Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Scala Forever

Last Saturday saw the beginning of a lengthy season of films and events celebrating the golden days of repertory cinema in London, and in the Scala Cinema in particular – Scala Forever. There’s a fantastic trailer for the season, made by Justin Harries of the Filmbar 70 (cult film and a pint of beer – I like the sound of that) which filters various clips through a dizzyingly unfocused two-toned tint, which both emulates the off-centred visual style of the Scala programmes and gives a wry nod to the imperfect nature of some of the old Scala prints. The Hilarious opening quote, in which a chap styled for the lounge, with cravatte daringly worn outside his shirt, stridently declares ‘this is my happening and it freaks me out’ is taken from Russ Meyer’s 1970 film Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, and was directly quoted by Mike Myers in the first of his Austin Powers films. There follows a delirious eyeflash progression of images from Zombie Flesh Eaters, Once Upon a Time in the West, Valerie and her Week of Wonders, Zardoz, Pink Flamingoes, Black Sunday, Dawn of the Dead, Seconds, Deep Red, Jules et Jim, After Hours, Glenn or Glenda, A Night At the Opera, King Kong, A Clockwork Orange, and Aguirre, Wrath of God, with the comic end title music from Dawn of the Dead to round it off. Last Saturday's edition of Jonny Trunk's OST show on Resonance fm was also dedicated to the season, and to the kind of films the Scala used to show, and should hopefully turn up on the station's podcast archive page sometime soon. Of all the old repertory cinemas in the capital, from the Everyman in Hampstead and the Ritzy in Brixton, to the Electric in Portobello Road and the Riverside in Hammersmith, the Scala seems to be remembered with the greatest affection. A ramshackle and barebones operation, it offered more than just a wildly eclectic programme of cult, classic and arthouse films. The Scala was an experience, a clublike hangout and for some a welcoming and familiar home from home – a church of cinema which was open to all believers and seekers alike. The Scala Forever site has already begun to amass an anecdotal drift of fond memories, and a book gathering together further reminiscences is promised for everyone who buys a ticket to any of the season’s screenings. I was one of the Scala regulars in the mid to late 80s, and see no reason not to add to this nostalgic outpouring with my own remembrance of the place where I received my formative film education (a significant improvement on my parallel formal schooling, and with a longer-lasting impact).

I would travel up from the south-eastern suburbs several times a month to see double or triple bills and occasionally test my endurance with a Saturday all-nighter. I would eagerly collect the latest programme, which was a highly desirable artefact. It folded out into a four A4-panelled poster, which would be attached to my bedroom wall. These posters were fabulous graphic works in themselves, assemblages bringing together cult actors and actresses and thrillingly evocative stills and posters, often printed in striking shades of gold, green or red. I would cut out various of these pictures to add to my own ever-growing collages, where Marlene Dietrich would find herself mingling with Peter Cushing, Daffy Duck with Bob Dylan. I still have a couple of panels of this wall-spanning, vaguely obsessive product of teenage toil, those fragments now all that remains of the old programmes. The Cinema Museum promises to put some of them on display on its Scala Day on 17th September. You can also see one from the Scala’s latter days accompanying the Lost World of the Double Bill article in the August 2008 Sight and Sound. The circular entrance on the corner of Pentonville and Caledonian Roads immediately gave a sense of occasion, of crossing over into a magical space. You got your tickets from an attendant in an old fashioned booth, a small enclosed room which looked rather cosy. Climbing the turning stair, you arrived in the lobby where people gathered before going in to see the film or refreshed themselves in the interval with a cuppa or something stronger from the serving hatch at the far end. At some point during my Scala years, a couple of artists who I believe styled themselves the Urbanites painted the walls and ceilings with a mural depicting famous film scenes (or scenes which would be familiar to regular Scala-goers), all reduced to witty stick figure form. You could crane your neck and pan across the barrelled expanse of the ceiling, scoping in an eccentric pattern, connecting one to another and thus creating your own random double and triple bills. You can see some pictures of the lobby and the auditorium over here.

