For those who still mourn the passing of cult movie institution The Incredible Film Festival, and remain indifferent to its festivalized reincarnate That’s Incredible Cinema, the V 24 Hour Movie Marathon stands as a last bastion for midnight movie disciples in New Zealand. In its sixth installment, it is effectively an entire week’s programme spooled together as one, reeled out continuously from dawn to dusk (to dawn again). This year’s marathon promised a return to the underground of the Incredibly Strange, a trawl through the wasteland of B-pictures, obscure Zombie movies, 80s memorabilia, and Jodorowsky shitting in a bowl. JACOB POWELL donned pajamas to file this report.


Arrival, Geeks & Queue Jumping

TIME: 4:25pm. I arrive in Avondale suitably pajama’d in my dark Auckland-City-Hospital blue “Emergency Room” scrubs. I park on St Georges Road, about 15 metres down from The Hollywood, our cinematic shrine-to-be for the next 24 hours, and find my marathon crew. It’s all about to start!

I look at the steadily growing queue. My God! Where do all these geeks hide during the week? Certainly not anywhere outside. I am momentarily overcome by concentrated levels of pastiness on display outside the Hollywood cinema. Each year Avondale residents must pass by thinking: WTF!

TIME: 4:55pm. After an energy stop at the Wharekai Café, having booked and paid early, we head for the front of the queue. A guy with a list is calling out names and people going in. We all walk up and loiter at the door waiting for the list guy – bearer of our hopes and dreams – to stop speaking. We are a little late.

At the first chance Cory, our group organiser, leaps in with a “Cory?” After a few seconds and some page flipping the guy puts us out of our misery:

“Yeah, here we are. Cory” *sigh*

Then, just as quickly, he puts us back in our misery again!

“Cory. 3 people.”

There are currently 6 of us. And we have two more to come. Cory starts looking slightly desperate and goes into salvage mode firing out some check-further-down’s and maybe-over-the-page’s. Eventually the guy finds another listing:

“Cory Schultz. 4”

And then another

“Cory Schultz. 4 more”

Oh well, Cory has oversubscribed… but at least we are getting in! Bye, bye queue-bound suckers!

We’re in. All our nervous energy shoots out in one giant release as we get our fungal green arm stamps and an armload of V then run into the ground floor of the stripped back Hollywood. Just as we get our prime position sussed, a random stranger with a video camera comes up and “interviews” our group – presumably for posterity, but here’s hoping we don’t end up on some dodgo internet site!

For those who arrive on time there is the annual special treat of the live Wurlitzer performance. Gone was ‘Madge’ from last year; appearing on the rising pedestal in the corner was John, who did a very creditable job – no Imperial March mind you – covering a lot of show tunes and the like for a good 40 minutes as the crowds shuffled in and found a space.

Trailers

This year the rolling of film previews (to anaesthetise the already seated masses as the cinema filled and to fill dead air during break times) included a bunch of old westerns, some schlock horror/thrillers, old exploring Africa or jungle adventures and a bunch of old song & dance numbers to begin the day.

At one stage in the middle of the night the DVD went into repeat on one short western trailer which Cory and I went into describing the scenes verbatim just before they played – much to the ‘enjoyment’ of our neighbouring viewer geeks. We must have repeated it at least thirty times. Maybe I can remember some…

***POOR MEMORY EXERCISE***

...general fight, explosion, woman with hat, kick in the face, back-flip off balcony, knife fight in bar, chandelier drops over top of guy, man slides off roof and falls through balcony, shots from window, guy on horse, man slides down gravelled slope, lot’s of guys riding horses and an explosion, horses riding under a low rock outcrop, man being stabbed with cavalry sword, loading shotgun, riding off into the sunset... Repeat x 27.

***END OF POOR MEMORY EXERCISE***

As usual there were a few films from the trailers that you really wish you could get your hands on but it’s very difficult to remember what they were called and if you do where the hell you’d find the buggers?!

