KOOL KAT OF THE WEEK: Blast-Off Has Their Cake and…! Dickie Van Dyke Celebrates Kissing, Shaving and a Decade of Burlesque Madness!

Posted on: Sep 7th, 2016 By:
Photo credit: Chris Buxbaum.

Photo credit: Chris Buxbaum.

Blast-Off Burlesque is back and going UNDER THE COVERS Friday Sept. 9 and Saturday Sept. 10 at Sychronicity Theatre in Midtown. Atlanta’s sci-fi punk vaudeville burlesque goofballs are celebrating their 10th year with this burlesque “performance explosion” inspired by some famous, and some not so famous album covers with emcee extraordinaire Ms. Gayle Thrower Rej and featuring with special guests P-Lo aka Patricia Lopez, Baby Doll and JuWanna Pimpmee!

With such an auspicious anniversary for some of ATLRetro’s favorite performers–all Kool Kats in our world!– we caught up with founding member Tricia Chenard, aka Dickie Van Dyke, to get the inside scoop on the creative cacophony which we know will ensue this weekend, as well as the troupe’s secret scooter origins, her own first album purchases, and an update on her other pastimes, including banjo and harmonica antics with her jugband Uncle Daddy and the Kissin’ Cousins, as well as bringing back traditional barbering at Rutabaga in Decatur.

ATLRetro: What’s the “secret origin” story of Dickie Van Dyke and how did you join the Blast-Off Burlesque? Aren’t you one of the founding members?

Dickie Van Dyke: In the beginning, Blast-Off was just me, Barbalicious, Sadie Hawkins and Ferris Hilton. We met through riding vintage scooters and meeting up for weekly beers with fellow scooter enthusiasts. Barb and Sadie were members of the burlesque troupe The Dollsquad and decided to start something new when The Dollsquad was ending its run. They approached me and said they wanted me to be their drag king. I replied, “But, I’m not a drag king.” They replied, “But you look so good in a suit.” I guess a little flattery went along way. I knew I wanted to use the name Dickie to tip my hat to my beloved, big gay, hair-dressing uncle, Richard. Barb and I started tossing around cheesy variations like Dickie Diamond or Dickie Dean etc… Eventually, Dickie Van Dyke fell out of my mouth and it fit on so many levels. The Van Dyke part was obvious because of, well, my being queer as a pink fuzzy football. I also love Dick Van Dyke. He’s one of the greatest entertainers that ever lived. Truly a classy gentleman.

underthecoversGosh-groovy-wow, it’s hard to believe Blast-Off is celebrating its 10th year. What does that feel like?

It feels shocking and great! We’ve had highs and lows like any long-term relationship. We are people. We’ve evolved; we are evolving. Blast-Off is like a favorite pair of jeans. It’s frayed around the edges, there are weird stains in strange places, and it’s worn thin in the knees, but nothing in the world feels the same. Nothing hangs off the hips in just that perfect way. People can sell overpriced, cheap versions of those distressed jeans, but they aren’t molded to your ass with the sweat and tears of hard work and hard play the way your favorite jeans are. That’s what being together for so long feels like. It’s biscuits, fried chicken and collard greens. It’s falling in love with your sweetheart all over again, despite the urge to strangle them because they are a beautiful, messy pain in the ass and you’ve been through a lot together, but you love that about them so much.

Photo credit: Regean Powell.

Photo credit: Regean Powell.

A new Blast-Off Burlesque show is a much anticipated treat. You zany kids have tackled the Wild West, TV, sci-fi, to name a few themes. How did you guys come up with the idea of bringing album covers to life, and we assume the show title “Under the Covers” is a double entendre?

Oh yeah, it’s most definitely a double entendre. It was one of those moments where we were surprised by our own cleverness. Our brainstorming process is pretty simple. We order a couple pizzas, bust open a bottle of Jameson or other lubricant of choice, and we throw ideas out. We haggle, we plead, we let go, we rationalize, we deconstruct, we get side-tracked, we analyze, we cuddle and we keep sipping whiskey until things we say to each other start sounding like good ideas. That usually doesn’t take too long because we are all nuts.

Blast-Off recently ran a contest that you judged in which people were invited to post a pic of the first album they ever bought to win a pair of free tickets to the show. What’s the first album you ever bought? And the story behind that purchase?

My first actual music-buying experience involved three albums. My family frequented a rinky dink flea market on GA-2 outside of Varnell, Ga. It was the kind of flea market where you could get some army BDUs, a live chicken, some boiled peanuts, the best handmade quilt, a fist full of Weirdo magazines and a tattoo from a biker working out of a repurposed school bus. There was a guy that sold awful bootleg copies of records. Everything was on a tape with the name of the album scribbled on the side. The insert was a one-sided Xerox of the original cover. They were bad, but three for $5. I bought horribly bootlegged copies of Motley Crüe‘s SHOUT AT THE DEVIL, Cyndi Lauper‘s SHE’S SO UNUSUAL and a random Patsy Cline BEST OF. I guess I will forever be a bargain shopper and lover of a wide variety of music.

Without giving away any surprises, can you give us a little tease as to the album cover(s) you’ll be unwrapping in the show?

Oh man, we touch on a wide variety of albums and genres! Icons, essences, obscurities, explorations of everything from The Who to The Boss to The Cramps to Vanity 6. The process of creating this show was interesting in the sense that we all got to express some sort of musical admiration for our personal favorites. It is our ultimate tribute album in some sort of burlesqued, interpretive dance movement, party-time experience.

Photo credit: Marc Turnley

Photo credit: Marc Turnley

What else has Blast-Off been up to lately and any more shows/activities planned for the near future?

In November, we are looking forward to working with Splatter Cinema again. Those guys have always been super awesome. They are letting us desecrate their stage by bringing back a horror version of our Taboo-La-La film night. We are currently working out the details, but it should be fun!

We hear Uncle Daddy and the Kissin Cousins has a super great new line up and a bunch of new songs. What’s up, where can we find you playing and are the rumors true that the band will be hitting the recording studio soon?

The jugband is creating a lot of new songs and sounds. Expanding our minds for sure. We figure after nine years of playing together, we might actually cut a record so we have something to give the folks who keep asking for it. We are going to be playing at 529 in East Atlanta on Sept. 26 with Banjaline and Glen DeMeritt, Oct. 1 for Garage 71’s Hell on Wheels in Canton, Ga. There are a lot of great folks playing and cool stuff going on with that day—classic cars, vintage bikes, sideshow acts, etc. We are also playing Oct. 8 at Ciderfest hosted by Concrete Jungle. Ciderfest is one of our favorite gigs of the year. Super laidback, lots of great people from all different walks of life, and fresh pressed cider!

Your day job is as an old school barber in downtown Decatur at Rutabaga boutique and salon. Can you tell us a bit about that and what types of styles you specialize in for the Retro gentleman? Do you think barbering is becoming a lost art?

I specialize in short cuts, tight fades, razor work, hard parts, classic, as well as modern styles. Anything from an old school pompadour, to a neat and tidy businessman’s coif, to an edgy, razor faded high and tight. As far as the face goes, I offer a classic straight razor shaves with aromatic lather and soothing hot towels, beard and mustache trims, and 15-minute facial massage for when you need a little R&R on the go.