Walking up another short set of steps, you entered the auditorium halfway up its fairly steeply graded slope. You could either continue upwards into the larger seated area or head down past the partition barrier to the lower depths where, a couple or rows at the top apart, it was a question of sprawling on the tiered, carpeted steps and gazing up at the screen. Whichever direction and mode of disportment you opted for, you had had to stumble along in near total darkness. I remember performing a spectacular trip and forward sprawl on one occasion, a piece of slapstick whose perfection could only be achieved through complete lack of intention. Sometimes, if you arrived a little early and didn’t fancy lingering in the lobby, you could wander in and catch the latter stages of whichever favourite was just reaching its climax. I remember opening the doors and entering the auditorium to hear Charlton Heston cry ‘you maniacs! You blew it up! God damn you!’, as he fell to his knees on the shore and stared out at the half-buried ruin of the statue of liberty in Planet of the Apes. Walking in during a scene of a well-loved film was a real thrill – an anticipation of a pleasure which would be more fully and completely enjoyed later.

The recurrence of particular films, either in the same programme or in changing combinations, meant that you could become thoroughly acquainted with their every detail and nuance; a precious and rare opportunity in the early days of video when the availability of less mainstream fare was very limited (and even when issued, limited by the unsatisfactory nature of the medium). Films to which I returned again and again became like familiar landscapes, complete with the scratches and jumps etched into the prints, and other peculiarities particular to the Scala’s copies. The white onscreen subtitles accompanying Cocteau’s Testament D’Orphee became completely illegible whenever they weren’t superimposed over a darker area of the projected scene. Entering the cinema and seeing one of these films or programmes was like coming home, or perhaps returning to a regular holiday haunt. You could lose yourself for hours, for whole days or nights in here. No-one was about to kick you out if you decided that you’d like to sit through that whole triple bill again. Indeed, some did effectively make their home there. Richard Stanley, the director of Hardware and Dust Devil (and contributor to the upcoming anthology picture The Theatre Bizarre) writes about his Scala experiences in Dying Light: An Obituary for the Great British Horror Movie, a piece published in Steve Chibnall and Julian Petley’s 2002 critical anthology British Horror Cinema. He recalls coming to London at 16 years of age, where he ‘took refuge in those aisles…as much for warmth as anything else…The Scala became my sanctuary, my alma mater, a house of dreams redolent of an opium den with its haze of psychoactive smoke and its delirious, half-glimpsed denizens. I would camp with my bedroll on the front tiers of the red-lit, cat-haunted auditorium’. Not sure about the smoke haze; as I recall, the auditorium was a no-smoking area, although a vague waft of aromatic herbal scents would drift across during films such as Easy Rider or 200 Motels (Frank wouldn’t have approved). Later, exhausted and bankrupted by the production debacle of his would-be magnum opus Dust Devil, Stanley once more found himself ‘taking refuge in the only sanctuary left to me: the Scala cinema, where Jane Giles allowed me to spread my bedroll in a room above her office’.