The Films

Marathon organiser Ant Timpson greeted all the movie goers to kick proceedings off with a few little rules and things to note:

» Respect the cinema. They are great people for giving it to a bunch of miscreant geeks for a whole day! I can dig it.
» Please support the cinema by buying snacks form here. Do not support the arsehole who owns the dairy next door, and who tows cars without warning! Noted.
» Sleep at your own risk. Anybody who sleeps – particularly those who snore – automatically agree to be woken up in an unpleasant or embarrassing manner. Fair enough.
» No hot food in the cinema. Things end up smelling skanky enough without your pizza to mull it up some more. Agreed.
» We are going to get through more films by cutting back on breaks. 5 minutes between films followed by 15-20 minutes between every set of two films, including competitions etc. Ok, I can deal with that.
» We’re going back to our B and cult cinema roots, so if you‘re going to complain about not seeing Saw 3, or a swag of new previews then you can just fuck off back home right now! That’s what I’m talking about! There were far too many previews last year, stuff that you can just pop out and see in a month’s time. This is what I paid $40 for!

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1. Lady Terminator (H. Tjut Djalil/Indonesia/1988)
Indonesian myth meets T1 rip-off. Ultra B-Grade, very funny. Starts off “100 years ago” but let’s not get specific about dates. An Indonesian lady (of no special interest that I can tell) screws a man to his death (lot’s of unnecessary fake blood!) then laments that she can’t find a man who can “satisfy her”. In walks not-particularly-flash-looking-white-guy and you know her “problems” are over. Sure enough he does the business, but it turns out that she is an angry evil spirit woman with a sharp toothed snake residing in her nether regions. Once she realises that he has done the dirty on her (in more ways than one) and banished her (albeit after showing her a good time) she puts a curse on his female descendant in 100 years time?! As you do. So it starts off in the usual manner until we jump back to the here and now (1988) and it turns into ovarian terminator minus the metal bits.

It was so deliciously, and unselfconsciously cheesy! And it didn’t bat an eyelid at directly ripping off multiple scenes from its alternate gendered forbear. T1 moments:

» ‘Arriving’ (out of the ocean past instead of the future) naked and ‘screwing’ some guys over for some clothes.
» Being shotgun blasted out of the front window of a bar/club then getting up and chasing assailants.
» ‘Buying’ a gun from a gun store.
» Getting an injured eye and ‘repairing’ it (bear in mind that she is not a cyborg or a robot. They even mix up which eye it was from one shot to another!).
» Being caught in a petrol tanker explosion and walking out of the wreckage flames to the amazement of all concerned.

Lady Terminator also includes such classy, enduring lines as:

“I’m not a lady, I’m an anthropologist!” and “...then they raped and killed her... bastards!”

Probably the two other most memorable features of this gem were:

» The fact that it tried so hard to feel American, accents and style, but ALL of the extras and shopkeepers etc were clearly south east Asian and all of the cars were old British makes/models
» It became apparent that the film had an English speaking track that had then been inexpertly dubbed over again – in English!?!? Masterful!

2. Streets of Fire (Walter Hill/USA/1984)
80s cheesy action, with archetypal macho hard-man loner (Michael Paré) vs feared gang leader (Willem Dafoe) for affection of dame (Diane Lane). Think Grease meets Rambo.

Actually it was more action/melodrama less cheese, though it certainly had its cheddar quotient. Michael Paré produced enough brooding, angst-ridden toughness to send any number of action film protagonists cowering into a corner. He even went so far as to punch out (not slap or shove) the girl he ‘loves’ so that she ‘wouldn’t get hurt’!? Go figure, but that’s messing with some Hollywood conventions right there. Of course she wants him all the more which is right up the Hollywood alley. But he then buggers off at the end because ‘he’s no good for her’. What a guy? What a tool! He’s right though, he is no good for her. He’s an antisocial, violent, psychotic nightmare – every girl’s dream…if she likes to be dominated and live in constant fear.

I wasn’t 100% sure why Willem Dafoe’s tough guy character, Raven, spent half the film roaming around in a one piece vinyl dungaree/jumpsuit while expecting to look mean?!? Even Dafoe’s psychotic onscreen presence/persona struggled to get the better of this fitting, very camp freshwater-trout-fishing-without-a-t-shirt-replete-with-leather-cap ensemble.