Disco disco dick: Barb HaysAs far as barbering becoming a lost art, I could argue yes and no. At some point, having a barber seemed to have become more trendy than having a stylist. Perhaps it is meterosexual blowback from the ’90s? Perhaps it is the rise of the lumbersexual image? I don’t know. It seems the word “barber” has been simultaneously saved and diluted. There are a lot of folks calling themselves barbers these days. Pick up a pair of clippers and some Pinaud powder, and BOOM, you’re a barber. But to me, there is a difference between a barber who has studied and performs traditional tonsorial arts and a stylist who can perform men’s cuts. I know plenty of excellent stylists that can knock out awesome men’s cuts, and that’s great, but they don’t shave faces or use straight razors; they didn’t study anatomy of the face with all the muscles and arteries, as well as various skin conditions and ways to care for them. I think having that specific training and knowledge is the point of being a true barber. Having a barber pole tattoo doesn’t make you a barber. Knowing how to execute a proper shave and the importance of the 7th cranial nerve does. I’m glad that there has been a revival of barber culture and classic grooming because it is totally ok for dudes to take care of their skin and beards. It’s totally ok for women to opt for shaves as opposed to waxing. Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor did. Now more than ever, anyone can have access to a classic barbershop experience. I’m proud to call myself a traditional barber because of my training and the respect I have for the craft.

Finally, we gotta ask but thinking back over the past 10 years, what’s the craziest caper that you’ve been involved with as a member of Blast-Off and why? And yes, you can define by what we mean by “craziest” and “caper”!

Ya see, there is this little thing we call floor cake. For some reason, we had a grocery store sheet cake after a show. We were imbibing a few celebratory beverages, and before anyone could even get a piece of cake to eat, the entire cake ended up on the floor. Shortly after, everyone ended up in the cake on the floor. My favorite crazy caper happened when we decided to recreate floor cake for a photo shoot with the Burlesque Camera Club. We didn’t tell anyone we were going to drop a cake and writhe around in it for our final shots. At first, nobody knew what to do. These kids bring a cake into a photo shoot and “accidentally” dump it in the floor and start going nuts. Then suddenly everyone just started taking photos like crazy, whipped cream was sprayed all over the studio, sprinkles were sprinkled and jimmies were jammed. It was pure confectionary chaos and everyone loved it. We all had such a great time!

MORE INFO: Limited seating. Blast-Off shows sell out so they highly encourage you to buy tickets in advance to guarantee a seat! VIP front row experience includes four front row seats, drink tickets and very special goodies.Comfy seats for your butt, beer and wine in the lobby, and mixed drinks available at Tavern Pointe, which is right across the lobby. $5 parking will be validated with ticket purchase. Purchase tickets here.

Dick at the earl: Caroline Smith

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RETRO REVIEW: Giallo Magnifique: Dario Argento’s DEEP RED in Rare Italian Cut Screens Saturday at Buried Alive Film Festival

Posted on: Nov 13th, 2015 By:

Profondo_Rosso_posterBuried Alive Film Festival and Splatter Cinema Presents the rare Italian original cut of DEEP RED (1975); Dir. Dario Argento; Starring David Hemmings and Daria Nicolodi; Saturday, November 14 @ 10:00 p.m.; Synchronicity Theater; Tickets $10 (or included with a $50 festival pass) here; Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

As part of the Buried Alive Film Festival, Splatter Cinema will be hosting a 40th anniversary screening at Synchronicity Theater of what is, quite simply, one of the greatest thrillers ever made: Dario Argento’s groundbreaking giallo DEEP RED. To miss this in its rare Italian original cut (22 minutes longer than the US version), would be to offend the very gods of cinema, so it would be best to play it safe and plan to attend.

From the late 1920s forward in Italy, a series of cheap paperback editions of murder mysteries featuring eye-catching artwork was issued by the publishing group Arnoldo Mondadori Editore. The success of these editions led to other publshers to also release mysteries under their own banners while imitating Mondadori’s cover designs. The common design element? The color yellow used as a background. As a result, over time all murder mysteries in Italy would come to be called “yellow.” Or, in Italian, giallo.

Mario Bava set in stone the tropes and archetypes of the cinematic giallo in the early 1960s with films such as THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH and BLOOD AND BLACK LACE. The wild success of these films—and their blending of brutal violence with stylish camerawork and set design, all set to equally stylish musical scores—led to a whole host of other filmmakers jumping on the giallo bandwagon and establishing themselves as forces to be reckoned with in the Italian film industry. Antonio Margheriti, Umberto Lenzi, Riccardo Freda…all dipped their toes into the waters of the giallo and built careers off their early successes. But none of them took the genre to new extremes like one particular filmmaker: Dario Argento.

schultz-figueroa-web2Beginning with his “Animal Trilogy” (THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE, CAT O’ NINE TAILS and FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET), Argento took Bava’s sense of visual style to a whole other level. Deep focus, graceful camera movements, exquisitely detailed set design and carefully crafted compositions were the hallmarks of his aesthetic. His impossibly twisty plots and outstanding soundtracks worked hand-in-hand with his visual style and led him to be regarded as the Italian Hitchcock. But his work on the Animal Trilogy was merely a prelude to his masterpiece: DEEP RED (aka PROFONDO ROSSO).

Jazz pianist Marcus Daly (David Hemmings) witnesses a woman’s murder, and decides to investigate the case himself after realizing that a painting he saw in her apartment is now missing. Accompanied by reporter Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi), he tries to tie together the loose clues he has assembled and the one detail he cannot quite remember, while other women across the city are being murdered and he himself is targeted.

All of the elements are in play here. The black-gloved killer. The half-remembered detail. The outsider protagonist dismissed by the police as a troublemaker. The meddling reporter. The brutal violence. But Argento assembles these key tropes into something wholly new and original. Visually, Argento uses art in general, and painting in particular, as a recurring thematic element. Beyond a painting holding a key detail that is needed to solve the mystery, key plot points are revealed via artwork. Argento even gives us a life-size, live-action depiction of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks early on to establish the importance of the visual arts and their accompanying artifice in the film’s world. In a word, the visual style is audacious.

But not as audacious, perhaps, as the film’s musical score. After having worked with the celebrated Italian film composer Ennio Morricone on the Animal Trilogy, Argento wanted something contemporary. He initially turned to jazz musician Giorgio Gaslini for the film’s music, but was unhappy with the results. Instead, he decided to go in a progressive rock direction and eventually found kindred spirits in local band Goblin. Their remarkable score winds up being incredibly catchy, complex, sinister, subtle and bombastic—somehow all at the same time. Their music ended up being the perfect complement to Argento’s visuals, managing to capture the essence of one medium in another. The reception to their breakthrough work was so intense, and the pairing of group and filmmaker so perfect, that Goblin (or the band’s leader, Claudio Simonetti) would continue to work on-and-off with Argento through the decades up to his latest film, DRACULA 3D.

Argento would return to the giallo again several times over the course of his career, most notably in films like TENEBRE and OPERA, but none of his work within the genre comes close to this masterpiece. It’s nearly flawless. The only complaint that I have with it is that the humorous and romantic scenes between Hemmings and Nicolodi tend to dissipate the building tension felt throughout the film. But that is such a slight complaint in comparison to the riches on offer in this brutal but beautiful movie. To see it at all is a rare treat. To see it in its original Italian cut on the big screen is a thing that should not be missed by anyone interested in seeing a director firing on all cylinders, at the top of his game, regardless of genre.

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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Celebrate Madness and a Decade of Dread at Synchronicity Theater With the 10th Annual Buried Alive Film Festival!

Posted on: Nov 12th, 2015 By:

By Aleck Bennett11.14
Contributing Writer

The 10th Annual Buried Alive Film Festival; Saturday, November 14, 12:00 p.m. – 11:50 p.m.; Sunday, November 15, 12:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.; Synchronicity Theater; Tickets $10 per screening block / $50 all access pass; Schedule for each screening block here; Tickets here.