Others have recalled the cinema as being a refuge in which outsiders and misfits could take up regular residence in an otherwise unforgiving era, and also a place in which revelatory experiences were possible. Peter Strickland, who spent years struggling to produce his first feature Katalin Varga, remembers (in the November 2009 issue of Sight and Sound) ‘when I was 16, I went to the Scala in London to see Eraserhead. It was unlike anything I was accustomed to…Suddenly here was something that conveyed a state of mind. The cinema smelled of cats, dope and beer. The Northern Line ran underneath. It was a huge epiphany’. The August 2008 Sight and Sound contained a celebration of the Scala and the lost era of repertory cinema with an article written by Jane Giles, a former programmer at the cinema who went on to head of acquisitions at Tartan films (and there’s no doubt that the Scala would’ve been at the forefront of the discovery of the new wave of Asian horror films, the likes of Ring, The Grudge and Audition). Giles recalls how ‘the cinema’s extraordinary atmosphere affected the audience profoundly, acting on their senses in a way that is hard to imagine in more mundane or domestic environments’. She also quotes Derek Jarman, writing in 1989, declaring that ‘The Scala is one of very few, and I’m afraid, a shrinking number of venues where it is possible for a young audience to see our film history. Any threat to the cinema is indirectly a threat to the industry as a whole, for here new audiences are educated and a whole generation that is active in our cinema has found its task’. It’s certainly a statement which is backed up by the experiences of the young Strickland and Stanley. Sight and Sound editor Nick James, in his editorial for the June 2007 Grindhouse issue, he remembers how ‘at the Scala…in the 1980s I was one of the many watching scratchy prints of the likes of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Pink Flamingos, Reefer Madness, Detour, The Warriors, Thundercrack!, and Assault on Precinct 13’. He also remarks, in the August 2005 Sight and Sound, on the intense experience of seeing related films one after the other, recalling a film noir all-nighter featuring three Robert Mitchum films (Out of the Past, The Big Steal and Where Danger Lives). ‘It was a formative cinematic experience for me’, he writes, ‘not least because I drifted off occasionally so the three films intermingled to become one unforgettable epic that was like a paradigm for the best of Mitchum’s early films and for noir itself’.

The auditorium had its own particular acoustic imprint, as if the building were subtly altering the films to make them its own. Every one became a Scala film – they were never quite the same elsewhere. The speakers may not have been of the highest quality, but there somewhat crude and echoing sound seemed perfectly suited to the old place, adding a certain time-haunted quality (instant hauntology before its time). The sonic mix was occasionally added to by trains which periodically rumbled by beneath, also giving your seat a bit of a William Castle tremble. Although these were probably just on the City Thameslink line headed for Blackfriars and beyond, I believed at the time that they were Northern Line underground trains, and that there was therefore a connection with a whole world of subterranean tunnels (perfect if you were watching Death Line or An American Werewolf in London). There was also a cat who wandered along the backs of the seats, sometimes brushing the nape of your neck with its tail, which could be rather unnerving, particularly if you were watching The Tomb of Ligeia, Cat People or, indeed, The Black Cat at the time (but pretty cool if you were watching Breakfast at Tiffanys). There were never any luxuries like heating or air conditioning, but somehow the ambient temperature always remained comfortable. You could always keep your coat on if it got a bit chilly.

As Nick James notes above, the cinema was particularly associated with camp, trash and gay cinema. Many of the films could be said to fall within the catch-all definition of a chapter title from Kim Newman’s recent update and rethink of his survey of contemporary horror Nightmare Movies (first published when the Scala was still up and running, and indeed christened with a launch party at the cinema in 1988): The Weirdo Horror Film or: Cult, Kitsch, Camp, Sick, Punk and Pornography. The films of Russ Meyer, Walerian Borowczyk, John Waters, Paul Morrissey and George Kuchar were often all of the above at once. Kuchar’s Thundercrack! (these films often require that exclamation mark in the title) seems to be one which brings back particularly strong memories in the old Scala crowd. It certainly appears to be something which few have been able to forget (even if they wished they could). Newman notes that ‘since it joined Pink Flamingoes on the late-night cult circuit, Thundercrack! has become the most walked-out-of film this side of Michael Snow’s La Region Centrale’. Couples shared intimate moments during these screenings (and Jane Giles recalls the popularity of the women-only Russ Meyer nights) watched over by the oversized tutelary spirits of Divine, Joe Dallessandro or Tura Satana, celluloid gods and goddesses of love and genii loci.

