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…

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…