Halloween might have been two weeks ago, but there’s no reason why Atlanta’s horror community shouldn’t claim the entire month between it and Thanksgiving to create a haunting holiday season. That’s why having the always-amazing Buried Alive Film Festival right smack dab in the middle simply makes sense. In its tenth year, the band of morbid mad doctors behind the scenes (including ATLRetro Kool Kat Blake Myers) has assembled a monster of a festival and is bringing it to rampaging life at Synchronicity Theater! Venture in to witness horrors, paranormal and psychological, ranging from the frighteningly funny to the atmospheric and haunting. And, given the people involved, expect buckets of blood served up with every course.

The festival kicks off on Saturday with Shorts Program 1: Tentacles, Slime, and Problems. A series of shorts delivers on the program’s title, with a host of unsavory creatures on display—none so disturbing as our fellow man, however, as depicted in the Southeastern premieres of HEIR and Florian Frerichs’ adaptation curtain_posterof Roald Dahl’s gruesome classic IN THE RUINS. Also be sure to catch the contemporary eldritch horrors of 666 SQUARE FEET, which was picked as an official selection at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival, Cthulhu Con, the New York City Horror Film Festival, NecronomiCon, Filmquest and more.

Follow that up with Feature Program 1: CURTAIN, which is preceded by the short film HAG, featuring THE EXORCIST’s Eileen Dietz and CHILDREN OF THE CORN’s John Franklin in a tale of the downsides of sleep paralysis and somnambulism. CURTAIN is…well…it’s about disappearing shower curtains in an ex-nurse’s tiny New York apartment. But as with many of the other subjects on offer, don’t leap to any conclusions from that short summary. With maniacal energy and flourishes of wacky humor, we’re plunged headlong into an epic story of cults, portals, unlikely friendship and the hazards of showering.

After a quick break to gather your nerves, return at 4 p.m. to leave the live-action world behind with Zerch_PostalAnimation/Puppet Program: Drawn, Quartered, and hands stuck up our butt. We’re treated with a series of surreal short subjects that take us places that flesh and blood cannot alone. This ranges from the Victorian ghost story of THE MILL AT CALDER’S END (featuring the voice talents of Barbara Steele and Jason Flemyng, and performed using bunraku rod puppets) to the stop-motion shorts of local filmmaker Britain Cramer. Also worth checking out is the dramatic shadowplay of MONSTER and the Southeastern debut of the delightfully dreadful BUNNY BIZNESS.

Haven’t had enough? Of course you haven’t. That’s why you’re sticking around for Shorts Program 2: Violent Crimes. Each short deals with the bloody transgression of social codes, whether from the perpetrator’s point of view, or the victim’s. Whether it’s climbing the corporate ladder of organized crime in the hilarious BAD GUY #2 or the horrors awaiting a person on the other end of the scalpel in SURGERY (based on legendary British writer/producer Brian Clemens’ last story idea), you’ll find more than enough gore to satiate your bloodlust.

HEAD (Poster)Ready for more long-form entertainment after all those shorts? Well, sit back and enjoy Feature Program 2: BUNNY THE KILLER THING. The program is introduced by the world premiere of the short film HEAD, in which a grieving widower does anything in his power to keep his wife with him. BUNNY follows, a gruesome exhumation and insanely funny send-up of 1980s horror tropes, from the secluded cabin in the woods, to the sex=death equation, to the man-in-a-monster-suit menace. In this, a horrific half-human/half rabbit monstrosity stalks a group of Finnish and British youth while in pursuit of anything resembling female genitalia.

We close out the night with a special feature presented by the inimitable Splatter Cinema crew: a 40th anniversary screening of Dario Argento’s classic giallo, DEEP RED. Be sure to see the accompanying Retro Review of this title (Coming soon!), but rest assured that this is an absolute must-see.

After a night to recover from the horrors of the previous day, we find ourselves back at the crack of noon for Shorts Program 3: A Lighter Shade of Blood Red. As the title suggests, this is a good-humored set of Chompshorts. From the love of a vengeful family pet in LITTLE OLD CAT LADY FROM RANCHO CUCAMONGA to a mother’s love for her undead son in ZOMINIC, from the tasty trap of I AM CANDY (in its Southeastern premiere) to the delicious set design of EAT, to zombie kidnapping in CHOMP, there’s a little something for the twisted side of everybody in this program.

From one extreme to another (in a festival of nothing but the extreme), we come to our next shorts program, Shorts Program 4: Gross People and Their Problems. Again, the program’s title lets you know what you’re in for with this set: the troubles that beset those who don’t quite fit in. There’s the health-crazed satire of RECIPE, the Wes Anderson-ian nightmare comedy of CRUSH, the American premiere of the disturbing family horror FROM THE GUTS, the extremes of VHS horror found in NASTY, and much more. Twisted people, twisted lives, twisted problems and twisted nerves are what you’ll find onscreen.

The next program explores the outer bounds of horror and filmmaking technique, in Shorts Program 5: psychoticExperimental and Music Videos. Split fairly evenly between experimental shorts such as BIRTHDAY’s Satanic ode to silent-era cinema, experimenting with serial killers in PSYCHOTIC! and the symbolic odyssey across the rivers of HADES, there are boundary-pushing music videos from artists such as Vyla Vice’s “Come With Me” and Atlanta’s own Gunpowder Gray and Casket Creatures with “Saints” and “GKMF!” (the latter directed by some guy named Lucas Godfrey (ATLRetro Kool Kat article here), who might just also happen to be the festival’s Event Director).

Then it’s time once again to focus on the long-form with Feature Program 3: THE INTERIOR. We transition into the feature-length section this time with two short subjects. First up is local director Brian Teague’s 1580 AM, which documents the GoPro footage found after four friends disappear in in the woods. It’s followed by THE FISHERMAN, about a Chinese fisherman who ventures out of the harbor and into the pits of horror when he catches something unexpected in the deep. Then our feature THE INTERIOR receives its Southeastern premiere. It’s a tense, atmospheric journey into the isolated woods of British Columbia as we follow a young man who has recently been diagnosed with a grave illness. As he seeks TerryBrendaTeaserPoster2_WEBrefuge and retreat, he finds that something else is in these woods, and it’s pursuing him deeper and deeper into the interior. A building sense of unease and tension, coupled with gorgeous photography and a great central performance makes this one you must check out.

We close out this year’s festival with a palate cleanser in the form of Shorts Program 6: Closing Night Shorts. A little bit of everything for those who have made it through the horrors of the previous two days, you’ve got demented comedy in the form of SISTER HELL and LARRY GONE DEMON, haunting and atmospheric horror in THE POND, mind-melting action in EL GIGANTE and THEY WILL ALL DIE IN SPACE, and the aptly-titled THE END. A fun and frightening serving of sadism: your treat as you prepare to leave this chamber of horrors and venture out into the real world where you can let your guard down and rest easy. Because surely none of the fantastic horrors on display could possibly manifest outside the walls of Synchronicity Theater, could they? Could they?

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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Halloween Haunts 2015: ATLRetro Reviews the Septic, Gritty, Phantasmagoric Chamber of Horrors

Posted on: Oct 27th, 2015 By:

unnamed-3Chambers of Horror, Atlanta’s adults-only haunt behind The Masquerade, has come a long way from a torture porn extravaganza to a creepy crawl through a septic, gritty underworld where atmosphere and story are strengths. This year’s storyline involves a plague infection of alien origin now running rampant in the underground of Dr. Splatter’s lurid experiments. This’ll be the last year at this location due to pending construction, so kudos to Luke Godfrey (ATLRetro exclusive interview with him here) and Ian O’Brien of Gorehound Productions for whipping up a must-see attraction, as long as you have a stomach for  extreme violence and the phantasmagorically pornographic. Let’s be clear–you won’t be seeing parasexual activity, but nakedness and deformed organs, including sexual ones, are in view.