My Scala favourites tended towards the fantastic and classic elements of their repertory. I always went to see their Cocteau triple: La Belle et La Bete, Orphee and Testament D’Orphee, and If…, which was usually shown with Blow Up and, if I was lucky, Performance, if not, Godard’s unbearable Sympathy for the Devil. I also caught any Powell and Pressburger films which were shown (they were just then being rediscovered, with new prints being released) and Tarkovsky’s Stalker, Solaris, Nostalgia and The Sacrifice. All of these remain firm favourites to this day, and I could probably quote chunks of them verbatim, or play back scenes with some detail in my head. The sublime Christmas angel double-bill of Wings of Desire and It’s a Wonderful Life was also essential, a highlight of the season. I also saw a rare John Cassavetes double bill of Gloria and Love Streams, having been introduced to his films at an ICA season in the mid 80s. Love Streams (John’s last film proper) remains incredibly hard to get hold of these days. A Hitchcock/Jimmy Stewart triple of Rope, Vertigo and Rear Window introduced me to the wonders of Hitch beyond Psycho. You really haven’t seen Rear Window properly until you’ve watched it on the big screen, and seen the blinds slowly pulled back at the start to unveil the view which you’ll be gazing at alongside Stewart for the rest of the film. Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Wages of Fear and Les Diaboliques was always a good, white-knuckle double (hmmm, or was that at The Everyman – memory has a tendency to compress and compact these experiences). Franju’s Les Yeux Sans Visage was definitely on at the Scala, however, and offered one of two scenes which I found myself having to look away from (the other being Martin’s first drinking of blood in George Romero’s film). A beautiful piece of dreamy black and white surrealism, it was one of those films which was perfectly in synch with the setting, the slightly unreal feel of the place enhancing its mood.

The Scala showed a fondness for 60s music and counterculture, and I saw many films from that era, which I preferred to the one in which I was growing up. Easy Rider was a regular, sometimes shown with Roger Corman’s The Trip, also featuring Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda (and with Hopper going characteristically off-script, inserting a ‘man’ between every other word). The Monkees’ Head was a real surprise, one of the best films from that era, self-mocking and full of wild pop surrealism and fantastic music (and Frank Zappa leading a large cow across a backstage lot). I remember a psychedelic all-nighter in which it played with Zappa’s incomprehensible mess 200 Motels, the rather dull Grateful Dead Movie, Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush (which vied with Sympathy for the Devil as the worst film I saw at the Scala – although I find both interesting these days for their background detail and the attitudes which they convey, as long as I have the remote to hand for fastforwarding and rewinding) and the Magic Roundabout feature Dougal and the Blue Cat. The beat connection was also made with a triple bill linked together by the presence of Allen Ginsberg (always the great connector and bridge between different scenes): The documentary Whatever Happened to Jack Kerouac, the Kerouac narrated Pull My Daisy and DA Pennebaker’s Dylan doc. Don’t Look Back. Pop 60s science fiction was represented by Barbarella and Thunderbirds Are Go, the latter with music provided by puppet versions of Cliff and the Shadows (spot the difference, an unkind observer might note). I think I may have seen a 2001 and Silent Running double too. I don’t see why I wouldn’t have. Nic Roeg was always a favourite of Scala programmers, and I recall seeing Walkabout, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Don’t Look Now and Performance in various combinations. There were also spaghetti westerns and eastern epics. I first saw Once Upon A Time in the West at the Scala, and also fell under the spell of A Touch of Zen. If I recall correctly, I also saw the amazing kabuki-style ghost story compilation Kwaidan here. There were also Woody Allen triple bills from his mid-Mia late prime, small black and white gems such as Broadway Danny Rose, Zelig and The Purple Rose of Cairo.

