Thursday, December 01, 2005

Pre-Winter Ennui

Not a wildly exciting time at the moment... having rested & recuperated from the film and Thanksgiving holiday, it's time to get back to work... in this case, means finishing up paperwork for REST E-Z, finishing a scanning project for Film Score Monthly (which will publish it's final print issue this month, but will continue on the Net in an online form... as well as offering new CD releases every month), and touching up some pieces for the Micro-Film website, which will have new content up very soon.

I direct your attention to John Kenneth Muir's blog link over to the right... he has a most insightful post on MEDIUM which is worth your time. And it saves me from making my own lengthy post on the show, since he hit a lot of the points that I was planning to make. Ah, synchronicity...

Dennis of "Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule" blog pointed out that Entertainment Weekly's Nov. 25th issue (the one with Jocquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon on the cover) ran a review of C.S.A., along with an interview with Kevin Wilmott. The review is favorable and the interview reveals that C.S.A. should be in larger markets in Feb. '06.

Keep your eyes peeled; however, I suspect that C.S.A. will end up finding its audience on DVD. I do know that a couple of commentaries have already been recorded for the release, and I think that the disc will have some tasty extras included.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Post-Thanksgiving and Post-Shooting

Happy Post-Thanksgiving! Hope that everyone reading this has had a decent, if not good, Thanksgiving holiday.

The feature I was working on, Rest E-Z, wrapped ("finished shooting" in non-Jargonspeak) last Saturday, so I've been playing catch-up with everything else that went on hold for the month. To take a peek at some preliminary artwork, follow the link to their site (which I wasn't even aware of)... there'll be more going up over the next few months, as the post-production work finishes up.

For a quick glimpse on how things went during production, go visit the new addition to the link list, ThroughAGlass Productions, a production company based in Lawrence, KS. Chris and Jeremy were part of the crew, as well as decent filmmakers themselves, currently in the process of shooting a feature musical, "Air".

I usually don't write about my experience during production - for one thing, there's just no time! My job (as Script Supervisor/Continuity) usually doesn't come to an abrupt end when production wraps... I end up having several days of paperwork to finish up before shipping my notes to the filmmakers, so whatever free time I can get, I end up exploiting it on anything NOT related to production.

Secondly, my perspective is a little bit different than everyone else's - I'm now slightly older than most of the people involved, and have a bit more experience on lo-budget features (though, if all the recent feature activity in the KC area keeps up, that will change soon), and even on the productions that go well, it's a chaotic process in some area or other... plus, whatever my opinion of the project is during filming, you NEVER... let me repeat that, NEVER REALLY KNOW how things turn out until you see the finished product. You could be dead-wrong, or you could be so right, you could be a replacement for Patricia Arquette on "Medium".

If I ever do another print issue, I'll finally write about the films I've worked on... the issue will be called "Lo(Budget)Life".

Jumped onto the NetFlix bandwagon a couple of months ago, courtesy of a friend who sent me a trial tryout... have to say that I've enjoyed the service, getting acess to titles I haven't found in the local rental stores. I'm eagerly awaiting the discs from THE MONKEES television show to start arriving this weekend, and December will be spent mainly watching both seasons.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Takedown!


New Night Stalker Folds

Night Stalker producer Frank Spotnitz posted this on his blog:http://www.biglight.com/blog/2005/11/night-stalker-finis.html

" 'NIGHT STALKER' FINIS

It is with regret that I confirm "Night Stalker" has been canceled. While I'm disappointed the series has come to an end, I am enormously grateful for the experience and the opportunity given me by the network and Touchstone Television. I would like to thank our amazingly talented cast, wonderful crew, killer post-production department, terrific writing staff, producers and partners in crime Daniel Sackheim and John Peter Kousakis, the incredible Jana Fain, and all of you who watched and enjoyed the show. It was a blast."

There IS a God!

Na-na-na-Na
Na-na-na-Na
Hey-Hey-Hey
Goodbye....

Friday, November 04, 2005

LIFEFORCE for the Millennium... but no hot naked alien babes

Back for a quick moment... the feature is halfway through shooting, and so far, things are going pretty well - no major disasters have occurred, we're still on schedule and we're at one location for the next few days.

MICRO-FILM #7 should be out on the newsstands about now - or check out the site to order directly. I have an article on the film FIVE YEARS in the issue, as well as assorted reviews, a couple of columns and a remembrance about the late Sarah Jacobson.

Halloween has come and gone, and I didn't have a chance to expound on my proposed double-feature of LIFEFORCE and DREAMCATCHER, my premise being that DREAMCATCHER is the LIFEFORCE for the Millennium Decade.

When I made this statement to a couple of friends last weekend, they basically laughed in my face... so let me restate the evidence for my "demented" remark...

Oddly enough, it was a remark about POLTERGEIST that helped get things started, my friend having watched it in a spate of movies about ghosts - and finding it really fucking stupid. I, myself, came to this conclusion a few years ago while watching it on television... what seemed really cool and scary back in 1982 became tired and overwrought, some 20 years later.

POLTERGEIST was supposed to have elevated director Tobe Hooper from the muck of "horror director" into the A-list of directors - it had all of the right elements - a good cast, lots and lots of special effects and a story that was a thrill-a-minute roller coaster ride -- that it all really didn't make a whole lot of sense when you sat down and analyzed it was immaterial to an audience wanting to have the crap scared out of it. POLTERGEIST made tons of money in the Summer of '82, but it didn't do a thing for Hooper - the project was produced by Steven Spielberg (and, some would allege, creatively directed by him) and since the film used major elements of Spielberg's oevure, Spielberg got most of the credit for the picture's success and Hooper got the end of a buzzsaw.

When Hooper entered into a deal with Cannon Pictures, the first film he made "could" be seen as a response to the POLTERGEIST experience - a sci-fi/horror picture freed from the cuddly restraints of Spielberg, yet could function on that grand scale (distinguished cast, a thrill-ride story, and - again - lots and lots of State Of The Art effects)...

That was LIFEFORCE.

And the general audience at the time promptly responded, "What the Fuck?!", apparently not ready for an adaptation of Colin Wilson's THE SPACE VAMPIRES done as a slightly tongue-in-cheek homage to Hammer Studios brand of grand scale sci-fi horror, with lots of sexual subtext, and best of all, Matilda May making her debut as a hot alien babe sucking the life out of people and traipsing around naked for the first 1/3rd of the movie.

Some 20 years later, Lawrence Kasdan, the writer/director of films such as THE BIG CHILL, THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST, GRAND CANYON and such, decides to let his hair down and become "Larry Kasdan" again... you know, the guy that wrote RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and did films like BODY HEAT and SILVERADO. So he decides to take on Stephen King's novel of alien invasion, DREAMCATCHER... and the reaction to it upon release was... well, see above.

DREAMCATCHER is Stephen King Science Fiction, and SKSF is ... well, wonky, for lack of a better term. The protagonists are 4 guys, friends since childhood who share a bond with a fifth kid, who is developmentally disabled (and in the film, played by a New Kid On The Block). These four friends go off for a weekend in the woods, when strange things start to happen... animals start to migrate out of the woods, and they come across a man who appears to be lost.
Unfortunately, the man has been probed by aliens who are choosing this particular weekend to stage an offensive attack... and offensive is the word for the films first set piece, in which an alien creature, who has been burrowed up the lost man's butt, makes an appearance in the bathroom (a sequence that works a lot better on the page, especially when you're in the bathroom reading it -- and a note on how much horror has changed... for the over forty crowd, the things that scare you the most are the things that start coming out of your ass).

There are Worms of Death; one of the men (a Britisher playing an American) apparently is taken over by an alien entity, who speaks like a Bond villian... so you have a British actor pretending to be an American who's speaking like a Britisher when he's possessed - the mind starts to spin. Plus, the military gets involved in routing the alien invasion, and the head badass is Morgan Freeman, who eventually ends up a villian. The military hero, who is the voice of reason?

Tom Sizemore.

