Sep 30, 2008

What Was The Word?

At the time it was hard for me to believe that a year had elapsed since I was at Queens Park during Word on the Street. It felt like I was just here, peddling the "VHS RIP" issue. After an extra long winter and a too-short summer, the fall roared into action, and as usual I was barely prepared to launch the new issue, despite the fact that all summer I was moving at a fine clip gathering research for ESR's latest incarnation, the tribute to late-night television, and before I knew it, what with a huge work schedule and feeling of lethargy after hours, I had once again broken a promise to myself not to indulge in this "night before" crunch that always happens.

Saturday afternoon, it was bloody obvious that the new issue wasn't going to exist for the next day, which would be ESR's fifth appearance at Word on the Street. After an anxiety attack (no doubt brought on by overtired-ness), I had succumbed to the realization that I wasn't going to get the new issue done in time, and also pondered not even going to the fair at all. Seriously. With all the stress and frustration in my life, I was not only getting worked up about doing this magazine, but also felt embarrassed about being so. Susan then came up with the brilliant suggestion to cut the issue down. I was still struggling over the content for the midsection, and deep down I knew my heart just wasn't into the content of this section. Since all of the more "personal" stuff (which bookended it) had been completed, I published the issue without its middle, and the result was seamless. (Ultimately, the research I had accumulated for this midsection had been for naught, but I do intend to use it still in a future issue.) And as usual, the new issue debuted under the wire.

Despite my negative feelings the day before, 2008's Word on the Street proved to be a rewarding experience, if in spirit, and not necessarily in coins. (Financially speaking, this was my second-worst year at the show.) Serendipitously, having a smaller (and therefore cheaper) issue helped to move more copies. This industry has become more nickel-and-dime than ever, so it would seem that that for future issues (not including special one-shots like the Corman scrapbook), perhaps smaller would be better. It was encouraging getting notions to "keep it up" from some of the regular readers (one easily forgets why we do what we do), and I am also grateful for the volunteers who really showed up this year, thus making the day move fast, with some fun along the way. So, ladies and gentlemen, for your pleasure, here is the new ESR.. "A Tribute to Late Night Television". It would be remiss without thanking Mike and Anj for helping out on the day, Simon and David for contributing to the new issue, and of course, my deepest thanks go to Susan for her spiritual advisement. Enjoy.

Sep 27, 2008

ESR presented... Dogpound Shuffle

Way back in the eighties, I encountered a film title called Dogpound Shuffle while browsing through the TV Guide at 2 AM, was intrigued by its quirky synopsis, and switched over to Channel 11. And I was hooked. 20 years later, I had found a used VHS copy of the film (which had fleetingly been released by Key Video) and was delighted to see that it still worked its charms. (I had mentioned this re-discovery in one of my first ever blog postings.) Last year, I had the good fortune of finding a 16mm print, and had waited for a good opportunity to show it.

As of this writing, Dogpound Shuffle would be the fourth film I had shown at Trash Palace (with the exception of contributing to the educational film festival in the summer), and this was the film I was most looking forward to show. It didn't matter to me if only two people showed up-- to me, this film is an object of beauty, and I just wanted it to be seen. This screening was truly done out of love-- any prospect of making money was secondary to me.

This little fable, shot in Vancouver in the mid-1970's, features Ron Moody (from Oliver!) as a hobo (and former tap dancer) whose beloved dog Spot is captured by the dog catcher. Along comes David Soul (pre-"Starsky and Hutch") as a tramp who can play a mean tune on the harmonica (that is, when he doesn't have something to eat in his hand), and so the two former a music-and-dance act to raise the thirty bucks to get the dog out of the pound!

To my delight, this was one of the most satisfying screenings I've done anywhere. The audience ate the film up-- they laughed at all the right places, and were also moved at all the proper spots. And you just had to be there, to witness a bunch of forty-year-old tattooed males go "Awwww" when Spot does his little dance. What a night-- at the end, I was refreshed as though I drank from the holy mountain. I know my deepest thanks to Stacey and Dan, not just for inviting me into the Trash Palace family, but for allowing me to take a chance and show a film like this.

Sep 13, 2008

Massacre At Central High (1976)

Last night, Trash Palace showed the 1976 cult film, Massacre At Central High, featuring Derrell Maury as the new kid in school seeks revenge on the mean "in crowd" preppies who maimed him. But there's a lot more going on with this flick than a traditional revenge melodrama.

