Wednesday, March 28, 2018

You'll Escape in the Final Reel

This post first appeared in my e-newsletter I WAS BIGFOOT'S SHEMP, which you can subscribe to in the sidebar  of this blog.

On Palm Sunday we kept our family tradition and watched JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR. This is probably our most re-watched movie as a family, with WHEN HARRY MET SALLY as a couple, and THE WITCHES and WILLOW with the kids.  I love this one so much that at one point when directing THE GIRL IN THE CRAWLSPACE I told Tom Cherry, who plays Sheriff Woody, to "run like Carl Anderson does in Jesus Christ Superstar."  So if the movie turns out weird, it's because I gave actors directions like that.

The movie is easing into post.  A winter that won't quit has stalled a few pickup shots, then it is on to editing.  But we are all chatting and hoping to keep moving it along.

Beforehand some of the family sat around talking about our funerals, which I didn't participate in, because I am going to die first, and my urn will sit next to my wife's bedside table at the nunnery, where my dogs will also be sleeping.  My wife suggested she would donate my papers to my alma mater because of my modest success in b-movies, which was seriously very moving for me to hear, even as I pictured them being received, and then promptly dumped into a recycling bin to make room for the papers of Doug Jones, David Letterman, Jim Davis, Cynda Williams, and Joyce DeWitt.

But it reminded me of when I went to see Nicolas Winding Refn at the Indiana University Cinema, and instead of talking about himself he talked all about his preservation efforts for the work of Andy Milligan, who I had not heard of at that point.  I promptly went out and watched THE BODY BENEATH, and then a bunch of others, and really fell in love with his work, even as he has been decried up and down the internet and beyond.  He really was a threadbare auteur, trying to make something out of nothing, and that is something I really appreciate.

Phoef Sutton wrote a horror novel called THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL about a haunted grindhouse movie, a novel I liked, and he and talked quite a bit about Jean Rollin in it, so I watched REQUIEM FOR A VAMPIRE and THE SHIVER OF THE VAMPIRES and found another filmmaker I think was a no-budget genius who a lot of other people think was a hack.  His movies have an austere, dreamlike quality that is fascinating to me.

If I am honest, what inspired me the most to get started on THE GIRL IN THE CRAWLSPACE were the two movies by Frederick Friedel, AXE and KIDNAPPED COED, who made this double feature back to back in the 70s and crashed right out of the industry subsequently.  AXE is especially artistic, and COED is pretty cool, but pointing out that they were made on a shoestring doesn't account for the real price of shoestrings.

In the week between the two weekend shoots for CRAWLSPACE I watched a movie called THE HANG UP by John Hayes, and I thought it was fantastic, and suddenly I was introduced to another fascinating director with an offbeat filmography.

Thankfully there are companies like Vinegar Syndrome and Severin Films and Something Weird trying to preserve these films, and people like Refn and Sutton and my friend film reviewer Jason Coffman to talk about them in some other fashion than the braying ridicule they are sometimes treated to.

I think that's what I want more than anything, because I have come to learn from watching others that fame is a monkey's paw; that somebody find something I did in a dusty dollar bin somewhere, or in some other throwaway place, and watch it, and understand what I was trying to say, in the way I try to understand Milligan and Rollin and Friedel and Hayes.  It's a lot to ask, but as I am sitting at a little kneehole desk in a corner of a house with farm acreage spread out all around me, it's what I hope.

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