Kool Kat of the Week: Artie Mondello of The Delusionaires, Dishes on the Booty Shakin’ Stank and Twisted Taunting Tunes ‘Yer Mama Warned You About and Slingin’ that Floozy Sleaze at The Star Bar

Posted on: Jan 27th, 2015 By:

by Melanie Crew1421822531794
Managing Editor

Artie Mondello, dodgy, low-down guitar slingin’ transmitter of mischief and raunch, along with his partners in crime, The Delusionaires [Nadeem Khan on upright bass, Winthrop Fist (a.k.a. Dennie Carter) on drums and Lil’ Jimmy Ivy on tenor saxophone] will be causin’ a ruckus of a one night stand at The Star Bar this Saturday, Jan. 31, at 9 pm with garage rockers Tiger! Tiger and smut slingers Bad Friend!

Artie, northern by birth and reborn into the land of debauchery (the Dirty, Dirty!), the king of raunch has been delving into the nitty gritty since ’93, with turns in bands such as The Exotic Aarontones, The Vodkats, The Del Spektros and the still-active Mondellos. The Delusionaires formed (initially) in 2000 and have shared the stage with Tav Falco’s Panther Burns, the Dex Romweber Duo, Shannon & the Clams and the King Kahn & BBQ Show. They also have graced the stage at the 2003 Hukilau and were a featured act in the 2014 Coney Island Mermaid Parade Ball. Their ample releases to date include their 45 “Pistol Whipped”/”Fifth Kiss” (Dec. 2000) and LP “Destination Poon” (June 2003) on their own previously-named Zanzibar! Records; LP “Flooze Party” (Jan. 2013) by Beaverama! Records and their most recent 45 “Scrump”/”The Worm Whispers” (Spring 2014) on Baltimore’s Hidden Volume Records. In sum, The Delusionaires have earned that below-the-belt reputation they’ve fought tooth and nail for (Actually, it seems they’re pretty much a natural in that department!) and which works perfectly for our ears here at ATLRetro!

L-R: Dennie Carter, Artie Mondello, Jim Ivy, Nadeem Khan

Photo Credit: Jim Leatherman L-R: Dennie Carter, Jim Ivy, Nadeem Khan, Artie Mondello

ATLRetro caught up with Artie for a quick interview about his take on Las Vegas GrindThe Delusionaires’ maniacal craving to deliver a night of debauchery, drankin’ and booty shakin’; his retro rock ‘n’ old-school influences; and everything else we could think to ask about the naughty little band that could!

And while you’re takin’ a gander at our little Q&A with Artie, get an earful of The Delusionaires’ “The Scrump” and “She Crawls on Her Belly Like a Reptile.

ATLRetro: The Delusionaires’ sound, in essence, has been described as having a “Las Vegas Grind”-style with a twist of the low-down and dirty that’ll make your mama cry and your daddy beg for more. What exactly is “Las Vegas Grind” and how would you describe the band’s sound?

Artie Mondello: LAS VEGAS GRIND was a series of comps that Tim Warren [Crypt Records] put out starting in the late ’80s, foldercollecting sort of the slime beneath the underbelly of American popular music. You could simply call it “stripper music” but not, like, David Rose’s “The Stripper”; that’s way more uptown than what we’re talking about here. This stuff is completely devoid of any socially redeeming value, and I mean that as a virtue. All the hyperbole that the early critics heaped on rock ‘n’ roll and R&B – like, you know, leering degenerates shambling through moronic chord changes against drunken jungle drums – is actually true here. They’re records played by drunks looking to get drunker and hopefully laid, usually written in about the same time it takes to listen to it, and forgotten by everybody involved by the time last call rolls around. Very much like a cheap pulp novel – lurid, crude, prurient and totally artless. Of course, that’s everything in the world we hold dear, and that’s The Delusionaires‘ sound. The time-honored strip joint lineup of a sleazy tenor sax, thudding bass fiddle, flailing drums and greasy guitar. No attention whatsoever to song craft or polish. This isn’t music meant to be listened to; it’s for dancing, if not dirtily, then at the very least drunkenly.

Photo Credit: Aloe Vera, L-R: Jim Ivy, Dennie Carter, Artie Mondello

Photo Credit: Aloe Vera, L-R: Jim Ivy, Dennie Carter, Artie Mondello

As the guitar player and someone who admittedly subsists off a “cultural diet of monster movies, stag films, horror comics and Hollywood tell-alls,” can you let our readers know what exactly drew you to play music and when you picked up your first guitar?

I got my first guitar when I was 18, for Christmas from my parents. I’d never displayed any sort of musical talent whatsoever and had no designs on ever being able to play an instrument. But, when someone gives you a guitar, you kinda have to learn it! Family, friend and foe alike would rue that day for years to come, ’cause if there was anything everyone could agree on when I was growing up, it was that I should never be allowed anywhere near a musical instrument. That was actually the main reason I did learn: just to be an asshole. That’s pretty much the entire reason I started actually performing, too. If there was anything less popular than my guitar playing, it was my singing, and I’m just enough of a dick to do both onstage just because everybody says I shouldn’t. I always maintained that I don’t have any talent, just a helluva lotta balls.

Photo Credit: Jim Leatherman, L-R: Nadeem Khan, Dennie Carter, Jim Ivy, Artie Mondello

Photo Credit: Jim Leatherman, L-R: Nadeem Khan, Dennie Carter, Jim Ivy, Artie Mondello

Even though the bulk of the retro rock revival pretty much died off in the late ‘90s, The Delusionaires seem to have made a niche for themselves in Atlanta’s thriving surf-sleaze-nitty-gritty underground music scene. What draws you to the mischievous underbelly of Atlanta’s music scene?

People here tend to drink a lot and they tend to shake their ass when they’re drunk. That’s the magic equation right there. Plus, with 3/4 of the band living out of state, we don’t get to play here all that often, which gives audiences plenty of time to forgive whatever we did at the last show.

You’ve been a member of several musical outfits [The Exotic Aarontones, The Vodkats, The Del Spektros and the still-active Mondellos] since 1993. What sort of maniacal mojo does The Delusionaires have that even after 15 years of breakups and reunions, makes you want to keep dishin’ out that “swampland sleaze”?

My guess is that one of us ran over a gypsy and we got cursed to spend eternity together. Outside of that, it’s the work of two factors. First, we’re lifelong friends, co-dependents, drinking buddies and essentially brothers, so there’s only so long we’re gonna stay apart. Second, and most significant, we just plain love playing this stuff. It’s not like a genre we choose to play; it’s not calculated, there’s no effort to create a certain sound, it’s just literally what comes out when ya put the four of us together. It’s my favorite sound in the world, literally the sound that’s running in my head all the time. That’s probably why we can exist living in two different states, never practicing and never planning anything out. This slop’s so natural to us, we don’t have to learn it.  It’s just what we are.