So anyway, it ends up in a three-way chase: the British/psuedo-American possessed guy is atttempting to get a Worm of Death to the water supply, which will eventually infect the world; the other surviving protagonist goes after him with Tom Sizemore and the retarded New Kid On The Block (yes, he has an important part in this to play) to stop the alien possessed guy; and they're being stalked by Freeman, who wants to Kill Them All and never mind about God sorting them all out or not. There are explosions aplenty, and in keeping with the theme of pulling things out of one's ass, the screenwriters go for broke and come up with something totally out of left field that makes NO sense at all - but oddly enough, it WORKS.

I rest my case.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Time, time time, see what's become of me...

I had intended on a lengthy post; going into some detail on Halloween double-features, as well as a rant on NIGHT STINKER and how Spotnitz and crew chose to exploit the wrong franchise (if they had taken inspiration from THE NORLISS TAPES - Dan Curtis' own failed television pilot featuring a Kolchak-like reporter without Darrin McGavin in the lead - then the current show would probably not suck as hard as it does)... but most of that will have to wait a while.

I may have a job on a lo-budget feature shooting in the area for the next few weeks. Nothing is quite definite - the deal is about 75% there, but nothing's been signed as of yet - but if we come to a meeting of the minds, I'll probably not update for a couple of weeks or so.

In other words, no big changes.

You'll notice that I've added a blogroll on the sidebar - and have added a few more blogs of interest.

A big shout-out to Dennis of Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule - he's finally started to post the results of his summer film quiz and has had some nice things to say about my contributions.

As to those Halloween double features... to kick things off, I offer up the combination of:

Lifeforce (1985) and Dreamcatcher (2003)

They're both fairly light films, to start; they're both a lot of fun and they both were reviled at the time of their release, but have gained cult followings.

More later...

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

More C.S.A.

At this point in time, you probably won't get to see the film until early 2006, probably in time for Black History Month in February. However, IFC Films is going to base their release strategy on how well the film does this week in Memphis and Charlottesville - so here's contributing to the 'word of mouth' campaign that's in effect.

If you're in the Topeka area on the weekend of Oct. 22, you'll have an opportunity to see the film. The Brown Foundation is presenting a free screening to the public Saturday, Oct. 22 at the Brown V. Board of Education National Historic Site at 7pm, but you'll have to RSVP by the 20th.



Some recent articles in Memphis and Charlottesville media:

The Commercial Appeal (Memphis)

Review by John Beifuss

Culpeper-Star Exponent (Va)

The Daily Progress (Charlottesville, Va)

The Memphis Flyer

Kevin Willmott interview: DivingIn2Memphis.com

The Daily Helmsman (Memphis)

Lawrence Journal-World

And for some background info on Kevin and his work and the film itself:

A Conversation with Kevin Willmott, Summer 2001

Ball Busters - pitch.com

Friday, October 07, 2005

Night Stinker

To: Frank Spotnitz, producer
Re: NIGHT STALKER revival

Mr. Spotnitz:

Saw the second episode of your Night Stalker revival show... I missed the pilot, but did want to at least sample the show. I hate to add to the reams of mail you've gotten denouncing the show - but after seeing "The Five People You Meet In Hell", I have no other choice.

First of all - if you want to make an "X-Files" of your own, why didn't you just pay Chris Carter a fee and come up with a differently titled show? What I saw wasn't even in the spirit of "Night Stalker" - it was literally cobbled together from X-FILES leavings, from concept to scripted lines. If a blind person were listening to the show, they'd think they'd stumbled onto a syndicated rerun. For all the hype this past summer about 'reimaging' NIGHT STALKER, I would have hoped for something better than a show that blatantly uses concepts and character motivations from X-FILES, combined with the dark sensibility of MILLENNIUM, only to emerge as something much lesser than all those shows combined.

The maddening thing is, there appears to be a lot of talent involved (the sight of Darin Morgan's name as a Consulting Producer was welcome), and a lot of effort put into the show.... but the damn thing is BORING. There's no reason to care about these characters - at least no good reason given. And there's no good reason for this show being called NIGHT STALKER other than trying to grab an audience due to name recognition. Perhaps if it had been developed as something to stand on its own feet instead of being propped up by name branding and outright "homaging" of another show.

The one good thing to come of it is that it allowed the release of the original series with Darren McGavin onto DVD format, for the fans of the original series to enjoy and for newer audiences to discover.

I hope that the show lasts long enough to develop its own voice - hopefully one of Darin Morgan's scripts will be brillant enough to cut through the dross of this NIGHT STINKER. Maybe by then, I'll be interested in watching the show on a regular basis. But somehow, I doubt that day will come.

ADDENDUM - 10/10/05

I actually got a response to this as follows:

thank you for your letter i will certainly pass this along to mr. spotnitz. it's such a shame that judgement has been passed based on one episode. sad really. luckily we have been blessed with thousands of letters of support from people who love the show. maybe you'll change your mind at some later point. thanks again for writing.

night stalker staff

Kinda snarky, but only fair, since my mail was kinda snarky also - at least they're polite. And they are answering mail.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Stuph...

Quite a busy weekend - did make it in to see The Billy Nayer Show and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum despite the downpour. Discovered the next morning that water came down the chimney and overflowed into the basement, effectively destroying two rugs... but they were ratty anyway, so no big loss there.

I celebrated my birthday last week - Jason Pankoke (editor of Micro-Film Magazine, whose latest issue is now available) sent me a card which was one of the best cards I'd ever received. I was even more impressed when the card turned up on local news broadcasts and newpaper opinion columns over the weekend, due to the Mayor and other City bigwigs whining about it.

If city fathers can't see the humor in this, then it's no wonder that it's so difficult trying to attract wealthy, hip business to the city and state - besides the "Evolution is Evil" school debates and the whole hating fags thing, that is.

The New Television Season is upon us, and this year marks the return of Genre television to the Networks... Being a fan of genre tv, I should be pleased that there's a lot more out there than the usual tired STAR TREK spin-off. However, I detect more than a slight whiff of deja vu off of most of the shows.

SURFACE is such a blatant homage to the works of Steven Spielberg (specifically CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, but there's bits more than reminiscent of JAWS and E.T. on occasion), I half expect to see Richard Dreyfuss and Melinda Dillon strolling across the screen on their way to Devil's tower instead of Lake Bell and... is it Jay Ferguson? ... hanging around the water's edge to find out what this new aquatic species is, that the Government is attempting to keep secret. It's entertaining so far, but if I start to hallucinate Robert Shaw during a broadcast, it's over.

INVASION and THRESHOLD are about alien invasions, INVASION taking it's own sweet time in setting things up in which aliens may have invaded the Florida coast after a hurricane, examining the effects on a small town. INVASION looks great, but it's missing some words in the the title... like "Of The Body Snatchers". I hope there may be some cross-over with COMMANDER IN CHIEF and Donald Sutherland does a guest shot later in the series - they've already tipped their hand with having Veronica Cartwright guest.

THRESHOLD is the name of the Government team and plan to deal with alien encounters. Although exactly what the aliens are up to is sort of hard to figure out - something to do with aliens from possibly another dimension who are mutating humans by means of a signal... I don't know. I'm not entirely sure the writers do either, although the cast (Carla Guigno, Brett Spiner, Charles S. Dutton and Peter Dinklage) try to fake it as best they can.

Both shows.... ehh. No reason to hate them, but it's not love at first sight either.

That leaves LOST, which kicked off strong this season by starting to answer some questions - which, of course, leads to even more questions. After seeing the third episode, I'm convinced that there is indeed some long term plan in place...

Think of LOST as the television equivalent of a graphic novel, and then the format begins to make a lot more sense - the flashbacks that help to explain some facet of the characters, the different p.o.v.'s of the same event, and the little hidden details that are keeping the forum boards busy and dvd sets bought and/or rented. That, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and FARGATE are the highlights so far, but the latter two won't have new episodes until January.

And yes, it's FARGATE - amazing what getting rid of McGuyver (who's been coasting for years and insufferable to the nth degree) and adding 2/5ths of the FARSCAPE cast will accomplish. The show is actually interesting to watch this year.

I've purposely left out NIGHT STINKER - I missed the pilot last week, but I didn't lose much sleep over it. I can't responsibly comment until I actually see and episode or two, but I do have two things to say:

1) If you just want to do another X-FILES, then dammit, make a deal with Chris Carter. I grew up on THE NIGHT STALKER and Carl Kolchak - and this ain't it.

