The Horror! The Horror! Our Top Reasons to Spook on Down to the 3rd Annual MONSTERAMA CONVENTION

Posted on: Oct 3rd, 2016 By:

by Melanie Crew10.7
Managing Editor

What are you doing this weekend? We’re monster mashing it up with a helluva killer Kool Kat extravaganza and more at the 3rd Annual MONSTERAMA CONVENTION, creeping and crawling into town this weekend, Oct. 7-9 at the Atlanta Marriott Perimeter Center!

1) THE GOLDEN BRUNCH OF MONSTERAMA! Have an intimate and devilishly delicious brunch with Monsterama special guest and Hammer, Bond, Harryhausen film star Caroline Munro Friday from 10am – 1pm!

2) CTHULUAU! Cthula on down (If you dare!) to the hotel pool on Friday night at 7pm and get lei’d up with mermaids, music and dancing, oh my! Hosted by Mike Gordon and Peter Cutter creators of TIKI ZOMBIE!

3) SILVER SCREAM SPOOK SHOW! Kool Kat Shane Morton, a.k.a. ghost host with the most, Professor Morte and the Silver Scream Spook Show featuring the Go-Go Ghouls and Monsterama guest, Caroline Munro, a.k.a. “Stella Star” will get intergalactic with a live show followed by a screening of Luigi Cozzi’s STARCRASH (1978) on Saturday beginning at 4pm!

14433161_1191990034190405_7596388003487999022_n4) FANGTASTIC FILM!  It’s monster movie madness with screenings of horrorific classics including Mario Bava’s CALTIKI, THE IMMORTAL MONSTER (1959); William Witney’s THE CRIMSON GHOST (1946); E. Elias Merhige’s SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE (2000); F. W. Murnau’s NOSFERATU (1922) featuring a life soundtrack performed by Valentine Wolfe; Roger Vadim’s BARBARELLA (1968); Robert RodriguezFROM DUSK TILL DAWN (1996), an adults-only screening of Denis Sanders’  INVASION OF THE BEE GIRLS (1973) and so much more! Antonio Margheriti’s CASTLE OF BLOOD (1964) in 16mm and so much more slaying cinema!

5) SPOOKTACULAR GUESTS! Catch some killer guests including James Marshall (TWIN PEAKS – see our Kool Kat feature coming soon!); Zach Galligan (GREMLINS; WAXWORK); Caroline Munro (AT THE NosferatuEARTH’S CORE; STARCRASH); Suzanna Leigh (LUST FOR A VAMPIRE); Trina Parks (DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER; THE BLUES BROTHERS); Kool Kat and monster artist extraordinaire Mark Maddox; horror novelist and filmmaker John Farris (THE FURY); horror history expert and documentarian, Kool Kat Daniel Griffith of Ballyhoo Motion Pictures; Kool Kat Shane Morton, ghost host with the most, a.k.a. Professor Morte; glamour ghoul Kool Kat Madeline Brumby and so much more!

6) TWISTED TELEVISION!  Get terrified T.V.-style  throughout the weekend and catch screenings of Gene Roddenberry’s made-for-TV movie, SPECTRE (1977); THE OUTER LIMITS – “The Sixth Finger”; STAR TREK – “The Man Trap” and “Cat’s Paw”; MAN FROM ATLANTIS – “Crystal Water” and “Sudden Death”; THE WILD, WILD WEST – “The Night of the Iron Fist”; made for TV movie, THE QUESTOR TAPES (1974); and you won’t want to miss a super rare Kolchak Double Feature (THE NIGHT STALKER/THE NIGHT STRANGLER) in 16mm and so much more!

10.8Monsterama7) MONSTER MAKEOVERS!  Get gore-gous with monster make-up galore as part of this year’s Makers Track! SFX man Kyle Yaklin, Kool Kat Shane Morton and Chris Brown share the secrets of the monster trade with their “Raising Cthulhu” event, where they’ll build a Lovecraftian Creature costume and promise a true teaching moment when they pass on their knowledge of the Necronomicon and how to summon the Old Ones! Get spooktacular with a “Gore Gore Girls – Special Effects for Kids” event featuring mom/daughter duo, filmmaker Dayna Nofke (Tiltawhirl Pictures) and ultra spooky Vivi Vivian! And don’t forget to stick around for a creeping cornucopia of frightful faces and monster masks!

