Saturday, July 13, 2013

Weekly Mondo Round-Up: The Double Bill Edition

The art of the double bill is a fine one. It's the cinematic equivalent to creating the perfect mix-tape. (Sorry, even in the digital age, they will always be mix-tapes to me.) I love picking out two seemingly divergent movies and bringing them together, forming one most interesting evening. Granted, my personal taste has never been for everyone, so your mileage may vary. I was once banned from picking out movies for some friends of mine one night after crafting the double bill of “Meet the Feebles” and “Desperate Living.” Hey, it maybe a heady mix for the uninitiated but I still stand by that one. Puppets singing “Sodomy” and Edie Massey yelling out “!!!” is sheer perfection, people. 

       Image from

So earlier this week, we had the diverse yet kind of harmonious double bill of the 1970 classic documentary, “Gimme Shelter” and the equally classic 1979 horror film, “Phantasm.” This was my first time seeing the former, unbelievably, and after reading about it for years, it did not disappoint. One of the fascinating things about the Rolling Stones is that within a time span of 10 years, there was not one but three documentaries made about them. The first being Godard's “Sympathy for the Devil” aka “One Plus One” (1968), “Gimme Shelter” (1970) and the infamous and sorely needs-to-be-legitimately- released “Cocksucker Blues” (1972). One could do a whole book about their connection to cinema, starting off with these three films. 

Okay, this has nothing to do with the documentary, but mein gott, Merry Clayton SMOKES it. 

“Gimme Shelter,” made by The Mayles Brothers and Charlotte Zwerin, documents the band around the time period of “Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!”, complete with a brief shot of Charlie Watts being photographed for the cover, as well their 1969 concert at Madison Square Garden. The latter has some great footage, particularly of opening act Ike & Tina Turner doing a scorching version of “I've Been Loving You Too Long.” Seriously, the latter is total baby making music and undoubtedly made everyone in the audience that night about 200% more fertile. Mick's response to the footage? “It's nice to have a chick occasionally.” Mick? Shut up.

Of course, what “Gimme Shelter” is best known for is featuring the build-up, the firestorm and the aftermath of Altamont. What was supposed to be a sweet-cheeked follow up to Woodstock turned into a festival of bad vibes, abuse and one death, all thanks to some extremely poor organizing and the bright idea to hire the Hell's Angels as security. Because outlaw bikers being paid in beer are a great mix with pie-eyed and huge-pupiled flower children. The thing about “Gimme Shelter” is that even though I went into the film knowing the ride I was in for, I was still floored by the pall that blankets every frame of celluloid. Even the lighter footage, like the band recording “Brown Sugar” in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, has a somber undercurrent. It did make me happy to see that my favorite Stone, Charlie Watts, got a lot of camera time. (My other favorite Stone, Ron Wood, was not in the band at this point, though for what it's worth, more folks should give some love to Mick Taylor.) 

After that rock & roll deathshow, “Phantasm” was very much the spirit of the night that was needed. Re-watching it, something hit me that despite it being one of the biggies of horror from the past 30+ years, there is still really nothing quite like it. It is atmospheric, surrealistic, features some great colors and has Reggie Bannister....all wonderful things that should be in every horror film! I definitely wish more genre filmmakers would study a film like this, not to mention all of the Italian greats (Bava, Argento, Fulci) and honor the fact that there is a wide rainbow of gels in the world of lighting. Film is a visual medium, so embrace the colors. Some rich red lighting is way more striking and eerie than muted sepia. Muted sepia is fine for the old timey photo booth at Silver Dollar City, but not a horror film.

  Reggie, in one of the most iconic scenes in horror.

By the way, speaking of Mr. Bannister, he is such an impeccable character actor. The man is like an alchemist. In “Phantasm,” he plays an ice cream man/musician who sports a ponytail with a fading hairline. No one else in the world could make a role like that so indelibly badass, but in the hands of Bannister? Sheer awesomeness. Seriously, the man looks amazing in an ice cream suit and the scene where he joins Jody (Bill Thornbury), guitar in hand, for an impromptu jam on the porch? Awesome and even better, he not only bests Jody but then declares themselves “hot as love.” Holy hell. You can have your leathery, beef jerky skinned aging roid-heads in “The Expendables,” I'll take Reggie Bannister any day of the week.

Also in horror news, I saw the poster for the “re-imagining” of “Maniac,” with Elijah Wood. Now, I have no opinion on the film itself since I haven't seen it, but it did make me wish that more directors and producers would take more influence and less direct ideas from older films. There are good remakes, of course, some even great, but I feel like the past few years have sported a bulk-sized bonanza of them. There maybe few, if any, truly original ideas at this stage of the game, but individual approach, when honest and pure, is always original.

On the writing front, keep your eyes peeled for new material on Dangerous Minds, as well as upcoming contributions to both Rupert Pupkin Speaks, William CastleBlog-A-Thon and Paracinema. Enjoy, cats and kittens!

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