2) The original KOLCHAK:THE NIGHT STALKER just came out on DVD this week and the tv movies THE NIGHT STALKER and THE NIGHT STRANGLER have been available for some time. Do yourself a favor and rent or buy these instead of NIGHT STINKER.

Jonathan Carroll's new novel GLASS SOUP is out - it's a follow-up to his last work WHITE APPLES.



Lastly, I want to mention Lawrence, KS based writer/director Kevin Wilmott whose movie CSA - THE CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA opens in Memphis, Tennessee at the Ridgeway Theatre and the Downtown Mall Charlottesville, Virginia on October 7th.
IFC Films is opening the film in the South and will spread to more theaters in other parts of the country over the next few months.

The film has already taken a lot of heat due to the subject matter and due to Spike Lee's name as Executive Producer (Spike had nothing to do with the production of the film, although some don't seem to register that).

If it opens near you, go make up your own mind; take friends and family with you, and be ready for some discussion afterwards.

By the way, the Lincoln in this clip from a "D.W. Griffith film" (actually a pretty clever pastiche) is actually KS. filmmaker Kevin McKinney. He makes a great Lincoln-in-blackface.

I was going to start posting some Halloween picks here - maybe in a couple of days. I need to start watching some appropriate films. Expect, in a few weeks, something on two underrated television series that ended much too soon: MILLENNIUM and MIRACLES.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Other People Whose Sites You Should See:

I should just put these over on the sidebar with the other links - and will do so eventually. But they should get some time in a spotlight, so...


Browser Life - by my old school friend, Karen Brauer (and no, not THAT Karen Brauer, though she rocks also). She writes about living with Sjogren's Syndrome and fibromylagia, and about a lot of other stuff too.

Papercuts and Time Enough At Last - sites by A.J. Michel, who does the zine LOWHUG (which has now metamorphosed into SYNDICATE PRODUCT. I met her through correspondence when she ordered MIMEZINE, and found out that she was a friend of Jason Pankoke, of MICRO-FILM, who I currently write for.

Shirk Bay - EBeth's blog. She's a local in the KC area.

Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule - a great blog about films and baseball.
"You need a bit of... (ooh) SHOCK TREATMENT"

If you look back a few weeks ago, I posted a link to Cashiers Du Cinemart, whose site had been updated recently. There is a link to the article I wrote, "Gimme Gimme SHOCK TREATMENT" but no article as of yet. Mike White has been covering the Toronto Film Festival, so has probably not had time to post the piece, which I had made some slight corrections to from the published version. [the piece is now online - see above link]

I highly encourage everyone to go to the site - hell, what would even be better would be to buy the issue! But in an age of "Director's Cuts", I'm going to post my ORIGINAL article, which went through some revisions before getting to the finished version.

This is actually a combination of the original draft (with a somewhat different opening) and a revision, which incorporated some additional material about another Richard O'Brien project that has some impact on SHOCK TREATMENT's genesis.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Gimme, Gimme SHOCK TREATMENT!
Or
"The Sun Never Sets on Those Who Ride Into It"


An appreciation by L. Rob Hubbard

"Shut up Emily! And listen to a success story."

There are some films that fall in-between the cracks upon release - not finding favor with an audience at the time, they are labeled with the pejorative BOMB and disappear without a trace, leaving a bad, but fading memory in the minds of studio executives and theatre exhibitors. A good number of these end up in oblivion, but some, whether by midnight screenings in theatres, repeated showings on cable, drunken evenings with friends in front of the VCR or DVD player, or by osmosis, manage to gradually find their audience and continue to flourish.

THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW is pretty much the example that comes to mind when it comes to Cult Film Success - almost 30 years have passed since the film was first exhibited, and it still draws an audience at screenings, and has practically become a cottage industry of sorts. It also managed to make a tidy sum of money for Fox - so it was inevitable that there would be an attempt to recapture the same magic - and the same response, expressed in audience receipts - that RHPS did. After all, any sort of sequel to RHPS had the advantage of a built in audience waiting for more exploits.

So, in 1981, SHOCK TREATMENT was released - to universal disdain from critics and audiences alike. To get an idea of the reception the film got, the following responses on Amazon.com provide a sense of deja vu:

"Was this supposed to be a movie? This has to be one of the most tasteless, most horrible 'things' I have had the displeasure to view. I can't believe I wasted a part of my precious life viewing such nonsense. this movie definitely has my vote for mankind's most horrible movie. Kudos to the director for such a profound lack of vision."

"Sorry to say that this movie is nowhere near the caliber of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, which it tries so hard to be, but just isn't. I expected a lot, but somehow, ended up extremely disappointed. This movie failed to capture my attention no matter how hard I tried. I think that I would have had more fun watching paint dry on a wall than having to see this movie again."

"Any Rocky Horror fan who plans to sit down with this one should expect disappointment and disgust."

"Is there a point to this movie? Or even a plot? This has to be the worst movie of all time."

"Horrible horrible movie, very upset with it."


And then there was this pithy line from a review by one "Alan Smithee" in Cinefantastique, February 1982:

"... tantamount to making a gun control statement by shooting an N.R.A. member."

If the reaction of the general movie audience and ROCKY HORROR fans seems to be a tad harsh, it's nothing compared to what those responsible for the movie had to say. In the book ROCKY HORROR: FROM CONCEPT TO CULT, by Scott Michaels & David Evans, producer Michael White provides the following comment:

"We did another film called Shock Treatment, which would be fantastic if there were no dialogue and no story. If you just took the songs, which were great... "

The final nails in the coffin, so to speak, are hammered in by Richard O'Brien, whose opinion should count for something, seeing that he came up with the concept, co-wrote the film and appears in a supporting role. O'Brien's reaction to ST isn't particularly warm, as the following interview extract reveals:

"We made a follow-up film to Rocky, called Shock Treatment. The soundtrack was actually better, but the film was absolutely lousy, and when Lou Adler cut a trailer to the title song he took all the best clips and made the better movie."

and, to make his position totally clear, in this extract from an on-line chat session:

Marge Of the many films you have appeared in, do you regret any?

Richard O'Brien Yes. Shock Treatment. We should have gone with the first draft, which was monsters rising from the grave, as it was, we finished up with a muddy story and, apart from the sound track, I was, and still am, disappointed with the result.

Nation Have you heard of the recent resurgence of interest in Shock Treatment? Starting with floorshows in Paramus NJ, Albany NY, and now at every Rocky horror convention across the country, did you really expect it to take off like this?

Richard O'Brien I'm not aware of Shock Treatment picking up a following. I'm sure that everybody looks delightful running around in white coats, and maybe one day I might get the opportunity to take in one of these performances. However, I'm not sure that I look forward to it.


Who loves you, Baby indeed? SHOCK TREATMENT has been pointedly downplayed in the ROCKY HORROR phenomenon, and would seem to be consigned to oblivion, except for the fact that the film has indeed gained a loyal following of fans of its own over the last 20 years. Being tied to RHPS has insured that the film gets at least a cursory mention in all things related to RHPS. And although the film has not had much exposure theatrically, it has had a consistently strong life on the home video market - and has spawned a RHPS type of cult activity in some areas - floorshows, costumes, props and an audience participation 'script', as well as web pages by devoted fans.

So why all of this animosity towards a film tied to a popular following? The answer to that is rather tricky....

THE BEGINNING - ROCKY HORROR SHOWS HIS HEELS


It begins a couple of years after RHPS has become a sensation in midnight screenings. As Richard O'Brien states in an interview with Mike Conroy, he approached Michael White about doing a sequel; White was definitely interested, and O'Brien came up with the scenario ROCKY HORROR SHOWS HIS HEELS.

Picking up from the end of RHPS, Rocky Horror is alive - but Frank N. Furter is still dead. Brad and Janet have married, but bear the consequences of that night: Janet is pregnant and about to give birth, but the baby is either Rocky's or Frank's! Brad leaves Janet, having been 'converted' to homosexuality by Frank. He visits Dr. Scott, also 'changed' by his encounter. Rocky brings them Frank's body, insistent that Dr. Scott attempt to revive him. Meanwhile, Janet's parents are shocked to find out about Brad's leaving and Janet's Dad is concerned to hear of Brad's homosexuality. Dr. Scott determines the chemicals necessary to revive Frank, found in blood. With some of Brad and Dr. Scott's blood and electroshock, Frank is revived. The Transylvanians are summoned to Denton the next night to celebrate.

