Tuesday, August 07, 2007

DOUBLE DOUBLE FEATURES!!! FEATURES!!!

It seems that, for the foreseeable future, the New Beverly will continue on. In an e-mail posted on the theater’s Web site, Torgan’s son Michael writes: “In loving memory of dad (the best dad a son could ask for!), I have decided to continue the operation of the New Beverly Cinema.” For moviegoers and cinema buffs in Los Angeles, this is good news indeed, and we wish Michael and his family all the best. Of course, the importance of the New Beverly as Los Angeles’ only remaining revival house/film school cannot, and should not, be underestimated, even in this digital age of Netflix and region-free DVD players. It is, in no small part, a flickering flame held up against the winds of technological progress and mutating viewing habits.

Another aspect of the legacy of Sherman Torgan is the preservation of what the revival cinema contributes to the lost art of the double feature. The New Beverly has usually practiced thematically tied pairings-- Chinatown and Blade Runner is a classic and perennial example, or the twin currently running, an ‘80s fest comprised of a new print of The Last American Virgin and Fast Times at Ridgemont High—or double features revolving around directors (Days of Being Wild and In the Mood for Love this coming Friday and Saturday, Aug. 10 and 11) or stars (August 17 and 18 features Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove… and Being There).

But there’s another philosophy of double features that was more popular with theater owners in the ‘50s and ‘60s, when double features were much more in the mainstream of exhibition at big-city and small-town movie houses, and it’s the very opposite of the thematically or star-linked programs. Routinely, theater owners, perhaps inspired by tomes like The Encyclopedia of Exploitation (the owner of my hometown theater gave me his copy years ago), felt that double features were opportunities to appeal to a wider variety of moviegoers—if they don’t like the first picture, maybe you’ll hook ‘em with the second. For example, booking two detective mysteries would have been considered a bad idea, or one less likely to appeal to the widest possible audience. But if you booked Doris Day in The Ballad of Josie (1967) with John Ireland and Virgina Mayo in the western programmer Fort Utah (1967), then, the theory went, you had a better likelihood of corralling Mom and Dad, and brother and sister too, rather than taking the chance of alienating half your potential audience.

Of course, this strategy resulted in some genuinely weird couplings, but then that was part of the fun of this trend in exploitation—the sheer unpredictability of it. Right now, Flickhead is featuring a super series of posts on The Art of the Double Bill, and he has some excellent posters on view from an era when the double feature was not just the province of the quirky local programmer, but that of the studios themselves. Check out what Flickhead has to offer in The Art of the Double Bill Part One, Part Two and Part Three.

(Click Image for a Much Better View!)

Here's a look at a "show calendar" from my hometown theater circa November 1964, and from the looks of things, the Encyclopedia of Exploitation philosophy seems to be in full swing: a wacky teen surf comedy, For Those Who Think Young ("Beach-dollies! Ho-daddies!") with co-hit, the considerably earnest women's prison social drama House of Women; or how about Jerry Lewis in Don't Give Up the Ship plus Olivia De Havilland in Lady in a Cage; or my favorite, Flipper's New Adventure with added family bonus, Boris Karloff in The Terror!

9 comments:

Jonathan Lapper said...

One of the most infamous of double features was MEXICAN SPITFIRE SEES A GHOST with THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS. Try explaining that one to the kids.

Robert Fiore said...

There was an old neighborhood theater called the Oriental -- I believe it was on Sunset but I could be wrong -- which in the 80s was the last stop before a movie went out of circulation, which made for some of the most surreal double bills imaginable. I suppose my favorite was "1984" and "The Slugger's Wife." Another good one was "The Terminator" and "Falling in Love."

Flickhead said...

I just dug up some more double bill studio ads, Dennis! The series will be continuing soon. Thanx for the plug!

Sal said...

The Odd Couple & Rosemary's Baby? I remember that add...I think! Damn it looks so familiar.

The Shamus (formerly TLRHB) said...

Speaking of double bills, I thought I read that Grindhouse will definitely be split in half for DVD. I hope that's not true, but I bet it is.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Shamus, it seems your record for sniffing out the truth remains unblemished. Here’s the word from Fangoria magazine and the Cinema Blend Web site, both confirming the bad news with near identical reports that came out last week.

Of course, the way to have seen Grindhouse as a double feature concept was definitely in the theater—reports of those poor folks walking out after Planet Terror, not realizing the movie was only half over, were apparently not rumors. But it would have been nice to have the DVD reflect that experience. Instead, the Weinsteins are gonna try to soak the movie’s fan base for twice the cash this fall. And who will be surprised when that giant five-disc set, containing the separate, extended features AND the original 195-minute double feature (with trailers) comes out sometime next year?

I definitely want to see the Cannes-extended Death Proof, but I’m not much interested in Rodriguez’s elongated Planet Terror-- that movie was just the right length as is.

Cinephile said...

I love the Odd Couple/Rosemary's Baby pairing, esp. for the way it implies that RB is a sequel to that Neil Simon smash: "It has Lemmon's eyes! It has his EYES!!"

Bob said...

I'm a bit late to the party, but I'm definitely a fan of the unrelated double bill. As much as I love the New Beverly and the classic themed revival double-bill, two (or sometimes three) of the exact same type of film can be a bit much.

"The Odd Couple" and "Rosemarie's Baby" is, in fact, close to my idea of a perfect night at the movies.

Mr. Peel said...

For a long time, I've wanted somebody to run a double bill of Lars Von Trier's THE IDIOTS and John Landis's THE STUPIDS. If that's not an ideal double bill, I don't know what is.