We even have Rick Moranis playing the overtly compensating “little man”, though one suspects that he is figuratively representative of the entire cast of ‘compensating’ characters. Alongside him is Bill Paxton in a strange caricatured Back to the Future style supporting roll.

All in all a very enjoyable piece of 80s memorabilia that somehow passed me by on its initial airing.

***COMPETITION BREAK***

Yeah baby, the first competition. They ask for 5 volunteers to come up on stage I am out of my seat in a flash figuring that I might as well get in early seeing as I have to bail a little early again this year (more on that later).

Competition rules: we have to quote a line, in character, from Lady Terminator.
Prize: MGM pack including Evil Dead Ash doll, and bunch of DVDs.

Wicked. My mind blanks. Fool! Eventually (I’m about halfway along the pack) I come up with a line from the ever-so-wise old Chinese man (who actually turns out to be Indonesian). I fudge the line – but nobody can remember it properly anyway, so no matter – and deliver it an accent worthy of one of the greats: Mel Gibson (think his Scottish attempt in Braveheart), Brad Pitt (every seen Seven Years in Tibet?), or possibly even the king himself, Sean Connery (any film where he is supposed to be anything other than Scottish, eg. Highlander).

Steve Gray even tells me I was supposed to be doing it in character and I have to explain who I was doing… can it get more embarrassing! Still I come out about half on the clap-o-meter due, in part, to turning up with a decent sized group and knowing a few other geeks in attendance, I suspect. Although, there are some other truly horrendous efforts. The winner does the aforementioned: “then they raped and killed her...” line and deservedly takes the prize that could have been mine if I wasn’t so overexcited.

In any event, all of us ‘almost winners’ receive a free DVD. Cool! Or perhaps not. Looks like some distributors been clearing out the ‘not moving’ stock backlog. I get a copy of Death to Smoochy, which is universally decried by my video-store employed marathon crewmates.

***COMPETITION ENDS***

3. Burial Ground (Andrea Bianch/Italy/1981)
Slow moving, unscary, B-Grade, Italian zombie flick. Worth a laugh (and yawn). Good thing this aired the lighter side of midnight as it might have put down some of the hardiest souls at 2.30am.

What starts of as a classic 80s T&A fest, replete with Isolated Italian country manor, turns into an exercise in paper machete ‘facial gore’ masks. A bunch of well-to-do couples are invited to the mansion of an eccentric professor who seems to have wandered off. They take this as an excuse to get a whole lot of action so much so that they wake the dead, who, it appears, are quite peckish.

For a low budget B-horror this wasn’t doing too badly. The makeup was pretty well done for an amateur affair – though it has to be said that professionals get paid for a reason! When the zombies were seen hoisting themselves out of their graves, the makeup didn’t extend to the underside of the ‘actors’ hands. You had this gruesome looking façade and then regular looking fingers and palms clearly separate from the makeup layer – all class here! This, along with the uniformly ridiculous arms-held-out-in-front-of-me-Plan-9-style of the Zombies made them not so much scary as puzzling.

They also, in time honoured zombie fashion, moved more slowly than your 93-year-old grandma cruising on her Zimmer frame. Why were the people scared when they could out walk these things and not break a sweat? Perhaps it is their, cold, emotion free, relentlessness. You’re alive, so they’re damn well going to eat you; even if it takes 20 minutes of film time for them to catch up with you!

Actually the freakiest thing (by far – ask anyone who has seen this film) is the 14-year-old boy/man who is the young son of one of the couples. Not only does he stalk his mother and her partner while they’re getting some hot Italian casa-loving-time, but you spend the whole time wondering if they cast a strangely small and young looking adult person in the role. Maybe they thought the content would be inappropriate for a 14-year-old – as it is. Whatever the case he looks odd and is the scariest thing in this film. I’m surprised that the Zombies worked up the courage to chow down on him to be honest. The other facet which added to this was the English voice they dubbed him with. It was either a stroke of brilliance or the people who hired the voices had not seen the film at all. For the kid they use the voice of, what is unmistakably, a grown man trying to sound like a child. How messed up are these people?!

The filmmakers then create a bizarre, incestual Freudian subplot around this kid. He is obsessed with his mother to the point where he asks her to breast feed him, then when denied in disgust, tries to slip his hand up her skirt – cause that’s going to go down well! Near the end of the film, the most disturbing scene revisits the one I just mentioned, except now he’s a Zombie and his mother is unhinged and a little more willing... you can probably fill in the gaps...

4. Crank (Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor/UK/USA/2006)
Crank was the one première for the marathon, for which I was glad. It is the new Jason Statham action vehicle. Its premise? A gangster has been duped by a competitor and poisoned by a chemical which slowly stops your heart. The only way to slow down its progress is to keep yourself pumped full of adrenaline. Need I say more???

Though it was, and is bound to be, an action crowd-pleaser, I found it to be casually violent, sexist, and self-focused in a way that I found ideologically disturbing. Amy Smart played the very pretty, dumb blonde girlfriend who put up with being lied to and treated like shit (no matter how ‘good’ the reasons) in a way that was perturbing. God forbid that this kind of behaviour, without a point, becomes increasingly normalised in film again.

As viewing, it had plenty of great action set pieces, strung around a thin facade of a plot and forgettable dialogue. Though it certainly helped keep us awake, Lock, Stock it was not. One to watch, eat popcorn through, then forget.

5. Troll 2 (!!!!) (Claudio Fragasso/USA/1990)
OMG yes! Troll 2. What can I say? How I have missed this film for so long I do not know, but you must see it! Among a select few films which hold the dubious honour of being labelled the worst film ever made. A true B-Grade gem this film, written and directed by Italian B-movie maestro, Claudio Fragasso, was made with local Utah ‘talent’ on a meagre budget ignoring such stumbling blocks as acting ability, appropriate background music, or realistic dialogue. This was an absolute joy to watch. It’s amazing that people can actually get movies like this made when other people struggle to get decent ideas down on film.

Troll 2 follows a family (mom, dad, and two kids) who do a ‘life swap’ and move temporarily to a town, Nilbog (population 36) that is full of evil Goblins, masquerading as humans, who turn people into half human/half vegetables before dining on them. The protagonist is the young son, Joshua Waites, who is in lone communion with his dead grandfather, Grandpa Seth, who, coincidentally, begins the film by telling Joshua ‘a fable’ about evil Goblins. Freaky grandpa gives Joshua advice and help to thwart the evil goblins (not trolls) or so we hope... throw into the mix Joshua’s sister, Holly Waites, with her tagalong boyfriend and his three horny but nerdy friends and you’re in for a wild and terribly acted ride!

Now, for a couple of quotable, standout lines from the film:

(Joshua’s mother is telling off for ‘pretending’ that his grandfather is speaking to him, as he died some time ago and it has been hard on everyone, not just him)

“…it’s been very difficult for your father, for Holly, and for me his daughter.”

(Grandpa Seth has warned Joshua to stop the family from eating the Goblin ‘poisoned’ food on the table and in their hands. He somehow freezes time giving Joshua 30secs to come up with a workable solution. In a stroke of brilliance Joshua, at the last second, jumps up on the table and pisses all over the food and everyone! Dad then has the following rave and refers to the “Welcome” cake that Joshua has just pissed all over…)

“Do you see this writing...? Do you know what it means...? Hospitality. And you can't piss on hospitality! I WON'T ALLOW IT!”

Other qualities that recommend Troll 2 are the fact that it has nothing at all to do with the original Troll move, AND, even better, it has absolutely no trolls in it whatsoever. Not one! Plenty of Goblins though (36).

***CELEBRITY PHONE CALL***

Turns out Ant had jacked up a celebrity phone call with one of the actors from this illustrious movie. Wicked! Just after the Troll 2 screening finished (about 2:30am NZ time, about 8:30am Utah time) Ant jumped on the phone and dialled up George Hardy who played Michael Waites, the dad from Troll 2. (Initially Ant had arranged to call Michael Stephenson, who played the son, Joshua, but Michael had to pull out quite late and George kindly stepped in, in his stead.)

