A Basic Guide to Licences for Film Screenings

Ever wanted to screen a film? Our straightforward guide will tell you what licences you need to screen films in Scotland, how to get them and how to get started

When we started screening films we knew there was stuff we didn’t know, or assumed was probably wrong – whether through wilful ignorance or plausible deniability, we definitely didn’t do things correctly straight out the gate. This is true of a lot of film events, and usually in good faith. Briefly, we figured out what we needed to know and that one problem is that there aren’t necessarily straightforward/simple answers to some basic questions. Licensing for film screenings can be like traversing shifting sands from one event to the next.

However, there are basics and we learnt them and this, here, is the skeleton of a presentation we gave in March 2019 as part of Scalarama Glasgow’s Programming and Licensing event at Glasgow Short Film Festival. You can download it as a two-page PDF here.

Why confirm licences?

  • Legally, you have to (¯\_(ツ)_/¯)
  • Threat of fines (and your venue can be classed as a “contributory infringer”)
  • The greater good (exhibitors, film makers, distributors and everyone in between depend on each other to sustain the film industry)
  • Access to funding and other support to help keep doing what you’re doing

These are the licences venues need to screen films anywhere in Scotland:

  • Cinema Licence (from your local council)
  • Entertainment Licence (from your local council)
  • Performing Rights Licence (PRS) (from PPL/PRS)

Depending whether or not you want to plan your screening (e.g. if you want to advertise your screening anywhere outside your venue or online), you will also need one of two kinds of licence:

  • Single Title Screening Licence (STSL, for planned screenings, free or not)
  • Public Video Screening Licence (PVSL, an umbrella licence for unplanned and/or “ambient”, free screenings and/or members-only orgs)
  • NB Filmbank’s Licence Wizard is a handy way to figure out which you need

You can confirm most licences from ‘gateway’ distribution companies who manage large libraries on behalf of major studios, for example:

 Or sometimes licences are held by individual distributors, for example:

Some tips for finding elusive licence holders:

Useful + more detailed guides: 


F.A.Q.

Q: How much is a film licence?

A: Depending on the context and source, it can be anywhere from £60 + VAT to several hundred pounds. Some distributors demand a percentage (often 35%) of final box take versus a minimum guarantee (MG), meaning you pay whatever is more.

Q: Can I haggle/negotiate?

A: You can try. Haggling is more commonplace in Europe and North America than in the UK. And some distributors, e.g. Filmbank, operate an online portal that doesn’t allow for it.

Q: Who will know if I don’t get a licence?

A: Distributors, especially the bigger ones, do keep an eye on screening activity and if they’re made aware of unlicenced screenings of their films, they will investigate. Most commonly, they’ll simply chase you to book it in. Other local exhibitors, including cinemas, will likely notice screenings that seem to be unlicenced too => side-eye and/or bad blood.

Q: Do I need a licence if my screening is free or for charity?

A: Yes. Although on rare occasions you may be granted a licence for free, you still have to confirm permission to screen with the licence holder.

Q: Do I need a licence if the director/star is coming?

A: Most likely. Unless the director is also the licence holder and/or the film doesn’t have distribution, they probably won’t manage the screening rights for their own film.

Q: If I own the DVD, can I screen it?

A: Not without a licence. However, the licence fee most likely will not cover screening materials (i.e. DVD, Blu Ray), which you usually must provide yourself.

Q: If someone released the DVD/Blu Ray, can they grant a screening licence?

A: Sometimes, but not always. The rights to distribute a film for home entertainment and the rights to distribute a film theatrically or non-theatrically are not essentially the same.

Q: What do I do if I’ve exhausted every avenue and explored all possibilities of finding a licence holder?

A: In the very unlikely chance you have (see Sophie Brown’s Point Break saga), there is the option to self-indemnify, meaning you make a record of your attempts to source the licence, reserve the box office take and prepare for the licence holder to eventually come forward. No-one recommends you do this.

Q: Which films are in the public domain?

A: There isn’t a definitive answer or resource for this. Websites that claim to be definitive are not and in any case are often based in the US, which is a different distribution territory that also has different copyright laws. On top of this, the legal status of films often changes over time. All you can do is research.


Scalarama Glasgow is running monthly meetings in the lead-up to September’s season of DIY film programming. They’re aimed at helping exhibitors brand-new and experienced alike to put on films, and each month has two invited experts on different aspects of film exhibition. They’re free and open to all, full details here.

