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
Sunday 28th April
Man of Tai Chi
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey
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.
This article originally appeared on physicalimpossibility.com
Matchbox Cineclub’s 2018 in pictures
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!
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31 of our favourite wonderfully weird horror films
We’re celebrating the run up to Halloween with some of our favourite odd and awesome horror films. Mostly we’re doing this on our Facebook page here, but we’ll update this post as we go too. We’d love to know your favourite weird horrors too – or what you think of ours…
1/31 | DEAFULA (Peter Wechsberg, 1975)
A theology student finds himself turning into a vampire and hunting other students for their blood, in the first feature film produced in American Sign Language (or “Signscope”). Writer-director-actor Peter Wechsberg lost his hearing during Nazi Germany’s World War II bombing of London and had grown dissatisfied with his work as a videographer for a financial institution. His Deafula inexplicably incorporated a giant rubber nose, of which producer Gary Holstrom explained, “The deaf loved it, the hearing didn’t.” Read Cashiers du Cinemart’s interview with Holstrom here.
2/31 | NEON MANIACS (Joseph Mangine, 1986)
“They’re the Neon Maniacs—an unstoppable, hideous incarnation of evil zombies terrorising the residents of San Francisco. ‘Neon,’ because they can only be seen in the dark; ‘Maniacs,’ because they kill at will!”
The Neon Maniacs include Ape, Archer, Axe, Decapitator, Doc, Juice, Mohawk, Punk Biker, Samurai Warrior, Slash, Soldier, Stringbean and Thing. They each, for some reason, have their own in-film tarot/trading card.
3/31 | INKUBO (Leslie Stevens, 1966)
Marc, a soldier of pure heart, becomes the target of a beautiful demon who wants his soul.
Starring a pre-Star Trek William Shatner, Incubus is one of only two films produced entirely in the constructed language of Esperanto. At the premiere, a group of 50 to 100 Esperanto enthusiasts “screamed and laughed” at the actors’ poor pronunciation of the language. Once thought lost, the only remaining print was discovered in France in 1996. You can read more about Esperanto in cinema here.
4/31 | VLČÍ BOUDA (Věra Chytilová, 1987)
AKA Wolf’s Hole or Wolf’s Lair, this is a science fiction horror hybrid in the vein of The Thing, from the director of Daisies (Sedmikrásky).
In an old mountain cottage called the Wolf’s Lair, 11 carefully selected teenagers participate in a skiing workshop. Tension and suspicion mount as the strange instructors insist that one of the 11 is an intruder…
5/31 | PURA SANGRE (Luis Ospina, 1982)
An old, bedridden sugar tycoon, who communicates with the outside world by CCTV, consumes constant supplies of blood plasma from kidnapped and murdered children.
Pure Blood is a prime example of the Tropical Gothic genre, mainly associated with Colombian cinema of the 1980s. A flurry of productions were based in the country’s third largest city, Cali, where a very intense cinephile culture was flourishing. The most emblematic of these cinephile filmmakers were fans of Roger Corman as well as cinéma vérité documentarists, and part of a politically radical art scene.
6/31 | ŞEYTAN (Metin Erksan, 1974)
A 12-year-old girl living with her mother in cozy Istanbul high society plays with a ouija board and becomes possessed by Satan himself. A troubled psychiatrist and an archaeologist become the girl’s only hope for salvation.
AKA Turkish Exorcist for obvious reasons, Erksan’s film is a classic remakesploitation in the bold shot-for-shot-copy category. William Friedkin’s original was banned in Turkey, so the filmmakers traveled to a London screening and transcribed the script. However, the audacious “theft” – Turkey actually had no copyright laws to speak of – belies the numerous ways Erksan (who won the Golden Bear in 1964) adapted The Exorcist to reflect Turkish culture.
Read more about Şeytan and other Turkish remakes here.
7/31 | 狂った一頁 (Teinosuke Kinugasa, 1926)
A retired sailor becomes custodian at a mental hospital to be closer to his estranged wife, one of the patients at the facility. Their daughter is soon to be married, but the father’s fear and pain surrounding his wife’s mental state threaten the future happiness of the family.