Photo Credit: Gretchen Wood, L-R Nadeem Khan, Jim Ivy

Photo Credit: Gretchen Wood, L-R Nadeem Khan, Jim Ivy

Who would you say are your top three musical influences?

God, there’s sooooo many, and what makes it harder is that a lot of ’em I don’t even know the names. Probably more than anything, I’d have to say the soundtracks to TV shows and exploitation movies circa 1950-1965, just that kinda generic rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm & blues that usually didn’t even get credited. The movie, THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE (dir. Joseph Green, 1962) is a classic example; just the awesomest, sleaziest incidental music you could ever ask for. Also, the main title to THE DEVIL’S HAND (dir. William J. Hole, Jr., 1961) – I could listen to that for six hours straight. Throw in the AIP teensploitation flicks and just about any bottom-rung television show that got rerun in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and you’ve summed up at least half of every musical influence I’ve ever had.

Another major influence is the stuff Sam Phillips recorded in Memphis in the ’50s, not so much the Sun Rockabilly stuff (which is still a huge favorite and influence on me, don’t get me wrong) as the blues and boogie sides he cut, mostly to lease to other labels. It’s just phenomenal, almost frightening to hear. Crude as can be, with the minimum number of personnel he could scrape together, cheap amplifiers literally self-destructing over the course of the song, the musicians not only obviously, but audibly drunk. Anything with Pat Hare on guitar is just better than sex, pure psycho genius, and if there’s any dirtier, drunker, more louche sound than Willie Nix‘s records, I’m man enough to tell you I couldn’t handle it. Greatest stuff on earth.

Narrowing it down to a single person, I’d hafta say Link Wray, no question. I was never a lead player, never practiced any licks or anything, and discovering Link taught me that I didn’t need to feel bad about that for a second. I’m still no great shakes on guitar, but I’ll tell ya, I’d be totally unlistenable without the lessons I picked up from his records. No question.

The Delusionaires’ earlier releases, Dec. 2000’s 45 “Pistol Whipped/”Fifth Kiss” and June 2003’s DESTINATION POON LP were both released bya1192730836_10 your own record label, Zanzibar! Records. Tell our readers a little bit about your record label and what they’re up to now.

We created Zanzibar Records solely to put out that first 45, which we always knew was something we’d have to do ourselves because there was basically zero demand for it. 7″ singles were an all-but-dead medium back in 2000; I mean, nobody wanted ’em, least of all from a marginal outfit like us. Only an idiot would’ve wanted to put out a Delusionaires 45 at the time. And, of course, we had four idiots. Anyway, it wasn’t all that ruinous; back then, you could press up a couple hundred singles on red wax for like $500, and as there was no other expense involved in the record – I recorded it in my kitchen on used tape and “mastered” it through my VCR – it didn’t, like, ruin our lives. A couple years later, we had the bright idea to record an album, which probably was an even stupider idea, ’cause by that time, we were really pariahs on the scene. But again, it was something we wanted to do, for our own kicks, at least, and we dusted off the old Zanzibar label again. But that was the extent of the Zanzibar Records line, one 45 and one CD, and a whole lotta cornball “promotion” to make it sound more impressive than it was. I woulda loved to have made it an actual, active label, but honestly, I could barely afford to buy records, let alone release them.

Fast-forward to 2012, when we recorded the second album, which was the stupidest idea yet — the band wasn’t even officially together, and with me in Atlanta and the others down in Orlando & Tampa, there weren’t any plans on changing that. There really weren’t any plans on even releasing it, but Nadeem [bass] insisted it needed to come out, on vinyl to boot. Obviously, nobody was gonna volunteer for that kinda sacrifice, so we again put it out ourselves. Unfortunately, an actual, legitimate label named Zanzibar Records had popped up in the years since we’d split, so Beaverama! Records was born. I’d love to do more releases on this one, like, what they used to call “Adult Party Albums,” but as usual, I can’t even consider something like that when I can’t even afford to fix my windshield wipers.

Photo Credit: Jim Leatherman, L-R: Nadeem Khan, Jim Ivy, Dennie Carter

Photo Credit: Jim Leatherman, L-R: Nadeem Khan, Jim Ivy, Dennie Carter

We at ATLRetro dig your gig posters! And love the twisted throwback to ‘50s and ‘60s pop art echoing the darker side of Hollywood. Can you tell our readers who the artistic genius behind your show posters is?

Heh, thanks! No genius behind ’em, just me, screwin’ around with stuff till I like how it looks. I’m not an artist or designer or anything. It’s just fun, especially since we’re the only ones I’m looking to please. I’ve done a couple posters for other people’s bands or events, and man, did they suck. Total disasters.

If you could put together a dream line-up of bands to play with [still around or not], who would it be and why?

That basically already happened a couple years back, when Bryan [Malone] at The Star Bar put together a bill of the Dels, Dex Romweber and Tav Falco’s Panther Burns. Seriously, that was like the bill I would have doodled fantasy posters of in my notebook in high school. Outside of that, I think my dream line-up’d be The A-Bones, The Royal Pendletons, The Trashwomen, The Brentwoods and Les Sexareenos, with the Dels backing Barrence Whitfield. Now, THAT’D be a festival even I’d go to…

Anything tantalizing planned for your rowdy throw down this coming Saturday at The Star Bar?

Photo Credit: Terran McCanna - Anonymous fan drawing left onstage in Jacksonville, FL

Photo Credit: Terran McCanna – Anonymous fan drawing left onstage in Jacksonville, FL

The Delusionaires never plan anything out. I don’t remember the last time we even had a set list that wasn’t just a cheat sheet with a bunch of random titles. We never go into a show having any idea how it’s gonna play out. It’s not by design, it’s just that we’re that disorganized. The one time I remember us actually plotting something out was the night we strung up a trapeze in the old Bodhisattva Social Club, and that was a catastrophe.

Actually, I lied, we do have at least one thing planned for Saturday – Buffi and Susanne from Tiger! Tiger! are going to sing a couple of numbers with us, I think, and we’ll hopefully get Shane to play second sax on a couple as well. We did this at a show in St. Pete a few months back, and it was insane, just sick in all the right ways.

What’s next for you and The Delusionaires?

As usual, the Dels have almost nothing planned, just waiting to see what screwy new misadventure pops up. The one solid item in our future is a micro-tour of the Eastern seaboard at the end of June, centered around the Midnite Monster Hop in NYC on June 27, and even that hinges on none of us dying before then. I myself am playing a solo set as a one-man band in St. Augustine on Valentine’s Day, as part of a record release party for the amazing Kensley Stewart. Like pretty much every gig I do, in any of my bands, the set itself is just a MacGuffin, basically an excuse for me to go places and do things that I’m too lazy to do otherwise.

