Andre Gower Of THE MONSTER SQUAD: The Film Babble Blog Interview Part 2

This Wednesday at 8:00 PM, The Colony Theater in Raleigh will be screening the 1987 cult classic THE MONSTER SQUAD as part of their popular “Cinema Overdrive” series. In addition to the exciting experience of seeing a rare 35 MM print of the beloved film, what makes this showing extremely special is the star of the movie Andre Gower is going to be on hand as host and will take questions from the audience. We discussed his career as a young actor in the 80’s in Part 1 of our chat but here we get to the real meat of the matter – his role as Sean Crenshaw, leader of THE MONSTER SQUAD and how the film keeps winning generations of new fans 22 years after its release.

Dan: So how did you get THE MONSTER SQUAD?

Andre Gower: THE MONSTER SQUAD was just another audition process. The great casting story with the movie and me is that I originally read for a different role. I read for Rudy. The “cool kid”, because that had been all my roles before. The cool kid with the cool hair. Auditioned for that, called back, went back, went back again, met with the producers and writers and direct – Fred (Dekker) and Shane (Black). Ended up getting cast in the film. Got the call that said: “Oh, you got that film that you went out for, that big Monster film but you didn’t get the role that you read for.” I was actually pissed off because that was the cool role! At this time we’d read the script and seen everything of course at that time the script was a lot longer and had a lot more stuff in it. We shot off of a very short script. A lot of stuff was cut. We shot off like an 82 page shooting script and even edited stuff that we shot! They actually shot and edited 100 minutes of film and edited 17 minutes or something out of it. But the original script was 123 pages with a ton of stuff and that would’ve been a very cool thing. It worked out in the end though, playing Sean.

D: Well, of course because he was the leader!

AG: Yeah, a little more of a role but Rudy was the cool kid who killed more monsters. And he smoked…

D: And he had that great intro.

AG: Great intro! That intro scene was the audition scene. I remember it like it was yesterday. Ryan (Lambert) was perfect though. There were a lot of names that read for that role, including me, and, like I said, it worked out pretty good – getting Sean Crenshaw.

D: So listening to the commentary – I didn’t know if it had been a while since you’ve seen these people or what but it seems like there was a nice natural back and forth.

AG: By the time we did the commentary on the DVD we had seen each for a year. Everything started with, and I’m not trying to take credit with the DVD – that’s not what I’m doing, but everything that led up to the DVD’s creation and release started in ’06. In the Spring of ’06, an email found me through my IMDb page and then got to my personal email by one of the guys at Ain’t It Cool News that was wanting to do a screening of THE MONSTER SQUAD at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas. I ended up talking to them on the phone and I said “look, if you want to do a cast reunion screening, give me the information, let me make one or two phone calls” because I had just gotten in touch with Ashley (Banks) that year – hadn’t talked to her in a couple of years. Hadn’t talked to Ryan in a couple of years. I stay in touch with Fred regularly. So they were like: “Holy shit! You can do that?” And I said “if they’re interested in going, I’ll get their input and we’ll put everybody together.” Ashley was on board, Ryan was on board, and Fred was on board. Those three had always thought that this whole thing was dead and I always got interest and recognized for THE MONSTER SQUAD plus other things but people love this movie. People love this movie and for a long time nobody could get a copy!

D: When did you first become aware that a cult was brewing up for this movie?

AG: Over the years, probably during college years when people would say “aw man, that was my favorite movie growing up!” Because I went to 2 different colleges that had nothing to do with Hollywood. You don’t make it too far around 4,000 college kids with out somebody figuring out who you are. I went to college to do something completely different – I went to college to play basketball. But it’s great, you know, every once in a while somebody would say “it’s my all time favorite movie” and they’d recite lines and yell at your dorm room and, uh, it’s great.

D: (laughs)

AG: But you couldn’t get it anywhere. People would have old VHS tapes and they would bring them and want me to sign them. They copied it off HBO. You couldn’t get it in the video store because everybody would just have one and they would steal it! This is the story we’ve heard for the last 3 or 4 years is ‘oh no, I paid the penalty at Blockbuster – I went and stole it. I rented it and stole it because I knew I’d never get it.’ HBO played it a lot! Everybody taped and watched it all the time. That kind of germinated so I always kind of knew. Ryan and Ashley didn’t have any idea – Fred kind of but not really. Then this Alamo Drafthouse came and it was this Sunday night on Easter weekend and they had these 2 screenings at 7 and 10 and the place holds like 250 people, they turned a 100 people away each screening, and it was incredible. Of course the question came out – ‘when’s the DVD coming out?’ Nobody had any idea. Nobody knew who had the rights to make a DVD. It was buried in some box in some vault at Viacom or Lockheart or Spelling or Sony or Columbia – this thing changed hands 5 times over 20 years. After that Alamo screening it blew up because Ain’t It Cool News covered it well, all the movie web sites, all the genre sites, publications, it just went nuts. Online it just blew up. Squad fans starting coming out of the woodwork – ‘come to our city!’ and ‘come do this and do that!’ And we just went from one thing to another. Now, a year later I had friend of mine who were industry professionals call me and ask about who had the rights because they wanted to do the DVD…or they wanted to remake it.