The next day, Frank, Rocky, Scott and Brad don little black dresses ('gay' apparel) and go to the hospital, where Janet has given birth. Frank immediately assumes control of the baby, upsetting Janet's Mom and Dad. Frank and the gang hit the town, sprinking a dust ('fairy' dust) that transforms people into transsexuals. However, Frank collapses - the blood supplied by Brad and Scott wasn't enough. He needs eleven pints of blood from young male virgins. Brad attempts to procure the blood, which he does from teen who are thrilled to help out a celebrity, but one of the eleven is not a virgin. At the party, Janet's Mom and Dad and various Dentonites are converted to Transylvanian lifestyles. At the hospital, two mysterious figures steal Janet's baby, tell her that the baby is dead and take her out of the hospital to the party.

Janet tells Frank that the baby is dead. He unmasks the figures, who turn out to be Riff Raff and Magenta. Suddenly Frank starts to decompose; realizing that one of the boys wasn't a virgin, he chases the boy. The townspeople revolt and attack Frank and overwhelm Brad and Scott; Rocky and the Transylvanians escape and Riff Raff kills Frank - again. Riff and Magenta drive off with Janet and the baby, who is clearly Frank's child.

This was a literal sequel to ROCKY, and it's quite possible that this version would've been welcomed with open arms by RHPS cultists, had this particular vision been undertaken. It was Jim Sharman, ROCKY's director of both stage and screen versions, who nixed any idea of going in that direction. According to O'Brien, "Jim Sharman said, 'I have no interest in doing that sort of movie: write a new story.' I (O'Brien) said, "I've no interest in writing another story - what I will do is adapt this as a framework. I have done 10 songs already, we are going to have 15 songs -- I have written 10 of the songs already and I have no interest in throwing all that away; let's use it as a framework, as a basis."

Eventually, both Frank and Rocky fell away from the story, which ended up having Brad as the main protagonist; however that took another twist while waiting to go to committee. O'Brien: "Jim said we made one mistake. I said, "What's that?" -- 'We should have made Janet the lead character'. I said, "Of course we should have done. Let's change the names around on all the dialogue." "You can't do that, " said Jim. "Yes you can. But of course you can't. It doesn't work that way." The script went through several more drafts - 5 total - before getting to a version that everyone signed off on.

THE BRAD AND JANET SHOW


"The false promise of a new dawn is usually followed by a most bloody sunset."


THE BRAD AND JANET SHOW (the original, and O'Brien's preferred, title) was conceived to be shot naturalistically, on location in the U.S., with a sizeable cast. Designer Brian Thomson, quoted in the book ROCKY HORROR: FROM CONCEPT TO CULT by Scott Michaels & David Evans, comments that in location scouting for the film, Wichita, KS came closest to doubling for exterior Denton, until producer John Goldstone suggested Dallas, TX.

The film was budgeted at about $5 million from Fox and was a 'go' until trouble hit in the form of the SAG Strike of 1980 which delayed shooting and which caused Fox to pull out of its commitment. In this atmosphere, attempting to find a way to salvage the work that had been done, O'Brien and Sharman played with the idea of perhaps adapting it for the stage and filming the stage show, which was the seed for reconceiving the project, now called SHOCK TREATMENT. The budget came down to $4 million (with Thomson garnering a credit for "additional ideas" on O'Brien's and Sharman's script) and the film was shot on soundstages in London in the fall of 1980.


SHOCK TREATMENT - The Story


SHOCK TREATMENT is the continuing adventures of Brad and Janet (Cliff DeYoung & Jessica Harper), years after the events in RHPS, in the town of Denton. Now married, they find themselves again caught up in the machinations of another charismatic individual and his associates.

The entire film takes place within the studio of local television network, DTV. Chosen as contestants for the popular game show “Marriage Maze”, hosted by Denton’s popular television personality Bert Schnick (Barry Humphries), Brad and Janet are revealed to be having problems in their marriage, and Brad is railroaded into 'treatment' at the local asylum - and popular soap opera program - Dentonvale, run by Cosmo and Nation McKinley (Richard O'Brien and Patricia Quinn) with support staff Ricky (Rik Mayall) and Nurse Ansalong ("Little" Nell Campbell).

Schnick and the McKinley's are in the pocket of the network's sponsor, fast-food magnate Farley Flavors (also Cliff DeYoung), who is readying the debut of a new show, "The Faith Factory" and who has designs upon Janet. She is groomed into a media superstar to supposedly make Brad find her more desirable, but also as the figurehead to sell Flavor's "Faith Factory" (with its slogan 'Sanity For Today') to the public. Only DTV personalities Betty Hapschatt (Ruby Wax) and Judge Oliver Wright (Charles Gray) seem to notice that something slightly nefarious is going on and attempt to get to the bottom of things.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

When the film debuted in late 1981, it was met with hostility and disdain, especially from the core "Rocky" cult. Despite the recurring phrase of casting ST as "not a sequel, or a prequel, but an equal," the film alienated the audience who came expecting another slightly naughty romp through B-movie land and instead got... something else.

If ROCKY HORROR was O'Brien's look at changing sexual morés in changing times as filtered through the world of 1950's B-movies, then SHOCK TREATMENT can be considered as his take on the more adult concerns of the roles of men and women in society and how everyone is eventually manipulated into those roles and how easily the mass media aids in that manipulation. It's also more of a personal puzzle, with some interesting insights on fame and celebrity. ST is the work of someone with more than ROCKY on his mind, and therein lies the conundrum that the film finds itself in.

Very little of "Rocky Shows His Heels" made it to ST, other than the ideas of Brad and Janet having marital troubles and the entire town of Denton becoming involved in the action. Comparing the drafts of BJS and ST, there are no major differences between them, as far as the major set pieces go - much of the dialogue survived intact when the project morphed into ST.

The main difference between the two is scope: Whereas BJS clearly took place in a natural environment, opening up the town and citizenry of Denton, U.S.A., ST takes place in a hermetically sealed world - within the confines of a television studio with its staff and a studio audience, who come in from 'outside'. No exteriors are ever seen, except for a misty limbo outside the studio doors. Once the audience enters, they remain in their seats for the duration, their attention given over to either the monitors or the show that is being broadcast, with documentary crews roaming the aisles and stages to gather footage.

Everything is observed either by someone, or by a camera -- a kitchen discussion that Janet has with her parents is observed by the audience as the current soap opera playing out on the screen. Action switches back and forth from 'real life' to television screens - and even the private activities in the sleeping quarters of the Dentonvale staff plays out as cheap television drama during the musical number, "Lullaby". Reality and entertainment, it seems, do not have distinct boundries in this world... they seem to blend seemlessly into each other.

All of this entertainment is for the studio audience, a cross section of types, whose main function is to observe the programming. They also are very vocal, when stirred up by empresarios such as television host Bert Schnick, and also swayed by any form of celebrity. Most of the animosity from members of the ROCKY Cult has stemmed from some belief that the audience in ST is a negative comment on the cult.

O'Brien has commented in interviews that at the core of ST, "it is a story that delves into marriage, into manipulation. We explore the characters in a controlled setting, seeing what makes them go, what motivates them. We see how people can use each other, what they do, how they change. We see a woman trying to find those things which she thought marriage would give her but hasn't. We see what happens when a man becomes uncentered. It's a story about people unable to face their own problems taking too much advice from other people."

One gigantic problem with ST is that there's no sense of what the problems are in Brad and Janet's marriage - like the audience, they just appear out of nowhere, and neither Janet nor Brad ever state what their problems are. It is always someone else telling Janet that Brad is an 'emotional cripple' as Brad is trussed up and drugged up, unable to speak for himself.

In the "Rocky Shows His Heels" treatment, one of the plot points is that Brad and Janet's marriage fails because Brad becomes homosexual, his impulses awakened by Frankenfurter. By the time it became BJS, that idea was largely abandoned (although some remnants are implied in the scene with Janet and her parents, and the song, "Thank God I'm A Man"). Instead, in BJS, Janet is working long hours at the television station (under manager Everett Scott - who became Bert Schnick in ST) and making a name for herself while Brad, obviously unemployed, watches television amid drinking and smoking and doing housework at home, emasculated by Janet's rising status at the station.

