San Francisco Bay Guardian - July 30, 2008
Best of the Bay 2008BEST ON-SCREEN MIND WARP
When edgy director of programming Bruce Fletcher left the San Francisco Independent Film Festival (IndieFest), fans who'd relied on his horror and sci-fi picks were understandably a little worried. Fortunately, Fletcher's Dead Channels: The San Francisco Festival of Fantastic Film proved there's room enough in this town for multiple fests with an eye for sleazy, gory, gruesome, unsettling, and offbeat films, indie and otherwise. There's more: this summer Dead Channels teamed up with Thrillpeddlers to host weekly screenings at the Grand Guignol theater company's space, the Hypnodrome. "White Hot 'N' Warped Wednesdays" are exactly that � showcasing all manner of psychotronica, from Pakistani gore flick Hell's Ground to culty grind house classics like She-Freak (1967). Come this October, will the Dead Channels fest be able to top its utterly warped Hump Day series? Fear not for the programming, dark-dwelling weirdos � fear only what's on the screen.
Dead Channels comes aliveBy Dennis Harvey
Fall is here in earnest, and all good moviegoers know it is time at last for the studios to unleash its least brain-numbing efforts of the year with Oscar in mind. Finally, we can enjoy serious cinematic art based on reputable literary sources, directed by Clint Eastwood, and/or featuring Catherine Deneuve.
But for a moment yet…screw that noise!
Those more inclined toward healthy doses of sleaze, gore and retro-shlock can rejoice that it's also time for the second annual edition of Dead Channels. It's dedicated to bringing "entertaining and intelligent science-fiction, fantasy, horror, action, exploitation and a few weird unclassifiable cinematic gems" to Bay Area audiences, this year encompassing one evening at Oakland's Parkway in addition to a week at SF's Roxie Cinema.
By the time you read this most likely you'll have missed DC's Thursday opening night at The Vortex Room, a party featuring projection of a movie perfect for only-sorta-paying-attention-to: Toomorrow, the obscure flop 1970 rock musical-cum-sci-fi-fantasy featuring pre-stardom Olivia Newton-John as "the girl" in British art-school band. They're so good space aliens pick up the groovy signal! Like Ms. Neutron-Bomb's infamous later Xanadu, this is a camp classic more by virtue of idiotic concept than actual watchability. Still, its selection testifies to Dead Channels' psychotronic adventure: Toomorrow has never been legally available in the U.S. (Which is not to say bootleg copies aren't rife on eBay.)
The movie-watching begins in earnest today with wall-to-wall horror, though the five programs prove what wide terrain that term can encompass. In Plague Town, a quarrelsome American tourist family exploring dad's Irish ancestry on vacation discovers backward backcountry types who aren't…quite…right. It's skillful, nasty rural-mutant-jeopardy stuff in the tradition of the original Hills Have Eyes. Tomas Alfredson's critically praised Swedish Let the Right One In is the heartwarming tale of two twelve-year-old misfits who find solace in their friendship—even if one of them is a vampire rapidly depopulating the area. Even darker is From Inside, John Bergin's beautifully animated version of his own graphic novel. As bleak in substance as it is poetic in style, it follows a pregnant heroine on a train ride through a desolate post-apocalyptic landscape. It's depressing, haunting and poignant.
But there's levity in the mayhem elsewhere today. (Note: Most of Dead Channels' programs repeat during the week.) Bad Biology, the first film in 16 years by cult fave Frank Henenlotter (Basket Case, Frankenhooker), promises to push the envelope even by his queasily funny standards. Let's just say its protagonists are two lonely people with…rather…unusual…genitalia…and leave it at that. Also enthusiastically tasteless is Ryan Nicholson's Gutterballs, which so faithfully reproduces the musk of the cheesiest early ’80s slasher flicks that it soundtracks several crap-rock classics by Loverboy, April Wine and Chilliwack. Its various horny and obnoxious pushing-30 "teens" are dispatched in over-the-top grisly fashions to avenge a brutal rape. But even as their numbers dwindle, the oblivious remaining victims keep on bowling.
There's plenty more deliberate schlock on the Dead Channels schedule. On the relatively slick end, there's Tokyo Gore Police, one of those films in which the Japanese make like Troma, only kinda better. On the cheerfully no-budget side, there's Retardead, the long-awaited sequel to Monsturd by SF's own Rick Popko and Dan West. This time, it's not killer poo but an outbreak of zombiedom (first amongst special-education students) that threatens Butte County. With cameos by the Living Dead Girls, Jello Biafra, Herschell Gordon Lewis and his fellow goresploitation pioneer Dave Friedman, this is fanboy valentine…ripped and out gushing blood, of course. It'd overlong, but you will laugh.
But it's not all about the severed limbs and exposed organs at Dead Channels. Quite unclassifiable if arguably successful is the legendary Nicolas Roeg's (Don't Look Now, The Man Who Fell to Earth) first feature in years. An adaptation of a Fay Weldon novel (by her son Dan), Puffball mixes eros, whimsy, witchery, and some big names playing small roles (Miranda Richardson, Donald Sutherland) in the curious saga of a yuppie couple who move into an Irish country cottage.
Even more offbeat is Karla Jean Davis' Golothga, which meticulously recreates the aesthetic of cinematic German Expressionism—think the 20s classics of Murnau (Faust, Sunrise) and Fritz Lang (Metropolis, Siegfried)—in telling a dying goblin queen's tragi-fantastical backstory. Not only is it B&W, its original score required four "thereminists"! (Who at one point cover an Elliott Smith melody—which, strange as that may sound, really works.) This loving homage would impress even Guy Maddin. If you like that sort of thing (how could you not?!?), don't miss Viscera and the Incubus, one of several shorts programs. This one features A Visit from the Incubus, the half-hour earlier work by Anna Biller whose full-length 1960s sexploitation tribute Viva delighted many in its recent (if fleeting) theatrical release. Similarly, Visit is a spot-on resurrection of retro grade-Z filmmaking at its kitschiest.
Elsewhere on the Dead Channels schedule, there are some notable revived and rare oldies. Probably best-known among them is Colossus: The Forbes Project, a 1970 computer-run-amok thriller regarded by many sci-fi fans as one of the best of its kind ever. (Interestingly, its original release was long delayed by Universal for fear it would be overshadowed by 2001.)
More esoteric in appeal are several super-rare bigscreen revivals. The Weird World of LSD is a 1967 U.S. hippiesploitation mondo movie whose cautionary B&W hallucination horrors include a crudely animated chicken and people in rubber Halloween masks. It's beyond belief…in a good way!
Back then, Europe was still grinding out plenty of variably trashy genre flicks that competed commercial right alongside Hollywood product, even here in 'Murrica. Their DC showings this week may be your first/last chance to see two very special ones resurrected on the big screen. Promising pop-art-cinematic heaven in the mode of Modesty Blaise or Barbarella is Elio Petri's 1965 The 10th Victim, in which Marcello Mastroianni plus Eurobabes Ursula Andress and Elsa Martinelli are players in a futuristic Most Dangerous Game—meaning the "game* is people hunting each other for sport. It's such an apex of mod stylishness it was referenced in the first (i.e., only good) Austin Powers movie.
In major contrast to that sardonic romp, Spanish-produced, English-language Cut-Throats Nine (1972) is often cited—by those who know about it—as the most violent western ever made, "spaghetti" or otherwise. (At least as many "spaghetti westerns" were shot and/or funded in Spain as Italy.) Duly brutal, and brutally effective, it tells the tale of an Army sergeant tasked with delivering numerous murderous convicts to federal prison across treacherous territory, with his daughter to protect and no other backup once bandit attack massacres his troops. Need I say this journey does not go smoothly?
We've more than scratched the surface of Dead Channels' 2008 edition here. Yet there's plenty more, including Roddy Piper as star (omnibus supernatural feature A Gothic Tale), directors actually surnamed Kervorkian (Brit Johnny's ghost story The Disappeared), South Korean snail-horror (the Jung Brothers' Epitaph), San Francisco literary fraud J.T. Leroy (parodied in mocumentary Who is K.K. Downing?) or stellar shorts like Richard Gale's incredibly elaborate faux-trailer The Horribly Slow Murderer with the Extremely Inefficient Weapon.
Then there's official closing-nighter Surveillance, a psychosexual thriller that's the onscreen first peep from Jennifer Lynch (David's daughter) since her "controversial" 1993 directorial debut.
So….All youse diehard Boxing Helena fans say yeah!
Nonetheless I'm sure Surveillance, which stars the estimable Bill Pullman and Julia Ormond (not to mention talented French Stewart, who cannot be blamed for that 139-episode atrocity 3rd Rock from the Sun) will be a surreal-freakout winnah. Why? Well, she's got the genes, doesn't she?
Rep picks: This weekend's best repertory films
G. Allen Johnson
Thursday, October 2, 20087
Dead Channels: The San Francisco Festival of Fantastic Film Back for its second year, the festival of sci-fi, horror and gross-out films new and old begins with an opening-night party at the Vortex Room (1082 Howard St., San Francisco), which includes a screening of Val Guest's 1970 "Toomorrow" with Olivia Newton-John, and continues at the Roxie for the rest of the week, as well as a one-night screening at the Parkway Speakeasy in Oakland (next Thursday). Who could resist, for example, "Cut-Throats Nine" (Spain, 1972), possibly the bloodiest Western of all time?
Wednesday October 1, 2008
Razor-blade snickersThe Dead Channels Film Festival offers plenty of early trick-or-treats
BY CHERYL EDDY
Earlier this month at the Toronto International Film Festival, I ran into Dead Channels Film Festival director Bruce Fletcher more than once -- not surprising, considering we were both haunting the same Midnight Madness screenings. This is, after all, the local programmer who brought 1975's Welcome Home Brother Charles -- with director Jamaa Fanaka in tow -- to the 2007 Dead Channels fest. He's also the mastermind behind White Hot 'N' Warped Wednesdays, a weekly summer series hosting such should-be cult classics as Pakistan's first (and only?) gore film, Hell's Ground (2007).
Fletcher's 2008 main event unspools Oct. 2, with more than a week of films not suitable for the faint-hearted. Making its US theatrical premiere is Puffball, the latest from Nicolas Roeg, known for 1973's Don't Look Now and 1971's Walkabout. Fay Weldon's son, Dan Weldon, adapted the script from Mom's 1980 novel -- appropriately enough, since the story deals with motherhood in its more terrifying forms. A young architect (Kelly Reilly, prissy enough to have played Caroline Bingley in 2005's Pride and Prejudice) decides to renovate an Irish country cottage, not knowing the neighbors are baby-obsessed and black magically--inclined.
High production values and the participation of Miranda Richardson and Don't Look Now star Donald Sutherland (in a glorified cameo) lend Puffball a gloss that Dead Channels' lower-budget selections don't have. But the story -- which treads semi-close to a mix of The Wicker Man and Rosemary's Baby -- never quite came together for me, in a way that was unsatisfying rather than acceptably ambiguous.
Still planning that Irish vacation? The horrors of the Emerald Isle are further explored in David Gregory's Plague Town, yet another film that exists to remind city folk to NEVER GET OFF THE MAIN ROAD. Seriously. Because you know if you do, you'll wind up stranded within evil-cackle earshot of the locals, most of whom happen to be hostile mutants.
Better cancel that road trip and hang out at the Roxie instead -- Dead Channel's opening-night flick, Tomas Alfredson's Let the Right One In, is highbrow enough to be playing the current Mill Valley Film Festival. It involves vampires (totes hip) and picked up a big award at the TriBeCa Film Festival this year; see it now and brag to your friends that you caught the Swedish original when the just-announced remake by Cloverfield director Matt Reeves is eventually released.
Other Dead Channels trick-or-treats include Frank "Basket Case" Henenlotter's freaky-deaky latest, Bad Biology, which opens with the line, "I was born with seven clits -- seven that I know of," and gets more satire-tastic from there. When a seven-clitted girl meets a boy with a "drug-addicted dick with a mind of its own," what do you get? Maybe the first horror film to ever feature a vagina's-eye-view shot, for one. Also on tap at the fest: Justin Paul Ritter's A Gothic Tale, whose distinction of being narrated by Rowdy Roddy Piper is enough to intrigue me; San Francisco--spawned nugget o' zombie weirdness Retardead; and a late-night program of woman-made shorts hosted by Viscera Film Festival director Shannon Lark, herself a filmmaker and Fangoria magazine's first-ever "spooksmodel." Dead Channel's other shorts program is comprised of international thrills and chills, including Oliver Beguin's Swiss import Dead Bones. The setting is the old West; the cast boasts Ken Foree and Ruggero Deodato (that squealing sound you hear is the horror geek next to you, who no doubt worships both). The gory tale -- bad taste? Or tastes like chicken? You decide.
September 15: Dead Channels Film Festival lineup announced
The organizers of the 2008 Dead Channels Film Festival have announced the partial lineup for the event, which runs October 3-9 at San Francisco, CA's Roxie Film Center, Oct. 9 at the Parkway Speakeasy in Oakland and Oct. 2 and 10 at The Vortex Room in Alphaville. The opening night feature on Friday, Oct. 3 at 8 p.m. is Tomas Alfredson's much-praised vampire drama LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (reviewed here), and the fest will close with Jennifer Chambers Lynch's serial-killer drama SURVEILLANCE on Thursday, Oct. 9 at 8 p.m. World premieres being held at the fest are:
* Justin Paul Ritter's literary-based anthology A GOTHIC TALE (see item here), Sunday, Oct. 5 at 10 p.m. and Monday, Oct. 6 at 6 p.m.
* David Gregory's killer-kids chiller PLAGUE TOWN (reviewed here), Friday, Oct. 3 at 4 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 4 at 8 p.m.
* Jimmy Creamer's REALITY BLEED-THROUGH, a surreal live-action/animation combo, Saturday, Oct. 4 at 6 p.m.
Also on tap is the U.S. theatrical premiere of PUFFBALL, the new feature from DON'T LOOK NOW and THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH's Nicolas Roeg, concerning witches and Old Gods, scripted by Dan Weldon from Fay Weldon's novel and starring Kelly Reilly, Miranda Richardson, Rita Tushingham and Donald Sutherland, Sunday, Oct. 5 at 8 p.m. and Thursday, Oct. 9 at 6:30 p.m. Additional features include Frank Henenlotter's BAD BIOLOGY (review, Friday, October 3 at 10 p.m. and Thursday, October 9 at 9:15 p.m.), Darren Curtis and Pat Kiely's WHO IS KK DOWNEY? (Sunday, October 5 at 6 p.m. and Tuesday, October 7 at 6 p.m.), Yoshihiro Nishimura's TOKYO GORE POLICE (review, Saturday, October 4 at 10 p.m.) and John Bergin's FROM INSIDE (Friday, October 3 at 6 p.m. and Sunday, October 5 at 2 p.m.). More movies will be announced soon; for further info and updates, check out the Dead Channels site linked above. --Michael Gingold
Festivals festivals everywhere
Contributed by Don Lewis - Posted: September 17, 2008 7:17:20 PM
Dead Channels Film Festival
Landing smack dab in the middle of the Mill Valley Film Fest is San Francisco scaaaary movie festival Dead Channels on October2-10. Let's say you don't want to become immersed in world affairs or gawk at celebs. Perhaps you're sick and tired of PG-13 horror in the multiplex. Or maybe you're just a sick 'n twisted puppy who likes freaky and odd films. Well then, get your butt out to the Dead Channels film festival next month!
As it says on the site, "The award-winning DEAD CHANNELS FILM FESTIVAL is Northern California's premier celebration of independent and international fantastic filmmaking. The Festival brings entertaining and intelligent science-fiction, fantasy, horror, action, exploitation and a few weird unclassifiable cinematic gems to audiences in the Bay Area." Cool.
Most of the films take place at the Roxie which is a neat old theater in and of itself plus there's bunches of parties and debauchery to be had. I suggest you check it out-if you aren't too chicken. Get it? Petaluma? Chicken? Scared? Hah hah hah! Oh boy. Anyway-check em out here:
Jason previews upcoming events--Jews, Arabs, Docs, and Dead Channels
Hmmmm...must be fall in the bay area. Let's see what's happening soon, in no particular order.
First up, the second annual Dead Channels Film Festival. Fresh off winning a Best of the Bay award (best On-Screen Mind Warp) from the SF Bay Guardian, they're back with their solid week of fantastic film. The schedule isn't up yet, but I have an abundance of faith that it'll be great. They're hosting a kick-off party at the Vortex Room (7th and Howard) Sept 20, where they'll unveil the schedule. Should be a good night (and conveniently, the one Saturday night this month when the Quakes aren't playing at home).
San Francisco Bay Guardian - July 30, 2008
REPERTORY PICKSThe Sorcerers
White Hot 'n' Warped Wednesdays: August 6, 2008
BY DENNIS HARVEY
Out looking for kicks, handsome, bored young Swinging Londoner Ian Ogilvy is lured by the promise of "intoxication without hangover, ecstasy without consequence" to a dreary flat belonging to a seemingly innocuous elderly couple (Boris Karloff, Catherine Lacey). A few flashing psychedelic lights and electronic-music squallings later, he's somehow been hypnotized so that they can control his actions without his knowing � and experience whatever sensations he does. For once Karloff isn't the monster here, nor even the young man as his deeds (conveniently blacked out from memory later) escalate from theft to murder. Rather, it's the little old lady who after decades of deprivation (there was some sort of ruinous scandal in the past) becomes addicted to the thrill of vicariously experienced aberrant behavior. Staggering around post-orgasmically in a state of demented "liberation" once she's gotten our hapless protagonist to kill someone (a sexy chick in lingerie, of course), she's quite the sicko granny. British director and coscenarist Michael Reeves is a minor legend in horror circles, not so much for what he achieved as for the pathos of his unfulfilled promise: in 1969, while preparing a big-budget Edgar Allen Poe adaptation, he died from an accidental barbiturate overdose at age 25. His first feature (1965's She Beast starring 60s scream queen Barbara Steele) suffered from low-grade writing and production; his last, 1968's The Witchfinder General, was a truly harrowing portrait of religious hysteria and hypocrisy, with Vincent Price in rare dead-serious form as a sadistic inquisitor terrorizing 17th-century English peasantry with torture and death in the name of purging witchcraft. The prior year's Sorcerers, which has been very difficult to see for years, proves a bit of a letdown. The fascinating, perverse concept isn't fully served by execution that (no doubt in part due to censorship guidelines at the time) seems unwilling or unable to push it as far as it might go. (Also, the nice 16mm print showing here has had a couple violent bits hacked out, probably for 1970s TV showings.) Nonetheless, genre fans will want to catch this very rare screening of a film that's been more discussed than seen for decades. Most shocking revelation: that the antique shop where Ogilvy (who was in all of Reeves' movies, and subsequently guest-starred on everything from Upstairs, Downstairs to Baywatch) works is named, unless my eyes deceived, the Glory Hole.
San Francisco Bay Guardian - July 16, 2008
Are you brave enough to enter The Room?
BY DENNIS HARVEY
Much is made of the Internet being a truly democratic (if equally capitalistic) institution, and that is surely true. In fact, it's not only more democratic than the government we're currently getting reamed by, it's a forum in which those too lazy to vote at the polls take pains to contribute two cents on the day's more pressing concerns: such as, say, what or who is the worst fill-in-the-blank ever.
Because these people are most knowledgeable and passionate about being entertained, the Internet's Megachurch of Stupid Opinions is devoted to pop media and the movies. The latter topic's digital Vatican is probably the Internet Movie Database message boards. There, practically everything is the worst thing ever, according to someone. They've seen a couple better movies, so they know. Argue with their logic and they will adroitly inform you that you are a "(Message Deleted by Administrator), HAHAHAHAHA!!!"
Maybe it's a good thing they don't vote.
But what do these cussy babes in the cultural woods really know of worst-ness? How deep does their research go? Are their comparative studies limited to major studio titles? Do they realize that in any realistic top-to-bottom, Stanley Kubrick--Doris Wishman survey of basic skill and resources, the worst one could say about recent whipping boy Uwe Boll is that he's a competent hack? Jesus, even The Hottie and the Nottie (2007) is merely dreadful, not off-the-charts inept or conceptually insane. Ditto From Justin to Kelly (2003), Gigli (2003), Kazaam (1996), and even SuperBabies: Baby Geniuses 2 (2004).
Have these rash ranters ever really explored cinema's off-medication underside? Have they witnessed the unintentionally abstract expressionism of Manos: The Hands of Fate (1996), Troll 2 (1990), or Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (1972)? They are poseurs, ladies and gentlemen, not connoisseurs. They haven't tasted films made not by mere incompetents, but by off-planet artistes who've overestimated their comprehension of Earthling behaviors.
In short, they haven't entered The Room.
The Room is about to get a kinda-theatrical Bay Area debut at the Hypnodrome. It's about time � the movie has been a monthly midnight hit in Los Angeles for over four years.
Large-breasted, blonde, but otherwise not especially attractive Lisa (Juliette Danielle) is fianc�e to Johnny, The Room's alter ego for extraordinary writer-director-producer-star-id Tommy Wiseau. Indeterminately aged Tommy-Johnny has heavy metal hair; mottle-colored heavy musculature; utterly weird ESL or inebriate line readings (of dialogue he wrote); and Lestat-like glampire agelessness. He fights drug dealers, is an unlikely bank executive, and is "very caring to the people in his life" (as his bitchy mother-in-law admits), including toward an at-risk urchin named Danny. Yet this living saint is about to be crucified at the altar of traitorous womanhood. He is tragedy, comedy, and everything between. "I feel like I'm sitting on an atomic bomb about to go off!" one Johnny-friend says to Lisa. But it already has: Johnny is da bomb.
There is nothing on this planet quite like The Room. Purportedly shot at a cost of $6 million, it looks like a low-end cable flick, shot mostly within a few cheap interiors. Character logic is primitive at best. Narrative flow? Pre-mammalian. All this could've meant deadly amateurish boredom if not for the pervasive, hypnotically strange imprint of auteur-star Wiseau. He might have made the ultimate performance art prank here � or he might unknowingly be it. He's living his self-actualizing dream onscreen, due to or despite snarky types like me.
His vanity project is frankly a thousand times more interesting than nearly any other in memory, simply because it hails from the inscrutable Planet Wiseau, whose approximation of human society is subtly yet extremely wrong. What to make of the sex scene where Johnny appears to be penetrating Lisa's, er, spleen? The bit where, guys being guys, Johnny and two pals toss a football around � standing two feet from each other and wearing tuxedoes? Or Lisa's response to Danny, when he asks if she can hang out: "Actually I'm really busy. Do you want a drink?" Just what room is The Room, anyway? Much of this movie's repeat-viewing fascination comes not just from its hilarity, but because it is uniquely flabbergasting � as if one had suddenly come upon the Sphinx only to find it start talking about what's on sale at Safeway.
Wiseau is a true international man of mystery. His origins (the accent sounds Eastern European), past pursuits (apart from a study stint at American Conservatory Theatre), and current endeavors are hazy. He's not a person whom you ask, "What were you thinking?" or "How do you make a living?" or "How old are you?" (OK, I did try the last one.) He's happy to encourage the Room phenom, though he doesn't quite acknowledge the movie's camp appeal. If this excerpt from a brief but pleasant conversation seems even more disjointed than you'd expect, keep in mind that his cell phone provided a level of sonic clarity you could equal with two tin cans and 100 yards of string.
SFBG Was your screenplay based on personal experience?
TOMMY WISEAU I wrote the script in 2000. It was supposed to be a play. Keep in mind that it's not a melodrama, it's not a comedy. It was all intentional, to provoke the audience.
SFBG Where are you originally from?
TW Certain questions I'm not responding.
SFBG How did you get so pumped?
TW Well, you know I'm doing exercise to prepare for the scene(s). The love scene was very difficult to do. [A] director's job is to provoke the audience.
SFBG Is your hair still that long?
SFBG What is your age?
TW It's on IMBD [www.imdb.com], you can check there. [Internet Movie Database says he was born in 1968. Skeptics might quibble.]
SFBG The movie had a $6 million budget?
TW We used two cameras, 35 [mm] and DVD format. We charge maybe $7 free ride [for public screenings].... It's a huge difference, you know?