If you visited Chambers only in its first two years, you missed its escalation into a full-out immersive performance experience similar to that which made the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse more than your usual walk-through haunt. Similar to the prelude to a Splatter Cinema evening (also ran and co-founded by Godfrey) begin with a photo op with a grisly prop with a green screen backdrop that by the finished print will reveal additional horrors. That’s followed by a video setting up the outbreak premise. Visitors are scanned for the alien virus and then ushered into an elevator that shakes and shudders to evoke a realistic ride down five stories into the depths that once were TortureCo and are now a US military facility. The point of a haunt is surprise, so without any spoilers, let’s just say that along the journey, visitors encounter scenarios with paramilitary officers, mutilated infected scientists and victims of twisted experiments engaged in disturbing dioramas. Sure, there were some jumpy scares and victims cried out mournfully for help, but haunt-goers are encouraged to linger and listen as the plotline unfolds and torturers threaten and tantalize visitors with a promise of pain.

unnamed-1One warning: Don’t dress in anything which you mind getting wet and even, on one occasion, foamy.

Chambers of Horror is open Wed. Oct. 28 and Thurs. Oct. 29 from 8 pm until midnight, and Fri. Oct. 30 and Halloween from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. Tickets are available at the door, or you can purchase them online in advance at Xorbia – Chambers of Horror Tickets

Category: Features, Tis the Season To Be... | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Splatter Cinema Brings Italian Cannibal Mania in the Amazonian Jungle to the Cinevision Screening Room With CANNIBAL FEROX!

Posted on: Jul 17th, 2015 By:

canferoxSplatter Cinema presents CANNIBAL FEROX (1981); Dir. Umberto Lenzi; Starring John Morghen (Giovanni Lombardo Radice), Lorraine De Selle and Robert Kerman; Cinevision Screening Room; Saturday, August 15 @ 8:30 p.m.; IndieGoGo campaign w/ advance ticket sales end July 24; Admission at door is cash only; Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

Splatter Cinema wants to bring you a rare chance to see Umberto Lenzi’s notorious CANNIBAL FEROX, aka MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY on the big screen at Cinevision in all its 35mm glory. Incredibly they’ve scored a fully restored print from Grindhouse Releasing! But the catch is the rental and shipping is expensive, so they are dependent on an INDIEGOGO campaign with advance ticketing. If it doesn’t make its goal, this screening won’t happen. That would be a real shame because Splatter Cinema has really delved into the fetid jungle of grindhouse treasures to unearth this putrescent piece of gut-munching gore. 

As I’ve mentioned here before, the horror genre is, in the eyes of many, disreputable. It’s not hard to see why—its primary purpose is to elicit something negative: fear. Comedy doesn’t get that reaction, because who doesn’t like to laugh? Action films promise thrills and excitement, which generally equals fun. Drama deals with serious topics and explores a wide range of emotion. But horror films conjure up some of our darkest emotions, and thus fall victim to the stigma of being “bad for you.” And some of horror’s subgenres get criticized more harshly than others. The slasher film, for instance, constantly comes under fire for celebrating slaughter. But no subgenre inspires the kind of wholesale, visceral revulsion than does the Italian cannibal film.

600full-cannibal-ferox-posterThe whole craze started in 1972, when Umberto Lenzi helmed THE MAN FROM DEEP RIVER. Almost a beat-for-beat remake of 1970’s A MAN CALLED HORSE, Lenzi shifted that movie’s setting from the old west to the Thai rainforest and added a fascination with ritualistic acts, cannibalism, violence and animal cruelty (largely inspired by the worldwide success of exploitative pseudo-documentary Mondo movies such as MONDO CANE and AFRICA ADDIO). Its huge success in Italy and on the US grindhouse circuit led to the subgenre remaining successful for nearly two decades.

Generally speaking, the Italian cannibal film follows a particular pattern: it opens in the “civilized” world—typically New York, though this isn’t written in stone—and some incident occurs that pulls our protagonists into the (again, typically) Asian or South American jungle. There, they encounter some previously unknown, long-lost or much feared native tribe; witness or experience graphic violence, torture and/or rape; and then a bunch of people get eaten and the lone survivors return, battered but wiser. This plot plays out in Lenzi’s CANNIBAL FEROX, which ups the ante on all its predecessors by claiming to be the “most violent movie ever made.” It goes to such extremes that Italian exploitation stalwart John Morghen (aka Giovanni Lombardo Radice) expresses regret that he agreed to act in the movie to this day.

CanFer-07Now, there are a wide variety of reasons why CANNIBAL FEROX and its kin are viewed so negatively. To start off with, there’s the insinuation that entering into some foreign jungle will pretty much guarantee that you’ll become the next meal of some “savage tribe.” It might stop short of actual racism (and my use of “might” is mighty shaky), but short isn’t where most people would prefer to stop. Then there’s the issue of sexual violence and rape. Sexual violence in these movies is almost always a threat, whether it’s perpetuated against indigenous women by the outsiders or against female outsiders entering hostile territory. Sympathetic critics have defended both elements on the grounds that many of the Italian cannibal films are explicitly anti-colonialist in tone and critical of Western capitalism. The conquering white heroes invade a remote locale, rape its women and kill its men, and are dealt retribution in kind. It’s not particularly subtle, but then, neither are these films when it comes to anything else. They’re blunt instruments, the argument goes, meant to shock a complacent audience into examining itself and the violence inherent in the system.

And then there’s the actual animal cruelty depicted in these movies. For some reason, this is a longstanding element of the subgenre, and is the main focus of most people’s revulsion. Defenders of the cannibal genre argue that the presence of actual animal cruelty works as a technique because it causes you to question the reality of what you’re witnessing—if that is real, what else is? Others argue that some of the depictions reflect actual practices of the people populating the film, so it’s an introduction of documentary realism into a fictional framework. Still others argue that these elements are present in any number of critically celebrated films—from Coppola’s APOCALYPSE NOW and Cimino’s HEAVEN’S GATE to Tarkovsky’s ANDREI RUBLEV and Godard’s WEEK-END—and that singling out these films amounts to bigotry against the horror genre (“sure, I’ll let Coppola show a water buffalo being slaughtered because that’s art, but all horror is pretty much crap, so this cannibal movie is fair game”). All of which are salient points, to which I’ll add that the raison d’être of horror films—to evoke fear and revulsion—draws more attention to these acts than in other, more mainstream films. There’s no shift in tone to relieve the audience. Not that it makes the viewing any easier.

Cannibal-Ferox_bannerThe genre reached what many consider its apex in 1980-81. Ruggero Deodato’s landmark 1980 film CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST touched on all of these elements and not only set aim at the horrors of colonialism, but turned its sights on the fact that an audience even existed to relish in the horrors he was putting on screen. As with Michael Haneke’s FUNNY GAMES, the viewer is made implicit in the crimes depicted as he or she watches. In making HOLOCAUST, Deodato seemed to be saying, “look upon the disgusting nature of this genre’s demands and know that they exist because you fools pay money to see them!”