Horror was a big focus of the Scala. Nik Powell and Stephen Woolley had established the Scala at the new venue (it had previously been based in Charlotte Street) and also used it as the base for their new distribution business Palace Pictures (which would eventually also expand into production). Palace acquired the rights to Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead, and its huge success (aided no end by the indignant furore which it stirred up as an exemplar of the ‘video nasty’) set the tone for the gaudy comic book horrors of the rest of the decade. I remember seeing several examples at the Scala, where they often received their premieres: The Return of the Living Dead, Re-Animator, Evil Dead 2 and Nightmare on Elm Street 3 (during which the audience let out a rousing cheer at the return of Heather Langenkamp’s character). Although enjoyable enough at the time, few of these made any long-lasting impact or made you want to go back and see them again. It was the dawn of the disposable multiplex horror movie, a mindless ghost train thrill ride with added entrails and buckets of blood liberally thrown in, and a line-up of good-looking but characterless teenagers lined up for the slaughter. The films which I did return to at the Scala were those of George Romero and David Cronenberg. Romero in particular featured often in the programmes, and I remember an all-nighter featuring Night, Dawn and Day of the Dead alongside Martin and (I think) Creepshow. Dawn of the Dead is another film which has the indelible imprint of the Scala for me.

Whilst Romero largely went off the radar during the latter half of the eighties, Cronenberg was still producing distinctive films, with a more mainstream sheen than before, but still with his characteristic mix of distanced intellectualism and an insistence on the physical nature of being: the likes of the Fly and Dead Ringers, both of which were released during my Scala era. I didn’t see either of those at the Scala, but I did (if memory serves) see what remains, to my mind, his best film, Videodrome (in which he splices and grafts elements of JG Ballard, Philip K Dick and William Burroughs and possibly also gives a nod to Harlan Ellison with the name of one of the characters) and also caught up with some of his earlier films, from his breakthrough picture Scanners (with a post-Prisoner role for Patrick McGoohan) to earlier efforts such as The Brood (featuring Oliver Reed in a role of typical sotto voce intensity), Rabid and Shivers. Dario Argento was the third of the feted 70s horror auteurs to feature at the Scala, but I’ve never enjoyed his films, which always seem to centre around lingeringly brutal misogynistic violence. Their undoubted stylishness and visual panache can’t distract from this essentially repugnant core, a depressing component of too much modern horror, and never justifiable no matter how often Poe is invoked. An auteur in terms of ideas if not in terms of polished technique, Larry Cohen was also a Scala mainstay, with satirical and sardonic films such as Q: The Winged Serpent and The Stuff retaining the social bite of the genre in the 70s, and also bucking the 80s trend by featuring well-drawn and adult characters.

The Scala building itself has an interesting and colourful history. Its construction was interrupted by the advent of the First World War and it became a workshop for the manufacture of aircraft parts for the duration. After the armistice, it became a labour exchange for the returning soldiers. It finally opened as a movie house in 1920, and was run as the Kings Cross Cinema under the management of Gaumont British Pictures. It was damaged during the blitz, and re-opened after an extensive refurbishment as the Gaumont in 1952. The Odeon took over from 1962 to 1970, when the general downturn in cinemagoing resulted in its led to it following the depressing trend of many London cinemas and switching to a programme of softcore porn. This didn’t work either, however (Soho cinemas had the benefit of local, Met-assisted economies of scale) and it returned to showing mainstream films in combination with a series of late night concerts. This memorably included a 1972 performance by Iggy and the Stooges, at around the time that they were recording Raw Power in London. The photos on the cover of that LP are all taken from the Kings Cross Cinema show. The live music came to a halt in 1974, with local residents perhaps understandably proving none to keen on the idea. The cinema, like so many others in the early and mid-70s, bowed to the inevitable and, offers from Bingo chains not forthcoming, closed down.

