Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Weird Wednesday Titles and Writeups for March and April

Warning, this calendar contains Larry Hagman. It was manufactured in a facility that produces peanuts, soybeans and shrimp.

Here's the schedule of upcoming Weird Wednesday movies at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz. All shows are free for people who don't talk during the movie. All films are presented on 35mm film prints. Sponsored by I Luv Video.

SINFUL DWARF
MARCH 4, MIDNIGHT, FREE, DIR. VIDAL RASKI, 1973, 35MM, 92 MIN, R
The dwarf community went apeshit when this movie came out. And who can blame them. I feel like protesting this movie even now. It doesn’t exactly say that all dwarves are perverts who abduct women, lock them in an attic and sell their bodies to the highest bidder, but it strongly implies it. The Jack-Black-in-miniature lead actor does such a phenomenal job suggesting the universality of little people’s dark desires and deeply corrupted souls that one can’t help get these (entirely wrong) impressions about this hard-working and vital segment of the population. So be warned ahead of time, THE SINFUL DWARF preaches lies, it is wrong and it is filthy. But let’s face it, you can’t stay away. And to everyone who thinks this film can’t possibly live up to the expectations the vivid title promises: have fun being wrong, because it totally does. When we last showed this film, a grown man fainted from the general degradation of it all. But I’m pretty sure I can handle it this time. Can you? (Lars)

THE THING WITH TWO HEADS
MARCH 11, MIDNIGHT, FREE, DIR. LEE FROST, 1972, 35MM, 93 MIN, PG
I don’t know how filmmakers Lee Frost and Wes Bishop kept a straight face long enough to actually pitch this movie but I’m sure glad they did. Academy award winner Ray Milland plays a bigoted white doctor, dying of cancer but obsessed with his technique of head transplantation which he demonstrates on a gorilla - leading to the world’s first 2 headed gorilla rampage! When the doctor’s condition worsens, his colleagues transplant his head on the first volunteer they can find. Unfortunately, it’s the body of a black man wrongly sentenced to the electric chair! Soon the 300 pound convict, played by Rosey Grier, escapes from prison with the head of Ray Milland sticking out of his collar, shouting watermelon jokes and seriously messing up his sex life. They lead the police on a harrowing motorcyle chase you won’t believe. In fact, disbelief is the only appropriate reaction to this film. That, and gales of hysterical laughter. One of the all-time drive-in classics. (Lars)

VIOLENT PROFESSIONALS
MARCH 25, MIDNIGHT, FREE, DIR. SERGIO MARTINO, 1975, 35MM, 104 MIN, R
When a tough detective (played by human comic-book drawing Luc Merenda) reaches the end of his fuse, the explosion takes out half of the Italian underworld, and quite a few innocent bystanders. Director Sergio Martino and screenwriter Ernest Gastaldi appear to have taken it upon themselves to trump the Dirty Harry movies with even more extra-legal police mayhem and rights-trampling. And just as Merenda’s rampage violates all the tenets of human decency, Gastaldi’s scenario violates all the laws of probability. As in many of Gastaldi’s celebrated giallo scripts, the story turns on the most bizarre coincidences. Also, Merenda’s idea of investigational procedure is, brutality aside, surreal in the extreme. He essentially turns into a pool-hustling, pimping bad guy to stalk his quarry and in that guise commits much more crime than he could ever hope to prevent. He genuinely becomes Milan’s public health menace number one. It’s odd but it’s also a lot of fun. Plus, the De Angelis brothers provide one of their best “harsh ‘70s reality” scores. Pow! (Lars)

THE TRIP
APRIL 1, MIDNIGHT, FREE, DIR. ROGER CORMAN, 1967, 35MM, 85 MIN, NR
The hippified late ‘60s were like an answered prayer for exploitation filmmakers. They could present sensationalistic multicolored tableaux of drugs, decadence and permissive sex and fob it off on the public as hard hitting expose. This environment bred some of the worst and most insulting movies ever, many of them strangely compelling now, like RIOT ON SUNSET STRIP and MARY JANE. But the best results came from the folks who actually lived the life and drank the kool-aid, so to speak. Producer-director Roger Corman and screenwriter Jack Nicholson (yes that Jack Nicholson) didn’t just stand on the sidelines and retool the same old stories about wayward daughters and drug peddlers, as the others did. They actually took acid and made a movie that more or less accurately represents the psychedelic journey. This unusual film, experimental, funny and genuinely frightening is one of the glories of low-budget filmmaking. Peter Fonda plays the guy on the trip. Bruce Dern is his guide. Dennis Hopper, who worked as a second unit director, appears as a stoned inquisitor with a cotton-candy merry-go-round. (Lars)

