Something wonderful is going to happen in New York this Saturday. Two of my favorite film entities are teaming up for a full day of underseen cinematic sleaze, and it’s all in 35mm. I’m talking, of course, about the Alamo Drafthouse and Exhumed Films' Guilty Pleasures Marathon, and friends, you have to go.
Exhumed Films is Philly’s long-running repertory screening program, fueled by what might be the largest private collection of 35mm film prints on the East Coast, if not the entire country. It’s given me the chance to see some beloved favorites on the big screen, as well as some of the strangest films I’ve ever witnessed. The guys at Exhumed share the Alamo’s love of psychotronic, offbeat grindhouse cinema, as well as the love of not talking while watching said cinema. (Unlike the Alamo, they don’t have fun and flashy PSAs about not talking or texting; they just warn you beforehand, and enforce that shit in person. It’s like Tim League coming to your seat and throwing you out personally.) An Exhumed screening is quite often a mind-bending archaeological dig through movie history. They’re heroes, doing the Lord’s work. Seeing an Exhumed screening in the comfy, full-service environs of a Drafthouse is something for which the East Coast is long overdue.
On August 2nd, they’re presenting five “fan favorites" - titles that have made a huge splash with the Exhumed crowd in the past. The features will be accompanied by an equally gonzo blend of trailers playing in between them. Let’s look at this lineup and marvel.
1990: The Bronx Warriors is a familiar title to anyone who haunted VHS rental aisles in the 80s. Directed by the sporadically great Enzo Castellari (Keoma, Street Law, Inglorious Bastards), this one is the “gem” among Italian cinema’s early 80s dalliance with post-apocalyptic actioners. It’s surprisingly polished and has a good deal more to offer (e.g., Vic Morrow and Fred Williamson) than its sequel, Escape From The Bronx.
Speaking of VHS-era sleaze, 1988’s Fleasheater was the brainchild of none other than Night of the Living Dead’s cemetery zombie, Bill Hinzman. And when I say “none other than,” what I mean is Hinzman wrote, produced, directed and starred in the thing himself. Hinzman was a lovely man, but by all accounts not the most nuanced filmmaker. His $60,000 DIY homage to his 1968 screen debut might leave you inspired, amused or, who knows, maybe a combination of hungry and sad. For that, I recommend the Drafthouse soft pretzel.
Born Losers might have started the “ass-kicking Vietnam vet” subgenre, Rolling Thunder likely perfected it and First Blood might have legitimized it, but The No Mercy Man takes great delight in making it weird and gross. In the film, the most handsome PTSD sufferer in the world is driven to violence when a gang of carny bikers run roughshod over his quiet hometown. Good folk are menaced; slow-motion shotgun deaths abound; Peckinpah wept. I believe the above clip is edited for TV, but it still gives you a taste of how unhinged the film is. (It’s also the finale, but this entire movie is a scream. Trust me, you will want to see everything that precedes the climax.) Earworm warning: the title song will be hummed or sung the whole ride home.
I...I can’t remember if I've seen Death Promise. It sure feels like I have, but I don’t have any specific memory of watching it, and these all-day Exhumed screenings can sometimes affect your mind in strange ways. At any rate, the trailer promises a delightful stew of inner-city wish fulfillment for its Times Square audience, and that landlord roll call is murdering me.
I definitely missed Night Of A Thousand Cats when Exhumed screened it in Philly, a decision that haunts me to this day. It’s a pretty divisive film among my movie pals; Jacob Knight, whose taste I trust more often than not, called it “a delirium inducing bit of cinematic treachery.” If you need me to tell you that’s high praise, this marathon might not be your ideal Saturday.
This kind of event needs to occur more often on the East Coast, and for that to happen, this one needs to do well. So go! No more complaining that we don't get good film events. Buy tickets and tell your friends. See you there!