Then, five years later, came the really bizarre interlude in the building’s history. It was re-opened as a primatarium (a word I suspect the new owners made up), a hokey ‘ecological’ exhibition with a sorry collection of caged monkeys as its central attraction. Such a throwback to carnivalesque hucksterism would be unthinkable now, with its blatant exploitation of the animals involved, and shows once more what a wholly different country the 70s were. Richard Stanley, in his dying light article, remembers ‘a vast ape house, painted jungles crawling across its walls and its sepulchral auditorium filled with Astroturf. When I last looked there were still deserted cages in the basement and if you inhaled deeply enough you could just catch the faint hint of musk and dried urine, a safari smell that took me back to my earliest childhood’ (he was born in South Africa). Unsurprisingly, the primatarium didn’t last long, and Stephen Woolley and Nik Powell brought the building as a place to rehouse the Scala and their nascent Palace Pictures business in 1981, opening in July. Their first film, in acknowledgement of the previous use to which the building had been put (and in regard to what Stanley said above, perhaps intending to take advantage of the lingering aroma to present it in its first smell-o-rama version), was King Kong, which was also the film which launched the current Scala Forever season. The Scala was open for 12 years, until it was finally scuppered by a law suit from MGM over its illegal screening of A Clockwork Orange. I had though that this was a self-destructive final act, a deliberate decision to go down in a final blaze of glory (and possibly provide the publicity to reverse the absurd ban on a film which anyone could see with very little effort) given Michael Heseltine’s decision to plough the proposed cross channel rail link through the area. But Stanley claims that it was all down to a treacherous projectionist who bargained his way into a cushy job at the MGM preview theatre, betraying his former employers by testifying against them in court. A great postcard advertising the trial fund appeal (wittily titled droog in the dock) shows the Scala cat rising atop the rooftop dome of the corner tower in paws raised in playful feline fashion – a kitty Kong. In truth, the cinema had been struggling for some time in the face of Major’s recession. It’s time had come, whether through redevelopment, prosecution or simple bankruptcy. It finally closed down in May 1993. With a self-conscious gesture towards circularity and closure, its final film was King Kong.

The Scala may be dead, but its spirit has risen again. The range of venues in this seasons suggests that repertory cinema is once again in hale and hearty health in the capital, enabled by the ease and portability of digital projection. The old school cinemas are represented by the Phoenix in East Finchley, the Rio in Dalston, the Ritzy in Brixton and the Riverside Hammersmith. The Phoenix is covering the musical side of things with a double bill of the 1958 Newport festival film Jazz on a Summer’s Day and Peter Whitehead’s swinging sixties pop ‘concerto’ of studio and concert footage combined with interviews with the likes of Julie Christie, Mick Jagger and David Hockney (and, more bizarrely, Lee Marvin) Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London. The Rio provides a programme of experimental cinema achieved with mixed levels of success, combining Jean Genet’s Un Chant D’Amour (surely crying out to be combined with Fassbinder’s Querelle, an old Scala favourite) with Ed Wood’s Glen or Glenda (as experimental as they come), and following it with the component parts of Kenneth Anger’s Magick Lantern Cycle. Anger codified the Scala trash aesthetic in his book Hollywood Babylon, and so is an appropriate choice on several levels. The Riverside showed a Marx Brothers double to kick off (A Night At the Opera and A Day At the Races) and is following it up with a series of classy billings which reflect the spirit of the Everyman more than the Scala. The Ritzy meanwhile will be providing a pairing of two of Hitchcock’s blackest films, both of them centring around brutal stranglings – Rope and Frenzy - before moving on to two coolly observed depictions of psychotic breakdown within prescribed interiors: Polanski’s Repulsion and Kubrick’s The Shining.

