The £250, semi-psychedelic musical made in Amsterdam, London and Knockentiber
In 2012, I had been asked to contribute a chapter to the book World Film Locations: Glasgow on underground filmmaking in the city, of which whatever there was was not particularly well documented. Luckily, Billy Samson, who died last week, had just co-directed, with Gavin Mitchell, Death Of The Mod Dream. In the book, I likened their film to “a Scottish no-wave film directed by Roy Andersson,” but really there’s not much like it.
Purportedly based on a 1980 novella – Death Of The Mod Dream, by Edna Barnstaple – Billy and Gavin’s film concerns “a young man out of time who considers himself to be the last Mod on Earth. He lives in the City Of Scotland, a depressed, paranoid, curfew-controlled community with his mother and sister, who all fail to understand each other.” The synopsis continues:
“One day, this humdrum existence is disrupted when he uncovers what he has been led to believe is a mysterious ‘Mod time capsule’ buried on the beach. He takes it home, hoping for at best a wallow through a glorious mythical past he never knew. Little does he know the contents of the capsule are not what they seem and his reality is about to be turned upside down…”
Anyone will tell you making a feature-length film is a very particular achievement, requiring equal measures of talent, inspiration and determination. To make an episodic, blackly comic, semi-psychedelic musical in Scotland, for £250, also takes admirable perversity. Death Of The Mod Dream, like Billy, is a little extraordinary.
The questions I asked Billy in 2012, via Facebook message, were mostly for background research. This interview is published here for the first time, unedited. RIP Billy x
How much and what was shot in Glasgow/where?
All of the indoor scenes at the mod’s house were shot between 2 friends’ flats in Glasgow. The indoor parts of the dream/horror sequences were shot in Glasgow or Knockentiber, depending on where the actor lived, with black bin-liners/green screens taped to the ceiling to give it continuity. The beginning and climactic scenes at the beach were filmed between Irvine beach and an embankment in Crosshouse (for the scooter plummet). The cop sequences were done in a pub in Kilmarnock that was halfway through being redecorated. Extra bits were filmed by ourselves and others in Edinburgh, London and Amsterdam. All the special effects/animation sequences were done at home.
How did you go about picking the locations and did you have any problem getting permission to film/did you even have to ask?
Just had to ask to use people’s houses, which was handiest for all concerned so they all agreed to it. The beach stuff we just turned up and filmed. Only minor problem was concealing the camera so passers-by didn’t keep jumping in front of it.
Can you give me some technical details – budget, casting, equipment used, how long the production took?
Budget worked out at around £250 (probably), which mostly went towards transport costs and endless AA batteries swallowed up by the camera. All actors and contributors gave their services for free, on the condition they’d get something out if it in the event it went global 😉. The bulk of the film was shot on a 1st generation Flip camera a friend ‘borrowed’ from her work. When that had to be discreetly returned, the last few bits were filmed on actors’ own cameras. Casting was straightforward- Adam Smith was such an obvious choice to play the main character we barely had to think about it! Most roles were like that, didn’t have the time or budget to train up ‘proper’ actors (and didn’t it want to seem ‘stagey’) so just used friends for their obvious attributes that would suit the role. Although we did chop and change between cast and crew- some actors were originally to be soundtrackers/effects people and vice versa. Filming started early June and the final edit was around early October. The editing + effects (and waiting for other parties’ contributions) took substantially longer than the live-action filming.
Did you have any support or advice from institutions/individuals or funding at all?
We never approached anyone for funding, mostly through not knowing how to go about it, but also because we thought it probably wouldn’t be necessary (and a worry it may involve compromises to get access to that funding) considering it would always be low-budget (we had no intention of casting any megastars, or real actors come to that). Various people advised us on certain effects, for example my dad suggested filming a glass of Resolve in close-up for the underwater sequences. Ended up using it for blood cells and cloudy wispiness in the horror + dream sequences (by utilising different filters) too.
What was the inspiration to make the film and do you see it as part of any kind of continuum in Scottish/contemporary filmmaking?