If you have any more questions or could use some advice, get in touch with us here: info@matchboxcineclub.com

 

 

Destination Wedding UK Premiere

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Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder in Destination Wedding

We’re excited to announce that we’re closing KeanuCon 2019 with the UK premiere of Destination WeddingKeanu Reeves stars alongside Winona Ryder in Victor Levin’s romantic comedy. KeanuCon, Europe’s first Keanu Reeves film festival, takes place at CCA, Glasgow, on Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th April, 2019.

Frank and Lindsay have a lot in common: they both hate the bride, the groom, the wedding, themselves, and most especially each other. For 72 hours, they are trespassers in paradise.  But the weekend’s relentless events continually force them together, and if you fight with someone long enough, anything can happen. When the instinct to love proves very difficult to kill, they must decide which is stronger: their hearts or their common sense.

Destination Wedding is Keanu and Winona’s fourth onscreen coupling since filming 1992’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula – during which Ryder insists the two were married for real (director Francis Ford Coppola confirms the wedding scene he filmed could be legally binding).

Of his character, Keanu says, “I liked his wit and his suffering. You root for Frank. I root for Frank. He’s trying to overcome his past when he meets Lindsay and finds himself attracted to her.” But, on the other hand, “Love is good for other people, but he knows it will just end in disaster for him. So, why bother? Save yourself the pain.”

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Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder in Destination Wedding

Producer Lyon says, “Keanu has a natural sense of timing and delivery. He is a hilariously funny person with a dry sense of humour and just a pleasure to work with. I think it was fun for him to demonstrate a side that hasn’t been seen before and allows him to show a piece of who he is as a person.”

However, while we’re happy that KeanuCon will end well, we’re not sure Destination Wedding will, especially if we take into account this poster capitalising on Keanu’s recent John Wick success, which purports to be for the Thai release of the film…

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Matchbox Cineclub’s KeanuCon features ten and a half films over two days, including My Own Private Idaho, Speed, The Matrix, Constantine, Keanu’s directorial debut, Man of Tai Chi, and John Wick. There will be a rare screening of Keanu’s first lead role in a Hollywood feature, Permanent Record, accompanied by an even rarer outing for his film debut in the National Film Board of Canada short, One Step Away.

Day two closes with a double bill of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, followed by a live performance from Wyld Stallyns, before KeanuCon 2019 closes with the UK premiere of Destination Wedding.


Weekend Passes for KeanuCon are sold out; very limited single tickets are on sale via our online shop.

Jackal Films: The Making of Stiffy

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.

KeanuCon film programme announced!

Matchbox Cineclub follow up the sold out Cage-a-rama 2 with KeanuCon…the world’s first Keanu Reeves film festival?

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KeanuCon illustration by Vero Navarro

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.

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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.

 

Two Weirds Is Too Weird

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Alice Lowe in Queen B (Jacqueline Wright, 2010)  © Jackal Films

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 DarkplaceBlack 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.

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Never Vine Again #RIPVine

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.

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Our Auld Lang Vine #RIPVine audience

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.

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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.

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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).

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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. 🙏

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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: info@matchboxcineclub.com.

Sliding-Scale

 

The Funniest Film You’ve Never Seen: HERCULES RETURNS

This David and Goliath tale of arthouse cinéastes versus the bland, cookie-cutter corporate mainstream is also a gloriously stupid peplum piss-take

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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…

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Sydney Morning Herald, 16/04/86

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 GiganDrive-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 astro zombiesDouble 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.

(L-R) Sam Blandon, Di Adams, Paul Flanagan, Des Mangan (The Age, 03/02/1989)
The Age, 03/02/1989

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.”

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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.

Newspaper ad, The Sydney Morning Herald, 28/09/1989
The Sydney Morning Herald, 28/09/89

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.”

(L-R) Troy Nesmith, Sally Patience, Des Mangan (1989)
(L-R) Troy Nesmith, Sally Patience, Des Mangan (1989)

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.”

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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.”

Original Cinema Quad Poster - Movie Film Posters

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.

Sean Welsh


This article originally appeared on physicalimpossibility.com

Poster by Paul Jon Milne
Physical Impossibility poster by Paul Jon Milne