May 27, 2014

Day Two Of Movies At Dog Farm III - Final Chapter Or A New Beginning?

The projector warms up for night two of Movies At Dog Farm III.  Image by Herb Miller.
The projector warms up for night two of Movies At Dog Farm III.  All images in this post by Herb Miller.
      So why, exactly, do I do what I do here?  To what end?  There's no shortage of movie blogs on the Internet curated by passionate and well-informed movie aficionados, so what purpose does the Dog Farm serve?  I had a moment of clarity while driving home in the wee hours of Sunday morning, prompted by an impromptu bullshit session that broke out as I was preparing to leave the Dog Farm following our viewing of The Sentinel (1977).  I should begin at the beginning, though, so let's rewind just a bit further . . .

Movies At Dog Farm III projection screen.  Image by Herb Miller.
The Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls menu on the screen at dusk. 
     For some inexplicable reason I always feel compelled to actually schedule showtimes for these events, and this one was no exception.  Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls (1970) was scheduled to begin at 8:30, just as daylight waned and the woods grew dark enough to fire up the projector.  We had watched our movies indoors on the preceding night, but I decided at the eleventh hour to move things outdoors for the second.  I was reminded of countless childhood trips to the drive-in, when the air would grow crisp at dusk and the projector would spring to life as the final light of the day gave way to nightfall.  Anticipation welled up inside me.  Then . . . the start of the show was delayed for roughly an hour as the guests milled around and chatted, waiting for Phil to finish preparing a vat of chili for everyone.  As is always the case, the schedule was blown before the first movie began.  Lesson learned.  I waited patiently while everyone drew their conversations to a close and settled in with their piping hot bowls of chili.  We were starting late, but everyone seemed ready now to direct their full attention to the screen.

Movies At Dog Farm III outdoor theater.  Image by Herb Miller.
Our makeshift outdoor theater before the start of the show . . .
     I harbored a lingering doubt about sharing Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls with an audience, and the initial twenty minutes or so made me sweat.  Everyone was too quiet.  I felt self conscious about laughing at bits of dialog that no-one else seemed to find amusing.  BVD is an odd bird, and I began to fear that perhaps I'd chosen the wrong movie for the crowd.  Then there were signs of life.  I began to hear politely subdued discussion around me.  I began to field whispered inquiries about what we were watching.  After a slow start, everyone finally seemed to be tuning in to the campy vibe of BVD just as the character of Z-Man Barzell exulted, "This is my happening, and it freaks me out!"  Apropos, really.  The audience became less discreet about commenting on what was unfolding before them, and by the time the movie careened into its frenzied final act BVD had managed to win over the audience completely.  My gamble had paid off.

The audience at Movies At Dog Farm III.  Image by Herb Miller.
. . . and again after the movies commenced. 
     After a brief intermission between films I started the evening's second feature, The Sentinel.  Though considerably less outrageous, high spirits engendered by BVD carried over.  The evening had grown chilly, but everyone bundled themselves up in sleeping bags and blankets and settled in.  The Sentinel played out like the champion B-list horror show it is, and the audience was engaged throughout.  The final credits rolled at around 1:30 in the morning, after which the lights came up and a line formed for the bathroom.  I took that as a victory.  The audience had been sufficiently involved with what they were watching to hang in there until the bitter end, bursting bladders be damned.

     As the crowd started to gather their things and disband, I began to disassemble the AV equipment and load my car for the ride home.  Phil Neff and Herb Miller lingered for longer than the others, and we began to talk excitedly about what had just transpired.  Herb had enjoyed The Sentinel, a movie about which he'd been previously unaware, more than he expected.  Phil shared with me some details of the crowd's enthusiasm for Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls earlier in the evening.  We started to reminisce about previous Movies At Dog Farm successes - Pieces (1982) and Suspiria (1977) in particular.  We began to spitball ideas for the next Movies At Dog Farm then and there, even hatching a plot to throw a "movies only" fundraising event later in the summer to finance acquisition of our own projector for future gatherings.  I was gratified.