It arose from a drunken night with Gav, the co-creator. We imagined a film billed as the ultimate mod sci-fi experience, but with loads of Phil Daniels/Leslie Ash types storming out the cinema when they discovered all it involved was 3 boring hours of a guy playing My Generation at every speed on his record player then jumping off his bed. But other ideas arose, and gradually we realised the story had a deeper resonance which we could flesh out. Once we took it seriously, it rapidly began writing itself. While of course, remaining faithful to Edna Barnstaple’s original novel 😉. I’m not sure where it fits in, historically. I liked the idea of an ambiguous story which the viewer could interpret as merely having been a figment of the central character’s warped imagination, like Once Upon A Time In America or JG Ballards’ Unlimited Dream Company (the Keith Moon/Rolls Royce/fish tank sequence was subconsciously inspired by the cover of my edition of that book). Plus of course it’s a musical where no-one literally bursts into song, like Dirty Dancing!
Have you heard about any similar projects taking place? I.e. other independent or DIY features getting made?
Heard about quite a few short films, which friends and friends-of-friends have been involved in. I read something about a feature length film in Scotland recently, looking to attract some big names, but I can’t remember much about it.
What’s the plan for releasing and distributing it?
I honestly don’t have much of a clue! There’ll be a premiere at the Old Hairdressers on 3rd Feb, and it’ll probably be made available online at some point. Still to work out how one goes about having it on iTunes and suchlike. Promotion will probably be just the usual haphazard spammy way I plug any records I’ve been involved with!
Will you do another and what if any are your plans?
No plans as such, I never consciously set out to be a director of feature-length films, this one just kind of ‘demanded’ to be made. Particularly once we recruited Adam in the lead role, he insisted we should start ASAP and it rapidly grew legs from there, interrupting a Paraffins promo video I’d half-filmed and have still to resume! But who knows, I’ve had plenty other addled conversations with friends about imaginary films, so there’s every chance another one might demand to be made 🙂.
Buy or rent Death Of The Mod Dream on Amazon here (or watch it on YouTube below)
Brothers In Arms Scotland offer support to men in Scotland, of any age, who are down or in crisis and empower them to ask for help when they need it, without feeling a failure if they do.
Following our Glasgow Short Film Festival retrospective programme, Two Weirds Is Too Weird: The Jackal Films of Alice Lowe & Jacqueline Wright, director Jacqueline Wright has very kindly allowed us to host The Making Of Stiffy, a behind the scenes look at her 2005 short, written by and starring Alice Lowe. Watch it now, with descriptive subtitles, on our Facebook page.
Matchbox Cineclub follow up the sold out Cage-a-rama 2 with KeanuCon…the world’s first Keanu Reeves film festival?
On Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th April, we’re bringing 9.5 Keanu Reeves classics to Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow for the inaugural KeanuCon. Our broad theme is following Keanu’s career from babe to baba yaga, and we have an eclectic programme that takes us from his earliest Canadian roles to his latest world-smashing franchise.
Along the way, we have cult classic My Own Private Idaho, the “criminally underappreciated” Permanent Record and an extremely rare screening of Keanu’s first film role, the National Film Board of Canada short One Step Away. We have his action classics Speed, The Matrix, John Wick and his directorial debut, Man of Tai Chi. We have Constantine, where Keanu is weirdly suited to playing a Liverpudlian occult detective originally modeled on Sting. And – best till last? – a most non-heinous double of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, followed by a very special Keanu-themed closing party.
Guests and other bonus content will be announced at a later date, but suffice to say we’re working very hard to make this inaugural KeanuCon as stellar as humanly possible. We have weekend passes, day passes and a Bill & Ted double bill ticket, as well as limited single tickets – all on sale via our online shop, here.
The film schedule is as follows:
Saturday 27th April
Permanent Record (screening with One Step Away) My Own Private Idaho Speed The Matrix John Wick
Sunday 28th April
Man of Tai Chi Constantine Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey
Keep up to date with our Facebook event page here, or join our mailing list here.
We’re thrilled to be teaming up with Glasgow Short Film Festival for the first time with Two Weirds Is Too Weird: The Jackal Films of Alice Lowe and Jacqueline Wright. As huge fans of Alice, British comedy and GSFF, this is a very exciting development.
Before Alice Lowe wrote, directed and starred in Prevenge, the triple-threat-to-be teamed with director Jacqueline Wright on a series of strange and hilarious shorts. As Lowe has explained, “Being a woman is weird, and you’re allowed one weird. Being surreal is two weirds, and you’re not allowed two weirds… Two weirds is too weird.” With feline erotica, courtly necrophilia and aspiring mermaids, under their Jackal Films banner the two struck a path for themselves through a restrictive culture.