SFBG Watching The Room, it seems a straight-up drama, but you've subsequently billed it as "quirky black comedy." Did you change your own perspective on it?
TW A lot of people said "Oh it's just an accident." Nothing is accident, [given] money or effort.
SFBG What are your future projects?
TW We're intending to show The Room as a musical play in Broadway and LA. The film is based on the novel. I'm also working on a vampire movie, and another project � I cannot tell you the title.
SFBG Are you coming to SF for the screening?
DEAD CHANNELS�White Hot & Warped Wednesdays!
by Michael Guillen
Dead Channels continues its 2008 two-month summer film series White Hot & Warped Wednesdays, venued at the Hypnodrome Theatre, 575 10th Street, San Francisco, by declaring Wednesday, July 2, 2008 as International Zombie Night by hosting the Bay Area premiere of Omar Ali Khan's Zibahkhana (Hell's Ground), the gory, global film festival favorite from Pakistan. Brace yourself for a night of action packed mayhem, villainy, and chucky Fulci-esque exotica in this unique hybrid. Twitch�of course�has been all over this for years. Todd reported on it in early August 2006 and then followed through in April 2007 when the film began to get good buzz on the festival circuit. Michael Wells dispatched to Twitch from the 2007 New York Asian Film Festival, offering his reaction to Hell's Ground and a report on the Q&A with director Khan. Kurt Halfyard caught Hell's Ground at last year's Fantasia Film Festival and wrote that "something that should feel old-hat is born again surprisingly fresh." Omar Ali Khan gives Hell's Ground a "rich and welcome exoticism to world audiences while giving teens from Karachi a film to call their own." Most recently, Todd gave a thumbs up to the extras on the recently-released DVD.
But wait, there's more! On July 16, 2008, Tommy Wiseau's The Room is coming to San Francisco fresh from its four-year engagement in Los Angeles. The management and staff of Dead Channels guarantee that this screening will be one of the strangest viewing experiences you will ever have! Amazingly, Twitch hasn't had its eye on this one but its cult cachet�as graphed out by Wikipedia�certainly makes it sound worthwhile viewing. Reportedly, "it's so bad it's actually painfully funny to watch."
"But we believe that it's not actually 'bad'," Bruce Fletcher qualifies, "at least in a negative way. Rather, The Room is an unforgettable work of hypnotic brilliance. It's what might happen if the late Stanley Kubrick had set out to make the last-word on 'BadFilm'. Wiseau's amazing movie is so inherently wrong on so many levels that viewing it unleashes an undeniable subliminal power�and might actually be an astounding work of cinematic art. We're not kidding, you'll be pondering, laughing about (and quoting) The Room for weeks."
Mahalo Daily interviews Wiseau. Nihar Patel does the honors for NPR. Elina Shatkin for LAist. With his usual comic flair, Matt Singer does a good job of situating The Room's L.A. context at Termite Art. "The Room is a beautiful lesson in how to make the worst movie imaginable," writes Nick Knittel for Speakeasy. "Take terrible actors, give them a cringe-worthy script, and throw in an idea of filmmaking that must have been lifted from a Wishbone episode, and you get something that approaches the instant-schlock classic of this movie." Jonathan Kiefer dubs Wiseau "the Orson Welles of crap", explaining, "Sometimes the cream rises to the top. Other times, crap floats." Okaaaaaay. I guess this is one I'm just going to have to see for myself. Thanks, Bruce???
Dead Channels presents Hell's Ground
� Matt Sussman
Proving that terror is truly cinema's lingua franca, Dead Channels continues its White Hot 'N' Warped Wednesdays screening series with Pakistani director Omar Ali Khan's Hell's Ground. You know that no good can come of five attractive teens embarking on a road trip through cursed territory � except, of course, for some grotesque carnage at the hands of a crazed mother-son duo and an army of undead mutants. Khan has called Hell's Ground Pakistan's "first modern horror film;" it's a gut-wrenching (and -munching) blood feast that ranks up there with Tobe Hooper and Lucio Fulci's best.
San Francisco Bay Guardian - July 2, 2008
Gore gone global
At last -- a Pakistani horror film that rocks
BY DENNIS HARVEY
(SHOULD BE A) CULT FILM Pakistan: land of the Markhor goat (a twisty-horned national animal), major software industry, ancient civilizations, field hockey, purported terrorist training cells, and extremely good-looking people of both sexes. The latter, at least, was suggested by those who went to my midwestern university a couple decades back: they were terribly urbane, funny, and cool. Admittedly, they were the next-generation cream of the country's privileged-liberal economic elite. But they endeared me to a country that, at least as they reflected it, couldn't harbor anything too religio-fanatical. Could it?
Such first impressions linger � never mind that I have since become slightly less of an overgeneralizing idiot. Proof that Pakistan retains a freethinking, Western-influenced minority � no insult intended against its more conservative Muslim majority � arrives in the unexpected form of Hell's Ground (a.k.a. Zibahkhana), which plays the Hypnodrome as a Dead Channels presentation. Omar Ali Khan's debut feature is a frantic pileup of horror genre tropes whose energy never flags. Purportedly Pakistan's first gore film, it's funny as well as grotesquely over-the-top.
Much as the movie might strike some as proof of the Great Satan's poisonous cultural influence � and indeed it offers shameless tribute to the accumulated clich�s of Western horror trash � it nonetheless hews to the genre's most essential moral conservatism. (And unlike traditional slashers, no T&A is bared to justify lethal punishment.) Among the film's quintet of teens sneaking out of town to a rock concert they'll never reach, who do you think is gonna survive? I wouldn't place bets on the amiable pothead, jaded party girl, or overgroomed stud. Poor virtuous scholarship student Simon? Good girl Ayesha (nicknamed Ash, � la Evil Dead's Bruce Campbell), who wears a "God Is Great" pendant? Maybe.
After someone has the bright idea of taking a dirt road shortcut, the fivesome run across zombies (including midget undead), then the freaky inbred family of a mystery-meat-selling matriarch whose offspring are Texas Chainsaw Massacre brethren reincarnated way off the Bible Belt. The crazy hitcher guy is now a long-haired religious fanatic; as in Tobe Hooper's 1974 original, he's got an unpleasant surprise to spring once he gets in the van. Khan's Leatherface equivalent substitutes a blood-spattered burqa and a lethally wielded mace for a dried-human-skin-mask and a buzz saw.
Funded by entrepreneur Khan's Lahore ice cream parlors, Hell's Ground is a fun and accomplished tree-shaking of Pakistan's once-lively, now largely moribund "Lollywood" film industry. It did well when the country's censorship board finally approved its theatrical release early this year. It emerges stateside this month via TLA Releasing, a normally gay-centric DVD distributor whose Danger After Dark label has recently given exposure to a gamut of international horror, fantasy, and suspense films. So far they've ranged from cheesily enjoyable (Greece's first zombie flick, 2005's Evil) to brilliant (Simon Rumley's 2006 Brit madness portrait The Living and the Dead).
Despite all of the English comic book�panel intertitles ("Little did they know ... ") and nods to Western horror classics, Hell's Ground is shot through with Pakistani cultural totems (like a glimpse of hijiras, transvestite eunuchs), vintage pop, and in-jokes. Not least is the cameo by long-retired actor Rahan of 1967 Pakistani cult smash The Living Corpse. As a chai shop proprietor, he warns our hapless youngsters that they've already "strayed off the right road" and that "good Muslims should be getting ready for evening prayers." Later he's heard pronouncing "You're on the road to hell my children. Ha ha ha. HA HA HA!"
"The characters in Zibahkhana are part of the urban elite," Khan said in an interview with British newspaper the Guardian. "It's true that class lives in a privileged bubble. The real, frightening, 'unknown' Pakistan is out there in the countryside, and that is why in the film it is when the kids leave the city that they starting encountering trouble."
Contra Costa Times
White-Hot and Warped Wednesdays
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Join Dead Channels and original Cockette Rumi Missabu for live follies and short film screenings as part of Thrillpeddlers Theatre of the Ridiculous Revival.
San Francisco Bay Guardian - May 6, 2008
"The Starslyderz Experience"
BY DENNIS HARVEY
OK, so 2007's Transformers was Michael Bay's best movie � which is sort of like saying "best strep throat experience," but let it go. Still, he will never, ever equal the achievement of Starslyderz (2005), an intergalactic adventure made with about 1/7,500th of Transformers's budget (yes, I used a calculator) and several megatons the awesomeness. Premiered here two years ago at the Another Hole in the Head film festival, Garrin Vincent and Mike Budde's homemade epic is the poignant tale of Capt. Johnny Taylor (Brandon Jones), dashing and horny leader of the United Planets of America's elite crime-fighting force. When the evil Gorgon kidnaps the president's daughter, Princess, Johnny and his mates must pursue, ending up on the prison planet Zoopy, where they are forced to fight gladiator-style for the amusement of bloodthirsty puppets and stuffed animals. Song interludes, heavy-metal twins, gleefully cheesy FX, and a whole lot more are thrown into this giddy campsterpiece, which pays snarky homage to everything from Star Wars, Star Trek, Transformers (natch), the Power Rangers, anime, TV commercials, 1980s video games and... er, Biography. Writer-director Vincent, producer-cinematographer Budde, and some furry pals will be on site for a Dead Channels�presented multimedia extravaganza that encompasses a screening of Starslyderz's new-to-SF final cut, "live hyphy Japanimation" by the Zoopy Show, production numbers, reckless acts of audience wetting, and action-figure sales. Perhaps if we are very lucky, an excerpt from Vincent's original Star Wars: The Musical, which was performed at Palo Verdes Peninsula High long, long ago. If not, you can sample that magic in excerpts on YouTube.
Jason Watches Movies
Jason has a Starslyderz experience
Monday, May 12, 2008
At the fabulous and 420-friendly Hypnodrome. Sorry I haven't written in a while, but I've been recuperating from SFIFF (I seemed to get a minor cold as soon as the festival was over). But here's the scoop from the day I skipped the SF Int'l Film Festival. So a movie "experience" is more than just a movie. It's a movie...plus some stuff that makes it an experience. For example, this experience started with an outdoor concert by space aliens from the planet Zoopy and their Zoopy Girls! Now that was an experience! Then a few beers, and whatever, and we all filed inside for the show. Then a little smoke-shrouded homoerotic interpretive dance space-battle (sorry I couldn't get a good picture of that), and finally the movie started.
As for the movie itself, I don't know what the budget was, but it looked like it was lower than the molten core of the earth--and that's part of the charm. In fact, the non-budget + sex jokes + pot jokes is about 90% of the charm (the rest is mostly taken up with the pun "Gorgon, take me away!") In the year 2420 (dude...I just got that) Starslyderz protect the United Planets of America from evil-doers, like the aforementioned Gorgon. Gorgon has kidnapped the President's daughter, and she's hot so Captain Taylor is on the case like...a horny guy chasing after a hot girl. That is, when he isn't getting high and chasing after other hot girls. And wacky hijinx ensue.
Anyway, I had a great time, but I've got a sneaky suspicion that it doesn't necessarily play as well sober. Sometime I might have to test that. And I can, since I bought the DVD, along with a Starslyderz t-shirt, made from 55% hemp and 45% cotton (in China, Earth). I just have to say, I've never actually worn a hemp t-shirt before, and it's really fucking comfortable! I don't care about your politics or opinions about pot. Legalize it or not, whatever. But everyone should wear a hemp t-shirt at least once in their lives. And you want to know a great place to buy one http://www.starslyderz.com/merchandise.htm Hey, you can get a DVD there, too!
Update: I forgot to mention that the "Starslyderz" experience was presented by Dead Channels, and it's a warm up for a summer of White Hot Wild Wednesdays (or something like that) at the Hypnodrome. The series starts on June 18th (when sadly, I'll be out of town) with "Socket". They played the trailerbefore "Starslyderz", and it's something about electricity freaks who grow electrical plugs from their wrists and plug in to each others sockets in the back of the neck. It's for gay pride month.
Oh, and as long as I'm adding to this post, please allow me to compliment the Zoopy girls on their talent and professionalism. It was a pretty chilly night to be wearing so little, so I definitely appreciate the professionalism of the Zoopy girls.
"The accumulated snarky-satiric musings of every American ex-teen raised on Star Trek, Star Wars, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Transformers and fantasy videogames have birthed Starslyderz, perhaps the cheesiest -- and giddiest -- sci-fi spoof since 1980's Flash Gordon (or 1974's Flesh Gordon for that matter). Randy, ridiculous futuristic adventure features nonstop low-end f/x and pop culture in-jokes that will resound most among those as young as helmer Garrin Vincent and his collaborators. But even over-30s will recognize Starslyderz as an impressive home-made camp epic that blows away lame Troma-style efforts. Cult status is assured." � Dennis Harvey in Variety magazine
For more enticing dazzlement and puzzled wondering visit:
Paging Ed Wood
By Michael Leaverton
Dead Channels Presents the Starslyderz Experience The sci-fi epic Starslyderz spent four years in post-production, according to a Variety article. No, Michael Bay wasn't attached. But around 150 F/X people found on Craigslist were � that's where the filmmakers found their talent. They also got that talent to work for free, which is not so surprising when set against another startling fact: They shot the whole thing in a week and change. Nine days! Their total budget was 25 grand. What's going on? Backyard filmmaking, on an awesome, ridiculous scale. The 2006 movie is a sci-fi spoof, a hodgepodge of parody, tribute, and camp, with shitty jokes and some good ones (judging from the trailer, which is all we've seen so far). The graphics have a cheesy sweetness, as do the costumes, which are bright and awful and great. The dialogue is, well, here goes: "Right now, booty is my duty!" The film was a labor of love by writer and director Garrin Vincent, previously known for the three-hour Star Wars the Musical, which he created under the banner of the Palos Verdes Peninsula High School drama department. Yes, he was enrolled.
Tonight, Vincent and producer Mike Budde show up with their film at Dead Channels Presents the Starslyderz Experience. http://www.sfweekly.com/search/events.php?oid=1002919
More Recent Press!
Jason Watches Movies
Hell on Frisco Bay
Monday, January 7
Four revival films from the 2007 Dead Channels Festival make year-end favorite lists of local bloggers and cinephiles:
Michael Guill�n, dean of the Evening Class:
5. Welcome Home Brother Charles (1975); d. Jamaa Fanaka; Roxie Film Center.
6. Spider Baby (1968) & Pit Stop (1969); d. Jack Hill; Roxie Film Center.
Michael Hawley, contributor to the Evening Class:
Spider Baby (1968) and Pitstop (1969), Dead Channels Festival, Roxie New College Film Center
In the wayward world I inhabit, this double-bill was THE Bay Area film revival event of 2007. Cult movie director Jack Hill spent a full Sunday afternoon sharing his personal 35mm prints of these two drive-in classics, graciously introducing each one and following up with illuminating Q&As. I walked away having learned all I'll ever need to know about figure-8 stock car racing, not to mention an enthusiastic appreciation for the singular acting talents of Sid Haig. There were fewer than 50 people in the audience, for which San Francisco should hang its head in shame.
Ben Armington, self-described "unrepentant film fanatic and professional explainer of rush lines":
6. Crimes of the Future w/ Spoonbender 1.1.1 (Roxie)
2007 DEAD CHANNELS: WELCOME HOME, BROTHER CHARLES�Interview With Jamaa Fanaka
Michael Guillen, August 25, 2007
Not for the spoiler-wary.
In his Dead Channels Diary, Twitch teammate Collin Armstrong wrote of Jamaa Fanaka's comments after the Friday night screening of Welcome Home, Brother Charles: "Clearly a born storyteller�the tale of his road to UCLA's film program (by way of an aborted auto theft) was priceless�he talked at length about the subtexts at work in Brother Charles and his goal of using it as a way to burst the myth of physical superiority in African Americans. He ended with an inspiring message to up-and-coming filmmakers, and capped things off by embracing Bruce [Fletcher] and thanking him for the opportunity to exhibit Welcome Home, Brother Charles on the big screen again."
I first saw the infamous penis strangulation scene in Welcome Home, Brother Charles earlier this year at an Oddball Cinema program on sex in cinema. Out of context, it proved shocking and I couldn't imagine the movie from which it was excerpted. Finally seeing the film in its entirety did nothing to minimize the shock of its keynote scene. Flawed as it might be in production value, as Collin has indicated, I have to concur that, notwithstanding, it is "something of a marvel."
Jamaa and I met for coffee and conversation the following morning at the Hotel Phoenix.
Michael Guill�n: Jamaa Fanaka is your chosen name. Your birth name is Walter Gordon. Why, when and where did you choose the name Jamaa Fanaka?
Jamaa Fanaka: I was a student at UCLA film school at the time and I went to see a film called Cooley High. I loved that film. It reflected so accurately the Black culture. It reflected the general culture of young people but specifically the culture of young Black people. I'm always sensitive to credits. I watch the credits�especially the directing credit because I was studying to be a director�and I saw that the credit for the director was a guy named Michael Schultz. I thought he was a Jewish gentleman and I said, "How could a Jewish gentleman be that cognizant of the deep aspects of the Black culture?" I checked into it and found out that Michael Schultz is a Black man. So I said, "I want to make sure that�when one of my films come out�that everybody knows that it was made by a Black director." Because most of the "blaxploitation" films were made by White directors�they had Black casts but they had White directors�so I wanted to make sure that the public knew that I was Black.
I went over to the African Studies Department, contacted one of the professors in that department, he pulled down a Swahili dictionary, I go through the Swahili dictionary looking for words that would mean something, be my name but also mean something, and I ran into the word "jamaa." Now, there's a variation of the spelling. They sometimes spell it with a "l", sometimes they spell it with one "a"�j-a-m-a-l�and sometimes they spell it j-a-m-a-a, which is an unusual spelling but it was one of the spellings. It means "family" and "brotherhood" and "togetherness"; the commonality of human-ness. I said, "I like that." So I went further and I ran across the term "fanaka" and it means "progress" and "success." So I said, "Okay, those words together will mean through togetherness we will find progress and succeed." That's how I chose that name Jamaa Fanaka; it means through brotherhood and togetherness, we will progress and succeed.
Guill�n: A beautiful choice.
Fanaka: It wasn't a renunciation of Walter Gordon, under which I was born, it was an embracing of a name that had some social significance and significance in terms of how I chose to lead my life. I'm a cosmopolite. A cosmopolite is a person who embraces all cultures, all races, all religions; he just embraces human-ness. He doesn't even put his own culture or his own race up above or before other races. He loves other races and other cultures as much as he loves his own. I'm a true, devout cosmopolite.
Guill�n: I'm glad to hear that. From an early age then�because your father was a television repairman in Jackson, Mississippi and your family was one of the first to own a television in Jackson, even before there was a television station�you were brought up with an awareness of the moving image. My understanding is that you became attracted to film through the director William Wyler and his film Ben-Hur.
Guill�n: What was it about Ben-Hur that mobilized a young Black boy in Jackson, Mississippi?
Fanaka: Ben-Hur was a film that had a deep meaning to it; but, it was immensely entertaining. I thought the merging of entertainment with education�you got an education from that film; you got a sense of the human-ness of the people�was so well-done. I saw it as a very young man.
My first acquaintance with film was when I got a Super-8 camera as a birthday present when I was 11 years old. As a matter of fact, I took the footage and on my mother's 80th birthday, I presented her with a dvd copy of an edited version of all the rites of passages of myself and my family�the grammar school graduations, the Christmases, the Easters, the marriages, the Disneyland visits�all the rites of passage we had. I recorded them with my Super8 camera. That's what really got me into liking to shoot film; but, I didn't start really thinking about being a filmmaker or the behind-the-scenes aspects of making films until Ben-Hur. Then I started to research and realized these films did not just materialize out of thin air; they came about like a building does. You don't just start putting bricks together. There's a plan there. I thought about that and said, "Hey�." And then William Wyler�The Best Years of Our Lives, Ben-Hur, Funny Girl, Friendly Persuasion�this guy could direct anything. He became�and still is�my favorite director of all time.
Guill�n: At last night's screening, you talked about how you ended up at the UCLA film school and how�for your second school project�you decided instead of a short film, you would just make a full-length feature, which became Welcome Home, Brother Charles. At that time, how was the film received? You said people thought you were crazy to make a full-length feature in the first place. What did they think after they saw it?
Fanaka: They thought I was crazier even more! [Laughs.] There were things in the film that had never been done before. What I wanted to do was take a well-known lie that had saturated our culture to the point where�if you tell a lie long enough, someone said�it becomes a truth.
Guill�n: A truth that captures people and robs them of freedom.
Fanaka: Right. It captures them in that falsehood and they accept it as a truth, as a given, and it's not a given; it's pure, unadulterated B.S. At the time�and still�I wanted to make a "moving" picture. I call my films moving pictures not only because the frames move through the projector but because I wanted to move people in the right direction. I wanted to have my films affect people in an entertaining way but also make strong statements. Sometimes, in order to get to people, you got to use some kind of instrument to get their attention. I wanted to debunk that myth of Black sexual superiority based upon the size of the sexual equipment.
I felt that in order to get that attention I had to do something obscene that was so outrageous; that would take the myth and blow it up for the lie that it is. It was so new and so shocking that people didn't know how to take it.
Guill�n: It's shocking enough now and we're talking 30 years ago, right?
Fanaka: Yeah, '75. As the years have progressed, it's become a cult classic. It's taught in universities across the country. Take for example, Melville's great masterpiece Moby Dick was a failure when it first came out. It sold very few copies until about 30-35 years later. Then it was "discovered" by a critic, people re-read it, and�of course�it will live forever. That seems to be what's happening with Welcome Home, Brother Charles.
Guill�n: It's certainly gained a cult following in recent years. I was impressed and grateful and respectful of the fact that you brought your own print of Brother Charles to Dead Channels to share with San Francisco. I want to thank you personally for that. You seem to want at this time in your life to travel with these films specifically to provide context. Is that true?
Fanaka: Right. Yes. As a matter of fact, I want to travel all over the country and even overseas, screen my films, and give Q&A seminars that inspire young people. I started making films in the covered wagon days of filmmaking. That's why, I guess, they call me a pioneer. When I was making films, what I had to pay for the raw stock to make Welcome Home, Brother Charles, you could make the entire film for now. There were very few people who were able to accomplish the making of a film, especially a feature film. It was so difficult because it was so expensive. It's the most expensive art form extant. If you want to be a writer, you can get a pencil and you can write. If you want to be a painter, you can go and buy you an easel and a canvas and paint. But in order to make a film back in those days, you had to have money and lots of it. With the advent of the computer, it has changed the whole landscape of filmmaking.
Guill�n: Speaking of context then, the fact that you made Welcome Home, Brother Charles as a student project is what adds to its being so remarkable. Earlier this year I saw the arthouse revival of Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep, which was created about the same time, and it's my understanding Burnett was your cameraman on Brother Charles?
Fanaka: He was my cameraman. As a matter of fact, his working as the camera man on Welcome Home, Brother Charles is what inspired him and gave him the idea that he could make a feature. See, it was unknown for a student to make a feature film. My film was like the Holy Grail for filmmakers because I actually wrote, produced, directed and got theatrical distribution for a film. To get theatrical distribution is difficult now but it was even more difficult back then. The distributor had to commit to making a number of prints and prints are expensive. I'm the only person, before and since, in the history of filmmaking to write, produce and direct, and to have gained theatrical distribution for three moving pictures made as part of the academic curriculum. Of course I got A's on them. But these were school assignments.
Guill�n: So obviously your films were received favorably by your instructors, but how was the reception by your fellow students?
Fanaka: It was mixed. Some students were obviously jealous that I was able to get grants.
Guill�n: Envy's an ugly beast, isn't it?
Fanaka: It sure is. As a matter of fact, the American Film Institute grant that I got? I made history getting that grant. I was the first Black filmmaker to get this independent filmmaker grant. I helped open the door for minority filmmakers with the American Film Institute and other areas. I found out that the judges who made the decisions on who got the grants had all been White. The only non-White had been Cicely Tyson and Cicely Tyson was at the time in a sense a White Negro because she had become a great success. The more successful a minority filmmaker or a minority person gets, the less inclined they are to fight for their own people. They don't want to rock the boat. They've been accepted themselves but they don't want to take those chances to fight for the general purposes of helping other Blacks because they don't want to hurt their own career.