There are a number of interesting smaller venues of varying degrees of permanence or peripateticism. The cinema at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn is offering a juicy double bill of Theatre of Blood, which gives Vincent Price full reign to camp and thesp it up, and Bunuel’s Viridiana. Both feature anarchic and murderous bands of tramps, and both have scenes centring around blasphemous and ill-mannered feasts: Viridiana with a Church-baiting restaging of Leonardo’s Last Supper, and Theatre of Blood with a Shakespeare-mauling restaging of one of the gruesome scenes from Titus Andronicus, in which Robert Morley is force-fed his two ‘babies’ – pampered poodles. The Lexi cinema, ‘the UK’s first social enterprise independent boutique digital cinema’, which is housed in what looks like a small church hall lodged between two suburban semis, is teaming up with the Screen on the Green to put on outdoor screenings, including Some Like it Hot and The African Queen in Holland Park and Richmond Park. Whirled Cinema (nice punning name) is located in what looks like a very cosy railway arch (no.260) near Loughborough Junction in South East London and will be showing a great double bill of recently rediscovered films set in London, Bronco Bullfrog (1969) and Private Road (1970), the latter of which stars Withnail and I writer and director Bruce Robinson. Close-Up cinema meanwhile takes over the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club to show the first four episodes of Kieslowski’s Dekalog series (the first of which I found deeply upsetting, so be warned). The Portobello Pop Up Cinema is a ‘microplex’ situated in an underpass beneath the Westway, and as if to offset the grey, Ballardian concrete surrounds, it will be showing Sergei Paradjanov’s The Colour of Pomegranites, a sumptuous feast of intoxicating colour and obscure yet compelling symbolic tableaux. The Atomic Bark (and check out their excellent site here) film club takes up residence in Ryan’s Bar in Stoke Newington for what promises to be an excellent evening, with Fellini’s Toby Dammit section from the 60s Poe anthology Spirits of the Dead, featuring a dissolute Terence Stamp, providing a prelude for Corrado Farina's Baba Yaga, not a version of the Russian legend of the witch with a chicken-legged hut, but a weird and warped 1973 Italian giallo (described by Kim Newman in Nightmare Movies as ‘enormously boring’, but maybe it has some redeeming features) – and all for free, too!

It is the Roxy in Borough High Street which is becoming the proxy Scala for the duration, however. It is restaging a few themed all-nighters, including an 80s horror bill which includes Re-Animator, Basket Case, Humanoids from the Deep, Slugs (my god, they made a film of that – presumably with the tag-line ‘an agonisingly slow death’), and Phantasm (the original which, in its crazy way, achieves moments of delirious surrealism and even the odd bit of reflective sadness as it circles around the unacknowledged loss of an elder brother). The zombie all-nighter looks a bit of a treat, too, ranging from the sublime (Val Lewton’s majestic I Walked With A Zombie and Romero’s gore spattered epic Dawn of the Dead with its glacially paced core of self-examining interiority) to the logic-defying Euro weirdness of Lucio Fulci’s Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979), Umberto Lenzi’s Nightmare City (1980) and Amando de Ossorio’s Return of the Blind Dead, in which the Knights Templar return from the grave (this made at a time, lest we forget, when Franco was still in power). Further horror is on offer in the form of a completely unrelated but nevertheless enticing pairing of Mario Bava’s classic gothic chiller Black Sunday with the 1973 blackly comic British movie Horror Hospital, directed by sometime William Burroughs collaborator Anthony Balch, with Michael Gough relishing his role as a demented scientist. You’ve already either seen or missed the pairing of the magical Czech fairy tale Valerie and her Week of Wonders with Juraj Herz’s 1973 gothic melodrama Morgiana, intriguingly described as ‘opening the doors on a fetid, decaying snow-globe of a world where Hammer meets Chekhov with remarkably macabre results’. One to look out for on the Second Run DVD release. There’s an interesting 70s science fiction double, with Michael Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius brought to the screen to distinctly underwhelming effect in The Final Programme, and John Boorman creating a strange, mythopoetic future world in the hills and valleys of Ireland in Zardoz (a much-derided film which I, for one, think is great). There are Fassbinder and Herzog doubles, and Klaus Kinski turns up in the spaghetti western Grand Silence, playing with that most magisterial example of the sub-genre, Once Upon a Time in the West. Finally, there is a screening of Powell and Pressburger’s ode to vanishing British values The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, a deeply moving piece of romantic conservatism which always affects me even though I don’t agree with its outlook, which should hopefully be introduced by Tilda Swinton. The whole thing ends with a screening of A Clockwork Orange on the 2nd October. Only this time, the lawyers from MGM won’t be getting on the phone.

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