I think, in the end, Ant only had to ask about 4 questions and we got about 20-odd minutes out of the guy. He was so excited and could talk, and talk, and talk... He’s now in his fifties, is (and was) a dentist from Utah, and has been astounded by the amount of interest in the film.

To date I think this is the only film he has been in. He said that in the 90s the odd person would comment about having seem him somewhere and that it was a total embarrassment to mention Troll 2. At some stage in the late 90s early 00s it suddenly became the icing on the cinematic B-grade cake. Now he gets asked to do loads of interviews (good, as he is certainly not shy of a few words) and attend screenings and the like and he loves it. Welcome to cinematic geekland George. Hope you don’t ever want to leave!#%!@! George actually used the word “discombobulated” in conversation. Need I say more?

George and some others recently started a Troll 2 website: www.bestworstmovie.com

***HANG UP***

6. Top Secret! (Jim Abrahams, David & Jerry Zucker/USA/1984)
In 1984, from the creators of Airplane/Flying High and the Naked Gun series, came out with a just pre-WWII comedy, musical spoof Top Secret!. An early, slightly camp role for Val Kilmer, before he realised how seriously he loved himself, this film is light ZAZ, 80s fluff but is quite enjoyable all the same.

The opening scene has surfers riding waves whilst carrying guns. Cory and I (embarrassingly) started loudly speculating whether it was classic B-film, Surf Nazis Must Die. It wasn’t too long before I realised that it was in fact Top Secret!. I remember seeing this film at the movies with my dad when it first came out.

Essentially Top Secret! sports the same puerile mix of physical sight gags, innuendo, and bad puns as the above ZAZ productions, however, it does so with certain amount of warmth and touch more cleverness than later, tired feeling spoof movies. A young Val Kilmer provides the pretty factor for all those inclined and has a freshness which he lost some time soon after his role in Willow four years later.

A nice way to mix up the evening and provide something light and accessible to help with wakefulness; plus Kilmer does all his own singing in the film!

7. Behind Locked Doors (Charles Romine/USA/1968)
Late-sixties softcore mystery romp. This one had surprisingly less romp and more mystery than expected. Incredibly bad taste on the whole though!

Surprisingly, the filmmakers of this piece just-south-of-mainstream porn actually invested in some kind of halfway decent plot... well almost. Somewhere out in the country is an unused barn that the young city swingers get away from there office jobs to have a good time. There’s music, drinks, hay, cheesy guys with moustaches, and girls just waiting to pop their breasts out. All as you’d expect. Oh, and I forgot to mention, there is the old local ‘birdwatcher’ who happens upon the barn and covertly to ‘observe’ the young people’s (preferably naked) activities.

The old perve ingratiates himself with a couple of young up-for-its, Teri and Anne, after preventing the near rape of Anne by an overeager young suitor. An empty tank of gas and an odd sister later and the two girls find themselves prisoners to be used in old pervy’s personal sexual “research”. Other points of interest include one friend pulling a few moves on the other (who is definitely not keen), a basement full of attempted escapees who are dead but preserved (naked of course), an escape attempt foiled by the disturbing, intelligence challenged, almost-necro-boy assistant who is just a little too fond of cleaning the aforementioned DEAD ‘research participants’.

Behind Locked Doors proves to be a little more disturbing, and with somewhat more mystery, than the average softcore trash film. Not that you’d pay to see it by itself, but it transitioned nicely in the marathon.

8. Lizstomania (Ken Russell/UK/1975)
From the director who brought us Tommy came something very odd. The Who front man, Roger Daltrey, plays composer Franz Lizst as the archetypal pop-phenomenon (a la the Beatles) in a film which makes a socio-political exposition of Lizst’s life, and that of his rival contemporary, Richard Wagner. All in the style of a 70s rock opera! Nice. Very Freudian.

