From the hyperdrive mind of one of Europe’s most ruthless cinematic satirists comes The Last Circus: a wicked tragicomic deconstruction of the terribly bloody Spanish Civil War as seen through the eyes of a benevolent-turned-psychotic Sad Clown vs. an evil alcoholic wifebeating Happy Clown! Alex de la Iglesia uses his nation’s greatest historical horror as the backdrop for an uncompromising tale of two equally damaged circus performers manically vying for the heart and soul of their joint obsession: their circus’s alluring female acrobat. Hysterically funny without watering down even a fraction of its harrowing message, the film matches its operatic, wildly unpredictable twists with the equally chaotic reality of life under Franco’s dictatorial rule of Spain in the 1970s. Equal parts Saving Private Ryan and Santa Sangre, The Last Circus is one helluva unique and thrilling time. 35mm, 107 min.
Register for the free Cinefamily screening of The Last Circushere. And make sure you get there on time. Seriously.
Three reels of Alfred Hitchcock’s earliest surviving feature film, 1924’s The White Shadow have been found by archivists working in New Zealand. Hitchcock, then just 24-years-old was the assistant director, art director, editor, and wrote the film, which which starred actress Betty Compton as twins, one good and, you guessed it, one who is evil. Although incomplete, the film offers a glimpse at the great director’s budding vision.
For The White Shadow, an atmospheric British melodrama picked up for international distribution by Hollywood’s Lewis J. Selznick Enterprises, Hitchcock is credited as assistant director, art director, editor and writer. He was 24 when he worked on the film; his feature directorial debut would come soon afterward on The Pleasure Garden (1925).
The film, which stars Betty Compson in a dual role as twin sisters — one angelic and the other “without a soul” — turned up among the cache of unidentified American nitrate prints safeguarded at the New Zealand Film Archive in Wellington. The first three reels of the six-reel feature were found; no other copy is known to exist.
“These first three reels of The White Shadow — more than half the film — offer a priceless opportunity to study [Hitchcock’s] visual and narrative ideas when they were first taking shape,” said David Sterritt, chairman of the National Society of Film Critics and author of The Films of Alfred Hitchcock.
The White Shadow was one of several silent films saved by New Zealand film collector Jack Murtagh, who died in 1989. There will be an announcement this week about a U.S. screening. Some of Hitchock’s silent films (The Lodger, The Ring, Blackmail and The Pleasure Garden) are getting new scores in preparation for a BFI retrospective in London that will a part of the Cultural Olympiad festival next summer.
The Queen is a fascinating document of a drag beauty contest held in 1967, the lead-up to the pageant and the backstage goings on. It’s a little-known film that is still hard to find on torrent trackers and has been out of print for many years.
The “Miss All-American Camp Beauty Pageant” was shot with hand-held cameras by director Frank Simon (who later produced the Marc Bolan concert film Born to Boogie). The year was 1967. Before the Stonewall riots. A time when cross-dressing could have gotten you arrested for vice, even in New York City. The film provides an interesting look at an event which was simultaneously rather risqué and underground, and at the same time served as a fundraiser for Muscular Dystrophy, co-chaired by Jerry Lewis and Lady Bird Johnson!
Artists Jim Dine and Larry Rivers, writers Bruce Jay Friedman, Terry Southern and George Plimpton, photographer Mary Ellen Mark, Warhol superstars Mario Montez and Edie Sedgwick, and Andy Warhol himself were among the judges of the event, although they are glimpsed very fleetingly in the film (Bobby Kennedy dropped out when he realized what he’d been signed up for).