Completely lost for 45 years, the print of Kurutta Ichipeij (A Page Of Madness) discovered in a rice bin in Kinugasa’s garden shed in 1972 was only 2/3 of the original print, which would also have screened with live narration and musical accompaniment.
8/31 | PARENTS (Bob Balaban, 1989)
Meet the Laemles. Dad, Mom and little Michael…they’re the all-American family of 1954. With one small exception. Michael can’t figure out why they are eating leftovers every night, but he’s got a scary suspicion. Dad’s bringing home the bacon and a whole lot more!
Character actor Bob Balaban (a familiar face for Christopher Guest and Wes Anderson fans) made his directorial debut with this black comedy horror. Too strange and deadpan to go over commercially, its deliberate tone, pace and aesthetic help it linger in the corner of your mind, like a childhood nightmare.
9/31 | A RETURN TO SALEM’S LOT (Larry Cohen, 1987)
“Salem’s Lot. Population: Dwindling. Primary industry: terror.”
A weird horror hiding in plain sight, this is so much more than a straight-to-video Stephen King sequel. For one thing, it has nothing at all to do with Stephen King, or even the original Salem’s Lot. What it does have is the unmistakeable Larry Cohen touch, since the writer-director created this “sequel” basically from scratch. The cast features some of Cohen’s signature players (particularly Michael Moriarty and James Dixon), a young Tara Reid and…Samuel fuckin’ Fuller, the iconic director playing a gun-toting Nazi/vampire hunter. Watch it for the Larry Cohen joint it is, and it’s 10/10.
10/31 | BLOOD AND DONUTS (Holly Dale, 1995)
“There is a place between the living and the dead…and it’s open 24 hours.”
This comedy horror follows a vampire, napping since the Moon landing, who’s woken with a bump into 1990s Toronto. Eschewing human blood, he falls in with a donut shop waitress and a taxi driver needing protection from a Crime Boss (David Cronenberg!). Also his 1969 girlfriend is quickly on his trail…
11/31 | BEGOTTEN (E Elias Merhige, 1990)
“A godlike thing dies giving birth to a quivering messiah thing; then the villager things ravage and bury them, and the earth renews itself on their corpses.”
The debut of writer/director Merhige, better known for directing Shadow of the Vampire (2000), and even better known for directing the music video for Marilyn Manson’s Antichrist Superstar (1996).
12/31 | MIRROR MIRROR (Marina Sargenti, 1990)
“Megan (Rainbow Harvest) is experiencing the usual problems of adolescence, magnified by a change of home and school. Stranded and outcast, she retreats into a world of insecurities, craving a means of comfort and escape from the depths of her own fantasies. In her new home, the desolate and eerie Weatherworth House, Megan finds a curious-looking mirror, which entices her into a dream world where her imagination can stray. At first, the mirror seems magical, but once the innocence of her initial fascinations fade, it begins to take on a more sinister and evil dimension. Its power combines with her adolescent mind and sucks her into a nightmare from which she cannot escape!”
13/31 | DUST DEVIL (Richard Stanley, 1992)
“He came from the beginning of time to take your soul.”
Writer-director Richard Stanley followed his debut, the 2000AD inspired Hardware, with this unsettling South Africa-set slasher arthouse folk horror. Dust Devil, described at the time as “Tarkovsky on acid”, spent just a week in cinemas before being released to home video. Stanley’s 2-hour cut had been brutalised by balking financiers down to just 87mins, leaving early audiences confused. Stanley’s Final Cut is now available, best resembling his original vision.
14/31 | HOUSE (Nobuhiko Obayashi, 1977)
“A schoolgirl travels with six classmates to her ailing aunt’s creaky country home, only to come face to face with evil spirits, bloodthirsty pianos, and a demonic housecat.”
