Tuesday, September 30, 2008

B-Movie Celebration

Walking through the quiet city of Franklin, Indiana shortly after nightfall on a temperate autumn evening; the shops have closed, the traffic down the main thoroughfare light enough to give the impression that the town is abandoned. The lights change robotic despite the lack of cars to stop. A dog barks in the distance, adding perfectly to the air of loneliness that the town possesses.

I round the corner of E. Jefferson and Main and breathe a sigh of relief. I've found what seems to be the entire population of this tiny burg. The short block seems illuminated solely from the lights of the Artcraft Theater marquee. People mill about the entrance to the theater while custom cars line the street. Across the street a small screen is set up - I would later find out that this was "Franklin Beach", the venue for several music acts and outdoor screenings.

Artcraft Marquee

I have reached the heart of the B-Movie Celebration, a three day event of movies and the maniacs who make 'em. From Troma trash to Spaghetti sublime, the B-Movie Celebration was awash in some interesting fare.

What brought me to Franklin, Indiana was the combination of hanging out with Cashiers du Cinemart contributor Rich Osmond (Franklin's about midway between St. Louis and Detroit), meeting fave director Greydon Clark, and, of course, the movies. The initial list of films sent out in July left me salivating, especially with the promise of "many in glorious 35mm" -- a vague statement that left me a little disappointed.

The venues for the festival were a little questionable; especially the screen set up at the Benjamin's Coffee Shop. I was hoping to see Death Race 2000 on the massive screen at the Artcraft in glorious 35mm instead of projected on a tiny screen in the front of a working store where every customer was a distraction. Meanwhile, the seats at the Johnson County Museum venue were unmerciful on my bulbous behind. But, like Momma Bear's bed, the Artcraft was just right, especially when they broke out the 35mm prints of For A Few Dollars More, Fright Night, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Transylvania Twist, etc. Seeing these rarities, scare-ities, and hilarities on the big screen like they were meant to be seen was a priceless treat.

The Beach

Johnson County Museum

Artcraft Theater

I also attended a few sidebars featuring the writers and directors of some of the films featured including a rather enjoyable romp with a handful of directors including Greydon Clark, Tom Holland, Jim Wynorski, Lloyd Kaufman, Kelley Baker, and more: definitely an eclectic group!

Clark, Baker, Kaufman

Many of the proceedings were hosted by horror hosts Mr. Lobo and the lovely Queen of Trash. I was afraid they'd be cringe-worthy cheeseballs but they were anything but. They did a fine job handling introductions and Mr. Lobo even ran the Director's round table for a while.

Other highlights of the weekend included hanging out with Out of the Past honcho, Richard Edwards and family for dinner; talking movies as much and as fast as we could at the local pub, and finally meeting Greydon Clark, the man behind my favorite film, Black Shampoo.

I tried my best to not be a gushing fanboy when finally face to face with Clark. He was wonderfully effusive, introducing me to Tom Holland and talking about how wonderful Cashiers du Cinemart is. I presented Clark with a rough proof of the Cashiers du Cinemart book manuscript, asking if he'd be open to giving me a back cover blurb. He was so agreeable that I hit him up with, "Oh, and how about I run some behind-the-scenes images from the movie, too? And I'll need your permission for those, of course." He was all too happy to help with whatever I asked. The next morning he handed me a stack of promotional photographs, a mini poster of Black Shampoo and a pack of ad slicks so well-preserved that they looked as though they'd been printed only the day before.

I was thrilled to see that the 2PM Sunday screening of Clark's Without Warning managed to get one of the larger turn-outs of the festival. I'd never seen Without Warning on the big screen or with an audience so both were a treat. It was wonderful seeing Jack Palance and Martin Landau facing off in an over-acting contest while being pursued by an early version of The Predator. It made me wonder what forces could come together to get a screening of Black Shampoo, Satan's Cheerleaders, or Joysticks on the big screen...

Greydon Clark, Mr. Lobo, Queen of Trash

I only wish I could have stayed longer and chatted more with the fine folks behind the fest. Alas, I had to hit the road and get back to my day job the following day.

For more photos visit Flickr.com.

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