8) DEADLY DEALERS! Horror cons are the perfect place to stock up on both classic horror memorabilia, cult

Professor Morte

Professor Morte

classics on DVD and creepy clothing, costumes and accessories. Vendors this year include Creature connoisseur and effects artist, Kyle Yaklin (See our Shop Around feature on Kyle here), Cult TV Man, Eraserhead Press and all the toys, collectibles and monstrous goodies you can get your ghoulish little hands on!

9) MONSTER PROM! Hey all you boils and ghouls, get frightfully funky at this year’s Monster Prom, Saturday at 9pm! Dust off the old rat-infested tux, clear out the cobwebs, shine up your shoes and get ready to do the Monster Mash, and maybe even Time-Warp into the wee hours of the morning, hosted by Professor Morte!

Monsterama main con hours are Fri. Oct. 7 from 4 to 12 a.m.; Sat. Oct. 8 from 9 a.m. to 12 a.m.; and Sun. Oct. 9 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more info, visit www.monsteramacon.com.

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Spring Into Cinema: Your Retro Primer to the 2015 Atlanta Film Festival

Posted on: Mar 20th, 2015 By:

AFFlogoBy Andrew Kemp
Contributing Writer

Alongside the first appearance of flip-flops and the musk of Bradford Pears, the arrival of the Atlanta Film Festival at the Plaza Theatre (and other venues) is becoming a new annual rite of Spring. Starting Friday, the AFF is bringing another year of offbeat and engrossing titles, and you can bet that ATL Retro is going to be all over it, providing coverage, features, and reviews of the best of what the festival has to offer.

For Retro-inclined readers out there, we’ve taken the liberty of targeting a few productions that may be relevant to your interests. Every screening at the AFF is likely to be a great time at the theater, but consider this your retro primer. In fact, let’s make that official:

OLD SOUTH

OLD SOUTH

Kick off your AFF experience with a little crowd participation by visiting the folks from Lips Down on Dixie as they present their extremely popular performance of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975). Although a Plaza staple for years, the show gets even better when seen with a festival crowd of fervent movie fanatics. You could even decide to see the show twice during your festival-going, if you just can’t get enough of the good Doctor Frank-N-Furter’s “hospitality.” There’s another midnight screening the following Friday. (THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW plays at midnight, March 20 & 27, at the Plaza).:

Retro is a broad category, and it can sometimes mean a state of mind. In OLD SOUTH (dir. Danielle Beverly) contemporary values collide with a damaging stereotype from the past as a college fraternity in Athens “known to fly the Confederate flag” attempts to mount an antebellum-style parade in a historically black neighborhood. The film plays with PEN UP THE PIGS (dir. Kelly Gallagher), a film described as “handcrafted, collage animation” that explores connections between old slavery and present-day racism. (OLD SOUTH plays 3/21 at 12:45 @ the Plaza)

Meanwhile, HOLBROOK/TWAIN: AN AMERICAN ODYSSEY (dir. Scott Teems) explores a more positive representation of the old south. Hollywood legend Hal Holbrook’s most famous role is that of Mark Twain, who he’s performed on stage in a one-man show for most of his life. This new documentary looks into the special relationship Holbrook has with his version of Twain, and features new interviews from stars like Sean Penn and Martin Sheen discussing Holbrook’s life and legacy. (HOLBROOK/TWAIN plays 3/21 at 8:00pm @ The Inn at Serenbe Pavilion, with an encore screening on 3/29 at 4:30pm @ 7 Stages)

ThEditor

THE EDITOR

Finally, for retro horror lovers, don’t miss THE EDITOR (dir. Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy). In this Canadian comedy-horror film, a shlock film editor with wooden fingers is accused of a string of murders and must clear his name. The production comes from the demented minds of Brooks and Kennedy, two members of the ensemble who brought the world MANBORG (2011), and features genre mainstays Udo Kier (SUSPIRIA) and Paz de la Huerta (NURSE). (THE EDITOR plays 3/21 at 9:45pm @ The Plaza)