Photo Credit: Terran McCanna, L-R Artie Mondello, Jim Ivy, Cecilia Bravo (Fluffgirl Burlesque Society)

Photo Credit: Terran McCanna, L-R Artie Mondello, Jim Ivy, Cecilia Bravo (Fluffgirl Burlesque Society)

Can you tell our readers something you’d like folks to know that they don’t know already?

God, if anything, they probably already know too much. Maybe that, no matter what we might tell you after the set, we actually are all married.

What question do you wish somebody would ask you and what’s the answer?

Q: “Here, ya wanna take the rest of this keg home and finish it off?”
A: “Why, yes. Yes, we do.”

Actually, that did happen once after a gig, and it was a disaster…

 

 

Photos provided courtesy of Artie Mondello and used with permission.

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Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back onto the Pavement! The World Famous Drive-Invasion Hits Turner Field!

Posted on: Sep 4th, 2014 By:

driveinvasion2014The World Famous Drive-Invasion 2014; Turner Field Green Lot (521 Capitol Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30312); Saturday, September 6; Gates open @ 10 a.m.; Admission $25 per person with car or $12.50 walk-up/no car ($26 through Ticketmaster).

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

You can’t keep some things down. When it turned out that the conversion to studio-controlled digital projectors made it impossible for the Starlight Drive-In to continue hosting the annual Drive-Invasion, things looked bleak for a while. But thanks to the tireless efforts of some of Atlanta’s finest, Drive-Invasion has found a new home: Turner Field. They’ll be setting up in Turner Field’s Green Lot and among the attractions you will find a 1000-foot grilling area, Jim Stacy’s Food Truck Midway (serving up a wide array of local culinary delights curated by Pallookaville’s own Mr. Stacy), the Silverscreen Gasoline Car Show (featuring the Discovery Channel CAFÉ RACER host and custom car celebrity, Atlanta’s own Bryan Fuller), an artists’ market, a kids’ play zone and two music stages.

Music-wise, you can expect an ear-filling variety of bands designed for maximum enjoyment before the sun goes down. You want some retro surf-rock action? Step right up and enjoy the sounds of Mystery Men?, Andrew & the Disapyramids (featuring ATLRetro Kool Kat Joshua Longino), and a tribute to the legendary Penetrators. You need some country-fried tastiness? Move it on over to the honky-tonkin’ tunes of Ghost Riders Car Club (featuring Kool Kat Spike Fullerton) and Cletis & His City Cousins (featuring Kool Kat Cletis Reid) . In the mood for some frenzied beat action? Get in the garage with The Brimstones, Rocket 350 and Jimmy & the Teasers. And for straight-up adrenaline-pumping rock and roll, blast off to Bigfoot (featuring Kool Kat Jett Bryant), Dusty Booze & the Baby Haters, Gargantua and The Biters.

But all that is prelude. They call this Drive-Invasion for a reason: drive-in movies. And they’re celebrating the end of the summer with a trio of beach party horror flicks that will keep the mood rocking until the last frame unspools across the screen: THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH, JAWS and MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND.

hpb001THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH (1964); Dir. Del Tenney; Starring John Scott, Alice Lyon and Allan Laurel; Trailer here.

THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH answers the question “why only have one Creature from the Black Lagoon, when you can have a whole gang of them?” It tells a story old as time: when radioactive waste is dumped into the ocean, it creates a whole mess of monsters who then rise from the depths to kill innocent teens. It’s then up to young Hank and concerned father Dr. Gavin to find a way to stop the rampaging amphibious creatures. Imagine if HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP (1996) came out in 1964, and replace the gore and nudity with dancing and stomping beach music (provided by the Del-Aires, with half of their songs and all of the film’s score written by future porn legend Zebedy Colt!). HORROR zips along breezily thanks to director Del Tenney’s sure hand, and thanks to him keeping his tongue firmly planted in cheek. It’s not quite a send-up, but more a lighthearted take on teen horror and beach party flicks, much like INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN (1957).

jaws-posterJAWS (1975); Dir. Steven Spielberg; Starring Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw; based on a novel by Peter Benchley; john oath Trailer here.

Then there’s JAWS. What can one say about this movie? When I was a tyke, it was so effective that even this unabashed horror movie fanatic—as committed then as I am today—believed that there were sharks hiding under my bed. (And yes, I fully grasped the logical problem in that scenario.) JAWS established Steven Spielberg as a Big-Time Director after years of working in TV and smaller-budgeted films like THE SUGARLAND EXPRESS (1974). It also singlehandedly created the modern summer “blockbuster” phenomenon (and simultaneously marked the end of the “New Hollywood” period of the late 1960s and early ‘70s), and its style and craftsmanship has exerted a lasting influence far beyond its immediate impact. It is, in many ways, a nearly perfect movie. Pitch-perfect performances from Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw are wed to dialogue so fresh that it’s still being quoted, imitated and parodied nearly 40 years after the film’s release. Add to that Spielberg’s precise direction, one of John Williams’ best scores and Verna Field’s expert editing, which work together to create an escalating tension that reaches peaks high enough to make you completely ignore the badly malfunctioning mechanical shark.

mad_doctor_of_blood_island_poster_01MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND (1968); Dir. Eddie Romero and Gerardo de Leon; Starring John Ashley, Angelique Pettyjohn and Ronald Remy; Trailer (featuring narration from the legendary Brother Theodore) here.

Rounding out the program is MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND, probably the pinnacle of writer/producer/director Eddie Romero’s Philippine-lensed series of “Blood Island” movies. And while that may sound like a pretty small category for a film to qualify as “the best,” keep in mind that there are something like 10 of them (six in the series, and four tangentially related). In this entry, John Ashley—the co-star of multiple AIP “Beach Party” flicks—stars as a pathologist who turns up at Blood Island to study the health of the natives, only to find mysterious deaths linked to the appearance of what appears to be green blood. Throw in Angelique Pettyjohn, heaps of nudity and gore, some of the most ludicrous pseudo-science ever spouted in a movie script and a rampaging monster that must be seen to be believed, and you have what amounts to one of the most definitive drive-in movies ever created. While it may never be regarded as a cinematic classic, it is an experience that I wholeheartedly suggest you undertake. It’s not for nothing that Eddie Romero was named the National Artist of the Philippines in 2003.

And let me take this time to warn you: to survive your exposure to the energies of MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND and to ward off contagion in the days after Drive-Invasion, you must prepare yourself by taking the Oath of the Green Blood, which will ensure that you will never become a green-blooded monster. Vials of Doctor Lorca’s Green Blood Potion will be available to the first 1000 visitors who stop by the Drive-Invasion booth or Professor Morté’s Silver Scream Spookshow booth. Remember: stay safe. Protection is prevention.