Then came 1981’s CANNIBAL FEROX, released in the States as MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY. So uncompromising that its marketing brags about having been banned in 31 countries, the movie sees Lenzi largely eschewing the postmodern moralizing of Deodato (while still picking up on the evils of colonialism and Western capitalism) and going straight for the jugular. It’s brutal, it’s ugly, and it represents one of the twin peaks of Italian cannibal cinema. Lenzi is an accomplished filmmaker and knows precisely how to push buttons and fills his movie with energy to spare. That it’s as well-made as it is only makes the bludgeoning savagery of the film that much more affecting. If it were truly a bad movie, then no amount of outrage would sustain the attention paid to the film over the years. I mean, nobody’s talking about Bruno Mattei’s MONDO CANNIBALE, which sports many of the same superficial elements (heck, it’s basically a remake of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST) and it’s only 12 years old. No, CANNIBAL FEROX is a quantifiably good movie—well-paced, intelligently structured, and uniformly follows through on its line of reasoning to an inevitably downbeat conclusion (it’s always hard to judge the acting, because most Italian films were shot without sound and dubbed after the fact even in their home countries, but what is here is perfectly acceptable). It just may be completely reprehensible, depending on your point of view. To paraphrase Walter Sobchak in THE BIG LEBOWSKI, say what you want about the merits of CANNIBAL FEROX, Dude, but at least it’s got an ethos.

But at any rate, it’s a film that demands to be seen, experienced and then talked about. See it with your friends and debate the various controversial aspects of the movie afterward. No matter where you stand on the appropriate nature of the vile events that are depicted in the movie and the philosophical reasoning behind how they’re depicted…well…

It’s definitely something to chew on.

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

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

Kool Kat of the Week: Brian Lonano Explores the Ins and Outs of Goblin Lovin’ With His Latest Short Film GWILLIAM!

Posted on: Jun 16th, 2015 By:

by Aleck BennettGwilliam_Poster_11x17_v03
Contributing Writer

Atlanta filmmaker Brian Lonano has been garnering raves on the festival circuit for humorous horror short CROW HAND!!!, which makes all of us at ATLRetro laugh like crazed lunatics every time we see it. Now he  is on the cusp of bringing us another heaping helping of the hilariously bizarre with GWILLIAM, a tender tale about the love between a man (William Tokarsky of TOO MANY COOKS and YOUR PRETTY FACE IS GOING TO HELL) and a goblin (an animatronic puppet). But he needs your help! That’s why he’s running an IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign, promising an insanely inventive and perfectly perverse variety of rewards for donors.

The short film has long been the weird nephew in the motion picture family. Since theatrical exhibitions largely abandoned the “selected short subjects” of days gone by (aside from, say, Pixar’s commitment to the form) in favor of more movie trailers and before-the-show advertisements, it’s been a constant struggle to get short films in front of large audiences. Sure, film festivals routinely devote chunks of programming to shorts, but the audience is always limited to the people in attendance. In recent years, however, that has changed. Say what you will about the Internet’s impact on the film industry, one thing is indisputable: it’s provided makers of short films with a platform that allows more people to see their work. That, in turn, has had an impact on television programming. Animated TV series have used the “two cartoons in one half-hour” format for a long while now, but some networks—most notably Cartoon Network and its [adult swim] programming block—have embraced the 11-minute episode as a standalone entity. And [adult swim] has taken that short film format into live action, with series like Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim’s multiple offerings (such as TIM AND ERIC AWESOME SHOW, GREAT JOB! and CHECK IT OUT! WITH DR. STEVE BRULE), YOUR PRETTY FACE IS GOING TO HELL and that twilight zone of weirdness at 4:00 a.m. where things like TOO MANY COOKS show up.

Brian Lonano - SXSW

Brian Lonano – SXSW

That’s where we cross paths with Kool Kat of the Week Brian Lonano. Lonano has been making short films for a decade now. His nine shorts have screened at festivals from SXSW to Fantasia International Film Festival, from Canada to Cambodia. And here in Atlanta, he’s been shown at the Atlanta Film Festival and the Buried Alive Film Fest. (He’s done promotional bumper shorts for many festivals around the world as well.) His shorts are typically a deft mix of wacky comedy, horror or sci-fi tropes and inventive practical effects.- a combo no better seen than in last year’s CROW HAND!!! His 10th film, GWILLIAM, is currently in preproduction, and to raise the funds for this endeavor (because while the Internet is a convenient platform, it’s really hard to monetize it), Lonano has turned to the new audience that the Internet has provided for assistance via this IndieGoGo campaign.

ATLRetro caught up with Brian Lonano to ask him about the campaign, his history in short films, what GWILLIAM is all about and what’s on the horizon.

ATLRetro: You’ve got nine short films under your belt in the past decade, including the inspired THE TRANSMISSION and the utterly berserk CROW HAND!!! What first drove you to dive into filmmaking?

I grew up watching films that featured a lot of special effects and puppets. I am a big fan of Jim Henson, Tim Burton, Spielberg and classic STAR WARS. JURASSIC PARK came out when I was 10 and I wanted to make movies ever since. I became obsessed with seeing any and every movie that Industrial Light & Magic did the special effects for. I didn’t have a camera for a long time so I drew comics and made puppets. As I get older I seek out more bizarre film oddities like HAUSU, THE VISITOR and A FIELD IN ENGLAND. Those kinds of films coupled with what I grew up worshiping keep me inspired to make movies.

You’re not only known for your short films, which have screened all over the world, but you’ve also been recognized by the industry for your usecommissioned work for festivals and television, something our readers might not immediately know about. What does Brian Lonano do when he’s not dreaming up weird short films?

My full time job is working at a post-production facility that processes dailies for TV shows and movies that shoot in town. The commissioned work I make is mostly for film festivals. I would direct a short film called a bumper that advertises the film festival and I would more or less have creative control which is great. I’m very grateful to film festivals that show my work so when I’m asked to make a bumper for one, I put a lot of effort in making a kick ass bumper to show how bad ass the festival is.

It’s a tale as old as time: a man and a goblin in love. What attracted you to this story, and just how disgustingly screwed up can we expect the end result to be?

GWILLIAM came about from a drawing my brother did back in 2011. He was drawing a picture of this weird little man—it just looked completely wrong in the best way possible. We laughed about the picture and decided we had to name the weird man. So we asked ourselves, what’s a gross name that would fit this monstrosity? And we decided on Gwilliam. After that we came up with a strange story where a different man was prowling at night and has an encounter with Gwilliam…I’ll leave the rest to your imagination. I’m excited about how gross this movie is going to be because it’s not gore centric like my previous film CROW HAND!!!. It’s a whole new kind of disgusting.

The preliminary sculpt you’ve shown on the website is impressive even in this early stage. Who’s behind the design of the Gwilliam puppet?

IMG_0150The sculpt of Gwilliam is actually created by Splatter Cinema super team Blake Myers, Luke Godfrey and Nick Morgan. They will be responsible for making the creature puppet for the film.

I see designer Rachel De Urioste mentioned in the IndieGoGo campaign. What she’s bringing to the table? Rachel De Urioste is a local artist, fabricator and designer and she’s designing the GWILLIAM perks for IndieGoGo. She designed the crow totem that was featured in CROW HAND!!!. When we were on the festival circuit with CROW HAND!!! I asked Rachel to make some plastic versions of the Crowtem so I could plant them in theaters and see if anyone would pick them up. I loved the idea of something tangible to take away from the movie. CROW HAND!!! is so short that I wanted to make a big impact with the promotion of it. So with GWILLIAM I wanted to make a new prize to give out to potential donors. If I was giving to a campaign, I would want something cool like a toy. I think people gravitate towards tchotchkes like that.

The variety of rewards you’re offering investors range from the innocuous (digital downloads, credit listing) to the utterly depraved (a Gwilliam sex doll???). How did you come up with these ideas?