     As I drove away, the theme for Suspiria played on my car's CD player, a perfect sound cue to end Movies At Dog Farm III.   I spent most of the hour long drive home chewing on ways to set up that fundraiser we had discussed, and I began to think of all the other cinematic obscurities I still wanted to share.  It occurred to me that my usual mode of movie consumption - home alone on the couch watching the movies unfold on a regular old television - is lacking.  There's simply no substitute for enjoying a movie on the big screen in the company of an appreciative audience.

     I don't really fancy myself a critic, and I tend only to write here about the movies I love.  I spend a little too much time watching these flicks, and I relish the opportunity to share the best of them with friends both old and new.  Nothing can convey the satisfaction of hearing a group of otherwise normal individuals enthusiastically sharing their best dramatic renditions of movie quotes like, "You will drink the black sperm of my vengeance!"  Presenting these odd little cinematic gems to an audience not predisposed to watch such things is why I do what I do here.  That's a simple motive, but I think it's a worthy one.  Thanks, everyone, for affording me the opportunity to do so.

May 24, 2014

Movies At Dog Farm III - Day One - Location Report For 5/23/14

Film projector     Well, folks, I was hoping to do some recording "in the field" for a podcast chronicling Movies At Dog Farm III, but logistics squashed that plan.  Maybe next time.  Instead, here are some notes and pics.

12:30 p.m. - I picked up an Epson video projector, a Yamaha sound projector, and a PSB subwoofer, all on loan for the weekend from my accommodating employer. I arrive at the Dog Farm about forty-five minutes later after a pleasant drive through some lovely Virginia countryside.  I'm nervous as always, though at least I'm not battling a raging infection this time.  I was very, very sick for the last Movies At Dog Farm.  I couldn't find any Shock Top Raspberry Wheat for the weekend, though, so I have to make a substitution.  I drink once a year, and my beer of choice has vanished from the face of the planet.  I thought I had one left in my fridge at home, but my mother beat me to it.

1:30 p.m. - Upon arriving at the Dog Farm, I'm greeted by Phil Neff - our host for the weekend - and my buddy Herb Miller, who arrived the preceding evening.  They're about to clear out the carport storage building, which has served as a what I'll politely describe as an archive of ephemera since the last Movies At Dog Farm event two Octobers ago.  Herb and I decide that Phil has only concocted this event  as a means to dispose of some unwanted clutter.  I'm not complaining, though.  In addition to some peculiar old signage, I came away from the excavation with a couple of Super 8mm film reels - Bride Of Frankenstein (1935) in a proper film tin and When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth (1970) in an illustrated cardboard box.  Now I have to acquire a Super 8mm film projector, but I'm pretty stoked about experiencing these old flicks in about the only way movie aficionados could in their homes prior to the advent of VHS.

When Dinosarus Ruled The Earth (1970) Super 8mm film reel box
When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth Super 8 film reel box.
     I initially want to move the projection screen and equipment outside, but I note that several of the guests who've arrived over the course of the afternoon are already donning sweatshirts and jackets even before the sun goes down.  It's a beautiful day, but it's breezy and cooler out in the woods than in town.  We opt to keep the screen indoors rather than have everyone too uncomfortable to enjoy the movies.  I do, however, continue to harbor the notion that we'll move things outdoors tomorrow for Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls (1970) and The Sentinel (1977).

8:30 p.m. - SHOWTIME!  Sadly, Herb and I are driving around greater metropolitan Timberville looking for the pizzas we were sent to pick up for the guests back at the Dog Farm.  The collective brain trust failed to ask where the order was placed.  Who woulda guessed such a tiny little speck on the map would have four pizza places?

