Guilty Pleasures Marathon
August 2, 2014
by Grog Ziklore
The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema sits on the left side of a strip mall on a small hilled area on Route 100 (Central Park Avenue) near the Bronx River Parkway. Although located in Yonkers, it is over eight miles from the Yonkers MTA station (the nearest train station is Scarsdale) and difficult to get to without a car, which is the reason why I had never been to this location. The original branch in Austin's Ritz Theater on 6th Street is excellent - a quality old theater, good food and beer served during the show, and at least once a week 35mm prints of rare '80s horror and sci-fi films are shown for $3.00 (Last night they showed a 35 print of 1987's SUMMER CAMP NIGHTMARE!). Therefore, I wanted to see the Alamo nearest to NYC and heard that Philadelphia's Exhumed Films would be doing an all day festival there. Luckily, I was able to get a ride. The festival took place on Saturday August 2, running from 2-11 PM and screening 35mm prints of five rare genre films. I won't go too into the plots as they are well documented online and in print.
1. 1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS (1982) -- Directed by beloved Italian director Enzo Castellari, this is primarily a WARRIORS rip-off in a post-apocalyptic motorbike society with hilarious acting and fight choreography. Vic Morrow and Fred Williamson turn in good performances, and there is great electronic music by Walter Rizzati. Also lots of great footage of the Bronx during its heyday of rubble and urban decay. Some of these same shots and areas appeared the year before in WOLFEN.
2. FLESHEATER (1988) -- This zombie piece was the most fun film of the bunch. Plot concerns a bunch of dumb young adults besieged by zombies in a barn area. While not a good film by any means, it is hilariously padded out to feature length, using mostly long takes of mundane tasks like people walking, opening doors, crossing over from one house to the next, all done with bad foley effects. Shot on a micro-budget near Pittsburgh, it was a treat to see a 35 print of this as there probably are not many of those left. The tone and types of knucklehead characters reminded me of the slightly superior film SPOOKIES.
3. THE NO MERCY MAN (1973) -- The most serious and well crafted film of the festival concerns a shell-shocked Vietnam vet who returns home with disastrous results. One of the first films dealing with returning soldiers from 'Nam, it came out not long after Bob Clark's DEATHDREAM. The main character is badass and hardcore and there are great action scenes where he takes on a vicious biker gang. Of note for being the first film shot by Dean Cundey. Ray Stella was Cundey's camera operator on this, as he would be later on his films for John Carpenter. Sid Haig appears towards the end of the film. Unfortunately, the print of this widescreen film was very faded and pink looking.
4. DEATH PROMISE (1977) -- This film is rare and coveted by grindhouse and genre fans. A kung fu piece first and foremost where a man exacts revenge on landlords who are evil murderous villains. Good footage of lower Manhattan streets and rooftops from that time period, the Twin Towers, and lots of dojo and kung fu moves and training. Print looked good. Very catchy theme song by Bill Daniels and Mike Felder. The director, Bob Warmflash, did a Q&A after the screening and answered many questions about how the film was shot. This was a treat for me, as back in 2000 I was an assistant negative cutter on the Ernest Shackleton documentary THE ENDURANCE, which was directed by George Butler (PUMPING IRON), and Mr. Warmflash was the post-production supervisor. He would show up to our office frequently and was very friendly. At the time, I looked him up on IMDb and saw that he had directed this one movie. I then tracked down a VHS of DEATH PROMISE off eBay, liked the film, and he was kind enough to give me the poster, which features an excellent painting by legendary Marvel Comics artist Neal Adams. It was nice to catch up with Mr. Warmflash after all these years and tell him that Mr. Adams signed my poster at a comic show free of charge, as he was a fan of the film.
5. NIGHT OF A THOUSAND CATS (1972) -- The weakest film of the bunch was barely longer than 60 minutes, but felt longer. Plot concerns a playboy who lures women to his mansion, kills them and feeds them to his army of cats. Lots of footage of the main character in a terry cloth robe throwing raw meat into a cage of hundreds of stray cats, all meowing loudly. Director Rene Cardona Jr. is the son of the director of my favorite bizarre Mexican horror films, NIGHT OF THE BLOODY APES (aka HORROR Y SEXO or GOMAR THE HUMAN GORILLA, which I named my pet hamster after) and its original version, DOCTOR OF DOOM, which feature nasty horror among Lucha Libre wrestlers and storylines, so I expected more from his son.
This festival was a lot of fun. It ran about 8.5 hours, and while most people won't sit through the whole thing, let alone even go at all once they hear how long it will be, I can honestly say that halfway through the second film it flew by and I was surprised it lasted as long as it did. I am now curious to check out Exhumed's 24-hour horror festival which takes place later this year in Philly.
The latest issue of The Journal of Interstitial Cinema (#5) is now available from Magcloud and the official JoIC website.