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com

Category: Features, Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Head-Crushing, Nuclear Waste-Guzzling Mutants Unite at the Plaza Theatre for the Troma Film Festival!

Posted on: Jun 26th, 2013 By:

The Plaza Theatre presents the Troma Film Festival; Starts Wednesday, June 26 @ 7 p.m., Thursday, June 27 @ 5 p.m.; Plaza Theatre; Schedule and Event Info here; Tickets $30 for 2-day passes, $12 for single day passes, available at Plaza box office.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

Troma Entertainment. Say what you will about them, they’ve survived nearly 40 years of independence while assaulting the very idea of good taste, and simultaneously bringing the concept of the B-movie into the home video age. And for two inglorious nights, the Plaza Theatre brings Atlanta a look back at the filmic legacy of Troma, the films they’ve produced and the films they’ve distributed with the Troma Film Festival.

Troma started up shop in 1974, the brainchild of extravagant frontman Lloyd Kaufman and the behind-the-scenes, lurking-only-in-shadows figure of Michael Herz. (Seriously, Michael Herz is the Sasquatch of independent cinema: only seen running awkwardly in blurry 8mm film clips shot from a great distance away.) The team not only created and distributed their own sex comedies for the exploitation/grindhouse/drive-in circuit (such as SQUEEZE PLAY!, THE FIRST TURN ON! and WAITRESS!), but also provided assistance to outside productions such as John Avildsen’s 1986 classic ROCKY (which was edited on Troma’s flatbed editing equipment) and Louis Malle’s 1981 feature MY DINNER WITH ANDRE.

But it was in 1984, just after the advent of the home video revolution, that Troma made its first big, bloody splash. THE TOXIC AVENGER started with Lloyd speculating 10 years earlier that a horror film set at a health spa would be interesting. Over the years, the idea mutated like Toxie himself, becoming a self-referential (the film is set in the fictional Tromaville, NJ, which would become a mainstay of Kaufman/Herz-helmed Troma flicks) and hyper-violent superhero spoof. While the film came and went in general release with little notice, its success in midnight screenings led to nation-wide coverage and its successful distribution on VHS through Lightning Video. Significantly, though, because Troma had faced pushback over certain gory scenes in getting the R rating needed to gain widespread theatrical exhibition from the MPAA, they discovered that home video was a surefire way to bypass the ratings board and use that to extend the Troma brand.

Troma followed up on the huge success of THE TOXIC AVENGER with 1986’s similarly mutated CLASS OF NUKE ‘EM HIGH. Co-directed by Kaufman and Richard W. Haines, the film continued on the same parodic path as previous, sending up the sensationalistic “high school gang” film tradition that reached from 1955’s THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE to ‘82’s CLASS OF 1984, spiking it with the heady taste of radioactive waste. The film was another success for Troma, both theatrically and on home video, and the company began hacking out a place in the home video market that they sought to fill with outside productions.

Much like Kaufman’s role models in American International Pictures and Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, Troma ventured into the world of acquisition, finding independently-produced films from other movie-makers that stylistically fit under the Troma umbrella. They picked up “Tromatic” flicks like the notoriously gore-filled and sadistically sleazy BLOODSUCKING FREAKS, the revenge comedy SURF NAZIS MUST DIE, the Belgian import RABID GRANNIES and the surprisingly good-natured spoof MONSTER IN THE CLOSET. Meanwhile, earlier Troma productions like their sex comedies saw new life in video stores across the country.

Constant advertising and coverage in magazines like FANGORIA helped to ensure that their target audience of horror-and-gore-loving young adults was constantly in the know when a new Troma flick was hitting the shelves. In the mid-80s, if you were a teenager into horror and comedy, it was pretty much a guaranteed thing that you went through a Troma phase. While plenty of people tried to emulate the mixture of gross-out humor and blood-soaked horror that the company reveled in, Troma had established itself as a reliable brand for all your disgusting needs and had that part of the market pretty much sewn up.

If this were something like VH-1’s BEHIND THE MUSIC or an E! TRUE HOLLYWOOD STORY, you’d expect a fall right about now. And hey, look! There’s one right here!

In 1988, Troma undertook their most expensive film to date, TROMA’S WAR. The film was created to send up hyper-patriotic war films of the Reagan era like RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART 2, INVASION U.S.A. and MISSING IN ACTION (and, by extension, the Reagan administration’s attempt to glorify war in general). However, its blatant over-the-top violence and subplot involving terrorists spreading AIDS to the US led the company to run afoul of the MPAA once again. While cuts had been made to previous Troma films, at least their storylines remained comprehensible. After submitting the film twice to the board, nearly 20 minutes were removed in order to receive an R rating, and the film was butchered so heavily that it made even less sense than your typical Troma flick. It flopped in a spectacular fashion, the critical response was abysmal, and the negative press even affected the home video release. The financial loss to the company was nearly fatal.

It wasn’t until 1996’s TROMEO AND JULIET that Troma began to establish itself once again. An ambitious attempt to create a comic version of Shakespeare’s play that was both relatively faithful and Tromatic, the film was the first collaboration between Lloyd Kaufman and James Gunn (SLITHER, SUPER and the upcoming GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY) and it was a breath of fresh air after an unsuccessful series of TOXIC AVENGER and NUKE ‘EM HIGH sequels. TROMEO was critically acclaimed and had successful art house engagements in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, where it played for over a year. Suddenly, with a huge return on a $350,000 investment, Troma was back on the map. While 1999’s TERROR FIRMER and 2000’s CITIZEN TOXIE: THE TOXIC AVENGER IV were comparatively less successful, they did help to keep the brand above water and in the public eye.

And, as is to be expected, Troma managed to turn things around.

Troma’s website had long been a fan destination for original Troma-related content, and they decided to pursue a novel idea: an anthology series called TALES FROM THE CRAPPER entirely presented on their website. They enlisted model/actress/producer India Allen to develop the series with a budget of $250,000. Allen backed out of production halfway through, and later sued Troma for breach of contract, slander, sexual harassment, trade slander and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The resulting footage was nearly unusable, and Troma attempted to salvage the project as a series of two DVD releases. It was a huge blow to what was turning out to be a second coming for the studio.

But then in 2006, Troma returned with POULTRYGEIST: NIGHT OF THE CHICKEN DEAD. A satirical horror movie take on the fast-food industry, the film was plagued with production problems throughout its shooting. Effects didn’t work, money was short, actors weren’t being paid, sets were destroyed prematurely…in short, it was what you’d expect a Troma shoot to be like. Despite all of the troubles, though, it was completed on schedule and was released to Troma’s best notices to date, and finally saw wide release in 2008. Publications ranging from ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY to THE GUARDIAN singled out the film as “an exploitation movie with soul” and “wonderfully bold” (respectively), while NEW YORK magazine and SALON.com chose the movie as a Critic’s Pick.