No weird horror countdown could possibly skip Nobuhiko Obayashi’s psychedelic, phantasmagoric, absurdist masterpiece, quite possibly the weirdest and best film ever made, any more than words could do it justice – just watch it, IMMEDIATELY.
15/31 | SCREAMPLAY (Rufus Butler Seder, 1985)
“Aspiring screenwriter Edgar Allen’s best attribute is his wild imagination. He imagines scenes so vividly for the murder mystery he is writing that they seem to come to life…and they do! As mysterious murders pile up, Edgar Allen must confront ageing actresses, rock stars, and the police in the bleak setting of broken dreams in Hollywood.”
Shot in black and white, this budget weirdo comic-melodrama recollects Forbidden Zone in its expressionistic sets and John Paizs’ Crime Wave in its meta themes. Screamplay was a one-and-done from writer-director-star Seder, who also managed to recruit underground legend George Kuchar for a rare role outside his own productions.
16/31 | THE MASK (Julian Roffman, 1961)
“After the shocking death of a disturbed patient, a psychiatrist comes into possession of the ancient tribal mask that supposedly drove the young man to his doom. When Barnes puts on the mask, he is assailed with nightmarish visions of monsters, occultists, and ritual torture. Believing that the mask has opened a portal to the deepest recesses of his mind, the doctor continues to explore this terrifying new psychic world – even as the mask reveals a latent violence in Barnes’ nature that threatens those closest to him.”
Canada’s first horror feature, a remarkable, surrealist black and white B-movie, that integrates its 3D elements into the narrative – when you heard “put the mask on NOW”, the film erupts into vivid abstraction.
17/31 | MESSIAH OF EVIL (Gloria Katz, Willard Huyck, 1973)
“After receiving a series of chilling letters from her reclusive father, Arletty drives to the remote seaside town of Pointe Dune to discover the reason for her father’s developing madness. Upon her arrival, she encounters a mysterious trio of strangers investigating a local legend known as ‘The Blood Moon’, a curse that has transformed the inhabitants of the town into a terrifying horde of blood-thirsty maniacs!”
From the husband and wife team who wrote Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (and later directed Howard the Duck), this atmospheric showcase for the creeping uncanny was also released under the titles Return of the Living Dead, Revenge of the Screaming Dead, The Second Coming and Dead People.
18/31 | THE KILLER SHREWS (Ray Kellogg, 1959)
“On a remote island Dr Marlowe Craigis has been performing well-meaning research using test animals. The doctor wishes to shrink humans to half their size in order to reduce world hunger, but unfortunately, his experiments have created mutant giant shrews that are now reproducing in the wild, growing larger and more voracious day-by-day.”
The Killer Shrews took fear of large rodents to a level which cinema had never reached before or has since. Limited in budget and ability, but not in imagination, the mutant shrews are simply dogs in costumes – but perhaps that only adds to the terror.
19/31 | THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM (Ken Russell, 1988)
“Peak District archaeologist Angus Flint (Peter Capaldi) unearths a mysterious skull, believed to be that of the legendary creature knows as the D’Ampton Worm. When a wealthy local recluse, the smouldering and sinister Lady Sylvia Marsh (Amanda Donohoe) gets her hands on the skull all hell breaks loose. Soon the Derbyshire locals, including Lord of the Manor James D’Ampton (Hugh Grant) whose ancestors were said to have slain the mythical beast hundreds of years ago, come to realise that the D’Ampton Worm may be more than a legend after all.”
Uproariously funny, boldly experimental and genuinely shocking, The Lair of the White Worm is a bizarre, psychedelic masterpiece that defies categorisation.
20/31| BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW (Panos Cosmatos, 2010)
Held captive in a specialised medical facility, a young woman with unique abilities seeks a chance to escape her obsessed captor.
The debut of Mandy director Panos Cosmatos. Set in the strange and oppressive emotional landscape of the year 1983, Beyond The Black Rainbow is a Reagan-era fever dream inspired by hazy childhood memories of midnight movies and Saturday morning cartoons.
