Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Cinema Wasteland Spring 2012

This past weekend, the spring 2012 edition of the Cinema Wasteland convention was held in Strongsville, Ohio. Cody was there, and has returned to share a step-by-step account of his experience.

Last fall's Cinema Wasteland was the 20th edition of the show, making this latest show Wasteland 21. The running joke was that "Now Wasteland's old enough to drink." Of course, Wasteland's really been getting drunk off its ass since it came out of the womb.

I missed the first 8 shows, so this was just my 13th Wasteland experience, and here's how Lucky 13 played out.

FRIDAY (March 30th):

4:30pm - All 3-Day Pass holders admitted.

Having reached the hotel and checked in with plenty of time to spare, I was ready to enter the Wasteland soon after the doors opened. As I've said in a previous write-up, Wasteland is now like a home to me, and it's always nice to be back there every six months.

I spent about an hour walking around, taking in the sights, looking over the dealer tables and scoping out the celebrity guests, taking note of things that I might spend money on over the weekend.

By the end of my first walkthrough, I had bought a copy of Night of the Demons - a DVD that I've been needing for a while now - from this lady, a "Fix the Chapel" T-shirt, supporting the fundraising effort to restore and preserve the cemetery chapel seen at the beginning of Night of the Living Dead (1968), and Autopsy of the Dead, a documentary on the making of NOTLD '68 that features first-time interviews with several people who played zombies in the film, some of whom were guests at the convention.

I then dropped my purchases off at my room so I wouldn't have to hold on to them during -

6:15pm - MOVIE: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, on real 16mm film, kicks off the weekend film screenings in MOVIE ROOM 1.

We have a lot of love for Night of the Living Dead at this blog. Jay has written an article about the movie, I've called it my Favorite Horror Film of All Time. It's one of the movies that I watch the most often and I have no idea what the astronomical number is of how many times I've seen it, but I'm always up for another viewing.

8:00pm - GUEST EVENT: Join our attending Night of the Living Dead "ghouls" after the film screening to get another side of the film’s production you may never get another chance to hear in MOVIE ROOM 1.

Six of the people who played ghouls in NOTLD took the stage for a panel moderated by Wasteland runner Ken Kish and the producer of Autopsy of the Dead, I believe his name is Jim Cirronella. The ghouls in attendance were Terry Gindele, who was the first zombie to get his brain bashed with a tire iron, Dave James, the last zombie to be shot, William Mogush, who went after Tom and Judy during the pickup truck scene, Paula Richards, who was a raven-haired zombie in a hospital gown, frequent zombie crowd member Herbert Summer, and Ella Mae Smith, who lived near the NOTLD farmhouse and was recruited to play a zombie along with her late husband, who was the ghoul that throws a rock through a window during the final assault.

Kyra Schon, who played trowel-wielding little Karen Cooper, was also a guest at the show, but she's a Wasteland regular and has been on the panel stage before, so she left this one up to the lesser-known new guests.

This was a good panel, it was interesting to hear behind-the-scenes stories from the perspective of people who were paid $25 to stumble through the film, attack people and eat meat covered with chocolate syrup (blood in black & white.)

Ella Mae Smith stood out as a really sweet lady. Her home was right at the edge of the field around the farmhouse, so she could see the NOTLD house through her bedroom window until was eventually torn down after filming. She talked about how seeing her late husband as the rock-throwing zombie gives her goosebumps, and the fact that she's watched the movie so many times that she has it memorized. She said that even though she was only paid $25 for her role, being in the movie has given her a million dollars worth of smiles over the years.

9:30pm - MOVIE: PUPPET MONSTER MASSACRE may become your favorite old school monster story with puppet actors ever! Catch it in MOVIE ROOM 2.

It's 1985 and a group of young people have been invited to spend the night in a spooky old mansion. If they make it to the morning, they'll be given $1 million. Unfortunately for them, the mansion is owned by a vengeful Nazi with a bloodthirsty penguin sidekick and a monster in the cellar... By the way, all of the characters in this movie are puppets.

