Cinema Wasteland Retro Movie Night (Part One)
If you’ve been following the blog or Facebook account for any length of time, you’ve heard me talk about Cinema Wasteland. It’s my favorite horror convention. I never miss the twice yearly celebration of bad movies. It’s not just that Wasteland is home (though it is), and wastelanders are family (though they are). Back when I was still a stranger there and roamed the halls alone and anonymously, what kept me coming back were the films. Wasteland curates the strangest films known to man. They screen movies I’d never think to seek out on my own. They show the best (actually more often it’s the worst) stuff I never knew I NEEDED.
When word came down that Wasteland was going to host a movie night, it seemed like a perfect fit. Ken Kish (showrunner and founder of Cinema Wasteland) announced that he basically had so many movies he wanted to screen that even with as many as he shows at the convention, it’d still take dozens of cons before he’d get through them, so he decided to try this out and see how it went. From what I can see, it went well. I set the DVR to record Svengoolie and drove out to the Elks Lodge in Berea Saturday night. We got our first real bad snow that night and while roads were challenging coming in, they’d be a nightmare going home. Still, it didn’t seem to deter anyone. The hall filled up quickly. As I took my seat on the uncomfortable steel chairs I noticed light glinting off a bald head that struck me as familiar. I popped over to find Mark and Brandi from Michigan who had made the trip over to Cleveland just for the show. Next to them, Mike Watt and Amy Lynn Best from Happy Cloud media in PA. Our buddy Jason joined us right after his work shift down the street, about halfway through the event. (That’s what I mean by Wasteland is family).
I’ve heard stories about movie nights at Quentin Tarintino’s house. How he would screen double features, but add a short or a cartoon and some trailers into the presentation, and then proceed to screen things no one else had ever seen. This had that kind of vibe to it. Local Horror Hosts the Mummy and the Monkey had teamed up with Wasteland to help Emcee the show (they’re regulars at the con) and run a raffle, then the lights went out. A cartoon and an old “Our Gang” short preceded the film. Ken was playing it safe for the first feature by running a reliable old Vincent Price standard. Nevertheless, “Last Man on Earth” is a solid film and was made more fun watching it with an audience. We got about ten minuets into it when there was a sprocket malfunction. The print shook and blurred.
“I’m just trying to give you a REAL grindhouse experience!” Ken shouted as he swapped out the faulty projector with a spare.
“There’s not enough hookers or broken needles for it to be a genuine grindhouse experience!” I shouted back, then took the opportunity to nip back to the bathroom. Sure enough, needle and hooker free.
Intemission was marked by a trailer reel of the strange and wonderful, along with another cartoon and a raffle drawing. The seats were getting uncomfortable and the snow continued to fall as we headed into the second feature “The Man Who Turned to Stone”. This was the one I was waiting for since I had never even heard of this. It’s a 1957 classic and I knew I was in for something good when I saw Victor Jory in the credits. Jory Was the Shadow in the only film outing that matters, and that dark tone made him perfect for a sinister old-world type. Jory leads a group of immortals who stay young by draining the life force of others. Young women in particular are the best nourishment and they just happen to be running a women’s prison. Hijinks ensue.
The event went well enough to justify a second film night. This one will fall on Feb 9th, and feature “Voodoo Woman” (1957) and “Motorcycle Gang” (1957). I know I’ll be back. I hope to see all of you there too!