At the time, Alan Cranston was the senator representing California and the American Film Institute independent filmmaker grant was financed by the National Endowment for the Arts, which was a governmental concern. I wrote Alan Cranston a letter and said, "Look, I'm not accusing the American Film Institute of racism�I don't think they are racist�but, the fact that there has never been a Black or minority judging who [gets] the [grants], is important because we are usually drawn to material that reflects our own culture. I'd like for you to look into this because I think there are Black filmmakers�like myself�who deserve serious consideration." [The AFI grant] was the Holy Grail of grants. First of all, the American Film Institute has such cachet to get the grant. Also, it was $10,000 that they just gave you in your hand to go make any kind of film you wanted, whatever. There were no strings attached to it. There was a lot of prestige attached to it.
So Alan Cranston writes the head of the American Film Institute an enquiry-type letter and [it] shook this guy up. He called me up and said, "We get 20,000 projects submitted to us every year and it's inevitable that some great potential filmmakers are sometimes overlooked. But we will give a serious look to minority filmmakers and we will go out of our way to try to find some minority filmmakers that wield the power to make those decisions." I said, "Okay." The very next cycle, I got an American Film Institute grant. [Laughs.] And then on the next cycle, they invited me to be one of the judges.
Fanaka: There was four judges. There was 12 grants to be given out. What did we decide to do? Rather than have polemics over who we thought was best, each one of us had a choice of choosing three filmmakers to give grants to. I gave out three; the other three gave out three. I was able on that cycle to get grants for Black filmmakers, just on my rubber stamp. From that point on, they started being very sensitive to the fact that Blacks have a talent too and they need a chance. Just a chance. Nobody owes anybody a grant; but, just a chance at getting it.
Guill�n: An opportunity they can seize.
Guill�n: So receiving the AFI grant was the green light for Welcome Home, Brother Charles. How did you find your lead actor Marlo Monte?
Fanaka: There was an organization � a group of actors and actresses that would get together to perform skits and to network with each other about roles that they saw that were open and try to help each other out. I went there and saw some of the skits and Marlo was in one of them and I was impressed with him. Afterwards I approached him and said, "I'm making this film. Would you like to read for a role?" He said, "Oh man, would I!" He was just so happy that I would consider him.
Guill�n: Did he know the story?
Fanaka: No. He didn't know anything about it. He didn't even know it was a feature. He just knew I was a UCLA student because there were a bunch of UCLA students that were with me. Those were the halcyon days of Black filmmakers at the film school. There's never before or since been that many Black filmmakers. We had about 25 of us, including Charles Burnett and Billy Woodberry and Haile Gerima and Julie Dash; a number of filmmakers that went on to teach film around the country.
Guill�n: Let me ask you this then, Welcome Home, Brother Charles�not only is it an incredible achievement that you got it made as a feature during your student days�but, it's almost like three movies. It's part documentary with its street realism that�along with Burnett's Killer of Sheep�has become an important, historical document of Watts in the mid-'70s. Then it's also a socially realistic drama about the plight of Blacks in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement. Then it shifts into this � I hardly know what to call it. At the time there wasn't the term "blaxploitation" and I don't really think of it in those terms; do you?
Fanaka: No. "Blaxploitation" was a term, ironically, that was coined by a Black man; an angry Black man. This is what happened: this guy was a publicist and he would from time to time get assignments from the studios as a publicist to publicize their films. But he wasn't getting the type of work assignments that he thought he deserved. There was a Black film that was up for release but they didn't call him in as a publicist so he made an appointment to go in to see the head of the [studio's] publicity department and he said, "You never call me. You don't even call me for those blaxploitation films." Exploitation films were a genre of the era of drive-ins, what they call grindhouse. Companies were set up just to make low-budget "exploitation" films on subject matter that the studios wouldn't want to make. If it was low-budget, they called it "exploitation", no matter what. [As far as] "blaxploitation", every Black filmmaker resented it because it was used in the pejorative. Now it has evolved to where "blaxploitation" has assumed the definition of a genre, like film noir.
Guill�n: So you don't mind being included within that characterization now?
Fanaka: It's thrust upon me like the color of my eyes. I have no choice in the matter.
Guill�n: But I want to give you that choice.
Fanaka: All right, then I don't consider my films "blaxploitation" films.
Guill�n: That's what I wanted to know.
Fanaka: But I don't write vicious letters to the editor who refer to [my films] as that. I consider Welcome Home, Brother Charles a work of art of the highest order. The reason I consider it that is because it transcends its subject matter. In other words, it's a story and it has a message; but, the message is so fundamental�.
Fanaka: Primal, yeah, that's a good word. [The film's] going to live forever.
Guill�n: I look at it this way. So many movies are made and disappear just about as fast. The fact that Brother Charles is still around and kicking means it's a child that's grown up.
Fanaka: Right. And it's more influential and popular now than it ever was.
Guill�n: Can that be attributed to the recent Grindhouse mania?
Fanaka: That too. Also that Tarantino, it's one of his favorite films. He's one of my greatest fans. That has helped. But also, they're teaching it at the universities; not only the quality and the artistic value of the work, but how it was made; how inspirational it can be to young film students�or old film students, everybody wants to be a film student�on how you can accomplish something if you are determined and creative. This film was made off will power.
Guill�n: When you started Welcome Home, Brother Charles, did you have a finished script?
Guill�n: I ask because some criticism I've read imply that the last part of the film was added on later specifically to sell it.
Guill�n: That's not true?
Fanaka: No. That's not true. What happened was, there were two drafts of the script. In one draft of the script, and not only the script but one of the cuts, some of the scenes I excised for time reasons and also for artistic reasons. I dealt with the fact of the younger brother getting involved in gang activity and the older brother trying to discourage him and the confrontation between him and N.D. [who] had taken his girlfriend and had her dancing topless. I had him reconcile that. But I didn't want the main story to be predictable. The obvious thing was for him to come by and kick N.D.'s ass and take back his mama or reject her or whatever, or line up with the other woman. But I felt that I wanted to deal with the film in a more universal level, at a more fundamental and primal level. The betrayal that [Charles] suffers from his partner taking his girl and then having him beat up, okay, "I can accept that. I don't want to fight that. Let them go their own business. I'm going to go on with life the way it is." [Charles] tries to go on with a normal life. He finds a job delivering water. But I wanted to make it more fundamental and deal with the fact of how easily we can be railroaded into a situation. Although involved in illegal activities, he didn't deserve to have his penis damn near cut off.
Guill�n: Or to be thrown in the slammer simply for running.
Guill�n: I kept thinking, "What are they picking him up for?"
Fanaka: Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. As a matter of fact, if I wanted to exploit the penis strangulation thing, I would have had him strangle the other people on camera�the cop who tried to castrate him?�you never actually saw the [strangulation there]; I only showed it one time.
Guill�n: Once was enough.
Fanaka: Yeah, once was enough. I didn't want people to think I was trying to use that in an exploitive way. I was trying to use that to take a ridiculous situation and just blow it up to such a proportion that you can't miss the ridiculousness of it.
Guill�n: Let me ask you this then, Charles's revenge at the injustice of being railroaded, I know that some people have wondered why he didn't kill N.D. for taking away his woman and luring his younger brother into drugs? Why he didn't kill another Black man?
Fanaka: That's what I'm saying. [N.D.] was a victim himself of the whole system.
Guill�n: So you're saying that N.D.'s betrayal of Charles was somewhat a consequence bred from their mutual environment?
Fanaka: Right. If [Charles] wants to go along and change his life, he has to forget that. "That is a part of my life. She's chosen him. Let me get on and try." And he falls in love with the other girl and they get into a relationship.
Guill�n: I understand the differentiation you're making between the wrongs committed against Charles by N.D., who's in the same boat, and the wrongs committed by a White system that railroads him into prison. It reminds me of that wonderful line in Luis Valdez's Zoot Suit where El Pachuco snaps his fingers, stops the script and says, "That's just what the movie needs now, Ese; one more Mexican killing another fucking Mexican."
Guill�n: The central section of Brother Charles when he's in solitary confinement in the penitentiary is a beautifully-edited montage of his thought process in voiceover mixed with still black and white photographs.
Fanaka: Thank you.
Guill�n: What motivated the design of that sequence?
Fanaka: Why I wanted to do it in black and white is [because] black and white is an actor's colors. You don't have the distraction of color. What the audience concentrates heavily on is the actor. It's stark naturalism, as they would refer to it in literature. A naturalistic approach to show in a short period of time the whole three years [of imprisonment] encapsulated in practically one shot. Actually, it's two shots. I go in and then I cut to him. But it's only two shots. I wrote the music too.
Guill�n: Speaking of the "music", what is that strange foghorn-like sound?
Fanaka: That's a saxophone.
Guill�n: Ah. That sax motif in the score also shows up in the beginning credits where the audience sees the ithyphallic African figurine. How I interpreted that was that it connoted an ancient African power. Is that right?
Fanaka: Yeah, right. Hey man, you are very observant! That's what it was. I was trying to show the primal instincts of Africanism, what they call the natural religion, the humanistic religion, that pervades Africa even now. That music was supposed to convey that type of primal feel, that guttural [quality]. I wrote it by recreating the sound for the saxophone player. He would keep trying it until I got the sound I wanted. For the rest of it, I would tell them how I wanted it: crescendo, diminuendo, I expressed it to them and they were able to recreate it [at] UCLA. UCLA had a four-track recording studio and that's where I did the score.
Guill�n: Another thing I wanted to run by you: the film ends with his girlfriend Carmen telling him to jump. The way I took that was that she didn't want him to get railroaded into prison again. Is that right?
Fanaka: Yeah. Let's face it, his life was over. She didn't want him to become a research monkey.
Guill�n: I know some reviews described her as not being very loyal; but, no, she loved him completely and knew death was his only real way out.
Fanaka: Yeah. And she loved him enough to see a lot. People don't realize that death is not the worst thing that can happen to you. A lot of things can happen to you that�living through it�is the worst thing that can happen to you.
Guill�n: To wrap things up then, you clearly are traveling with the film to inspire young people. As a filmmaker, what has been your greatest joy?
Fanaka: My greatest joy is getting responses like I got last night. I had a guy come up to me and say, "Hey, we have Jamaa Fanaka nights where we get together at each others' houses and show Jamaa Fanaka films."
Guill�n: I'm going to lobby for a Jamaa Fanaka retrospective in San Francisco.
Fanaka: They say a perfect place would be the Castro Theatre. I've heard that's a beautiful theater. That's the Gay area, right? I think the Gays would relate to this film too. It's a universal film. It speaks to everyone.
Guill�n: Brother Charles spoke to me as a Gay man because�as a Chicano�the process of having your ethnicity fetishized is a troubling hurdle to leap over as you try to individuate and become�first and foremost�a human being. It's disturbing to have your identity usurped and commodified by erotic agendas that are in service to colonial mechanisms of enslavement through effacement. You set out to have Brother Charles be a slap in the face about such matters and you succeeded. The film provokes an embarrassed shade of consciousness and uses prurience to prove its point. It's been a great honor to speak with you today and I thank you for your time.
Fanaka: Thank you, my brother I have a lot of respect for you, my man.
2007 DEAD CHANNELS�Interview With Jack Hill
Michael Guillen, August 16, 2007
Because I can never get enough of a good thing, and despite the fact that Jack Hill provided generous context and backstory to both Spider Baby and Pit Stop at Dead Channels Sleazy Sunday double-bill, I still had a few threads I wanted to pursue. He was gracious enough to grant me some time Monday morning before heading north to the wine country. We countered the cool San Francisco morning by sitting close to the overhead patio heaters at the Phoenix, until driven away by bullish cigarette smokers.
I won't be the first to mention that softspoken Jack Hill does not come across as the man who was one of Exploitation Cinema's reigning champions, proponent of tits and ass feminism, and blaxploitation classics such as Coffy and Foxy Brown. Perhaps it's all the years of meditation he's practiced that has allowed him to keep his career in moderate perspective and to persevere through the ebb and flow of popular appeal. He certainly comes across kind and centered.
Michael Guill�n: Roland Hill, your dad, was art director in the '40s at Warner Brothers, then moved on to the Disney Studios. He helped created the interior design of the Nautilus for Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and designed Sleeping Beauty's castle for Disneyland, as well as Tom Sawyer's Island. What influence did he have on your wanting to become a filmmaker or on your filmmaking?
Jack Hill: Not so much. My mother was a music teacher so I got into music since I was five years old.
Guill�n: Which might explain your original impulse to become a film composer?
Hill: Yes. I was in music. I was a concert and performing artist and arranger and starting to write music. I wanted to learn how to score films. That's how I got into the cinema department at UCLA, so I could learn about films so I could write music; but, then I started writing, and they encouraged me to do more. I ended up directing some student films. I loved music and I loved being in music but I had a little 8mm movie camera since I was 14 and I made some films with friends and edited them myself just for fun. I never thought about it as a career.
Guill�n: Warner Brothers back in the '40s appears to have left a strong imprint upon you. I've read that your favorite movie was White Heat, which you consider to be "the last great American film." Why do you say that? What is it about White Heat that you feel sets such a benchmark?
Hill: Because it's got that spirit to it, that in-your-faceness, that impudence that I enjoyed as a style. I and most of my friends used to go see all the Warner Brothers movies. They had much more of a fire to them than the big studio films because they were made with lower budgets under difficult circumstances. They had these great stars, a different kind of star, Bogart and Cagney, people like Virginia Mayo, who were very different.
Guill�n: That's what you mentioned yesterday afternoon and I thought that was such an interesting analogy between the Warner films in the '40s made on their tight budgets and limited means�and the creativity that came out of that�comparable to the low-budget rapid-fire independent film making of the '60s-'70s. In both instances, by the grace of good casting some great movies were made. Researching your work, that's one of the comments attributed to your success: the impeccability of your casting. That made me curious about how you went about it. It's my understanding that when you were at UCLA your adviser was Dorothy Arzner? Is this the same Dorothy Arzner who invented the mike boom?
Hill: That's right.
Guill�n: So how did that work? You're in film school and you're casting your student projects, did Arzner come in to help you find actors?
Hill: No, not at all. Dorothy basically had the feeling that you needed to make your own mistakes; but, she would let you know you were doing so. "You're making a mistake, but, go ahead." Francis Coppola and I both really listened to her. We worked on each others' student films and, in fact, when he created his theatre he named it the Dorothy Arzner Theatre, in recognition of what he had [learned] from her.
Guill�n: Arzner's a director who was nearly forgotten. Most people don't remember what she's done.
Hill: Since the Women's Movement, she's become a little bit more recognized.
Guill�n: Speaking of UCLA film school, the one person you didn't talk much about yesterday was Francis Ford Coppola and your interaction with him. My understanding is you did a few films with him? You both helped out with The Terror. IMdb lists about four or five directors on that film. How does that work?
Hill: We were not billed as co-directors. Roger Corman was the main director. But some of us put bits and pieces together over a period of time.
Guill�n: Was that the same with Dementia 13? You came in later and added some pieces?
Hill: Francis had not really finished the picture. There was only about 60 minutes of film there, which he finished and then he went on to bigger and better things with major studios. I added some additional sequences that I wrote myself to pad it out to a full-length running time.
Guill�n: So your student film The Host, then, was your true first film?
Hill: I had done a directing assignment before then, a 15-minute film; but, The Host was what they called at UCLA a "major production" of a half an hour film. You had sets and a lot more where you could finish it; but�in order to finish the film and do all the post-production�you had to have your own money for it. They didn't have a budget for it. So my edit of The Host sat in my garage for 30 years until Quentin Tarantino decided to put it on the release of Switchblade Sisters as a DVD extra. He got Miramax to pay for the cost of finishing it, to put music with it.
Guill�n: Regarding that student project The Host�and I'm sure you've probably been asked this a million times�but, many folks have recognized its influence on Coppola's Apocalypse Now.
Hill: Yeah. [Steve Burum], my camera man on that student film, was the second unit camera man on Apocalypse Now. And there was another fellow who was also a student at UCLA at the time who [served] as an advisor on the film for Francis, and according to [Burum]�who I saw some years later�he said they were making jokes about making Jack Hill's student film. It was the last act of [Apocalypse Now], which was the part that didn't really work.
Guill�n: So you don't mind that Coppola "reworked" it?
Hill: No. You always borrow things from other films. I've certainly done my share.
Guill�n: Regarding the casting of Spider Baby, yesterday you talked about Sid Haig, Lon Chaney, and the two girls. The fellow who played Peter Howe ("Uncle Peter"), Quinn Redeker�who later went on to become Oscar-nominated for co-writing The Deerhunter�he was such a charming character in Spider Baby.
Hill: He was perfect, yeah.
Guill�n: What made his characterization work so well? Did you write his character that way? How did you come up with this guy who was so normal he was odd? He was like a bastion of '50s Americana in the midst of all that zaniness.
Hill: I didn't really understand this at the time; but, the critic who wrote about the film and then in personal messages to me, said that was really me. That was my point-of-view character, totally oblivious to all this craziness going on around him.
Guill�n: And very good-natured about it too. That's what I loved and laughed about later when I was thinking about him. He was so good-natured, poking Sid Haig's character in the ribs, inducing that strange facial reaction from Sid.
Hill: The way [Quinn Redeker] played that character was beyond my imagination of what he could do with the part to bring it to life.
Guill�n: You were saying that you didn't feel you directed your actors much in Spider Baby; that they basically knew what they had to do and did it for you.
Hill: Yeah. The first rule of medicine is "do no harm" and that was my rule.
Guill�n: The pool of talent in Spider Baby is amazing. I was enjoying watching the movie and recognizing faces from other vehicles. Carol Ohmart as Quinn's selfish sister Emily, she'll always (for me) be the woman who backed up and fell into the vat of acid in House on Haunted Hill.
Hill: Yes. At the time I did [Spider Baby], I had not seen that picture. I didn't know she had backed up into a vat of acid.
Guill�n: What felt odd yesterday was to recognize her from a movie I loved as a kid. She's remained in my mind all these years. That's one of those cinema moments I'll never forget. Or maybe it was the skeleton on a string William Castle had swooping over the audience in the theater?
Another great character actor you used in Spider Baby was Mantan Moreland, who I recognized as one of the devils or "idea men" in Cabin in the Sky.
Hill: Yeah, I had never seen that film. I knew him from all the Charlie Chan movies.
Guill�n: That's what my friend Frako Loden mentioned as well; but, I'm sorely unfamiliar with the Charlie Chan movies. I read somewhere that Moreland ran into problems after the Civil Rights Movement? His style of acting became disparaged?
Hill: Yeah, he didn't feel that his style, his character, was demeaning like Stepin Fetchit, which it really was. He was bitter about it. They lumped him together with those character actors that did demeaning roles, shuffling around. He wasn't like that.
Guill�n: I've read that you killed him off early in Spider Baby to symbolically kill off the stereotype?
Hill: Yeah, that was my conceit through the whole movie. Like murdering Santa Claus in the first reel.
Guill�n: Well, as a film writer relatively unfamiliar with your body of work and catching up to everybody else�I'm part of your new audience actually�what really struck me yesterday was how thoroughly entertaining and engaging your early films are, in contrast to the seemingly hundreds of current movies I've seen this last year out of Hollywood that I don't even want to write one sentence about; movies that I forget as I'm watching them. What was so refreshingly apparent in the two films I watched yesterday was their heart. There's a lot of heart in your movies. I really cared about the characters in both scenarios. Is that what you're going for?
Hill: That's what makes films work for me. That's what I try to do.
Guill�n: I also read that there was some talk a few years back regarding a remake of Spider Baby. Is that still in the works?
Hill: There's actually a couple of things in the works. There's a fellow who I met who was a big fan of Spider Baby; he wrote a script for a remake. It's not really a remake as much as it is a script inspired by the original. The characters are still there but it's a totally different milieu. It was picked up and they were going to make it; but, they had a problem over the rating, blah blah blah, and so they have writers rewriting it. But it's still out there. It went into turnaround for Lionsgate and so he's still struggling with it; but, I was recently approached by another company who wants to remake closer to the original.
Guill�n: You have no issue with having it remade? I feel it's so perfect as it is. It has this heart, as I said. My fear would be that these days when they make remakes, the heart is the first thing they take out.
Hill: Well, that's true. But I'm waiting to see what kind of story they come up with. It will be quite different because it's a thing of its time, although it's timeless in some ways. To do a new version, it's a new audience today so they want to make it in a much more up-to-date style. We'll see what happens. If they make a remake, it will make more people interested in seeing the original, I would think, so it's fine with me.
Guill�n: Where did the story for Spider Baby come from? You had the script ready to go, so that when the producers surfaced, you were ready to go; but, where did the original story come from?
Hill: It came to me overnight.
Guill�n: Did you have the slightest inkling that it would have the influence it would have? It created the template for kooky mutantly-inbred families, with elders in the cellar, that prey upon unsuspecting guests. It's become something of a genre all in it's own and you were one of the first to really do that, weren't you?
Hill: Yeah, I think so; but, I don't know [how much of an influence it had]. The film was not widely seen in the film industry at the time. I don't really think there's necessarily a connection there.
Guill�n: Okay. So maybe it was an idea smoldering in the American psyche, just waiting to manifest itself? A way America had of thinking of itself? I do think the idea of the family out in the country that seems ordinary but isn't has definitely become one of the staples of American horror.
Hill: I don't know. People have suggested that some of the other guys who made films like that had seen Spider Baby; but, I doubt that. They wouldn't have been able to see it because it was lost for a long time.
Guill�n: That leads to a question that's difficult for me to formulate. You've been around for a while, you've done your work in different climates, different cultural zeitgeists, different mindsets, spanning generations of filmgoers�
Guill�n: �Is it weird for you to be a survivor and have all these ascriptions made after the fact? Or to be given titles like the Master of Exploitation?
Hill: At the time I was making films and they were hitting number one at the box office, no one even knew who I was. And the next year no one even remembered the film.
Guill�n: Directors weren't that well considered back then?
Hill: No. Most people weren't aware of who was directing a film.
Guill�n: Roger Corman. How did you get hooked up with him?
Hill: Through Francis actually. Francis started working for him when we were in school and he brought me in to work with him on some of the [films] he was doing. I had worked with Francis before on these so-called "nudie cuties"�.
Guill�n: Are we talking The Bellboy and the Playgirls?
Hill: Yeah. I edited that actually. It's actually called The Playgirls and The Bellboy. The original title was The Bellboy and the Playgirls, and then they switched it around and it became a big hit because of the way people read the name; they saw the "playgirls" first.
Guill�n: Makes sense, I guess. What was your involvement with The Wasp Woman? On IMdb you're listed as uncredited but it's not really your film?
Hill: No. It was a film that Roger had made. [On] quite a number of little films, the running time was too short for television. He was selling his whole library to television and some of the films were too short. It was only 70 minutes and they needed a [certain] minimum of time for TV. [Roger] assigned me this problem, to add 20 minutes to the running time of the picture. I had to figure out a way [to do that]. The actors were no longer available except one guy who couldn't see anymore and couldn't read a script. He was the only one who was available. I could get him. Basically, what I did was to write a kind of prelude to the film because I couldn't add anything to the story in any particular way without the actors. So I added a new beginning to it and I also added a few bits and pieces to tie that together in different parts of the movie just to pad it out. That was one of those learning experiences Roger had us do. Very valuable.
Guill�n: It sounds like you learned a lot from Roger. Not the least of which was these creative strategies in response to low budgets.
Hill: Yes. I don't know whether I would have been able to do some of the things that I did without having had that training; but, Roger had a way of getting a maximum effect with a minimum of means. I see this mistake in expensive movies where they waste a big, expensive set by putting actors against a wall and showing them in close-up. Roger would bring his actors out in front so that you would always have space in the background, a feeling of more size and space, which makes you feel like it's a bigger picture. It doesn't look like it was shot in somebody's livingroom. And there were a lot of other tricks he would use to get a big look for very little money.
Guill�n: You spoke so thoroughly about Pit Stop at yesterday's screening that I don't have a whole lot of questions about Pit Stop; but I did want to mention that I grew up in Brawley, California so that�when I saw those sand dunes�I recognized them immediately. As a youngster, I actually was part of that dune buggy culture. That footage of that gathering: where did that come from? Did you piggyback on some event that was going on?