D: I heard there was a possible remake rumored…

AG: I think it’s actually official now. It’s Rob Cohen – the original producer.

D: Oh, is that right? Wow.

AG: Cohen – who MONSTER SQUAD fans, if they see him on the street, will put him in the ground! I mean, I’m all for it if they do it but everybody else wants someone else to do it! (laughs)

D: It’s easy to complain about remakes but the one good thing is they make people look at the original again. You know like, I’m not a fan of those Steve Martin Pink Panther movies – I kind of wished he’d never done that but at least it got people to go back and see the original Peter Sellers movies.

AG: They do, and that’s good. You know, a lot of genre fans don’t like Rob Cohen movies because they think he just CGI’s it out and takes the money and just goes to the bank. You know what? That’s what you make movies for. That’s why you make THE MUMMY and THE MUMMY RETURNS and THE MUMMY COMES BACK and OH, HERE’S THE MUMMY AGAIN. ‘Cause they make money. They might not like his film style as a director or whatever, I don’t think he’s gonna direct it, but the tough thing about the remake is no one wants them to spoil the original because this is the one thing they finally got their hands on with the DVD and they don’t want anybody to touch it. I don’t know what it is, I mean I figured out a couple of things but this is people’s all time favorite movie. Even people who love other movies, know other movies, and have worked on other movies…there are a dozen known film makers whose favorite movie of all time is THE MONSTER SQUAD. One of which, it inspired them to get into doing what they’re doing because they were either film geeks growing up or nerdy guys in love with filming and they were studying and emulating this…’cause when you back at what the whole story premise was, and how it came to and how it ended up being – Fred Dekker, being a 24, 25 year old director – second time director with technically a big budget studio motion picture, did a pretty good job of putting something pretty cool together that actually holds up. The only thing that really doesn’t hold up is the wardrobe!

D: (laughs) What did you think of the marketing when it was released – the tagline: “You know who to call when you have ghosts…”, of course referencing GHOST BUSTERS?

AG: Yeah, #1 – don’t ever do that. You don’t have to, uh…

D: Mack on another movie?

AG: Yeah! Don’t do that. I don’t think many people do – the new STAR TREK didn’t come out and say “we don’t have light sabers but we’ve got the Enterprise.” Don’t reference a recent successful movie when yours is iconic enough. I mean that was the first time those classic Universal monsters were put together, and what’s funny is Universal passed on it. This is more Fred’s area of story telling than mine but they took this story to Universal because these were the Universal monsters and they passed – they said no. They said we would never do something like this. And then, of course, 10 or 15 years later they did VAN HELSING.

D: Now, this is obvious because like you said they’re all classic Universal monsters with their classic names, Dracula, Wolfman, Frankenstein all are the same but then there’s the swamp creature who’s named “Gillman”.

AG: That’s because of a rights issue. If Universal had done it we could have called him “The Creature From The Black Lagoon.” But Universal passed and they owned that name so we had to call him “Gillman”. The others were public domain.

D: Is it true that Tom Noonan stayed in character as Frankenstein for the whole shoot?

AG: Tom Noonan is a method actor through and through. He had more scenes with Ashley and Ryan one on one but as an ensemble we did a lot. Never saw him out of his make up, never saw him out of character.

D: There wasn’t some end wrap-up party that he showed up at and it was suddenly him?

AG: I don’t think he would even come to that because he didn’t care. He’s the kind of guy who just shows up to do a job and he’s not associated with it. He was an established actor at the time but I had to go rent MANHUNTER just to see what the guy looked like.

D: In watching this movie again right before this interview, it struck me how this seems so much like a kid’s dream come true – you’re fighting classic monsters but with a foot in reality with bickering parents…which was the bottom line tone. The idea that like in THE BAD NEWS BEARS which was a decade before that there were cursing kids, but in this there was more of a reality thing to it because of that scene of you in the kitchen where you say “Holy shit! I mean cow…” in front of your mother. That’s pretty grounded in the idea that kids know these words but know not to say them around adults. But was it like a dream like that or was it just another job?

AG: You don’t see it as that out there because, yeah, it is a job – you’re cast and you show up on the set and I had enough experience over the last 8 years prior to that of working decently steady to understand what’s going on. Someone like Ashley who was 4 or 5, she has no idea – these monsters are real to her – they aren’t actors in a suit this shit’s real. It scared the piss out of her all the time which was you know kind of mean. (laughs) Someone like Brent who played the fat kid Horace – this was the first thing he’s ever done. Ironically at the time I foolhardily admit that I had an 180 degree turn around because working with him at the beginning – he was so new and so fresh, so inexperienced being on a set at all, let alone a big set where you got to do stuff. So you might think ‘oh, it’s not working – he doesn’t know what’s going on’ but it’s just like putting kids together in a class. We were in a classroom but a social situation and everybody had little growing pains of adjusting around each other and finding out your place in the group there, let alone you got to pretend to be somebody else 5 minutes later.