But these luminaries of that era aren’t the main attraction here, that distinction would go to the hostess, “Flawless Sabrina” (Jack Doroshaw), contestant “Rachel Harlow” (aka Richard Finnochio, who Larry Rivers and allegedly also Warren Beatty hit on) and the film’s equivalent to Snookie, snarling, pissed-off Crystal LaBeija who reads everyone within earshot to filth when she suspects the contest has been fixed in favor of the Caucasian Harlow. As LaBeija went on to be the first “house mother” of the voguing clan House of LaBeija, this scene might well have captured a pivotal moment that led—not indirectly, either—to the Harlem voguing balls celebrated in Paris is Burning a few years later (In other words, the Harlem balls were a reaction to the perceived white-bias of the 1967 contest).
For those of our readers lucky enough to live here in Los Angles (try to get that earlier post out of your mind, if possible) tonight at the Hammer Museum as part of their Flux series, Dangeorus Minds pal Syd Garon will debut his new film, co-directed with Sam Spiegal: N.A.S.A. The Spirit of Apollo..
I’ve been working on a documentary about the band N.A.S.A. and the making of their first record for a few years now. We took behind the scenes footage from recording sessions and mixed it in with animation on top of the picture as well as excerpts from the animated music videos. The animation was a collaboration between fine artists like Marcel Dzama, The Date Farmers, Sage Vaughn, Shepard Fairy and director/animators such as Logan, 3 Legged Leg, Florescent Hill as well as myself. The music is based around unusual collaborations, David Byrne and Chuck D., Tom Waits and Kool Keith, Method Man and E-40, Old Dirty Bastard and Karen O.
The show starts Tuesday Aug 2nd, 8 pm sharp at The Hammer Museum in L.A. The will be live custom screen printed t-shirts, food, drinks, N.A.S.A. will play a DJ set after the show, and a bunch of other stuff. The screening is free, open to the public and there is plenty of cheap parking. RSVP suggested.
An exclusive excerpt from the upcoming film N.A.S.A. The Spirit of Apollo. Sam records Kool Keith in his studio while Tom Waits literally phones it in. The animation here is incredible.
Below, N.A.S.A. “Money” (feat. David Byrne, Chuck D, Ras Congo, Seu Jorge, & Z-Trip). Art by Shepard Fairey. Directors: Syd Garon & Paul Griswold
This year marks the bi-centenary of Franz Liszt‘s birth - that legendary composer, pianist and mad shagger.
It was Ken Russell who first saw the similarities between Liszt and the excesses of modern day rock stars. Liszt’s concerts were attended by hundreds of young women, who screamed their hearts out at the composer’s flowing locks, long, dextrous fingers and incredible virtuosity at the piano. He was mobbed by these fans, who tore at his clothes, and ripped souvenir handkerchiefs that had been cast into the crowd (just like Elvis would do over a century later) to shreds. Liszt’s concerts were said to raise the mood of an audience to “mystical ecstasy”, all of which led to the term “Lisztomania” to describe the public’s excessive adoration of the randy composer.
Lisztomania became the title of Russell’s “scandalous” and “outrageous” 1975 cartoon bio-pic, starring Roger Daltrey as Liszt, with Paul Nicholas as Wagner, Ringo Starr as the Pope, Fiona Lewis as Marie d’Agoult and Sarah Kestelman as Princess Carolyn. As Films and Filming noted in this pictorial preview it was to be Russell’s “most spectacular and controversial” film, and while it turned the critics off, it is a film that has grown in reputation and influence since its first release. While not Russell’s best work, it’s still sand-in-the-face to the majority of pap pumped out into today’s multiplexes.
Remember Paul Williams, the diminutive singer-songwriter (Carpenters, Three Dog Night) who would often appear on 70s talkshows, games shows, on The Love Boat, and in Smokey and the Bandit and The Muppet Show? (Not to mention his greatest role as “Swan” in Brian DePalma’s cult classic Phantom of the Paradise!)
Williams also played “Virgil” the smart orangutan in Battle for the Planet of the Apes. Williams wore his make-up for this memorable appearance promoting the film on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1973.