Hill: Yeah. It was a real event and I wasn't really there for all of it, I sent my second unit guy out to do all the camera work. He was a guy named Frank Zu�iga. He later went on to do all these true life adventures for Disney, where you go out and sit in a blind for six weeks waiting for something to happen. He was a clever guy. He did most of the setting up and organizing of the dune buggy [scene].
Guill�n: Jack, I have to admit that I loved Pit Stop and I'm not a car person. I don't even drive. I've never even had a license. Cars are not my thing at all. And yet I sat riveted in the theater. That Figure 8 stock car racing was unbelievable!
Hill: It is, isn't it?
Guill�n: So your comments about how you were hoping to catch a slice of Americana for foreign markets, you did it! You caught something. Do they even do that anymore?
Hill: I heard recently that they do, in the South. They have some tracks down there where they do that.
Guill�n: Still some crazy people down there, huh?
Hill: Yeah. Texas probably. [Laughs.]
Guill�n: And the editing was phenomenal. It was so tense. I actually chewed my thumbnail down to the quick.
Hill: I'm sorry.
Guill�n: It made me so nervous, especially every time two cars would just miss. When they collided, that was a relief.
Hill: That was the fun of it. Hair-raising.
Guill�n: Turning to your current collaboration with Mark Atkins. The two of you are reworking the scripts you wrote for the Boris Karloff tetralogy�House of Evil, Isle of the Living Dead (alternately, Isle of the Snake People), The Incredible Invasion, and The Fear Chamber�which you wrote for Mexican director Juan Ib��ez. I wasn't clear about one thing: are you taking the original Karloff footage and reworking it into a new vehicle?
Hill: No. We're making totally new films.
Guill�n: Will you redo them with the same actor in all four films like Karloff did before?
Guill�n: There was a period of time�because of the way distribution patterns shifted in the U.S. and before the video/dvd revolution�when your films were forgotten; when, in effect, you didn't have a film career.
Guill�n: What were you doing?
Hill: I did scripts, which got made, a couple of them. One was for a Mexican company and I was supposed to direct it but the producer, again, just before I fell into the same problems.
Guill�n: You have a lot of trouble with Mexicans, don't you?
Hill: [Chuckles.] Yeah. I've had quite a bit to do with them. Then I wrote scripts that were done in a Canadian co-production so they had to have a Canadian re-writers and directors. My last film I directed ended up being called Sorceress.
Guill�n: That was a Corman flick also, wasn't it?
Hill: Yeah. That's a long story that's kind of depressing. I don't want to go into it. I had to take my name off of the picture.
Guill�n: Corman didn't come through with what he promised, is my understanding?
Hill: Yeah, right. So I took my name off of that. For a long time I was doing writing and then I fell into Groucho's paradox, where he said, "I wouldn't want to belong to any club that would have me as a member." The only [films] that people could really see me doing, I didn't want to do. I didn't want to do exploitation films anymore. I wanted to do real movies. It's ironic that the kind of films that I did are [now] almost considered a legitimate art form. At the time I wanted to get out of them.
Guill�n: They are art! And that's an advantageous perspective you have that's so intriguing. You had this period of time where�you didn't go away and were still creating�but, for all effects and purposes your career was at a lapse. Then video brought your films back and a new audience discovered you and loved you, Tarantino among them. Is this a conflict for you? That this new audience is still appealing to your old films when you want to move on? Or are you being able to use that rekindled interest in your old films to move on?
Hill: Of course it helps a lot that my name is known and I got a little bit of respect for movies that were not respected at the time. That helps a lot. But the issue for me right now is finding the right [film] that somebody will let me do. You can't get financing. My wife and I have written a romantic comedy set in England that we've been trying to get done for a couple of years and there has been some interest in it, but�.
Guill�n: Is that A Perfect Wife?
Hill: Yeah, it's called A Perfect Wife. It's a beautiful script, the best work I've ever done, y'know? But a Jack Hill romantic comedy sounds like a joke so I have to do some other films first�.
Guill�n: It's like you have to start all over!
Hill: Yeah. I need to get one film out that gets attention so that I can be in a position myself that I can have the [creative control] to do a film like that.
Guill�n: I would say that yesterday, watching Pit Stop, you meant for that to be an art film and it is an art film. Not only is it a valuable and historically significant slice of Americana, but it has this Mephistophelian theme that's universal. As I said before, I watch so many movies as a film writer, so many of them negligible, but I loved Pit Stop. This is a really good movie.
Hill: Thank you.
Guill�n: So yesterday when Mark asked who among the audience wanted to see a new Jack Hill film and everyone cheered, that's a clear signal that we're hungry for your work, your vision, and we can only keep our fingers crossed that some producer who's paying attention will take a chance on your romantic comedy. I understand you also have another project emulating the '40s era of Warner Brothers? Tangier?
Hill: That's one I've been trying to get done for 20 years. It's a script written by a friend of mine, a very good writer, and I rewrote it heavily. It's a script that everyone who reads it thinks it's a great script; but, it's so offbeat they don't quite know what to do with it. It's the kind of [vehicle] where I'd have to get a major star attached to it in order to get it done. It's not a small film.
Guill�n: Is it known that you're looking for a major star to get attached to the project? How does that work?
Hill: Nobody knows how it works. It's tough to do.
Guill�n: And even moreso these days, it seems. You're saying it's a little offbeat and eccentric that people don't know what to do with it; yet, that was the allure of film in the '60s and the '70s and now most Hollywood product seems so homogenized and repetitive. Or it's a remake of a remake of a remake.
Hill: Well, this one is really original. There's never been anything quite like it. It's a really clever story. But another thing against it, it's a period picture. It's set in 1938. I will get it done someday.
Guill�n: I really hope so, Jack. Thank you so much for your time today. I genuinely appreciate it. Enjoy the rest of your visit!
By DENNIS HARVEY
Aug. 14, 2007
Another videogame adaptation, "Postal" is otherwise quite different from what audiences expect from oft-dissed helmer (and scenarist) Uwe Boll. This energetic if scattershot farce aims to be the "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World" of bad-taste satires on an out-of-control post-9/11 world. Like that non-classic, its sheer exertion often impresses more than the number of actual laughs scored. Still, this anything-goes exercise isn't dull -- one just wishes the outrageousness were more consistently funny.
Deliberate flaunting of myriad taboos could make "Postal's" planned October U.S. theatrical launch problematic with skittish exhibitors. But if marketed as a film with something to offend everyone (as "The Loved One" once was), it could draw youngish adults who enjoy rude humor with an edge. On DVD, the pic will no doubt acquire a fan base in many territories, Uncle Sam's included.
Original three "Postal" vidgames have been widely criticized (and sometimes banned) as works of tasteless, desensitizing mayhem. Defenders say the games are too clearly over-the-top satirical to promote the violence, racism and other bad behaviors depicted.
Certainly, Boll's translation is equal-opportunity cartoonish in embracing and sending up stereotypes and sacred cows, though most mainstream viewers -- not the target demo here -- will be appalled by certain ideas being used for comedy. They range from an opening 9/11 hijacker cockpit sequence to a fade with secret allies George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden skipping hand-in-hand into the nuclear explosion-riddled sunset.
In between, countless deliberate offenses are lobbed at the viewer, including much gratuitous child imperilment and Dave Foley's exposed member. Targets skewered include not just the Taliban and the Bush administration but also gun-crazy Americans, tree-hugging Americans, motivational seminars, why-can't-we-all-just-get-along inspirational speeches, Asian-American drivers, handicapped panhandlers and "Brokeback Mountain." Boll himself, who appears as the director of a Third Reich-themed "Little Germany" amusement park cheerfully admits, "My films are funded by Nazi gold" (an actual Internet rumor).
Known as Dude (Zack Ward), then Postal Dude once he's unfairly linked to various crimes, the protag is a hapless resident of ill-named burg Paradise. Unemployed and desperate, he turns to uncle Dave (Foley), founder of a New Age-y apocalyptic cult whose real purpose seems to be to provide him with Playboy Bunny-type worshippers. Unfortunately, the IRS has gotten wise and he needs a major cash infusion fast.
Dave and Dude come up with a plan to steal a valuable shipment of Krotchy Dolls, a toy in high demand but short supply. Unfortunately, the same idea is seized on by Mohammed (Michael Benyaer), fervent chief acolyte to bin Laden (Larry Thomas), who is hiding right here in Paradise. Once the two factions collide at Little Germany, the pic piles on one chase and splatstick set piece after another.
Boll achieves a bright, big-production feel on a reported $15 million budget, with tech and design contributions adding to the colorful overall impact. Cast was encouraged to invent business on-set, resulting in some nice riffing. But for every genuinely funny idea, there are others that play flat, while many others settle for scatological outrageousness of a non-envelope-pushing kind.
Boll does mean to provoke, but to pull off a satirical critique of the volatile subjects here would require sharper wit than he and co-scenarist Bryan C. Knight generally provide. "Borat," "Team America: World Police" and "Hot Fuzz" mixed subversive commentary and bad-taste humor with a cleverness "Postal" seldom achieves, though its sheer antic energy does compensate somewhat.
Amid otherwise fairly broad performances, Ward's deadpan transition from milquetoast to Rambo does a lot to hold the pic together.
A Dead Channels diary
A rollicking slate of national and international premiers, rare repertory screenings, and shorts produced on micro and macro scales, the inaugural Dead Channels festival in San Francisco unleashed a strong opening volley of mind-bending titles. The brainchild of head programmer and all-around friend to cinematic esoterica, Bruce Fletcher, the festival showcased a unique slate.
Attending on behalf of Red Harvest, a short film I wrote and co-produced which was selected to screen at the festival, I managed to take in a sampling of what Dead Channels had to offer and came away impressed. What follows is a Twitch-ified version of a diary kept during my stay.
August 9th - The festival's opening night saw it host the US premier of Uwe Boll's new film Postal. Having built a substantial amount of buzz based on early word of mouth (some courtesy of Twitch grand pooba Todd, right here) and a collection of hilariously inappropriate trailers posted online, the film itself lived up to the hype and then some. An all-out assault against anything and everything, Postal gets so much right it's a little stunning. Those not taken with the scatological hi-jinks on display in the film's trailers should be pleased to know it manages to take a number of intelligent swipes at its targets as well (primarily religious extremism � from all corners of the globe) in between a constant barrage of transgressive, cleverly constructed sight gags.
Dr. Boll (as introduced by Bruce) was a ball of energy, jazzed by the film's positive reception at Dead Channels. He talked at length about what drove him to write Postal, and I have to say the man really impressed me. He wanted to create something people would talk about and critics would be forced to evaluate, and has succeeded with flying colors. Postal is as personal a project as you'll find, a manic response to the world's increasingly segmented cultures. Like the horrific actions it smartly parodies, Postal seems poised to draw attention not only to itself but events at large. It's a like an errant shotgun blast in a maternity ward � unexpected, unsettling, and once the panic dies down pretty damn funny.
Afterward Boll greeted fans and passed out DVDs containing some extended clips of Larry Thomas as Osama bin Laden in the film. Other cast members, including star Zach Ward, Thomas, and Michaela Mann were on-hand.
I feel like I have to say something about the theater in which Postal screened, the Castro -- what an amazing place to see a film. It's an old-style theater, one enormous screen in front of row after row of seats. Prior to the film an older gentleman seated at a pipe organ rose up from below the screen on a pedestal and proceeded to play for 10 solid minutes; the audience was clapping along in rhythm by the end. Quite a spectacle. The remainder of the festival we attended was split between the two Roxie theaters found at 16th and Valencia -- both good venues, though a far cry from the grandeur of the Castro.
August 10th - A long night of movie-going at the two Roxie screens started with a screening of Jamaa Fanaka's notorious Welcome Home, Brother Charles. Directed by Fanaka while he was still a film student at UCLA, Brother Charles chronicles a man's twisted revenge at those who wrongly jailed him by way of hypnotism and, well, his monstrous penis. Yep.
Brother Charles was clearly a first-time effort, marred with pacing and structural errors, out-of-focus photography, and continuity slips. It was also something of a marvel. Several sequences -- including the open credits, the montage of Charles' time in prison, and the climactic murders -- were staged with gusto and possess a wild, avant-garde energy. The performances were naturalistic and the soundtrack -- its more outr-- portions created by Fanaka himself -- informed the film in perfect measures.
Fanaka was in attendance and spoke after the screening. It was interesting to watch some of the other audience members -- including a few who tagged along with me -- have their eyes opened to the film in new ways by what Fanaka had to say. Clearly a born storyteller -- the tale of his road to UCLA's film program (by way of an aborted auto theft) was priceless -- he talked at length about the subtexts at work in Brother Charles and his goal of using it as a way to burst the myth of physical superiority in African Americans. He ended with an inspiring message to up-and-coming filmmakers, and capped things off by embracing Bruce and thanking him for the opportunity to exhibit Welcome Home, Brother Charles on the big screen again.
The next film caught was Maurice Devereaux's End of the Line. Already familiar with (and honestly indifferent to) Devereaux's earlier catalog of work, Line had caught my attention some time ago here on Twitch and looked promising. Deciding I couldn't let the opportunity to see it on the big screen pass me by, I have to say Line repped a considerable step forward for Devereaux as a filmmaker, even with a few caveats. A few confusing opening segments -- which seemed as though they could be shorn at no great loss (sure there's a scare or two, but they seem less effective without any of the context the film later provides) -- gave way to the tale of a group of people, stranded in the subway, on the run from a religious cult bent on "saving" (read: stabbing) as many as possible before the coming of Armageddon. When the story proper started moving, Line quickly became a tense and exciting piece of survival horror, delivering above-average performances and ample gore within a creative spin on the tired doomsday sect subgenre.
The final feature of the day (in this case night -- around 11:30pm) was the great Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, a classic MFTV from 1973 shown at Dead Channels in a rare 16mm print. One of the few audience members to have already seen Dark, I knew we were in for a treat. Focusing on a wife and husband who inherit a family home and accidentally unleash malevolent forces trapped inside a mysterious room, the film drew as many shudders as chuckles for its old-fashioned presentation and restrained scares. Consistently creative framing and a spooky score and sound design elevated the proceedings, which were capped by a to-this-day terrifying climactic duel between Kim Darby (as nosy housewife Sally) and the trio of small, demonic creatures that dwell inside the home's walls.
August 11th - The second of two blocks of short subjects at Dead Channels, "Short and Really Scary," unspooled on Saturday. Our film Red Harvest ran as part of this section, so we spent the better part of the morning and afternoon trying to relax prior to its start.
The first short, Rhyme Animal, centered on an MC who may be drawing his strength as a rapper from literally consuming the competition (to say nothing of groupies and unsavory promoters). From a conceptual standpoint, the film takes an original tack and gives its characters fluid, believable dialog. With a background in commercials and music videos, director Phil Roc showed surprising restraint behind the camera. The film's only heavy stylization came in the form of drawn "panels" that subbed for more expensive set pieces (a murder, a character trashing their penthouse). With further exploration of its central theme of consumerism in all forms, Roc's proposed feature version of Animal would stand as an interesting addition to the horror genre.
Red Harvest screened next. You can read Michael Gullien's interview with the cast and crew of Red Harvest at Dead Channels here.
Anonymity, a short scene from a proposed feature by director Shad Clark, drops a young woman in a labyrinthine series of corridors as she attempts to evade her hazmat-suited captors. Without context given for its heroine's predicament the film failed to build any real sympathy for its characters, through it did generate considerable tension, particularly in a sequence involving the removal of a pair of hands nailed to a table. Clark has a strong visual sense and understands how to turn the screws on audiences, but whether he can sustain a full narrative remains to be seen; color me curious to find out.
A scathing look at both the film criticism establishment and the realities of modern-day low-budget filmmaking, Criticized followed an unhinged horror director who kidnaps a critic he believes ruined his film's future with a dour, personally insulting review. Beyond it having featured an unbelievably drawn-out suspense sequence which culminated in some of the best eye-related violence this side of Italy's genre golden days, Criticized spoke some real truths related to the lower rungs of the industry. Well-written and sharply edited, Criticized arrived as a real standout.
The final short screened, writer / director Cecil B. Feeder's San Francisco-lensed Meter Maid Me Massacre, was a wild-eyed homage to Troma and a good-natured jab at the city's traffic enforcers. A young man, in the midst of a really, really bad day finds himself embroiled in a long-brewing feud between a martial arts clan and demonic meter maids, under the control of a deadly new parking czar. The film culminated in a rather epic battle wherein our hero saw fit to fix a parking meter in place of his recently severed hand. Good, good times.
In addition to our troupe, the director and star of Criticized and the director of Meter Maid Me Massacre were on hand for the event. Bruce brought the filmmakers up front before and after the screenings, and each chatted briefly about their films and experiences on the festival circuit thus far.
In a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't scenario, we decided to forgo festival-going for the remainder of the evening in order to celebrate a successful screening, spending waaay too much time at Zeitgeist (featured in Meter) before staggering into a diner in the wee hours of the morning.
August 12th - Our final day of film-going saw us catch the other block of short subjects Bruce had programmed. All shot on film with glossy production values, they provided an interesting counter balance to the micro-budgeted shorts screened Saturday.
The first short featured was Phil Mucci's much-heralded The Listening Dead. An exercise in extreme stylization, Mucci managed to nail silent-film aesthetic using a mixture of methods old and new, including miniature photography and rotoscopic animation. Self-financed through his work as a commercial photography, Mucci's labor of love impressed festival-goes with its sumptuous visuals and elaborate sound design. On-hand to help present the film, Mucci was self-effacing and seemed genuinely charmed that audiences had taken to his film with such enthusiasm. Good news for those who haven't seen it yet -- The Listening Dead will appear online on Atom Films this October.
The next segment, Lump, started as a Cronenbergian piece of clinical horror before arriving at a cynical comedic payoff at the expense of the health care complex. A young woman (the excellent Lara Belmont) repeatedly finds a lump in her right breast, despite procedure after procedure to remove it and assurances from her doctors said lump is benign and incapable of spreading or causing her harm. As her condition seemingly worsens, Belmont's character resorts to increasingly far-fetched self-diagnosis and lapses into paranoia. Lump's final image was as jarring as it was sickly amusing.
Akai, a high-gloss vampire tale from Brazil, impressed with its calculated design. A melancholy young man, living alone in an expansive town home, invites escorts over and feeds on their blood; he seems none too happy about his lot in life but does what he must to survive. Director Carlos Gananian has crafted his story almost purely from visuals and allowed his characters only one line of dialog in telling their story. Akai managed to build a compelling spin on familiar themes in an abstract manner.
Providing the most out-and-out fun of this shorts block, Mike Williamson's In the Wall sashayed from Poe to Larry Cohen to Stuart Gordon without batting a blood-encrusted eyelash. In Wall, an abusive father-to-be sets in motion a chain of events around his long-suffering, pregnant girlfriend that culminates in a gory showdown between him and a devilish newborn. At its mid-way point, In the Wall seemed poised to drift into a more suggestive horror story -- absolutely nothing wrong with that, mind you -- but instead veered off into a wild, oft-hilarious gorefest. Such an abrupt shift might have crippled another short subject but Williamson's assured direction and a game cast made it work.
The final short here, Happy Birthday 2 You, was a typically polished Spanish spin on the torture porn subgenre. A young social worker named Clara, distraught over the loss of her son, begins an investigation into a boy she believes is being abused. What she finds when she tracks down his father is something far, far darker at play. Lead actress Laura Dominguez, front-and-center for most of the piece, gave an impressive performance and hinted at something unhinged within Clara herself when things really began falling off the rails in the pic's closing segment.
Our last selection was the feature-length Fingerprints, a low-budget shocker inspired by an urban legend involving a fatal collision between a school bus of children and a train in a small Texas town. Told through the eyes of a young girl returning home after a stint in rehab, the film shifts from being a ghost story to a slasher film halfway through its running time to diminishing results. While the cast -- especially lead Kristen Cavallari -- turned in generally good work, rote dialog, tired scenarios, and an indecisiveness as to what sort of story was being told didn't help the proceedings. Fingerprints had moments and featured solid performances and production values but didn't just didn't jell for me.
We spent the remainder of the evening knocking back drinks with other festival-goers and filmmakers at Delirium and Dalva, two laid-back bars found on the same block as the Roxie 1 and 2.
With that, Dead Channels came to a close for me. There were plenty of titles I regret having missed -- especially Nuit Noire and Trapped Ashes -- a testament to the strong program offered. For a first-time festival Dead Channels really impressed, and I'm excited to see where Bruce and friends take it with subsequent installments. If you're in the Bay Area or nearby and didn't make the trip in for the festival this year, atone for your sins and support the array of Dead Channels-sponsored screenings held throughout the year -- and be there next August!
The Isotope Communique
The Dead Channels Film Festival
Friday, August 10, 2007
Jupiter Love, Spider Baby, Crimes of the Future The Devil Dared Me To, & Zero Population Growth
One only has to peek into the future of Isotope events to get an idea how much my staff and I appreciate the low-rent trashy b-movie flicks that bring out the freaks and fill the screens with horror, sci-fi, and experimental oddities at midnight movie festivals. So you can imagine how much we're looking forward to Dead Channels - the San Francisco Festival of Fantastic Film starting this weekend.
Dystopian future worlds, Albert Einstein's lost journal, hypnotic seductive powers in a drug-infested underworld, flesh-munching undead, New Zealand's greatest living stuntman, supernatural terrors on the loose, strange hallucinations and bodily manipulations, hormone-charged teenagers, an extralegal Gaijin Attack Team, men-in-rubber-suit monster mayhem, high-octane races through classic American car culture, mad dermatologists unleashing cosmetic-spread epidemics that kill every post-pubertal women. the US premiere of notoriously hated director Uwe Boll's latest stinker, and the classic television movie that scared the living Hell out of an entire generation of impressionable latch-key kids... there's something for everybody in this mix of classics and fresh flicks!
G'wan and check out the movie trailers, show times, celebrity special guests, and other high-weirdness hitting silver screens citywide. You know you want to! I'll be at several of these screenings myself (Z.P.G. is a must-see) and so should you.
WIRED: Blog Network
Uwe Boll Interview: 'I'm Not The New Ed Wood', 'You're Not A Good Journalist'
By Chris Kohler
August 16, 2007
At long last, here is Wired News' interview with Uwe Boll. In case you need to be brought up to speed: I saw the premiere of Boll's new film Postal. I didn't like it. Boll responded via email with some interesting suggestions for what my next life goals should be. A brief back-and-forth ensued, and I asked Boll to do a phone interview to tell his side of the story. This morning, we did just that.
Having had a day to think about it, Boll is still of the opinion that I am a bad journalist, but is emphatic that he is not, as his critics have often said, a bad director:
Did I get a word in edgewise during this interview? No. But it's quite alright, as Boll touched on every topic that I'd hoped he would. The entire, unexpurgated, uncensored transcript of the phone call is below.
Uwe Boll: Hello.
Wired News: Hello, this is Chris Kohler.
UB: Yes, hi, hi. Yeah, now we can do this but whatever we say in the interview, you have to, you cannot censor, right?
WN: Of course not. I have no...
UB: And whatever I say, you have to print it how it is, and correct the spelling.
WN: And correct the spelling? Yeah. Well, there's no spelling on the phone. So, it's okay.
UB: Okay, so we can do it, quick, if you want. And look, let me start.
WN: Okay, go right ahead.
UB: Your review, like "bad film director Uwe Boll," or whatever, it's like "bad actor Nicolas Cage," it's... what I think is unfair and pissing me off in that review was basically that it was written in a way ignoring the crowd in San Francisco who reacted very positive about the movie, and basically ignoring all this, putting your own damaging opinions present in a way, your opinion was written in a way that it was: "hopefully this guy goes out of business, hopefully this movie makes no money, and how can I make this: I'll write this review the way it is". That it's a piece of shit movie.
And I think it was a very weak review from your end without any at least trying to see all of the politics and the events of the movie. You ignored the whole Q&A, you ignored the whole political backstory, you ignored basically all. And you don't accept that it's maybe the only movie with a concrete political criticizing, maybe the only movie criticizing September 11 politics in a really, really harsh way. Every other political movie, like Syriana, is going away from the main subject matter. Nobody has the balls so far to really blame Bush and Bin Laden, to really say the names, to really make fun of the whole absurd politics. And I think you ignored that all in your review and you wrote another bad review about Uwe Boll because it's trendy to do this.