D: Well, did you have an adjusting period before shooting? Like when you hear stories of the STAND BY ME kids or the ANIMAL HOUSE group trying to become these people before they actually do it…

AG: Yeah, we had weeks of rehearsing. There were plenty of weeks of pre production and shooting and rehearsal and things like that and that’s where those pangs go out but I think one of the reasons this movie is a success is the stress on those central characters. There’s really only 2 characters who get lost in this movie – every one else has an anchor place in it. You know, Horace is one of those iconic characters because Brent Chalem was a couple of years younger than everybody and it showed. I mean, that plays like when your 13,14 and somebody is 11 or 12 there’s a big difference. Like Ryan is a year or 2 older than I am. But when you watch this, the reason his character works because he is so sweet, he is so young, so naïve coming in – and it just works. And I think one of the reasons why everybody loves this film is that they all saw it at that age. Or at one of the ages that’s one of the kids in the movie. They find a character or a situation or a combination of to relate to in that movie. It affected them fundamentally and very profoundly for some reason back in ’87, ’88, ’89, ’90, whenever they watched it on HBO and they loved it. Then, of course, the fact that they could never see it again, or get it, or that they had to steal the video cassette made it even more coveted. I tried to figure it out once the Alamo thing and going in the next year we were big headliners at monster conventions and things like that, you’re like, what is the hold this movie has on people? Hearing the fans and having them talk about it, that’s kind of what it is. Somebody relates to something or someone in this film, be it the organized leader, the cool kid that’s an outcast, the best friend who pals around with the one who has his head on straight, then everybody knows the insecure chubby kid. There’s nothing to apologize for in this movie – you know, if they remake it now they’re not going to be able to remake exactly it the way it was. You can’t have these kids smoking, cursing, shooting guns, and blowing shit up. Which, like you said, is a good thing, because they can always go back to the original and see it. You just can’t remake this movie today because things are too soft, too sensitive, and too nanny state to do that.

D: Well, when you talk about the appeal of THE MONSTER SQUAD, whether or not people relate to different characters, I think we all have that notion we remember from when we were kids that we know something that parents don’t know or wouldn’t believe. So many movies in the 80’s like LABYRINTH or TIME BANDITS have this portal in the kid’s room to other dimension…

AG: Right, but in all those other movies – they discover a portal and go somewhere else. In this the portal opens up and monsters come here! It’s that fantasy kids all have – whether you’re in your backyard pretending you’re a knight with a broad sword killing a dragon, or you’re a ninja killing bad samurais, or you’re a space ranger killing aliens…every kid is doing that. This is why this movie is celebrated so. This wasn’t adults that were fantasizing and getting the bad guys – this was us! That was kick ass to everybody. I can’t tell you how many people have come up to me and said “you don’t understand – everyday we replicated your tree house! We were your club! We went out as the “Monster Squad”! We created a board game – a role playing game!” I’d be like “wow” that’s pretty interesting! Some people just went out and pretended, others actually created their own stuff around it and continued the story!

The story begins again at The Colony Theater tomorrow night so if you live in the area (or even if you don’t) be sure to make it out. Much thanks goes out to Andre Gower for this great interview.

Oh yeah – the yellow poster above on the right will be available as a very limited edition print at the Colony tomorrow. The posters are numbered and signed by the artist Danny Miller – a Carrboro artist who does ultra cool genre-inspired graphic art.

More later…

Andre Gower Of THE MONSTER SQUAD: The Film Babble Blog Interview Part 1

This Wednesday at 8:00 PM, The Colony Theater in Raleigh will be screening the 1987 cult classic THE MONSTER SQUAD as part of their popular “Cinema Overdrive” series. In addition to the exciting experience of seeing a rare 35 MM print of the beloved film, what makes this showing extremely special is the star of the movie Andre Gower is going to be on hand as host and will take questions from the audience. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Gower to talk about THE MONSTER SQUAD and how it so strongly still holds up but in the first part of our chat we discuss some of his fascinating resume that surrounds that milestone.

Dan: Forgive me for cribbing off your IMDb profile or even Wikipedia but was The Young And The Restless your first role?

Andre Gower: No, there was some stuff before that – there were guest spots and a lot of stuff that IMDb and Wikipedia wouldn’t have. But that may have been one of the earliest regular things.

D: So as a kid you were on a ton of TV shows – T.J. Hooker, St. Elsewhere, The A-Team – how did those come about?

AG: Just through the regular audition process. Back in the day, now of course this is before cable, before the Fox network, there were only 3 channels. So there were always younger people doing stuff – there was even a smaller group of younger people who did the majority of everything. If you were lucky enough to be in that kind of group as a young young youngster then as you got up to teenage years and late teenage years, to be part of that teen scene, the teen magazine part of pop culture, and then if you’re on a successful show or a number of successful shows, or either a bunch of films then it works out pretty good. I hung in the circles back in the day, I was in the late 80’s Brat Pack being a mid teenager. Of course that’s when THE MONSTER SQUAD came out. Right after that I did the show Mr. President with George C. Scott back when Fox was a brand new network.

D: Is it true that you turned down the Bud Bundy role on Married With Children to do Mr. President?

AG: That’s true.

D: Ever had any regrets about that?

AG: No, I mean it’s always nice to think about what might have been, and look David Faustino is a old friend of mine – I’ve known him for years, but when you look at the situation at the time, what was being offered, you can’t do hindsight, you never know what’s going to happen.

D: Right, you can’t guess what show is going to be picked up.