That bit of info, which was eliminated in ST, would have greatly helped to define that theme further and to clarify Farley Flavors' character - who is revealed to be the twin brother of Brad, separated at an early age by adoption by different families when their parents died - Brad, going to an 'Uptown' family (and favorable status) and Farley going to 'Downtown', his success measured in terms of wealth, fame and opportunism. Farley is the flip side of Brad, of what a 'successful' Brad would be - only Janet really registers the resemblance between the two men in her stupor.

In ST, Janet is slowly seduced and manipulated into becoming a sensation, supposedly to help Brad desire her more, but actually making her more into Farley's fantasy woman - she's sexed up and presented to the public as the Next Big Thing, who flip out over her and bolster her celebrity status. But it ultimately doesn't make her any happier - her handlers isolate her from any meaningful contact and drug her into numbness, into the perfect representation of "Miss Mental Health" at the debut of The Faith Factory - a mute, poseable doll.

Also of note is the metaphorical manipulation of society - the audience - by the so-called "character actors", the McKinley's, Schnick, and Flavors. Flavors' characterization seems to be a combination between a televangelist and a politician, and considering the time the movie was conceived and shot (in the wake of the 70's malaise and the beginning of the Reagan "Morning In America"), seems to be a distinct and deliberate choice. "Madness vs. Sanity" are the choices offered up - the 'madness' of Brad (material 'failure') vs. the 'sanity' of Farley (material 'success') and his Faith Factory show, which will offer the audience everything they could want: "Innocence, decency and the illusion of a happy ending," as Farley states. Ultimately, the Faith Factory is revealed to be a sanitarium, which IS the station, the audience still part of the show, only straightjacketed and 'normal', while the 'mad' outsiders ultimately escape to whatever is outside. The closing song, "Anyhow, Anyhow," originally had several opening verses (found in the BSJ draft) that shines some light on the moral of the story:

JANET: Was I a victim of his heart
Or a victim of his schemes
Did he love me or resent you
Like a player in his dreams?

{Crowd roars. Images from 'inside' punctuate the following.}

BRAD: Why don't we all get out of here
There's nothing left to lose?

BETTY: No. We have the power to think and feel
We have the power to choose.

{Crowd roars.}

OLIVER: There's a cancer here among us
And it's gnawing at the heart
We can shake off the fetters
Of quacks and go-getters
And the way to begin -- is start!


Of tangential note, but an important one, is another Richard O'Brien musical which took place between ROCKY HORROR and ST - T. ZEE, which opened on the London stagein 1976 and only lasted for 38 performances and lukewarm reviews, despite a cast that included O'Brien, Warren Clarke, Paul Nicholas, Belinda Sinclair and Arthur Dingham. T.ZEE was a take on the Tarzan myth, taking place in a futuristic, apocalyptic Los Angeles... two 'normal' anthropologists and T. Zee, a dim 'natural' man, discover a L.A., now an underground kingdom of the Sunset Strip; a depraved amusement arcade populated by "Winners" and "Losers" (with doors onstage that they enter and exit from), made up of former show business lawyers, extras and t.v. personalities.

It's worth noting that, during this period, O'Brien had experienced a number of career highs and lows - there was the success of ROCKY HORROR on the British stage. However, most of his other work didn't meet with much critical or financial acclaim... ROCKY did do well in a Los Angeles stage version, but flopped when an Off-Broadway version was attempted; and of course RHPS was still building its success as a midnight movie, after having flopped horribly in domestic release.

Ultimately, ST is linked with ROCKY HORROR, not in a literal way (cast, crew, characters), but in examining society and conformity, and the role of the outcast. ROCKY HORROR's popularity is due to the attraction that the Frank N. Furter character has for the audience - someone who is sexually free-spirited and unbound by the conventions of society. It's ironic that, ROCKY HORROR ends with the free-spirited character killed because his "lifestyle's too extreme" and the two main characters in a state of spiritual limbo... and it is a popular success. SHOCK TREATMENT ends with the main characters escaping from a spiritual asylum into The Unknown - and freedom... and it's a miserable 'failure'.

SHOCK TREATMENT has been pointedly downplayed in the ROCKY HORROR phenomenon, and would seem to be consigned to oblivion, except for the fact that the film has indeed gained a loyal following of fans of its own over the last 20 years. My own feeling is that the negativity that people have towards the film stems from one unmistakable fact: the film is not ROCKY HORROR SHOW II, and that is what people were expecting and wanting. Coupling it with ROCKY does a disservice to both films... this includes attempting to give ST the ROCKY treatment with props, shouted out 'spontaneous' quips, and acting out the film. It might be fun, but the attempts I've witnessed to impose this behavior onto the film (the shout outs) were disastrous.

SHOCK TREATMENT, in retrospect, fits in snugly with several films made and released in the early 1980's that took the satirical path in examining the public's interest and obsession with media, television specifically, and celebrity. [If you're interested, those other films would be THE KING OF COMEDY, WRONG IS RIGHT, VIDEODROME, LOOKER, THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND, and the British and American versions of MAX HEADROOM.] Most of those films also did poor box-office at the time, but some have since been re-evaluated and re-appraised. ST deserves no lesser treatment for tackling the same subject matter in a manner more unorthodox than these other films.

SHOCK TREATMENT is a more mature work than RHPS - it's as clever as ROCKY, but there aren't any sci-fi/horror references to catch and the humor is much drier, going for the obscure pun or the oblique reference (such as the Orpheus and Samuel Coleridge Taylor jokes) - and in terms of its satirical look at manipulation through the media of television and the cult of fame, was years ahead of its time. With shows like "Oprah", "Dr. Phil", "Ricki", "The People's Court", "Judge Judy" and all the endless variations on a theme; the career and cult of celebrity around people such as Madonna, Britney Spears or whatever flavor of the moment; the rise of the "reality show" from "Survivor" to "Cheaters", and the current political process, ST could have been made 2 years ago instead of over 20. It also did not take the easy path of retreading over old ground, which is its best feature and also its worst sin. It could be ripe for rediscovery by people who can look past the ROCKY cult and judge it on its own merits.

But that may not come anytime soon. Despite it being a prime candidate for DVD release (it has gone through two VHS releases and laserdisc release in Japan), there are no firm plans for such a release to take place. One could speculate that ST is still an "embarrassment” for the ROCKY people; although it does have a following, it still isn’t known by the mainstream public and it is not as readily accessible as RHPS. It seems that, in this game, only the ‘winners’ count.

At this stage, it appears that O’Brien is only willing to stick with the winners; after a string of disasters on the theatrical stage (the aforementioned T-ZEE; DISASTER, a take on disaster films involving an impending collison between two giant icebergs and a Caribbean island; and TOP PEOPLE, which ran less than a week), O’Brien kept working as a character actor, appearing in films such as FLASH GORDON and REVOLUTION.

In the 90’s, his career revitalized when he hosted the British game show ‘The Crystal Maze’ from 1990 to 1994, and his 1995 stage show DISGRACEFULLY YOURS, in which he played the Mephistopheleian host of “Club Inferno” and released a solo album, “Absolute O’Brien”. He also had substantial roles in the movies DARK CITY and SPICEWORLD and recently had a successful run as The Child Catcher in the London stage version of ‘Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang’.

Also in the ‘90’s, ROCKY HORROR’s 30th anniversary came around, and with it, programs on VH1, AMC; re-releases on CD and DVD… and interest in stage revivals and a possible remake of the movie. There has always been an interest in a direct ROCKY HORROR sequel, and since SHOCK TREATMENT didn’t fit the bill, it seemed a return to basics was called for.

A script for a film sequel entitled ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW PART 2 – THE REVENGE OF THE OLD QUEEN was written by O’Brien… taking place on both the planet Transylvania and Earth, it picks up with Magenta dead and interred and a grieving Riff-Raff being summoned by the Transylvanian Queen to return to Earth to retrieve her son, Frank N. Furter – whom she’s not aware is dead, and Riff intends on not having her find out that bit of information. On Earth, Steve Majors, the brother of Brad, is the head of a government agency investigating alien incursions (the hook being that the events of RHPS were ‘real’), and he picks up on Riff’s trail when he returns to Earth… there’s also the questionable behavior of his nephew, Sonny, whose method of dress and behavior brings to mind, ‘absent friends’. Time travel comes into play as The Queen also travels to Earth and Riff and others make a trip back to the past, to the concluding events detailed in RHPS to set things right.

