Stiff-Legged Film Festival Series Presents:
Films of Paul Bartel
April 25 & 26, 2014
The schedule: no-frills list version
Friday, April 25:
Bartel The Director:
Saturday, April 26:
Bartel the Director (cont.):
Actor, director, animator, raconteur, and hall-of-fame "Hey, it's that guy!" guy Paul Bartel gets the Stiff-Leg treatment in this two-day festival of hilarious weirdness. Friday night and Saturday morning/afternoon will feature Bartel's nine feature-length films, several shorts, and a few TV episodes. Saturday night will focus on films featuring both Bartel and his frequent collaborator Mary Woronov as actors only, including fan favorites Rock & Roll High School, Piranha, Night of the Comet, and Hollywood Boulevard.
ALL START TIMES ARE RIGID!
Unless we're running late (unlikely!), the start time listed is the exact time we start. No whining, no "wait wait, I'm just circling the block looking for a parking space," no excuses. 3-3 minutes is all you're given on average between films; just enough time to queue up for the bathroom.
Some food and drink will be served, including sandwich makings and a big bag of clementines (we may have bedsores by the end of this, but not scurvy!) but bringing something to share is never a bad idea. If you want to run out and grab dinner somewhere nearby, I have a handful of suggestions of places that are a five minute walk away. And of course, carryout is plentiful and acommodating.
Bartel's debut film is 30 minutes long, in black and white, and pretty legendary in underground film circles. It's the film that got him his future gigs with Roger Corman, sure, but more importantly, it got him noticed by Mary Woronov. As she said in her A.V. Club interview, "Now, Paul is somebody who knows the Theater Of The Ridiculous in New York, has seen me in the Theater Of The Ridiculous, knows the kind of acting I do, and, of course, he’s seen me in my Warhol movies. And he has a certain sense of humor, because I saw his first movie, which is amazing. It’s called The Secret Cinema. And he has a sense of humor that is definitely bizarre; I understand it, and we work very well together." Fortunately, if you can't get here this early Friday night, we'll be re-running it Saturday afternoon (a festival first!), so you'll have a second chance to see this short tale of paranoia and voyeurism.
A quick little
10 minute vignette. IMDB sez, "A doctor and nurse sneak away for
a kinky encounter, only to be interrupted by a cop...with a secret of
his own." Both this and Secret Cinema, above, were bonuses
on the Criterion edition of Eating Raoul, a phrase I never in
a million years expected to utter.
Our first full-length film, and possibly the most lurid of the weekend. You get all the story you need about this one by checking out the movie poster above and the film still below. It's a creepy, kinky tale of voyeurism and sexual deviancy in a disreputable hotel that I hope will stand proudly beside the best films of John Waters and the more melodramatic Kuchar brothers films. Time is short, so I'm quoting IMDB again: "When Cheryl and her roommate quarrel, Cheryl moves into her aunt's skid-row hotel in downtown L.A. rather than return home to Ohio. The lodgers are odd, Aunt Martha is a moralizer obsessed with funerals, murder is afoot, and the inexperienced and trusting Cheryl may be the next victim."
The late, great Roger Ebert is one of the most influential writers and thinkers I've ever known. It's impossible to overstate how much his writing on film and life has meant to me. That said, he was 100% dead wrong about this film. He gave it zero stars, saying that it wallowed in gratuitous violence and was socially unredeeming.
Well, yeah, but...
If Death Race 2000 intially comes on like some sort of crazed auto-snuff film, the broad satire of the whole thing reveals itself, piece by unsubtle piece, all the way to the melodramatic finale. I shouldn't have to tell you about this one and its greatness -- hopefully you've seen it already -- but just in case: it's the future, and the ultimate sporting event is an annual race in which the best drivers compete in a cutthroat cross-country road race with a twist. Because it's not just who arrives first. Points are given based on all sorts of absurd kills. Babies and the elderly score the highest number of points if you run them down in your souped-up monster vehicle. There are also points for taking out your opponent's pit crew. There's also time for pit stops and sexy massage treatments. Mary Woronov plays Calamity Jane, a wild west gunslinger, while other racers include a young Slylvester Stallone (as the wonderfully named Machine Gun Joe Viterbo), and David Carradine as scarred, masked crowd favorite, known simply as Frankenstein. There's gratuitous violence, gratuitous nudity, crazed car chase action, and ham-handed social commentary for miles. I guess it's tacky, but I contend that it's also a real cool time that will not make you an unfeeling nihilist. I also declare this pre-emptively as one of the best of the fest. DO NOT MISS, espeically if you've never seen it before!