9:15 p.m. - Herb and I make it back with the pizzas, and the movies commence less than an hour behind schedule.  Starship Troopers (1997) is first up, and the UK Blu-Ray I ordered looks and sounds fantastic.  It seems to be well received.  Most of the guests hang in there throughout the run of the movie, though we lose a couple to travel fatigue.

11:30 p.m. - Movie #2 begins - Saturn 3 (1980).  This is also a brand spanking new Blu-Ray copy, which looks and sounds far better than the previous no frills DVD release.  Those of us who didn't crash prior to the start of the second movie make it all the way through.  There will not, however, be an "After Midnight" selection this evening.  Tomorrow is another day.

     So over all, things go swimmingly on the first day of Movies At Dog Farm III.  Day two promises to be even better.

May 21, 2014

I'm Packing Up My 100% Guilt-Free Movies And Heading To The Dog Farm!

Movies At Dog Farm III 100% Guilt-Free Movies schedule

  I'm pretty excited, folks, and I'm looking forward to seeing everyone at the Dog Farm this weekend!  In particular, I can't wait to see how Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls plays to an audience.  Thanks for having us, Phil!

May 20, 2014

100% Guilt-Free Movie Pick Number 4 - The Sentinel (1977)

The Sentinel (1977)
The Sentinel (1977)
    Alison Parker (Christina Raines) is a young model who rents a suspiciously cheap apartment in an old Brooklyn brownstone.  The brownstone has only one other tenant, a blind Catholic priest named Father Halliran (John Carradine) who lives alone on the building's top floor.  We ultimately discover this brownstone is a gateway to Hell, and Father Halliran is responsible for keeping Hell's minions from storming the gate.  His tenure is nearly over, though, and it's time to pick his successor.  Could that be why Alison got such a great deal on that apartment?

     The Sentinel (1977) is cut from the same cloth as films like Rosemary's Baby (1968), The Exorcist (1973), and The Omen (1976), but it possesses a quality its predecessor's lack.  It's skeevy.  Universal was clearly aiming to get some of that supernatural box office mojo for itself, but The Sentinel simply couldn't generate the same level of prestige and box office success enjoyed by its forebears.  Based on a popular novel of the same name by Jeffrey Konvitz, blessed with a then huge production budget of $3.7 million dollars, and loaded with more famous faces past and future than you can shake a crucifix at, The Sentinel somehow still manages to play out like a copycat Italian exploitation picture with a more anglicized cast and better production values.  That exploitative quality is simultaneously the movie's curse as well as its saving grace.

Beverly D'Angelo in red spandex in The Sentinel (1977)
Beverly D'Angelo paying her dues in The Sentinel.
     Director Michael Winner populated the movie's finale with deformed people and circus freaks to represent the minions of Hell, even though a similar casting choice made by Tod Browning for Freaks in 1932 effectively ended the director's career.  Winner also doesn't shy away from truly bizarro moments like the scene in which a spandex clad Beverly D'Angelo masturbates furiously in front of a mortified Christina Raines for no apparent reason save shock value. If that doesn't do it for you, how about the scene in which a room full of dead murderers throw a birthday party for Burgess Meredith's dispeptic cat?  The Sentinel is often an incoherent, exploitative hot mess, but it never fails to hold one's attention.

     If none of these admittedly dubious charms does it for you, though, you can always just marvel at how many recognizable faces The Sentinel serves up.  The jaw-dropping cast - from the leads all the way down to the supporting players - make The Sentinel a cinematic who's who of fading names and rising stars.  In addition to the previously mentioned actors and actresses, you'll also see Chris Sarandon, Jose Ferrer, Martin Balsam, Ava Gardner, Arthur Kennedy, Sylvia Miles, Deborah Raffin, Eli Wallach, Christopher Walken, Jerry Orbach, Jeff Goldblum, and Tom Berenger.  How's that for a star studded cast?