Musician Frank Morgan’s life can be used as a cautionary tale about how great talent is no defense against the traps of the world which, in Morgan’s case, manifested as a drug addiction that sent his life and career spiraling into bankruptcy and incarceration. SOUND OF REDEMPTION: THE FRANK MORGAN STORY (dir. N.C. Heikin) chronicles Morgan’s struggles beginning with the ups (when the saxophonist was considered a successor to Charlie Parker) all the way to the downs and the back again. The documentary features extensive concert footage featuring the likes of saxophonist Grace Kelly and pianist George Cables, both of whom will appear in a live performance preceding the film. (SOUND OF REDEMPTION screens 3/25 at 7:30pm @ The Rialto Theater at Georgia State University)

THE KEEPING ROOM

THE KEEPING ROOM

THE KEEPING ROOM (dir. Daniel Barber) is a Civil War drama that places the spotlight squarely on a trio of strong, Southern women in a tough situation. When their father and brother go off to fight for the Confederacy, two sisters and their slave must defend the homestead from marauding Union soldiers who are in advance of Sherman’s infamous march. THE KEEPING ROOM is a tense, claustrophobic drama that features known stars Hailee Steinfeld (TRUE GRIT), Brit Marling (ANOTHER EARTH), and Sam Worthington (AVATAR). (THE KEEPING ROOM screens 3/26 at 9:30 @ The Plaza).

Atlanta director and ATLRetro Kool Kat Eddie Ray follows up his 2011 short film SATANIC PANIC: BAND OUT OF HELL with the in-demand sequel, SATANIC PANIC 2: BATTLE OF THE BANDS. The sequel finds our heroes, electronic dance band who pretend to be Satan worshippers for marketing reasons, preparing for a huge band battle while their manager plots to sacrifice them to the Dark One himself. In their new adventure, the band must contend with “secret government spy missions, band rivalries, and growing egos.” Look for an exclusive interview with Eddie Ray here at ATLRetro.com next week. (SATANIC PANIC 2 screens 3/27 at 6:30pm @ 7 Stages)

BLACK SUNDAY

BLACK SUNDAY

The folks from Splatter Cinema join the festival this year with a special presentation of the Italian horror classic BLACK SUNDAY (dir. Mario Bava). Banned in the UK for years—a true badge of honor in the horror world—the film stars the immortal Barbara Steele as a witch burned at the stake who returns 200 years later for bloody revenge. Featuring memorably grotesque and frightening scenes, BLACK SUNDAY is a slam-dunk classic of the genre that is well worth the effort to see on the big screen. (BLACK SUNDAY screens 3/27 at 10:00 pm @ 7 Stages)

LOVE AND MERCY (dir. Bill Pohlad) is an unconventional biography film about the life and career of singer/songwriter Brian Wilson. The film chronicles the young Wilson’s struggles with his musical ambitions, as he seeks to throw off the “surf music” label he had become known for as part of the Beach Boys, and with his overuse of psychedelic drugs. Paul Dano (LOOPER) plays Wilson as a young man, while John Cusack (GROSSE POINTE BLANK) plays Wilson as an adult, on the other side of experiences that left him a broken man. (LOVE AND MERCY plays 3/29 at 12:15pm @ The Plaza)

LOVE AND MERCY

LOVE AND MERCY

And finally, there’s a documentary that has sadly gone retro, as one of our favorite downtown eateries is sadly no longer with us. DANTE’S DOWN THE HATCH (dir. Jef Bredemeier) is a profile of the famed restaurant and its owner, Dante Stephensen. Far more than a place you could eat fondue while watching the alligators lounge in their pool, Dante’s became a landmark for many of us an integral part of the Atlanta landscape, and this documentary ensures that legacy is not forgotten. If you missed ATLRetro’s Kool Kat interview with Dante about his unique decor, you can find it here(DANTE’S DOWN THE HATCH plays 3.29 at 4:30pm @ The Plaza)

Of course, these films represent just a tiny portion of the events, shorts, seminars, and screenings taking place as part of the festival. For a complete list, you need to check out the official Atlanta Film Festival Schedule. And keep an eye on ATLRetro throughout the fest for coverage on all the fun and films. Enjoy this year’s AFF, movie lovers!

Andrew Kemp is a screenwriter and game designer who started talking about movies in 1984 and got stuck that way. He can be seen around town wherever there are movies, cheap beer and little else.

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CINEMA ATLRETRO MACABRE #1: Of Cannibals and Chocolate: A Short Chat with Ruggero Deodato

Posted on: Jan 19th, 2014 By:

Andrew Kemp and Ruggero Deodato at Twisted Fears.

Since Atlanta has become such a classic monster movie kind of city, ATLRetro presents the first in an ongoing new feature, CINEMA ATLRETRO MACABRE, featuring exclusive interviews with the masters and mistress of 20th century horror films. Our intrepid Retro Reviewer Andrew Kemp caught up with Ruggero Deodato, director of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1980), last fall at the Twisted Fears convention. A special thanks also goes to Sandra Despirt, who translated the taped interview from Italian into English. Watch for our next interview with Barbara Steele soon.

By Andrew Kemp
Contributing Writer

We’re done talking, but the elderly gentleman holds me up for a second. He smiles and palms me a tiny wrapped piece of candy. He has, I swear, an actual twinkle in his eye. The gesture reminds me of something a movie grandpa might do, and the man—warm sweater, round glasses and with one last tuft of unruly white hair atop his head—certainly fits the role. I half-expect to find a golden Werther’s Original in my hand, but it turns out to be a fun-sized Milky Way. It’s not what I expect, but I can’t stop smiling at the thought that Ruggero Deodato just handed me a little morsel of something to eat.

A scene from CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST.

Moments earlier that kindly old man, speaking to me in Italian with a translator, expressed bewilderment at his place in cinema infamy. “What I find incredible is that when I ask young people what they find more disturbing—my movie, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST or the film of the real beheading of an American in Iraq—and they reply CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST,” he says. “Incredible, very disturbing.” Over 30 years after Deodato’s cannibal opus, the director still appears surprised at the power of what he made, even though he remains to this day one of the few film directors forced to produce his actors in the flesh simply to prove to authorities that they were still alive. Clearly, there’s just something about his film that digs beneath the skin.

CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1980) is one of cinema’s great provocations. A late entry into the brief Italian subgenre of cannibal movies, the film is alternately credited with canonizing the genre or destroying it, or sometimes both in the same breath. The film concerns a documentary crew that traipses into the Amazon to acquire rare footage of a savage, stone-age tribe of locals who may or may not engage in cannibalism. The title, I guess, is a spoiler. Suffice to say that no good comes to the crew, or to pretty much anyone else, including some unfortunate animals butchered on camera. Unlike the crew “deaths” that fooled the Italian courts, the animal torture is regrettably unsimulated. In the past, Deodato has claimed he was only filming a fact of daily life  for the local tribes, that animals were routinely slaughtered in such a way for food and materials, not simply for his cameras. (A similar argument has always been made by Francis Ford Coppola about the bull death that closes APOCALYPSE NOW [1979]).  Still, if you plan to see the film, consider the state of your stomach.

CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST.

Central to the movie’s ability to unsettle is the way Deodato frames the movie as a documentary and shoots it accordingly. Today, we know what that should look like, but nothing else quite like CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST existed at the time. Already established in cannibal cred after his 1977 LAST CANNIBAL WORLD [aka JUNGLE HOLOCAUST], Deodato found inspiration for his new technique much closer to home. “I had already made the film LAST CANNIBAL WORLD, which was a big success, especially in Japan. I ultimately decided to make CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST when terrorism [the Red Brigades] was almost a daily occurrence in Italy and my 7-year -old son asked me why there were so many horrific images on TV, casualties of these acts of terrorism. I thought to myself, hey, why is it that journalists can get away with it and I can’t? If I make a film, they cut it, so I decided to make this movie as a statement against the journalists and censorship.”

Although Italian media may have been the inspiration, Deodato’s film had a global impact because it tapped into the rise of media violence being beamed into televisions everywhere, including those seen in American living rooms every night during the Vietnam War, still a fresh wound in 1980. The brutality and realism of Deodato’s images rankled the public. It felt real, with none of those distancing effects that make movies so much fun to watch. A cult classic was born. CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST became so notorious that other directors had difficulty launching their own cannibal productions, and the bubble quickly burst. Deodato’s was a tough act to follow.

In recent years, Deodato is seen less as a rebel and more as a horror pioneer. The journalistic style Deodato developed in 1980 is today called by another name: found footage. Both fans and critics of the now-ubiquitous genre usually point to THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999) as the movie that brought shaky cameras and screaming amateur actors into the mainstream, but it’s hard to watch those mapless teens die in the Massachusetts woods, or to remember the internet buzz the accompanied the film, without noting that Deodato got there almost 20 years earlier. Don’t expect Deodato to be proud of all of his misbegotten children. “Unfortunately my idea has ruined movie-making to some extent because there are those that think all they need to have is a small camera and [to] start shooting without consideration for technique or storyline development.”

Deodato's cameo in HOSTEL, PART II

“When I see films that have truly been inspired by my CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, I’m very happy, but not when they start putting in zombies, aliens and vampires,” he adds. “I hate that.”

Eli Roth is one Deodato admirer who not only shares the director’s taste for horror realism but also prefers to populate his pictures with sadistic human monsters rather than ghosts and ghoulies. After breaking out with the disease gorefest CABIN FEVER (2002), Roth became a spiritual successor to Deodato with his HOSTEL series, replacing clueless journalists with clueless American teens whose condescension to Europe and lust for booze and sex make them prey for sinister millionaires willing to pay big bucks to kill. Roth wears his influences on his sleeve, adding a wink to this in HOSTEL PART II (2007) by casting Deodato as a cultured cannibal in one of the film’s more memorable gross-outs. Roth’s latest effort, THE GREEN INFERNO (2013), takes another step in Deodato’s direction by reigniting the cannibal drama. In Roth’s film, again it’s the naïve outsiders who are torn apart by the natives they were hoping to protect. “Thirty-three years have passed and I’m still being imitated,” Deodato says. “Eli Roth is a friend of mine so at the end of his movie he did an homage to me by saying in the credits – To Ruggero.”

GREEN INFERNO.

The warmth that Deodato has for Roth doesn’t extend much further, it seems. I asked him about the current state of horror, how nobody seems to be terrorizing and disturbing audiences quite the way he did. “LAST CANNIBAL WORLD was filmed in the black jungle of Malaysia,” he notes. “For CANNIBAL HOLOCAUSTI was filming in the middle of the Amazon with indigenous tribes. Back in those days, people still didn’t know about a lot of things so when you came across a tribe in the middle of the jungle that was something. Now people travel everywhere. People were more easily shocked. It is much more difficult to do so now.”

Later, sitting on a panel with other Italian horror cinema legends Lamberto Bava and Barbara Steele, Deodato reminds me once more of a kindly old gentleman. When asked about horror cinema, he confesses that he doesn’t much like the genre anymore, noting his preference for dramas and romances. I think back on the story of the “murdered” actors he had to produce in court, and recall that even after the actors appeared, not all of the charges were dropped. Such was the impact of Deodato’s gore that to be fully cleared, the director first had to first demonstrate to court officials exactly how he had accomplished a signature, grotesque impalement with special effects. I think the prosecutor in question just wanted to get that particularly nasty bit out of his head.

Andrew Kemp is a screenwriter and game designer who started talking about movies in 1984 and got stuck that way. He can be seen around town wherever there are movies, cheap beer and little else. 

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Kool Kat of the Week: Goddess, Giallo & Gorezone: Jeremy Morris Conjures Up a Twisted Fears Weekend to Kick Off a Hellacious Halloween Season for Atlanta Horror Fans

Posted on: Sep 25th, 2013 By:

Ruggero Deodato and Jeremy Morris. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Morris.

Ultimate Scream Queen Barbara Steele! Italian giallo director Lamberto Bava (DEMONS), son of Mario Bava! Ruggero Deodato, as in the original DJANGO (1966) and CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1979)! These names are simply legend among cult cinephiles, and they all will be in Atlanta for Twisted Fears Weekend, a three-day horror convention Sept. 27-29 at the Atlanta Marriott Perimeter Center. And that’s just the terrifying tip of a Retro-tastic guest line-up that also includes Linnea Quigley (RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD), a SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE  (1982) cast reunion, Tony Todd (CANDYMAN ), Fred “The Hammer” Williamson  (BLACK CAESAR , FROM DUSK TILL DAWN ), Geretta Geretta  (DEMONS ), Lynn Lowry (original THE CRAZIES ), and more.

The eerie event also will celebrate the worldwide re-launch of Gorezone, the even more splattery sister magazine of Fangoria . Needless to say, ATLRetro couldn’t help but declare con organizer Jeremy Morris Kool Kat of the Week to find out all the deadly details.

ATLRetro: I’ve heard so many local horror fans express absolute surprise and delight about Twisted Fears. Did it get started with the Gorezone anniversary or was something else the catalyst?

Jeremy Morris: Twisted Fears was formed a year ago by my twisted imagination. I have been in the convention scene nearly 20 years. I have met a lot of great people along the way. The true reasoning of the creation of Twisted Fears was a part of my true love of the horror genre. I have lived in Atlanta all of my life and I felt it was time to do a show with a twist, something different than what fans may be accustomed too.

Twisted Fears has an amazing guest line-up, including a lot of celebrities known for their European horror work, making it very different from Days of the Dead, Dragoncon, or even most horror cons around the country. Why take that the con in that direction?

This question is very easy to answer. As a long-time fan of this convention scene, I have always wished to see more international guests at shows because there are a lot of films [that are] forgotten. I chose to bring in guests that you may have not seen in a long time or possibly never, which gives the fans a fresh new roster of celebrities.

GOBLIN’s playing a few days later on Tuesday Oct. 1. Their shows are selling out across the country, and Fabio Frizzi  also is doing a Halloween concert  in London. AMERICAN HORROR STORY  has a clear giallo influence, which many think will be even more so this fall with its “Coven” storyline. Why do you think there’s such a resurgence of interest in giallo right now?

In my opinion, some of the greatest horror films originated from the Italian genre. People are craving fresh, new ideas while sometimes new ideas consist of rejuvenating past genres of films and the Italians are one of them.

Fangoria ad for Twisted Fears. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Morris.

We are just privileged and honored that Barbara and Lamberto have chosen to join us for the inaugural year of Twisted Fears. I consider them legends in their own right. They have influenced some of the greatest films that we know of to date.They will be participating in a Q&A panel on Saturday.

I am sure you don’t want to play favorites, but is there anyone you are particularly excited you were able to book?

I am truly excited for all of my guests I was able to book because I took great pride in the guest selection as a fan first. If I had to choose one that made me giggle it would be Ruggero Deodato because he is so rarely seen, but I consider him the master of Italian horror.

Jeremy Morris. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Morris.

Did you grow up reading Fango and Gorezone? What impact did these two magazines have on you?

Yes, I grew up reading Fango, I actually own the first issue. I have considered it the Godfather of all horror publications. I am truly honored that we were hand chosen to re-launch Gorezone after so many years of absence. It makes me giddy inside to think Fangoria wanted to be a part of this show.

One of the anniversary treats is a virtual interview with Fango Editor Chris Alexander, who’s based in Toronto. Can you talk a little about that

It is an anniversary treat so you need to be there to find out!!!

A lot of folks might think about just coming on Saturday. Why should they buy a full weekend pass instead? Or kick in the extra bucks for a VIP pass?

We have a lot of panels, events, night-time parties scheduled. The signature event is the first of it’s kind, our own Twisted Feast Dinner Party, with a very intimate setting for all fans to have a quiet dinner with all of the guests in attendance. This is a chance to truly have an experience of meeting the guests like no other.

What else do you want horror fans to know about Twisted Fears Weekend?

I want the fans to know that Twisted Fears will continue to be a show of firsts on every level as we continue to grow. Most importantly I am a fan and always will be a fan first. And I will see you in May 2014 for the sequel.

Hours for Twisted Fears Weekend are Friday Sept. 27, 4-10 p.m., Sat. Sept. 28, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., and Sun. Sept. 29, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. For more info and to purchase advance VIP and general admission tickets, visit http://www.twistedfears.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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