AG: Sure, and when you’re dealing like in that situation with a show on a brand new network – you get offered one and it’s an unknown show, it’s written very racy and not even the pilot is guaranteed to air and nobody knows anybody who is associated with it. On the flip-side of it you have another show that is produced by Johnny Carson’s production company – it’s produced by Ed Weinberger. It’s starring George C. Scott and Conrad Bain, it’s guaranteed for 2 seasons and they were offering me like 3 times the money! The other show that wasn’t guaranteed they’d air the pilot – what show are you going to take?

D: (laughs) Well, just the George C. Scott factor alone, I think that would tip the scale.

AG: Right, one’s a vehicle and one’s not. (laughs) One’s a potential waste of your time and you’re not going to be able to do anything else. I mean I should’ve done both. Same network – what do they care? (laughs)

D: (laughs) I couldn’t really find much info on Mr. President. I mean, it seems like they’ve released just about every TV show you could think of on DVD these days, some that are only one season so it seems like a release of that wouldn’t be so farfetched.

AG: Well, it may be a thing with George C. Scott’s estate – I don’t know. It would be interesting to go back to it because it was an inaugural show on a new network. It was a lead show starring 2 icons and made by an icon.

D: It seems like it was a proto West Wing.

AG: It was sort of an interesting look at something that had been done before but not really done before – characterizing the United States President and life in the White House. Whereas The West Wing did it and it was modern because it was time for it. I’ve done 3 or 4 television shows that were 3 or 4 years ahead of their time…or more. That’s why they went one season, 2 seasons.

D: And those would be?

AG: One was Baby Makes Five, regular family sitcom, ABC I think. This was Peter Scolari’s own show. It was right after Bosom Budies. He’s the one that people said was going to be the star because he’s the talented one. Tom Hanks who?

D: I remember reading that for Bosom Buddies, they actually paid Scolari more than Tom Hanks because he had more experience.

AG: Yeah, Tom Hanks took a long time to actually get anything. He was in a few failed shows, a few really bad low budget movies that you just don’t ever hear of. And then he did SPLASH and it just starting coming around. But Peter Scolari was a trained actor on a hit network television show so they said ‘we’re giving him his own show’ and it was a little ahead of it’s time with the fact that it was a show that had a huge family with young kids and there wasn’t that many…okay, well besides The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family which was nichey and 60’s, you know that was 3 camera sitcom – there wasn’t a live audience type show before this with a lot of kids. They had this great relationship between the grandmothers – one was kind of racy, one was kind of conservative. It was coming into some really really interesting writing and really good timing. We had great guest stars on that show. We did 6 episodes. It was a spring replacement and it didn’t get picked up but it was well done.

D: Was it the time slot maybe?

AG: Who knows? It just might not have tested well. And that’s the trouble with television, especially sitcoms, because you look at the shows that do go on to become famous shows – go watch your favorite shows and see the first season. They’re all terrible. The difference is that with either the network or the production companies kept them on to find their footing and seasoned. The characters got to develop and mold into what they’re going to be. Because all a successful sitcom is…is what’s funny about a show is when a character says something because you’re expecting him to say exactly that. That’s what you get used to do in a sitcom. Look at Friends, look at Seinfeld – how many times can Kramer come in the door funny?

D: People forget Seinfeld took a while to get going.

AG: Took a long time. That was obviously a show that was cutting and ahead of its time and was allowed to come into itself, and then it changed television. Baby Makes Five was great, Peter Scolari went on to do a ton of stuff.

D: I loved him on Newhart.

AG: Right, he went right into Newhart. I was on the Newhart set all the time – I learned how to juggle from Peter Scolari. So I’m a juggler because of Peter Scolari. Another show was for ABC that was shot out of 20th Century Fox that was called Heart Of The City. This was like ’86, ’87. Very ahead of its time. Cop drama, homicide detective, dark cast, dark storylines – it was about a cop who has 2 teenage kids and their mother gets killed in a very cliché drive-by being that it’s 1986. So he has to raise these 2 kids – one’s a boy, one’s a girl, dealing with family issues, dealing with adolescent boy issues, dealing with teenage girl issues, talk about sex and drugs and drinking and dealing with all this stuff while this guy’s trying to be a detective. Shot dark, lit dark, shot at night because he worked the midnight shift, had to deal with his kids during the day. I played this street kid drug dealer that he busts in the pilot and he becomes interested in my story so I became a re-occurring character. He ends up becoming romantically involved with my mother because he’s trying to figure out why I’m out here doing this. The mother was Kay Lenz, and the 2 kids were Jonathan Ward and Christina Applegate. So if you look at 2 or 3 years down the road when Fox becomes a network, all 3 of us out of this show have our own shows on Fox.

D: how long did Heart Of The City run?

AG: We went 2 seasons. My arc went from the pilot all the way to the end. I go off the show because I get sentenced, then back and forth because I escape and do all this stuff. It’s a very cool role – I never played a 13 year old drug dealer running down all the alleys of downtown LA. Very cool, but you know a little ahead of its time. Then what, 5 years later you have NYPD Blue. Dark, brooding, nudity, language, you know it’s like ‘oh, this show is shocking too.’

Coming up in Part 2 – Andre Gower and I discuss THE MONSTER SQUAD and its legacy. Please stay tuned.