So this is my personal opinion from it. And this is what's pissing me, then, so off that I wrote a very harsh and overreacting email.
WN: I see. I mean, from my perspective, I really enjoyed the first scene, I laughed at the first scene, and then from there I thought that the comedy timing kind of went down, and that was sort of how me and my friends felt about it afterwards. And no, I wasn't attempting to destroy you or attempting to destroy the movie. But that was my take on the movie, how I felt coming out of it. And I wasn't going to sit there and go over each individual scene. But as you mentioned, some of the stuff that I felt was kind of a high point... and I think that obviously there were people in the audience who liked it...
UB: Read your own review. You trashed that movie as garbage. You trashed me as, like, untalented guy. Read your own review. You went far over the top. I don't know, if you were choosing a movie like Next with Nicolas Cage or Ultraviolet or Elektra, and you see Postal, and you don't find anything positive in Postal, then fine. I think you're not a good film reviewer, you're not a good journalist, and you are out there in one of the Boll-bashing circles and nothing else is interesting for you.
And posting the whole email correspondence directly on your website, this was your decision, so I don't care, but this shows that you want to get clicks on your website and everything else doesn't matter for you. The same with the interview now, it's only to get more clicks on your website, nothing else. It's not because you thought about it and you think now that you were wrong. You think I'm an idiot, and this is what you basically get out there. But you should not ignore that from the 250 people sitting there, maybe 220 really liked the movie.
WN: I, you know...
UB: And if you read Variety today, in Variety there's a good review today, and maybe you think the Variety guy is an idiot because he has not your opinions. Or mention the San Francisco Chronicle and tons of other people. And I think it was a totally over-the-top unreasonable damaging bad article.
WN: I don't think that you're an idiot, I don't think that Variety, whoever wrote that review, is an idiot, I think that everybody is certainly entitled to their own opinion. If it turns out that everybody else in the world loves Postal and that I'm completely wrong, I've set myself up for that. I've set myself up to be shown as wrong in the eyes of the world.
I guess the real question for you is, you've produced a very satirical movie, you've taken something that people would consider is taboo, September 11, and used it as satirical. Which I think is great, I mean, I think it's really important to show that there should be no boundaries, that you should be able to go as far as you want. At the same time, you want people to accept that this is what you're doing with this movie, that you're going to take taboo subjects and satirize them, but when I sort of take a subject like your movie and end up making a satirical or a funny article about that, I don't have the right to do that? Only you have the right--
UB: No, you have the right to do that, absolutely, but your article was not funny. Your article was only an ongoing insult against the untalented, bad director. Look, to write as a description for a human being, for a director, "bad director Uwe Boll": did you see German Fried Movie, Murder in Geneve, Run Amok, Heart of America, Blackwoods, or Sanctuary? No. You are like the same, like the Boll bashers, you ignore, you wouldn't ignore the early works from David Cronenberg, no, of course not! But you ignore, like all the other guys going off on me on the Internet, my first seven movies! You think everything started with House of the Dead. And I think this is sloppy, and not okay.
WN: Are these...
UB: You should admire that nobody else did what I did in the last ten years. Nobody else on the whole planet, not one filmmaker out of Germany was able to raise money. All the German money went to the Hollywood studios, I was the only guy doing it. I did one movie after the other, not anybody else. I do my own distribution, my own project development, my own financing and everything. Nobody else did that. But in the opinion of the Boll bashers, I'm a talentless idiot. And you see it exactly the same. You don't see a big difference between me and an amateur trash guy who shoots with his HD camera for five bucks a movie! This is what your article shows, and this is exactly the same as what the Boll bashers are writing, and this is wrong. This is totally all completely wrong.
WN: I absolutely...
UB: And this is the thing, I am one of the only independent filmmakers who is doing studio movies independently with huge stars, with big budgets, in technical perfect quality. Perfect quality! And this is the point, Postal is not a cheap movie, everything in Postal, everything in Blackwood, everything in In The Name of the King is Hollywood A-list standard. I have the same crew of I, Robot. The same. Not similar crew, the same crew! Special effects and everything: in Fantastic Four and X-Men, I have the same people working on my movies.
But there is an internet wave, and you support this, which turns the truth into bullshit. And this is totally wrong. I'm not the new Ed Wood. Ed Wood died poor! And had no success. There's only that romantic term that Ed Wood was a genius because of the Johnny Depp movie, not because of Ed Wood. And this is the point, it's completely absurd, and the whole internet bashing is completely absurd and has nothing to do with my movies. And normally, journalists like you should see that and should write that. You can write, I didn't like Bloodrayne, I didn't like Alone In The Dark, I thought they were stupid, and bad acting, whatever, but if you write that the movies look like amateur trash movies, then you are lying on purpose.
WN: I never...
UB: This is the reality. And so I think that you should take what I say really serious and that you should change. It's not me. You should change your point of view about me because it is wrong.
UB: This is the thing, I think Postal had a very good script, works very good, and that if you see the movie twice you will see that there is not one story mistake, nothing. Everything fits perfectly together. And we have great acting and great production values, and it's funny as hell. And that's the reality. And that if you see it different, you can see it different, you should not write in a damaging way, like with a pre-stamp on the article, like, "whatever he's doing is bad." And I think this is unfair. I think you should give every movie a new chance before you review it.
WN: Which is, and I know you don't believe me, exactly what I did. I went in with fresh eyes, I laughed at the first scene, I thought the first scene was excellent, and I felt that it was only after that that things...
UB: If you don't see the social impact of the welfare office scene, the genius satire, if you don't see the job interview, the parody about all of the US government and policies in the companies, if you don't see all this, the scenes with Bin Laden and Bush, the whole ending of the movie, if you don't see all of this, I cannot help you. If you think only the beginning was funny, then I hope only that a lot of the audience sees it different.
UB: But I have to move on. I have too many people standing in front of the theater, I have to go in. Email me what you write up, before you post it. I want to see that.
WN: I'm going to type this up quickly right now...
UB: Okay, thank you. Alright, bye.
WN: Okay, thank you.
[Note: Wired does not send stories to sources before they are published. - CK] http://blog.wired.com/games/2007/08/uwe-boll-interv.html
WIRED: Blog Network
'You Dumb F*ck': Uwe Boll Responds To Our Postal Review
By Chris Kohler
August 14, 2007
Update 1: Boll's publicist writes to respond to Wired News' interview request. After the jump.
Update 2: Boll responds. (Update 3: and responds again.)
Uwe Boll isn't happy with Wired's review of Postal. We attended the US premiere of the game-to-movie director's latest film and didn't find it especially funny. Boll, in turn, doesn't find us especially funny. Here's the email we receieved yesterday evening:
your review shows me only that you dont understand anything about movies and that you are a untalented wanna bee filmmaker with no balls and no understanding what POSTAL is. you dont see courage because you are nothing. and no go to your mum and fuck her ...because she cooks for you now since 30 years ..so she deserves it. people like you are the reason that independent movies have no chance anymore.
PS: POSTAL is R RATED . The MPAA understood the satire -- you not -- you dumb fuck
I take some of what I said back: Uwe Boll can in fact be hilarious! As to Boll's heartfelt concerns, I couldn't let stand the accusation that I am against independent film. Our response is below.
I'm sorry we didn't get to meet at the Postal premiere. I appreciate being invited. I'm sure we'd have had an interesting conversation -- certainly your email has caused no end of enjoyment in the Wired offices this morning.
Although I did enjoy the first segment of Postal, it is true that I think the comedy timing faltered after that and never quite recovered. I can certainly be more specific if you'd like me to. (We did fix the piece with regards to the rating, and regret the error.)
That said, I don't want to leave you or anyone with the impression that I am somehow against independent film in general. I certainly want to see independent, envelope-pushing films distributed. We have the same problems in the video game industry, so I understand where you're coming from.
If you'd like to do an interview by phone and tell your side of the story, you're absolutely welcome.
Any and all requests for boxing matches, meanwhile, will be politely declined.
UPDATE: After sending our response, Wired News received the following email this morning from William Wanstrom, Uwe Boll's publicist:
I would pass on this invite. They will do what the New York Post did. Twist your words.
We can afford to by-pass these guys. We only want press that is fair in their reporting. They will take your earlier reply and work it against you.
Uwe let me reply with a nice thank you but I will inform that your schedule won't allow any more interviews for the time being.
This is a trap and it won't help you with some of the theatre owners if this continues on as a pissing war
These are my thoughts
Wired News reiterates that we would still like to conduct the interview if Boll chooses to participate.
UPDATE 2: Boll responds to his publicist's email.
Chris wrote that article in bad faith to damage me. His whole goal is to destroy my business. If he cannot see that scenes (for example WELFARE OFFICE, Job Interview) are genius in that movie - then there are 2 possibilities: he is dump and has no idea what movies are or he hates me and is dissappointed about his own shitty career.
He ignored also that the audience enjoyed the movie and tons of other critics LOVED it.
Wired News is emphatic that we have no designs on destroying Boll's business and upon further reflection, would add that the Welfare Office scene was a high point.
UPDATE 3: I emailed Boll and his publicist with my replies above, and Boll responds:
chris ...read your own article again .... this has nothing to do with the film ...only with a piss off journalist
I'm sorry you feel that way. I'm actually quite a happy person. I want to point out again that I found the movie's first scene to be quite funny and very nicely paced, but felt that nothing thereafter lived up to it.
Of course, my article was meant to be entertaining and funny -- if, in your estimation, I fell short of that goal, I'll just remember that everyone is entitled to their opinion.
your article is an insult and honours zero the movie, the filmmaker etc.....
I absolutely agree that the review is unfavorable to Postal. However, if I start to consider how the people who make the things I write about will feel about it, I have lost objectivity. My job is to deliver my own analysis of the film and to be as objective as possible. If you don't feel I did my job properly, we do have to agree to disagree here.
Again, I am absolutely open to the idea of a phone interview in which you can lay out your thoughts in more detail.
Uwe Boll has agreed to conduct a phone interview with us tomorrow. Look for more later in the week. http://blog.wired.com/games/2007/08/you-dumb-fck-uw.html
Surfing Dead Channels in SF
Monday, August 13, 2007
Dead Channels film fest kicked off it's first year last Thursday night, August 9'th at the legendary Castro Theater in San Francisco with screenings of the ultra-rare film adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's Happy Birthday, Wanda June and Takahi Miike's Big Bang Love, Juvenile A. But the center of the evenings programming was undoubtedly the U.S. premiere of Uwe Boll's highly anticipated gonzoid comedy Postal (Nomad's review, McCannibal's review).
The film stars Zach Ward (A Christmas Story, Transformers) as Postal Dude, an everyman driven to the edge by an infidelous wife and a dead end job. Co-stars Dave Foley ("Kids In The Hall", "NewsRadio") as Uncle Dave, a shyster posing as a new age guru who draws Postal Dude into a plot to pull a heist on a shipment of coveted "Krotchy" dolls. Then Verne Troyer (yes, Verne Troyer) and Osama Bin Laden get involved and things basically go fucking haywire. Brutally violent and deathly funny, Postal takes a blowtorch to anything and everything deemed "politically correct". Religious, racial, sexual, or political ... no group is spared, Boll snipers each one expertly. Each bullet fired in the film shoots some other real world social convention right in the fucking head.
After the film, the attending crowd also was treated to a Q and A with Mr. Uwe Boll himself, as well as cast members Zach Ward, Larry Thomas (hilarious as Osama Bin Laden) and Michaela Mann. To cap the night off, an after party was thrown at local club 12 Galaxies, where the audience was invited to hang out, have some drinks and meet the people behind Postal up close and personal. We were there repping Nightmare Alley and Dread Central and had a chance to speak with Uwe and Zach on camera, which you will be able to see in our upcoming episode. Not to be cryptic, but let's just say I've never seen an interview done in this setting before...
Dead Channels continued the following day with showings of World Sinks Except Japan by director Minoru Kawasaki (The Calamari Wrestler, Executive Koala) in which, well, the world sinks ... except Japan, as well as short-films package Short And Scary and 50's atomic horror send-up Trail Of The Screaming Forehead (by Lost Skeleton Of Cadavra director Larry Blamirey)
Now for my favorite film of the festival so far, End Of The Line (review). Written, produced, directed, and edited by one man fear factory Maurice Devereaux, End Of The Line plays like a zombie survival-horror flick, but instead of the shambling undead we get worshippers from the Church of Hope, religious zealots hell bent on saving mankind ... by viciously stabbing them to "heaven" on the eve of what they claim to be the Apocalypse.
End of the Line!End Of The Line could very well signal the arrival of another smart and inventive director in the vein of John Carpenter or Neil Marshall with the chops to make some serious impact on the horror genre; I highly recommend seeing this film.
Night two closed out with the inaugural Dead Channels midnight movie as well, and it was a good one! Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark, an old school TV horror film from the early 70's about a young bride being terrorized by demonic creatures in her recently inherited ancestral home. This was one flick I grew up on, and while quaint by today's standards, Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark still features some very effective atmosphere and has a creepiness all it's own.
For a running day-to-day report on the festival, which runs through August 16'th, go check out Jason Watches Movies, an insanely informative and massively cool blog written by uber film nut (and all around great guy) Jason Wiener. Keep an eye out for Jason and Dead Channels coverage on an upcoming episode of Nightmare Alley as well!
Meanwhile, bay area readers get out there and see some of these films! There are still four nights left of Dead Channel's insanely cool programming!
- Sean "The Butcher" Smithson
DEAD CHANNELS: POSTAL--Interview With Uwe Boll
August 12, 2007
In appreciation that Bruce Fletcher programmed his latest film Postal at the historic Castro Theatre as the opening night feature for Dead Channels, Uwe Boll presented Bruce with a t-shirt that read: "This shirt was funded with Nazi Gold."
By way of introduction to Postal, Boll sourced his film to the Running With Scissors video game of the same name, which is allegedly not allowed in Northern territories because you can shoot and piss on children, and Bush and Bin Laden. Basically, Boll enthused, Postal broke all the rules.
At the same time, when he sat down to write the first draft of Postal, Boll was equally broken because Bloodrayne had bombed at the box office. He thought, "Ah fuck" and decided to finally write a script again, like he used to when he started making movies. He was pissed about himself, his career, the reviews, but especially by so much of what is going on in the world, all of which keenly influenced the writing. Postal became not only a movie made out of the video game; but, in a further sense, "Postal is post-apocalyptic."
Boll finds it "kind of funny" that people support Al Gore's movie and the Bill Clinton Foundation--even though it's admittedly a good AIDS foundation--while we're still all moving closer to the edge and down the drain. "Politics," he asserts, "have no power anymore. We're trying to save the Earth but the people that rule us are fucking retards." On one hand, stupid Islamic terrorists are completely flipping out and--on the other hand--Bible Belt retards are completely flipping out. Aid keeps funneling to the weapon and oil industries, and when all these factors come together, "We are in the middle; We go down the drain." His main reason for making Postal was to hit really hard with a film the major studios would never do.
When Postal finally wrapped, Boll showed it to the first major studio who expressed interest in distributing it. The studio's representative laughed his ass off but said, "This is a movie that everyone wants to see but nobody will distribute it. Sorry." Boll persevered and now there is a prospective release date in October; but, he's nonetheless having problems with powers that have political issues with the film who are trying to force him to cut it before they will screen it in their theaters.
Then he got sued by The New York Post. After seeing no more than 20 seconds of the film, The Post published a negative review, labeling it unpatriotic for spoofing the victims of 9/11. Boll countered that what he thought was unpatriotic was sending young people to Iraq to die every day in the streets and that President Bush--with all of his lies--should be in jail for what he's done to this country. Complicating matters, on his flight to San Francisco he checked his Blackberry and found out the MPAA had disapproved Postal's website, demanding its removal before allowing the movie American distribution. So with these purposeful attempts to block distribution of the film, the October release date might be in jeopardy.
Twitch teammate Collin colored himself excited when the first YouTube trailers emerged for Uwe Boll's Postal and Todd followed suit and ate crow, declaring Postal was "brash, bold, smart when called for and stupid when required and--most importantly----frequently and intentionally laugh out loud funny."
Count me among those entertained by this film. Lovers of the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker films (Kentucky Fried Movie, Airplane!, The Naked Gun, etc.) will feel right at home with the film's broad comedy; but, it's the film's punctuated moments of acerbic political satire grounded on the strength of its convictions that lift it above mere slapstick (even if not as often as I would have preferred). Without question, the film's opening sequence is darkly brilliant, enough so to piss off The New York Post.
Protagonist "Postal Dude" (Zack Ward) lives in a rundown trailer park with an obese shrew of a wife in a town pointedly named Paradise. Graffiti on the walls proclaim: "Paradise sucks." I suspect that dispersion refers not only to the setting of our story but to the notions of divine real estate on both sides of the Atlantic--name your faith--both gung-ho intent on achieving Paradise even if it costs us Earth. Hopefully, amidst the laughs, Postal will encourage questioning such ambitious zealotry.
The film was received well by its Castro audience, several of the cast members joined Uwe Boll on stage for a Q&A (which I'll transcribe in due course), and after generously signing autographs and allowing himself to be photographed with fans, Uwe and I sat down for a quick talk.
* * *
Michael Guill--n: Uwe, I'm not a gamer. I don't play video games; but, I do love my comics. So I'm curious what the difference is between adapting a video game into a movie and a comic book into a movie? And how do the respective industries support or not support such film adaptations?
Uwe Boll: There are two things. In a game, you have a lot of visual ideas basically for art design, for fighting styles, for props, wardrobe, even more than you get from a comic book. A game is more "filmish" compared to making a movie out of a comic book. On the other hand, it's tougher to fulfill what you have in a game and bring it all to the screen. Also, on Postal, we could pick only a few things of what you do basically in the game--like the trailer park, the big wife, the cat [as] a silencer, the dog, the welfare office--these things are also in the movie; but, if you don't put them together in a real story, you have no movie. The biggest problem with the videogame-based audience is that they have the movie built in their heads already--they play the game over and over again--so you cannot satisfy these people.
Guill--n: Does that account for the fierce criticism you receive from a constituency you would assume would like your film? They've come to the theater with too many preconceptions?
Boll: Absolutely. You can do whatever you want but you'll [still] get bashed. This is the thing. If I talk to gamers--and I go to game conventions also--I say, "Look, are you not in general happy that someone made a movie out of [this game]?" Right? And then they admire it all; but, I have that feeling also that--the 2,000-3,000 people on the Internet who are constantly kicking my ass are more the people that really don't like it--but, there are maybe 20,000-40,000 people that don't go on the Internet and they are gamers and they like it.
With every movie--House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark or Bloodrayne--in the U.S. alone over a million DVDs [sold], huge numbers. Only big movies like Underworld that make $40-$50 million box office sell [that] amount of DVDs. If nobody likes [my films], I don't know why anybody buys [them].
Guill--n: In your introduction, you touched upon The New York Post lawsuit as a conservative effort to halt distribution of Postal. Is it true that the Red Cross has also sued you? Because of the brief allusion to Dr. Mengele's First Aid Station?
Boll: A company [complained] saying they represented the Red Cross; but, we don't [directly] make fun of the Red Cross in the movie. I think the Red Cross does a great job; but, look, if [we] can't parody, if we can't make a gag out of anything anymore, then what are we doing here? The same with The New York Post. I would not have started that New York Postal website if they wouldn't have written that article about the movie after only seeing 20 seconds of the film on YouTube. I said, "Give the movie a chance. See the whole movie before you write something. Or interview me at the same time you write an article about the 9/11 victims and print what I say about them." But they didn't do that. That pissed me off so I thought, "Okay, let's make fun of The New York Post." [The New York Postal website basically replicated the look of The New York Post with mock news, prompting The New York Post to sue for copyright infringement.] The New York Post is not the best newspaper in the world, yeah? And this is the point, not only freedom of speech but the right to make fun of something. It's allowed. I don't know how many gags I've seen on MadTV or Comedy Central where they use a Coca Cola or a MacDonald's sign and make a gag out of it and that doesn't mean it brands that [signage] as a piece of shit. In a way, The New York Post should be happy that we made a little fun of them.
Guill--n: You gave them a little bit of publicity. Lord knows I've never paid attention to The New York Post before this brouhaha. Speaking of Comedy Central, I understand they are backing you up in trying to help distribute Postal?
Boll: Yeah. I was very surprised by the South Park people. They actually liked the movie and [they said] we can actually use South Park lines and use Postal as a presenter of the new South Park episodes in September. It's great because South Park has power. I hope this will help us a little.
Guill--n: What I admired in your objection to The New York Post article was your criticism of the American canonization of the victims of 9/11. Tragically, they are victims--no doubt about it--but this strategic shift to transform them into victim-heroes hazards dangerous consequences. This subject came up recently for me in an interview with Steven Okazaki and his documentary White Light, Black Rain, where he likewise objected to the tendency to transform victims into heroes or saints. What is that hypocrisy in Americans to sanctify our victims while turning away from--let's say--all the victims at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or the victims in Rwanda and Darfur? Why should our victims be more sancrosanct than the victims of other countries?
Boll: I wasn't in America during 9/11 but I shot Postal after. It was the biggest terrorist attack ever. The whole world was shocked. The whole world was ready to join forces--and did--with America to find the terrorists [and bring them to justice]. But one or two weeks after the attack, in America the political power--the Bush party basically--they turned it into [a strategy] of using that attack to fulfill [their] obligations to the oil and weapons industries. They made something up. It was important to stylize the victims of 9/11 as heroes. Everyone in the World Trade Center was not a victim of a terrorist attack, they were heroes.
Though it's a slightly different subject matter, that's why I was super pissed about Oliver Stone making [World Trade Center]. A guy like him 15-20 years ago--when he was maybe not so desperate to make some money--would never have made a movie like [World Trade Center]. For me, this was a shocking element that Hollywood can now buy an Oliver Stone to make a movie like this; the same guy who did Salvador, JFK, Born on the 4th of July and Platoon, where he criticized American [political policy]. This was shocking. That was also one of the reasons why I [included] that [opening] scene in Postal; to say, look, if everybody says these people are heroes, then one must say the opposite side, even if it's also wrong. You have to play the devil's advocate. You have to present the other point of view.
Guill--n: One final question, you did Postal at the same time you did Seed. How did you handle the two projects together?
Boll: We shot Seed first and then Postal but I wrote both at the same time. Seed was a project I had long in development and Seed is actually like the dark brother of Postal. They are both dark movies; but, in Seed there is no humor. Seed is about the death penalty that suggests maybe we all deserve to be killed; that maybe the planet would be better off without humans. Seed is the bitter, depressing brother of Postal. It helped [to write both at the same time] because in Postal there is also a lot of hate. It helped to write something parallel that was depressing. Otherwise, Postal might have been way more depressing.
Jason Watches Movies
Ongoing festival coverage!
Tune In to Jack Hill
August 08, 2007
The media blitz for the Maddest Story Ever Told is ramping up as Jack Hill makes his rounds to let everyone know a worthy release of his cult classic Spider Baby is on the way (New Spider Baby Hatches - July 12, 2007).
Dead Channels will be one of Jack's stops this weekend on August 12th. "Dead Channels' popular Sleazy Sunday grindhouse revival series returns during the Film Festival with an afternoon double bill presented by the great American indie director/screenwriter Jack Hill. The auteur responsible for Coffy, Foxy Brown and Switchblade Sisters (among others) is providing 35mm prints of his classic Spider Baby and the practically unknown Pit Stop with Sid Haig.
Mr. Hill will discuss his career, new projects and answer any and all questions from the audience. Filmmaker Mark (Evil Eyes) Atkins will moderate the on-stage conversation, and discuss his upcoming collaboration with Mr. Hill." The screening will take place at The Roxie Film Center in San Francisco; Spider Baby at 2:30 and Pit Stop (with Ellen Burstyn) at 4:30, followed by a Q&A.
Coming soon, we too will have an interview with Mr. Hill! To gear up for it, head over to the Evilshop and pre-order Spider Baby!