This plays out as quite bizarre and confusing. There is a lot of muttering from the pews. Some of the highlights include:

» Attempting to showcase music of other artists to a bunch of schoolgirls who spend the whole time either yelling for him to play Chopsticks or screaming hysterically.
» Odd Charlie Chaplin styled segment: silent but in colour.
» Angry daughter who makes a voodoo doll of dad.
» Random nudie romp sections.
» Marriage to Russian princess who lives in a palace stock full of massive phallic columns.
» Nice cameo by Ringo Starr as the Pope, wearing cowboy boots and spurs.
» Wagner transitioning from: a hopeful friend > a jealous friend > a vampire!! (sucking the musical life from Lizst) > a Nazi/Hitler/Vampire mutant cross replete with naked female worshippers destroying European towns accompanied by Ride of the Valkyries.

I found this oddly compelling and spent the next break trying to explain to Susan why this was so.

9. Thunderbirds Are Go (David Lane/UK/1966)
Brought to us in “Supermarionation”, the original thunderbirds movie. A classic, if a little slow for some and after that much lack of sleep! Kellie complained that it was total boys choice. At least it played after breakfast! I forgotten about Alan and his dodgy dream sequence with Lady Penelope. He almost feels like a model for Luke Skywalker – whiny and pathetic.

10. To Live and Die in LA (William Friedkin/USA/1985)
The second 80s action caper with Willem Dafoe as the bad guy. This is the typical cops-going-bad-to-catch-the-bad-guy-they’re-obsessed-with drama, but with a nice wee twist at the end. This wasn’t anything to write home about but again, I the mix it sat very nicely. Had enough energy to keep everyone going and was an interesting enough film.

***EARLY EXIT***

Unfortunately, for the second year running, I had to make an early exit. Both times have had valid reasons – though I have been sad to leave both times too. Last year, my lovely wife Melissa had a speaking engagement to be at, and she doesn’t drive. Also she wanted the moral support. I had to leave that time at 8am just after breakfast. This year I managed to stick around until 12:30pm as we had a memorial service for close friends who lost their baby three weeks before term. Not the kind of thing you don’t turn up to.

Oh well. Maybe next year I’ll be able to go the distance. As it happens I haven’t managed to get to bed either year before midnight Sunday night in any event so I’m still pulling around 40 hours without sleep by the time all is said and done.

***FINE***

Afterlude...

These are the films I missed. Three. And it looks like I might have missed one of the highlights too! Aaaarrrrgggghhhh!!

11. The Holy Mountain (Alejandro Jodorowsky/Mexico/USA/1973)
Apparently a movie I MUST see. Surreal philosophical adventure. I think this trivia blurb from IMDb says it all: Before filming began, director Alejandro Jodorowsky spent a week without sleep under a Zen Master’s direction and lived communally with the film’s cast for a month.

Turns out that this was the movie that Ant switched at the last moment because he sensed the struggle though Thunderbirds and thought we could better do with some cheap action. Fair enough call but a bit of a bugger for me as Cory is sure that I would have loved this film.

12. Black Agent Lucky King??? Solomon King???
I ended up getting two possible versions of this from Cory and can’t figure out exactly what it was, except to say that it was a lesser known 70s blaxploitation film. I’m a Shaft, Cleopatra Jones etc. fan, so I’m guessing this would have been up my alley.

13. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Philip Kaufman/USA/1978)
One of the quintessential ‘zombie’ flicks of cinema. Itself a longer remake of the 1958 Don Siegel original, it would have been an apt ending to a brilliant festival.

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Sewn up. So there it was. The V 24 Hour Movie Marathon 2006. Just a mite longer than this writeup. It was all very exciting and grand. I am certainly keen to do it all again next year.

As an addendum, Cory mentioned that no-one gave the official thanks to Ant at the end. What a complete administrative arse up that was! The guy does a stack of work putting together a mini festival that appeals to a dedicated bunch of geeks and no one gives him the official thumbs up!?!? No wonder he feels like giving it all up. Hopefully plenty of people gave him their personal thanks.

And Ant, if you end up reading any of this – cheers mate! I am pretty damn appreciative of your efforts. There is little to no way that we’d have the chance of enjoying big screen versions of these celluloid enigmas otherwise. Much love.

BFN Jacob.