Burgess Meredith and the minions of Hell in The Sentinel (1977)
Burgess Meredith and the deformed minions of Hell.
     The Sentinel isn't as good as the movies it emulates, but it's compulsively watchable and criminally underrated.  Even Universal is still presumably a little embarrassed by it, as evidenced by the no-frills DVD release and lack of availability on Blu-ray.  Hell, even movies as bad as The Slumber Party Massacre (1982) get the hi-def treatment now, so why no love for this also ran of the seventies satanic sweepstakes?  Obviously, then, The Sentinel makes a fine choice for the fourth and final 100% Guilt-Free Movie Pick for Movies At Dog Farm III.

May 7, 2014

The Info Zombie Podcast #73 - Movies At Dog Farm Finally Succumbs To The Subjugation Of The Pod People

Dog with a man's head from Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1978)
Movies At Dog Farm shows its new face after assimilation. 
     Movies At Dog Farm hasn't branched out into podcasting yet, but I finally got my first taste this week when Carl at The Info Zombie invited me to guest on The Info Zombie Podcast #73.  Carl and I discuss how we became acquainted with each other, how this blog first came to be, the upcoming Movies At Dog Farm live event, the Phantasm franchise, and just exactly how friggin' old I am.  Hint: VHS didn't exist back when I first dipped a toe in the bloody pool of horror.

     Thanks to Carl for inviting me to guest on his show and effectively busting my podcast cherry.  It was a pleasure.  If you're so inclined, you can listen to the end result below or by downloading The Info Zombie Podcast #73 on iTunes.  Be sure to subscribe to Carl's podcast while you're visiting iTunes, and check out all of the other goodies on display at The Info Zombie website, as well.

May 1, 2014

100% Guilt-Free Movie Pick Number 3 - Saturn 3 (1980)

Saturn 3 (1980) poster image
     Behold the majesty that is Hector the horny robot.  Sure, there's no robo-penis visible, but there's probably an optional attachment, right?  He runs on fetus brains programmed by a horny and homicidal Harvey Keitel, so what could possibly go wrong?  Maybe nothing as long as there aren't any attractive young women around.  Oh damn, is that Farrah Fawcett?   Well, at least she's not alone in this remote outpost.  There's Kirk Douglas, Farrah's lover and only companion on Saturn 3.  Douglas looks good for his age, but he's still obviously old enough for retirement.  Will Kirk and Farrah fall prey to Harvey and his randy eight foot tall science project?  Take another look at Hector, and place your bets.

     Saturn 3 (1980) is a peculiar British  production meant to capitalize on the then surging popularity of sci-fi at the box office.  It's not great, but it's pretty damn entertaining.  Saturn 3 was supposed to be the directorial debut of John Barry, the Oscar winning production designer of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977).  He had a falling out with star Kirk Douglas during filming, after which he was replaced by veteran director Stanley Donen, who was already on board as a producer.

     Donen is most widely known as a director of Hollywood musicals such as Singing In The Rain (1952) and Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954) - fine movies, to be sure, but Saturn 3 is notably lacking in production numbers.  Shortly thereafter the movie's budget was cut when producer ITC Entertainment went over-schedule and over-budget on Raise The Titanic (1980), which ultimately proved even less financially successful than Saturn 3.  All things considered, Saturn 3 turned out pretty good.

Farrah Fawcett's sexy outfit not used in Saturn 3 (1980)
     While researching this post, I came across Something Is Wrong On Saturn 3, a fantastic site detailing the turbulent production history of Saturn 3 written by Gregory Moss.  Mr. Moss also contributed the commentary to the Blu-ray release of Saturn 3, so he knows his stuff.  He tells the tale far better than I could.  Check it out, if only so you'll know why all of Harvey Keitel's dialog is dubbed - or how British novelist Martin Amis came to write the screenplay - or most importantly, why that snazzy uber-futuristic outfit Farrah is sporting at left didn't make the film's final US theatrical cut.  It's interesting reading, and it's sure to pique your interest in Saturn 3 before Movies At Dog Farm III commences.

     Really, though, I had you at "horny robot", right?

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