Midnites for Maniacs
Castro Theatre, Sunday 19th April, 2pm-10pm
If I wanted an antidote to the Avant Garde screening at YBCA- I need have looked no further than the campy, trashy, B-Grade extravaganza of the Alamo Drafthouse Travelling Roadshow.
Like much of the stuff I’ve done while in here San Francisco, I seem to have stumbled across this in a combined case of happy accident, and trying to be in the right place to be the recipient of such- picking up flyers in cafes, local papers etc. I’d certainly never heard of the Alamo Drafthouse, although now that I have, I am spitting blood that Austin, Texas is not on this trip’s itinerary! Visiting this extremely uniquely programmed cinema in Austin, Texas is now top of my list for future trips stateside. Among their regular programs, “Smokers Theatre”- a night for smoking films and smoking audiences, “Hey, homo!”- camp classics on film and “Sing along extravaganzas”, which appears to be a film night designed specifically with me in mind.
Midnites for Maniacs referred to a regular all night b-grade movie binge they would regularly put on at the Alamo, and was a good old fashioned movie marathon- 4 movies in a row, staged in 2-hour slots, for the genius price of $10. The two programmers who were running the road show were Zack and Lars, who normally program “Terror Tuesdays” and “Weird Wednesday”– cult and b grade nights that were spawned from the original Midnites for Maniacs events.
Worlds away from the affected dishevelment of the YBCA crowd, the audience at Midnites for Maniacs were, well, GENUINELY disheveled- quite a different thing! There were many grimy baseball caps in the audience, I’ll put it that way! And I’m no B-Grade expert, but I felt vastly more at home- like I was with my people- when the mere mention of movies such as “Troll 2” and “Red Dawn” elicited whoops and hollers from the audience, and Zack and Lars demanded a round of applause for everything from Chuck Norris to the guy who did the sound track on “Ghosts of Mars”.
The Castro Theatre could not have been a better venue- itself a touch shabby and dishevelled, although decidedly more elegant than any of the people in it! I could and would pretty much go to see anything at the Castro Theatre. It’s my new favourite theatre in the world, with it’s slightly sinister cieling decorated with occult and religious symbols, and the organ that rises up from the ground, played before each session by a man who subsequenty disappears via a trap door under the stage! I am determined that when I get home, I will make much more effort to see films in these faded palaces we are so blessed with in Melbourne- The Westgarth, The Astor, The Sun Theatre (Vale Coburg Progress, Carlton Bug House). These theatres treat the movies with the tiny bit of pomp and ceremony they deserve- they make the difference between seeing a movie being a treat, and being a gratuitous splurge of western excess on a saturday night.
So, the films- what can I say? They were all equally great in surprisingly different ways.
Robert Forster (of Jackie Brown fame) and Fred Williamson (of Delta Force Commando fame) are two men who have come to the end of their tether. They’ve had It. And they’re not gonna take It anymore. I can’t really describe this film, I’m not gonna do it justice. Here’s a clip. Note awesome scowl on Robert Forster (which he sports throughout) and equally awesome soundtrack:
A reasonably obscure (I’m sure to someone in the world this is canon, but for the REST of us…) co-production between American and Phillipino film makers, this is heavy loaded with T and A, one-take-and-you’re-out acting and hilariously bad special effects (when in doubt, slo mo). As the Alamo programmers put it:
“Vigilante is a film that people are generally surprised by- most people get half way through it and realise it’s actually a really good movie, unironically. Raw Force is not like that. This is surreally bad. So bad, it goes around, laps itself and comes back to being really funny. But never good.” (Or words to that effect)
I wish I could find a clip online….some scenes that blew my mind: a bartender on a yacht cracking a block of ice with his head for a cocktail; a bad-ass ninja slave trader hatching an evil plot…with the distracting spectacle of several actual band aids prominently displayed on his face; a plot that involved a mysterious island where a secret sect of kung fu monks are in hiding, guarding the burial ground of fallen warriors, who they magically bring back to life with powers they derive from eating human female flesh. Yes, that is the actual plot.
ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK
I don’t think I need to explain this to anyone who actually lived through the eighties, except to say it was a pleasure to experience an original print Snake Plisskin on the big screen: