Kool Kat of the Week: Author and Filmmaker Frank Perry’s Official Biographer Justin Bozung Dishes on Atlanta’s Frank Perry Retrospective Presented by Videodrome

Posted on: Mar 28th, 2017 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Justin Bozung, Atlanta author and transplant from the far reaches of the north is working closely with Videodrome staff as they present their Frank Perry Retrospective via their JavaDrome film portal, which kicked off in January 2017. The most recent in the series, THE SWIMMER (1968) screens Friday, March 31, at 8:30pm, and will include an introduction and Q&A with Bozung, as Frank Perry’s official biographer. Prior films in the series included MOMMIE DEAREST (1981); PLAY IT AS IT LAYS (1972) [never released on home video]. The series’ finale will be Perry’s LAST SUMMER (1969) screening in late April 2017 [yet to be released beyond its ‘80s VHS release].

Bozung has an expansive resume delving deep into the retro fantastic! He’s assisted in book projects documenting and analyzing Stanley Kubrick, has conducted over 400 interviews for several book projects, documentaries and magazines including Fangoria, Paracinema, Phantom of the Movies’ Videoscope and more. ATLRetro caught up with Justin Bozung for a quick interview about his work as the official biographer for Frank Perry, his extensive knowledge of Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING and Norman Mailer, and the importance of preserving film history.

ATLRetro: While we are a bit biased here at ATLRetro about this wacky little city of ours, what is it about Atlanta that drew you to our neck of the woods?

Justin Bozung: My wife! She received a job opportunity that was too good to pass up.   So we sold our house and packed up in Ann Arbor, Michigan in late 2014 and drove toward Atlanta. As a freelancer, I’m pretty open-ended and am able to work from anywhere so it made sense for us to leave the cold and snow behind. And I’ve always been fond of Georgia; having spent some time here over the years during various travels and vacations in the south. I’m a big soul, funk, and jazz music fan. So being able to come and live where Curtis Mayfield had his own record label, but also, be within driving proximity of where James Brown was born and lived many years of his professional life and owned his own radio station is great. Central Georgia also owns The Allman Brothers and Otis Redding—so living in the South is really a soul music lover’s dream come true! Memphis, the home of the great Stax Records, isn’t too far away either. And I’m completely fine–I’m not ashamed–in saying that as a Michigan-born guy, I’ll take Memphis and Stax Records any day of the week over anything produced at Detroit’s Motown. There’s something about the water down here that gives the music a special quality, something that Motown doesn’t have that Stax does... And let’s not even get started on the subject of Athens, Georgia and R.E.M.–

As Frank Perry’s official biographer, can you tell our readers a little about why you think he is one of the many undervalued and underappreciated filmmakers and why you wanted to spread the Frank Perry love via Videodrome’s JavaDrome film events?

Well, there’s a pretty easy answer to that. The internet is interested in Frank Perry.   Fortunately, today, with the rise of social media and bloggers pulling active duty–interest in Perry and his films has really grown in recent years. He made some really wonderful films, and it’s important to note that Perry was the first independent filmmaker to be nominated for an Academy Award. He was nominated in 1963 for his independently-financed and produced DAVID AND LISA (1962), which shot for approximately $200,000 in Pennsylvania. Perry was nominated for Best Director but he lost out to David Lean, who won for LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962)! Perry’s little film went up against LAWRENCE! Jean Renoir, said “I feel that this film represents a turning point in the history of film.”

Prior to Perry, where there had certainly been others producing independent films on the East Coast– John Cassavetes‘s SHADOWS (1959) being the touchstone–others like Russ Meyer and his THE IMMORAL MR. TEAS (1959), and H.G. Lewis in Chicago with his “nudie cuties” were also bringing independent film to attention. Perry was the first to make a “respectable” independent film and to be noticed by the mainstream. In his way, he changed things. Even with someone like Cassavetes, who by 1959 was a well-known and very established Hollywood film actor–his film SHADOWS still didn’t afford the average guy the idea that maybe he himself could just go out and raise the money and make his own film as a profiteer. Perry had no experience as a filmmaker, really. On the first day of shooting DAVID & LISA, he couldn’t figure out how to turn the camera on. And in pre-production he read several books about film directing. His film school was the library.  It really makes one remember what was going on in independent film in the late 80s or early 1990s with directors starting out like Robert Rodriguez. While Perry had come from the Actors Studio and done some Second Unit work for hire prior, he had not really directed anything on that scale before. His gift was in working with actors. I consider him a conscious, classical director. He worked very much like George Cukor who loved working with actresses and literary adaptations. Frank set the wheels on fire and got indie film some important notice in Hollywood. DAVID & LISA made the studio system, although on the verge of completely crumbling, sit up and take notice that things were shifting culturally.

On March 31, JavaDrome will screen Perry’s The Swimmer (1968). Were there any particular reasons you chose the films that are slated for screening?

Well, the guys at Videodrome split the selections down the middle for this retrospective on Perry’s films. I hand-picked two and Matt Owensby picked the others. THE SWIMMER was a film that Matt really wanted to show as part of this retrospective. It should be stated that this retrospective on Perry’s films here in Atlanta marks the first multi-film retrospective of his work in the USA since the mid 1980s. In fact, I can’t help but suggest that the recent Los Angeles retrospective of his work last month, put on by Quentin Tarantino at his New Beverly, was directly inspired by our own little retrospective here in Atlanta–knowing how Tarantino seemingly likes to monitor video stores all around the United States and see what they’re up to.

Videodrome is our little purveyor of the forbidden fruits of the video and film world and are avid supporters of film preservation, which of course is why they hold a sweet spot in our hearts. As a historian, can you tell our readers a little bit about why you think film preservation is important and how important businesses like Videodrome are to the preservation of film?

I’m just starting to get acquainted with a few of the guys that work at Videodrome. The fun part about going into the store is that they really have a massive selection of titles, but more importantly, Matt and John and the rest of the crew really embrace you. And they’re not elitist or snobs either. They care about and endorse the films of Truffaut just as much as they love and admire the films of Greydon Clark. The latter–preservation, is important as well, certainly. I’ve been struggling with that myself working with Frank Perry’s Estate. Frank made two films that are impossible to see.  The first, I recently discovered the master materials for in an archive in California. We’re talking with some film preservation folks now about financing the restoration of one of these, his JFK: ONE MAN SHOW (1984)–which was made and shown on PBS twice before vanishing off the face of the earth, it seemed until I located it. And then there’s his 1968 documentary that Perry fans aren’t even aware of that he made about political unrest in the Middle East, because it’s mysteriously not listed on his IMDb page. The Estate has access to the last print that is known to exist. Just to use these two instances as an example, if there weren’t people “out there” tracking down films or storing prints or whatever–archiving cinema–we may all lose out in the future.  So it’s the key to film studies, really.

You also collaborated with Colorado’s Centipede Press in putting together a large volume entitled Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining: Studies in the Horror Film. Can you tell our readers what role you played in the process? Did you learn anything enticing with this publication that isn’t common knowledge about Kubrick or The Shining?

The book came out in the early spring of 2015 and sadly, it’s already out of print, I believe. It was a massive 750-page book on the making of the film. I was involved with the book, as a project, very early on, researching and getting clearances for many of the previously-published essays and interviews that are included. I also dug up some visual ephemera, and conducted about 45 hours of interviews with most of the cast and the crew from the film itself—which are all included in the book. I interviewed or was in touch with the entire crew and most of the living actors that starred in the film. The book was edited by Danel Olson, but, 350-400 or so of those 750 pages are my contributions to the volume. The book is filled to the brim with new information about Kubrick–things that people didn’t know about him and the film itself including line items about his attention to detail, his admiration for baseball, his love of driving cars fast and more.  There’s information in the book about what went on behind-the-scenes of the film that has never come to light prior and addresses his notorious reputation, but also looks at his craftsmanship. It’s page-after-page with new information on Kubrick.   I tried to debunk many rumors that have been swirling around in the zeitgeist for many years about Kubrick and I used the interviews in an attempt to give readers a doorway onto the set in England for 13-months back in 1978/79. When it came out, ROOM 237 was really on everyone’s lips–so there’s a lot of talk in the book about that documentary as well. It’s a great book, though.  I’d suggest that it’s an essential addition to any film lover’s library. Michael Dirda of The Washington Post called the book “a major advancement in film studies,” or something like that.

We see that you’re also involved with author Norman Mailer’s estate and that you work on several projects dedicated to him. What can you tell us about those projects?

I become involved with Norman Mailer in early 2014 and made a 12-hour audio documentary about his much-maligned 1987 film, TOUGH GUYS DON’T DANCE, my favorite film. I interviewed most of the crew members and some of the actors and visited some of the shooting locations in Provincetown, MA. My interest in the film came out of my friendship with TOUGH GUYS actor, Wings Hauser. He first introduced me to the film in 2011, when I was about to interview him for a magazine.   The documentary was released online, and the Norman Mailer Society invited me to talk about the film in the fall of 2014 at Wilkes University. Shortly after that, they asked me to become involved in several projects that they were working on. One was Project Mailer, and another was archival search-related. I created a Mailer podcast for them, which runs bi-monthly on ProjectMailer.net. Basically, I just present audio from the Mailer Archives ala podcast format ala the old Grateful Dead Hour with David Gans.    In early 2015, I started putting together a dense, academic study on Mailer’s films.

He made 6 films from 1947-1987.  I love his films, even though, most of the Criterion Collection audience doesn’t. Criterion released Mailer’s 1960s films through their Eclipse series in 2013. They scratch their heads as to why CC would put out such “awful” films. They’re very important works of art that not only comment and inform on Mailer’s influential texts of the 1960s, but also, in their way, influenced his writing in the process of crafting them. They also have historical context in relationship to the direct cinema movement of the mid 60s with films by D.A. Pennebaker and the Maysles Brothers. There, likely, may never have been an ARMIES OF THE NIGHT without WILD 90 (1968), for example. Mailer wrote himself into that book as a character–in the third person–directly out of the influence that the editing of his first film, WILD 90, had upon him while he was writing that Pulitzer Prize-winning “novel as history, history as novel”–to use Mailer’s description. He said, and I’m paraphrasing, “I was looking at myself as a character,” during the editing of his own movie.

His film MAIDSTONE (1971) is a obvious pre-cursor to reality television. I certainly do not lay the blame on reality television on Mailer, but he was creating that type of aesthetic tension and propaganda–and recording it–on film, some thirty years before reality television came along. Cinema was in Norman Mailer’s blood. He had a keen interest in cinema, and a fine grasp of cinema aesthetics very early on in his life–before he became the writer enfant terrible of the 1960s that many remember him as today.   He was a frequent guest at Amos Vogel‘s legendary Cinema 16 in New York City. He saw the films of Brakhage, Kenneth Anger, Warhol, Mekas there. He helped to fund the films of Robert Downey Sr. and Ron Rice. Mailer’s writing is profoundly cinematic, and the cinema is one of his strongest and most-used metaphors in his writing and it’s throughout his texts. His ideas on film are really in sync with filmmakers that would be his peers of the era. My book, The Cinema of Norman Mailer: Film is Like Death comes out this September via Bloomsbury.  It’s available for pre-order on Amazon now. And this September I’m starting work and collaborating with the Mailer Estate on another book on Mailer, but this time around, it’s about the writer, not Mailer: The filmmaker.

As a film buff and historian, what was your gateway drug into the land of cult film, or film in general?

I’ve always been interested in film, for as long as I can remember. I grew up as a classic, indoor-type of kid. I grew up in the VHS and pay cable era of the 1980s.  My parents gifted me with HBO, Cinemax, and Showtime. I recorded everything off and watched it over-and-over. Film has always been very important to me as an art form. I love all film. I don’t pay attention to genres or labels. Film is film. There aren’t any “good” or “bad” films, just films. I love Larry Buchanan, Michael Bay just as much as I do Delbert Mann, King Vidor and Jerry Lewis.

You’ve also published several articles and interviews in magazines such as “Fangoria,” “Paracinema,” “Shock Cinema” and “Phantom of the Movies’ Videoscope.” If you had to choose a favorite interview and/or article that you contributed, which would it be and why?

I’ve done a lot of interviews over the years. I think around 400 or so. I may be the only person you’ll meet who has done over 75 interviews with various crew and cast members from several Stanley Kubrick movies, hundreds of hours logged, and all on tape. I imagine myself as being in the Guinness Book of Work Records under “Most Interviews Done Associated with Stanley Kubrick.” My favorite though….I have two.   The first was with actor Wings Hauser, because we became great friends out of the experience. The other is with comedy legend and screenwriter Bill Richmond. Richmond wrote almost all of the Jerry Lewis solo movies like THE PATSY (1964) and THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (1963). He wrote for TV shows like The Carol Burnett Show, Bewitched, All in the Family, Welcome Back, Kotter, Blossom etc… He was a mad genius of comedy. It was just one of those great one-in-a-lifetime experiences, where, consequently, we stayed friendly with each other after it was over.  Bill sent me the best birthday present the year after even…and when he passed away last year—that was really sad for me.

Can you tell our readers a little about your Frank Perry biography and any other current projects your working on, and where our readers get their hands on your published works?

The biography on Frank will be published mid-2018 and is a full-scale biography blended with some analysis. I’m finishing it up now. I’ve been working on it since early 2015, but there was a full year where I didn’t work on it at all, due to some legal tangle with his Estate and an outside party. It is the first book, first study on Perry. I’ve been working closely with Perry’s family and estate on the project and I worked closely with his wife, Barbara, before her recent passing. But also, Tom Folino, Perry’s long-time friend, assistant-turned producer. I’m in touch with his surviving family members and as with all of my projects, I’ve got about 200-hours of interviews in the can with various crew members and actors, family friends in support of the work itself. The book looks at Perry’s life and his films, but also looks closely at the projects that slipped through the cracks–like his near adaptation of Terry Southern‘s naughty-satire novel Candy which looked like it was going to be made as early as 1964 into a film.  This, of course, lead to Perry making of THE SWIMMER, but I’ll talk about how that all happened this Friday at the screening with Videodrome. Your readers can find all of my work on Amazon here. This year I also expect to finish up an academic volume on Michael Bay, called Michael Bay: High Art / Low Culture.

Do you have any advice for those writers just starting out?

Quit wasting time on Facebook. Write every day. Research and research. When you think you’ve found everything. Stop. Then wait 2 weeks and research some more. You’ll always find something extra. If you say you’re going to write tomorrow, then you better do that. Don’t put it off, because it damages your unconscious, and that’s where all the words come from–from inside of you. Don’t piss off your unconscious. Don’t write anything for free. Your time is valuable. Writers should say something new; they need to formulate new and profound ideas. So do that. And last but not least, opinions are so very rarely ideas.

Can you give us five things you’re into at the moment that we should be reading, watching or listening to right now—past or present, well-known or obscure?

Well, I’m more of a reader than I am anything else these days. I read one magazine currently–Philosophy Now. It’s my favorite. Some things I’ve enjoyed tremendously this year so far would be Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story by Carlos Baker. It was published in 1968 and it’s probably the greatest biography ever written; Free Fall by William Golding –a classic, but undervalued work of existential literature; Jurgen by James Branch Cabell — one of Margaret Mitchell‘s favorite novels published in 1919; Margaret Mitchell: Reporter reprints Mitchell’s pre-Gone with The Wind Atlanta journalism; Claire Vaye Watkins‘s Battleborn–a fresh, newer voice in short fiction with family ties to The Manson Family; Altamont, Joel Selvin‘s incredible recounting of the dark, metaphysical Rolling Stones 1969 Atlamont music festival; and Manly Health and Training by Walt Whitman.  As far as music goes I’m really a jazz and soul guy, so anything by John Coltrane. My favorite Coltrane record is GIANT STEPS although I’m very attracted to his metaphysical explorations like ASCENSION. Anything Sun Ra. Sonny’s album NUCLEAR WAR is relevant with today’s political climate. His writings are wonderful as well.  James Brown‘s REVOLUTIONS OF THE MIND, the new Otis Redding: The Complete Whiskey A Go Go Shows Box Set is always on my stereo or phone!  Films I’m currently into are Michael Bay’s Director’s Cut of PEARL HARBOR (1999) shows Bay in his Abel Gance-meets-John Ford glory. Vincente Minnelli’s TEA AND SYMPATHY (1955), Paul Morrissey‘s 1980s trifecta: FORTY DEUCE (1982), MADAME WANG’S (1981), and MIXED BLOOD (1984) are important works. Morrissey is the last great absurdist of the 20th century. Paul and I have talked some over the last couple years about doing a book together, and I would love to do a book on Morrissey, but he’s too cantankerous. Melvin Van PeeblesTHE STORY OF A THREE-DAY PASS (1968), James BridgesMIKE’S MURDER (1984) are masterpieces, and PICASSO: MAGIC, SEX & DEATH, a 4-hour 2001 documentary is a must-see!

And last, but not least, care to share anything that our little world of Atlantans don’t know about you already?

I don’t want to share anything else about myself, but I would like to suggest this little hiding spot out in Smyrna, Georgia that I visited recently. A restaurant called Vittles.  It’s a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that still allows patrons to smoke inside while you sit there eating. Not that I’m standing up for smoker’s rights here, but it’s cancerously-nostalgic. It’s like stepping into a small-town diner in the early 1980s. You can get 4 massive buttermilk pancakes covered in butter, two huge deep-fried pork chops in corn flake crust, and two eggs scrambled all for $6.99. Their claim to fame is their gift shop, which is basically a garage sale that is going on every day concurrently while food is being served. You can buy cement statues of dogs and “Man with No Name” poncho sweaters.  It’s a pretty awesome place that I highly suggest visiting for the delicious food and the bargains. You can fill up and then spend a few hours huffing it over on the Silver Comet Trail which runs from Smyrna to well into Alabama. Forget about Krog Market or Ponce, Vittles is where you need to go!

Photos courtesy of Justin Bozung and used with permission.

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KOOL KAT OF THE WEEK: Grateful for “HATEFUL”: Actor Michael Madsen Bends Our Ear about Steve McQueen, James Bond, HAWAII FIVE-O, Vintage Muscle Cars, Lee Marvin, Matt Helm, Roger Corman, and How He Saddled Up for Quentin Tarantino’s New Western, THE HATEFUL EIGHT

Posted on: Dec 22nd, 2015 By:
Michael Madsen. Photo credit: Isaac Alvarez. Weinstein Co. Used with permission.

Michael Madsen. Photo credit: Isaac Alvarez. Weinstein Co. Used with permission.

By Gregory Nicoll
Contributing Writer

“I don’t always play bad guys,” observes Michael Madsen, his voice as raspy and powerful as a Harley-Davidson’s exhaust pipe, “but for some reason when I do, it gets more attention than when I play somebody who doesn’t have a gun.”

Even without a firearm in his hand, the burly 6’ 2” actor radiates an onscreen menace so palpable it inspires nightmares. His breakthrough role was playing Mister Blonde in Quentin Tarantino’s RESERVOIR DOGS (1992), for which he tortured a policeman with a razor and gasoline in one of the most disturbing sequences of ’90s cinema. But despite equally convincing performances in high-profile good-guy parts – such as the loving dad in FREE WILLY (1993), the action hero in SPECIES (1995), and a stoic lawman in WYATT EARP (1994) – Madsen still finds himself cast more often on the dark side, with unforgettable bad-guy turns in KILL BILL (2003/2004), HELL RIDE (2008), DONNIE BRASCO (1997) and THE GETAWAY (1994) His latest movie is Tarantino’s much-anticipated new western, THE HATEFUL EIGHT, which opens on Christmas day in an extended limited-release 70mm Ultra-Panavision “Roadshow” presentation with a overture and an intermission (Regal Atlantic Station 18), with a wide release starting Dec. 30 (Landmark Midtown Art Cinema, etc.).

We spoke with Michael Madsen by phone from his seaside California home.

ATLRetro: Let’s hear about THE HATEFUL EIGHT. Sure hope you’re not weary of talking about it.

Michael Madsen: Not really! It’s hard to get weary of Tarantino, who’s such a force to be reckoned with. This is the third time he’s reached out to me with, “Let’s get on the bus.” Only in this case it’s, “Let’s get on the horses!”

So, this is a western about characters who all get stranded together after their stagecoach is re-routed?

It’s pretty hard to put a lid on what it is, but it’s about a bunch of eight people who’ve got an agenda, an agenda that’s pretty complicated. The script was one of the most fascinating things I’ve ever read. I guess it’s somewhere between THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960) and THE DIRTY DOZEN (1967). 

Hateful-Eight-posterIs there any previous classic western movie to which it could easily be compared?

Well, maybe ONE-EYED JACKS (1967), which is probably the greatest western I’ve ever seen. It’s the only picture Marlon Brando ever directed, taking over from Stanley Kubrick. I just love it. ONE-EYED JACKS is about everything. There’s nothing that it isn’t about. There are so many themes in there, it’s mind-boggling. It’s one of Marlon’s finest. Him and Karl Malden are so wonderful together, it’s just unbelievable.

Karl Malden was fabulous in just about everything, from A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (1951) to NEVADA SMITH (1966).

That was with Steve McQueen. What a power he was on the screen!  [Quoting NEVADA SMITH] “You haven’t got the guts!” Yeah, he’s shot in the kneecaps and it’s pretty horrendous, but, wow…

When I first moved to Malibu, I lived right next door to Steve McQueen. Steve was one of those guys who came along at time when the movie industry – when Sam Peckinpah and John Sturges and Norman Jewison were making films. Those kind of directors, they don’t really exist anymore. They were as much responsible for Steve’s success as he was himself, the combination of him, a personality like that, put together with those kinda directors. Steve was one of a kind and he made some – well, I like THE GETAWAY (1972). To me, that’s the quintessential Steve McQueen movie. I got to be in the remake of it, which was great, but I would have preferred to play Doc McCoy [McQueen’s role]. Alec [Baldwin] did a good job, but I think I coulda pulled that off.

The character of Doc in the original Jim Thompson novel THE GETAWAY has much more of an edge to him than in the films.

Well, I teased Alec constantly during the making of that thing. Every single time we were on the set and he was doing something, I’d go, “You remember the way Steve was standing?” or, “You remember the way Steve was holding the gun?” or “When you look around the corner, you remember how Steve did it?” and he’d go [imitating Baldwin’s voice], “Madsen! Shut up, Madsen! You’re driving me crazy.” It was really funny. I teased him quite a bit, but he had a good sense of humor about it. At the end of the film he actually bought and gave me the Smith & Wesson handgun that I used in the movie.

Speaking of firearms, will we be seeing much of the trademark Tarantino gunplay violence in HATEFUL EIGHT?

Oh, sure. Of course. Wouldn’t be the same without it.

Michael Madsen in HATEFUL EIGHT. Weinstein Co. Used with permission.

Michael Madsen in HATEFUL EIGHT. Weinstein Co. Used with permission.

Last year Tarantino was furious when his HATEFUL EIGHT script got leaked online, and you were one of the few insiders who’d been given a copy.

People actually thought it was me! I was in Italy at the time. My buddy and I were on an elevator, this was about 2 :00 in the morning and we’d just got back to the hotel, and he was looking at his phone, and all of sudden he goes, “Oh my god!” And I go, “What is it?” And he goes, “Oh, Michael, oh my god, somebody leaked out Quentin’s script and he’s all pissed off, and he says he only gave it to three people, and it wasn’t Tim [Roth].” And I was, like, “Holy shit, man, it sounds like I’m a suspect!” So I called him the next day and I said, “Quentin, man, say something to somebody, because obviously it wasn’t me.” And he started laughing actually. He thought it was funny that this had so quickly been heard about as far away as Italy, that the very next day it was worldwide news.

Not much later you participated in a staged public reading of the HATEFUL EIGHT script. Was Tarantino directing you live on stage?

Oh, he sure was, he had on a black cowboy hat and was coming over to the actors and giving them direction, right in front of everybody. Quentin read all the stage directions aloud. He had a coffee pot for a prop, and I had a bandana for my prop. It was a fascinating night. I’ve never done anything like that.

Did you rehearse for this?

Yeah, we rehearsed for three days before the show, and once in the afternoon right before the show. It was a lot of hustling around to get everybody together, but to have the whole cast together in one room and start reading through this thing, and putting it up on its feet, and to know now that we’re actually gonna go and film it later, it was a great, great, great kind of boost for me.

How did it feel to have that immediate feedback from the audience? People must have been laughing, reacting in various ways…

Well, everybody was very, very respectful. That’s what I remember. I’d seen everybody coming in, because I was in the back as the theater started to fill up, and I’d been looking out the windows in the front of the building, and everybody was all dressed up! It was really kind of an evening with all the girls all dolled up and guys dressed up. Nobody was allowed to bring their phone inside or have any kind of recording devices.

I heard that you don’t carry a cell phone. Is that still true?

I don’t like them, put it that way. I didn’t even get an iPad till about six months ago. I just really didn’t get the point of it. I would see people on their phones in the car, on their phone constantly, and when I had one myself it seemed like I became so dependent on it. I started wondering why does everyone need it so badly when no-one ever had it before, and back then everyone got along fine. Was it really that important to talk to somebody if you can call ‘em an hour later? But I have five kids, and I gotta have a phone,  but I frequently don’t charge it up and “accidentally” leave it somewhere, and I try really hard not to become obsessed with it.  I heard that Christopher Walken doesn’t have a cell phone, and he’s my hero; and if he honestly doesn’t – or if he’s just saying that to sound cool – I don’t know, but I’m hoping he really doesn’t have one.

Michael Madsen. Photo credit: Isaac Alvarez. Weinstein Co. Used with permission.

Michael Madsen. Photo credit: Isaac Alvarez. Weinstein Co. Used with permission.

Speaking of contemporary actors, you recently worked with Danny Trejo on a film called HOPE LOST. What was that like?

I’m not real fond of that title but, uh, it was shot in Rome and it’s basically about girls sold into the sex trade. The movie is a little rough, not for everyone. When you’re working on lower budget things, sometimes you have a bit more control over dialogue and scenes. In the original script I did some terrible things and got killed, but I didn’t end up doing that. My character lives, and I actually walk away from a bad situation at the end. Danny’s such a great actor and wonderful presence on screen. You walk the streets of Rome with Danny, and people come out of the restaurants shouting, “Machete! Machete!” Pretty funny. He’s Machete, no doubt about it. He’s got that mug!

I always wanted to see you cast as James Bond’s CIA counterpart, Felix Leiter, in the 007 series. That unfortunately didn’t happen, but you did get that nice supporting bit in DIE ANOTHER DAY (2002).

I loved working on that! Pierce Brosnan was a friend of mine and he lived right down the street from me, and that’s how that kinda happened. I went and I met [007 film producer] Barbara Broccoli, and they wanted to find a spot for me, and I did that one. I would have come back, I would have loved to. Judi Dench was such a great pleasure to work with. Having a Bond film as a credit is pretty cool. I’d like to do a few more.

You did an episode of HAWAII FIVE-O in 2014 which was notable because you were a bad guy who turned out to be a good guy.

What happened was, I’d heard there was some interest in having me on the show, and I was a huge, huge fan of the old show [the original HAWAII FIVE-O series which ran from 1968 to 1980]. That music, that opening title sequence is so bitchin’ and I remember watching that show most of my life, and just thought it was super cool. You can’t touch that thing. When they were interested in me, it was like a boyhood dream to be on HAWAII FIVE-O, but when they started calling me to do it, I said, “You know what, man, I’m not gonna come on the damn thing if you’re gonna kill me. There has to be something else. I’m gonna come in and get thrown down the steps by Scott Caan and then at the end get killed in a shoot-out. Please, please come up with something better for me.” And so, it really wasn’t until six months later after that conversation that they actually called me to do the show, and obviously when I read the script, the ending was the wonderful thing about it. You realize that this guy wasn’t such a bad person, and there’s this huge redemption, and that’s why I did it.  I’ve never seen the episode; I was out of the country when it aired. I got a lot of compliments from my family about it.

hell-ride-movie-poster-2008-1020412950You were crammed into the tiny backseat of that Chevy Camaro for much of the time.

Being trapped in a car with Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan is an interesting experience. Both of those guys are good actors and I had fun with them, but if they’re not complaining about being stuck in Hawaii, all they do is talk about cigars all day.

They complain about being in Hawaii?

These two guys, you gotta understand, were in their fourth season, and after that many episodes I would imagine that sooner or later it might start to get to you. I saw Scotty in the parking lot in the early, early morning on my first day, and I said,”Hey man, where’s a good place to eat?” And he goes, “L.A.!” [laughs]

Hey, you know who directed that episode? Peter Weller, ROBOCOP (1987)! Peter’s a really intelligent guy, and I really enjoyed working with him. He really gave me a wide berth, let me come in and do my thing. He understands the actor’s dilemma, and he’s very, very methodical in his direction of exactly how he wants certain things. I was lucky to have him there because I wanted that thing to matter, I wanted that to be a good episode, I was thrilled to be on it, and to have him direct it made it just that much better.

I’m betting that you personally own some cars that are cooler than Danno’s Camaro.

Well, over the years I certainly have had some interesting vehicles. I entertained my boyhood fantasies after I started making some money as an actor. I got a ’57 Chevy small block and put dual quads on the damn thing. I had a Stingray with a big block four-speed. I went through a couple of Plymouth Roadrunners and even a Superbird. The thing is, you get these cars that you’ve always dreamed about having, and you end up with flat tires and dead batteries. You can’t really drive them that much, and you have to keep them somewhere, and it ends up being an expense that doesn’t make sense, especially if you have children. A lot of my toys are gone. I let most of them go. The last one I had was a ’67 GTO; that was really pretty cool. I bought it from the original owner. I got a couple motorcycles and I still have my Jaguar, but I’ve recently – funny you should say – I’ve recently started to get that feeling again. Wouldn’t be nice to have a nice 427 Chevelle downstairs? Nice fuckin’ four-speed convertible. I was even thinkin’ of getting something for my son, something we can build together.

Are you a liquor guy or a beer guy?

I’m not any one thing.  I think drinking is one of those things that requires moderation.  I like to have some wine with dinner, but I’m not like a big drinker. If I’m flying on a plane, I’ll have a Jack and Coke. If I’m out with my wife and I don’t have to drive anywhere, I’ll have a martini. If I’m with my sons watching a game, I’ll drink a beer. But I’m not…

You’re not Charles Bukowski or anything.

Jesus, no!

Reservoir_dogs_ver1Or Lee Marvin.

[Laughs] You know, I’m very fond of Lee Marvin. That fuckin’ guy, he had such a – you look at CAT BALLOU (1965) or POINT BLANK (1967) – he really, really had a tremendous screen presence, and whenever you read a little bio of him, they have to throw in that last little line about him being a heavy drinker. You kinda wonder, is it really necessary to highlight that particular part of his personality? Most of the guys from that era were drinkers. Look at Dean Martin in the Matt Helm movies – he was hammered, and you can tell when you watch the movie! All of those guys were drinkers back then, and nobody thought there was anything wrong with it.

You have over a hundred screen credits. If you could pick three that you feel were unjustifiably overlooked, and get them re-appraised, which movies would they be?

I did a boxing picture called STRENGTH AND HONOUR (2010), playing an Irish-American prizefighter, probably one of the better pictures I’ve ever done, and it never got a proper release. It was actually finished at the same time as Mickey Rourke’s huge comeback, THE WRESTLER (2008).  I spoke to the director and he told me about trying to get it a second life, and how some investors convinced him he should re-release it in 3D. I was speechless! I hung up on him.

In addition, I did a cop picture called VICE (2008) which was shot by Andrzej Sekula, who was the director of photography on RESERVOIR DOGS and PULP FICTION (1994). I rewrote the beginning and the ending, and then I got Darryl Hannah into it and had a lot to do with the whole production. It’s a slow, quiet film but it’s about redemption, and I dedicated it to Chris Penn [Madsen’s RESERVOIR DOGS co-star] because he had passed away when I was making it.

And HELL RIDE! That came out on DVD, and people didn’t really know what it was. Now it’s become kind of a cult thing. The plot doesn’t make any sense, but it’s fun to watch. Those are three of them, right off the top of my head.

I know that you own your character’s motorcycle from HELL RIDE. Did you keep anything else? Do you have, say, the Zippo lighter from RESERVOIR DOGS?

As a matter of fact, Quentin has that. He has the razor, too. It’s the exact same razor that Uma Thurman uses in KILL BILL, when she’s buried alive. Mister Blonde’s razor! Quentin’s real good about keeping stuff. I’ve got a lot of clothes. I have Mister Blonde’s suit.

Tarantino must have been a big fan of John Dahl’s KILL ME AGAIN (1989)an earlier film where you tie somebody up and get rough with them.

There’s a strange story. Originally I remembered him telling me that that’s where he got the idea for me to be Mister Blonde, but I did a cable talk show many years ago and said that, and later when I ran into him he told me that was not why he’d cast me as Mister Blonde. KILL ME AGAIN was a good movie, but nobody saw it. John Dahl, man, John Dahl in his glory. Whatever happened to John Dahl? He’s vanished. I was supposed to do RED ROCK WEST (1993) with him, and then he opted for Nick Cage, and that’s where my relationship with John went south!

There was once talk of you and John Travolta reprising your roles from RESERVOIR DOGS and PULP FICTION in a prequel, in which your characters were brothers.

The Vega brothers! Well, you know John and I are not kids any more. I was at the Cannes Film Festival recently, hanging around with Quentin, when I finally met John. Now that the two of us have been standing together in the same room with Quentin, I think the idea became a little more interesting, more timely. I don’t think it would necessarily be a prequel, but I do think him and me together in some capacity, in a reminder of the other two pictures, is a lot more possible now. It would be nice, wouldn’t it? But you’ll have to ask Quentin about that.

One final question: Have you thought about doing any directing?

You know what? I just finished a Roger Corman picture called COBRAGATOR (2015). I love Roger! His movies are sci-fi pictures, and there is something about a Roger Corman film that’s different from the rest of that genre. Working for him is a pleasure, and I did get to do some directing in it, and I got a great deal of pleasure out of it. I realized that I’ve been wanting to direct forever, but nobody’s ever asked me to do it. The hard thing about it is you need that breakout, you need someone to actually say, “Okay, you get to direct this movie,” but if you haven’t ever done it before, there’s always that doubt. Can he really do it? Can he actually direct? Which, obviously, I could. I’d love to do that. I hope it’s in my future. I would like to do that a lot.    

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Kool Kat of the Week: Film is NOT Dead! Ben Ruder of Enjoy the Film, Dishes out a Series of Retro Creature Features this Halloween Season, with “Monsters in Black and White”

Posted on: Oct 21st, 2014 By:

BRuder - archive - Resized
Enjoy the Film presents Monsters in Black and White; Cinevision Screening Room (visit the event page for address and directions); All tickets $10 (Atlanta Film Festival members save 20%).

THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951); Dir. Robert Wise; Starring Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal and Hugh Marlowe; Thursday, Oct 23 @ 7:30 p.m.; Tickets here; Trailer here.

DRACULA (1931); Dir. TodBrowning; Starring Bela Lugosi, HelenChandler and David Manners; Thursday, Oct 30 @ 7:30 p.m.; Tickets here; Trailer here.

CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (in 3-D) (1954); Dir. JackArnold; Starring Richard Carlson, Julie Adams and Richard Denning; Saturday, Nov 1 @ 7:30 p.m.; Tickets here; Trailer here.

by Aleck Bennett,
Contributing Writer

Halloween has once again swept in, carrying along with it a nostalgia that evokes childhood memories of ghost stories, trick-or-treating, dressing like monsters or simply watching them on the screen. It’s the perfect time for projectionist extraordinaire Ben Ruder to team up with the Cinevision Screening Room to bring us Monsters in Black and White: a series of films celebrating not only the monsters of old, but the formats that brought them to us. THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL and DRACULA will be presented in gorgeous 35mm, and CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON will screen in a restored Dolby Digital 3-D projection. All three will, of course, unspool on the screen in glorious black and white! the-day-the-earth-stood-still-1951-everettEach screening will be introduced by a very special guest (check the Enjoy the Film website for up-to-date listings), but the night before Halloween will see Kool Kat Shane Morton, also known as, Ghost Host with the Most—Professor Morté of the Silver Scream Spookshow—materialize with a bevy of bloodsuckers to deliver Bela Lugosi in DRACULA!

Ben Ruder has been a constant fixture of Atlanta film screenings for close to a decade now. A former projectionist and manager at the Plaza Theatre, he now runs free 35mm screenings for Emory University’s Cinematheque (which sources its pristine prints from the UCLA Film & Television Archive) and hosts special film events at the Cinevision Screening Room through RuderMedia and Enjoy the Film. I recently asked him about this month’s film series, the importance of presentation, and the futures of both film and digital as media.

ATLRetro:Celebrating the 35mm format is certainly bucking the trend in Atlanta, with so many venues converting to digital projection. But at the same time, it’s a huge topic of conversation in the nationwide film community, especially this month with Quentin Tarantino‘s recent takeover of management of the draculaNew Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles. What fuels your passion for the format, and your efforts to keep it alive?

Ben Ruder: I really enjoyed showing movies and running theaters in the mid ‘90s in St. Louis. When I returned to the world of movies in the mid-2000s, running film and then managing the Plaza Theatre for Jonny & Gayle Rej, the bug really stuck and I have been involved in it ever since. Both analog and digital formats have their place and it’s really the quality of the product and presentation that’s important. The film prints that were exhibited should still be seen if they can be done well, but for many reasons they no longer exist or the quality is bad. New prints happen on occasion, but are very expensive and rarely see much of a run. Movies can be accessed in countless forms these days, but they are really intended to be seen on a large screen with an audience.

On a related note, what are your thoughts on the push for digital archiving? There are currently a lot of back-and-forth talks between Kodak, Fujifilm and the major studios about keeping archival film in use, with the studios pushing for digital.

