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Week of the Greats - The Silver Screen [White & Blue Ajahs]: Great Cult Movies


E James Todd
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Hello all!  Welcome to the White & Blue Ajah's Week of the Greats.  Here we'll have an opportunity to discuss any of the great cult films that have been made.  This can be anything from any point in cinematographic history, from the classic Kubrick film A Clockwork Orange to the timeless Bride of Frankenstein, even something as zany as the relatively unknown Tetsuo: The Iron Man.  All things are fair game, so long as they have a cult following.

 

Feel free to post any examples you can think of, and give us a bit of history or plot teaser to see if you can tantalize the rest of us into watching it as we read!  If there was anything innovative about the film, be sure to tell us; directors are notoriously good at making small budgets work in fascinating ways.

 

My first pick for a cult movie would be the relatively unknown The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, released in 2001.

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Now unlike other cult movies, this is not something that tried to be serious.  "Serious" didn't even remotely enter into the vocabulary of this movie.  It takes every single trope from 40's and 50's B-movie sci-fi's and mashes them all into one hysterical package.  Quirky scientists?  Check.  Mad scientists?  Yep.  Aliens from outer space (and totally not Mars)?  Got 'em.  Mutants?  You bet!  And every single second of it is filled with the fun sort of camp dialogue you'd expect from a film from that era: the serious scenes are all close-ups of whoever's talking, the laughs are just barely too forced, there's an obligatory showdown with two "titanic" characters, and the score is all rather brilliantly written with a full orchestra.  Oh, and the special effects are...well, they leave something to be desired.

 

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This is such good SFX gais.

 

And of course, the dialogue isn't just bad.  It's laughably terrible at times.

 

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Can one be hated by skeletons? Really?

 

But this all adds to the inherent charm.  Yes the producers made this entire film in one weekend on a $20,000 budget.  And yes, they also made sure to hit every single trope from the B-grade movies of the 1950's era (there is some definite The Beginning of the End sprinkled in with this one).  But at the same time this film was made as a celebration of what we had during that time, where we didn't necessarily question the science and everything was, for just a moment, infinitely plausible.  We chose to believe in aliens coming to Earth and mutants attacking the countryside because in the end who doesn't want to say "I got to see a mutant today"?

 

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This is said mutant, by the way.  $40 at Walmart gets you a pretty terrible Halloween costume.

 

I don't think I've ever seen another film quite like The Lost Skeleton.  It's laughable but at the same time endearing.  Everyone I've shown it to comes away from it...well, first they tell me how awful a movie it is; but unfailingly, the more they think about it the more it seems to grow on them.  There's all sorts of moments where the characters for all of their stereotypes and artificial personalities still ring true.  A particular dinner scene comes to mind, in which there's three groups of people that all meet and the tension from their awkward interactions is so palpable it hurts.  While the particulars are definitely unique to the film, everyone has had some type of social gathering that was at least as strained as what the brilliant cast delivers on.

 

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And I'll bet you never ate your food like this.

 

In the end, The Lost Skeleton is far from perfect.  But it serves as a reminder of some of that Silver Age of the silver screen, of a time that has gone by the wayside with the Hollywood blockbusters and their fast-paced adrenaline pushers.  And not a single person I've met that's seen it can forget it; even if they proclaim their dislike for it, they still end up quoting it somewhere down the line, or saying that a particular plot device in something is "as believable as the Atmospherium from that one movie" (direct quote from one of my friends.  It's almost a sort of sleeper hit, as a matter of fact; and it's endearing in a sort of crazy uncle way.  Definitely worth a watch, and it serves as a great entry into Larry Blamire's filmography - most of which follows the same vein.

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The 1st cult movie that springs to mind for me, is the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

 

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Courtesy of Wikipedia
 

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a 1975 musical comedy horror film directed by Jim Sharman. The screenplay was written by Sharman and Richard O'Brien based on the 1973 musical stage production The Rocky Horror Show, music, book, and lyrics by O'Brien. The production is a parody tribute to the science fiction and horror B movies of the 1930s through early 1970s. The film stars Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, O'Brien himself, and Barry Bostwick along with cast members from the original Royal Court Theatre, Roxy Theatre, and Belasco Theatre productions.

The story centres on a young engaged couple whose car breaks down in the rain near a castle where they seek a telephone to call for help. The castle is occupied by strangers in elaborate costumes celebrating an annual convention. They discover the head of the house is Frank N. Furter, an apparent mad scientist who actually is an alien transvestite who creates a living muscle man in her laboratory. The couple is seduced separately by the mad scientist and eventually released by the servants who take control.

The film was shot in the United Kingdom at Bray Studios and on location at an old country estate named Oakley Court, best known for its earlier use by Hammer Film Productions. A number of props and set pieces were reused from the Hammer horror films. Although the film is both a parody and tribute to many of the kitsch science fiction and horror films, costume designer Sue Blane conducted no research for her designs. Blane stated that costumes from the film have directly affected the development of punk rock fashion trends such as ripped fishnets and dyed hair.

Although largely critically panned on initial release, it soon became known as a midnight movie when audiences began participating with the film at the Waverly Theater in New York City in 1976. Audience members returned to the cinemas frequently and talked back to the screen and began dressing as the characters, spawning similar performance groups across the United States. At almost the same time, fans in costume at the King's Court Theater in Pittsburgh began performing alongside the film. This "shadow cast" mimed the actions on screen above and behind them, while lip-syncing their character's lines. Still in limited release four decades after its premiere, it is the longest-running theatrical release in film history. It is often shown close to Halloween. Today, the film has a large international following. It was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2005.

The film's creative team also produced Shock Treatment in 1981, a standalone feature using the characters of Brad and Janet and featuring some of the same cast.

 

 

In South Africa it's very much a student thing (well, it was in my young days) to have Rocky Horror festivals, where you go watch the movie in groups, have themed parties, etc. Absolutely everyone here knows at least some of the songs (it's just a step to the left!)

 

In the 80's and 90's we were much more innocent than young people are these days. To us, Rocky Horror was an absolute culture shock and eye opener.

 

Tim Curry was just phenomenal, I must say :)

 

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I love the Rocky Horror Picture Show! My mum loved it when she was young so I grew up watching it from a very young age, no wonder I'm so strange  :laugh:  :laugh:

 

A good movie to watch as a drinking game...cult classic to the max

 

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So very true! Of course, when evaluating the value of vintage video, viewers will vault humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of fate, to the very vertex of value; whose visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the “vox populi” now vacant, vanished.

 

-insert "V for Vendetta" poster here when not at work-

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One of the the greatest "lost scenes in history" is the original ending...

 

The War Room was supposed to errupt into a gaint "pie fight" [when the spoiler news was received], and it was staged and filmed, and apparently was/is hillarious. However, the actors couldn't/didn't stay in character the entire time, so it was "left on the cutting room floor."

 

But it's still a great movie...

 

Oh two other things:

 

1.) The air force was concerned with how accurately the set of the B-52 was built, since it was still classified at the time. It was designed with help of a team of pilots and engineers who'd worked on other bombers in the past. The "outside shots" were filmed flying at low altitude in a B-17 over greenland, which the air force also didn't like.

 

FINALLY:

 

It was filmed in 62, before Kennedy was shot, and released in late November (right after the assassination) so they very quickly (and poorly), redubed "pretty good weekend in dallas" to "vegas"

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