Director Dustin Mills wasn't going to do an intro for this screening because he had heard that the Wasteland crowd would eat him alive and/or make him show his asshole. That's a bit of an exaggeration, I've never seen a Wasteland crowd be rude to someone giving an intro. Mills had nothing to worry about anyway, because the audience was hyped to see his flick and it was well-received. It's a pretty cool movie and I heard viewers say "That was awesome!" several times throughout.

11:00pm - MOVIE & GUEST INTRO: Russ Meyer’s UP! begins in MOVIE ROOM 2 with a short talk and introduction from Kitten Natividad.

Ken Kish brought Kitten Natividad in for a chat about her relationship with Russ Meyer, professional and otherwise, and the making of Up! Natividad is no stranger to the Wasteland, and during this talk further confirmed to me that women who worked in the adult industry 25 to 35 years ago tend to be really fun people. Ginger Lynn at last fall's show is another example of this.

42nd Street Pete was in the audience and raised his hand during the Q&A to tell a story of the time when he attended a grindhouse double feature of Russ Meyer movies and it had to be cut short because the projectionist had a massive heart attack and died while masturbating to the movie.

Natividad plays "the Greek Chorus" in Up!, her thick Mexican accent dubbed over with lines that unsuccessfully try to keep the audience up to speed with the movie. The film begins with Hitler going ATM with a pilgrim and builds from there. Hitler is killed by a piranha in his bathtub and the whodunit is the background for a story about the men and extremely busty women who live in a small town screwing the hell out of each other. Amid all the sex, the standout moment for me was when the Sheriff takes a chainsaw after a rapist maniac of a lumberjack. 'Cause chainsaws make everything cooler. If I had stumbled across this movie on cable in the middle of the night when I was a teenager, I would have been completely rapt.

It was late when Up! ended and I wasn't sure if I wanted to stay up long enough to catch the 1 AM screening of a movie called Sloppy the Psychotic. I decided to return to my room while thinking it over. On the third floor, I saw that "the party convention" was living up to its reputation, as there was a ping pong table set up in the hallway, presumably for beer pong. Once I was in my room, it was pretty much decided that I was just going to go to sleep instead of going back downstairs to watch Sloppy. Hacked in the Head tells me that I missed anal impalement and urine drowning, amongst other things.

On the hotel TV, HBO2 was showing the Nightmare on Elm Street remake. While this movie is sort of anathema to the Wasteland experience - it didn't go over well with horror fans and Ken Kish has refused to book guests from modern remakes - it's still horror, and horror beats anything that was on the other channels. While Jackie Earle Haley menaced Rooney Mara in her dreams, I drifted off to sleep.

SATURDAY (March 31st):

10:00am - Doors open for all pass holders.

10:30am - MOVIE: Saturday Morning Hangover Theater features Charles Bronson in MACHINE GUN KELLY, one of Roger Corman’s best films if you ask us, in MOVIE ROOM 1.

This 1958 Roger Corman production, shot in 8 days, is an enjoyable little crime flick. It gave Charles Bronson his first lead role as the bootlegging, bank robbing, murdering, kidnapping, generally unlikeable title character, who's spurred on by his harpy girlfriend, played by Susan "Wasp Woman" Cabot.

After the movie, as horror host Son of Ghoul entered Movie Room 1 to begin showing his Saturday morning Three Stooges shorts, I went to take a quick stroll through the dealer/guest room. There I spotted a copy of a movie that I've been wanting to see again ever since catching part of it on cable in the early '90s - Fred Olen Ray's Evil Toons, starring David Carradine and porn stars Barbara Dare and Madison Stone.

I bought Evil Toons, which was being sold at Son of Ghoul's table, then it was time to go the hotel restaurant The Simmering Pot for my one Wasteland meal.

I didn't have a tote bag with me at this point, Evil Toons just sat naked on the table through my meal, so after lunch I went to my room to drop off Toons and get a bag before returning to the guest/dealer room.