Feeling gusts from the winds of success at their backs, Troma decided to partner with Canadian filmmaking team Astron-6. Known at the time for their short films disguised as fake trailers for imaginary 1970s and ‘80s movies (including COOL GUYS, LAZER GHOSTS 2: RETURN TO LASER COVE and FIREMAN), Troma released a DVD of their shorts to great acclaim and co-produced the epic FATHER’S DAY with them. A spoof of 1970s rape-revenge flicks (with the genders reversed), supernatural horror and slasher movies, screenings of the film were greeted with wild enthusiasm, and it looked like this was to be a harbinger of another grand new era for Troma Entertainment.

But then, this is Troma we’re talking about. You know what’s about to happen.

A huge rift between Astron-6 and Troma pretty much put a kibosh on there being any more collaboration between the two parties. Astron-6 claimed that Lloyd was selling bootleg DVD-Rs of the film at screenings, which led to early piracy of the film. Troma’s initial poster art removed Astron-6’s logo. Disputes and conflicting claims from both entities over a “making of” documentary (which was critical of Troma) led to it not being included on the DVD release of the film. Troma scrapped the planned Astron-6 commentary track from the release, and included an early cut of the film rather than the finished, final cut.

So that leaves us here, as we stand reflecting on 40 years of Tromatic entertainment. Still with me? Good.

Because Troma is still with us as well. Like cockroaches, they will survive to be the only film studio standing after the nuclear holocaust that will obliterate all other life in the year 2025, the studio run by a coterie of mutants and some guy wearing a Toxie mask carrying around Lloyd’s head in a jar. And probably Michael Herz. No matter who’s come after them for their exercises in poor taste, no matter how shoddy their business practices may or may not be, Troma springs eternal.

May the lord have mercy on us all.

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog atdoctorsardonicus.wordpress.com

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Get Set for a Swinging Time with Vincent Price at THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM! A New Digital Restoration at Atlanta’s Historic Plaza Theatre!

Posted on: Jan 30th, 2013 By:

THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1961); Dir. Roger Corman; Starring Vincent Price, Barbara Steele and John Kerr; Premiere Friday, Feb. 1 @ 8:00 p.m. with giveaways; then nightly at 8 p.m. Feb. 2- 7; Plaza Theatre (visit website for times and ticket prices); Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

Finally, after years of waiting, it is now possible to see PIT AND THE PENDULUM on the big screen once again in a newly-restored, high-definition digital presentation. For far too long, the movie has been hard to see in optimal condition (even the most recent MGM Midnite Movies DVD of the title isn’t anamorphically enhanced for widescreen presentation). This is something that’s always struck me as odd since it’s one of the best-remembered films of American International PicturesEdgar Allan Poe cycle, was a huge box-office smash at the time and contains some of the most defining scenes in post-1960 horror. Be that as it may, as far as securing prints go, it has been one of the more obscure films of Roger Corman. Thankfully, that’s changing now, and THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM can be seen in all of its glory and grandeur at Atlanta’s historic Plaza Theatre from Friday, February 1 through Thursday, February 7. Friday night’s showing will feature a special giveaway of two free tickets to all nine days of the Atlanta Film Festival: a $600 value! It promises to be an event big enough to befit the legendary teaming of Corman, Price and Poe.

Roger Corman. The name means many things to many people. To some, it primarily conjures up images of cheaply-made and quickly-shot horror/sci-fi fare from the 1950s and ‘60s. Flicks like CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA, A BUCKET OF BLOOD and THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. For others, it is chiefly and inextricably linked with the development of the “New Hollywood” of the late 1960s and ‘70s. Movies from American International Pictures and New World Pictures that helped launch the careers of talents like Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Jonathan Demme, Robert De Niro, Barbara Hershey, Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda. For a former co-worker of mine, it means “that aloof guy who would stroll into the New Horizons office and ask if Jim Wynorski had called.”

But for a certain set of the man’s fans, the first things that come to mind are two names: Edgar Allan Poe and Vincent Price.

In 1960, American International Pictures was seeing the market for their low-budget, black-and-white output shrink. Roger Corman had been their most prolific filmmaker, churning out low-budget schlock in 10 days or less (mind you, it’s some great schlock, and never without a sense of wit and intelligence behind it all), and convinced studio heads Samuel Z. Arkoff and James H. Nicholson to take a risk on shooting a full-color widescreen film with a larger budget (a full $300,000!) and a longer production schedule (a full 15 days!). The success of this film, HOUSE OF USHER, pushed AIP to demand more of the same: another Poe adaptation, made by the same team and starring the same lead, Vincent Price.

Corman complied and assembled his USHER team: cinematographer (Floyd Crosby), set designer (Daniel Haller), score composer (Les Baxter) and screenwriter, the now-legendary horror author Richard Matheson. Matheson had seen a good deal of success as a writer in the decade previous to his teaming with Corman. He had adapted his novel THE SHRINKING MAN into the smash sci-fi/horror film THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN, and his novels and short stories were in high demand. He had just been added to the stable of writers employed by THE TWILIGHT ZONE, and was also selling scripts to western- and war-themed TV shows. In short, Corman (in a typical move for him) had spotted an up-and-coming talent that he could grab for relatively cheap: someone who might be willing to trade some of the money he could get from a higher-paying gig for the relative liberty of a Corman screenwriting job. The pairing worked so well on USHER that Matheson returned for this, and several of the films following this in Corman’s Poe series.

The film is set in 1th Century Spain, and follows Francis Barnard (John Kerr) as he visits the castle of his brother-in-law Nicholas (Vincent Price) to investigate the death of his sister Catherine (Barbara Steele). Nicholas recounts that Catherine had been driven mad by the castle’s history and atmosphere, had committed suicide and now walks the castle halls as a ghost. When it is uncovered that Catherine had been interred alive, Nicholas is sent into paroxysms of fear and plunged into madness as he has visions of the traumatic events of his childhood. It all culminates in Nicholas’ break with sanity as he tortures his household in the dungeon beneath the castle’s floors.

Because of the slightness of narrative material in Poe’s short story, which is set nearly entirely within a prison cell over the course of a few nights, Matheson was encouraged to devise a way to shoehorn Poe’s tale into just the film’s climactic scene. In doing so, he created a psychologically rich screenplay centered on the main character’s neuroses, all of which seem to stem from a terrifying event witnessed in his youth. This psychological approach to gothic horror would prove to be incredibly influential in the years to come, as reverberations of its themes (along with their visual depiction by the team of Corman, Crosby and Haller) would be seen in many of the great Italian gothic horrors of the 1960s and ’70s, as Tim Lucas uncovered in his 1997 interview with screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi in VIDEO WATCHDOG #39. Gastaldi admitted that the film had inspired his screenplays for Mario Bava’s THE WHIP AND THE BODY and Antonio Margheriti’s THE LONG HAIR OF DEATH: “Yes, of course! THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM had a big influence on Italian horror films. Everybody borrowed from it.”

