For the past 20 years, the Alamo Drafthouse has been the ground zero for film preservation. Not the grandiose cinema greats that will always be the subject of academic discussion and constant distribution, but the unloved and forgotten, the overlooked and underrated, the grindhouse movies, drive-ins and, increasingly. , the neighborhood video store. Movies that were shown on the circuit with a dozen different names until the impression was nothing more than a mass of splices and tapes that were read so often that the magnetic coating was crumbling. Thanks to their American Genre Film Archive, they saved many of these films from disappearance. Now two books by veterans of Drafthouse and AGFA – Warped and Faded: Weird Wednesday and the Birth of the American Genre Film Archives and Bleeding Skull! : A 90s Trash-Horror Odyssey – give these films the context and the story they deserve.
Courtesy of Fons PR
For Austin moviegoers of a certain vintage, the words “Alamo Drafthouse guide” trigger a In Search of Lost Time torrent of memories. Programming pre-online, the old monthly zine-size guide explained how filmmakers planned their viewing times – it was also the only way to find out what half of the movies were. The micro-essays accompanying each list were a vital glimpse into these rare titles, especially those that performed as part of Weird Wednesday, Alamo’s celebration of grind, sleaze, quirky genres, and unique visions that defied categorization. .
So when former Weird Wednesday bizarre boss (now Austin Film Society lead programmer) Lars Nilsen and former Drafthouse programmer turned writer and filmmaker Kier-La Janisse began the process of compiling all of these texts from presentation in Warped and faded, it was just a matter of getting all these guides, digitizing them and …
Nilsen could barely suppress a snorting laugh. “Not really. It was hard to find them.”
“If you knew about these movies, it’s because you really cared about them.” – Lars Nilsen
It turns out that no one thought at the time of keeping a full library of this now historic resource, and Warped and faded quickly became more than just copy and paste. About three years ago, Alamo founder and executive director Tim League approached Janisse to edit a book on Weird Wednesday. In fact, the project was under discussion when she first joined the Drafthouse in 2003, but, she said, “It was still quite early, so there was no Mondo. , no Alamo merchandise branch “.
The massive, shiny volume they ultimately produced was nowhere near what a 2003 release would have looked like. Nilsen said: “At first I think people imagined we would do a mimeographed and stapled zine.”
It would have been a hell of a zine. In total, Weird Wednesday showed more than 700 films from an ever-expanding copy cache that would become the nonprofit film preservation organization, the American Genre Film Archive; and every title shown until AGFA’s incorporation in 2009 is included in the book. However, this is when it would have been risky to rely on these guides. In those chaotic first days, Janisse said, “We would have a movie on the schedule, but then there would be something wrong and it would be traded at the last minute.” However, the book is an accurate story of what was projected, not the alternate wishlist reality where a copy didn’t appear ragged, or a distributor at the time hadn’t marked a stack of. reels like the 1979 Canadian version of HG Wells’ The shape of things to come, when the cans really contained a Texan sci-fi softcore movie Things to come. Fortunately, another Drafthouse programming regular, Jake Isgar, had been working on a spreadsheet of what had been shown when and when there had been replacements. Janisse said: “We wouldn’t have a blurb for this movie, as it was a last minute replacement, so new blurbs had to be written.”
But that’s not all that is new written for the book. Warped and faded is also a potted story of the explosion of interest in collecting and preserving 35mm exploitation films in the early 2000s. Nilsen said: “These were films that many older collectors did. They didn’t want them in their collection, they didn’t want them in their home, they just didn’t want them in their life. “It’s a new generation of collectors like Exhumed Films programmer Harry Guerro and filmmaker Ant Timpson, who helped save these films from the literal garbage heap. For Nilsen, this is what made the scene around these remarkable films so important. “If you knew about these movies, it’s because you really cared about them.”
Visually gruesome stunners
Compassion is why Bleeding Skull, the celebration of ultra-underground horror of the VHS era, exists. Joseph A. Ziemba who started the Cranial Crimson Flow in 2004, when he launched his website bleedingkull.com as a personal passion project, dedicated to all the unsung heroes of terror who sprayed disgusting blood on them. shelves of video stores. The website was “just an escape and stress reliever,” he said, “to write about those films that I thought deserved a little more respect in the world.” Movies that weren’t liked, or forgotten, or never made in duplicate copies at home at a Wyoming gas station. Movies like a plastic fanged vampire Dracula in Vegas (shot in the only trailer park in eastern Transylvania), inexplicable exercise video Lisa Cook’s Deadly Training, or the whole catalog of David “The Rock” Nelson, whose negative budget films are like a kid throwing all his toys in a big pile, only with monsters, and just as much fun.
17 years later, Ziemba’s hobby has become the cornerstone of film preservation and celebration. In his day job as AGFA’s Creative Director, he oversaw the restorations of many of the 35mm prints that formed the backbone of Weird Wednesday and his sinister brother, Terror Tuesday, and he added these horrors filmed in the mix. Plus, Bleeding Skull is bigger than ever. He said, âIt blows my mind every day when I step back and think about it. “
“The 80s stuff was so fresh because no one had really delved into these movies.” – Joseph A. Ziemba
He has also just released his second book Bleeding Skull. In 2013, he is co-author Bleeding Skull! : An 80s Horror Odyssey, a shuffle through the shelves of 1980s underground horror. Now comes its sequel, Bleeding Skull! : A 90s Trash-Horror Odyssey, written with fellow dark-haired fans Annie Choi and Zack Carlson (Ziemba’s predecessor as the host of Terror Tuesday). Ziemba called this new volume “a natural progression” from the first, inspired by his own changing tastes. When he started Bleeding Skull, operating film journalism was caught in a drive-through and grindhouse time loop from the mid-1950s to the late 1970s. “The ’80s stuff was so fresh because no one had really delved into these movies. As the site grew and our interests grew, the’ 90s started to feel more appealing.” In the middle of the lazily ironic torrent Scream scams and wannabes Tarantino “we realized there were so many DIY movies that were super pure in their intention.”
Both Bleeding Skull books are dedicated to vaporizing the idea that these films are disposable. âThese are not things that people respect or are proud to watch,â Ziemba said. That doesn’t stop audiences from watching them, although Ziemba sadly noted that they stream “fourth-generation rips that were compressed with RealAudio 20 years ago. So part of the goal is to raise awareness and make sure people are looking at them the right way. ” This means that there is no room to think “so bad is good”, an idea that Ziemba has been waging war against since the beginning of Bleeding Skull. “It’s a right. It’s projecting something onto the film of what you think it should be without accepting it for what it is.”
Now, thanks to AGFA’s Blu-ray releases and theatrical release program, these films have a new lease of life complemented by the essays and reviews of Bleeding Skull – even if that means the warm fluff and shoddy follow-up of the magnetic tape. It’s not that Ziemba cares. âThe format doesn’t matter to me,â he added. “I just want to see the film in the best possible way, because it was originally made to be seen.”
Distorted and Faded: Strange Wednesday and the birth of the American Genre Film Archive by Lars Nilsen and his friends, edited by Kier-La Janisse, Mondo, 416 pp., $ 35
Bleeding Skull! : A 90s Trash-Horror Odyssey by Zack Carlson, Annie Choi and Joseph A. Ziemba, Fantagraphics, 272 pages, $ 34.99