) with Jan-Michael Vincent and the unforgettable Slim Pickens, plus Nick Nolte in the grim sequel to director Max Baer's 1975 exploitation hit Macon County Line-- it's Return to Macon County (1975), of course.
April 8-10 Ground control to Majorette Tom. Go back to space with The Girl from Starship Venus (1975) and then down to earth again with The Legend of the Wolf Woman (1976).
April 11-12 Slithis (1979) and Screams of a Winter Night (1979), which looks a little Boggy Creek-ish to me, even as its title makes reference to a Bergman movie I bet none of its makers have ever seen!
April 13-14 Troma in the house with Hot Summer in Barefoot County (1974) and the unknown quantity Redneck Miller (1977).
April 15-17 Another unknown quantity, The Muthers (1976), heads up a double bill which is anchored by the very odd thriller Fight for Your Life (1977).
April 18-19 Mas martial arts! Mas overcaffienated foley artists! Dragon's Vengeance (1972) and Kung Fu: The Punch of Death (1973)!
April 20-21 Aren't any of these in 3-D?! The Swinging Barmaids (1975), The Swingin' Pussycats (1969) and The Swinging Cheerleaders (1974).
April 22-24 It's back to the cemetery with Grave of the Vampire (1974) and then to the living room couch with Jailbait Babysitter (1977).
April 25-26 Two more from the kung fu vaults! Return of the Tiger (1979) ("One of Bruce Li's best!") and Stoner (1974), a very cool thriller with George Lazenby and Angela Mao.
April 27-28 Yul Brynner, a bunch of Italian guys (and look real quick-- Martin Balsam) light up the screen in Death Rage (1976), teamed with even more delightful hijinks in Cry of a Prostitute (1974)... Oh, my God, that's Henry Silva...
And the festival ends on another bone-cracking note as Quentin Tarantino presents The Real Bruce Lee (1973) along with another unknown quantity, Lee Lives Within.
Now, there ought to be something in there to pique your curiosity! If there is, and you're in Los Angeles and planning to head out to any of these shows, drop me a line and maybe we can say hi in the New Beverly's quaintly crowded lobby, or perhaps even spill out onto the street during intermission and gab furiously about the outrages we've just seen perpetrated on the screen, before rushing back in for more, of course! Looking at these posters has got me praying for more free time than I know I'll ever have, and enjoying the process of dreaming about seeing these movies just ike I did when I saw many of these ads in the movie pages of newspapers n cities where I just knew I'd never get to go. Well, eventually I did, and thanks to Tarantino perverse efforts here, some of these golden titles just might be destined no longer for the anticipatory shadows of my imagination, but instead to be splashed onto the screen with brilliant light just so's my eyes can finally see 'em! Thanks, Mr. Tarantino. This looks to be a lot of fun!
(And thanks, Terry, for the hot tip! Which ones are you going to see?)