21/31 | THE WITCH (Robert Eggers, 2016)
New England, 1630. Upon threat of banishment by the church, an English farmer leaves his colonial plantation, relocating his wife and five children to a remote plot of land on the edge of an ominous forest—within which lurks an unknown evil. Strange and unsettling things begin to happen almost immediately—animals turn malevolent, crops fail, and one child disappears as another becomes seemingly possessed by an evil spirit. With suspicion and paranoia mounting, family members accuse teenage daughter Thomasin of witchcraft, charges she adamantly denies. As circumstances grow more treacherous, each family member’s faith, loyalty and love become tested in shocking and unforgettable ways.
A slowburn classic of witchcraft, black magic and possession in the New England wilderness.
22/31 | BLOOD DINER (Jackie Kong, 1987)
“First they greet you, then they eat you.”
The Tutman Brothers run the most popular restaurant in town. Popular, that is, if you’re the county coroner. The ‘Head’ chef has a real human touch with this special recipes – a killer line-up of delicacies made from human flesh!
23/31 | ETERNAL EVIL (George Mihalka, 1985)
“Paul, a young television director, feels his life has become too routine – he’s tired of his job, his family and himself. Janice (KAREN BLACK!) will change that forever. As a worshipper of black magic and the occult, Janice teaches the infatuated Paul the art of astral-projection: the ability to travel outside one’s body! A disbelieving Paul begins to experience bizarre nightmares where victims are brutally beaten right before him. But these are not dreams. He is projecting his visions outside of himself and HE is doing the killing! The key is Janice – the link to the murderous mayhem. Will her secret identity cost more innocent lives or will she cast a spell of ETERNAL EVIL?”
24/31 | ARCADE (Albert Pyun, 1993)
“All the kids in town are dying to play the hot new video game ARCADE. Trouble is once you play the game you can kiss reality good-bye. Arcade has seven levels of excitement, adventure and terror for its players. The game transports you to another world with its stunning graphics, thrilling sound effects, and virtual reality simulation. It is the ultimate experience in a video game. But excitement like this doesn’t come cheaply – when you battle with ARCADE you’re putting your life on the line. The kids have accepted the challenge and are absorbed into the game. Only Alex (Megan Ward) realises that their mysterious disappearances are linked to ARCADE. She must battle the game, alone. Too bad she’s never been very good at games…”
Directed by Albert Pyun (Dollman, Radioactive Dreams), written by David Goyer (the Dark Knight trilogy, Blade) and produced by Charles Band, this post-Tron, pre-Lawnmower Man straight-to-video sci-fi horror had to be re-configured before release, either when Disney spied familiar-looking light-cycles in a trailer or when the Pyun and Band weren’t happy with the original CGI.
25/31 | BAD RONALD (Buzz Kulik, 1974)
“When Ronald is locked away by his mother in a secret room to escape the police he has only his world of fantasy in which to escape. His mother’s death leaves Ronald alone still hiding in the house. Fantasy turns to evil when a new family moves in and Ronald falls in love with their daughter, Babs. When the girl is left alone one weekend, he strikes. The terrified girl has nowhere to hide. Bad Ronald has killed once before. Will Babs become his next victim?”
A made-for-TV thriller/horror, Bad Ronald is a rare cut – perhaps the choicest – of the hider-in-the-house/peephole genre, containing an iconic climactic moment that will make sure you never believe “that’s just the house settling” ever again.
26/31 | THE STUFF (Larry Cohen, 1985)
“The Stuff is the new dessert taking supermarket shelves by storm. It’s delicious, low in calories and – better still – doesn’t stain the family carpet… What’s not to like?! Well, for a start it has a life of its own, and we’re not talking friendly live bacteria…
Larry Cohen’s masterpiece was one of our very first screenings and our love for it is undimmed. Truly unpredictable and mad as a spoonful of shaving foam. Features career best turns from Michael Moriarty as industrial saboteur Mo Rutherford and Paul Sorvino as the slathering, jowl-shivering jingoist he was born to play.