It’s extremely complicated, of course, and it comes down to business decisions as funds are limited. The US has produced so much great film art and puts so little behind the preservation of it in comparison to countries like France, Germany, Norway just to name a few. Here, a lot of the work is up to private organizations and institutes such as the UCLA Film & creature_from_the_black_lagoon_xlgTelevision Archive.

What went into choosing which films you were going to showcase at these screenings? Were they personal choices, or technical ones?

These films were chosen because of the Halloween season, of course, but also because they have all screened in that room before and we know how amazing they look and sound. The presentations will be in a room designed for technical performance, and unfortunately mass audiences don’t get the showmanship or quality that they deserve in many venues. I want to show how much the presentation factors in to seeing a movie. The multiplexes are no longer filled with scratched & dirty film prints, but still can suffer from dim bulbs and misaligned 3-D equipment. The Dolby Digital 3D that will be shown is not seen in very many venues, but will really show off how well 3D can look when done right.

What do you think the future holds for film in the motion picture world? Do you see a developing backlash against digital or will film be largely relegated to repertory screenings and the like? Or do we face a future where digital becomes the accepted new format?

Digital is the accepted new format. I wouldn’t want to see a new action blockbuster on film that was shot and processed with digital in mind. Special films like the upcoming INTERSTELLAR 35mm & 70mm shows may lead the way for unique events. We just need to make sure that passionate and educated staff are taking care of the presentations and equipment.

Are there any other screenings or projects in the works for RuderMedia and Enjoy the Film? Any future stuff we oughta know about?BRuder - emory-205

I am working with the team at Cinevision on a four-feature series for January and we are seeking out groups that want to see all kind of genres on the big screen. Whether it’s horror, foreign, film noir, action or just titles that don’t get an Atlanta date. We want to show people movies in the best possible way and make each show special. During the winter months, I’ll be focusing efforts on producing a documentary series about the passionate exhibitors & preservationists that I love talking to and heading to Germany to interview some film veterans there. I can also be seen this fall up in the booth projecting 35mm at the free Emory University screenings.

So there you have it. Come out to the Cinevision Screening Room to catch three retro creature features the way they should be seen: on the screen, with an audience and with experts handling the projection for the best possible viewing experience. For a film geek like me, it’s a means of presentation that has yet to be bettered.

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

All photos courtesy of Ben Ruder and used with permission.

 

 

 

 

 

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Kool Kat of the Week: Where is Love and LAWRENCE OF ARABIA? Scott Hardin Finds Both as Projectionist for the Fabulous Fox Theatre

Posted on: Jul 26th, 2013 By:

Fox Theatre Projectionist Scott Hardin with an original 1929 projector.

By Gretchen Jacobsen
Contributing Writer

While The Fabulous Fox Theatre was not actually conceived as a movie house (it was originally intended to be the headquarters for the Shriners’ organization) and it amazingly almost faced the wrecking ball in the 1970s, its history as the Southeast’s premiere glittering palace of cinema is firmly entrenched.

While The Fox has been transformed from a movie house to a multipurpose arts venue, its storied past in cinema is kept alive by the Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival which kicked off in June. From now through August, The Fox will present seven more features on the biggest screen in Atlanta. Before the movie starts, patrons are treated to a sing-a-long with the “Mighty Mo” organ and a vintage cartoon. This weekend’s features include Quentin Tarantino‘s DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012)[Fri. July 26 at 7:30 p.m.], the animated caveman comedy THE CROODS (2013) [Sat. July 27 at 2 p.m.] and a new digital version of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962) [Sun. July 28 at 4 p.m.]as well as the official Sing-a-Long version of the John Travolta-Olivia Netwon-John ’50s-themed high school movie musical GREASE (1978), which is not part of the official series.

Only in July, the Fox Theater also will present special movie tours before this weekend’s Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival screenings. These tours will take you to the projection booth, screening room, two star dressing rooms and the stage while learning about the history of the movie palace and Mr. William Fox‘s innovations. The Fox also offers behind-the-scenes hour-long tours year-round.

Making this all possible, in a sense, is our Kool Kat of the Week, Scott Hardin. Scott has been the film projectionist at the Fox since 1978, making this his 39th year in the projection booth. We recently caught up with Scott to talk about film, history, the new tours and his own beginnings in “showbiz.”

ATLRetro: How did you become a film projectionist? 

Scott Hardin: I was too old to pretend I was Zorro anymore, even though my grandmother made me a wonderful cape that I got a lot of mileage out of. That, and a friend of mine I had met when he was working for Theater of the Stars – while I was a 14-year-old kid in THE SOUND OF MUSIC – had later joined the projectionists’ union and thought I might like to train to be one, too, given our past “showbiz” affiliations. He was a great friend named Jeb Stewart, who had actually sung on Broadway in the chorus of various shows. My biggest claim to fame had been playing the role of OLIVER at 12 years of age in the summer production at Theater Under the Stars, which was then outdoors at Chastain Park Amphitheater. What does that have to do with your question?  Not a thing, but I can still sing “Where is Love?” for you if you’d like.  Jeb Stewart later became the Business Agent of the Projectionist’s Union and sent me to help with the Fox projector installation those many years ago.

The auditorium and stage of the Fox Theatre. Photo credit: Yukari Umekawa.

When did you start at The Fox? What was the Fox like at that time?

I started in the spring of 1978 helping with the installation of projectors that had been brought over from the Loew’s Grand Theatre [Ed. note: another Atlanta movie palace which had been the site of the world premiere of GONE WITH THE WIND (1939) and tragically was destroyed by fire that year].  I was a young movie projectionist with four years of experience at the time and was sent to fill in for an older projectionist who had to go deal with personal issues for a few days. I remember carrying some of my dad’s tools with me to the job in a Kroger sack. I told them “Don’t worry, I’ll only be here for a few days.”  Well, that was 35 years ago and the other guy’s never returned.  I’m pretty sure he’s not coming back.

The doors to the theatre were locked with chains when I arrived. I was told to knock loudly on the door and ask for Joe Patten. After banging the arcade door as loudly as I could, a young receptionist came over to unlock the door. I told her I was there to work with Joe Patten on the movie projectors, and she just turned around and yelled as loudly as she could towards the auditorium:  “JOE!!! …JOE PATTEN!!!”  (This was before they had walkie-talkies to communicate with.) After no one answered she said, “well, he’s probably backstage.  Just wander back there and see if you can find him.” (Ed: Joe served as The Fox’s technical director from 1974 to 2004. He was granted a lifetime rent free lease in the 1970s and still lives in an apartment at The Fox.)

Scott Hardin with the new digital projection system.

Is there a film you projected at The Fox that you think was terribly overrated? 

I think the film OLIVER [1968] was overrated because I wasn’t in it.

What about underrated?

THE ADVENTURES OF ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE (2001) was terribly underrated.  How can you get more poignant than that?

One of the exciting films of this year’s Coca-Cola Film Festival is a new digital print of David Lean’s masterpiece LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. What can viewers expect out of this release?

They will see a beautiful rendition of the original negative of the 70mm film print, this time shown in Digital Cinema with no fading of color, no scratches, no splices, no interruptions of sound.  They can also expect camels.

Another film on the docket is the sing-a-long version of GREASE. Will you be singing along with the audience?

I’ll be sitting in a seat in the balcony using a remote volume fader to turn the sound levels up and down while following a script that has my sound cues in it.  I’ll be singing loudly at the same time too, except I’ll be singing “Where Is Love?”

Sing-a-Long Grease at Prince Charles Theatre, Leicester Square. Photo courtesy of Fox Theatre.

Before this weekend’s screenings, moviegoers can book special Movie Tours at The Fox. What’s your favorite “secret” place people will see on the tour?

My office door backstage that has my name and the word “Propmaster” above it.  It’s my secret, because even though I do double duty as the Props Department Head, I’m not really a “master” at it – I barely have a green belt – but if somebody paints “master” above your name, you have to keep up appearances.