I brainstormed ideas for prizes with Rachel and my wife/co-producer Victoria Cook. We all agreed the totems from CROW HAND!!! were a great idea and we wanted to take it a step further. Rachel had never dabbled in designing toys and I am a big fan of Archie McPhee‘s novelty finger puppets so I thought a Gwilliam finger puppet would be a great prize to give out. As I said earlier, if I was donating to something, I would want to get a cool toy. Rachel is making full painted Gwilliam finger puppets but she is also making rainbow editions of the Crowtem and Finger Puppet as well as solid color Gwilliams (we’re calling it the ROY G BIV collection) and even glow in the dark finger puppets! The blow up is another prize we allROYGBIV Gwilliams came up with. The doll would be life size (meaning Goblin size) and the goal is make it a functioning doll. We wanted our campaign to stand out and I figured weird finger puppets and blow up dolls would do the trick!

You’ve lucked up in nabbing William Tokarsky fresh off the TOO MANY COOKS brouhaha, but he’s also popped up in projects ranging from THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE to YOUR PRETTY FACE IS GOING TO HELL. How did your paths cross, and how did you know he was the right man to romance a goblin puppet?

William was very easy to get in touch with. I sent him a message on Facebook asking if he would be interested in working together on a project. We agreed to meet in person and I gave him the script to read. I didn’t say much about it until he read it. Thankfully, he was laughing at the script and said he would absolutely be a part of it. So far working with William has been terrific. He’s easy going, very funny and a great team player. I look forward to shooting so I can direct him.

On the local front, you’ve worked with the Buried Alive Film Festival as a judge, you’ve shot a great bumper for them, and you’ve had your shorts exhibited there as well. Any hope you’ll be bringing GWILLIAM to BAFF screens in the future?

If the film is completed in time I would absolutely love to screen it at BAFF this year. But because I am friends with Blake and the whole team (and they are also working on the film), it would be an out of competition entry. I love screening my work here because the audience gets what I am trying to do and they all seem to really enjoy it!

CROW HAND!!! from !ROBOT HAND! on Vimeo.

All photos courtesy of Brian Lonano and used with permission.  Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com.

Category: Kool Kat of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Splatter Cinema, Enjoy the Film and the Cinevision Screening Room Paint Wall Street Red With an AMERICAN PSYCHO!

Posted on: May 11th, 2015 By:

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Splatter Cinema
and Enjoy the Film present AMERICAN PSYCHO (2000); Dir. Mary Harron; Starring Christian Bale, Justin Theroux, Chloë Sevigny, Willem Dafoe and Jared Leto; Wednesday, May 13 @ 8:30 p.m.; Cinevision Screening Room; Tickets $10 (cash only); Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

Splatter Cinema has returned—this time backed by a successful Kickstarter campaign to pre-fund this month’s screening. Once again teaming up with ATLRetro Kool Kat Ben Ruder’s Enjoy the Film and the Cinevision Screening Room, Splatter continues into its seventh year of savagery with its mission still intact—to deliver the buckets of blood and delightful scenes of slaughter that make life worth living. This time around, Christian Bale drenches the screen with gore in Mary Harron’s turn-of-the-millennium classic AMERICAN PSYCHO!

Sometimes the most annoying question a movie geek like me can face when talking about an adaptation of a novel is this: “How does it compare to the book?” My gut reaction is that it’s a pointless exercise to compare the two. One speaks in a written language, one visual. They use completely different modes of expression. The only thing the two media really have in common is that they tend to be storytelling ventures. But beyond that, it’s like comparing rhubarb to a Jackson Pollock painting. You can do it, and even say that one is better than the other, but it’s kind of a fool’s errand.

american-psycho-book-cover-01However, since I’m feeling foolish, let me just say for the record that the film AMERICAN PSYCHO is far better than the novel. How can I say that? Easy. I can’t stand the novel, yet I love the movie. I dunno. Maybe I don’t like rhubarb.

Requisite plot summary: Patrick Bateman is a young Wall Street banker in the late 1980s that kills people in his spare time. The casual ruthlessness needed for success in his job extends to his personal life, in which he sees people as nothing more than walking slabs of meat, their lives holding no more importance than their business cards.

Bret Easton Ellis’ 1991 novel was something of a cause célèbre at the time of its publication, having been rejected by Simon & Schuster before being picked up for a trade paperback release by Vintage Books. Widespread outrage over the book’s content (specifically its gratuitous depictions of violence against women) generated acres of press coverage, vehement debate and calls for the novel to be pulled from distribution. Being curious about all the hubbub and brouhaha, I picked it up. And the chief impression that the book left was just how banal and glib it all was – shallow depictions of a shallow life punctuated by shallow descriptions of nauseatingly graphic violence. It seemed completely cut adrift from itself, accidentally being a prime example of what it ostensibly criticizes. Unlike, say, Chuck Palahniuk, Ellis never reveals anything beneath the surface of his cipher-esque characters. Whereas the nameless, catalog-shopping narrator of FIGHT CLUB becomes increasingly complex and interesting over the course of the story’s development; Patrick Bateman just simply is what he is. And for a character with more depth, that may be all you need. But for a character that doesn’t extend beyond the mask of humanity he wears, it’s not enough. And in a work in which nobody else lives beyond the surface, which doesn’t even seem to believe that anything beyond the surface even exists, it simply comes off as a lazy portrait (or even an embrace) of a lifestyle rather than a pointed critique of that lifestyle.

On top of that, its jokes fall flat and its vaunted scenes of violence seem shoehorned in for nothing more than attention-grabbing shock value. (In fact, Ellis held off on writing any of the violent passages until he finished the book, going back to research serial killers and write depictions of murder and AmericanPsycho_B2_Japan-1-500x698mayhem to insert into the narrative at a later date. And it feels like it.) And the novel never seems to know precisely what its target is. Is it about how desensitized we’ve become to violence? Is it about Patrick Bateman as the perfect distillation of capitalism, making mincemeat of others in order to advance in the world, as a kind of slasher film equivalent of WALL STREET’s (1987) Gordon Gekko? Is it about the glib surface-living culture of the 1980s? Is it simply a reflection of the life and mindset that Ellis admits to living at the time of the novel’s writing? Ellis never seems sure, and couches his indecision (which ends up feeling like he just doesn’t care what it’s about) in quasi-literary pretension and stylistic fakery.

I really hate this book, in case you haven’t caught on.

So when I heard back in the day that it was going to be made into a movie, I was less than excited. I mean, Hollywood had managed to turn Ellis’ similarly shallow morality tale, LESS THAN ZERO (1987) into a movie with even less depth than the novel. But then the news came down that the adaptation was both written and directed by women—not just women, but, gloriously, feminists!—something that I (correctly) hoped would bring a certain sense of smart irony to the film, given the absolutely rampant misogyny of the novel. To make matters even better, their screenplay was chosen over one written by Bret Easton Ellis himself. The check marks in the “plus” column were soon vastly outnumbering those under the “minus” heading.

And the movie succeeds on almost every level in which the novel fails. The screenplay by director Mary Harron and GO FISH (1994) screenwriter Guinevere Turner brings the latent humor lurking in Ellis’ novel to life, while amping up the sense of sickening horror surrounding Bateman’s crimes, which are so blandly and matter-of-factly depicted in the original source. Rather than embracing the attitudes of the novel, the film slyly and wittily american-psycho-2000transforms the book’s depictions of women into a comment on male vanity and competitiveness. Meanwhile, Christian Bale’s performance also manages to transcend the source material, giving us a Bateman with an intensity and (at times) frenzied energy that belies his character’s detachment and superficiality. And the end result is a film that is focused. All of the things that felt like directionless elements in the novel—the misogyny, the over-the-top ultraviolence, the preening narcissism, the steady divorcing of the protagonist from “reality”—now have an aim and a purpose: to show Bateman as the perfect embodiment of an American dream gone sour. Climbing atop and feeding upon the corpses of those beneath him, devaluing anyone that stands in his way, and growing further and further out of touch with the rest of the world and yet he succeeds. Not in spite of his particular brand of American psychosis, but because of it. This is what is expected of you, the film seems to say, and then openly mocks the society that calls for it. Maybe it’s because Mary Harron is a Canadian and can view America from a skeptical distance while still being close enough to grasp the details—the same quality that I think helps to make Jen & Sylvia Soska’s similarly themed and titled film AMERICAN MARY (2013) work so well. Or maybe it’s that the intervening decade has allowed Harron to take on the 1980s Yuppie culture with a more knowing eye than the still-too-close 1991 novel. But no matter the reason, Mary Harron’s film captures a particular type of mindset from a particular age perfectly and then skewers it with wit and perfect technique, leaving us to identify its lingering traces today.

