Sunday, October 24, 2010

Shock Around the Clock

Today, I completed my very first movie marathon. It's amazing to consider this was my first time. I'm such a movie buff, some people probably assume I attend festivals and marathons all the time, but I'm the cheapskate antisocial type, so I don't go out as much as recommended.

The second annual Shock Around the Clock Festival at the Grandview Theatre was a good initial attempt. For 24 hours, the theater showed a variety of horror films. Some I had never seen before but wanted to, and others I had seen but figured seeing them on the big screen would enhance the experience. Over all, it was fun.

The festival opened with two versions of Frankenstein: the classic James Whale version with Boris Karloff and the 1910 short made by Thomas Edison. From a historical standpoint, the Edison was interesting, but he essentially combined the entire story into twelve minutes and features the lamest method I've ever seen defeat the monster. It sees itself in a mirror and disappears, followed by his reflection. The Whale version was great to see. I'm amazed how well Karloff's iconic performance holds up. The problem was the theater was having reel problems, so there were passages of blank screen.

The next movie was 13 Ghosts, the original by William Castle. Not a classic by any means, two things kept people amused: the Illusion-O Ghost Viewer and their collectively dirty mind. The ghost viewer enables you to see the ghosts when you look through the red viewer when prompted. Kind of neat but ultimately a gimmick. Then, there's the dealings between the little boy and the lawyer. Everything the lawyer said to the boy could be interpreted as deviant, and everything he did made him look like a child molester: having him keep a secret, taking him away alone, and carrying him out of bed. The fifties were a more innocent time. The audience erupted in laughter at every innuendo members found.

Next, Psycho. You know a movie's great when the crowd of hardened horror buffs refrains from their usual catcalls and sarcastic commentary to pay attention. Incidentally, Alfred Hitchcock was voted into the marathon's hall of fame that night by the audience.

Then, there was a short film series: Night of the Living Bread, Loaf, and Sandwich, a trio of spoofs by Kevin S. O'Brien who did Q-and-A with some cast members. You can guess the joke from those titles. I'll admit, they were funnier than I thought they would be, and O'Brien, who flew in from Australia for the festival, had a good talk session.

There was also a costume contest before the next movie. Entries included Elvira, Dorian Gray, Jack and Wendy Torrance, a bread victim, Princess Popcorn, and several zombies. Winners were determined by applause while losers were booed off. The grand prize was won by someone who dressed as one of the marathon's organizer's, Joe Neff. Everyone got some good prizes: DVDs, model kits, posters, and more. Grand prize also got $100.

Dressed to Kill was up next. By the time this started, the festival was about an hour behind schedule, and we were seven hours in. Seven hours in, and this is the first film to have graphic bloodletting and nudity. You'd have expected those to be a constant. The opening shower scene drew cheers from the largely male audience, and when the reel faltered again, there were boos. This was a movie I had wanted to see for some time, and it didn't disappoint. Michael Caine was warped but very good as a psychiatrist, and director Brian De Palma really played with audience expectations of a Psycho knockoff.

Then it was the first adaptation of The Island of Dr. Moreau, re-titled The Island of Lost Souls. Charles Laughton was good as the mad doctor, and he definitely looked imposing standing on a ledge cracking a whip, but the beast men looked like cheap Morlocks, and the filmmakers included some lame melodrama.

At this point, I was dozing off and decided to call it a night. I've never pulled an all-nighter, and I don't drink coffee. I missed Martyrs, House, They Came from Within, and Robogeisha. When I got back at 8:30 a.m., I waited for the current film, Robogeisha, to finish. Every time someone walked out, I could hear the mellow sounds of bloodshed and violence.

Back inside, I was amazed so many people were left. They were bundled up in blankets and pillows, and here I was all refreshed and alert. It was fitting the music playing before the next show was the Dawn of the Dead muzak. Everyone there was a zombie by this point. I felt awkward. You know all those movies from the seventies where the guy joins a Devil cult, runs away, and incurs their wrath when they find him? That's kind of how I felt. I felt disappointed I had cut out, as if I had let my fellow fans down. Thankful, no one seemed to notice or care. I got to talking with some people, including Joe Neff, in the lobby about the state of horror movies today, and we lamented the proliferation of remakes and the waste of talented directors .

I resumed my participation with Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, and it was elevated a bit by seeing it with an audience. I realized I'd probably like it more if twenty minutes were shaved off to make it tighter and snappier. Some parts just drag on and on. And I love Bill Moseley, but a little less Chop Top would have made him more effective.

The festival concluded with John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness. Throughout the show, various actors and filmmakers were cheered when their names appeared on screen. This movie got four such cheers: Carpenter, Donald Pleasance, Victor Wong, and Alice Cooper (Chainsaw 2 got two cheers: Dennis Hopper and Tom Savini). The organizers said this was a new print of the film, and it looked beautiful.

So overall, the marathon was fun. I wish there had been less time between movies, and the technical glitches were annoying, but when the movies were rolling, it was fun. They just seemed to fly by. Hopefully, this won't be my last festival, and hopefullym I make it through all of next time.

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