If we only knew Alice from her cameo as David Bowie in Snuff Box (“man was built but from clay”), we’d be over the moon to be programming this feature-length retrospective of rarely-screened shorts (mostly from 2005-2010). But then there’s her roles in Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, Black Mountain Poets, Adult Life Skills, Sightseers, the latter of which she also co-wrote, innumerable cameo appearances (including, most recently, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch) and two series of her BBC Radio 4 sketch show, Alice’s Wunderland. And, of course, that incredible directorial debut, Prevenge.
The shorts made in collaboration with Jacqueline Wright are typically Loweian. There’s parody music videos, melodramatic pastiche and character-based vignettes, where Lowe and her cavalcade of co-stars (plenty of familiar faces) really get to shine. In tone, performance and quality these shorts do prefigure Prevenge and of course they’re part of a rich lineage of short form and sketch comedy. But they also stand alone as exemplars of women-driven creativity, ingenuity and productivity – and glorious, multi-faceted weirdness.
Two Weirds Is Too Weird: The Jackal Films of Alice Lowe and Jacqueline Wright takes place at Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow, Friday 15th March at 9pm. Tickets are on sale here.
GSFF have launched their full 2019 programme – read all about it here, or browse their brochure here.
At its best, it captured the hilarity and horror of human existence in six second intervals. With Auld Lang Vine, we mourned the passing of a short-form video hosting service.
On Sunday 27th January, 2018, we gathered 150 mourners in the Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow, to remember and celebrate Vine, “a short-form video hosting service where users could share six-second-long looping video clips.” As the audience filed in, every seat in CCA’s theatre was laid out with an order of service, and the screen displayed the classic DVD player screensaver. After local band Joyce Delaney, all decked out in Victorian mouring attire, struck up Chopin’s funeral march, Matchbox Cineclub offered a brief eulogy.
At its best, we suggested, Vine captured the hilarity and horror of human existence in six seconds. Its main tools were angry animals, children in jeopardy and basic human stupidity. Its primary modes were lip syncing, shade and screaming. After Vine, of course, you can still loop weird videos and share them. But Vine celebrated being weird, being creative and being funny. Most of all, it celebrated brevity, so perhaps it’s fitting that, in the end, its life was cut so short.
After a six-second silence in honour of the passing of this legend, we introduced the first of two 45-minute compilations of the best Vines, originally curated by Pilot Light TV Festival, debuted in Manchester and also showcased at the BFI Southbank. The Glasgow audience spontaneously recited their favourite Vines, before holding their phone torches aloft for Puke’s interval rendition of Lady Gaga’s I’ll Never [Vine] Again.
Then, after a second 45-minute compilation passed in the blink of an eye, Joyce Delaney once more took the stage for a short but typically wonderful set, unfortunately curtailed by a broken guitar string (please do check them out at the earliest available opportunity).
Matchbox Cineclub would like to say a solemn thank you to Greg Walker and Pilot Light TV Festival, Live Cinema UK, BFI, Film Hub Midlands, CCA, Joyce Delaney, Puke, the ever estimable John Pooley and our stalwart volunteers (who couldn’t make it). Most of all, we’d like to say thank you to the audience and all the Vine fans who made the event so very special. 🙏
ONE LAST THING! We’d like to note tickets for this event were sold on a sliding scale, which we would recommend to anyone with a similar screening or event. We believe in full accessibility in principle and always try to keep tickets as low as possible (or free, when we can) but the support of BFI emboldened us to try the sliding scale for the first time. Normally we’d fret about that since, as an independent exhibitor with no institutional support (barring CCA’s in-kind venue support), we have to cover costs. Making a profit, however small, allows us to keep programming films and producing events, while losing money clearly jeopardises that. However, this event proved a sliding scale approach can also be economically viable, even without support, since the uptake on £6 and £8 tickets covered any potential loss from the cheaper tickets. It won’t always be possible for us to employ a sliding scale for ticket sales, but whenever we can, we will. If you have any questions about it, please get in touch: email@example.com.