So no matter how you may have felt about the novel, there’s no need to fear that this adaptation doesn’t do it justice. If you loved Ellis’ book, you’ll find a movie that easily snares the essence of what you find rewarding in it. If you loathed the novel, then you’ll find a movie that does exactly what Ellis was splattersticker (2)likely trying to do, and does it miles better. And you can’t ask for a better team of people to bring this film to you—Splatter Cinema always makes their screenings fun, and Ben Ruder knows how movies ought to look on the big screen. So get there early, get your picture taken with Patrick Bateman and maybe enjoy some Huey Lewis & the News while you’re waiting. It may not be hip to be square, but if you’re not there, that’s what you’ll be.

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

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

Kool Kat of the Week: Double the Exploitation! Double the Bloody Ruckus! DEAR GOD NO!’s James Bickert Dishes on His Trek into 35mm Film with a Monstrous of a Sequel, FRANKENSTEIN CREATED BIKERS!

Posted on: Mar 24th, 2015 By:

by Aleck BennettFRAN_poster
Contributing Writer

It’s been over three years since we first witnessed the infamous bloodthirsty biker gang, the Impalers going mano a mano with Sasquatch in DEAR GOD NO! (2011), James “Jimmy” Bickert’s lovingly crafted 16mm shrine to All-Things-Exploitation. Turns out that while Bickert has been busy doing things like helping resurrect the World Famous Drive-Invasion, he’s been working all the while on his film’s long-awaited sequel, FRANKENSTEIN CREATED BIKERS! Filmed in glorious 35mm, the sequel will find our anti-heroes reanimated and back on the trail of Bigfoot while also trying to elude rival gangs, the law, bounty hunters, mutants and a femme fatale with a thing for explosives. If the wild description and upgrade in film format hasn’t clued you in that Jimmy Bickert is aiming for a bigger spectacle than before, he’s also added genre favorites like HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2’s Laurence Harvey, HEADLESSEllie Church and AMERICAN MARY’s Tristan Risk to his ensemble of returning actors including Kool Kat Shane Morton (Silver Scream Spookshow, Gargantua, Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse), Kool Kat Jett Bryant (Bigfoot), Nick Morgan (Splatter Cinema), Bill Ratliff (Truckadelic), Kool Kat Madeline Brumby, Jim Stacy (Pallookaville, Get Delicious!, Offbeat Eats) and many more!

As with DEAR GOD NO!, FRANKENSTEIN CREATED BIKERS went directly to its potential audience for support through a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign, and met its budgetary goals with time to spare. But the campaign still rolls on, with insane perks (ranging from the expected DVDs and Blu-rays to tattoos, personalized burlesque videos, on-screen appearances, decapitated heads and biker jackets) on offer for those willing to pony up and help move the movie through those heady days of post-production and distribution. Check out the full range of rewards here, because there’s still time to be a part of exploitation film history!

Kool Kat Madeline Brumby and James Bickert

Kool Kat Madeline Brumby and James Bickert

ATLRetro caught up with Jimmy Bickert for a quick rundown on what’s coming back for FRANKENSTEIN CREATED BIKERS, why going with crowd-funding made sense for this project and what you should be watching while you wait for this tale to unspool on a theater screen near you!

ATLRetro: First off, why a Kickstarter for FRANKENSTEIN CREATED BIKERS? Are there any inherent advantages with going this route over taking an indie co-production deal?

Jimmy Bickert: It’s very difficult to pitch an idea like FCB to anyone. No sane person would get involved with such a rotten picture. (laughs) That’s the beauty of crowd-funding. We can rebel against what is trendy in the marketplace, even micro sub-genres of horror, without worrying about someone’s return investment. It’s freedom to put what we want to see and experience on the screen without having to placate or conform to the expectations of the general public, too. Nobody on this production team has any interest in doing anything we’ve seen before or a hundred times over for that matter. If we can look at the screen and laugh together, the journey was a success.

You’ve assembled some great bonuses for investors, ranging from special DVDs and Blu-Rays to posters and international distribution rights (!!!). What can folks looking to invest via Kickstarter expect to get when they pony up their dough?

DEAR GOD NO!

DEAR GOD NO!

We’ve reached our goal but WE NEED MORE MONEY FOR POST PRODUCTION! (laughs) They will immediately know they’re dealing directly with like-minded cinema fans. Many Kickstarter rewards tend to distance themselves from the contributors by offering digital downloads. How lazy and impersonal is that? I’m going to address a package and physically mail it to you. I may even throw in something extra and if our paths cross, we can share a beer together. We’re not looking for something for nothing. Many of the rewards are designed to get people involved and let them be a part of this project. We’re building a community and not trying to step on people so we can hang at L.A. cocktail parties. There is a level of smugness you find in the Indie film festival scene that is absent among the horror Indies. We tend to embrace our audience and drag them along for the ride.

Okay, my two main fascinations growing up were anything related to Bigfoot and Frankenstein. DEAR GOD NO! did Sasquatch proud while taking on other sub-genres—biker flicks, mad scientists, etc. What new ingredients are you bringing to the Frankenstein template?

We’re reviving everything you mentioned. There is a plot device in FCB very similar to the Shaw Brothers’ Kung-fu films and Spaghetti Westerns where we introduce three “larger than life” bounty hunters. I’m most excited about incorporating elements from one of my favorite sub-genres—the Talking Head movie. Since the script has just about everything, I would love to incorporate a kitchen sink into a death scene. (laughs)

Last time out, you nearly burned down one of the screens at the Starlight staging a van explosion. Do you have anything new planned that has the potential for that kind of destruction with FRANKENSTEIN? We do. Much more controlled this time around but yes, there will be some explosions. Shhh! I’m trying to secure my production insurance policy! (laughs)

DEAR GOD NO!

DEAR GOD NO!

You’re shooting this on 35mm, which is both a step up from DEAR GOD NO!’s 16mm and away from the mainstream’s adoption of digital as the norm. What led to this decision and what qualities would you say 35mm offers you over the other two formats? In other words, how is this going to affect FRANKENSTEIN CREATED BIKERS’ look?

We’re shooting on 35mm to have that connection to cinematic history on the set. I like a hand-crafted aesthetic that doesn’t resemble a Marvel blockbuster. Visually I can tell the difference. It appears more natural to my vision – especially with some good lenses. The medium will definitely help convey the late ‘70s visual connotations we’re trying to achieve. Due to the lack of availability for independents, this is probably our last chance to shoot on film so we’re going to make it count.

In addition to the returning DEAR GOD NO! ensemble, FRANKENSTEIN CREATED BIKERS features contemporary genre notables like Ellie Church, Laurence Harvey and Tristan Risk. How did you wind up casting them?

