Chatting With The Creators Of Cinema Overdrive Part 2 of 4

As I reported in part one of this rambling but wonderful conversation, tomorrow night a new repertory series starts at the Colony Theater in North Raleigh. “Cinema Overdrive” which is billed as the best in high-octane cult/horror/exploitation/drive-in and forgotten films that are waiting to find an audience.”

This is the second of a 4 part talk with a couple of the creators of the series – Denver Hill and Matt Pennachi. I hope to speak another co-creator, Adam Hulin, in the near future as what Pennachi calls “a social experiment” progresses into fall and beyond. The main topic was tomorrow’s premiere feature DEATH RACE 2000 but we also chatted about future showings like VICE SQUAD and PIECES. Hope you enjoy:

Dan: So DEATH RACE 2000 kicks off “Cinema Overdrive”. What made you decide on that for the first one?

Denver: Well, we picked it the day before David Carradine died.

Matt: He died the next day!

Denver: It was very bizarre.

Matt: Why did we pick that? Because it’s something that we had in the collection that has the “Cinema Overdrive” flavor, but it’s also the type of film that enough people will have heard about it but never seen.

Dan: That’s just me! I heard about it, I worked in a video store and I remember the cover of the VHS box – it was one that nobody ever rented. People would pick it up and joke about it but put it back down.

Matt: (laughs) It’s a lot of fun. This particular print has Swedish subtitles on the bottom because I got it from a collector in Sweden.

Dan: (laughs) Well, I think that might add something to it!

Matt: It does actually. DEATH RACE 2000 has the right flavor to kick off the series because a film like VICE SQUAD is a great high energy movie but you can’t lead off with it – not enough people have heard of it.

Denver: We want to pull people in, and then gradually get crazier, more obscure with films.

Matt: We want to create a community.

Denver: VICE SQUAD, though, is one film buffs go crazy over. It’s like total kick ass non-stop…

Matt: Yeah, it’s pretty much as soon as the opening credits start they step on the gas and don’t let up ‘til the end credits; it’s very full throttle. It’s kind of mean in parts. Original MTV VJ Nina Blackwood gets beat up by her pimp in the movie!

Dan: Well, you sold me!

Matt: (laughs) Exactly! Have you seen PIECES?

Dan: I’m ashamed to say that’s another I’ve never seen.

Matt: PIECES is insane!

Dan: I don’t think I’ve even seen a second of it …oh wait, there was that trailer you put up on Facebook.

Matt: It was a TV spot. (click here to see it) They never made a trailer because that one was of the very last films that FVI (Film Venture International) released before their President, Edward L. Montoro, embezzled a million dollars from the company and was never seen again. The rumor is that he either fled to South America or is in the trunk of a car somewhere so they never got around to making the trailer. I like to give a little back story, like on THE DEVIL’S RAIN years ago, I didn’t even plan this but I was up onstage and I said: “When this movie starts you’re going to see the logo for Bryanston Entertainment – is anybody familiar with what Bryanston Entertainment is?” They were like “uh no” I went on: “They released THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and they released Andy Warhol’s FRANKENSTEIN. They were owned by the mafia. The mafia created this company because they made so much money off of DEEP THROAT, they needed a legitimate company to fence it through. Here’s Bryanston Entertainment.

Denver: I don’t want to put Matt on the spot but that’s another draw of “Cinema Overdrive” – he’s like a walking encyclopedia of cult film knowledge.

Matt: I mean, I like art but I love trash! (laughs) I love art too. I mean, my favorite cinematic experience of all time is still 2001. I just find it very moving, but that being said, there are other shared social experiences that are really…fun and energetic. This summer, going to the movies, like with a lot of first run movies…how often is it fun? Maybe one or two times out of ten? That’s why I get excited about a film like UP or ANVIL that actually hits on all cylinders and they really did a good job with it. So many things are so half-assed productions. With “Cinema Overdrive” though, granted I’m not foolish – I know what people think about these films in the grand scheme of things. That being said I don’t feel irreverently about them. I enjoy them for what they are. A lot of times regardless of where they fall in the scheme of art, these films work awfully hard to entertain you. Awfully hard. There’s something to be said for that… because the great rule of exploitation film making is shoot whatever you want, just don’t be boring!

If you are anywhere near the Triangle area tomorrow night – try and make it out for DEATH RACE 2000 at the Colony Theater @ 8:00 PM. Matt promises a slew of jaw dropping vintage trailers to accompany it and for $5.00 it’s a deal you can’t pass up!

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…