This David and Goliath tale of arthouse cinéastes versus the bland, cookie-cutter corporate mainstream is also a gloriously stupid peplum piss-take
There are three main reasons why, a quarter of a century since its release, Hercules Returns, the funniest film you’ve never seen, is still interesting. One, because it’s a David and Goliath tale of independent, outsider, arthouse cinéastes versus the bland, cookie-cutter corporate mainstream. Secondly, it belongs in a twin lineage of détournement and dub parody, repurposing trash as a weapon against lazy art. And, finally, after all these years, it’s just gloriously, stupidly funny. It’s a one-off, for sure, but where exactly did it come from? Finally, it can be told…
Sydney, early 1986. Recently unemployed 23-year-old Des Mangan sits on his living room sofa with girlfriend Lisa Sweeney. The young couple are surrounded by B-movie posters and shelves filled with VHS tapes – Godzilla vs Gigan, Drive-In Massacre, Rocket Attack USA. An actor since the age of 10, Mangan has credits on “all the 70s soaps, including the Young Doctors, The Restless Years and The Sullivans“, though his adult career peaked two years previously with the role of “workman” in an episode of soap opera Sons And Daughters. He’s embarked on a parallel career as a writer, cutting his teeth at Not Another Theatre Company and more recently for radio stations 2SM and JJJ, but his “retrenchment” from the latter has left him at a loose end. He’s concluded that whatever work he’s going to get, he’s going to have to make for himself, somehow. On the sofa, they fidget and chat, faces illuminated by the movie playing on the muted television. Thoughts of an uncertain future run in the back of his mind as, in the flickering light, the listless Mangan begins to put “silly words” into the mouths of the actors, in the same way, he’ll later reflect, “as everybody has done at some time or other”. Then, like a thunderbolt from Zeus himself…inspiration strikes! Why not do a whole film? “This way,” Mangan reasons, “you don’t have to do petty things like shooting the film or editing.”
Double Take Meets the Astro Zombies debuted at the New Mandarin Cinema, Sydney on March 21st, 1986. “I was always the person asked to imitate a parent and I use different voices to tell a joke,” Mangan told Australian paper The Age in February 1989, by way of explanation, three short but eventful years later. Since that fateful evening in his apartment, the 26-year-old actor, now relocated to Melbourne, had spun a number of live shows based around one central conceit, and his Double Take ensemble had become local heroes of dub parody. Sitting at the back of cinemas like Melbourne’s Valhalla and the Academy Twin in Sydney (both now closed), Mangan, joined by Sweeney (for the first two years at least) and a seemingly constantly shifting cast of performers (including Di Adams, Sam Blandon, Paul Flanagan, Troy Nesmith, Carol Starkey and more), turned the sound down on a procession of “bad” movies and basically took the piss for 90 minutes. Valhalla audience members fondly recall the entire crowd being given paper bags with robot faces to wear over their heads while Double Take did their thing. Mangan preferred the term “lip-sync” over “dub” (“it’s a nicer word”) and, while it was live and thrived on audience engagement, it wasn’t quite improv. He explained to The Sydney Morning Herald, “Obviously, the shows are heavily scripted but, every so often, especially if a character has his back to the camera, you can slip in a new line.”
In 1987, they travelled to the UK for stints in Dublin, London and at the Edinburgh Festival, while Mangan was offered a 10-part television series by LWT, “re-dubbing old and forgotten TV serials”. On top of that, negotiations advanced regarding the filming of Mangan’s original screenplay, This One’ll Kill Ya. Within another three years, the team’s shows would gross over a million dollars.
In the meantime, Mangan and co followed Astro Zombies with Double Take Double Feature, the latter riffing on serial film The Phantom Empire (1935) and Dance Hall Racket (1953). According to Mangan, for a film to be considered Double Take source material, “it has to have lots of dialogue and look silly. It has to have big-looking characters and be obviously incompetently made.” The formula honed to near-perfection, Mangan prepared for his most challenging production yet, Double Take Meet Hercules. A February 1989 interview Mangan gave to Australian newspaper The Age further explained both Double Take’s process and the unique challenge of Hercules. “The script is produced (after six weeks of writing to a constantly rewound videotape)…in this case the script was particularly difficult to write – [Mangan] didn’t know the original plot because it was spoken in Italian.”