They’re all great people that I’ve met at Horror conventions while promoting DEAR GOD NO! or was introduced to by friends like director Jill Sixx Gevargizian. Not only are they being brought in because they are talented and right for the roles, but they are also genuine people who will fit right into the homegrown talent we already have. I’m looking forward to seeing what they bring to their characters and watching our world-wide horror community get closer.

Any other people from behind the scenes coming back for this entry (music/crew)?

Pretty much everybody. We have a good group. If anything, we’re just adding more people. Bryan G. Malone and Adam McIntryre (The Forty-Fives) will be handling the soundtrack again with the brilliant Richard Davis (Gargantua) composing the score. Post-production sound doesn’t get a whole lot of direction from me. These are some of the most talented people I know and they deliver the goods.

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Lastly, you’ve got an encyclopedic knowledge of exploitation greats. Give us five things you’re into at the moment that we should be watching right now—directors or movies, past or present, well-known or obscure.

Brian Lonano‘s CROW HAND (2014) is big right now. It’s a bloody good mess of a short. I’ve been so busy writing that I’ve been avoiding my genre fan responsibilities. There is a ton of stuff I’m really looking forward to seeing like Astron-6’s THE EDITOR (2014), Arthur Cullipher’s HEADLESS (2015), Stephen Biro’s AMERICAN GUINEA PIG (2014), Adam Ahlbrandt’s HUNTERS (2015). Everything Richard Griffin and the Soska twins (Jen and Sylvia Soska, ed.) are doing. Just to name a few. There is a ton out there. On my down time, I keep digging up Joe Sarno films from the ‘60s and revisiting Mark Haggard’s THE ALL AMERICAN GIRL (1973). You can’t go wrong with PAYDAY (1973), HONKY TONK NIGHTS (1978), THE OUTFIT (1973), LAST NIGHT AT THE ALAMO (1983) or PRIME CUT (1972). If you’re just looking for a fun creature-feature, track down Michael Stanley’s ATTACK OF THE BEAST CREATURES (1985) or Richard Cunha’s GIANT FROM THE UNKNOWN (1958). Ugh! Don’t get me started! I have a shooting schedule to work out and flights to book. (laughs)

 

All photos courtesy of James Bickert and used with permission.

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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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Retro Review: Splatter Cinema and the Cinevision Screening Room Shine a 35mm Light on Hannibal Lecter with THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS!

Posted on: Feb 18th, 2015 By:

silence-of-the-lamb-posterSplatter Cinema and Enjoy the Film present THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991); Dir. Jonathan Demme; Starring Anthony Hopkins, Jodie Foster and Ted Levine; Saturday, Feb. 21 @ 8:30 p.m.; Cinevision Screening Room; Tickets $10 (cash only); Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

Splatter Cinema returns to the Cinevision Screening Room with the help of Enjoy the Film! This time, they’re delivering a 35mm archival print of what is probably the most celebrated mainstream horror film of the 1990s: Jonatham Demme’s staggering THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. But don’t be fooled by its widespread appeal. Demme serves up a disturbing dinner of pure horror. With some fava beans and a nice Chianti.

Trivia time: how many horror films have won Academy Awards? Precisely one—Jonathan Demme’s THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Sure, you could make an argument that it’s not really a horror film, but a police procedural or crime thriller. However, if the horror film has taught us anything, it’s that some of its best examples transcend the artificial divisions of genre and the common tropes to be found therein. Michael Reeves’ 1968 masterpiece WITCHFINDER GENERAL, for instance, could be accurately described as simply a period drama depicting the all-too-human hypocrisy and fear-mongering of a 17th century opportunist who falsely labels his victims “witches” to further his power-grabbing. But that doesn’t dilute the weighty sense of pure horror that pervades and permeates the entire film. Likewise, LAMBS cannot be excised from the horror genre by a reductive view of its mechanics. Its function is to frighten, to shock. To horrify. And Demme knows how to twist nerves alongside conventions.

The plot is something that could have come out of any television franchise (and has been copied by many on multiple occasions): a serial killer is on the loose, and the only way to capture him is by turning to an imprisoned serial killer for assistance. Simple enough. But it’s in the details and execution that the film’s true horror is summoned.

The imprisoned serial killer is the infamous cannibal psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), whose game plan for liberation involves offering up information in exchange for weaseling into the mind of the investigating FBI officer, Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster). Starling is seeking out murderer Jame Gumb (Ted Levine), nicknamed “Buffalo Bill” in honor of his penchant for skinning his female victims’ corpses. The film does not shy away from Gumb’s deeply disturbing actions, which are based on the gruesome case histories of Ted Bundy and Ed Gein (Gein having been the inspiration for horror films such as DERANGED, PSYCHO and THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE), among other real-life serial killers.silencehannibal

But while the portions of the film devoted to Gumb are the source of incredible dread, it’s the shadow of Lecter that extends over the entire film that provides so much of its horrors. From his gothic-influenced asylum cell, Lecter’s influence over the movie’s proceedings colors every frame. Whether it’s how he directs Starling’s perception of every event that takes place or how the audience constantly questions in what manner he will use those events to his advantage later on, his presence is felt throughout. And from what we know of him, this presence can be nothing but malevolent. When the film culminates in pulse-pounding setpieces of tension and repulsion, we do not walk out of the film having been thrilled. We walk out having been put through the ringer and looking over our shoulders.

Though the performances of Hopkins, Foster and Levine are all vitally important to the film’s success, as is the screenplay by Ted Tally and the source novel by Thomas Harris, SILENCE is largely Demme’s show. In the hands of a director with less genre experience, the almost surreal sense of the gothic in Lecter’s scenes and the seedy feel of Gumb’s house of horrors might have been toned down. The temptation would be to make Lecter’s environs clinical and sterile (as his Atlanta-based cell in the High Museum is depicted in Michael Mann’s MANHUNTER, based on Thomas Harris’ earlier novel RED DRAGON), and Gumb’s small-town home more under-the-radar normal. But Demme—then an arthouse fave for MELVIN AND HOWARD, SOMETHING WILD, STOP MAKING SENSE, MARRIED TO THE MOB and SWIMMING TO CAMBODIA—came from the world of Roger Corman’s New World Pictures. There he labored on exploitation movies like ANGELS HARD AS THEY COME and THE HOT BOX before directing such twisted takes on 1970s genre fare as CAGED HEAT and CRAZY MAMA. Under Corman’s tutelage, he learned his way around the worlds of exploitation and horror filmmaking, and applied those lessons well to this big-budget studio project. (Corman himself gets a cameo appearance as a Congressman.)

clariceIt’s a masterful evocation of influences from horror and exploitation’s past, and Demme conjures these elements in a subtle way, melding them with a more “mainstream” Hollywood approach that manages both to satisfy genre aficionados and invite in a more general public. It’s an approach that has been mirrored by the contemporary TV series HANNIBAL in its own telling of the mad doctor’s exploits. Meanwhile, Demme also manages to echo his earlier work for Corman by playing around with expected gender politics and slyly undercutting authority figures without alienating his audience. Demme is sure-footed every inch of the way, and while many of his films are as good, I’d be hard-pressed to say that any of them surpass this achievement. And for once, I agree wholeheartedly with the Academy voters who awarded this film Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay—only one of three films in history to sweep all five top awards.

As 35mm presentations are becoming rarer and rarer, it becomes exponentially more important to catch landmark films such as this—well-projected in their intended format—when the chance arises. That’s why I’m thrilled that Splatter Cinema is bringing this to Cinevision Screening Room in partnership with ATLRetro Kool Kat Ben Ruder’s Enjoy the Film. Ben has long been committed to expert 35mm projection, and his presentation of this archival print should be a beautiful experience. Add in the fun that Splatter brings to every screening they host, and you’ve got an event that cannot be missed.

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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