More later…

Chatting With The Creators Of Cinema Overdrive Part 4

This is the fourth and final of my great rambling conversation with Denver Hill and Matt Pennechi – 2 of the creators of the great new series “Cinema Overdrive” running at the Colony Theater in North Raleigh. Tomorrow night at 8:00 PM they’ve got the mighty THE EVIL DEAD (btw the awesome poster above is by Carrboro artist Danny Miller and prints will be sold at the show) and next week on the 28th, just in time for Halloween, they’ve got an extremely rare 35 MM print of the1987 cult classic THE MONSTER SQUAD. In this not so tidy conclusion of our talk Denver, Matt, and I talk about those 2 upcoming films and we hit other tangents like obscure movie trailers, audience participation etiquette, and how you’re going to get a lot of bang for your 5 bucks every time out.

Dan: So, right before Halloween you’ve got THE MONSTER SQUAD with a special guest…

Denver: Yes, the star – Andre Gower – is coming to introduce the film and do a Q and A.

Matt: Yeah, he happens to live in Cary. He’s a child actor – in addition to THE MONSTER SQUAD and a bunch of other stuff he played George C. Scott’s son for 2 seasons on the Fox TV show “Mr. President”! He said: “Getting chewed out by George C. Scott is kind of a badge of honor!” I was like: “Really? He was gruff?” He said: “He could be but the thing is, looking back on it now, 22 years later…I was taken under the wing of George C. Scott who treated me like his son.” I asked: “Do you ever reflect on that?” He was like, oh yeah, it doesn’t matter that he’s not famous, that he’s not a multi-millionaire, he still has those really great memories. THE MONSTER SQUAD is a great movie which I really enjoy. Do you have kids?

Dan: No I don’t.

Matt: I have an 8 year old I may actually bring to that.

Denver: Yeah, THE MONSTER SQUAD is one of the only movies we’re showing for Cinema Overdrive that’s for all ages.

Matt: That’s our only PG-13. The goal for the series is not to be R-rated and above, the goal is to find really fascinating films. We picked another mainstream cult favorite – Denver was like “let’s break out that THE EVIL DEAD print!” It’s a more famous title but it’ll be fun. EVIL DEAD II runs a lot, the first one not so much. Our print is a little beat up so we’re calling it “THE EVIL DEAD: THE GRINDHOUSE EXPERIENCE”! That’s basically because the print we’ll be running is an original release print from the early 1980s. Even though this film did become a modest grindhouse and drive in hit, there weren’t a lot of 35mm prints of it struck back during its original release, and those that did survive were put through the ringer a bit. So scratches and splices will be present on the screen, much like they would have been had you seen the film several months (or even a year!) into its original theatrical release back in 1983. But in a lot of ways it adds a bit of warmth to the screening that simply cannot be dupicated in a home setting, and many of our regular patrons have commented that they actually enjoy seeing a few bumps and bruises here and there. And the trailers we’ve selected for this show are great fun and will add to the experience as well.

Dan: Well, like most folks I’m more familiar with EVIL DEAD II and ARMY OF DARKNESS. Years and years ago I saw the first one not long after seeing the second and it really confused me. I was like “isn’t this the same movie?”

Matt: It is the same movie. They remade it and kind of changed the tone. Another thing we’ve thought about doing was asking local film writers like you, Zack Smith, and Craig D. Lindsey to pick 3 or 4 trailers. I’ll send you the list and you tell me what your heart’s content and we’ll run them for you!

Dan: Oh, I love that idea.

Matt: We have a great opportunity because we’re not running double features and a lot of these movies are very short. So for 5 bucks we want to give you an hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours of really fun entertainment. I mean a movie like DEATH RACE 2000 is only 75 minutes so a 20 minute trailer package isn’t a problem!

Dan: The trailer component I really love about both “Cool Classics” and “Cinema Overdrive”. I mean I kind of had a feeling that this would be the case, but before THE BIG LEBOWSKI I was like ‘it would be so cool if they dug up some obscure Jeff Bridges or John Goodman trailers and sure enough –there they were!

Denver: (laughs) Yeah, there was SOMEBODY KILLED HER HUSBAND with Bridges and Farah Fawcett.

Dan: That got the biggest laughs of the night!

Matt: Yeah, I don’t remember the timing of that but it was around when Farah died.

Denver: She died like a week later. That was crazy. The trailer is weird because it starts out as a tribute to Farah Fawcett – “Farah – you know her, you love her…” Even before we decided to do Cinema Overdrive, Matt was giving me all these trailers to play. Like the really funny ones before ERASERHEADCHICKEN CHRONICLES and there was that other one with Bud Cort


Denver: Yeah.

Matt: I didn’t realize how highly sought after that one was. That’s the thing though – going to the movies should be a fun social experience. What we are adamant about is – we want people to have a good time but not at the expense of somebody else’s good time. This is not Mystery Science Theater 3000 it’s more like…church.

Dan: That’s what bugged me about THE BIG LEBOWSKI showing – I mean everybody knows that script but I don’t need to hear a line said before it happens, while it’s being said, then after it! I could understand a few random lines, sure, but there was a girl behind me spouting out the entire screenplay!