I am inept at social situations. It's something that I'm working on, I've come a long way but there's still a long way to go, and it seems like I have a moment at every convention that I attend where I completely botch an interaction with someone. That happened around this time during this show.

At the Puppet Monster Massacre screening, it had been mentioned that DVDs of the movie were available in the guest/dealer room for $5. It was such a fun, unique movie that I definitely wanted to own a copy of it, especially for such a good price. Copies of the writer/director's second movie, Zombie A-Hole, were also for sale at his table for $10. A grindhouse throwback, Zombie A-Hole isn't a puppet movie, but there are some puppets used for special effects, as you can see in the very cool trailer.

So I stopped by the Puppet Monster Massacre/Zombie A-Hole table to buy copies of both movies... and as soon as I reached the table, my brain shut down. Mills asked if I had been at the Puppet Monster Massacre screening the night before, and when I said that I had been, he asked if I dug the movie. My reply: a simple, deadpan "Yeah." How complimentary, I'm sure he was heartened by my enthusiastic response. No mention that I had enjoyed his movie, thought it was fun or cool, just "Yeah." I paid for my DVDs and Mills said to contact him online to let him know what I think of them. I said "All right" and walked away, mentally kicking myself for having yet another interaction where I went totally awkward for no reason.

1:15pm - GUEST EVENT: Join Richard Kiel and Lana Wood in MOVIE ROOM 1 and we’ll talk about everything from Bond and beyond with our guests.

Richard Kiel - steel-toothed assassin Jaws in the Bond films The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker - and Lana Wood - Plenty O'Toole in Diamonds Are Forever - were also joined on this panel by fellow guest Barbara Bouchet, who played Moneypenny in the unofficial Bond spoof Casino Royale (1967). In a discussion covering their careers, Bouchet talked about working with David Niven, and dealing with snakes, suspension bridges, and Otto Preminger. Kiel told the story of being the first person cast as TV's Incredible Hulk and being so miserable in the makeup that he hoped the initial TV movies would fail so that he wouldn't have to continue on as the character. He was quite happy to soon be replaced by bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno. Kiel mentioned that he's been blind in his right eye since birth, something that I never knew before.

Preferences of Bond actors also came up. Lana Wood is friends with Roger Moore and thinks he's a wonderful man, but she thought he was a dreadful Bond. And she's not talking behind his back by saying that, she's openly told him that in person. Kiel was asked at a premiere who his favorite Bond was and, torn between his working relationship with Moore and being a fan of Connery as a viewer, he answered: George Lazenby. Wood feels that there have only been two good Bond actors in the series, Sean Connery and Daniel Craig.

2:30pm - EVENT: The auction to help repair the chapel in the historic Evans City Cemetery where Night of the Living Dead was filmed, begins in MOVIE ROOM 2.

Night of the Living Dead crew member Gary Streiner, who's at the head of the Fix the Chapel fundraiser, was joined by auction host 42nd Street Pete to sell off DVDs, NOTLD memorabilia, and even pieces of the crumbling chapel to raise a few hundred more dollars for the restoration job. I was tempted to bid on a couple things, but ultimately I was just an observer at the auction, which lasted about 25 minutes.

$50,000 is needed to fix the chapel. At the NOTLD panel on Friday, Streiner mentioned that they've raised around $30,000 at this point, so things are looking good.

With some time to kill before the next panel, I spent some more time in guest/dealer room. One dealer had a poster for the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp Dark Shadows movie on prominent display, which drew a lot of people to it and stirred up discussions all weekend. Some people thought the trailer that was recently released looks good, others are disgusted by the change in tone from the original TV show.

I looked through the DVDs on the Kish table and ended up buying Blood Sisters (which features an audio commentary by Joe Bob Briggs) and Genuine Nerd, the documentary on Cleveland's own Toby Radloff.

4:00pm - GUEST EVENT: Join PJ Soles & Dey Young after the Rock ‘n Roll High School screening in MOVIE ROOM 1.