REVENGE OF THE OLD QUEEN never got greenlighted; O’Brien then began writing a stage sequel entitled ROCKY HORROR: THE SECOND COMING, which made it to a first draft, but is now currently on hold; no word if it will ever see the light of day. Until that day arrives, ROCKY fans will have to content themselves with endless screenings of RHPS.

For those a bit more adventurous, who have a taste for satire, especially one with bite, SHOCK TREATMENT remains poised for discovery by a new audience, one who can appreciate its ties to RHPS, but who won’t let that connection totally influence their reaction to it.

"The subject is committed... as are we all."

Researching for this article was a big undertaking and I'd be remiss in not acknowledging those who wrote before, from which some quotes were pulled - obviously Richard O'Brien was not consulted.

"Richard O'Brien and SHOCK TREATMENT” Mike Conroy, Fangoria #15, October 1981

"Rocky Horror Picture Show - II" Alan Jones, Cinefantastique Vol. 11, No. 1 Summer 1981

Midnight Movies, J. Hoberman & Jonathan Rosenbaum, Harper and Row, 1983 ISBN 0-06-015052-1

The Shock Treatment Network - http://www.shocktreatmentnetwork.com

"Richard O'Brien's 'Rocky' Road To Stardom" Howard Waldrop

"You Need A Bit Of Shock Treatment" Peter Sobcynski

ROCKY HORROR: FROM CONCEPT TO CULT by Scott Michaels & David Evans

"Look Who's Talking: Rocky road to fame and fortune: Richard O'Brien" Taken from The Independent

-----------------------------------------------

I especially want to mention Donny O'Bryan and his SHOCK TREATMENT NETWORK site, which is invaluable to all fans of the movie. He's been pretty dilengent on all things ST - his site has cast interviews. I also recommend his blog, which has all current news on ST events.

Contrary to the end of my article, it seems that ST may be getting some love in 2006...
"Wanna watch a movie, Little Girl?"

One of the most frustrating things is having an ample knowledge of films but very little opportunity to utilize it. Most everyone that I socialize with live over an hour away, which doesn't lead to a lot of dropping by to say 'hello', much less spending a few hours with some twisted video... plus, most of us are at the age where it just isn't really cool to have people over to just watch a movie, especially when you're raising children of your own.

The solution to that is to look closer towards home; unfortunately, a good majority of my co-workers don't share my taste in films, although I'm doing my part in educating them -- for example, I lent a copy of BATTLE ROYALE to my supervisor, selling it as "a lot like THE BREAKFAST CLUB - but with a body count." Which actually, is a pretty good representation, if I say so myself.

What I'd like to do is to start some sort of floating repatory cinema - get together a group of like-minded individuals and screen classic and not so classic films - stuff way off of the beaten path. Sort of like the A/V Club, but even more informal and inexpensive. Finding those individuals in Topeka, however, is like looking for Dick Chaney's conscience. Even on Meetup.com, you couldn't find enough SF/Fantasy TV fans to shake a stick at... well, maybe you can find them - getting them together is somewhat a daunting task.

Maybe in the next few months, I can devote enough time to tilt at that particular windmill. My next project is having a Halloween film night (the price extracted for enduring a showing of the Kurt Thomas classic GYMKATA).

---------------------------------

If you're still 'hip' enough to go out to clubs to see live music, then I recommend seeing SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM, currently touring with THE BILLY NAYER SHOW. They're in Kansas City, October 1st, at The Hurricane, and will be hitting Denver, Chicago, Minneapolis and other cities in late Sept/early Oct.
LATE BREAKING NEWS - a film by Jon Knoll

Such exciting times since my last post...

I had the privilege of introducing my friend, Jon Knoll, and his documentary LATE BREAKING NEWS at the recent Kansas International Film Festival in Overland Park. I've known Jon since meeting him at SIU-C where we were film majors and have kept in touch with him through our divergent paths (me on the path of poverty fringe culture and him on the road to success in local (Chicagoland) TV). I got to see an early assemblage of LBN, followed by its premiere in Chicago in Spring of '04. Since then, he's been on the festival path, which finally paid off by getting accepted to KIFF, and CUFF (Chicago Underground Film Festival), and the Hot Springs Documentary Festival, coming up in Oct.
Hopefully, this will eventually lead to sales and its premiere on television, and more work from Jon.

Despite the early screening time (5:15pm... on a Monday), the turnout was pretty good and the audience had plenty of questions during the Q&A session afterwards. The only thing marring the experience was the sound problems during the screening... but then, what's a festival screening without some sort of technical problem?

Monday, September 05, 2005

Kansas City Konfidential


One good thing about having this blog is that some things finally get to see the light of day. I wrote the following article for the magazine Cashiers DuCinemart for their 10th anniversary issue, which was about Midnight Movies in the 90's - it didn't end up in the issue, and it hasn't seemed right for anything else film related that I read on a regular basis, so here it is...

Kansas City Konfidential:
The Midnight Underground with
Gary Huggins & the Chucky Lou A/V Club


In the glare of daytime, there is no indication of Kansas City as a mainstay of film culture; while the city can certainly boast about being the starting place for some notable names (try Walt Disney, Carl Stalling, and Robert Altman for a start), things have been a tad slow in recent years. While KC does host several film festivals throughout the year (the Filmmakers Jubilee, KC FilmFest and Halfway to Hollywood Film Festival, now the Kansas International Film Festival) and has a couple theaters that handle ‘art films’, there is a dearth of revival/repertory theaters – save for the Englewood Theatre in nearby Independence, MO and even they have slightly altered their schedule to present recent release films. As for the midnight-movie… whereas the midnight screening was a regular staple of several area theaters during the 80’s, the practice has practically died out in the New Millennium.

“Practically dead”, in this case, does not mean ‘completely dead’. In the tradition of the time honored trope of the dead rising from the grave, there exists some signs of life of the midnight-movie phenomenon in the Kansas City area – specifically in Mission, KS the first Saturday night of the month. That's when the Chucky Lou A/V Club presents another slice of cinematic culture from the weird and obscure side of the tracks. Named for a cross-dressing groundhog (the subject of a very strange 16mm short), the A/V Club has been entertaining brave souls hungry for an altered movie experience for the last few years.

The figurehead for the Club is one Gary Huggins, a cultural Jack-of-All-Trades in the KC area - Huggins became a cult figure in the Kansas City music scene with Big Jeter, a hillbilly-cowpunk band/performance group with members with names such as 'Big Jeter' (Huggins) and 'Gladiola Ditchwater' (Rita Brinkerhoff, local artist and Huggins' partner in crime) that performed clever songs that danced on the fine line between parody and brilliance... it's not your everyday pop band that can do a decent version of "THE GREEN SLIME” Theme. Huggins is also a noted collector of films, which kicked off the idea of the A/V Club.

"Three or four years ago, I didn't have anything," says Huggins, "I was trying to get rid of everything I had and just keep the essentials... then one night, an ex-girlfriend calls and says, 'There's a dumpster full of film trailers that you should take a look at - it's not too far away from where you live.' I figured that she was talking about something that a theater had thrown away, like HAPPY GILMORE. She got one trailer, for DARBY O' GILL AND THE LITTLE PEOPLE - so I figured that was a good sign."

The building that was throwing out the trailers was the National Screen Service building - in the old days of drive-ins and independently run theaters, Kansas City was a distribution hub. Continues Huggins, "NSS had been sold and the company that bought the building made movie tie-ins, stuff like Harry Potter collectible cards. They needed room, so they threw out this completely priceless and rare film. They had a dumpster, 18 feet long and 6 feet high - they filled that up!"

"I went down there - it's totally dark and cold - and the first thing I found, sticking out - [the trailer for] THE TRIAL OF BILLY JACK," he gushes. "And then under that was NANAMI-INERNO OF FIRST LOVE... it's just amazing, one of the best trailers I've got - really incredible editing, much better than the actual film; split-screen, crazy imagery - all the berserk imagery of the film is crammed into this trailer."