Matt: The truth is you are not more entertaining than anything the film has to offer you anyway. I know there are other film series across the country where they encourage people to come and yell and make fun but that’s not my thing. I don’t feel irreverently about the movies! I know they are trash but some of them are awfully fun. And for a lot of people, like myself, I think when you do that you’re disrespectful and totally omit the fact that there might be a lot of people who are sitting there that actually really want to see this movie – they have never seen it before and they just want to see it.

Dan: It didn’t bother me so much during LABYRINTH because I got the spirit but I still got a little annoyed at the unending noise of it.

Matt: A friend of mine told me that he doesn’t like to run LEBOWSKI anymore – too many frat boys. He said “I love this movie but honestly the audience is kind of wrecking it for me.” It used to be fun but as it has grown…it’s grown annoying. A lot of films that are considered ‘cult classics’ have developed such a life beyond the screen that they often attract an audience that doesn’t care much about the ritual of going to a repertory screening at all. And while that isn’t always a bad thing, it can become one when things like getting ridiculously drunk and talking over the film are more important than enjoying what the film has to offer. A lot of my associates in the cinema business who do repertory programming have actually developed disdain towards running certain titles simply because of the audience they attract, and that really is unfortunate. While we do want our audiences to come out and have a great time, ultimately it is about the film on screen first and foremost.

Dan: Definitely. I mean, the ROCKY HORROR thing…that movie has this niche where there’s the audience participation thing that’s scripted with people adding new things but the thing is – it only seems to work for that one movie.

Denver: We have had that problem before. THE PRINCESS BRIDE had a lot of audience noise but mostly it hasn’t been too bad. With “Cinema Overdrive” though the thing is, people aren’t going to know the scripts.

Thanks so much Denver and Matt for this extremely insightful and entertaining chat!

If you live in the Triangle area please make it out to the Colony Theater in Raleigh for both “Cinema Overdrive” and “Cool Classics”.

Also, if you haven’t already, please check out the previous parts of our talk – Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

More later…

Chatting With The Creators Of Cinema Overdrive Part 3 of 4

This is the third of a 4 part talk with a couple of the creators of the series “Cinema Overdrive.” If you haven’t already please read parts 1 and 2.

The Colony Theater in North Raleigh is hosting the series billed as “the best in high-octane cult/horror/exploitation/drive-in and forgotten films that are waiting to find an audience.”

Tomorrow night (Wednesday, Oct. 14th) a 35 MM print of the 1982 cult Spanish slasher film PIECES shows at 8 PM so to gear those in the area up here’s more of my conversation with co creators Denver Hill and Matt Pennachi:

Dan: How did you guys get into collecting film? (To Denver) Were you a big movie buff kid?

Denver: No, I had been working here for a few years and we had decided to start this film series. I started collecting after that so I’ve only been into it for 3 or 4 years.

Dan: When you were younger though, were you way into movies?

Denver: Yeah, but the older I get I get more into it. I wasn’t into cult movies when I was younger. I didn’t even know what a cult movie was until I was in college. The way I got into film was through people like Kevin Smith or Tarantino who kind of like in between the mainstream and cult. I think that can be true for a lot of people here. I mean they’ll come see LABYRINTH and see the trailer for SHOGUN ASSASSIN and it will open them up to a whole new world.

Dan: So after SHOGUN ASSASSIN you’ve got PIECES.

Matt: The great thing about PIECES is that they manage to pack so much entertainment value into a scant 80 minutes. There is literally not a wasted second in that film, and so much of the material is so unintentionally hilarious for such a wide variety of reasons. Out of all of the films we’ve run in the last 10+ years, this is one of my absolute favorites to watch with an audience.

PIECES was released theatrically as one of those classic early 80’s Eurotrash splatter imports that featured the “due to the shocking nature of this film, no one under 17 admitted” warning. That tag line was almost invariably a sign of something great to come! Most films are lucky if they manage to get just one fantastic tag line for the poster, but PIECES wound up with two articles of copy that were both marketing gold! “You don’t have to go to Texas for a chainsaw massacre!” and “PIECES – it’s exactly what you think it is!” Even the TV spot that was cut for it was terrific. It’s only 30 seconds long, but you definitely get the idea of the schlock that this one has in store for you.

Then THE EVIL DEAD (Oct 21st) then THE MONSTER SQUAD (Oct. 28th) and we’ll break out some really great trailers. I have a lot of horror so October will be a good month for trailers.

Denver: That’s another thing, nobody really makes good horror movies now. It’s like SAW every year, a remake of HALLOWEEN

Matt: Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN was one of the worst films I’ve seen in the last few years. A lot of this stuff becomes redundant to me – the HOSTELs and whatnot. Though people would be quick to challenge me like, ‘how can you not like those but you like films like LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and SUSPIRIA?’ Well, it’s hard to put your finger on something tangible but to me the spirit of the 70’s films is different. These new films are not about anything but people gratuitously suffering in the most painful ways possible and what exactly is fun about that?

Dan: Torture porn is what it’s called, right?

Matt: It’s like if you really want to do something unique in horror? Make me a PG-13 film about a dungeon and a castle because now a days that would be very different!

Denver: See, I would argue that the 70’s horror is more intellectual than the movies being made now too.