Ken Kish and Ultra Violent Magazine's Art Ettinger had a good chat with Soles and Young about their experiences on Rock 'n Roll High School and other movies they've been in. Young auditioned for The Terminator and found out that director James Cameron had been a P.A. who brought her coffee on RNRHS. She didn't end up in Terminator, but it turns out that I've seen Young in several movies that I didn't know she was in. I need to start paying more attention to her career, because she seemed like a really cool person, as did Soles, who I've been a fan of since my childhood obsession with Halloween.

5:30pm - GUEST EVENT: TALES FROM TIMES SQUARE: THE VIDEO YEARS panel begins in MOVIE ROOM 1. Join host, 42nd Street Pete, and CW promoter Ken Kish as they talk about the early years of the video explosion and how it helped kill the Drive-Ins and Grindhouses we loved so much.

This was a very interesting talk about the VHS era, from its birth, through the days when Kish and Pete worked with/ran video businesses and saw a lot of crazy deals going on, all the way to the death of the format. These guys spent a lot of time dealing with VHS and made some decent money off of it, and they're both baffled by its recent resurgence.

7:00pm - MOVIE & GUEST INTRO: As the Dealer and Guest Room shuts down for the night, join director David Schmoeller for a little talk and introduction to his horror classic, TOURIST TRAP, in MOVIE ROOM 2.

Art Ettinger interviewed Schmoeller, who was making his first convention appearance at this Wasteland, for a while before the screening began. Schmoeller works primarily as a film school teacher these days, but he's still involved with feature productions as well, and has a movie he directed called Little Monsters coming soon.

There were some interesting details revealed about the making of some of Schmoeller's earlier works. He directed the first Puppet Master movie, but it was just a work-for-hire job that he wasn't particularly invested in. He doesn't think it's a very good movie and couldn't explain why it's been so successful, he had no idea. I'd say, if nothing else, the Puppet Master series is popular due to the design of the puppets. They're so badass.

Schmoeller also talked about the horror of working with Klaus Kinski on Crawlspace. Three days into filming, Kinski had been in six fistfights with crew members and had already caused the production to fall two days behind schedule. Schmoeller asked to have Kinski fired, but producer Charles Band wanted to keep the troublesome star on, so they kept going. By the time filming wrapped, they were ten days behind schedule.

Tourist Trap was Schmoeller's first feature, admittedly an attempt to duplicate the success of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre a few years earlier. There were even a few TCM crew members involved with Tourist Trap - TCM editor J. Larry Carroll co-wrote the script with Schmoeller, sound recordist Ted Nicolau edited Trap, and they both employed Robert A. Burns as art director. The set-up for the story is the same - a group of youths on a drive are stranded in the countryside by car trouble and stumble across "the mad and macabre". But instead of chainsaws and cannibals, the people in Tourist Trap encounter telekinesis and living mannequins.

I really enjoy this movie. There are some really creepy moments in it and it has scared the hell out of many young viewers throughout the years.

But scarier to me that anything in the movie is what happened during this viewing. My eyesight is terrible and I usually wear glasses, but sometimes, like when I'm at Wasteland, I put in contacts. Contacts really don't agree with my eyeballs, when I put them in for a second day in a row my eyes start to hurt and I end up rubbing them a lot. I gave my eyes a good rub near the end of Tourist Trap, and when I looked back at the screen, I could only see clearly out of one eye. The other was all blurry, I had lost the contact. It hadn't fallen out and it wasn't on the front of my eye anymore, it had moved over to the side of my eyeball. I don't know much about contacts, since I only wear them occasionally, I have no idea what occurs when they move onto a side of your eye that's inside the socket and unreachable by your fingers. As the final minutes of Tourist Trap played out on the screen, all sorts of scenarios play out in my mind. I remember a member of the Friday the 13th message board a long time ago talked about having one of his contacts drift over to the side of his eye and it was gone for days before finally drifting back around to the front so he could remove it. What if the contact were to detach while it was still on another side? What if it stuck to my optic nerve? Would it temporarily blind me? What if my eyeball had to be surgically popped out just to retrieve a damn contact?

