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Saturday
Apr212012

BULLETS, BROADS AND BELLYLAUGHS IN REMASTERED B-CLASSIC

Italo-western Comin' at Ya! was not forgotten by The Alamo Drafthouse, Austin's home of cult film oddities.

Cinema in the 3rd dimension has gotten all credible lately. Since Dreamwork’s honcho Jeffery Katzenberg got up in everyone’s face spruiking the fresh technology that would eliminate the cardboard glasses and that James Cameron joint with all the blue people hit big, suddenly ‘3D Cinema’ is attracting the likes of Scorsese, Spielberg, Wenders and Herzog.

Screw that! For most of us, 3D still remains a desperate, no-holds-barred tool of the B-movie producer; 3B, if you will. One purveyor of schlock who knew this was the late Ferdinando Baldi, the Italian-born director of two 3D works that lovers of spaghetti pulp-cinema adore – 1981’s arrows-in-your-face western Comin’ at Ya! and 1983’s Raiders... rip-off, Treasure of the Four Crowns (1983).

To counter the post-Oscar box-office doldrums of early 1982, Village Roadshow launched Comin’ at Ya! (“with 3-D viewers!”) with all their marketing might and Australian cinemagoers flocked to Baldi’s ultra-cheesy tale of Old West vengeance metered out through the barrel of a six-shooter. Described by HitFix.com as “... 3Dsploitation, pure and simple...” and “...the most aggressively 3D movie ever seen,” Comin at Ya! remains notable for kick-starting a brief 3D fad in the early 1980’s (Jaws 3-D; Amityville 3-D) and for one particularly unpleasant scene that affords viewers the thrill of seeing a baby’s full nappy in the glorious third dimension. Oh, and Pedro Almodovar’s some-time muse Victoria Abril plays love-interest Abilene.

The film’s star and producer, Tony Anthony, retained rights to Comin at Ya! and has dedicated the last several years to sourcing funds that have allowed him to oversee the restoration and 3D conversion of Baldi’s film. The passion project, done in collaboration with producer Tom Stern of Sternco 3D, came full circle when Comin’ at Ya! played to packed late-night audiences during the 2011 Fantastic Fest horror and fantasy film festival.

Though it was filmed for US$600,000 and paid for by maxed-out credit cards, Anthony has always been passionate about maintaining the integrity of the 3D process he and Baldi worked so hard to master. “At one point, I pulled the film off the market, because I was disgusted with the projection,” he told an Aint It Cool News correspondent after the Fantastic Fest screening. “So when 3D came back and was being seen in digital theatres...ah, well, now we were beginning to solve the problem...”  

Kindred spirit Evan Husney, director of upstart Texas-based cult-film distributor Drafthouse Films understands the allure of 3D’s origins better than anyone and acquired the Real 3D print of Comin’ at Ya!, which premiered at the company’s underground movie-going mecca, the Alamo, in downtown Austin on February 24. “Matching quintessential 80s-style 3D with cutting-edge contemporary technology is going to make for the ultimate 3D experience for movie-goers," Husney says, via a press statement.

No distribution arrangement is in place for screenings in Australia.

Friday
Apr062012

WANTED: COLLECTIVE NOUN FOR NERD

The Fantastic Planet Film Festival Trivia Competition and How to Win It.

 

Frustrated by a film-obsessed teenager prone to weekends working through towers of VHS rentals, my mother would often bellow “Why would you want to be inside on a day like today!” That memory echoed subconsciously as I abandoned the glorious sunshine of a Sydney Saturday afternoon for the confines of Newtown’s Bank Hotel. I had committed to fielding a team in the inaugural Fantastic Planet Film Festival Trivia Competition back when the East coast was sodden after weeks of rain and was honouring my promise, but the sun felt good.

The event was the brainchild of Bryn Tilly, a charismatic Kiwi steeped in obscure genre knowledge; he administers one of Australia’s leading fan-sites, Horrorphile. He had secured some respected names in the field to judge the gore-filled recollections of my like-minded competitors – The Horseman director Steve Kastrissios; Matt Joyce, editor of cyberpunk e-magazine ‘Machete Girl’; international guest of the fest, Seve Schelenz, director of cult-hit Skew; and festival co-programmer, Pablo Perreira.

I knew the event would have nerds like me scurrying from dark corners to take part, so I had corralled my own team of Alpha geeks. Monikered with self-deprecating good humour ‘The Reservoir Dags’, it included Needle screenwriter Tone Egan; zombie-obsessive Meg McKenzie; Universal’s Australian operations manager and Planet of the Apes guru Ken Taylor and his Potter-head wife, Heather. We settled into a corner booth, drew the curtains to fully excise any stinging daylight, and poised our pens...

A couple of categories into the battle and we knew we had a good shot at the crown. Tone set the standard when he correctly guessed the 1922 witchcraft doco Haxan was narrated by William S Burroughs for its 1968 re-release. True, we stumbled badly when asked “How many daggers are needed to kill the Antichrist in The Omen?”, but it was a mere blip. By the time we bellowed “The Slaughtered Lamb!” in perfect unison, the event had ceased being a contest.

By mid-afternoon, a palpable tension had descended upon the gathering. The more our team answered (and drank), the louder our confidence grew. Questions that brought exasperated groans from other tables were met with our giggly delight. Tone knew what crashed through the cinema roof in Lamberto Bava’s Demons; Ken rattled off all the ...Ape films in a single breath (quite something to watch); I contributed by identifying the blush-response test employed by the Blade Runner cops to detect replicants in Ridley Scott’s classic. It threatened to be a landslide; as Tilly started revealing the answers, his voice straining to be heard over our self-congratulatory whoops, seething rivalries threatened to spill over.

When the inevitable disputed-call came, the Bank Hotel erupted like Thunderdome. To the question “In Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Roy Neary builds his first model mountain from what?”, all teams answered ‘mashed-potato’ and were marked correct. Led by yours truly, The Dags lodged a protest; the morning after his roadside close encounter, Richard Dreyfuss’ character crafts his first sculpture of Devil’s Tower from shaving cream. When Tilly acknowledged the gaffe, he not only awarded us full points, but took every other teams point away; a 2-point turnaround. Team captains flew from their cubicles, gesticulating wildly as the geek-spit flew, but their fate was sealed.

By the tournaments end, our rag-tag unit had swept all before us; scoring 79/100, we bettered the second-place team by 20-odd points. If my mother could have seen just how beneficial all those hours staring blankly at B-movies had been, she may have even felt a modicum of pride...

(Footnote: Admittedly, we did stumble badly on the visual clues. Tilly and the Fantastic Planet organising team have kindly supplied the three images that stumped The Collective Nerd. Any ideas....?)

 

 

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