Matt: It’s much more sociological. When you remake films like LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT or DAWN OF THE DEAD you can’t recreate the era in which these films were unleashed upon the public.

Dan: This reminds that when I was a kid I always wanted to go to the movies and my parents didn’t want to see certain movies so they would drop me off at the movies sometimes.

Matt: Those were good times weren’t they? My mom used to do that.

Dan: I’ve looked this up because this is like, do I remember this right? It was 30 years ago, I was 9 and went to see a kid’s movie and there was a trailer for THE SHINING * that scared the Hell out of me!

Matt: The one with the elevator and the corridor of blood?

Dan: Yes, and I was 8 or 9, you know? I mean it scared me out of my mind. There was no context to it – no shot of Nicholson with an axe or of Shelly Duvall screaming or anything it was just that hallway with those titles and the ocean of blood coming at you and it froze in my 9 year old mind.

I mean you know how today they program those things – trailers for action movies in front of action movies, you know appropriate trailers for whatever audiences? I can’t remember the movie that the trailer was on…I think it was a Disney movie…

Matt: No, I bet I can tell you what the movie was because I have a friend who has a similar story. When he was 11 he went with his 7 year old cousin to see BON VOYAGE, CHARLIE BROWN and that trailer was one front of that print!

Dan: Oh my God! I went to see that movie in the theaters! It has to be that one! You’ve just taken me back to the Ram Theater in Chapel Hill in 1980! Which incidentally was the worst theater I’ve ever been to in my life. It’s not there anymore of course.

Matt: Oh, I used to go to the Ram too. My friend Jeff just told me that he wishes we could find video of this but the Ram is where those women’s groups stood out on the sidewalk and protested PIECES when they ran that! Charlie Gaddy did a news story on WRAL about that. I really wish we could find it.

* THE SHINING is playing at the Carolina Theatre in Greensboro tonight (Tuesday 10/13/09 7:30 PM). If that’s a theater near you – go to it.

More later…

Soundtrack September Selection #1: THE WICKER MAN (1973)

This being Soundtrack September, all month I’m going to showcase soundtrack selections from bloggers, readers, and random people on the street (well, not really). The month’s first soundtrack pick comes from Matt Pennachi, a fellow film buff whom I spoke to last month about a film series he co-created – Cinema Overdrive at the Colony Theater in North Raleigh. Take it away, Matt!:

“OK, this is such a hard thing to choose, and I know if I really thought about it I would probably change my mind multiple times a day. But here is a soundtrack that I personally love, and own the remastered version on both CD and Vinyl:


A soundtrack that is as eccentric as the film itself, but also evokes imagery as powerful and striking as the film shot by Anthony Schaffer.

When I first saw the film years ago, I thought the songs featured in it were traditional folk songs. They fit this film that well. Later I was surprised that they were written (and some performed) by Paul Giovanni, a composer who died in 1990 of AIDS. The music is comical, eerie and erotic, and all appropriately placed throughout the film. Plus, we get to hear Christopher Lee sing! (“The Tinker of Rye“). Songs like “Gently Johnny”, “Willow‘s Song” and the comical “The Landlord’s Daughter” are all just so spot on it is uncanny.

I really wish I could put into words how good I think this soundtrack is. For years the master tapes were thought to be completely lost, as the film was basically buried by a UK distributor who HATED it, and when there was a regime change at the distribution company went out of his way to make sure the film bombed. But Christopher Lee maintains to this very day that it is the single best film he has ever appeared in, and he loved the script so much he did it for no money.”

More later…

Chatting With The Creators Of Cinema Overdrive Part 1 of 4

Next week a new series starts at the Colony Theater in North Raleigh, NC (Yes, this is another local-centric post) entitled “Cinema Overdrive”. As readers should well know, I’ve been a huge fan of the theater’s ongoing series “Cool Classics @ The Colony” which has long provided area movie goers with special showings of 35 Millimeter prints of long loved cult movies like ERASERHEAD, LABYRINTH, THE BIG LEBOWSKI, and PURPLE RAIN. “Cinema Overdrive” however, goes much further. As the description on their website says they present “the best in high-octane cult/horror/exploitation/drive-in and forgotten films that are waiting to find an audience.”

The series kicks off next Wednesday (August 12th at 8:00 PM) with DEATH RACE 2000. Future showings will be of SHOGUN ASSASSIN, VICE SQUAD, PIECES, and LADY TERMINATOR (see the picture montage above). I had a cool chat with a couple of the creators (the other being Adam Hulin who I hope to talk to soon) of this exciting new series: Denver Hill and Matt Pennachi. Both are 35 MM film collectors and fellow film fanatics so it was an engrossing conversation I’m anxious to share. In this first part we discuss just what “Cinema Overdrive” is about, what was wrong with the movie GRINDHOUSE, and why everybody should make it out to SHOGUN ASSASSIN in September.

Dan: How did “Cinema Overdrive” come together? What was the impetus for it?

Denver: Well, Matt and I have been friends for a couple of years. We both collect 35 millimeter, and I’ve always been a fan of “Retrofantasma” (Pennachi’s former series at the Carolina Theater in Durham, NC). That actually inspired the “Cool Classics” and we had the opportunity, I just said “hey, do you want to try this in Raleigh?”