GATOR BAIT
APRIL 8, MIDNIGHT, FREE, DIR. FERD & BEVERLY SEBASTIAN, 1974, 35MM, 88 MIN, R
Picture yourself on a state highway in the rural south in 1974. In the distance an apparition flickers on a drive-in screen. It’s a beautiful woman with long red hair and skin the color of mother’s milk. She lifts a 12-gauge to eye level and squeezes the trigger. It’s not a hallucination. It’s Claudia Jennings, a common sight on drive-in screens throughout the country in the 70’s and that rarest of things, a genuine female action star. The movie is GATOR BAIT, a huge hit that kept drive-in audiences coming back again and again. Like most movies that made it big on the chitlin’ circuit, GATOR BAIT really delivers. The story of a sexy swamp rat named Desiree who’s half woman and half savage, it features the scariest inbred hillbillies outside of the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and a revenge plot that builds to a thundering, foot-stomping climax. As an actress Claudia Jennings doesn’t have a great deal of range, but then neither does a sawed off shotgun. Under the right circumstances both can be devastating. Jennings, who was a Playboy Playmate of the year, had an outstanding career in low-budget exploitation films before dying in a car crash at age 29. There’s never been another one like her. GATOR BAIT is a true drive-in classic. Don’t miss it. (Lars)

SON OF BLOB
APRIL 15, MIDNIGHT, FREE, DIR. LARRY HAGMAN, 1973, 35MM, 91 MIN, PG
In the years before “Dallas”, Larry Hagman was best known as the button-down astronaut who dreamed of Jeannie. But secretly he had a wild streak high and wide enough to land a 747 on. When he wasn’t toasting another sunrise with his next-door neighbor Keith Moon or dropping acid with David Crosby he was working hard to get this, his dream project, made. It’s a very strange, very loose sequel to the 1958 teen horror classic THE BLOB. The free-wheeling performances and absurdist humor are unlike any other movie we’ve ever seen. Hagman was obsessed with making this movie, often going without sleep for days on end, deeply worrying his friends and associates. Unfortunately the film was critically ignored upon release and Hagman retreated to the forest where he lived like an animal for several years before accepting the role of J.R. Ewing and returning to the forefront of American consciousness as the man you love to hate. More popular than ever, he was nonetheless a scorned and broken man whose one-of-a-kind film-making genius has never been fully appreciated. Until now. Join us for this very rare screening of Larry Hagman’s one and only film as a director, starring Robert Walker Jr., Burgess Meredith, Godfrey Cambridge, Marlene Clark, Gerrit Graham, and Shelly Berman. (Lars)

DOBERMAN GANG
APRIL 22, MIDNIGHT, FREE, DIR. BYRON CHUDNOW, 1972, 35MM, 87 MIN, PG
You can learn a lot from movies. What I learned from THE DOBERMAN GANG is: when in doubt, train a bunch of vicious dogs to do it. That philosophy is shared by the crooks in this film. A pack of dobermans is put through an extensive training course and deployed to rob a bank. The dogs, who have cutesy names like Bonnie and Clyde, are pretty amazing. The humans aren’t quite up to their level. This film has a reassuring seventies kind of shittiness going for it. The music, for some reason is hammer-down hard funk, except for the final song which will take up residence in the dog-house of your mind for weeks after you see this movie. (Lars)

COOL IT CAROL
APRIL 29, MIDNIGHT, FREE, DIR. PETER WALKER, 1970, 35MM, 101 MIN, R
A beautiful thing happened throughout the world in the late sixties and early seventies, the censorious bluenoses who policed popular culture, making the world safe for mediocrity, began to lose their grip on the throttle. Free expression flourished. Honesty, candor and good ideas flowed again. We know what the results were in America and continental Europe, a mass pollination of openness and freedom. We rightly consider this a great golden age now. In the realm of British film the loosening of restrictions largely resulted in a lot of sexually and formally juvenile movies like CONFESSIONS OF A WINDOW CLEANER and I’M NOT FEELING MYSELF TONIGHT. But amidst this stupidity, a man named Pete Walker had set up shop. He produced films that had a lot more of the maturity and assurance of the best American and continental product. COOL IT CAROL is a terrific movie about a young couple who come to London from a small town and are intoxicated by the bright lights and easy virtue of London. Soon the two have embarked on a voyage of sexual self discovery both together and apart. It’s a very funny movie but not in the usual British “crumpets and dolly-bird” manner. Check it out. Thanks to the Ant Timpson Film Archive for this rare print.(Lars)