Vincent Price, too, returned to the AIP fold. Price had starred to great effect in HOUSE OF USHER, and brought equal parts menace, dignity and emotional complexity to what could have been a flatly-played character in lesser hands. In THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, he would be given even more to chew on as Nicholas Medina (and, in flashback, his crazed Inquisitor father, Sebastian Medina). Some have argued that perhaps Price sank his teeth a bit too deeply into the role, which required him to shift from a refined-but-fragile gentleman persona to that of a raving madman at a second’s notice. And it’s true that Price seems to be having the time of his life, relishing every utterance and mannerism, and basically being Vincent Price at his Priciest. But in a film that demands a tone that almost tips into the surreal, his nearly over-the-top performance works perfectly as a piece with every other element in the production.

Barbara Steele, fresh from starring in Mario Bava’s international gothic horror success, BLACK SUNDAY, is also incredibly memorable as Catherine, delivering an impressively expressive performance. However, it’s hard to objectively discuss her work in this film beyond the physical aspect of it: thinking that her natural British accent didn’t mesh with the other actors’ performances, AIP had her part dubbed in post-production by another actress.

Visually, Corman and his team work wonders with what little budget and time they were given, using impressive sets borrowed from other studios, violently active camera work and dream/fantasy/flashback sequences warped and twisted optically and displayed using a blue and red color palette. Corman’s direction is—as usual—tight and effective, providing impressive and perfectly-timed jolts while steadily building an atmosphere of oppression and madness. For pure horror, it is the highlight of the entire Corman/Poe series, and artistically tied only with THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (MASQUE may be more thematically and symbolically rich and more daring in its approach, but PIT beats it on pure fright value).

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com

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Retro Review: Tricks & a Cinematic Treat at The Plaza as the Silver Scream Spookshow Unearths Another Vincent Price/H.P. Lovecraft Classic for Its Fifth Anniversary

Posted on: Oct 13th, 2011 By:

By Philip Nutman
Contributing Blogger

Silver Scream Spookshow Presents THE HAUNTED PALACE (1963); Dir: Roger Corman; Screenplay by Charles Beaumont; Starring Vincent Price, Lon Chaney Jr., Debra Paget; Sat. Oct. 15;  kids matinee at 1 PM (kids under 12 free & adults $7) and adult show at 10 PM(all tickets $12)Plaza Theatre; Trailer here.

Vincent Price is back to haunt The Plaza in THE HAUNTED PALACE (1963) another H.P. Lovecraft adaptation, and Halloween’s on its way! Cthulhu bless The Silver Scream Spookshow! Yes, yet another chance to see classic AIP/Roger Corman cinematic madness on the big screen in 35mm this Sat. Oct. 15! More Professor Morte and his madcap gang of monsters and monster babes! Oh, and some old Spookshow family members may return, too. Yowza!

THE HAUNTED PALACE was promoted as another Corman-Price-Edgar Allan Poe film, but while the title comes from a line in a Poe poem, it’s actually a very loose adaptation of Lovecraft’s THE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD, one of his more famous novellas. If you’ve never read it, you should. But more importantly, you should make a date for seeing the film at The Plaza this weekend because it’s the fifth anniversary of the Spookshow, it’s a terrific print of the movie, and Professor Morte is promising a magical event (literally).

“THE HAUNTED PALACE has become a favorite movie here at Morte Manor,” the Professor cackled to ATLRetro from his crypt in his secret batcave. “I watch this movie once a week, and I listen to the soundtrack [composed by Ronald Stein], which is amazing, all the time.” Before laying back down in his coffin, Atlanta’s favorite master of the macabre whispered in ATLRetro’s ear that there will be some stunning legerdemain this weekend (that means magic tricks, as in sleight-of-hand, as in smoke and mirrors, gang), including a certain supernatural experience which, if we understood Morte’s whisper correctly, has never happened live on stage before…

Now, back to the movie. THE HAUNTED PALACE is one of the best Lovecraft adaptations to make it onto celluloid. Not only does it star Saint Vincent Price, it also features everyone’s favorite Wolfman, Lon Chaney, Jr., and hot babe, Debra Paget, from THE TEN COMMANDMENTS and who smooched with Elvis in LOVE ME TENDER (both 1956). The excellent script was written by the late, great Charles Beaumont, one of the finest short story writers of his generation, who penned over two dozen classic episodes of Rod Serling’s THE TWILIGHT ZONE TV show (He also wrote the screenplay for the Zsa Zsa Gabor turkey, QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE [1958], but, hey, no one’s perfect).

So, there’s only one place to be this Saturday: The Plaza Theatre! And as Professor Morte says, “be prepared to be scared!”

ATLRetro terrifying trivia:

  • THE HAUNTED PALACE was Debra Paget’s last movie before she retired after marrying a Chinese millionaire and later became a devout Christian.
  • Charles Beaumont is the subject of a terrific documentary by Jason V. Brock, CHARLES BEAUMONT: THE SHORT LIFE OF TWILIGHT ZONE’S MAGIC MAN (2010).
  • Beaumont’s birth name was Charles Leroy Nutt.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Madeline Brumby Battles the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse, Scares at the Spookshow and Braves Bikers ‘n’ Bigfoot in DEAR GOD NO!

Posted on: Oct 12th, 2011 By:

As Halloween creeps close and THE WALKING DEAD returns to TV next Sunday, Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse (AZA) arises for its own second season with new sets and a new storyline at Safety Wolf, the vast paintball combat complex off Moreland Avenue, just south of I-285 (open Thurs.-Sun. nights through Oct. 31). Set in and around a two-story abandoned motel, this approximately 100,000-square-foot attraction was nightmared up by the maniacal minds of local horror Renaissance man/make-up artist Shane Morton (Silver Scream Spookshow, Gargantua, etc.) and Jonny Rej (Plaza Theatre). Not just your traditional walk-through haunts with jump-out monsters, AZA delivers a total immersion “experience” with a distinct plotline that lands visitors right in the middle of the zombie plague, interacting along the way with a variety of human characters from scientists and bureaucrats at the Center for Disease Development (CDD) (but can you trust them?) to commandos fighting the zombies with automatic weaponry (reminiscent of last year’s Mack and Johnson) to a twisted carnival of human scum who thrive in the chaos, reminiscent of John Carpenter’s ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK.  It’s sometimes hard to know who to trust but if someone says “run,” let’s just say you can be sure zombies are around and if you don’t, you may get bitten and infected with the plague yourself or worse eaten for your brains!