Matt: Yeah, well one thing I’ll say about “Cinema Overdrive”, there’s other repertory series in the area including “Cool Classics”, but with ours we’re bringing a little danger back to movie going. All the others are kind of safe, this one – the faint of heart may not necessarily need to apply. If you have even the worry that it may not be politically correct enough for you, you shouldn’t buy a ticket. The 70’s weren’t very politically correct.

Denver: But that’s what we want though – we want to challenge. Like with “Cool Classics” it’s like maybe one of your favorite movies but you never saw it in the theater, but with “Cinema Overdrive” it’s probably a movie you’ve never seen before. It maybe offend or shock or just make you go “Oh my God!” you know, but we just want to bring the excitement back.

Matt: I think we have the opportunity because I have enough respect and faith in film fans in the Triangle – I think there’s a lot of really savvy film people in this area.

Dan: Oh yeah, absolutely.

Matt: I mean if your idea of being a real film nerd is having an in depth conversation about Tim Burton, we’re probably not for you. But I mean if you really love…you know, we’re everything that Quentin Tarantino’s GRINDHOUSE was supposed to be.

Dan: What did you think of that film? That’s a movie that comes up when I think of the idea behind “Cinema Overdrive”. Was it too much that it was fake “Grindhouse”? I had a friend who said that “if only Tarantino and Rodriquez worked with real Grindhouse budgets”, you know?

Matt: I feel the same way. My major problem was when I first saw it I was like well, it’s relatively entertaining…but my main problem is when I heard it was that it was a 72 million dollar film I was like wouldn’t it have been more interesting if they said we’re going to try to recreate 1974 and put it on a inflation adjusted dollar and that means, okay Jack Hill would’ve made that for $800,000 – inflation adjusted that’s 3.4 million so meaning if we can’t get Kurt Russell and have to make the movie with Ken Wahl from Wiseguy, somebody call up and find Ken Wahl. That would’ve been a more interesting experiment to me. And the thing is, I think particularly with Rodriquez’s segment, he brought the poster to life more than the actual film. There were no “Grindhouse” movies that had people jumping on motorcycles with monstrous town-size explosions – they never could afford it.

Denver: Well, I didn’t like all the fake scratches and fake splices.

Dan: The “missing reels”?

Matt: First of all, the “missing reel” thing is something that never ever existed in a “Grindhouse” cinema. You know why? Because if you were in a shit-hole cinema and there was a reel missing there’s no way on earth they were going to let you know. Never.

Denver: You know, the Triangle is one of the top 5 growing areas in the country. We have people from all of the country moving here so there’s definitely a demand for all these types of movies that we’re showing.

Matt: Even though I don’t make it out because I have kids basically and my wife works in the evening, I love the concept of “Cool Classics”. It’s a lot of movies you know but it’s not fixated to one genre. There might be something mega-famous and safe like LABYRINTH and then there also might be something that’s famous in the sense that a lot of people know what ERASERHEAD is but haven’t necessarily seen it. (To Denver) Oh, Phil Blankenship, I told him about your PURPLE RAIN show, and he said PURPLE RAIN is just a home run ball – we did it out here in LA and it was the same thing. Patton Oswalt came! It’s like I said, ‘I wouldn’t have guessed it’, he was like “I wouldn’t have either but PURPLE RAIN is still huge!

Denver: Yeah, we need to show that one again.

Matt: I’ll be honest I’ve never that movie. I’ve always meant to.

Dan: Last summer was the first time I’d seen it all the way through.

Matt: Did you like it?

Dan: Oh, I liked it a lot. There’s a huge cheese factor to it, but that’s what makes it great. The live sequences at 1st Avenue and the Morris Day whatnot, all of that is crowd pleasing stuff. In fact, not long ago on “Sound Opinions”, you know that show? NPR?

Matt: That’s a great show!

Dan: Yeah, they were doing one of their “album dissections” on “Purple Rain”, because it’s the 25th anniversary. One of them, Jim I think, was saying “You see it once and you don’t ever have to see ‘Purple Rain’ again”, and I was like ‘are you crazy? There’s a high re-watchability factor!

Matt: Maybe they haven’t watched it enough to know that.

Dan: Yeah, that’s the thing I was wondering, have they really re-watched it lately?

Matt: It’s like there’s millions of people that went out and saw KILL BILL: VOL. 2, right? Well at the end there’s that touching scene where the Bride and her daughter watch SHOGUN ASSASSIN. Well, how many people have seen SHOGUN ASSASSIN? If they come here in September we’ll show them SHOGUN ASSASSIN.

Dan: I’ve never seen it. There are so many films, that as a “film guy” I am ashamed to admit that I’ve never seen.

Matt: Oh my God! That movie is amazing theatrically. It’s just jaw dropping. I feel so ebullient when I run the print. I love this movie.

Denver: We joked about it at first but I think we really are trying to educate people about film.

Matt: It’s not like “Mystery Science 3000”, it’s like going to church. You go to have a social experience but you also go to learn about something that you have great faith in!

Next week: Part 2 of my chat with Denver and Matt. We’ll discuss their premiere showing of DEATH RACE 2000 and go off on more crazy tangents surrounding “Cinema Overdrive” and other obsessive film fodder. Please stay tuned.

More later…