Funny how times flies, isn’t it? Recently, I came across a copy of the first magazine I wrote for featuring the very first article I prepared–ever. I was taking a class on magazine production at Cypress College, and as part of the grade, everybody was required to write at least one story for inclusion in the campus magazine, named “The View”. We were instructed to write what we knew about–something that greatly interested us as teens in the mid-1980’s. As I happened to be an avid fan of the then-thriving Midnight Movie circuit, it was practically a no-brainer what the subject of my story would be.
In retrospect, what fascinates me is how truly unique the motion pictures I mentioned were–and still are. In fact, I’m surprised as just how well it holds up today; however, given the understanding (and experience) I have now, I think I could’ve explored the subject a little more in depth. Take the history of Midnight cinema for example. Years later the May 2002 issue of “The O.C. Blade“ featured my review of a documentary about “The Cockettes“–a popular “psychedelic” group of performers during San Francisco’s heady days of the 60‘s and early 70‘s. Their glitzy and outrageous performances preceding late night weekend presentations of underground films (called ‘The Nocturnal Dream Show‘) eventually would serve as the model for the entire “Midnight Movie” phenomenon.
Additionally, how could I imagine then that I might ever be lucky enough to meet, let alone interview, Mink Stole–one of the genres’ top leading ladies. At the time, she had just appeared in “Polyester”–an eccentric little comedy from her long time collaborator, John Waters. In the article I, perhaps rather brusquely, referred to her as “An Aging Sex Kitten”; yet I couldn’t have been more in awe when I eventually did have the honor of speaking with her for a story that appeared in the October 2009 edition of Kansas City, Missouri‘s “Camp Magazine” ( http://www.campkc.com/campkc-content.php?Page_ID=1359 .)
The last time “yours truly” encountered anything even remotely like what I recall of watching movies at the “witching hour” was last year when I had the terrific fortune to attend a midnight premiere party for the opening of “Sex And The City 2”. Although it may have been dubbed by many critics as one of 2010’s worst, I personally, shall count it as being right up there with “Gone With The Wind” for all the unbridled fun I had seeing it in a crowed cine-plex brimming over with some very vocal devotees of the original series. All were eager to celebrate this second big screen outing regardless of what it had in store!
Once upon a time, a project suffering similar poor critical response could still find its audience among the midnight crowd. Such was the case (-as referred to in the article) with “Mommie Dearest” starring Faye Dunaway. Critics found the finished product camp to say the least, with Dunaway’s portrayal of the Legendary Joan Crawford bordering on “drag queen-esque”. Nonetheless, the smart marketing team handling the release took the disappointing notices in stride–merely adding more bookings on Friday and Saturday, starting at (you guessed it:) Midnight!
One man who really knows something about the current state of Midnight cinema is Logan Crow, the Executive Director and Founder of “The Long Beach Cinematheque” in Long Beach California. (Lbcinema.org) Every week, his organization produces “Midnight Mondo Celluloid ” at the historic “The Art Theater“ in Long Beach California. He notes that these days, patrons can even interact with their favorite flicks utilizing a whole new “High-Tech” twist! Aided by the advancement of state-of-the-art digital projection systems, there’s MuV-Chat–a software program that enables those filling the theater seats, via a dedicated number, to text comments which will then “pop up” instantly on the screen. “‘MuV Chat’ is a really cool process that was developed in Chicago,” Crow explains; “I first brought it out with our showing of ‘Mommie Dearest’, actually. It’s a pop-up video that’s entirely in the spectator‘s command–basically, they control it.” What’s more, Logan details how the thoughts expressed frequently grow increasingly irreverent. “It just becomes very, very campy–people even start flirting with each other. It’s hilarious!” He laughs.
That most of the old titles can now be obtained on video or DVD (–including the 25th Anniversary Edition Of “Shock Treatment”, the ‘electrifying’ sequel to the most successful cult-movie of all time–) is, in itself, a terrific thing; it allows enthusiasts to view these under-rated “classics” whenever they want. They even open up their easy accessibility to an entire new and wider following; However, Crow assures any doubters that there still is a contingent of committed viewers for midnight films seen in theaters. “Even though they can rent a movie at home, I think that there’s still an audience of people who can appreciate–and would rather see it blown up on a large screen, and be surrounded by other people in the dark, all taking in that film,” he confirms. “There’s literally a ritualistic element to it–everyone getting together–its like ‘Mass’ for a lot of people,” quips Logan; “and that’s a perfect name because it really is like church for a lot of people. Its their weekly moment when they all get together, fill the aisles, and ‘worship’ cinema!”
Sometimes, the devotion certain movies inspire can even become a source of support for a terrific cause. On Friday, May 13th , die-hard fans can look forward to “doing the time warp” all over again when the Long Beach Cinematheque will hold a benefit ‘Shadow-cast’ screening of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”–complete with a live cast. That evening, The Art Theatre, located at 2025 E. 4th Street in Long Beach, CA., is the place to be. Not too long ago, “The Art” was considered one of the few places remaining where true aficionados could go every Saturday Night and see “Rocky Horror” the way it should be–through props and with a dedicated troupe of performers acting out the story along with those on-screen. Proceeds for this for one-night-only event will go to support AIDS Lifecycle, with festivities slated to begin at 11:15 pm. General Admission is $15.00; VIP Priority Seating is also available for $25.00, which offers special seating in the first few rows of the theatre, guaranteeing some “absolute pleasure” up close! In addition, EVERYONE will receive a special “Goodie Bag” filled with all the supplies that, as any expert will tell you, are absolutely needed for maximum enjoyment (–like a mini water gun, toilet-paper, and other terrific surprises!) For more information, checkout: http://lbcinema.org/timewarp4alc .
From “Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes” to “The Forbidden Zone”, the entire midnight movie sensation needn’t be just a memory if one is simply willing to look for it. Because in the end, when it comes to these films, actually digesting the plot has never exactly been top priority; being there, sitting in a packed auditorium, alive with excitement created by like-minded adherents waiting to be entranced, is. “You react to ‘Pink Flamingoes’ in the sense of the absurdity of what you’re watching; you react to ‘Rocky Horror’ in a very active way by yelling back,” Crow reminds us. (Maybe that’s why the longest running movie musical in history’s whole theme of “Don’t dream it–BE it” continues to hit home with so many.)
Special Thanks to Logan Crow of The Long Beach Cinemateque (LBcinema.org) And To The Library And Journalism Department Archive Staff Of Cypress College in Cypress, CA. for making this story possible.