Will you be in the projection room during the tours?

Yes, in all probability, along with my assistant Mike.

How has The Fox changed over your 35 years?

There have been so many changes it’s hard to enumerate them all. There’s a general trend in technology from analog to digital, and from simple to complex. I’ve also noticed people I’ve worked with for years gradually start to look older and wonder why I still look 28.

What do you think about the change in film from celluloid to digital? Is projection easier? More difficult?

Digital Cinema projection is easier because you don’t have to inspect and repair each frame of film by hand, and it looks and sounds great when everything works. However, you’re relying on computers to always work perfectly, which everyone knows is fraught with folly, and [that] will make it less reliable than film in the long run, in my opinion.

The original 1929 projectors at the Fox Theatre. Photo courtesy of the Fox Theatre.

Finally, which film have you projected the most? And how many times?

I have projected GONE WITH THE WIND on 11 different occasions in my 35 years at the Fox. One time in 1989 was for a 50th anniversary re-premiere with some of the surviving cast members on the stage. The most prominent was Butterfly McQueen, who played Prissy. My friend Jeb Stewart, who was responsible for first sending me to the Fox, helped me project the movie that night.

This Weekend’s Movie Details:

DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012); Dir. Quentin Tarantino; Starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington and Samuel L. Jackson; Friday, July 26 @ 7:30 PM; Fox Theatre; Tickets here; Trailer here.

GREASE SING-A-LONG (1978); Dir. Randal Kleiser; Starring John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John and Stockard Channing; Saturday, July 27 @ 7:30 PM; Fox Theatre; Tickets here; Trailer here.

LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1963); Dir. David Lean; Starring Peter O’Toole, Alec Guinness and Anthony Quinn; Sunday, July 28 @ 4:00 PM; Fox Theatre; Tickets here; Trailer here.

Gretchen Jacobsen is freelance producer, writer, costumer and film school graduate. She is also widely know by her Steampunk nom de internet, Wilhelmina Frame, and serves as the Editrix de Mode for the website Steampunk Chronicle.

 

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Kool Kat of the Week: Mike Malloy Rewinds Back to the 1980s Home Video Revolution with His Latest Documentary Feature

Posted on: Jul 15th, 2013 By:

Mike Malloy. Photo credit: Andramada Brittian.

Video may have killed the radio star, or so that ’80s song goes, but it launched a lifelong passion for cult action movies in Kool Kat of the Week Mike Malloy. Now he’s paying homage to the format that revolutionized the way people accessed and watched movies from the late 1970s to the 1990s in the documentary series PLASTIC MOVIES REWOUND: THE STORY OF THE ’80S HOME VIDEO BOOM, for which he is seeking funding through a Kickstarter campaignThe timing couldn’t be more perfect with VHS tapes, like 33rpm LPs, enjoying a renaissance among collectors, both old and new.

From his slicked-back hair to his Retro bowling shirts, Mike looks like he ought to be playing the stand-up bass in a rockabilly band. Instead he’s devoted himself to “playing” tribute to a side of cinema that often doesn’t get a lot of love from mainstream critics. At age 19, he signed his first book contract to write the first published biography of Spaghetti Western star Lee Van Cleef (for McFarland & Co.) Since then, he went on to write articles for a wide spectrum of national film magazines, served as managing editor of fan favorite Cult Movies Magazine, has spoken about movie topics at universities, ghost-wrote several fim books, and served on the selection committee of the 2006 Atlanta Film Festival.

In the past few years, Mike has moved increasingly both in front of and behind the camera. He has acted in more than 25 features and shorts. He co-produced the Western THE SCARLET WORM (2011) and directed the short, LOOK OUT! IT’S GOING TO BLOW! (2006), which won the award for best comedy short at MicroCineFest in Baltimore. But he’s garnered the most acclaim, both national and international, for EUROCRIME! THE ITALIAN COP AND GANGSTER FILMS THAT RULED THE ’70s, a kickass documentary homage to that B-movie subgenre which he wrote, directed, edited and produced.

ATLRetro caught up with Mike recently to find out more about how home videos fired his fascination with film, his unique vision for PLASTIC MOVIES REWOUND, some really cool incentives he’s lined up for his Kickstarter campaign which collectors will love  and what’s up next for Georgia’s Renaissance man of cult action cinema.

Having written Lee Van Cleef‘s first published biography at age 19, you’ve obviously been into rare cult and B movies since an early age. What triggered your passion for the less reputable side of cinema and why does it appeal to you so much?

I’m a rare guy who’s deep into cult and genre cinema without caring much for horror or anything fantastic. For me, it’s all about a desperate Warren Oates shooting it out in Mexico. Or Lee Marvin with a submachine gun. For some reason, I’m just drawn to gritty tough-guy cinema – which is not necessarily the same thing as action cinema.

How did the home video revolution influence you personally? Having been born in 1976, you can’t really remember the pre-video days, I’d guess, but it must have afforded you access to a whole spectrum of these movies which otherwise would have been hard to track down and see.

And I even missed most of the ’80s video boom, because my parents, in 1990, were the last on the block to get a VCR. But in 1994, I made up for lost time. I had a college girlfriend who had an off-campus apartment, and while she was at work,  she didn’t like the idea of me being on campus, potentially fraternizing with other young ladies. So before each shift, she would take me by the local mom-and-pop vid store and rent me 8 hours’ worth of Bronson, Van Cleef, Carradine, etc. That kept me safely in her apartment, and it put me on the cinema path I’m on.

Videophile Magazine; Jim Lowe and Mike Malloy on the set of PLASTIC MOVIES REWOUND.

In Atlanta, Videodrome seems to be the last independent rental retailer still in business and it’s even hard to find a Blockbuster left. And of course, they now just stock DVDs. Now you can order up a movie online and watch it instantly. Do you think we’ve lost something by no longer going in to browse, and was there a particular video store that became your home away from home?

One of our interviewees said something interesting: The mom-and-pop video store business model was based on customer DISsatisfaction. That is, you’d go in to rent CITIZEN KANE, it would be checked out, and you’d somehow end up leaving with SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED (1974). Being forced to browse leads to an experimental attitude in movie watching. That’s a good thing.

VHS tapes can get damaged easily, the picture and sound quality can’t compare to a bluRay (or often even a regular DVD) and they rarely show a movie in widescreen. Why be nostalgic about them, and is it true that the VHS format, like LPs, is having a comeback?

VHS is experiencing a major comeback. There are about 20 little startup companies that have begun releasing movies to VHS again. A certain old horror VHS – of a film called DEMON QUEEN (1986) – sold recently on eBay for $750.00. VHS conventions are springing up all over the country.

I’ve always thought that the format is superior for horror films. If you watch THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974) on a soft old VHS poorly transferred from a faded film print, that makes you feel as if you’re watching some underground snuff film obtained from a shady guy in a trench coat. Watch that same movie on a pristine Blu-Ray, and you don’t get that same grimy feeling.

Michael Perkins films a scene at Videodrome, Atlanta's last great independent video store.

There have been other documentaries about home video, such as ADJUST YOUR TRACKING (2013) and REWIND THIS (2013). What will PLASTIC MOVIES REWOUND add to the topic that hasn’t been covered already?

PLASTIC MOVIES REWOUND will be a three-hour series, spanning six half-hour episodes. Those others just have a feature-length running time. So if mine isn’t the most definitive word on the subject, I’ve really screwed up. I’m sort of glad those docs exist as companion works, because it frees me up to explore some of the weirder corners of the phenomenon I find fascinating. Things like video vending machines and pizza-style home delivery of VHS tapes.

You’ve got a pretty interesting line-up of interviewees, not all of which are big names. Can you tell us about a few of them and how you went about selecting them.