They say history repeats itself, first as tragedy, and then as farce. Well, Bartel went the other way. After the hilarious and strange Death Race 2000, he took nearly the identical topic (cross-country road race) and identical leading man (David Carradine) and played them straight. Yep. We're watching two cross-country car race movies in a row. This one is sometimes "credited" for instigating the craze for movies like this that gave us the Cannonball Run films. You're welcome.
Check out those groovy posters from other countries!
One of the all-time great midnight movies gets the midnight movie treatment here at Stiff-Leg central. No matter how you measure it, this has to be Paul Bartel's crowning achievement as a director. It's the film he always wanted to make, and he worked his butt off to make it, filming on weekends over the course of a year as the money burbled in. He even had to take a loan out from his mother against their home and retirement account! In the A.V. Club interview, Woronov notes, "You know, he shot 21 days of film, but it took him a year to do it. He’d call me up and go, “Mary, I want to shoot this next scene,” and it’d be the first time I’d heard from him in two months. But you’d just walk onto the set, and there it was. It was like a living thing." It's a story old as time: a milquetoast couple (their last name is Bland, geddit?), desperate for money to fund a restaurant they want to open, are accidentally accosted by a crazed swinger. To save his poor, struggling wife, Paul Bland hits the guy with a frying pan and kills him. Mary Bland cleans out his wallet. He's got a lot of money. Next thing you know, California's swinger population starts dwindling, and the dreans of small business ownership are suddenly a real possibility. Features a rogue's gallery of character actors -- Robert Beltran, Richard Paul, Ed Begley, Jr., and Edie McClurg, among others. Along with Death Race 2000, an easy contender for Best of the Fest. I know it starts late, but try not to miss this, especially if you can only make one or two. Consider the restorative power of the early-evening power nap. Set two alarms. Food will be served: pulled pork and something made and served in a skillet. We've also got a guest bed and two couches, and an air matress. And we won't conk you with a skillet while you sleep. Promise.
movie poster. Translation: "Bon Appetit!"
Hey, it's Nancy
Allen! You like Nancy
Also, IMDB's keywords for this film are "masturbation | screwball comedy | newspaper | independent film" So, heads-up.
Divine and Tab Hunter...together again! After their awesome coupling in Polyester, you'd imagine this to be a runaway hidden masterpiece. Maybe it is. Most reviews I've heard of this are that it's disappointing. Because Divine is cast as the wilting violet, grovelling and begging for her life, it's suggested that maybe her best traits are not being put to use. No matter. It's a western, it's got Divine and Tab Hunter and Lanie Kazan, it used to be on USA "Up All Night" all the damn time, and it starts entirely too early for anyone to give a shit. Bring your breakfast sandwiches and join me on the couch, if you dare.
We are deep in the thicket now. It's noon on saturday, and we're watching a Bartel-directed vehicle for...Tim Conway. And Harvey Korman, be fair, but for kids who grew up thinking of post-Carol Burnett Tim Conway as the camera-trick-stumpy-leg-golf guy, this isn't exactly promising. I mean, the poster looks sort of funny. A horse in a hospital bed! A hospital bed FOR PEOPLE! Did anybody like it? Dislike it? Did anybody even see it? It's 100% un-Tomatoed at Rotten Tomatoes, and there's one review at IMDB that calls it a "Good One For the 1980s." Not FROM, mind you. FOR the 1980s. Maybe that means it should be left there?
Are you having an amazing feeling of deja vu? Didn't we already watch this last night. Well, yes. Yes we did. But as it started at 6:45, you likely weren't here, and besides, even if you were, you need to re-acquaint yourself with this film, because it's followed by...
Hey, look at that! "The Secret Cinema" was remade for Steven Spielberg's TV series Amazing Stories. And you doubted the completeness of this festival! That's right, motherfuckers, I bought the Amazing Stories series just so we could watch how this same story from 1968 was recreated in 1986. And as you can see below, it features our beloved pair, together again, on the small screen.
The following year, Bartel directed another episode of the series, titled "Gershwin's Trunk. Here's a still from the episode. Yes, we're really watching two episodes of Amazing Stories. And hey! There's Bob Balaban! And Lanie Kazan again! (Also, because I may have mis-timed these, we might have time for a second showing of Naughty Nurse if there's interest.)
At this point, Bartel was better known as a character actor than a director. You might have detected some aimlessness in his choice of projects these last few years, with a long string of films that nobody would recommend as his best work. Also, as we found out in hindsight, Bartel starting getting sick around this time, and the liver ailments that would later turn into liver cancer (he died of a heart attack in 2000 after surgery) starting to take their toll. Still, this was a labor of love project for Paul, another black comic film in his inimicable style, skewering the petty, strange lives of the upper class in California. Woronov's interview suggests that there was a bit of bad blood between them, as Bartel cast Lust in the Dust and Not for Publication without her. Class Struggle reunites several primary Eating Raoul actors, including Woronov, Robert Beltran, and Susan Saiger, and as Woronov says, "he insisted on hiring me and Robert [Beltran], so it was like an old reunion. But he wasn’t up to snuff. And he was tired a lot of time. But it was nice. It was like an apology. He put me in beautiful clothes. He cut my role down a lot. [Chuckles.] It was no ad-libbing. I think that’s one of the reasons why it was failed." Of course, you'll have to come and see for yourself to be sure! Rare as hell, and never released on DVD...get ready for some VHS realness!