To get the scary scoop, ATLRetro caught up with Madeline Brumby, a brunette with a machine gun who is no mere scream queen but a key cast-member and also this year’s pinup girl for the “hero” side of the AZA. But that’s not the only place you can see this monster-loving maiden this October. She’ll also be acting in the 5th Anniversary Silver Scream Spookshow this Saturday Oct. 15 at the Plaza Theatre – and you know Prof. Morte and Co. will be pulling out all the tricks and treats given that it’s their Halloween show and the movie is a rare 35mm print of the Vincent Price/Lon Chaney Jr. (not to mention H.P. Lovecraft) 1963 classic HAUNTED PALACE (Read our Retro Review here). Then she’ll be taking to the streets for this Sunday’s Zombie Walk Atlanta, organized by Luke Godfrey (Splatter Cinema, Chamber of Horrors) and cosponsored by AZA, and again with the AZA group at the Little 5 Points Halloween Parade on Sat. Oct. 22. Finally Madeline also will be up on the Plaza’s big screen later this month (Oct. 22-27) as one of the stars of DEAR GOD NO!, a hard-edged/no-holds-barred homage to ‘70s grindhouse features about a hellraising motorcycle gang, a mad scientist and a sasquatch on the rampage. Yeah, the name makes total sense when you see the movie!

All of this sounds like horror heaven to us, so we had to make Madeline Kool Kat of the Week

AZA 2011 T-short design by Dave Cook.

ATLRetro: This year’s AZA has the same basic concept but a totally new pathway and set of characters—loved the R.I.P. Mack and Johnson graffiti on the back wall. Without giving too much away, what’s new and different?

Madeline Brumby: We are all extremely excited about the new format. Of course, I’m sad to see Mack and Johnson go, but this year’s show is the sequel to the Mack and Johnson story. The versatility of the AZA to create and continue an apocalyptic scenario is really what gives the unique feel to the experience this year. And for years to come!

One of the cool things about AZA is every character seems to have a back story. Who do you play, and what’s yours?

Definitely! We had a patron come through the other night who was totally impressed that we had “real” actors with “real” stories. I’m a resistance paramilitary character. My troopers and I are rebels fighting for the survival of the uninfected and the destruction of the Center for Disease Development.

Some of the zombies have pretty intense make-up—i.e. they’re not freshly dead. How long does it take the zombies to get into make-up and how many make-up artists are on the team?

As much as we try to make the apocalypse real, the AZA is still a show. With not much light, our zombies have to be highly detailed for a spine-chilling scare. The process is down to a fine science—taking about 7 minutes per zombie. We have a team of about eight artists, myself included, headed by Shane Morton. First they are outfitted and receive a prosthetic. Once the prosthetic is dry, they are base-coated, detailed with additional colors, blood-splattered and hungry for BRAINS!

What zombie movies and books were most influential in planning AZA, and did a certain TV show set in Atlanta and featuring the CDC influence AZA at all in this year’s planning?

Haha! That’s funny. Last night Shane and I watched THE WALKING DEAD for the first time, and I thought it was pretty weak. CGI blood is a NO-NO! Our blood gags are far more realistic and they’re LIVE! And I’m pretty sure we were using the CDC gimmick first(?) as our show opened before the first episode aired. As far as most influential, WORLD WAR Z, I AM LEGEND [Ed. note: original Richard Matheson novel, not Will Smith move], LAST MAN STANDING and ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK provide the main inspirations.

Were you involved in any of the planning and construction? What can you tell us about that – how does AZA come together and who are some of the key behind-the-scenes masterminds, whom readers might not know about?

I’ve been out on builds from January to October and helped with some big scares in the courtyard. The primary innovators are Jonny Rej (co-owner of the Plaza Theatre) and Shane, with the major help of Dusty Booze in the construction department.

What’s a cool piece of trivia about AZA that isn’t widely known?

It is HAUNTED!

Professor Morte (Shane Morton) and Madeline Brumby in Silver Scream Spookshow.

Can you share any history about the AZA site? It was an abandoned motel, wasn’t it?

It used to be one of the busiest trucks stops ofAtlanta. At some point the owners ran into financial trouble and it shut down. Pirates ransacked the place and absconded with all the copper! When the property was purchased by Safety Wolf, I think they found EIGHT dead bodies during clean-up in the motel.  Shane and Jonny sure found some scary stuff when they were cleaning…

In addition to the main AZA experience, there’s a photo op, the opportunity to shoot zombies with paintball weaponry and some tasty food vendors, aren’t there? What might readers want to know in advance about what else is going on?

What better way to remember your apocalyptic experience than a photo with a zombie and a weapon of choice! The Zombie Shoot is even better this year and don’t let your taste buds miss out on Jim Stacy‘s famous Palookaville eats! His pickle is amazing! (insert joke here)

You’ve also become a regular in the Silver Scream Spookshow. Can you give us a little sneak peek into this week’s stage show and what makes HAUNTED PALACE such a special treat?

We definitely have some comedy gold in store for this week’s show! It’s the 5th year anniversary, so we’ve got some of the older characters like Persephone (Plaza co-owner Gayle Rej) and some of the new ones like Quozzy mixing it up for a spooktacular monster mash with more onstage illusions than ever. The score of HAUNTED PALACE is what makes the movie special to me, so I’m excited to see and HEAR it in the wonderful Plaza Theatre.

Will AZA be in the L5P Halloween Parade this year? Just zombies or how does one decorate an undead float?

We’ll be there! Undead and Alive! I think the only “float” we’ll have is a blood-splattered car.

You’re also starring in DEAR GOD NO!, an over-the-top neo-‘70s exploitation film featuring tons of local talent and playing at the Plaza Oct. 22-27. Can you tell us a little bit about that movie and the part you play?

Jimmy Bickert‘s DEAR GOD NO! is the ultimate grindhouse film. It is disturbing, offensive, hilarious, horrifying and amazing. You can’t even call it a tribute. It was shot on super 16mm film and all the effects are practical. I play Edna Marco who is the daughter of the mad scientist that has created something terrible. She transforms from submissive to empowered. Developing her went beyond all expectations. I channeled some deep dark emotions into my character and it has definitely been one of my proudest roles.

DEAR GOD NO! pushed a lot of boundaries and isn’t for everyone. What advice do you have for who should see it, especially the gals?

Take it for the art that it is and expect to be offended.

You also are acting as one of Dracula’s wives in Rob Thompson’s highly anticipated DRACULA: THE ROCK OPERA, which premieres next April at 7 Stages. Do you have anything you’d like to share about that role and experience?

Well, it’s definitely a musical that isn’t lame. My poor brother didn’t realize that Dracula’s wives were semi-nude and felt a little weird seeing that much of his sister. Haha! But, I don’t think it bothered anybody else too much. From musicians, score, and performers, the show is oozing talent and potential. I hope we do play in Prague this summer.