There’s no information on who this guy is or what the lyrics are. I tried like hell to figure it out with no luck. Someone in the YouTube comments translated a lyric with, “There out in the stars, in pale night,far from the sun…” I suggest just sitting back and letting his intergalactic groove overtake you.
Update: The man in question is René Joly and I found his version of the Star Wars theme for sale on eBay here. Knock yourself out!
Interesting article from The Guardian about “Scala Forever,” an ambitious 111-film tribute season to The Scala Cinema, London’s legendary, long-gone “grindhouse” movie theater. Twenty-six venues around the city will be participating in the seven-week festival.
Although the Scala was closed a long time ago and the building has been demolished, it stills hold fond memories for London film buffs of a certain age.
Like me. I remember it well and spent quite a few afternoons at the Scala Cinema, watching underground and foreign language films there when I was in my late teen years. I saw a split-screen projection of Andy Warhol’s Chelsea Girls. at the Scala. I saw Female Trouble for the first time there. Maîtresse with Gérard Depardieu. It’s also where I saw Curt McDowell’s then-notoriously difficult to see pan-sexual freak-out, Thundercrack.
I saw all kinds of great stuff there. To me, the Scala (and the old Brixton Ritzy) were like the greatest places I’d ever been to. In 1983-84, I positively gorged myself on all of these weird films I’d read about for years but had never had an opportunity to see. The thing is, reading this article, I have no memory of the Scala being a particularly sleazy place, just a well-run repertory cinema. I personally never saw any shenanigans there. Then again, I also can’t recall ever going there at night.
The Scala was founded by Stephen Woolley in 1979, originally at a venue on Tottenham Street in central London, and then two years later at its long-term home in King’s Cross. Woolley – who went on to found Palace Pictures and produce countless films – wanted to create a UK equivalent to the grindhouse venues of Los Angeles and San Francisco, with their eclectic, daily-changing menu of movies. The impressive building, which first opened in 1920, and its location in a neighbourhood then largely populated by prostitutes and drug addicts, added to the allure: the atmosphere was a world apart from that of the National Film Theatre.
“It was a thrilling experience,” says former programme manager Jane Giles, now head of film and video distribution at the British Film Institute. “Part of that thrill was that you walked out [of the station] into the badlands of King’s Cross. You then quite quickly found your way to this palatial building, like some sort of bonkers white castle that you see on the logo of Disney. Going up the marble staircase led you into this massive space. The rake was very steep, the seats bolt upright and I think you sat there for a moment with a sense of incredible anticipation. In addition, the auditorium was dark and, at times, illicit. There was a frisson. A lot of the films were quite explicit, so there was a sexuality about the place that was unusual in cinemas. It all added up to an incredibly potent combination.”
Stories surrounding those nights are legion: the dope-fiend projectionist who scratched a CND symbol into a Pearl & Dean army recruitment ad and got the reels in the wrong order at a horror festival; the antics at the gay-themed all-nighters. “We had to try to explain to Serena the cleaner why there were so many used latex gloves on the floor after a lesbian all-nighter,” says Giles. “I told her it was a fashion statement.”
The cinema’s biggest hits were underground classics such as Thundercrack and Cafe Flesh; John Waters’s 70s trash trilogy Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble and Desperate Living; and the work of sexploitation king Russ Meyer. These were films other venues simply would not screen; many of them will feature in the upcoming season.
Read more: Cinema of sin: London’s old Scala picturehouse (The Guardian)
Below, a scene from Curt McDowell’s Thundercrack, which is screening at the Horse Hospital as part of the Scala Forever festival on September 20. Once nearly impossible to see, now on YouTube!
This rocks on so many levels I can’t even begin to list them all. So, let’s forget about the multiple dimensions of pop culture bliss unfolding before our eyes and ears and just bask in the glow of Neil Sedaka doing a ska tune while bikini clad girls go-go to the latest dance craze, The Jellyfish (no vertebrae required), in the viciously seductive Sting Of Death from 1966.