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A Movie Festivus for the Rest of Us

You know what the problem with the modern movie going experience is? It sucks. There's the teenage employees who don't care, spending $100 for a giant tub of industrially bland tasting popcorn, and the only drink size contains enough soda to drown a goat. Then you have to sit through what feels like an endless barrage of ads, and trailers, and reminders to buy more crappy food. The trailers are all for movies that are re-makes, or just whatever Michael Bay did on his Mac the other night. Nope, the googleplex sucks.

Even when you go to a special screening, as I did recently to see TCM's presentation of Alfred Hitchcock's “The Birds”, it still lacks a little something. This is not the case when you go to the independent/repertory theater. Those places are awesome. Darling jewels of community love, ran by people who live for movies. The Belcourt in Nashville is a shinning example, and my favorite theater on the planet. As much growth that is taking place in our area, I hope it's just a matter of time till we can get one here—I think we're ready to support it. Till that time comes, the modern flat screen has made movie watching at home a very nice experience. I have a little screening room myself, nothing fancy, but you do get a better sense of size when a nice CinemaScope film is running.

I have several reputations: Bon Vivant, Playboy, Stock Car Race Driver, Pheasant Plucker. Yet I am also known as something a connoisseur for a particular type of weird, strange, low-budget movie. “Drive in movies” would be the catch all term for these, but its really just a kind of movie with a really unique vibe, made mainly during the 1950s and 1960s, not all drive in fare. You know the names of some of these movies. Attack of the 50 Foot Woman springs to mind, as does any number films made by those kings of the genre, American International Pictures. AIP, as it's known for short, might be best remembered for the Beach Party movies of the '60s, and some stellar '70s Blacksplotation films such as Blacula.

A common thread these films have, and one that lacks from most modern films is that they are all fun, and rarely take themselves too seriously. I defy you to watch William Castle's masterpiece The Tingler, and tell me you didn't have a good time watching it. I love these movies, they have a weird charm that today's films lack—most them too concern with coating everything in Red Kayro Syrup. I was talking about one of these films with a friend lately, one I just had the pleasure of seeing for the first time, the amazingly out there 1960 opus The Hypnotic Eye. Yes, The Hypnotic Eye, the movie that stops right before the end and tires to hypnotize the audience watching the movie—I'm not joking. The poster for the film gladly proclaiming it as the first movie in that new modern day miracle “Hypno-Magic!!”

It's a textbook example for what I'm talking about, and what has been spawned due to a discussion of it with a friend—touching back to the moving going alternative. The film's plot is the great mystery as to why a number of beautiful women have been mutilating themselves (Ahoy, misogyny!), which becomes clearer when the police, who have an acting level on par with an episode of Dragnet, discover that each of the victims had seen the famed hypnotist Desmond preform. Desmond, is played by French actor, and one time Mr. Ginger Rogers, Jacques Bergerac. Yes, the menacing Desmond, whose French accent is so overwhelming the word “hands” sounds like “hans.” It's true bone shaking terror.

As I began to describe this movie to a friend, and some of the other titles in my collection, the idea was born for a monthly gathering for “weird old movie night”. This was something that I could support fully, as most of the time I try to show these movies to people, they do their best to escape my clutches. However gathering together a group of willing subjects who all know what they're going into—that's just gonna be fun. The first gathering will be at the end of this month, and we will be watching The Hypnotic Eye partnered with Larry Blamire's modern spoof/homage to B movies: The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra. It should be a fun time for all, and I might even write up a report of how the first night goes. Stay tuned to these pages, cats. See you next week. Follow me on Twitter @ThatAndyRoss

Copyright 2012 Andy Ross


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