A friend had sent Mangan a copy of Ercole, Sansone, Maciste E Ursus Gli Invincibili (Giorgio Capitani, 1964) in the post. The film was a late link in the long chain of Italian sword-and-sandal or “peplum” films which had begun with Le Fatiche di Ercole (Pietro Francisci, 1958). The English-language title of Capitani’s film is Samson And His Mighty Challenge, though the original title translates as Hercules, Samson, Maciste and Ursus: The Invincibles, making it a kind of Peplum Avengers (or, if you ask Mangan, “the Dirty Dozen of the Greek set”). Alan Steel (AKA Sergio Ciani) was the twelth actor to take on the Hercules role in seven years, teaming up with the fantastically named Nadir Baltimore (Nadir Moretti) as Samson, Howard Ross (Renato Rossini) as Maciste and Yann L’Arvor as Ursus. To give the original film its fair due, while it doesn’t represent the pinnacle of its genre, it was light in tone to begin with, just not quite as bright as it would become. The two films share a relationship not dissimilar to that between Zero Hour! (Hall Bartlett, 1957) and Airplane! (Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, 1980); only Mangan and his team could have extracted what would become Hercules Returns from Samson And His Mighty Challenge.
At any rate, Mangan reasoned, “I don’t think any of the audiences who saw Hercules on television in the ‘70s took it seriously. Film-wise people are more educated and more attuned to cliches.” The first run of DTMH was performed by a team that included Sam Blandon, Di Adams and Paul Flanagan alongside Mangan. By the time of the movie, Double Take had become a duo comprised of Mangan and dancer-turned-actress Sally Patience, who’d signed up sometime around 1989. That classic line-up, soon to be immortalised in film, worked so well together and became “so attuned to B-movie production values that they found themselves automatically reworking the CNN reports during the Gulf War.” Mangan, meanwhile, found that the show was “gaining momentum and audiences, so we decided that we’d really love to record it and send it out there. You know, let it go like a little child. And so more people could see it, naturally.”
As luck would have it, American businessman Phil Jaroslow was among the crowds that regularly flocked to see Double Take Meet Hercules in Melbourne. “I was at the Brighton Bay cinema watching 430 people killing themselves laughing. Hey, I said to myself, that’s a good idea.” First-time producer Jaroslow bought Mangan’s script, hunted and secured the rights for Ercole… from an Italian agent, and hired cinematographer David Parker to make his directorial debut with a brand-new wraparound story. Parker had also seen the Hercules show and been “very amused and in awe of what they did.” Mangan, who refrained to direct himself (because he was “frightened” of the scale) realised that because “not everyone knows who Double Take are,” that they would need a story “to explain why these characters end up dubbing a movie live in front of an audience”. He came up with the idea of “having a guy who was unhappy with his lot, working for a big distribution company so he takes over his own theatre.”
As Brad McBain, the listless cinephile who decides to strike out on his own, they cast David Argue (star of Gallipoli, BMX Bandits and Razorback)alongside Mad Max icon Bruce Spence, TV comedian Mary Coustas and Michael Carman as the villainous Sir Michael Kent, of the Kent Corporation. From his own pocket, Jaroslow provided a budget of “well under” a million dollars Australian, which stretched to a crew of 140, 200 extras and a shooting schedule of just eight days, mostly in and around Melbourne’s Palais Theatre. Just as they did in live performances, Mangan and Patience stayed out of the spotlight throughout, with Argue, Spence and Coustas miming to their performance where the two sections of the film overlapped.
Argue explained the material’s attraction for him. “It’s not often that you get to do quality slapstick. And it’s real slapstick, towards the end. Towards the beginning, it’s like, ‘Oh, here’s an interesting Australian film about some decent characters. I wonder where they’re all going?’ And where they all go is the bio box [projection booth] and end up splashing around like three mental cases in a Driclad pool with legs of lamb, belting each other.” He enjoyed working with Parker because of his sense of humour, explaining, “when he laughs his belly shakes and his eyebrows fly off his head. We have to wait ten minutes for his crew to come and sew them back on to his face. So it’s good value. At least that keeps the tension off.”
Australian film critics and TV personalities Ivan Hutchinson and Margaret Pomeranz were given cameos, reviewing the film while exiting the theatre: “I loved it. I’d give it a five.” (in 2003, Pomeranz would lose her position presenting films on Tuesday nights on SBS at the same time Mangan lost his own Monday slot). Critic David Stratton (Pomeranz’ co-presenter on The Movie Show) claimed he’d also been invited to cameo, but couldn’t due to a scheduling conflict. All of which at least suggests a clever scheme to get the critics on-side. If so, while it was a good effort, it was ultimately doomed.