This long running British sketch comedy show which gave us Bad News, the heavy metal mockumentary band that features the future cast of The Young Ones, contained one episode directed by Bartel. It's titled "Demonella," and it features Robbie Coltrane and Jennifer Saunders, as you can see below. We just subscribed to Hulu Plus, and as it turns out, they have the complete run of Comic Strip Presents. Lucky you!
Contrary to what Mary Woronov said about Scenes from the Class Struggle, this was Paul Bartel's actual final work as a director. Save, I must admit, from two episodes of Clueless, the TV show, which Bartel both acted in and directed. Alas, they were too hard to find. Sorry, but we will not be watching "Cher, Inc." or "We Shall Overpack."
But back to Shelf Life. It's basically a filmed play about three grown children in a bomb shelter. After the assassination of John F. Kennedy, their family ran for the bomb shelter, expecting the end of the world. It never came, the parents died of old age without ever seeing the outside world again, and 30 years later, the kids are still in that bunker, playing strange games, telling strange jokes, and living off information from newspapers 30 years old. Contains such strange dialogue as "I can't hear you...I've got an encyclopedia up my butt!" I, for one, am excited as hell to see this. Though I understand if I'm the only one who feels that way. Co-written by and starring the durable and uniquely-named character actor O-Lan Jones.
Also, this is a rare as hell film, and never released on DVD.
From here on out, none of the films we'll be watching were directed by Paul Bartel. They were chosen because 1. either Paul Bartel or Mary Woronov (or both, in most cases) act in the film, and 2. because they're lots of fun to watch. Most of the films we're watching at this point in the evening were created by Roger Corman's crew of directors, actors, and producers. They're good, trashy fun and as my birthday's on Monday (ahem), they're the perfect accompaniment to toasting my impending 40th birthday. What more could a middle-aged man ask for than beer, friends, and Piranha?!
Directed by Joe Dante, and a sly look behind the scenes at an AIP-like schlock film studio called Miracle Pictures. "If it's a good movie, it's a Miracle!" Outtake material from other Corman-related films, including Death Race 2000, is used in the movie-within-a-movie sections, redefining creating recycling for the '70s. Woronov plays a fussy actor, with Bartel as her doting director. There's a good reason why these two were cast together so often. They have great chemistry. (Contrary to rumors [which Bartel did nothing to dispell], Bartel and Woronov were never married -- Bartel was gay -- though their easy rapport suggested a strong personal closeness that continued their whole lives until Bartel's death in 2001.)
Only Bartel in this one. You might be more familiar with the 2008 remake of this, but here's the original, with all the attendant gore, fright, goofy humor, and boobs.
"Will YOUR school be next?!" was the tagline for this. If you haven't seen this film, I don't know why. You must see it. It's so great. Features the music (and acting) of The Ramones! Bartel plays Mr. McGree, a stuffy teacher, and Woronov plays Miss Togar, a classic bitchy authority figure, the type Woronov and Mink Stole were born to play. Also features the divine P.J. Soles as our rock n roll-loving protagonist. Thank heavens for last-minute script changes; this was originally supposed to be Disco High School! Features a surprisingly un-punk rock soundtrack, too. There's everything to love, and nothing to not love, about this film. It's a ray of damn sunshine.
Speaking of rays of sunshine, this awesome deep night adventure movie stars Catherine Mary Stuart and features Mary Woronov in a small but substantive role. When a comet passes too close to the earth, a red dust settles on everything, leaving death, destruction, and zombies. One of my wife Wendy's favorite movies, and it's not hard to understand why. If you dig the dystopias, the walking dead, and New Wave supply hoarding, have I ever got a movie for you...
Another Corman-related picture. Originally titled Killbots, this horror/slasher features killer robots run amok in a shopping mall. When Killbots tanked at the box office, the mall angle was played up, and it was re-released (to much greater success) with the title Chopping Mall. A fresher topic for '86. (Fresh, for '86! You suckas!) It's in the fest for one reason and one reason only: Paul and Mary briefly (BRIEFLY) reprise their roles as Paul and Mary Bland (from Eating Raoul) at one point in the film.
And with that, the festival is over.
Now go home and rest up! We start again on Sunday!
The festival is over! But we start again on Sunday? Start on