27/31 | SUGAR HILL (Paul Maslansky, 1974)
The chief of the underworld sends some of his minions to muscle in on a successful nightclub operation. When the owner pays no heed, he is beaten to death. His beautiful fashion model fiancee, Diana “Sugar” Hill enlists the aid of a retired voodoo mamaloi and Baron Samedi’s army of zombies to get revenge!
28/31 | THERE ARE MONSTERS (Jay Dahl, 2013)
“The world is being taken over – slowly, quietly and efficiently – by creatures that look exactly like us. A graduate-student film crew on a work-related road trip discover evidence of these doppelgangers.”
A Glasgow FrightFest closer, this found footage-y, Body Snatchers riff was arguably stronger in the form of the short it originated from. Nevertheless, its gonzo jump scares par excellence, mixing in an absurdist body horror element, stick in the brain pretty effectively.
29/31 | BLACULA (Paul Maslansky, 1974)
“In 1780, African prince Mamuwalde pays a visit to the castle of Count Dracula in Transylvania, seeking his support in ending the slave trade. Instead, the evil count transforms Mamuwalde into a vampire, imprisoning him in a coffin to suffer the unending thirst of the damned. Released nearly two centuries later by a pair of luckless interior decorators, Mamuwalde emerges as Blacula, to wreak unholy havoc on the mean streets of LA.”
“Dracula’s soul brother” sparked a wave of black-themed horror films – the sequel Scream Blacula Scream, Blackenstein and Abby (AKA “The Black Exorcist“)
30/31 | PATHOGEN (Emily Hagins, 2006)
“Do you know what happens when you drink the water?”
This middle school zombie contagion epic was directed by 12-year-old Emily, who also wrote, produced, shot and edited. The production was documented in the 2009 documentary, Zombie Girl: The Movie.
31/31 | DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE (Michele Soavi, 1994)
“Francesco Dellamorte is a cemetery watchman whose job is to slaughter the living dead when they rise hungry from their graves. But following a tragic tryst with a lusty young widow, Francisco begins to ponder the mysteries of existence. Is there long-term satisfaction in blasting the skulls of ‘returners’? Will his imbecile assistant find happiness with the partial girl-corpse of his dreams? And if death is the ultimate act of love, can a psychotic killing spree send Dellamorte to the brink of enlightenment?”
You may have seen the existential/nihilist comedy zombie horror AKA Cemetery Man recently on blu ray, or you may have first seen it in its wilderness years, broadcast on C4 in the wee hours one random night, but its weird quality endures no matter how or when it first casts its spell.
We’re very fond of Dellamorte Dellamore, though this Halloween list has been in no particular order – see you next year!
Europe’s longest-running Nicolas Cage Film Festival returns to Glasgow
Matchbox Cineclub present Cage-a-rama 2: Cage Uncaged, a two-day film festival celebrating the wild, weird world of Nicolas Cage. Europe’s longest running Nic Cage film festival returns on Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th of January 2019, to the Centre of Contemporary Arts, Glasgow.
Cage-a-rama 2: Cage Uncaged fully unleashes the wild side of Cage with eight films, classic and brand-new, featuring the Oscar-winner’s most iconic meltdowns, freak-outs and outbursts. The festival also features a range of bonus content, including Cage’s 55th Birthday Brunch + Quiz and Going Full Cage, a live event hosted by Tara Judah (Watershed Cinema producer) and Ti Singh (Bristol Bad Film Club founder and author).
The full programme will be announced on Wednesday 24/10.
Programmer Sean Welsh says, “People flew in from across Europe to attend the first, sell-out Cage-a-rama in January 2018. We wanted to raise the stakes with this sequel, so Cage-a-rama 2: Cage Uncaged is going to be an even more intense experience for fans. Last year, our campaign to #BringCage2Glasgow netted his official stand-in, Marco Kyris, so this year we’re upping our game to get him.”
Weekend passes for Cage-a-rama 2: Cage Uncaged are on sale now in our online shop. Limited day passes and single tickets will be on sale Friday 26/10.