On Thursday January 28th, 1993, Hercules Returns debuted with a midnight screening at the Sundance Film Festival, in a strand alongside Peter Jackson’s Braindead (AKA Dead Alive) and Tetuso II: Body Hammer (Shinya Tsukamoto). The Sundance programme proudly claimed that Parker “hits the high-camp bull’s-eye with each shot.” Variety found that “the film has an endearing, slapdash feel to it”. After Sundance, Hercules Returns went on a festival run before its theatrical release, taking in Seattle International Film Festival (1993), Venice International Film Festival (1993), Washington Film Festival (1993), Denver Film Festival (1994), Helsinki Film Festival (1994) and San Diego International Film Festival (1995). The Venice Film Festival provided the first opportunity to gauge an Italian-speaking audience’s response to the (ab)use of Giorgio Capitani’s film. David Parker recalls, “I think given that the Hercules movies from that era – and the original Hercules we worked on – were a bit of a spoof anyway, I don’t think there was any problem with it. There was nothing sacrilegious, that’s for sure, in we were doing film from the Italian point of view. ” Parker continues, “[Capitani] actually contacted me and wished me luck. He hadn’t seen it but he thought it was a wonderful thing to have happened to his movie. Which was a relief – I’m glad he wasn’t attached to the Mafia or anything or had a different reaction.”
Double Take’s movie debut debuted in Australia on 16th September, 1993, and this was when the cold, hard reality must have begun to set in. For The Age, Hercules Returns was “an excessively limited set of variations on one idea”, while Lynden Barber of the Sydney Morning Herald found that, “having erected this awkward structure, the film-makers fail to extricate themselves from it without pain.” David Stratton, writing in The Weekend Australian and perhaps glad he’d dodged his cameo, damned the film with faint praise. “This is not by any means a new concept…but it works well, thanks to some raucously ridiculous dialogue and bizarre Aussie slang.” Hercules Returns was released in UK cinemas on May 6th, 1994. Mark Kermode’s two-star review for Empire magazine was unforgiving, acknowledging the success of the live show but proclaiming the film to be “a sobering aftertaste of a joke best swallowed live and washed down with copious quantities of ale.” Parker later reflected that “the difficulty with that film was that there was something very tactile, I suppose, about a live performance, and that’s not what you have with the film.”
“Everyone laughs at fart gags,” Sally Patience told the Independent in late 1993. “Critics may just go, ‘Oh, it’s toilet humour’, but you know that they’ve secretly been enjoying it.” Ultimately, the film made $318,788 at the Australian box office, something around $555,000 in today’s money (approx £255,000), making it a financial failure and definitively scuppering any plans for sequels. Phil Jaroslow retired from the movie-making business and is currently CEO of Australia’s largest manufacturer of frozen cookie dough.
Mangan and Patience continued performing as Double Take during and after the film’s release, bringing Double Take Meet The Killer Bees to the UK for a run at the Prince Charles Cinema, London in 1993. The Independent described the show, based on Alfredo Zacarías’ The Bees (1978) as “90 minutes of non-stop sabotage”. The Killer Bees was followed first by Double Take Meet The Pirates, riffing on Morgan, The Pirate (André de Toth, Primo Zeglio, 1960), and then Double Take In Outer Space, based on Star Crash (Luigi Cozzi, 1978), before Double Take disappeared into a 10-year hiatus. In 2006, Mangan returned briefly with a new live show, Double Take’s Horror Hospital (based on Antony Balch’s 1973 film of the same name), and a new creative partner, Gabrielle Judd.
David Parker resumed a successful career as a cinematographer, often in collaboration with his wife, the director Nadia Tass, though he returned to the director’s chair once for the spectacularly mis-timed paparazzi-themed rom-com Diana & Me (1997) and then again for 2016’s The Menkoff Method. Filmmaker Mark Hartley, who got one of his first credits on Hercules Returns, as “music video director”, went on to produce a trio of hugely popular documentaries on cult cinema – Not Quite Hollywood (2008), Machete Maidens Unleashed (2010) and Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2014).
When he passed on directing Hercules Returns, Mangan referred to his mooted directorial debut. “I want to do something like Unbelievable Truth or something, where there’s four people in it. That’ll be my first one. Unbelievable Truth II. With Hercules in it, of course.” It never materialised, nor did This One’ll Kill Ya. Mangan is still best known, in Australia at least, for presenting cult movies on the SBS channel (UK readers may think of Alex Cox or Mark Cousins presenting Moviedrome). He wrote a book, This Is Sweden Calling (foreword by Gina G), based on his experience presenting Eurovision as Australia’s answer to the UK’s Terry Wogan. Recently, he’s reprised his real-life role as cult movie presenter for the Garth Marenghi-esque Top Knot Detective.