Thursday, August 9, 2007
Dead Channels: Festival of Fantastic Film In this festival, "fantastic" isn't meant to be a self-aggrandizing adjective - for Dead Channels, it refers to a lineup of "science-fiction, fantasy, horror, action, exploitation and a few weird unclassifiable cinematic gems." Think "Grindhouse," only more twisted. The festival opens with the U.S. premiere of controversial director Uwe Boll's "Postal," an adaptation of a video game. Other festival offerings include a screening of David Cronenberg's "Crimes of the Future." Check Web site for details. Most films are $10. Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., S.F. (415) 621-6120. www.deadchannels.com .
"Mommie Dearest" (1981) In this classic Midnight Mass selection (with a preshow performance of "Trannie Dearest" by Peaches Christ and the crew, featuring Peaches' real-life mother), the intended drama of this film - in which Faye Dunaway plays mean mommy Joan Crawford - is appropriately skewered as high camp. 11:45 p.m. Fri. and Sat. $12. Landmark's Bridge Theater, 3010 Geary St., S.F. (415) 751-3213. www.peacheschrist.com .
From the Tsars to the Stars: A Journey Through Russian Fantastik Cinema As an analogue to the Dead Channels film fest, the Pacific Film Archive is hosting a series about fantastic Russian films. Galaxies far, far away are rendered with amazing ingenuity and beauty: the series starts with "Planet of Storms" (1961), which imagines life on Venus. Other films include "The Amphibian Man" (1961) and "Aelita, Queen of Mars" (1924). See Web site for schedule. $8. Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft Way, Berkeley. (510) 642-1124. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu .
San Francisco Bay Guardian - August 8, 2007
New! Odd! Fantastic!
Dead Channels goes Postal Boll-ing for dollars
By Cheryl Eddy
Rampaging genitalia, families of half-wits, towns shielding deadly secrets, and the end of the world -- yep, there are good times to be had with the selection of new films in Dead Channels: The San Francisco Festival of Fantastic Film. The most buzzed-about title, Uwe Boll's Postal (it's a war-on-terror comedy that pokes fun at Sept. 11, among other topics; Seinfeld's Soup Nazi plays fun guy Osama bin Laden), wasn't available for prescreening. But no matter -- it'll be far more rewarding to see the thing on the Castro Theatre's giant screen, with the notorious Boll in person, at Dead Channels' opening night Aug. 9.
Noteworthy picks include Canadian filmmaker Maurice Devereaux's End of the Line, which offers more jolts per capita than much of Dead Channels' other fare. A sinister dude on the subway is something just about every woman has encountered -- but it only gets worse for a psych-ward nurse (Ilona Elkin) whose commute home coincides with an evangelical cult's realization that the apocalypse is nigh. Piety has seldom been so gruesomely rendered. A more lighthearted look at the end of civilization is crystallized in Minoru Kawasaki's The World Sinks except Japan, in which freaky natural events cause all the continents to sink into the ocean, save you-know-which island nation. World leaders and American movie stars swarm Japan, which is none too thrilled about playing host to so many refugees. The film is a tad overlong, but there are some juicy moments of satire, including a glimpse at a beleaguered Japan's most popular television show -- which basically involves a giant monster stomping on as many foreigners as possible.
More somber is Simon Rumley's The Living and the Dead, which features a mentally challenged lead character (played with precious little showboating by Leo Bill) whose descent into madness is witnessed with horror by his bedridden mother (Kate Fahy). The location is a massive English manor house, as frightening and confusing a spot as End of the Line's subway tunnels. Some creative camera work, including the use of fast-motion footage to demonstrate what goin' cuckoo feels like, makes for a more dynamic thriller than the film's small cast and single setting would suggest.
The most conventional (not always a euphemism for "sucky") Dead Channels flick I watched was Harry Basil's Fingerprints, dubiously notable for the presence of Laguna Beach hottie and US Weekly fixture Kristin Cavallari in a supporting part. (Hey, rolling your eyes expressively is totally what acting is all about!) Somber teenager Melanie (Leah Pipes) gets out of rehab and moves back in with her varyingly supportive family, who've relocated to a bucolic village still haunted by a long-ago train wreck that killed several schoolchildren. Possibly owing to her heroin-tastic past, Melanie proves supernaturally sensitive; after receiving some ghostly nudges, she sets about uncovering the town's long-buried secrets. Fingerprints plays a little like a Lifetime movie with slasher elements, and it also employs the spooky-kid motif that was all the rage in scary movies a few years back. But besides the curiosity casting of Cavallari -- unnecessary bubble-bath scene alert! -- and Lou Diamond Phillips (as a sympathetic teacher), the film is actually pretty entertaining and solid, if inevitably derivative.
Fairly unlike any film you have ever seen before, or will after, is Hot Baby!, the seriously bizarre brainchild of Bay Area filmmaker Jeff Roenning. There's a scene or two that recalls The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and other don't-get-off-the-highway chillers, but mostly it's an over-the-top array of shifting tones and character arcs, with a high schooler (Adam Scarimbolo) curious about his long-absent mother at its center. Plus: sexual-predator hypnotists, vengeful hookers, and doughnut jokes! Maybe even weirder is The Secret Life of Sarah Sheldon, writer-director-star Annette Ashlie Slomka's take on a female mad scientist who conducts her sexually charged experiments with Herbert West--<\d>like focus. The film's interesting premise is hampered by its amateurish execution, but it still features a rather horrifying penis monster -- and what more can you really ask for?<\!s>*
San Francisco Bay Guardian - August 8, 2007
Two great cult movies
Out of the past and into the Dead Channels film fest
BY JOHNNY RAY HUSTON
Wednesday August 8, 2007
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (John Newland, US, 1973). As Grindhouse viewers or true grindhouse aficionados know, starting a title with Don't was once a popular way to strike fear in sleazoids. The fact that Don't Be Afraid of the Dark was made for TV would suggest it's tame -- that is, if the Don't era didn't coincide with the glory, rather than gory, days of frightening TV movies. In fact, this little number is at least as great as Dan Curtis's 1975 Trilogy of Terror, with which it shares some knee-high shocks while being much less campy. Don't Open the Fireplace might be a more accurate if less catchy title, especially since the dark -- not to mention a soundtrack that layers sinister, gnomish voices into a chorus -- is definitely something to be afraid of here. As lead character Sally, Kim Darby realizes this only after her incessant urge to remodel a mansion has taken on Pandora's box connotations.
In every dream home lies a heartache, and in every possessed old mansion lurks the doom of a nuclear family (as in Curtis's 1976 Burnt Offerings) -- or in this case, a frigid, childless couple. This movie is at least as creepy as any manifestation of Takeshi Shimizu's Ju-on (Grudge) series, which updates its conceit. For an extra kick, imagine a remake with Martha Stewart in the lead role! (Johnny Ray Huston)
Fri/10, 11:30 p.m., Roxie Film Center. See Rep Clock
Welcome Home Brother Charles (Jamaa Fanaka, US, 1975). I once thought Jamaa Fanaka's most outrageous movie was 1987's Penitentiary 3. What could be wilder than Leon Isaac Kennedy's character Too Sweet and --bercutie Steve Antin as a sax-playing John Coltrane disciple in a prison overseen by Tony Geary, his receding mullet frazzled by peroxide, with drag queens and a crack-smoking, back-breaking sex dwarf named the Midnight Thud at his beck and call? Well, Penitentiary 3's psycho-racial-sexual parade marked only the baroque era of a one-of-a-kind directorial career that began with efforts such as this flick, a.k.a. Soul Vengeance, which has attained notoriety because it features a certain part of the male anatomy gone extra large and homicidal. There's something crazily brilliant about the way Fanaka literally takes racist stereotypes to their illogical and logical ends. Though his material has been pure pulp, his career deserves to be viewed close to, if not alongside, those of UCLA peers such as Charles Burnett, Billy Woodberry, and Haile Gerima, none of whom has courted or been understood by white Hollywood. Look past the trouser snake, and you'll see a moodily lit credit sequence with a score not dissimilar to Mick Jagger's for Kenneth Anger's Invocation of My Demon Brother and a politicized, funny, angry, and loving use of the color red. Admittedly, most people won't be seeking out this movie for a performance by an actress in a supporting role, but it must be said that Reatha Grey is a natural. (Huston)
Fri/10, 7 p.m., Roxie; Sat/11, 2:30 p.m., Roxie
You and Your Fantasies
By Nirmala Nataraj
If you're more of a film buff than a Trekkie (or if the hard-core comic-book crowd makes you a little queasy), you can get your fill of fantasy flicks in the varsity leagues rather than among the maladjusted at Dead Channels: the San Francisco Festival of Fantastic Film. The festival features a motley assortment of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and experimental film -- everything from matinee-friendly B movies rife with cheeky homages to alien invasions to art-house whimsy for filmaniacs who like their exotica sans the kitsch. Polished jewels include director Mark Robson's Happy Birthday, Wanda June, based on the novel by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. The obscure 1971 classic, which was until recently buried in the annals of Sony Pictures flops, stars Rod Steiger as an explorer who shows up on his wife's doorstep after having vanished into the Amazon eight years before. Her world of normalcy is shattered by A-bomb-wielding subordinates and games of cosmic Russian roulette. Big Bang Love, Juvenile A, the latest from Japanese director Takashi Miike, is another festival highlight, and is sort of the opposite of Vonnegut's kooky badinage. Miike, with his surreal, gruesome fusion of yakuza violence and Freudian sexuality, drop-kicks the conventional cinematic ruses in this movie, which is part cosmic metaphor, part love story, and part prison-break fable. Miike's meticulous attention to mood and detail make seeing his films tantamount to watching a psychic surgery. Dead Channels' selections prove that unclassifiable doesn't automatically mean unwatchable.
The festival starts today with The World Sinks (Except Japan) at 2:30
Spend A Sleazy Sunday with Jack Hill
The San Francisco Festival of Fantastic Film Dead Channels is holding there Sleazy Sunday grindhouse revival this Sunday with Jack Hill in attendance. If you don't know who Jack Hill is you better learn quick. One of the true masters of grindhouse cinema Jack Hill is known for Spider Baby, Coffy, Foxy Brown and countless other cult classics.
Mr. Hill will be at two screenings for his films Spider Baby and Pit Stop. He will be on hand for a Q&A and he will be discussing his career and any other upcoming projects that he may have screaming to be made. If you live in the San Francisco area be sure to hit up the Dead Channels webite for more details.
Also for those of us who live no where near California don't forget that the Spider Baby Special Edition DVD will be hitting shelves on September 25th. Personally I can't wait to get my hands on a copy. Be sure to keep it here because I'm sure we will have a few surprises in store for the release of Spider Baby on DVD.
Cross-published on IndieWire
Monday: Platform //// Bruce Fletcher, Dead Channels and the Living
(Aug 6, 2007)
By Dennis Harvey
After 6 years as Director of Programming for SF Indie Fest and co-founder of its offshoot Another Hole in the Head, Bruce Fletcher decided that well, maybe San Francisco does need yet another film festival -- despite the tongue-in-cheek ixnay on that issue he embedded in Hole Head's name.
Launching what will hopefully be an annual event (with additional events scattered throughout the year) this week, Dead Channels departs from AHITH's primary focus on horror and sci-fi to encompass all kinds of worldwide cult-skewing fun. We checked in with Fletcher to get some kind of grasp on this.
There's Brothers Quay/David Lynch-like surrealism (Belgian "Nuit Noire"), Japanese futurist mayhem ("Freesia: Icy Tears," "The World Sinks Except Japan"), Hungarian "hard-R" animation ("The District!"), "Jackass"-y narrative slapstick (New Zealand's "The Devil Dared Me To"), psychological suspense (from the disturbingly low-key "Disquiet" to the brilliantly manic "Living and the Dead"). Plus ghost stories, slashers, genre spoofs, shorts, and a genius roster of seldom-seen Golden Oldies.
An opening night triple-bill at the Castro (later shows are at the Roxie and Hypnodrome) alone is enough to bend your mind: First up is a very rare screening of 1971's black comedy "Happy Birthday, Wanda June" with Rod Steiger and Susannah York, offered as tribute to recently deceased novelist Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Then the ever-unclassifiable Japanese maverick Miike Takashi's homoerotic prison tale "Big Bang Love, Juvenile A." Finally, the U.S. "director's cut" premiere of bad-taste farce "Postal," with somewhat infamous auteur Uwe Boll in person. Here's what Fletcher has to say.
SF360: Dead Channels is billed as 'the San Francisco festival of fantastic film.' That seems to encompass a very broad range, from straight-ahead genre flicks to more experimental work. Can you give us a general idea of your programming aesthetic?
Bruce Fletcher: Dead Channels is a showcase for entertaining, provocative, intelligent, offbeat cinema with a fantastic and otherworldly nature. Our crew shares a deep, abiding, life-long love of old and new, independent and international fantasy, horror, science-fiction, cult, and extreme arthouse cinema, so we play movies that we would be happy to pay to see in a movie theatre. We're always looking for films that show us things we've never seen before.
Fantastic filmmaking is an extremely important commercial resource in the increasingly homogenous global cultural mythology. What's more, these movies allow confrontational, controversial religious and political philosophies to be put forth to mainstream audiences, even in times of social conservatism.
SF360: Two words: Uwe Boll! Please explain.
Fletcher: We are proud to announce that notorious director of 'House of the Dead,' 'Alone in the Dark' and 'Bloodrayne' (and undefeated internet-critic boxing champion) is coming to present the US premiere of the unrated director's cut of 'Postal.' This is his 13th film and it will defy everyone's expectations. It's brilliant, subversive, offensive comedy classic based on Vince Des' video game. A cult following is virtually guaranteed for this one.
SF360: You've got a great mix of rare revival titles.
Fletcher: We're committed to re-discovering obscure, semi-lost films like Michael (The Mack) Campus' 1972 debut Z.P.G. (Zero Population Growth), with Oliver Reed and Geraldine Chaplin stuck in a dystopian babyless future. Director Jamaa ('Penitentiary') Fanaka will introduce his nearly forogotten 1975 grindhouse jaw-dropper 'Welcome Home Brother Charles.' [Note: May we whet your appetite for this one? Teaser: GIANT STRANGLING KILLER PENIS.)
We feel we it's important to play old 16mm and 35mm film prints before they dissolve into vinegar and disappear forever. Nobody is rushing to strike a new print of 'Don't Be Afraid of the Dark.' We're presenting a beautiful 16mm print of that legendary television movie. It scared the hell out of a generation of latch-key kids when first broadcast on ABC in 1973.
SF360: You're also doing a tribute to Jack Hill, one of the all-time great U.S. exploitation directors.
Fletcher: Yep, 'A Sleazy Sunday Afternoon with Jack Hill' is an afternoon double-bill hosted by the American indie director/ screenwriter responsible for 'Coffy,' 'Foxy Brown' and 'Switchblade Sisters.' He's bringing 35mm prints of his classic 'Spider Baby' and the practically unknown 'Pit Stop,' a racing picture with Sid Haig. [It co-stars a young woman named Ellen MacRae, later known as Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn.]
SF360: Another highlighted program is 'Lost Skeleton of Cadavra' director Larry Blamire's very funny new 'Body Snatchers'-type sci-fi spoof. I was surprised to see it's produced by Ray Harryhausen. He's still alive and active?
Fletcher: Not only is the legendary stop-motion wizard ('Mighty Joe Young,' 'Jason and the Argonauts') active, he's kicking up a storm. He is presenter and co-producer of Blamire's 'Trail of the Screaming Forehead.' He also executive produced Canadian Marc Lougee's animation 'The Pit and the Pendulum,' which plays Dead Channels with 'The Belleville Book of the Dead,' a Parisian take on Will Self's 'North London Book of the Dead.'
SF360: What does the festival have in the way of local work?
Fletcher: This year we've got the world premiere of 'Hot Baby!,' a pitch-black comedy of terrors from Jeff Roenning. Bay Area shorts include Shad Clark's 'Anonymity,' which was just picked to air on IFC's Media Lab; David Kellum's satirical science fiction epic 'Ambassadors Day;' and 'Meter Maid Me Massacre,' Cecil B. Feeder's kung fu/zombie/parking czar splatterfest.
SF360: What are some highlights amongst smaller indie features?
Fletcher: 'Jupiter Love' is an outrageous Australian war of the sexes road movie, DIY filmmaking at its best, and was completely created by the two leads. Simon Rumley's multiple-award-winning 'The Living and the Dead' is an indie masterpiece. And Matthew Doyle's debut 'Disquiet' heralds the arrival of a literate, semi-experimental U.S. filmmaker with a fearless vision.
SF360: You've got several live events that sound pretty exciting. Er...what's the Hypnodrome?
Fletcher: The Hypnodrome is the permanent South of Market home to Thrillpeddlers, who've been performing retro-horror Grand Guignol theatre in San Francisco for over a decade. During the Festival we host two theatrical co-productions with them, Monday August 13's 'Spookshow Salute!' [which in addition to blood-soaked live theatre features a screening of 1967 Boris Karloff vehicle 'The Sorcerers'] and Wednesday's 'Thrillpeddlers Flashback' [likewise featuring psychedelic screen rarities]. Then Friday after the Festival they'll host a glam-rock horror-show romp with Brian DePalma's rock-opera classic 'The Phantom of the Paradise.'
We're also extremely pleased to present a rather unique pairing at the Roxie on August 11. David Cronenberg's practically unseen 1970 second feature 'Crimes of the Future' will be presented on 35mm film with a new score performed live by internationally acclaimed avant-gardists Spoonbender 1.1.1. They're the soundtrack wing of I Am Spoonbender.
SF360: Yours and two other festivals recently announced formation of the North American Fantastic Festival Alliance (NAFFA). What is that?
Fletcher: NAFFA's expanding list of partners currently comprises Montreal's FanTasia, the Alamo Drafthouse's Fantastic Fest in Austin, and Dead Channels. It's a network designed to support the exhibition and distribution of excellent international fantastic filmmaking. We want to assist neophyte filmmakers in navigating an often chaotic and overwhelming film festival submission process, and provide networking opportunities.
SF360: Anything else you'd like to add?
Fletcher: If you buy the Everything Pass, it is actually possible to see all Dead Channels films and the Spookshow.
Pirate Cat Radio - 87.9FM
Dead Channels, the San Francisco Festival of Fantastic Film
August 9-16-Dead Channels, the San Francisco Festival of Fantastic Film- Castro & Roxie theaterss- Dead Channels, the San Francisco Festival of Fantastic Film -http://www.deadchannels.com/index.php
This festival will has some insanely funny and wild movies like 'Postal'
The San Francisco Festival of Fantastic Film celebrates thier opening night gala party on August 9th with an exclusive showing of the Postal movie, a Postal Dude look-a-like contest, and the Postal 2 video game available to play on the big screen! Celebrity guests will include Uwe Boll, Zack Ward, Larry Thomas, (Seinfeld's Soup Nazi), Vince Desi and Mike Jaret! This event will take place at the 12 Galaxies theatre located at 2565 Mission Street in San Francisco. Tickets are $10 at the door, discounts are available through 12galaxies.com online through the Castro Box Office!
Jason Watches Movies
Jason tells you how to see (almost) everything at Dead Channels
It's possible, but not trivial, and here's how you do it (sort of):
[click here for schedule]
Bruce (the founder/programmer of Dead Channels and former programmer of Indiefest and Another Hole in the Head) has made it difficult, I have to see something in every time slot. And, in fact, it's impossible to see absolutely everything. You can see the Thrillpeddlers "Spookshow Salute" at the Hypnodrome Monday night, but not their "Thrillpeddlers Flashback" on Wednesday night.
So, this will be exhausting, we'll see if I survive. I wanted to write more about the actual program. I've already written about how I'm excited to see if Uwe Boll actually made a good movie with "Postal". I also wanted to mention I'm excited about a new Miike film, "Bang Bang Love, Juvenile A" (Miike does a boys-in-prison film?). "Trail of the Screaming Forehead" is by Larry Blamire, who made "The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra" which is one of my favorites. With "Crimes of the Future" I'd thought I'd seen everything Cronenberg did, but this is a surprise from his early career. "Living and the Dead" was one of my top picks from Holehead, and is repeated here. "Z. P. G." (Zero Population Growth) is an old forgotten film from 1972. Bruce told me that when he saw "Children of Men" (another of my favorites) he thought, 'this is a remake of ZPG!', so that's awesome.
Plus there's "Spider Baby", "Gamera the Brave", the old "War of the Worlds". Basically, there's a lot too look forward to. Stay tuned here to see how it all goes down.
Postal Movie Gets Summer San Fran Premiere
Uwe Boll will be premiering the director's cut of his ultimate (one, can only hope) movei, Postal at Dead Channels: The San Francisco Festival of Fantastic Film this August.
The Dead Channel people say that the movie, set to show on Aug. 9, is a "terrific movie" and "laugh-out-loud funny." Why does this sound like the set up for a Borat joke?
Uncle Dave (Foley from The Kids in the Hall and Newsradio) leads a Doomsday Cult whose fund-raising efforts run afoul of Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban - currently headquartered behind a convenience store. Both factions target a shipment of International Superstar Verne Troyer's Krotchy dolls. Elsewhere, Postal Dude is having a really bad day. He catches his morbidly obese wife rocking the trailer with their hillbilly landlord and all Hell breaks loose.
The veteran ensemble cast (including a brilliant cameo by the director as himself) sinks their collective teeth into the tastelessly hilarious script and go for broke. Boll expertly maintains the frantic pacing necessary to handle the vast array of jaw-dropping material onscreen. The non-stop action and creative set-pieces also serve to showcase his directorial skills, technical control and stylistic flair. And Postal is much smarter than it first appears - which never hurts
Anytime a movie's plot has to be described using the world elsewhere I think you can be pretty assured it is going to be absolute crap. Meantime, what the hell was Dave Foley thinking?
Arrow in the Head News
NAFFA is awesome!
Jul. 11, 2007
Sweet news from the FanTasia Festival about NAFFA, the North American Fantastic Festival Alliance! (I too was wishing it was for the National Association For Fantastic Asses, but I assure you that this news is just as cool!)
The alliance will consist of several of the best movie festivals that North America has to offer. Joining this kick-ass movie guild is Montreal's FanTasia (where our very own Arrow is at showing off his sweet-ass shoot em' up DEADEN as well as the sci-fi flick RECON 2022), the Alamo Drafthouse's Fantastic Fest in Austin and rounding out the triad is Dead Channels: the San Francisco Festival of Fantastic Film.
The alliance will help budding film makers navigate the submissions of different festivals as well as promoting the discovery of of challenging and independent work. The alliance will provide professional presentations of short and feature-length 35mm and 16mm films, provide excellent venues for video projection, provide potential for coverage by national and international media, and may provide limited festival and marketing consultation for NAFFA programmed films (on request).
I personally think that this organization is long overdue and a great idea. Coming from someone who hangs with a lot of amateur film makers, I know it's often tough trying to get things recognized by festivals, as well as finding people who are in this business for the art and not just the money.
So if your new to the filmmaking game, or are like me and just really love movies, check out the site for NAFFA, as well as the official sites below that form the triforce of festival powers that make up NAFFA.
Screw it! Let's see some fantastic asses anyways!
Dead Channels brings overlooked films to light.
by Christine Ryan
July 26, 2007
It all began, says Bruce Fletcher, at the drive-in. "My parents took me to a marathon of all five Planet of the Apes movies--it changed my life." Thanks to that summer evening in Alberta, Canada, back in 1974, SF's cinematic landscape has been morphing too. After six years as director of programming for SF Indiefest--and helping to launch its sci-fi/horror spin-off, Another Hole in the Head--Fletcher is striking out on his own this month with Dead Channels: The SF Festival of Fantastic Film. That's "fantastic" as in fantasy, though many of the flicks are also fantastic as in good. Of course, not everyone agrees. Fletcher, who has the looks and laugh of Philip Seymour Hoffman, says, "I've stood outside the theater and had audience members come up and go, 'That was the worst film!'" I'm like, 'Yeah, but was it interesting?' I'd rather play a film that is flawed but memorable than a competent something-I've-seen-before."
