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For the last five years Franklin, Indiana has played host to one of the most unique film festival/convention hybrids in the United States in the B Movie Celebration. This was Fangoria's first year of involvement with the event, and it most certainly did not disappoint. Not only was the menu of films (many screened in 35mm) awe-inspiring, but the roster of filmmakers on hand turned out to be a once-in-a-lifetime gathering of cult cinema icons that made this small Midwestern town the epicenter of b-cinema for a weekend. Recap, pics and video inside...
Festival founder and film producer Bill Dever made his 5th Anniversary festival a big one, packing his ambitious film schedule into three days and three venues. The main house was the Artcraft theatre, the 1922-vintage gem of downtown Franklin and as close as you will likely ever come to stepping back in time for a movie-going experience the way it was meant to be. Classic marquee out front with lights dancing, a ticket booth backed by a charming snack bar, and a huge single screen theater in the greatest tradition. No center aisle. Wood floors. Gorgeous art deco lighting accents and a massive screen before you. For the B-Movie Celebration, the lobby was lined with vendor tables and autograph signing areas.
The other two venues were built into Dever's new production facility across the parking lot from the Artcraft. While "Secret Theatre 1," and "Secret Theatre 2," were small by any measure, they were comfortable and their size added to the charm of the overall experience. The Artcraft was reserved for 35mm, premieres and key screenings, while the second two locations were home to "HD" presentations throughout the weekend. Upon arrival, I had the pleasure of watching the original HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL with Wynorski, Dever, my two cohorts Jason Bolinger and Mike Saunders (of Prescribed Films - my amazing camera and audio for the weekend), and a few volunteers before the proceedings got underway. Jim was glued to the television as if he was seeing the film for the first time.
Friday started with a meet and greet in the lobby that saw notable face after face walk in the door. Steve (JACK-O, DEATH MASK) Latshaw, Kevin (NIGHT OF THE DEMONS) Tenney, Fred (everything) Olen Ray, and Tony (TICKS, HELLRAISER II) Randel all showed up. Joe Bob Briggs sauntered in and joined the discussion. To have all these guys in the same place at the same time is rare, but to have them together to screen lost rarities (Tenney), world premiere films (Wynorski and Olen Ray), and underground hits (Randell), was not lost on anyone present.
JIM WYNORSKI INTRODUCES "CAMEL SPIDERS"
The screening festivities kicked off with B/skin legend Wynorski introducing the world premiere of his newest Sy-Fy creature feature CAMEL SPIDERS at the Artcraft. While not a 35mm print (the film was shot on digital), CAMEL SPIDERS was a notable feature for several reasons. First of all, a good portion of it was shot right in Franklin, so there was some hometown appeal. Second, it is rare that a contemporary Wynorski picture is shown in a theatre at all. Considering his history with fun genre benders like CHOPPING MALL, SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE II, NOT OF THIS EARTH and countless others, Jim has spent most of the last fifteen years with one foot in the horror erotic genre (WITCHES OF BREASTWICK) and the other in Sy-Fy beastie pics (PIRAHNACONDA), relegating him to Cinemax and cable television. Of course this isn't to downplay what Jim has been doing, but rather, to illustrate how rare an opportunity it was to see his latest on the big screen.
I will keep film descriptions brief, as that isn't really the point here...CAMEL SPIDERS stars Brian (CHARMED) Krause and is about a bunch of arachnid that make their way from Afghanistan to the US via the body of a dead soldier, after which the expected happens. Nothing groundbreaking, and featuring some truly hilarious CG effects that had the audience rolling, keeping the mood light, the real treat with CAMEL SPIDERS was just the fact that we were seeing it on the big screen. Afterward Jim nervously spoke for a few minutes and then introduced director, occasional partner, and always fellow b-legend Fred Olen Ray, who was there to introduce his own world premiere film DINO WOLF.
Olen Ray and Jim had an interesting back and forth about their intertwined careers, and how it meant so much to each of them to be sharing the stage with the other. From there we moved on to DINO WOLF (also screened in HD). As Fred explained beforehand, DINO WOLF was a chance at a practical effects-focused monster flick, and that is exactly what we got. A genetically mutated wolf/man hybrid is released from a testing facility with bloody results. Again, nothing that will change the genre, but it was a lot of fun in a theatre. Topping the wolf-suit neck ripping flick was Olen Ray's interactive discussion with the audience afterward, something that would define the weekend, as it became common practice for the filmmakers to have at least 20-30 minutes after their screenings to tell stories, answer questions and have the chance to celebrate their work.
WYNORSKI AND FRED OLEN RAY BEFORE "DINO WOLF"
DINO WOLF was followed by the weekend's first 35mm rarity in 1984's NIGHT OF THE COMET. The print looked and sounded great, and it was a fantastic way to cap an already memorable opening evening in Franklin. After the screening I, and my pals Jason and Mike, saddled up with Fred Olen Ray for a few drinks and conversation behind the bar around the corner from the theatre. Talk of film and his pro wrestling days filled the night.
ZOMBIE WALK COSTUME CONTEST
Saturday the 24th began with a zombie walk that ended with a contest for best costume in the parking lot in front of Dever's production facility. Following the zombie award came the FANGORIA Scream Queen Contest, which saw a group of lovely ladies tackle the demanding gauntlet of a monologue, a q&a session and a screaming competition. The prize: a role in the upcoming Mark Burchett film JERSEY DEVIL and an appearance on Fangoria.com. The judges were me, Fred Olen Ray, Steve Latshaw, and actress Bianca (ALBINO FARM) Barnett. While the contestants were all amazing, it was Melanie Contreras who stole our hearts with her monologue from THE SHINING and memorable retro look.