Despite the muted critical response and modest financial return, Hercules Returns has that often-coveted, rarely genuine cult status. 26 years later, despite being, officially at least, long-unavailable, fans across the world have an enormous amount of affection for it. Whether on IMDb, YouTube, Amazon, Rotten Tomatoes, random forums or countless blogs, wherever Hercules Returns pops up, you’ll find dozens of comments along the lines of “funniest film EVER!” or “my favourite comedy of all time,” It currently holds a 95% audience score rating on Rotten Tomatoes – “no critic reviews yet” and still no other film quite like it.
2018 was the year Matchbox Cineclub stopped doing monthly screenings and ended up screening twice as many films. We launched three film festivals (even if one was postponed till 2019) and our online shop, coordinated Scalarama events across Scotland and organised a six-date tour of the UK. We hosted a world premiere, several Scottish premieres and a bunch of lovely guests, while a project we originated continued on to the Scottish Borders and Spain.
It hasn’t always been easy but we’re proud of what we accomplished this year, working with some incredible venues and a lot of our best bright and brilliant pals. We’re hoping 2019 will be our best year yet, but it’ll definitely be hard to beat 2018. The biggest thanks, as always, to everyone who came out for a Matchbox Cineclub event – you’re the ones who make it worthwhile. We always love to hear from you, so if you have any thoughts on the past year, or the next, please let us know. In the meantime, here’s our 2018 in pictures…
Cage-a-rama | After years of standalone pop-ups and our monthly residencies, this was our first time trying a new format, the micro-festival: six films over three days and as much bonus content as we could cram in. Selling it out in the early days of January gave us the encouragement to keep going. Which is a bigger deal than it maybe sounds. We couldn’t have done it without the Centre for Contemporary Arts and Park Circus supporting what we do, and of course all the Cage fans, who came from across the UK and as far afield as Dresden, Germany. We’re very much looking forward to Cage-a-rama 2: Cage Uncaged in January 2019.
Team Matchbox win the Glasgow Film Festival 2018 Quiz | Technically, Team GFF won, but since there were 18 of them and they had the inside scoop on their own programme, they were disqualified. We credit our victory to our ace in the hole, cine-savant Josh Slater-Williams. Also to the Nicolas Cage round. Thanks to the lovely Tony Harris (of Team GFF) for the photo!
Turkish Star Wars 2K world premiere | A while back, our pal Ed Glaser came into possession of the only remaining 35mm print of Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam, AKA Turkish Star Wars. Once it was all cleaned up and newly translated subtitles added, we had the chance to host the world premiere of the 2K restoration (simultaneously with our pals Remakesploitation film club in London). The May 4th screening was sold out but free entry. To cover our technician Pat’s wages, we took donations (and as usual spent way too much time on special graphics for the occasion).
Ela Orleans takes Cowards Bend the Knee to Alchemy | Our musical hero and good pal Ela Orleans took her live score for Guy Maddin’s Cowards Bend The Knee to the Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival in May. We originally commissioned Ela to write and perform her incredible new score during Scalarama 2017. Of course, 100% of the glory for the performances (Ela also later took Cowards to the Festival Periferia in Huesta, Spain), goes to Ela herself, but we’re very proud of the small part we have to play in the ongoing project. And, if you look very closely, you can see our logo in Alchemy’s Programme Partners on the screen behind Ela!
Weird Weekend | After Cage-a-rama was a success, we wanted to do something similar in the format but with Matchbox’s more typical programming – the outcasts, orphans and outliers of cinema. So, Weird Weekend was born and Scotland’s first festival dedicated to cult cinema took place at CCA in June. Over two days, we mixed cult favourites with lost classics and brand-new films and welcomed guests like The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb cinematographer Frank Passingham, Crime Wave star Eva Kovacs and Top Knot Detective co-directors Dominic Pearce and Aaron McCann. We also programmed a retrospective of our favourite local filmmaker Bryan M Ferguson’s shorts, and Bryan joined us for a post-screening Q&A. See Bryan’s latest work, including his celebrated music video for Ladytron, here: bryanmferguson.co.uk.