“So I start digging – there were tons of blaxploitation and incredibly rare stuff like THE INCREDIBLE WORLD OF BATWOMAN and Roger Corman’s FANTASTIC FOUR… and this was just that one night.” Huggins immediately called up friends to help in the salvage operation. “You could only dig so far before the walls would collapse on you, so we were just skimming off of the top,” Huggins recalls. “For about a month, everyday in the morning, we’d go down and try to save what we could before we’d go into to work and it’d be a totally new load – they were filling it every day. It was so depressing, ‘cause we knew whatever we didn’t get out of that think was gonna be buried in the ground the next day – we got what we could. And then some prints started turning up and I ended up with those and it just sort of snowballed, so now there’s just way too much film in my house.”

Some of that film got incorporated into the Big Jeter stage shows. That might have been the extent of it, until opportunity presented itself. Huggins recalls, “We had a couple of friends who worked at the Fine Arts Theater [now the Dickinson Top Two] in Mission, KS. We had the place and the access, so one Sunday night after the last showing, we would just have screenings.” This early incarnation was called Film Fetish, showing such dubious classics as BULLETPROOF with Gary Busey and THE GLOVE with Rosey Grier and John Saxon, to genuinely psychotronic fare like POSSESSION and MIDNIGHT CALLER with Cameron Mitchell. Huggins states, “I would send out e-mails; it was pretty much by word-of-mouth, whoever wanted to come. Once we had about 150 people come to this one screening of a trailer show. It was a really great hijacking of the theater to show something other than Miramax films.”

Film Fetish ultimately died – “The people I was doing it with lost interest. It was one of those things that was fun for a month or two and I wanted to keep it going. When I started the band, I got the idea to do it for real and rent a place, advertise and make it an evening where we’d pick a film and then play a song inspired by the film, and have 16mm shorts in the lobby,” says Huggins. This incarnation was known as “Big Jeter A/V Club”, a ‘secret’ gathering where audience members took an oath not to reveal what they had seen. This version of the Club was the most elaborate, with musical numbers before the show and with such fare as SEX AND ZEN, NIGHT WARNING, BOSS NIGGER, DOLEMITE, SHOGUN ASSASSIN; theme compilation shows like BANNED TOONS, MONDO 16MM and MIDGETS ARE FUNNY, and the crown jewel in the A/V Club’s history, a screening of the infamous SINGAPORE SLING.

Eventually the band broke up and The Big Jeter A/V Club metamorphosed into the Chucky Lou A/V Club. “It’s kinda been reduced to just me and Rita doing the show, so it’s just not enough time and not enough people involved to make it more ambitious,” says Huggins. Although Chucky Lou isn’t quite as freeform as Big Jeter A/V Club, the programming is still top notch, with events such as the twice yearly SLEAZE UNDER THE STARS, where the A/V Club commences in a nearby drive-in; and the annual AntiChristmas Show, where gifts are given to patrons brave enough to witness fare such as INVASION OF THE BLOOD FARMERS or GOKE-BODY SNATCHER FROM HELL.

While the Club has not totally shied away from schlock like ATOR, there has been an effort to upgrade from ‘cheap’ films to serious fare – such as recent screenings of KISS ME DEADLY and BLUE VELVET as well as neglected gems like PRIME CUT. “That was always the plan,” says Huggins. “We were trying to build an audience and bring in some ‘good’ movies. Most of the ‘cheap’ movies are ones that are free – I own prints of them. We did an experiment where we showed THE LONG GOODBYE – nobody came. It seems like every time we show something that discourages people from shouting stuff at the screen, we lose money and nobody comes.”

“I wouldn’t mind discouraging that sort of thing all the time just because it’s mostly the people who aren’t that funny,” continues Huggins. “It’s so obvious and noisy and it really spoils the movie.” Huggins uses the example of the Club’s SINGAPORE SLING showing as an example. “Not to totally insult the audience, but most of the people who hit any show can’t tell the difference between good and bad [films], and so everyone’s coming expecting [the film] to be crappy; and when it’s something that turns out not to be, they don’t realize it. SINGAPORE SLING is its own critique; you can’t do anything but stare in open-mouthed… but people were trying to talk back – like the people in the audience were trying to tell the movie what the movie already well knew. It was really super-spoiling it, so after that, I was really hoping to discourage talk-backs.”

“I was hoping that we would build a really core audience that was big enough to keep it [Chucky Lou] going, and then every once in awhile show some sell-out moneymakers that would subsidize the smaller movies like KISS ME DEADLY that we couldn’t expect a big crowd. It’s kinda depressing, in a way, that the core audience has topped out at about 65 people – but reading about shows at other towns, that’s probably pretty good. I mean, even for cities like Seattle showing stuff like this; they’re happy when they get 30-40 people. So, really, it’s pretty good, but it’s just not enough when you show KISS ME DEADLY – it almost broke the A/V Club because of some complications with MGM and the shipping company… and then with BLUE VELVET (shown in Dec. ’03), nobody came! Nobody cares about David Lynch? That’s really strange…”
Huggins concedes that home video and the DVD consumer explosion might be a factor affecting attendance. “Having grown up before video, I’m still of the generation where I feel like you haven’t seen the movie until you’ve seen it in the theater, seen it really big. But I don’t think that’s the consensus anymore – that’s probably the most obvious explanation. That may be why we may be better off showing something like ATOR, which nobody could track down… or GOKE. It’s kinda sad that there’s not enough people in town who want to go to a movie – well, there are if you show EVIL DEAD, or something that people have seen before.”

“I should be grateful for enough people to come, and also grateful for the fact that I have enough prints and know enough people with prints of movies that you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg to get. Otherwise, I don’t see how you could do it; you’re not even gonna break even if you show anything good… and the response of people who started doing this with me has been to slowly back away into the shadows… it’s just become me and Rita doing this,” says Huggins, frustration in his tone. “The last few shows were just nightmares; the projectionist just stopped showing up – film breaking, long delays – and then people just don’t want to come anymore. The post-show response for the last few shows has been, “I am never doing this again. This is a total fucking waste of my time.” But, fortunately, something like GOKE – BODY SNATCHER FROM HELL comes along – so that gives me a reason to do it one more month.”


In addition to the A/V Club, Huggins also programs films at the Kansas City Kansas Public Library – a slightly more mainstream selection than what is normally seen at Chucky Lou shows. And the A/V Club has inspired others to initiate their own programs – only with a poorer selection of films. Despite the imitators, Chucky Lou is still going strong – Huggins took the A/V Club on the road to Austin, TX in 2003 for a screening of the BANNED TOONS show, and 2004 kicked off with BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS and an early ‘SLEAZE UNDER THE STARS’ event in March. But even Huggins admits that things may change soon. “There’s a screening room that someone is building in Kansas City that supposedly we’ll be moving to whenever they finish it – they’ve been working on it for about a year now. Maybe things will improve there, since it’ll be in a hipper location and we can do earlier shows – they won’t be at midnight anymore… I guess it’ll be the end of the midnight movie concept – it’s a nice idea, but sleep is important too.”

In July 2004, the A/V club did make the move to that location - the venue is called Screenland, now near the Crossroads Art District in Kansas City, MO. Designed as an alternative screening and event venue, it is more than accommodating to the film fanatic. The A/V Club kicked off its debut in the location with a screening of the popular EVIL DEAD 2 and followed up in August with the jaw-dropping THE CANDY SNATCHERS.

The A/V Club also released their first DVD - TRAILER TRASH, a dvd compilation of one of their most popular programs, a mind-blowing collection of trailers from well known films (ZABRASKIE POINT, EXORCIST II, BLACULA, DOLEMITE) to the obscure (THE TOUCHABLES, THE SADIST, TEENAGE GANG DEBS) including everyone from Sonny Chiba to Dom DeLuise.


For more information about the CHUCKY LOU A/V CLUB, join the Yahoo Group.


For info on TRAILER TRASH, check out reviews at DVD Drive-In ; Mondo Digital and DVD Talk . The DVD Drive-In review also has ordering information.

Sadly, the end of 2006, saw the end of Chucky Lou, as Huggins moved on from screening films to making them. His short, FIRST DATE, got accepted to Sundance, and he has done another short, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GRANDPA.
Labor Day

So much for attempting to do that weekly posting thing...

