Every so often I like to stretch out a bit and go beyond the conventionally defined boundaries of the horror genre. And so I ended up at the Portage (where else?) on Saturday, March 9, for the seventh Sci-Fi Spectacular. (Anyway, it’s not as if Movieside rigidly defines genre boundaries either: the last Spectacular featured The Theatre Bizarre, while a recent Terror In The Aisles featured Iron Sky.)

For this Spectacular, Movieside adopted the 24-hour marathon format of their flagship event, the Massacre. I was not going to be able to stay for the whole thing (unfortunately, Dark City and Silent Running, which I’d particularly been looking forward to, ran overnight), but I did stay for just under half, got to see some great stuff and had a lot of fun.

* * *

Short film: Disney’s Haunted Halloween (1983)

Goofy wonders what the future will bring

* * *

A scene from ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES.

Attack of the Giant Leeches (Bernard L. Kowalski, 1959)

I’ve come out in defense of Roger Corman (who’s the figure mainly associated with the film, even though he didn’t direct it, he only produced) before: not everything he put his name on was irredeemable garbage. Some of it was highly entertaining garbage. Sadly, Giant Leeches is the former. Aside from the bad effects (actually, I did think the sucker wounds were quite effective), bad acting and bad direction, the cardinal sin it commits is that it’s just plain dull. And if there’s one thing a movie in which stuntmen wear Hefty garbage bags with suckers glued to them and attempt to pass themselves off as leeches should never be, it’s dull.

My rating: Con.

* * *

A scene from MATINEE.

Matinee (Joe Dante, 1993)

Apparently this one’s a bit overlooked. I’m not sure why, but I had to hazard a guess, I’d say that maybe Boomer nostalgia was a bit passé by 1993. But I still love this movie, a hilarious and touching coming-of-age story set under the twin threats of the Cold War and American-International monster movies. John Goodman has probably put in better performances than this one, but it’s still my favorite. And, best of all (at least to me), it does a great job of portraying exactly why so many people had so much genuine affection towards those cheap schlockfests.

Also, it is not a just world in which Mant and Galligator are not real movies.

My rating: Pro.

* * *

A scene from THE HEART OF THE WORLD.

Short film: The Heart of the World (Guy Maddin, 2000)

Structuralist design! Steampunk machinery! An epic love story to span the ages, or at least six minutes! Names right out of Chekhov, or Dostoyevsky or whoever! But…what actually happens in The Heart Of The World? I’m not quite certain! I’ve embedded it below, so maybe you can watch it and tell me! One thing’s for certain, though: I liked it!

My rating: Pro.

* * *

A scene from THE DARK CRYSTAL.

The Dark Crystal (Jim Henson & Frank Oz, 1982)

I’m probably going to get lynched for this, but…

It’s possible that I just wasn’t feeling it on Saturday. Or maybe I’ve developed a certain amount of antipathy towards heroic high fantasy since the first time I saw this film, which would have been the summer of 2002–and I liked it well enough then. But this time around it just left me flat. I understand it’s meant to be a childrens’ movie, but the weird dialogue and overly eccentric voice acting (I literally had to leave the theater for about five minutes because I got sick of the Chamberlain’s constant “MmmMMMMMMMmmm”-ing) started to get to me after a while.

In defense of the film, it still looks beautiful (although a bit dated), it’s a technical landmark and the world-building is top-notch. And it’s refreshing to see an early ’80s film about a heroic journey that didn’t crib everything from Campbell.

Once again, I think I would have liked this a lot better if I’d seen it when I was a kid, during its theatrical run, instead of when I was in my early 20s, but that’s just how life works. It’s probably as awesome as it was when you first saw it, so don’t mind crotchety old me over here.

My rating: Mixed.

* * *

A scene from SOYLENT GREEN.

Soylent Green (Richard Fleischer, 1972)

Yes, it’s very dated (check out Charlie’s uniform), but I still have a lot of affection for it. It’s got some strong social commentary (that has, in a prime case of nothing new under the sun, come ’round again to relevance again), great characterization and plot, a fantastic lead performance from Charlton Heston. And it’s actually got some solid ideas, well thought-through, at its core. As someone who misses the days when “science fiction” didn’t automatically mean CGI, explosions and lens flares (nothing against J.J. Abrams, who managed to make a Star Trek movie I actually liked), this means a lot to me.

My rating: Pro.

* * *

Roger Corman ’50s Trailer Competition

And back to the schlock (a term I use with the utmost respect). Movieside organized a contest in which filmmakers could submit minute-long “fake trailers” for kitschy ’50s-style B-movies; they’d then be screened at the Spectacular and the audience would choose a winner. A lot of familiar names submitted films: Jason Coffman (Tape), Zoran Gvojic (the Low Carb Comedy videos), Matt Storc (Phobia 2) and Ryan Oliver (Air Conditions).

There were 20 or so submissions, so I’m not really going to go into them all. My favorites were Attack Of The Cosmic Frank-Einstein From Haunted Space And The Moon (Zoran Gvojic), The Day The Earth Spun (Ryan Oliver), Toss Of The Dice (Daryl Shaw) and Teenage Gargoyle From Alaska (Frank Berman).

Apparently the audience and I were of the same mind, because Frank-Einstein and …The Earth Spun were declared co-winners with Screams On Planet Zero (David Schmidt) in a three-way tie. But it was a strong field–not a dud amongst the bunch.

As for Jason Coffman’s entry, The Gamma-Ray Man…the trailer wasn’t a fake trailer after all, but cut from a 16-minute-long short that Coffman’s since posted to Vimeo. It’s fantastic (and works better than the trailer) and we’ll be featuring it in a couple days on Blood On The Net.

* * *

Actual Trailers

For the movies Cheerypoint, Platoon Of Power Squadron, and Godzilla: Battle Royale.

Cheerypoint is the only one that grabbed me, and the filmmakers have released a lot of videos regarding the production on YouTube. Imma keep an eye out on this one.

* * *

A scene froM BRAIN DAMAGE.

Brain Damage (Frank Hennenlotter, 1988)

Introduction by writer/director Frank Hennenlotter

Hennenlotter brought in someone to do a blockhead act on the grounds that it was the only appropriate way to introduce Brain Damage. I disagree; I can’t think of anything that would serve as an appropriate introduction to Brain Damage.

The movie itself

Brain Damage is disgusting, profane, hilarious and absolutely brilliant. Great story, great acting, great cinematography (Hennenlotter definitely has an affinity for Scummy New York)…fuck, the effects were almost passable this time around. The Aylmer is one of the greatest movie monsters of all time. I mean, who else other than Frank Hennenlotter would make a movie in which someone’s heroin addiction talked to them?

There are simply not enough good things I can say about Brain Damage, so I’ll just stop here.

My rating: Pro.

Also, I was shocked to find out “Elmer’s Tune” is actually a real song:

* * *

I skipped right before Hennenlotter’s Q&A started. That was probably at quarter to ten, so…almost 10 hours of science fiction goodness. Not a bad way to spend an evening. Thanks to Rusty for putting these on, thanks to Meg for joining me for a few hours despite being obviously sick as a dog (get better soon!). Don’t know when the next Movieside event is, but I’ll probably be there. Seeya later!

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