Alex Winter Q&A | The one and only Bill of Bill & Ted fame joined us via Skype after we screened his directorial debut Freaked at Weird Weekend. It was a fantastic screening and Q&A, all of it a mildly surreal high point. The whole thing was made totally normal, though, by the coolness of Alex and his team, who were also incredibly gracious in supporting our event with a bunch of press interviews. Of course, Alex is about to make Bill & Ted Face The Music, but these days he’s a pretty deadly documentary maker. See what he’s up to now: alexwinter.com.
Our founder returns | Matchbox Cineclub founder (lately of Paradise and Moriarty Explorers Club and, most recently, Trasho Biblio) Tommy McCormick returned for a cameo at Weird Weekend. Screening Soho Ishii’s The Crazy Family was a long-held ambition for Tommy, so when we managed to confirm a screening for Weird Weekend, he returned to pass on Ishii’s special message for the audience.
The Astrologer | We closed Weird Weekend with the Scottish premiere (and only the second UK screening) of Craig Denney’s The Astrologer (1976), such a deep cut that it can only be seen at screenings – no DVD, no VHS, no streaming, no torrent and very little chance it can ever be released. Bringing the DCP over from the States would have been 100% worth it anyway, before an unexpected onscreen mention for Glasgow melted everyone’s minds. Before all that, though, we got carried away with researching the mysterious and largely unreported story behind it and ending up writing the definitive 4,000-word article on it. Read it here!
CCA Closure | KeanuCon postponed! After Cage-a-rama, we polled the audience to see which icon we might celebrate next – Merylpalooza had a good run but Keanu was the clear winner. We debuted our trailer at a GFT late night classic screening of Speed in March and scheduled KeanuCon for the opening weekend of Scalarama in September. Unfortunately, the GSA fire meant the nearby CCA was forced to remain closed indefinitely and, try as we might, we couldn’t find a suitable alternative venue for the dates. On the bright side, our Keanu Reeves film festival will finally arrive in April 2019. And it was all almost worth it for our Sad KeanuCon image.
The World’s Greatest 3D Film Club | In July, our pals at Nice N Sleazy invited us to programme something there at the last minute. Their only specifications were for it to be something vaguely summery and fun. We had a bunch of red-blue anaglyph 3D glasses left over from when we screened Comin’ At Ya at The Old Hairdressers a couple of years ago, so we decided to screen Jaws 3D. When Sleazies had other free dates to fill, we later showed Friday 13th Part III and 1961 Canadian horror The Mask.
Scalarama | We took a lead role in coordinating Scalarama activity across Scotland again this September. KeanuCon was meant to open activities in Glasgow, but luckily Pity Party Film Club were able to fill the void with an incredible Hedwig and the Angry Inch event. We also hosted a sold-out screening of B-movie documentary Images of Apartheid at Kinning Park Complex, teamed-up with Video Namaste for another Video Bacchanal, this time at The Old Hairdressers, and screened Joe Dante’s epic The Movie Orgy (see below). Before all that, though, we hosted the Scalarama Scotland 2018 programme launch in August at the Seamore Neighbourhood Cinema in Maryhill, with a special Odorama screening of John Waters Polyester. Our pal Puke (pictured) volunteered as a Francine Fishpaw ring girl to cue the scratch and sniff action.
Joe Dante’s The Movie Orgy | We’d wanted to host this for a really long time and it took a lot of leg work, including a last-minute zoom to Edinburgh International Film Festival, to finally make happen. But it did! And, incredibly, Joe Dante himself recorded us an intro (pictured), after EIFF’s iconic Niall Greig Fulton introduced us to him in June and we got the OK to screen it. With CCA still closed, we had the opportunity to return to our old home, The Old Hairdressers, for this five-hour, sold-out screening. The film editor of the Skinny called it “Scotland’s movie event of the year”, which is daft but also we’ll take it.
#WeirdHorror with Kate Dickie | We started off the Halloween season doing a 31 days of #WeirdHorror countdown, then when CCA’s oft-postponed opening was finally confirmed, we offered to do some last-minute screenings. The idea was to celebrate CCA reopening and maybe help spread the word – which, it was super busy anyway but it was a great opportunity to team up with our pals Pity Party Film Club and She’s En Scene for some co-screenings. The four-night pop-up series had an amazing climax with legendary local hero Kate Dickie very graciously joining us for The Witch and an in-depth Q&A afterwards.
Matchbox Birthday Cake | Finally, this was just a very nice birthday surprise. Coming up in 2019, though, we have a LOT of surprises in store. First up, Cage-a-rama 2, Auld Lang Vine and KeanuCon. See you there!