MELANIE CONTRERAS, "FANGORIA B-MOVIE CELEBRATION SCREAM QUEEN OF THE YEAR"
After snapping some pictures and getting some video of our winner, I made my way into the Artcraft to catch a glimpse of Tenney's recent family film BIGFOOT, after which I did a nice q&a with him on. The next few hours saw Randel host a screening of his underrated TICKS, Latshaw host a screening of his 1995 sci-fi outing BIOHAZARD 2, a 35mm print of Roy Ward Baker's 1974 genre hybrid 7 BROTHERS MEET DRACULA, and some HD presentations of GANJA AND HESS, PIG, BOSS, and the 1966 campfest BATMAN.
EXCITING JUST TO SEE "KILLER KLOWNS" ON THE MARQUEE!
B-MOVIE POWER LUNCH: (l to r) JOE BOB BRIGGS, KEVIN TENNEY, FRED OLEN RAY,TONY RANDEL, JIM WYNORSKI and friends
Following the awards ceremony (dubbed the "Golden Cob Awards"), which was shoehorned into the Artcraft lobby for some reason, everyone poured into the theatre for the evening's key feature and the signature screening of the 2011 B Movie Celebration, a 35mm print of the Chiodo Brothers' 1988 modern classic KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE. I did a dvd giveaway (courtesy the Sy-Fy network and Troma films), on stage and then introduced Joe Bob Briggs who gave the greatest "totals" list he has ever put together, pointing out every crazy KLOWNS detail in a list that went on and on...building the audience to great applause before calling for the film to roll. The print was as perfect as you could imagine, and witnessing the film for the first time in it's intended format and venue was a thrill. Following the screening Joe Bob did a q&a with the Chiodos, who delighted in sharing stories about the production of their little film that could, illustrating how the three seem to really share a brain, finishing each other's sentences and keeping things interesting.
JOE BOB BRIGGS INTRODUCES "KLOWNS"
THE ARTCRAFT PROJECTION ROOM
"KILLER KLOWNS" in 35mm ON THE BIG SCREEN!
JOE BOB TALKS SHOP WITH THE CHIODO BROTHERS
While KILLER KLOWNS was a joy, the film that followed was possibly the most exciting for me all weekend: Kevin Tenney's THE CELLAR (1989). THE CELLAR is a film lost to time, legal wrangling, and ultimately, has only been seen in a single, short-lived, bizarrely edited and severely cut video release. In what is perhaps promoter Dever's second greatest feat of the weekend (second only to the roster of filmmakers present), the audience that night was treated to a 35mm screening of Tenney's own reels. The film, as it was explained in my q&a afterward with Tenney, had only been screened once for an audience, and that was for cast and crew when it was completed. Since then it has lived in quiet discussion, on a small handful of video shelves in an unrecognizable form, and in Tenney's basement.
THE CELLAR is a relatively quiet film about an ancient spirit coming to life in the form of, first goop, then a nasty, gnarly cellar dwelling beast under a farm house in the desert. When a new family moves into the house, the beast is awakened and a battle for survival ensues. The film is absolutely deserving of a wide video release, and has some moments of real beauty. Tenney explained how the production was in shambles when he was brought in to replace the original director after a week, yet none of that disjointed origin ends up on screen. It was a real privilege to get to see the film in 35mm and in it's intended state, and the q&a with Tenney that followed was my favorite of the weekend.
INTERACTIVE "ROCKY HORROR" SCREENING
Just as the interactive midnight screening of ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW started, I hit the bars with Tenney, Olen Ray, and some pals. After hours of film discussion, we ended up at the Waffle House at 4am where we laughed over breakfast, shared a few final stories, and rued having to get up just a couple of hours later for the final leg of our B Movie Celebration weekend.
"HELL-O-WEEN" DIRECTOR MARK BURCHETT BEING INTERVIEWED
Sunday morning brought rain to the proceedings, and while the film roll at the Artcraft included THE ROBOT, and a 35mm print of BEACH BLANKET BINGO (that had Wynorski again glued to his seat), I attended a filmmaking seminar hosted by the "Angry Filmmaker" Kelley Baker. Mark Burchett hosted the world premiere of his latest, HELL-O-WEEN, and me and my crew raced around getting some camera interviews before all the filmmakers peeled away. After a great talk with the Chiodos (see below), I managed to coax Wynorski out of the theatre for a minute to talk before he raced back in for the 35mm screening of the ANGRY RED PLANET, which really ended up looking like the ANGRY PINK PLANET. The day wrapped with lunch with the Chiodos before we all packed up and made our way out of Franklin, full of food, full of memories, and stuffed with more b, exploitation, cult and neglected cinema than I ever dreamed I would be able to take in on a single weekend.
THE "ANGRY PINK..er..RED PLANET"
Plans are already underway for next year's Celebration, and as you can tell, it is absolutely worth the trip to the Midwest to spend a weekend enjoying this incredible gem of an event. There quite simply is nothing else like it anywhere in the U.S., and with all that the 5th Annual festival offered, I can only dream of what the sixth year holds in store for us. I will most definitely be there and hope you will too!
More on the B Movie Celebration at the official website.
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