It's been a busy month, with lots of personal distractions and news events, as I'm certain everyone who reads this is aware of. There's nothing to add to the horror of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, except that events sickenly confirm whatever suspicions one may have had about how well disaster is confronted by the government.
Suddenly, the Mad Max films and WATERWORLD take on a whole new sheen.

After going through the latest Harry Potter installment in a day, I took a look at another well regarded 'YA' series, the HIS DARK MATERIALS trilogy by Phillip Pullman, comprised of the books THE GOLDEN COMPASS, THE SUBTLE KNIFE and THE AMBER SPYGLASS. Pullman is a better writer than Rowling (not disparging her efforts; Pullman has been at it longer, and the trilogy is more 'literary' than the Potter books; which merely means you may have to refer to a dictionary every now and then to look up meanings of words); and is a lot more comfortable with handling scope.
The trilogy takes place in alternate worlds, and starts off in a world where The Church has become the dominant presence in all aspects of life.

If you've got kids or neices/nephews who are nuts about Potter and fantasy, it's a good series to give to them - but for the older bunch, say 12 and up who are probably more ready to grasp the moral questions that the author poses, and who can handle the grimmer parts of the series... this definitely ain't Potter-esque.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Changes

As you can see, I've made some upgrades to the look - decided that there had to be better looking templates than what I was using... sure enough. Plus, I can put links to the side, although I lose the direct e-mail link. Oh well. If you're interested, you'll get in touch.

This was prompted by EBeth's comments (Hi there!) and anyone else that might end up here. I'm more than motivated to do something with this blog, but as to what that may exactly be - well, there's the rub, isn't it?

When I was putting out the paper namesake of this blog, there were lots of things said about 'the zine revolution' about the sense of community it fostered... Granted, I've been lucky to have met lots of interesting people (some of whom I still keep in touch with), the one drawback being that we all tend to exhibit the same traits - a marked lack of wacky adventures of those of our ilk, and a tendency towards isolation.

Not that there's anything wrong with that - if we seem to be a surly bunch to the majority of the world, it merely means that we've learned to keep our mouths shut about the really good stuff. If you're lucky enough to be having threesomes with disease free, athletic and relatively mentally stable people, you don't want to trumpet it out to the world, which will come down with the Hammer and have you as fodder for Dr. Phil, Oprah and Maury - keep your mouth shut and enjoy yourself... or selves.

In other words, don't expect anything too juicy here yet.

But I'll try to make this work to at least my satisfaction - hopefully others out there will like some of it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Silent Speed Film Festival

For those of you in Seattle, or if you have film-loving friends/relatives in Seattle - the Silent Speed Film Festival is a venue for Super-8 films and one of my Super-8 shorts, TWIN PEEKS AT LAURA (the title is a pun) will screen this Friday, 7/29 just after 7:20pm, or so it says on the schedule.

It's a 5 1/2 minute "visit with a close friend in Seattle in the early 90's and the cultural touchstones of the time." all to the music of The Pixies and Angelo Badalamenti.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Summertime, but the livin' ain't easy


In the midst of summer here in the heartland... if there's anyone who's periodically checking for new posts (and who's to say there's not), I should stop disappointing him or her (them, maybe?), and get back on track.
So from time to time, I will make an effort to start posting more.

A good portion of time since the last posting was spent in search of transportation. Another auto accident in April killed the Cutlass, which didn't last a year in my hands, thanks to a truck who merged into the lane I was in and didn't notice me there.

Luckily, I wasn't seriously injured...








I continue to submit LENEXA to festivals, with no success as of yet - which is frustrating, but understandable due to several artistic choices I made. But then, getting anything shown is hard... my friend Jon's documentary, LATE BREAKING NEWS is finally getting some play at the Chicago Underground Film Festival, then he'll be in the KC area for its screening at the Kansas International Film Fest in September, but this has been after a year or so of submissions and rejections. I don't have thousands of dollars riding on LENEXA's discovery by a waiting public hungry for parody/satires (thankfully), so I shouldn't complain too much.

Have recently read JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL, and ended up liking it, although it took getting through the first 200 pages and seriously considering putting the book aside to get to that point. Some of the writing is a bit too precious, although it does convey the mood the author, one Susanna Clark, is setting. I will admit that the payoff made up for the set-up.

Burned through Andrew Vachss new novel, TWO TRAINS RUNNING, which I enjoyed immensely - a departure from his "Burke" stories, he goes into Ellroy-type myth busting with this Postwar noir parable, with a tip of the gat to Mr. Hammett. I'm sure that those who'll have some major criticisms are the type of folks who don't like A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS either. Or YOJIMBO. Or LAST MAN STANDING... well, nobody liked that, come to think of it...

Thursday, March 31, 2005

SONG OF THE DEAD in Kansas City 3/31/05

The zombie musical comedy screens as part of the Comedy Arts Festival in KC, currently going on. I'm doing the pre-talk with filmmakers Chip Gubera, James Robert Swope and Gene Ertel at 6:15pm tonight at the Westport Coffee House in KC.

Their production company, ShowMe Pictures, has updated their site with nifty pix, and new stuff, like the trailer for SOTD. Keep your eyes open for it to screen near your town sometime soon.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

You're going to Hell if you laugh...

...but it's hard not to. Fucking Brilliant, whoever created it.

Terri Schivo's Blog

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

"Topeka, KS - We Hate Everybody, Not Just Fags"


The above was my proposal for a new city slogan, but I didn't make first cut, apparently.

The Time Magazine piece is fairly brutal, but pretty truthful. Take some time to read the printed version; the online version is abridged.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Exciting stuff...

Had the first public screening of LENEXA in KC last night, at the Independent Filmmakers Coalition meeting. Went very well... everyone laughed in the right places and seemed to get the film. I'm very happy - the next hurdle will be in getting it seen, which will be a problem in its current version, since there's unlicensed music involved.

Right now, I just want to get the film out there, and for people to see it, which means going for small festivals and microcinemas, where they're not that concerned about lawyers swooping down to sue everyone in sight. Currently looking around for someone to do an original score for the film, which could be in place by the fall.

Have been thinking about putting together a new issue of MIMEZINE out this summer... it may be a good idea, taking into account an e-mail I just got from someone in Japan. I did an interview with the group Ed's Redeeming Qualities in my first issue (over 10 years ago... Damn!), and the other day, I get mail from an ERQ fan in Japan, requesting issues featuring them!

Things like this really make it all worth it - for me, at least.

(That interview is online - sending him the 'current' issue, which has more ERQ info, as well as stuff on other San Francisco bands of the early to mid- 90's.)

Thursday, February 03, 2005

LENEXA - A JOURNEY TO THE HEART OF DARKNESS

Well, the news is out - I officially put up the page for Cheap Bastard Filmworks over a week or so ago, and have started burning discs of my short... I've hit the message boards for info on festivals and am currently waiting to see if I've been accepted to two fests. I screen it for the film group I belong to next week.

This has been the big project which has taken most of my time over the last few months... now it's time to let it go out in public, warts and all.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy New Year!

2005 has officially begun, and none too soon...

Most of my time in the past couple of months has been spent on producing a short film, LENEXA - after all the hustling to get on other people's projects, it was time to start doing some work of my own. Thanks to new technology, (and a big thank you to a friend of mine for helping to put it in my greasy hands), I can finally start working with all of this raw material I've been saving - I have tons of video footage that I've shot over the last decade.

More on LENEXA later in the month - I'm almost done with the cut... had to transfer the files to a computer with a lot more space than our computer had. Exporting the movie is a bigger pain in the ass than it was loading the program, it seems. I've had no qualms at all about the editing interface.

Have finished reading SHANTARAM over the Christmas holiday - it's a long book, but it's so involving, you won't notice the page count.

Also finished reading THIS IS BURNING MAN by Brian Doherty - very weird experience for me, since I had a peripheral involvement with the beginnings of Burning Man (I was present for the '91 burn) and knew many of the people involved. It was interesting getting another view of events that I was present at, and getting a glimpse at what else was going on. The book is a pretty accurate account of the early days (as far as my knowledge goes) and is very fair to everyone involved. Definitely an entertaining read for those interested in the evolution of cultural events and I say it's REQUIRED if you're considering ever going out to Black Rock.