Right, many of these people are very significant without being instantly recognizable. We have Mitch Lowe, the founder of Netflix (and later a CEO of Redbox). We have Jim Olenski, owner of what is considered to be the first-ever video store. We have Seth Willenson, a Vice President at RCA who oversaw their failed video disc format. That’s just several off the top of my head. They all have that level of significance. And we interviewed a bunch of cult filmmakers, because working at the cheap extreme of the video boom was where some of the craziest stories were. Further, we were glad – er, glad/sad – to have been able to document a closing video store in Toronto during its final month.

Gary Abdo and Mike Malloy. Photo credit: Jonathan Hickman.

Moviemakers, and artists of all ilk, have always seemingly been ripped off by others who pocket all the money. What distinguishes the video era in that regard, and are there any lessons filmmakers can apply to the current wild west of digital camerawork and online distribution?

I think the potential for ripping off artists is greater when an industry is in upheaval, when the rules and the financial models are unclear. And you’re right, VOD and streaming have caused the same type of upheaval that the videocassette did in its day. So I love all the anecdotes we captured of swindled ’80s filmmakers fighting back against their underhanded distributors. And I hope today’s filmmakers realize that distributors are now becoming largely unnecessary at all. For instance, I hope Vimeo OnDemand – with its 90-10 split in favor of the filmmaker – is a total game changer.

You obviously went into this project with a lot of background, but did you find out any big surprises or delightful unexpected moments during your interviews/research?

I went into the project feeling proud that I was going to cover not only VHS and Beta, but all the failed video formats – like Cartrivision, Selectavision (CED) and V-Cord II. Turns out, they were just the tip of the iceberg. I now probably have about 15 different also-ran video formats I can touch on.

Left to right: a video vending machine; Mitch Lowe, founder of Netflix.

How different would the world be today if Cartrivision had caught on instead of VHS?

Well, Cartrivision was an early attempt at rights management for movies. The Cartrivision rental tapes couldn’t be rewound at home; that could only be done at Sears, where you rented them. It limited you to one viewing per rental. So it would’ve started the concept of video rentals off on a very different attitude and philosophy. I think part of the reason the ’80s home video phenomenon was such a boom was the freedom associated with it – you could rent a movie of your choosing and watch it at a time of your choosing. You could watch it a number of times before returning. Hell, you could use your rewind button to watch a jugsy shower scene over and over.

Tell us about the Kickstarter campaign. How’s it going and how are you going to use the monies raised to finalize the film?

Since ADJUST YOUR TRACKING and REWIND THIS both successfully kickstarted, I knew this would be an uphill battle. My only chance was to turn what is normally a beg-a-thon into a reward-a-thon. So I created a $75 level for the collectors where they could get so much more than just a copy of the documentary. The very first expense I’ll cover, if I get successfully funded, will be an 8 terabyte hard drive. I really can’t cut another frame until I get it.

PLASTIC MOVIES REWOUND tells it like it was: Mike Malloy deals videos out of his van.

You’ve got some mighty cool incentives for donors, including actual vintage VHS cassettes. Tell us a little bit about them.

Not only have many of our filmmaker interviewees donated signed VHS and DVDs of their movies (to say nothing of rare, unused artwork and such), but a lot of these new startup VHS companies have also donated rewards. I’m feeling very supported.

Unlike your Italian-centric EUROCRIME documentary, you’re trying to involve Atlanta as much as possible in PLASTIC MOVIES REWOUND, aren’t you?

Local documentarian Michael Perkins (THE BOOKER) is my second-unit director, and Atlanta-based musician/engineer Matthew Miklos is my primary composer. His ’80s synth sound is so authentic. An associate producer (Jonathan Hickman) and at least one interviewee (filmmaker Gary Abdo) are here too. Videodrome has been very cool about letting me shoot re-enactments in the store. I tried to document the closing of another Atlanta institution of the video-rental industry, but it didn’t work out.

Anything else on your plate right now or next as a writer, director, producer or actor?

Later this year, I’m acting in HOT LEAD, HARD FURY in Denver and BUBBA THE REDNECK WEREWOLF in Florida. I wish someone would cast me locally so my pay doesn’t keep getting eaten up by travel expenses!

Editor’s Note: All photos are courtesy of Mike Malloy and used with permission.

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30 Days of the Plaza, Day 28: TRICK ‘R TREAT and the Grand Tradition of the Anthology Horror Film

Posted on: Oct 24th, 2012 By:

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

TRICK ‘R TREAT (2007/2009); Dir: Michael Dougherty; Starring Dylan Baker, Brian Cox, Anna Paquin; Tues. Oct. 30 7:30 p.m.; Plaza Theatre; $10; Trailer here; Advance tickets here.

Michael Dougherty’s TRICK ‘R TREAT is more than simply a great horror movie (though that alone should have been enough to save it from having been shelved by Warner Brothers for 2 years). Beyond its well-crafted story, inspired performances and cleverly-executed direction, the film is also a loving tribute to both Halloween and a staple of horror cinema throughout the 20th century: the anthology film.

Though other genres have tackled the anthology to varying degrees of success, the anthology format has long been perfectly suited for horror. At the dawn of the previous century, there was the celebrated Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol. Parisian audiences taking in an unpleasant night at the theater would experience five or six short and brutally horrific plays per show, and success kept the blood flowing for 65 years. It made sense, then, that the emerging art form of cinema would take some cues from the Grand Guignol. The first anthology horror film popped up in 1919 with Germany’s UNCANNY STORIES, and filmmakers returned to the well again and again, resulting in classics like 1924’s WAXWORKS and 1945’s DEAD OF NIGHT.

It was during the 1960s and ‘70s that the genre really took off, however, thanks to the efforts of Great Britain’s Amicus Productions. Their series of anthology horror pictures began with DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS (1964) and continued through to THE MONSTER CLUB (1980). Frequently directed by British horror veterans Freddie Francis and Roy Ward Baker, and often written by American horror legend Robert Bloch, the movies were extremely successful on both sides of the pond and rivaled the popularity of Amicus’ chief competitor, Hammer Films (it helped that many of Hammer’s stars—including Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee—were featured in many of the films).

The emergence of the slasher genre as horror’s chief moneymaker shuffled the by-now quaint anthology film to the backburner in the 1980s. Few major studios took the risk on helming them, and as a result, those that emerged were often cash-strapped and threadbare productions with few real “stars” to pull in crowds. Sure, there were exceptions, such as the George Romero / Stephen King collaboration CREEPSHOW (1982) and Stephen King’s CAT’S EYE (1985), but by and large the anthology films that have emerged since the genre’s heyday have been either conceived or promoted as throwbacks rather than as part of a viable tradition.

And while you could say that TRICK ‘R TREAT does just that—present itself as a tribute—it also pushes forward by taking storytelling risks that are rare in the anthology genre itself. Rather than just presenting a handful of stories connected by a framing device (which is typically how these films are structured), Dougherty threads all of the stories together over the course of a single Halloween night. Characters cross paths continually and their stories intersect, while each story reveals details about events that have transpired elsewhere by presenting different perspectives.

A scene from TRICK R TREAT. Warner Brothers, 2007.

The stories themselves are short and simple. A serial killing principal (Dylan Baker) just can’t get rid of a body. Pranks centering around a decades-old massacre turn on the pranksters. A party in the woods turns bloody. A curmudgeonly, Halloween-hating old man (Brian Cox) gets his comeuppance from Sam, the living embodiment of the spirit of Halloween. (Sam appears in each segment.) But it’s how the stories are fleshed out, and how they interact with each other, that takes the film to another level. It’s like the horror film equivalent of Robert Altman’s SHORT CUTS or Quentin Tarantino’s PULP FICTION. Just a hell of a lot more fun.

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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