Any other acting roles or creative endeavors that you’d like to share with ATLRetro readers?

I hear there’s going to be a sequel to DEAR GOD NO! Hopefully we start shooting in the Spring.

Finally, you lived in England and have a science degree from Georgia Tech. Not that it wouldn’t be our dream/nightmare job, but how did you end up being a B-monster attraction/spookshow/movie actress?

Life’s a journey, right?

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Retro Review: Vincent Price at His Most Evil and Sadistic in WITCHFINDER GENERAL, Splatter Cinema’s September Movie

Posted on: Sep 12th, 2011 By:

By Philip Nutman
Contributing Blogger

Splatter Cinema Presents WITCHFINDER GENERAL (aka THE CONQUEROR WORM) (1968); Dir: Michael Reeves; Starring: Vincent Price, Ian Ogilvy; Tues. Sept. 13; 9:30 PM; Plaza Theatre; Trailer here.

ATLRetro’s excited – one of our favorite horror movies of all time is coming to the Plaza Theatre for an ultra-rare 35 mm screening this week as the cool ghouls at Splatter Cinema present WITCHFINDER GENERAL, the notorious 1968 British wench burning fest starring the fabulous Vincent Price at his most evil.

Recut and retitled THE CONQUEROR WORM by American International Pictures for the US market (the title is a steal from an Edgar Allan Poe poem to make people think it was another Price-Poe flick), this movie is for my money Saint Vincent’s best, most brutal and sadistic performance, a study in ice-cold evil. The print of this much-censored movie the Splatter gang are screening is a British X-rated one, which, sadly, doesn’t include the restored footage from a UK DVD released a few years ago. But since most of the shocking, sadistic, violent footage has been lost over the years, this isn’t a big deal – except for purists such as myself – as this film packs a punch to the guts regardless. (Only seconds were trimmed from several scenes, tightening some of the torture and longer takes of witches being burned alive – material that’s long been a source of conjecture amongst obsessive fans. The screenplay was pre-censored by the British Board of Film Censors before a foot of film was shot back in the ‘60s.

Based on the turgid 1966 historical novel by Ronald Bassett, the film has its roots in truth but is a seriously fictionalized account of the infamous exploits of 17th century self-styled “witchfinder” Matthew Hopkins, who committed hundreds of atrocities during the English civil war as Royalists fought Parliamentary forces for control of the countryside, staining the verdant pastures red. The real Hopkins was a sadistic misogynist who lined his pockets by extracting confessions from innocent women who were accused of witchcraft by paranoid villagers. As played by Price, the character is a power-hungry, puritanical, sexually repressed manipulator of the first order who meets his match in Richard Marshall, a young soldier played by Ian Ogilvy (best known for playing sleuth Simon Templar in the ‘70s Brit TV series THE RETURN OF THE SAINT). When Hopkins and his vile assistant, Stearne, victimize a vicar and his daughter, the soldier’s true love, vengeance becomes the order of the day, and Marshall abandons his political convictions, going crazy as he hunts down and confronts the men who have destroyed his life.

 

Richard Marshall (Ian Ogilvy) and Vincent Price in WITCHFINDER GENERAL, aka THE CONQUEROR WORM. Photo credit: AIP

Written and directed by Michael Reeves, a very young, ambitious director, whom critics hailed as the Great White Hope of British horror cinema, this movie turned out to be his swan song as he died at age 25 of an accidental drug overdose shortly after completing the film. His next scheduled project was THE OBLONG BOX (1969), another Price-Poe vehicle, and one wonders how that would have turned out considering Price couldn’t stand the young director, whom he thought arrogant and disliked the way he was being commanded as an actor – which makes Price’s understated performance even more tribute-worthy.

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Retro Review: DIE, MONSTER DIE! Silver Scream Spookshow Invades the Plaza with Mutant Killer Plants and Karloff!

Posted on: Aug 25th, 2011 By:

By Philip Nutman
Contributing Blogger

Silver Scream Spookshow Presents DIE, MONSTER, DIE! (1965); Dir: Daniel Haller; Starring Boris Karloff; Sat. Aug. 27;  kids matinee at 1 PM (kids under 12 free & adults $7) and adult show at 10 PM(all tickets $12Plaza Theatre; Trailer here.

Originally released by American International Pictures in 1965 on a double bill with Mario Bava’s  PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES, DIE, MONSTER, DIE (aka MONSTER OF TERROR) is another ’60s fright-fest loosely based on an H. P. Lovecraft story, in this case “The Color Out of Space.” The movie marks the directorial debut by former art director, Daniel Haller, who worked extensively with Roger Corman in the 50s and 60s, his distinctive design work adding to the atmospherics of  Corman’s THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (1960),  THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1961), THE PREMATURE BURIAL and TALES OF TERROR (both 1962), and a whole slew of other great old Corman/Vincent Price/AIP flicks we love here at ATLRetro.

Like the Corman/Poe films, DIE, MONSTER, DIE! follows the familiar narrative format of a stranger arriving in a strange town – in this case, Lovecraft’s infamous Arkham, transposed to a rural English setting – only to encounter hostility from the locals who shun the inhabitants of the Whitley estate. The stranger in question is Stephen Reinhart (THE GREEN SLIME’s Nick Adams), an American coming to visit his fiancé. Unable to rent even a bicycle to get to the mysterious house, Reinhart notices there’s something wrong with the vegetation the closer he gets to the Whitley place – and discovers a strange crater.

Managing to get into the grounds of the permanently fog-shrouded estate, Reinhart is rebuffed by Whitley patriarch, Nathum (Boris Karloff), but as soon as his daughter (and Reinhart’s love), Susan (Suzan Farmer, who went on to appear in Hammer’s DRACULA, PRINCE OF DARKNESS and RASPUTIN, THE MAD MONK, the following year) learns Stephen has suddenly shown up, the old man agrees to let him stay. Reinhart, it turns out, was summoned to the house by Susan’s mother, Lettia, who is dying a a strange disease which is making her waste away. The mother, played by Freda Jackson, another Hammer veteran (1960’s THE BRIDES OF DRACULA), confides that Helga, the housemaid, has disappeared, that there’s something strange growing/lurking in the greenhouse, and, fearing, for her daughter’s safety, begs Stephen to take her away. Of course, he agrees…by deciding to stay for a few days. Big mistake! And what about that mysterious meteorite Nathum has hidden in the basement?

DIE, MONSTER, DIE! is a fun film and a competent debut by Haller. It’s not the best Lovecraft adaptation (Haller’s  1970 THE DUNWICH HORROR is a much better H.P.- inspired film), and it’s not a great Karloff flick, either. But it’s always fantastic to see Uncle Boris on the big screen, especially at The Plaza, and particularly in the presence of Professor Morte and the Silver Scream Spookshow gang!

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