The movie ended and I returned to my room, where I looked in the mirror trying to catch sight of the contact. I moved my eye around a bit and, looking off to one side, spotted the edge of it back in there. I was able to touch the edge of it, pull it forward and remove it. Panic over. Time to put my glasses on.

I had about an hour and a half before the next event I wanted to go to and I could've gone and joined in on the partying, but that's not my thing. I just sat around in my room, listening to podcasts. Eventually it was time for -

10:30pm - MOVIE: DEAR GOD NO!, one of the most "wasteland-like" indy exploitation movies we’ve seen since we started the CW Show begins in MOVIE ROOM 1.

The movie room was packed for this screening, some of the actors were in attendance and seemingly still in character. Dear God, No! is about an out-of-control biker gang on a spree of murder and rape who follow a couple witnesses to a home in the woods, where horrible things happen. With bigfoot, zombies, strippers with machine guns, it's a mixture of several drive-in/grindhouse genres that's totally irreverent and has something in it to offend everyone... Except for most of the people in the movie room. The crowd went nuts for it. The movie and the plot lost me somewhere around the forced C-section, but it was a perfect movie for the Wasteland.

I've written on the blog before about how much I love the movie FleshEater, and how I desperately wanted to be involved with the making of a sequel. Director/star Bill Hinzman passed away in February (R.I.P.), but I continue to carry the torch for FleshEater, and I was representing my fandom on Saturday by wearing my FleshEater T-shirt. I was very happy with how well the shirt went over that day, it was commented on/complimented on five separate occasions. People said that the movie was underrated - it is - and that it's great - you're damn right it is. That night, I wore my FleshEater shirt to a screening of the movie that started it all.

MIDNIGHT - MOVIE: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD ends the 16mm drive-in screenings for the evening in MOVIE ROOM 1.

Yes, I watched both screenings of NOTLD. Like I said, I'm always up for another viewing of the movie. Gary Streiner was briefly in attendance for this screening, it was very cool to see him in there and watch some of the movie with someone who was involved with the making of it.

I would love to attend a screening of FleshEater at a Wasteland show.

When Night of the Living Dead ended, it was time to sleep.

SUNDAY (April 1st):

11:00am - Doors open for all pass holders.

After getting my stuff packed up and checking out of my room, I started off the last day of the Wasteland with a walk around the guest/dealer room. One dealer had a "2 for $20" DVD deal, so I looked through their DVDs and found two that I wanted. Since I just got the Prom Night/Ghoulies IV double feature the week before, here I bought the Prom Night 3/Prom Night 4 double feature. Now I just need a copy of my favorite Prom Night movie; Hello, Mary Lou: Prom Night II. Completing the $20 deal was the Drive-In Cult Classics 8 Movie Collection, featuring The Teacher, Pick-Up, Trip with the Teacher, Best Friends, The Stepmother, The Sister-in-Law, Malibu High, and Cindy & Donna. I have seen The Teacher before and plan to write about that on the blog sometime.

NOON - MOVIE: BEYOND ATLANTIS unspools to kick off the days 16mm film screenings in MOVIE ROOM 1.

A pimp played by Sid Haig and an assortment of potential victims go diving for a fortune of pearls and end up on an island inhabited by a King, his beautiful blonde daughter, and a whole bunch of bug-eyed Atlanteans in this obscure 1973 movie from director Eddie Romero. It's rather slow and uneventful, but Haig's character is entertaining and actresses Leigh Christian and Lenore Stevens are nice to look at.

When Beyond Atlantis ended, it was also time to bring my 13th Cinema Wasteland experience to an end. I took one last walk around the dealer/guest room, doing a quick and unsuccessful search for a copy of Prom Night II, then made my exit. As I walked out of the hotel, I felt kind of sad. I had a great time at my 13th Wasteland, I really enjoy the show and every one is a highlight of each year. The next one is in October. I will be there. I'm already looking forward to it.

Thanks to Ken Kish for running the show and keeping it going strong, and to the Strongsville Holiday Inn for continuing to house the best convention in the land.

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