Sign up to Matchbox Cineclub’s mailing list to get updates on Cage-a-rama and more: eepurl.com/duX1R9.
A mind-bending predecessor to the modern mash-up, The Movie Orgy (1968) is also the Rosetta Stone for Joe Dante’s oeuvre and a must-experience for movie fans and cinephiles alike.
Before Gremlins, before The Howling, before he started his career cutting trailers for Roger Corman, Joe Dante hosted the 7.5 hour All Night Once In A Lifetime Atomic Movie Orgy. An ever-evolving edit, it was a communal experience – a mind-bending predecessor to the modern mash-up with no definitive version. Matchbox Cineclub programmer Sean Welsh charts the evolution of The Movie Orgy through five key dates.
October 9th 1965, The Playboy Theater, Chicago
The first screening of An Evening With Batman and Robin, one of two key inspirations for The Movie Orgy. The other was Susan Sontag’s Notes on “Camp” (1964), which popularised the term and inspired the repackaging of the 1943 Batman serial as a single 4.5-hour programme. Audiences laughed at its phony climaxes, marveled at its blatant xenophobia, and it began touring college towns. When Dante caught it, at the World Theater in Philadelphia, he was particularly struck by the camaraderie of the crowd, who “came out into the lobby as if they’d just gotten off a sinking ship.”
Early 1966, Philadelphia College of Art, Philadelphia
Inspired, Dante, a second year student but already a programmer at PCA, decided to host his own Camp Movie Night. The exact date is lost to history, but Dante and collaborator Jon Davison rented the only complete serial available on 16mm in Philadelphia, The Phantom Creeps (1939). They stretched it to seven hours with serials, clips, ads, industrial films and cartoons from their 16mm collections. Its success meant several follow-ups, each a step towards what would shortly become The Movie Orgy, then variously The Movie Orgy 2, The Movie Orgy Strikes Back, Son of the Movie Orgy, Escape to Movie Orgy and Son of Movie Orgy Rides Again.
March 8th 1970, Filmore East, New York
Although 1968 is commonly held as the term “The Movie Orgy” was first used for Dante and Davison’s project, the performance that film archivist and Orgy expert David Neary describes as “the most important Movie Orgy of all” came in 1970. 1970 was peak Movie Orgy for the pair, who employed dueling projectors (tipping their hats to Andy Warhol’s Chelsea Girls). Davison’s would show various features – in lieu of new serials – and Dante’s would interject, drawing on his panoply of 16mm weirdness. They took their cues from the audience, so no two screenings were alike. Press coverage of the Filmore Orgy drew the attention of Schlitz Beer, who sponsored Orgies to tour colleges for years. But when the new material the Orgy drew upon to keep it alive began itself to be infected with self-referential camp, it was time to call it a day. Dante, already in Hollywood, sold syndication rights for “The Video Orgy” to be screened on college campuses’ closed circuit TV networks.
April 22nd 2008, New Beverly Cinema, Los Angeles
The grand finale of Dante’s Inferno, a two-week retrospective at LA’s legendary rep cinema. Joining the scores of curious film fans were Davison, Allan Arkush, Bill Hader, Edgar Wright and Quentin Tarantino. Dante enjoined the crowd to move about, go outside, have a smoke, grab a pizza and wander back in. The Movie Orgy was always intended as a movie to be walked out on. But the director was curious to if it would play – have any relevance – after years in his vault. It brought the house down.
September 9th 2018, The Old Hairdressers, Glasgow
We’re screening the digital version Dante made for the New Beverly (not the 90min “UK cut” previously screened in London). It’s 4.5 hours long, the official Movie Orgy, “distilled, recaptured and re-curated”, according to archivist David Neary. It’s not the full, wild 16mm experience, of course, but there’s also no Blu Ray coming. “It’s more like a concert in a way,” Dante says, “It’s something that you really have to be there for.”
Joe Dante’s The Movie Orgy screens at The Old Hairdressers, Sunday 9th September
An edited version of this article originally appeared in the Scalarama 2018 newspaper.