Instead, writer-director Renee Daalder's alleogory is rather political, where all of the different cliques in school symbolize different "special interest groups" or social hierarchies. And ultimately, the moral is, all parties become corrupt with the seductive image of power. What makes this film even more surreal is the glaringly obvious absence of adults (parents or teachers)-- thus, one could call this Lord of the Flies Goes to High School. (Curiously, elderly people appear at the bizarre climax at a school dance.)

I had first caught this flick on video in 1990, yet this screening made me appreciate the film all the more-- perhaps because one can read more into it at an advanced age. And maybe at the time, all I wanted was some good old drive-in exploitation. This curio also features early roles for Andrew Stevens (as the nice preppie) and Robert Carradine (as the stoned-out guru). And look who's playing in Carradine's love den: drive-in starlet Rainbeaux Smith, and Lani O'Grady from "Eight is Enough!" And for the "Whatever Happened to..." quotient, there's the talented beauty Kimberly Beck as the nice preppie's girlfriend. (Her beach scene--- wow!)

Despite a few violent scenes, Massacre At Central High is more than drive-in trash- however there are enough thrills and interesting ideas to please fans of both high and low culture. Kudos again to Trash Palace for showing another essential piece of yesteryear still not on DVD, yet on a screen where it belongs.

Sep 7, 2008

Sudden Fury

This Friday's screening at Trash Palace featured the 1975 Canadian film, Sudden Fury, with its writer-director Brian Damude in attendance for a fun Q&A session after the movie.

This thriller is a nifty cat-and-mouse game about a loser who lets his estranged wife die from her injuries in a car accident so he can get the insurance money to invest in another of his get-rich-quick schemes. A good Samaritan witnesses the crash, and then the killer ingeniously devises a way to implicate him with the crime. The cast of unknowns (save for rising star Hollis McLaren as the farmer's wife) is uniformly excellent, and the movie is beautifully shot and edited. Proof positive you can make a crackerjack movie with so little means.

While this suspense film was well regarded in its day (and Damude, who shot the film during his continued tenure at Ryerson, lived comfortably off of the movie's receipts for a few years), it has been forgotten by most, and therefore this revival was quite a treat. This is why we need to support TP-- not just to see films you wouldn't find anywhere else, but to see them in their proper milieu- projected onto a screen, shared with other enthusiasts.

Sep 2, 2008

Fun With Dick and Kate

This weekend, TCM had a 24-hour marathon of Katharine Hepburn movies. One of the surprises in the schedule was an episode of Dick Cavett's show, where the host finally managed to coerce the movie star to do an interview on that hideous thing called television. She came in for what was supposed to be a dry run, cameras ran without her knowledge, and we get this.

Here is the prelude to this show, where Kate bitches about the furniture and the rugs. Feisty till the end-- it's hilarious. Enjoy.

When You're Hot You're Hot: RIP Jerry Reed

As much as I enjoy country music, I admit to being far from a connoisseur of it, and where Jerry Reed is concerned, I of course remember him most from the movies. Reed, who died today of emphysema at the age of 71, admit that his acting was questionable, citing his onscreen motivation as "money", had a string of hits in the 1970's that crossed over from the country charts into pop culture, including "When You're Hot You're Hot" (which was the main theme of WSEE-TV 35 in Erie when I was a kid), and was quite a popular figure on the big and small screen during the "good ole boy" craze of the 1970's.

Just this summer, I had been writing about The Concrete Cowboys -a 1979 TV-movie which spawned a short-lived series of the same name- for inclusion in an upcoming ESR vidcast, and was pleasantly reminded of how much of an engaging performer he was on screen- doubly so when Jonathan programmed High Ballin' this summer. Reed was perhaps a bit too self-deprecating of his worth, because as an actor he had a unique charisma and vitality. Of course he is best known for the Smokey and the Bandit pictures, and before the "good ole boy" genre finally wheezed its last breath in the 1980's, he directed himself in What Comes Around, another film we'll be talking about at a future date. Later in life he appeared in Bat 21, and the Adam Sandler vehicle The Waterboy. On screen or stage, he was a truly engaging performer, and he will be missed.


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