What this will translate into, starting August 9, is anything from Uwe Boll's Postal ("the most controversial film you will ever see," promises Fletcher--Seinfeld's Soup Nazi plays Osama bin Laden) to Welcome Home Brother Charles (a blaxploitation classic about a killer with a prehensile penis) to the little-seen David Cronenberg short Crimes of the Future. (The festival's name is itself an homage to Cronenberg's Videodrome.) But why focus on fantasy? "It's a neglected genre that is perhaps the most important in the history of film," Fletcher says. "My artsy-fartsy comrades don't see it that way: 'The Matrix, what a piece of trash'--well, no, it's a gnostic examination of reality, thank you very much. Fantastic films rule our popular imagination and help shape the culture."
Fletcher's working hard to imprint his view on the next generation. "I was the guest lecturer at Creepshow Camp"--a summer children's program run by the SoMa theater troupe Thrillpeddlers. "I said to the kids, 'Movies shouldn't be seen on TV--they should be seen in theaters. Does anybody know why?' And one of the kids said, 'Because it's a shared experience?' And I was like, 'Dude, you are one brilliant little 11-year-old and you're gonna have a long career in the arts.'" Look for his film festival, coming in 2040 to a theater near you.
Dead Channels: The San Francisco Festival of Fantastic Film, Aug. 9-16, Castro Theatre and The Roxie New College Film Center.
//// Dead Channels Film Festival -- Aug. 9-16
This festival is San Francisco's first annual compendium of the best in international fantastic filmmaking. Includes live accompanied performance to David Cronenberg's "Crimes of the Future" as well as the U.S. Premiere of Uwe Boll's "Postal." More at Dead Channels.
July 11, 2007
Also set: the schedule for Dead Channels, a festival of fantastic film running from August 9 through 16 in San Francisco.
Speaking of which: "One of the things that comes up from time to time when doing festival programming here in North America is the lack of a local equivalent to the European Federation of Fantastic Film Festivals, an organization that pools the resources of several festivals to help operate the festivals efficiently, give them a collective pull with distributors that they may lack individually and give film makers a central organization that can help them navigate the submission process to get their films seen," writes Todd at Twitch. "Well, it's lacking no more, with Fantasia, the Fantastic Fest and San Francisco's Dead Channels banding together to launch the North American Fantastic Festival Alliance."
Fantastic Fest Part of New NAFFA by Matt Dentlers
Posted to The Festival Circuit on Jul 11, 2007 at 4:59PM
Austin's own Fantastic Fest (for which I program a few titles each year) is one of three events in the recently-announced North American Fantastic Festival Alliance. This may seem an odd thing to some, but the European genre festivals (Sitges, Fantasporto, etc.) have had their own alliance for years. While there is still much collaboration and communication between the North American and European alliances, this is a great step at bolstering the genre festival scene in this part of the world (where it is much harder for these kinds of events to get noticed). Todd at Twitch has more. Posted to The Festival Circuit on Jul 11, 2007 at 4:59PM http://blogs.indiewire.com/mattdentler/archives/014010.html
Ghastly Gatherings :: The NAFFA Fest Forces Unite! ::
Montreal's hallowed Fantasia Film Fest
Austin, TX's Alamo Drafthouse's Fantastic Fest
San Francisco, CA's new Dead Channels Film Fest
On their own these three film celebrations are forces to be reckoned with, as are their creators. Mitch Davis, Tim League, Bruce Fletcher, and Dan Simpson are all respected names among the horror/exploitation/genre fest set as well as the archivists' community. These amazing guys and their organizations have joined forces to galvanize the burgeoning genre festival communities and give filmmakers and fans easier access to each other with their newly founded North American Fantastic Festival Alliance.
"The North American Fantastic Festival Alliance is a network designed to support the exhibition and distribution of excellent international fantastic filmmaking in North America. NAFFA can assist neophyte filmmakers to navigate the chaotic, and often overwhelming, film festival submission process by providing useful information and invaluable networking opportunities. Our website provides emerging and established imaginative artists with access to an Alliance of acclaimed festivals that actively support the discovery and promotion of challenging independent work."
To illustrate, this also means that indie filmmakers won't have to pay submission fee after submission fee. That's an expense that can really bite someone in the ass who has spent all his money and maxed out his credit cards to make a film in the first place.
Also, are you worried about paying theater prices and getting a DVD projected onto a big screen, which is far too often the case? If you are like me, then you crave the warmth and luminescence of real honest-to-god celluloid. Thankfully, the following statement speaks to the understanding of the discerning film geek: "NAFFA is comprised of professional North American festivals dedicated to presenting the best new independent and international fantasy, science fiction, horror, animation, exploitation, experimental and cult movies, as well as selected retrospective programs. Member festivals are committed to the aesthetics (and history) of 35mm and 16mm film presentations and will present film prints whenever possible. NAFFA festivals are run by people who like to have a good time in a movie theatre."
[Todd Browning's FREAKS voice] One of us! One of us! One of us!
So filmmakers and fans, go hit the NAFFA site up and join. And if you are in Montreal, San Francisco, or Austin, get your asses to some screenings as well! Here's the info...
Fantasia: July 5-23, 2007, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Dead Channels: August 9-16, 2007, San Francisco, California, USA
Fantastic Fest: September 20-27, 2007, Austin, Texas, USA
The North American Fantastic Festival Alliance is also recognized by the European Fantastic Film Festivals Federation.
And keep your eyes peeled for the drop on the Dead Channels program schedule here in the news. If you are in the San Francisco Bay area in August, you are in for one helluva treat! Bloody, twisted, and all-out wierd ... but a treat nonetheless!
- Sean "The Butcher" Smithson
Behold! The North American Fantastic Festival Alliance Is Born!
July 11, 2007
This is primarily of interest to festival geeks such as myself but believe me when I say this is good news. One of the things that comes up from time to time when doing festival programming here in North America is the lack of a local equivalent to the European Federation of Fantastic Film Festivals, an organization that pools the resources of several festivals to help operate the festivals efficiently, give them a collective pull with distributors that they may lack individually and give film makers a central organization that can help them navigate the submission process to get their films seen. Well, it's lacking no more, with Fantasia, the Fantastic Fest and San Francisco's Dead Channels banding together to launch the North American Fantastic Festival Alliance. You can read on for the full press release or visit the website here.
Film festivals in Montreal, Austin and San Francisco partner to form the North American Fantastic Festival Alliance
July 11th, 2007
For Immediate Release:
Three film festivals that showcase and celebrate provocative, intelligent and entertaining fantastic filmmaking have joined forces to create the North American Fantastic Festival Alliance.
NAFFA's expanding list of partners currently consists of Montreal?s FanTasia - North America?s premier genre film festival - along with the Alamo Drafthouse?s Fantastic Fest in Austin and Dead Channels: the San Francisco Festival of Fantastic Film.
The North American Fantastic Festival Alliance is a network designed to support the exhibition and distribution of excellent international fantastic filmmaking in North America. NAFFA can assist neophyte filmmakers to navigate the chaotic, and often overwhelming, film festival submission process by providing useful information and invaluable networking opportunities. Our website provides emerging and established imaginative artists with access to an Alliance of acclaimed festivals that actively support the discovery and promotion of challenging independent work.
-- provide professional presentations of short and feature-length 35mm and 16mm films,
-- provide excellent venues for video projection,
-- provide potential for coverage by national and international media,
-- may provide limited festival and marketing consultation for NAFFA programmed films (on request).
NAFFA is comprised of professional North American festivals dedicated to presenting the best new independent and international fantasy, science fiction, horror, animation, exploitation, experimental and cult movies, as well as selected retrospective programs. Member festivals are committed to the aesthetics (and history) of 35mm and 16mm film presentations and will present film prints whenever possible. NAFFA festivals are run by people who like to have a good time in a movie theatre.
The North American Fantastic Festival Alliance is recognized by the European Fantastic Film Festivals Federation: www.melies.org
FanTasia: July 5 - 23, 2007, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Dead Channels: August 9 - 16, 2007, San Francisco, California, USA.
Fantastic Fest: September 20 - 27, 2007, Austin, Texas, USA
Nightlife - June 1, 2007
by Melissa Goldstein
"'Dead Channels' Sleazy Sundays is a road show-style movie screening held at the Victoria Theater. Three rare psychotronic classic grindhouse films (from the '50s to the '90s) are screened from original filmstock."
Wednesday: Found //// "The Prodigy," The Roxie, Delirium, God (May 30, 2007)
By Michael Guillen
San Franciscans have a poignant symbiotic relationship with William Kaufman's freshman feature "The Prodigy." This genre hybrid -- which Film Threat's Mike Watt has aptly described as "a crime movie that plays like a horror movie" -- had its world premiere at the Roxie Film Center during the 2005 Another Hole in the Head Film Festival. Then-SF Indiefest programmer Bruce Fletcher added "The Prodigy" to the festival's line-up even though, by his own admission, "it didn't really fit." Notwithstanding, San Franciscan audiences ate it up, encouraging other festivals to follow suit.
Two years later The Prodigy accepted Bruce Fletcher's invitation to return to San Francisco's Roxie Film Center for a weeklong run; this time under the aegis of Dead Channels. Particularly noteworthy is that this is the film's only North American theatrical distribution before it leaps into DVD sales through Fireside Releasing. Once again, San Franciscans have championed the film, for which they should be rightfully proud.
Attending opening night at the Roxie run last Friday, May 25th, were the film's director William Kaufman, actors and co-writers Holt Boggs and Matt Beckham, actor and associate producer Diana Lee Inosanto, co-producer Colby Mitchell, and editor/cameraman Russell White. Driving up from Los Angeles they got caught in holiday traffic and arrived late to our scheduled interview; but, once they introduced the film and got it going, we wandered down the street to Delirium for beer and informal conversation.
I was, of course, curious why it took San Francisco to give this film its U.S. theatrical distribution and Kaufman explained that, though released internationally in pretty much every country from the Middle East to Africa to Asia, the film was tied up domestically in rights disputes. It wasn't until December that they re-secured their rights and groomed the film for DVD distribution.
Admittedly, "The Prodigy" is not for everyone. It's a brutal ride, which in itself will satisfy an appetite for action and mayhem; but, to its credit, the film appeals on deeper levels. Its stylized violence is only the surface sheen. As an independent feature produced on a shoestring budget by nine first-time filmmakers, The Prodigy achieves a look and sound Film Threat claims is "as slick as any Hollywood lackluster." It's a must-see effort by anyone wanting to work outside the studio system. First-time cinematographer Mark Rutledge, sound designer Russell White, and fight choreographer Ron Balicki combined forces to create a visceral film dense with atmosphere.
But past its top notch production values, and what Variety's Dennis Harvey terms its "pure creeps [and] combustive thrills," "The Prodigy" masters the crime and horror genre formats in the tradition of Michael Mann, Walter Hill, and David Fincher, acknowledged influences on director Kaufman. I came to the Delirium discussion armed with a fascinating Flower Wild transcript of an examination by critics Chris Fujiwara, Mark Roberts, and Shinjiro Kinugasa regarding "Crime and the American Genre Film"; a must-read for aficionados of this genre.
The theme of their discussion is that cinematic citation is a form of theft -- and the genre film is the result of quoting or even stealing elements from previous films. Confirming that Kaufman had indeed set out to make a genre film, he admitted his longstanding respect for the films of Michael Mann and -- although "The Prodigy" deftly tips its hat to Mann's "Manhunter" (1986) and "Heat" (1995) -- the film most closely emulates Robert Harmon's "The Hitcher" (1986) in its unflinching portrayal of evil as an unstoppable force of nature and its corrosive influence on the heart of an innocent; one might say its transfer of evil into the heart of an innocent.
There is likewise the obvious reference to Claude Rains in "The Invisible Man" (1933). Not only is the assassin in "The Prodigy" nicknamed Claude Rains but -- like the scientist in James Whale's classic -- he has found a way to become invisible though, in doing so, has become murderously insane. Kaufman amplifies the citation by intentionally modeling his assassin's wardrobe after that of Claude Rains in "The Invisible Man."
Kaufman's citations are not only cinematic, however. In his effort to create a criminal verisimilitude, the director chose several key locations due to their history of criminal activity. Their main location -- the Denison Hotel in Denison, Texas -- was reputedly a notorious hide out for famed bank robbers such as Bonnie and Clyde and John Dillinger. Those spectral influences lend a nefarious grittiness to the film's atmosphere. Likewise, several of the thugs in the opening gun battle sequence were ex-cons. At one juncture, in fact, the producers had to verify that shooting the guns in the film didn't interfere with any of their parole requirements.
Yet another point culled by Fujiwara, Roberts and Kinugasa is that the petty crooks depicted in the crime genre frequently rise above failed capers to reference and question the value of what's being stolen and the social issue of who is stealing from whom. Certainly, they prompt us to question why the person is stealing, since money only has the power that we give it. An excellent example of this would be Alfred Hitchcock's skilled misdirection in "Psycho," where we are led to focus on Marion Crane's theft of the money from her employer's safe, only to have that same money wrapped up in a newspaper and tossed into the trunk of a car emptied into a local bog. Hitchcock has us recognize later that the concern with the money is not the real story; the real story is Norman Bates and his mother. Comparably in "The Prodigy," the film's opening sequence is a standoff between two rival gangs warring over money and drugs that devolves explosively into something altogether different. Assassin Claude Rains shows up during the ensuing gunfire to make clear that his interest is in neither the money nor the drugs; it's the soul of Holt Boggs' character Truman Fisher he's after. After stalking Truman for years, he has appointed him a worthy successor to his reign of terror and anointed him with blood.
There's also a citation here to a theme frequently explored in crime dramas; that of generational styles of criminal codes of honor. Like Lee Marvin in John Boorman's "Point Blank" (1967), an "old-style" criminal comes in to "clean up" the petty thieves and less-accomplished criminals, reminding them how it's really done. "The Prodigy's" assassin does exactly that and, in the process, suggests to Truman Fisher parameters to his potential that he'd never considered.
At this juncture Kaufman invited Matt Beckham to inform the discussion since he was brought in as a co-writer to fill out Claude Rains' backstory and to clarify his motivations. Beckham configures Rains as an ex-military man, possibly from Iraq, who has done things and seen things that have eventually driven him insane. In a way Rains is the perfect embodiment of a serial killer, Beckham explains. Specifically he has a Messiah complex that he projects out on the world to justify the dark deeds that he has done. As a young man he was a soldier who killed for his country. He looked for a way to justify the killing he did so well. His rage at a God who would allow such death turned darker still to embrace a vision of God which he himself created, a vision that allowed him to be God's servant or -- as Gnostic scholar Elaine Pagels might state it -- God's satan. The term "satan," Pagels has written, referred to an angel sent from God to be an adversary to the righteous before it came to personify the Christian Devil. It's at this level of "The Prodigy" that the film opens up into a provocative examination of the existential nature of evil; an examination that I think will ensure "The Prodigy's" shelf life for years to come.
Confirming that Beckham had indeed considered the story of Job when characterizing Rains' philosophy -- most notably in the tagline "If God uses suffering to refine us; then why blame the Devil at all?" -- the storyline of "The Prodigy" carries through. Presuming that Truman Fisher can carry on his "mission," Rains sets out to destroy all emotional attachments that might prove as obstacles. He kills off Truman's brother, his colleagues, eventually the woman he loves, to break down all physical and psychological resistance to the assignment at hand. "The Prodigy" becomes a whirlwind of a movie that denies protest against darkness, claiming evil to be inextricably intertwined with the good.
If the Christian imagery doesn't suffice, Beckham incorporates Taoist imagery as well. Rains considers himself the black spot in the middle of the white in the Yin and Yang symbol, Beckham explains. Through his dark acts the white looks all the brighter. Good works its muscles and in his dark mind, he grows stronger by pushing back against the evil he does.
Finally, as Fujiwara, Roberts, and Kinugasa suggest, the world is made of glass. "This means two things," they say, "it means that it's very breakable, fragile, that you could fall through at any moment, but it also means that you can see through it, that surfaces are meant to be seen through." The film's final sequence of a corpse whose eye sockets have been inlaid with mirror shards seems specifically to address that most fundamentally disturbing of reflections.
San Francisco Bay Guardian - May 23, 2007
Every year Another Hole in the Head (whose fourth edition opens next week) premieres a few nicely nasty little genre items that are almost invariably never heard from again until they surface on some minor DVD label. It's taken two years, but at least this Texas-shot, Super 16 indie by director William Kaufman is getting one more chance on the big screen. The Prodigy mixes underworld crime melodrama and serial-killer horror to familiar but zesty results. Truman (Ben Affleck-looking coscenarist Holt Boggs) is a mob enforcer posing as a cop when he becomes the sole survivor of a syndicate massacre perped by a killer known only as Claude Rains because he's so elusive he's like the Invisible Man. This triggers more and more violent reprisals, with Claude gleefully stringing along the protagonist by imperiling his sidekicks and loved ones. Writing-wise, the movie is just fair, with pedestrian dialogue, routinely conceived characters, lame pop culture banter, etc., at times making it too plain that this film's real forebears are Reservoir Dogs and Se7en. But in execution, The Prodigy often rocks. On modest means, Kaufman and company manage excellent cinematography and atmospherics, punishing fight choreography, and dynamic action set pieces. The whole two-hour flick probably cost less than 30 seconds of one car chase in any Michael Bay movie -- and it sucks a whole lot less. (2:00) Roxie. (Dennis Harvey)
SFist Encore: The Prodigy
May 21, 2007
Almost two years ago, an action movie fan who at that point went by the moniker "SFist Eve" gave a rave review to a little indie-noir film called The Prodigy and subsequently managed to drink herself into a stupor with the director and the movie's star, garnering herself some friends for life.
Well, SFist Eve, who now goes by the name "San Francisco Chronicle Blogging and Interactive Editor," passes along the word that The Prodigy is finally opening in wide release and will be playing at the Roxie from May 25-31. So we're reprinting Eve's review here to get you in the mood! (And Eve, maybe not so heavy on the sauce when the guys come back to town for the premiere, okay?)
First we saw the world premiere of The Prodigy, a first effort from almost everyone involved that looked anything but. Mining the same territory as Saw and Seven (we refuse to do that dumb number thing in the middle of the word), we're halfway convinced that director and writer William Kaufman is the bastard progeny of David Fincher and Luc Besson (with maybe a little Tarantino around the edges), so strong were their imprints on the film.
The rest of Eve's review after the jump! Do you think the lead actor looks kind of like Ben Affleck too?
Exciting new face Holt Boggs (compared to Ben Affleck in the post-film Q&A; we don't really see the likeness, but if a resemblance to Affleck helps "get him in the door" we're all for it) plays Truman, a failed boxer and mob enforcer who becomes the prey of the ultimate bad-ass assassin, with lots of loved (and an equal number of unloved) ones dying horrible deaths along the way.
This movie gives us everything we want from this type of genre film: excellently choreographed kick-ass fights (both hand-to-hand and gun varieties), relentless suspense, and just enough "oh s**t he's right behind you!" moments. IndieFest Programming director Bruce Fletcher said it best when he said "this film deserves an audience." Not to get all Designer Impostors on you, but if you like hard-core action films like The Professional, we promise you'll appreciate this film.
DEAD CHANNELS--REVIEW of The Prodigy
by Michael Guillan, May 19, 2007
Usually when you think of child prodigies, you envision mastery over a piano or a violin, not murder. This action thriller starts off with a video interview with a young kid being asked what he feels about violently hurting others. "I don't," he states flatly staring into the camera. This catches the attention of assassin Claude Rains who admires the kid's candor and obvious talent for coldblooded mayhem. He appoints him his successor and anoints him with blood.
Mike Watt at Film Threat was perhaps the first person to promote William Kaufman's The Prodigy, way back in October 2004. I'd be curious to know how he accomplished this since the film didn't actually have a world premiere until horror impresario Bruce Fletcher nabbed it for San Francisco's (Yet Another) Hole in the Head Film Festival in early June 2005. Notwithstanding, Watt kickstarted the praise by stating The Prodigy was a crime movie that played like a horror movie. Hell, he called it "a little come-out-of-nowhere masterpiece" and fervently opined: "If there is any justice in the business, when The Prodigy starts making its festival rounds, a studio with clout and integrity will pick up this little gem and allow the principals to pay back their supporters and themselves."
So much for justice. The Prodigy premiered at Holehead in San Francisco, Fletcher took it to the Idaho International Film Festival, it played the Raindance Film Festival in London, England, and had already gained a following at private screenings in Dallas. Yet it's never had an official U.S. distribution so--before its Fireside Releasing launch on DVD later this month--Fletcher stepped in once more to champion the film by running it at the Roxie Film Center under the aegis of Dead Channels from Friday, May 25 through Thursday, May 31. I encourage you to catch it on a large screen like it's meant to be seen and to take advantage of director William Kaufman and actor and co-writer Holt Boggs opening night apperarances.
When Dennis Harvey caught the film at Holehead and reviewed it for Variety, he tempered his reservations with genuine enthusiasm: "William Kaufman more than compensates for sometimes murky tale's familiar genre elements with punchy ultra violence, vivid atmosphere and a first-rate tech sheen on a smalltime budget." Sheen is the perfect word. The stylized look of this film is nearly hypnotic, even if sometimes confusing. The Prodigy has cult clout.
So it turns out the young kid who doesn't feel when he harms others is protagonist Truman Fisher (Holt Boggs) as a young boy. Whatever plans he might have had to give up his criminal life and settle down with his squeeze Nicki (Mirelly Taylor) goes out the window when mythic assassin Rains shows up to begin his initiatory training. He's been tracking Truman all these years and wants him to take over his reign of terror. He's nicknamed Claude Rains because he's an "invisible" hitman who, as Watt states it, "makes hardcore criminals eat their vegetables." Apparently, along with the nickname, Rains' wardrobe was intentionally modeled after that of the Invisible Man in the 1933 classic. Thus, all the taglines rush in where angels fear to tread: "Sometimes what you are looking for ... is looking for you"; "Every man has a dark side ... One man's dark side is about to be awakened"; and "If God uses suffering to refine us; then why blame the Devil at all?"
C.G. Jung's answer to Job seems particularly relevant while staring into this dark and violent whirlwind of a movie and Holt Bogg's character Truman Fisher is precisely ensnared in Job's biblical dilemma. Boggs--who has been likened unto Ben Affleck--deserves a classier comparison than that. I'd say he looks more like a young, thin Orson Welles. He's the film's "true find", its "star", infusing his morally-ambiguous character "with a depth and intelligence not usually found in low-budget crime thrillers (or big budget ones, for that matter)" (Watt again) and I hope to see his upcoming performances in Road To Red (in post-production) and Tenebrous (filming) soon.
When an independent first feature looks this good and is this compelling, it deserves the support of its audiences. If you're a fan of independent film, vote with your bum in the seat. Likewise, my vote goes to Bruce Fletcher and the quality he's continuing to bring San Francisco through Dead Channels.
GOPOSTAL.COM - May 6th, 2007
The Dead Channels press release announcing the San Francisco Postal screening posted on Running with Scissors Official Postal 2 Website.
Thursday: Experience //// Dead Channels : The San Francisco Festival of Fantastic Film (Apr 19, 2007)
By Dennis Harvey
Reports have it that that some oblivious patrons of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's "Grindhouse" are walking out midway, thinking their evening over, and prompting a planned re-release of "Death Proof" and "Planet Terror" as separate features. Most, no doubt, assumed "Grindhouse" was just a cool name suggestive of the kind of major bodily harm you'd expect from a movie as violent (if often comically so) as this one, not a reference to the actual exhibition location of low-budget horror, action, and sexploitation features of the '70s and early '80s. Grindhouses were --really, there aren't any left -- typically dilapidated theatres in downtown or run-down urban areas. To audiences of overwhelmingly male winos, dealers, dozers, and the odd genre-film buff, they showed double or triple bills of movies the respectable mainstream barely knew existed. By which I mean early '60s "nudie cuties," schlock horror, "cautionary" expos--s of drug excess, "mondo" movies, European softcore, martial arts imports, etc. Anything that traded chiefly in sex and/or violence, usually screened continuously from early morning until midnight, if not 24/7. These flavorsome environs were invariably dark (thank God, since who wanted to know why the floors were always so sticky?), filled with spontaneous audience outbursts, occasional fights, and the odd drunken pratfall. Probably the last real one in SF was Market Street's late, beloved Strand, where I enjoyed numerous memorable experiences... not all of them cinematic.
One was hearing a yelp of pure hellfire terror from some poor addle-brained soul when Tim Curry's very convincingly rendered horned-Satan character flashed onscreen in the preview for Ridley Scott's fantasy "Legend." (The Strand mixed upscale genre items with campy, sexy, and trashy ones in its later years.)
Another was during an Alexander Jodorowsky bill. Going to the men's room (always a little scary at the Strand), I found my urinal neighbor costumed exactly like the avenging-spaghetti-western-Jesus hero of the director's "El Topo," leather-hatted head to floor-length leather-duster toe. Woo hoo!
"The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" premiered at a grindhouse, no one thinking at first that it could possibly travel above the lowest theatrical-circuit rung. Such now cult-adulated no-budget auteurs as Andy Milligan, Radley Metzger (before he went porn) and Russ Meyer saw most of their movies released straight to U.S. grindhouses. (Or drive-ins, in the case of Herschell Gordon Lewis' notorious 1963 gore landmark "Blood Feast.")
These disreputable but beloved emporiums faded out in the '80s, however, shuttered by a mixture of urban renewal, home video, and the wind-down of movies produced for such "specialized" audiences. These days even the few remaining drive-ins show first-run mall flicks -- a sad state of affairs, if you ask me.
You can taste a bit of the vintage grindhouse experience this weekend, however, as the last of Dead Channels' "Month of Sleazy Sundays" brings together three vintage features from three very different aspects of grindhouse history. They comprise an eccentric, tasteless, and delightful triple bill of movies that passed well under the mainstream radar when first released.
First up is Dwain Esper's beyond-belief 1934 "Maniac," an allegedly serious look at the social problem of mental illness that managed to incorporate a catfight between two hypodermic-wielding women, a madman plucking and eating a cat's eye, and a rapist who thinks he's a gorilla. Plus of course some fleeting nudity... and "hallucination" footage stolen from Benjamin Christensen's "Witchcraft Through the Ages" and Fritz Lang's "Siegfried"! This was what "Adults Only" films had to offer in the '30s -- maximum lurid sleaze, but nothing sexually explicit. ("Stag reels" a.k.a. "Saturday night smokers," the actual porn of the time, were only shown at private parties and men's clubs, far from the law's prying eyes.)
The South has always lived by its own rules, and for a while in certain lowbrow circles it had its own cinema as well. These were micro-budgeted features made almost exclusively for the Southern (largely drive-in) circuit -- Herschell Gordon Lewis' famous pioneering gore flicks, starting with 1963's "Blood Feast," among them. Another was the astonishing "Shanty Tramp," which I'm here to tell ya you've just gotta see. Watching it is like the first time with, say, "Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" -- you'll keep thinking, "Ho-mi-gawd, is this the best movie ever made?"
In the '70s, a new breed of country-bumpkin action flicks and sexploiters marked by rawed-up "Hee-Haw"-style humor occupied the same space. The titles were at least as, er, flavorful as the movies: "Tobacco Roody," "Midnight Plowboy," "Country Cuzzins," "The Pigkeeper's Daughter" (a personal fave).
Dead Channels' second feature on the 22nd is 1971's "Preacherman," which was a big hit beneath the Mason-Dixon line for many years. As with many films in the regional genre, it involves a man of the Lord (writer-director-producer Albert T. Viola) who hypocritically lusts after both hotpants'd hillbilly womanhood and cold hard cash. The North Carolina feature is pretty shameless -- at one point it's suggested that a character is having unnatural intimacy with a chicken -- but primarily comic. You've got to wonder if some of the "plain folk" used as extras or amateur supporting players had any idea what they were getting into. Imagine the pileup of lawyers that would be involved if anything similar happened today.
The blaxploitation vogue of the '70s had its share of major-studio cash-ins, but it was a refreshingly equal-opportunity affair in that the sex and violence its audience expected could be served up just as well by independent, low-budget filmmakers; star salaries and elaborate production values were not required. Striving to outdo one another, many of these movies were deliberately outrageous, from Rudy Ray Moore's hilarious tongue-in-cheek vehicles () to the myriad amped-up, dirtied-down knockoffs of mainstream hits ("Black Godfather," "Black Shampoo," etc.). (1974's "Abby" was so blatantly an "Exorcist" imitation that Warner Bros. tried to legally block its release.) A few movies were just off in an orbit of their own: A particular cult fave is Jamaa Fanaka's 1975 "Soul Vengeance," whose hero takes revenge on the rich white jerks who ruined his life by... er, well, let's just say a doctor at one point exclaims "His penis had grown to frightening limits!"
There's a similar I-can't-believe-someone-actually-made-this quality to the same year's "The Black Gestapo." Fed up with white gangsters who run the drug and prostitution businesses in an African American neighborhood, beating up anyone who gets in their way, local men form a "Black People's Party of Watts." They succeed in routing the bad guys, but power immediately corrupts: Instead of cleaning up the 'hood, this militarized operation simply takes over the criminal rackets, proving taskmasters just as brutal and greedy as ol' Whitey was. With their ill-gotten new gains they hole up in a gated mansion with a whole lotta guns and quite a few white chicks.
When the community can no longer tolerate being ripped off by its own breathren, a climactic shootout occurs of sky-high body count proportions. Just in case you miss the point, historical Nazi footage and awkwardly dubbed-in "Sieg heil's!" are inserted at odd moments. This little gem is from director Lee Frost, whose other credits include "Race With the Devil" (RV vacationers Peter Fonda and Loretta Swit from "M*A*S*H" chased around the Southwest by Satanists) and "The Thing With Two Heads" (which consisted of a death-row convict played by Rosey Grier and a racist millionaire played by Ray Milland).
This triple will be screened -- scratchy vintage prints 'n' all -- at the Mission District's Victoria Theatre, which started in 1908 as a vaudeville house and has undergone many a change since, but alas: These days, the owners keep the floors pretty clean.
San Francisco Bay Guardian - April 11, 2007
Himself son of trilling Broadway star Mary Martin (reportedly not the world's nicest person, despite originating the roles of the --berclean heroines of South Pacific and The Sound of Music) and erstwhile costar of TV's I Dream of Jeannie, Larry Hagman was several years short of a career revival as J.R. on Dallas when he made this -- his first and (understandably) last feature directorial effort. Evidently, somebody thought it would be funny to belatedly sequelize the 1958 horror movie that starred a very young Steve McQueen, which already seemed high camp in 1972. That somebody was apparently also very high, as reflected by the meandering, unfunny actors' indulgences on display here, starting with Godfrey Cambridge as a very out-of-it early victim. Horror comedy had nowhere to go but up after this ridiculous, lamely jokey enterprise, which also features the original Poseidon Adventure's Carol Lynley as a sculptor, Laverne and Shirley's Cindy Williams as half of a hippie couple, Dick van Patten as a Boy Scout hike leader, the great Gerrit Graham in a gorilla suit, and other luminaries who are pale even by the standards of the era. All are menaced and most are engulfed by the creeping, red Jell-O-like titular monster. With its deliberately hysterical score, silly incidents, and occasionally absurdist dialogue, the feature (originally released as Beware! The Blob) was clearly a lark for Hagman and his mostly young, long-haired cast. No doubt the director (who later admitted to substance-recovery issues) was enjoying his own second youth. But this rarely revived curio is only interesting when viewed in that context. For a better time, catch the preceding retro creature features on Dead Channels' "Nature Revolts" triple bill: 1976's Squirm, in which electrical-storm-inflated earthworms invade a small Southern town, and the next year's Kingdom of the Spiders, with veterinarian William Shatner battling -- well, you know. Victoria Theatre. (Dennis Harvey)
Film program revives unique genre, from Karloff to werewolves on motorcycles
Reyhan Harmanci: April 5, 2007 San Francisco Chronicle: 96 Hours
The films being shown at Sleazy Sundays, a monthlong program curated by Bruce Fletcher, who worked with SF IndieFest and on the horror festival "Another Hole in Your Head," might be familiar to those who can remember the days when movies were often available only on the big screen.
"These are things we grew up with, saw at drive-ins, movies that got made before our entire culture jumped the shark," says Fletcher, who is now creating the "Dead Channels: San Francisco Festival of Fantastic Film."
For Easter weekend, Fletcher put together a lineup called "Infernal BEaster" -- he's joining the Boris Karloff film "The Crimson Cult" (1968), an H.P. Lovecraft adaptation written by Curtis Hanson ("L.A. Confidential") starring Dean Stockwell (of "Quantum Leap" fame) called "The Dunwich Horror" (1970), and "Werewolves on Wheels" (1971).
The thinking behind "Werewolves on Wheels" is pretty clear. "There are werewolf movies and there are biker movies," Fletcher says. "Two great genres, taste great together."
In addition to the thrill of seeing Sleazy Sunday fare up on a large screen at the historic Victoria Theatre, Fletcher says he is motivated by archival concerns. "It's an opportunity for people to discover, or rediscover, these films, before the prints dissolve," he says. "Literally, the prints turn to vinegar. The ones we're showing are literally dissolving."
The degradation of film prints is a threat to many old films, but genre pleasures like "Werewolves on Wheels" are going away and aren't coming back. "There's no film preservation society for 'Squirm,' " he says. "No studio is going to strike a new print for The Black Gestapo.' "
Grind house films have a niche audience, and because directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez happen to be part of that audience, their joint feature "Grindhouse" (2007) is coming out this week. It's a rare opportunity for a mass audience to encounter the absurd, comically violent and morally reprehensible fare that older generations fondly remember seeing as teenagers. But why wait for an artificially aged film to stupefy you?
"Movies today aren't so much fun anymore," says Fletcher. "A lot of the fun ones end up at film festivals or go straight to video. That's not how they're supposed to be seen. They're not meant to be watched quietly."
This week's installment, "Infernal BEaster," kicks off at 7 p.m. Sun. Individual films are $8, $15 for the double feature and $20 for all three. The Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St., S.F. (415) 863-7576. www.deadchannels.com
This article appeared on page G - 36 of the San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Bay Guardian
REP PICKS - April 4, 2007
"Sleazy Sundays: Infernal Beaster Triple Bill"
The second weekend in Dead Channels' month of "Sleazy Sundays" is an occult triple bill that sandwiches one delicate slice of bloody carpaccio between two thick slices of cheese.
First up is The Crimson Cult, an atmospheric if silly 1968 British concoction notable mostly for the presence of Christopher Lee (warlock), Barbara Steele (300-year-old witch) and the soon-to-be-late Boris Karloff (witchcraft expert). Last up is the self-explanatory Werewolves on Wheels, a movie that only could have been made circa 1971. Biker gang the Devil's Advocates stumble upon an actual monks-for-Satan cult and get cursed with lycanthropy for their trouble. Most of the horror is frustratingly offscreen, but if you like shots of hairy guys on hogs tooling down the highway as the last golden rays of sunset glint off the zoom lens, this may be your Citizen Kane.
In between, however, is something really good: 1970's The Dunwich Horror, an H.P. Lovecraft adaptation that was somewhat overlooked amid the many dumber American International Pictures horror films of the era but now looks like one of the best, most serious, and most disquieting supernatural tales from the years prior to The Exorcist. Former child actor (and future Blue Velvet weirdo) Dean Stockwell plays the warlock scion of a notorious New England family associated with past occult rituals and suspicious deaths. Trying to gain access to a university professor's rare ancient book on pagan rites, he meets a graduate student (Sandra Dee!) who seems the perfect candidate for ritual sacrifice. He uses drugs and seduction to keep her at his creepy small-town residence until the time is ripe. Meanwhile, her roommate and the professor become concerned for her welfare ... and there's something ghastly, alive, and murderous locked in the attic chez Stockwell. Exceptionally directed and designed (with cool use of the psychedelic visual devices then in vogue), this movie has dated remarkably well. Stockwell's very intense, almost Charles Manson-like performance remains striking, and the script is by a guy named Curtis Hanson -- who as a writer-director went on to L.A. Confidential, Wonder Boys, and 8 Mile. Victoria. (Dennis Harvey)
by Michael Guillan, April 3, 2007
DEAD CHANNELS SLEAZY SUNDAYS
--Starcrash (Scontri stellari oltre la terza dimensione) REVIEW
Is it just a coincidence that sleazy rhymes with cheesey? Little cattle little care. Dennis Harvey nails it in his Sleazy Sundays overview for the SF Bay Guardian: "These films were made for audiences, not for the private snickering of home viewers." Without question, what makes a bad movie good is an audience knowing and enjoying how bad it is! I've been appreciating screeners for Sleazy Sundays fare all week but I know I won't fully enjoy these flicks until I hear audiences groaning, protesting, and shouting out for more. Could they possibly protest for less?
Which leads me to the inaugural Sleazy Sundays capper Luigi Cozzi's Starcrash (1979), which Time Out calls a "trash-addict sci-fi spectacular" and Todd describes as "a landmark in the history of bad science fiction, so gloriously ignorant of just how horrible it truly is on every level that it becomes transcendent." Aw, he's just being nice. Though I have to agree with him 100% that Starcrash deserves "the MST3K treatment", which the Sleazy Sundays audience were more than willing to provide. I'll defer to Todd's synopsis, which more or less covers all salient plot points. Though I have to admit the synopsis at Cool Cinema Trash lovingly fondles additional details.
For the rest of the review, visit: http://www.twitchfilm.net/archives/009592.html#more
How to Look Sleazy
In 1975, literary critic Tzvetan Todorov defined a genre -- the "fantastic." When confronted with the fantastic, a reader hesitates, attempting to explain his experience of a story as either natural or supernatural.
Sounds eggheady or drug-induced, but it's useful for describing the content of the Sleazy Sundays film series. Without the proper terms one might merely say, "These films are effing crazy!"
Take tonight's lineup, dubbed the "Infernal Beaster": First is The Crimson Cult, starring Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, Michael Gough, and Barbara Steele. It opens with a man in a hooded black robe holding a goat, a dude wearing a cap with antlers on it, a leather-adorned young starlet, and an Englishman in a brown tweed suit. Next, The Dunwich Horror, based on an H.P. Lovecraft story adapted by Curtis Hanson, stars a young Dean Stockwell. He sports the best porn --stache ever and says eerie things, barely above a whisper, like "They performed sacrifices here." And Werewolves on Wheels is, as its trailer attests, truly "the most unusual, exciting horror-motorcycle film yet made." You might call this "marvelous" or "uncanny," but Todorov would be pissed, since he defined those terms as specifically not fantastic.
Be precise -- this shit is fantastic.
Date/Time: Daily from Sun., April 8 until Sun., April 22, 7:00pm Price: $8-$20
Victoria Theatre: www.victoriatheatre.org
Bay Area Reporter: 29 March 2007
Sleazy Sundays @ Victoria Theatre
by Jim Provenzano
Enjoy some of the best of the worst --and a few actually good-- scifi and horror cinematic underground classics. Three different movies play every Sunday.
April 1st; Alfonso Brescia s War Of The Robots (7pm), Mario Bava s Planet Of The Vampires (8:30pm), and Luigi Cozzi's blatant Star Wars rip-off Starcrash, starring a young David Hasselhoff. $8-$20. Sundays thru April 22. 2961 16th St. at Mission. 863-7576.
April is 'Sleazy Sundays' month at the Vic Staff, The Examiner Mar 30, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO - Genre cinema -- science fiction, fantasy, horror, exploitation -- receives the spotlight, grind-house style, during "A Month of Sleazy Sundays," a Dead Channels event.
Promoters describe it as a "festival of fantastic film, a celebration of the art of film -- with all the boring parts cut out" or "12 mind-bending explosions of raw unadulterated cinema excess."
Presented over four consecutive Sundays in April, programs feature double and triple bills and giveaways. First up: "War of the Robots," "Planet of the Vampires" and "Starcrash," beginning at 7 p.m. Sunday -- April Fool's Day, appropriately enough -- at the Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St., San Francisco.
Tickets are $8 for one film, $15 for two and $20 for all three. Visit deadchannels.com or victoriatheatre.org.
Sleazy Like Sunday Morning Four unholy nights of vintage gems
By Dennis Harvey: March 28, 2007
The collective teeth of umpteen fanboys and fangirls commenced grinding when it was announced that the release of the Quentin Tarantino--Robert Rodriguez nuevo-schlock faux double bill Grindhouse would be preceded by rare 35mm revival screenings of actual '60s through '80s sleazebag hits such as Fight for Your Life and They Call Me One-Eye. A wonderful and laudable thing, of course -- at least if you live within driving reach of Los Angeles's New Beverly Cinema.
Well, if you can't join 'em, beat 'em. By fortunate coincidence, San Francisco is getting something similar, which will play nowhere else -- so nyaah-nyaah. That thing would be "A Month of Sleazy Sundays," four unholy nights of vintage exploitation gems beginning this April Fools' Day at the Mission District's lovable Victoria Theatre, brought to you by Another Hole in the Head and SF Indiefest's Bruce Fletcher, among others.
The April quartet of triple bills offers a panoply of delights, like those shown at drive-ins, urban flea pits, and semirespectable joints such as San Francisco's late Strand Theatre before it went porn and then closed entirely. These films were made for audiences, not for the private snickering of home viewers. DEAD CHANNELS' rare 35mm prints are unlikely to be mint -- but then, pink-out and scratchiness now seem integral to this kind of vintage theatrical experience.
The kickoff program spotlights English-language outer spaciness as only the Italians can deliver. Two entries are shameless Star Wars knockoffs from 1978: Alfonso Brescia's War of the Robots and Luigi Cozzi's Star Crash. The former stars Antonio Sabato Sr. (mmm). The latter stars Marjoe Gortner (Jesus with more eyeliner), Caroline Munro (in leather bikini and thigh-high boots), and a pre-Baywatch David Hasselhoff. It also sports the stupidest action scenes ever. Sandwiched between these cheese baths is Mario Bava's genuinely eerie Planet of the Vampires, the 1965 sci-fi-horror hybrid that purportedly inspired Alien.
Highlights abound within the three remaining Sundays. April 8 brings 1970's psychedelic s--ance- and H.P. Lovecraft--drawn tab o' satanism The Dunwich Horror, in which an exquisitely perverse Dean Stockwell drafts grad student Sandra Dee (!) for sacrifice. It's followed by the next year's really hairy biker saga Werewolves on Wheels. A creature feature melee April 15 features Larry Hagman's first and last directorial effort, 1972's Beware! The Blob, a.k.a. Son of Blob, the sequel no one was waiting for -- until, perhaps, it was rereleased a decade later as "The movie that J.R. shot!" Finally, a grindhouse odyssey April 22nd travels from the 1934 adults-only Phyllis Diller campsterpiece Maniac to the 1971 Southern moonshine-circuit classic Preacherman to, finally, the politically incorrect yet dy-no-mite 1975 blaxploitation whopper The Black Gestapo. (Dennis Harvey)
Through April 22; single feature $8, double-bill $15, and triple-bill $20< FONT>
Victoria Theatre: 2961 16th St., SF (415) 863-7576
March 27, 2007: Sleazy Sundays in San Francisco!
If you live in the San Francisco area and you're looking for something to do on Sundays other than spending the day at church, you're in luck, as DEAD CHANNELS: The San Francisco Festival of Fantastic Film presents "Sleazy Sundays."
It promises to be "A Month of Sleazy Sundays," screening 12 grindhouse-style flicks in triple bills April 1-22 at the city's Victoria Theatre (Mission District, 2961 16th Street).
On April 1, the "Other Worlds" portion of the fest kicks off with Alfonso Brescia's WAR OF THE ROBOTS, followed by Mario Bava's PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES and wrapping up at with Luigi Cozzi's STARCRASH. April 8 showcases "The Infernal Beaster," kicking off with THE CRIMSON CULT starring genre faves Christopher Lee and Boris Karloff, continuing with the Lovecraftian AIPicture THE DUNWICH HORROR and ending with WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS rolling onto the screen.
On April 15, "Nature Revolts" with three creepy classics: Killer worms tunnel their way into your heart in SQUIRM, William Shatner faces a frontier filled with killer tarantulas in KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS, and the night ends with Larry Hagman's gooey thriller SON OF BLOB. And April 22 winds up the series with a "Grindhouse" portion; go crazy watching Dwain Esper's 1934 MANIAC, a holy roller in Albert Viola's PREACHERMAN and a rare showing of the blaxploitation flick THE BLACK GESTAPO.
All the movies will screen on film, accompanied by shorts, nightly giveaways and more. Tickets for each night are $8 per movie, $15 for a double feature or see all three for $20. For more info, go to the fest's official website at www.deadchannels.com < font> --Sean Ogden
News from Tuesday, March 27, 2007
DEAD CHANNELS--Sleazy Sundays in April!
by Michael Guillen: March 22, 2007
Bruce Fletcher is one of my favorite madmen. My mother warned me about buying beers for men like him; but, since when have I ever listened to my mother? Besides, I'm very fond of beer and any excuse will do. Bruce was the Director of Programming for the San Francisco Independent Film Festival and San Francisco's Another Hole in the Head horror film festival. He's also the Founder and Director of the Idaho International Film Festival in Boise (which is another kind of horror all in itself). I have a fabulous and provocative taped interview with Bruce that he won't allow me to publish for fear of being driven out of town. It would just be terrible if it somehow leaked out to the press.
He's just advised that he and his new cohorts Dan, Scott, Serge, and the rest of the team at Cosmic Hex (some of whom were instrumental at San Francisco's legendary Werepad) have devoted their collective energies to kickstarting a new festival project--Dead Channels: The San Francisco Festival of Fantastic Film!
As he explains on the Dead Channels MySpace page (which has great Youtube clips and big ol' photos and all sorts of bells and whistles) The Dead Channels Film Festival "will showcase a diverse selection of amazing fantastic films from around the globe--usually presented by the artists who made them. We will be playing something for every taste--from the retro Saturday and Sunday matinees for the whole family to the more twisted offerings we unveil at midnight. The Programming Team are scouring the globe at this very moment to unearth the finest international and independent cinema out there. Incredible movies, thrilling parties, and the City of San Francisco itself, guarantee a truly memorable week-long celebration of mind-bending fantastic films--and their creators. So if you enjoyed the movies that played at the Indiefest and Holehead for the last few years; there's an extraordinarily good chance that Dead Channels will slake your thirst for cool film." Hell, YEAH!!
To get things going and to drum up initial support, Dead Channels roars into town with SLEAZY SUNDAYS: "three mind bending explosions of raw unadulterated cinema excess unleashed the first four Sundays in April!!!"
On Sunday, April 1st, Dead Channels offers "Other Worlds", first with War of the Robots (7pm), followed by an 8:30pm double feature: Planet of the Vampires and Starcrash.
On Sunday, April 8th, it's the "Infernal Beaster" program, kicking off with Crimson Cult (7pm), followed by an 8:30pm double feature: Dunwich Horror and Werewolves on Wheels. Bah-ROOOOOOOO!
On Sunday, April 15th, the focus is "Nature Revolts", first with Squirm at 7pm, then with an 8:30pm double feature: Kingdom of the Spiders and Son of Blob. The Blob had a son?!! I never knew.
Finally, on Sunday, April 22nd, it's a tip of the hat to Grindhouse. First with Maniac 1934 ("The Original Grindhouse Movie!") at 7pm followed by the 8:30pm double feature: Preacherman and Black Gestapo.
Is this all too exploitive and fun or what? The madness takes place at the Victoria Theatre, 2961--16th St in San Francisco (1/2 block from the 16th & Mission BART station). Individual films are $8, $15 for the double feature and $20 for all three. Sonic delights provided by Zonetech.
Get them going, boys and girls. Support the madness!
TWITCH: 04/21, 2007 http://www.twitchfilm.net/archives/009776.html
TWITCH: 04/08, 2007 http://www.twitchfilm.net/archives/009647.html
TWITCH: 04/08/2007 http://www.twitchfilm.net/archives/009645.html
JASON WATCHES MOVIES: http://jasonwatchesmovies.blogspot.com/2007/03/jason-gets-all-excited-about-month-of.html
THE EVENING CLASS: http://theeveningclass.blogspot.com/2007/03/dead-channels-sleazy-sundays-in-april.html
SF STATION: http://www.sfstation.com/a-month-of-sleazy-sundays-in-april-e32482
QUEER CITY: http://www.queercity.com/events/other/details/99189/