Friday, October 29, 2010


When I was a child trick or treating in my neighborhood on Halloween, word would travel fast between us kids of which house had the best treats—gooey popcorn balls, handfuls of candy corn, or homemade cookies—and we would all converge on that doorbell in greedy anticipation like a flock of Hitchcock birds. Years later, my insatiable sweet tooth has turned into an equally insatiable cinematic tooth and—during this heightened season of ghouls and ghosts, muertos and the Bay Area's orange and black baseball team poised to win the World Series—I touch base with Hell on Frisco Bay's listing of festival treats awaiting the Bay Area cinephile, gleefully aware that I will not go home empty-handed. As Brian Darr has mentioned in his thorough survey of our local "in-fest-ation", The Roxie celebrates Halloween with three events: tonight's double bill of 1950s horror/sci-fi (The Creature With the Atom Brain and The Man From Planet X), tomorrow's double-bill featuring archive prints of David Cronenberg's The Brood and the Hammer studio's Corruption, and a third on Halloween night consisting of two films by director Alex Cox (Straight to Hell Returns and Searchers 2.0)—who will be present at the screenings! (and at the Rafael Film Center the following night).

In the face of so much arthouse festival fare and the daunting task of having to report on same, the mindless fun promised by Elliot Lavine's two evenings of "Halloween maudit" at the Roxie provide a welcome respite from exhaustive overchoice. I'm restored to the avid spirit of my childhood years curled up in the red and grey armchair in front of the Philco television watching late night creature features. It never ceases to amaze me how much comfort I still derive from black and white sci-fi films from the '50s, whose threat of nuclear proliferation feels nearly innocent in the face of festival proliferation (which seems strikingly more hazardous to my health).

The Creature With the Atom Brain (dir. Edward L. Cahn, U.S.A., 1955, 70 mins) will be presented in a 35mm Studio Archive Print for its single 8:00PM screening this evening. As Lavine advised me by email, this "hybrid masterpiece" features gangsters, a renegade former nazi scientist and lots of terrifying living dead. A major influence on both Carnival of Souls and Night of the Living Dead, The Creature With the Atom Brain is one of the most bizarrely shocking horror hybrids of the 1950s, in which renegade Nazi scientist Wilhelm Steigg (Gregory Gaye) unleashes an army of zombies in order to help an exiled American gangster Frank Buchanan (Michael Granger) in his demented quest to get revenge on his enemies and regain his criminal empire! "This one has it all," Elliot promises, "and it truly needs to be seen on the big Roxie screen! More terrifying than you might imagine given its meager budget." According to Wikipedia, The Creature With the Atom Brain was distributed by Columbia Pictures and was the bottom half of a double bill with another SF favorite: It Came from Beneath the Sea. Co-starring Richard Denning (check out his beefcake portfolio at Brian's Drive-in Theater) and Three Stooges alumni Angela Stevens. Written by Curt Siodmak.

The Man From Planet X (dir. Edgar G. Ulmer, U.S.A., 1951, 70 mins) comes from the amazing director of the cult noir Detour (1945). This beautifully spooky science fiction tale about the arrival of an alien from a distant planet whose presence on Earth triggers a chain reaction that could threaten our planet's very existence is brilliantly atmospheric, thought provoking and an understated little gem that—according to Lavine—is "one of Ulmer's most beautiful and baffling maudit Bs, that will slither its way into your dreams for many nights to come." Starring Robert Clarke, Margaret Field, Raymond Bond, and William Schallert. Presented in a 35mm Studio Archive Print this evening at 6:35PM and 9:30PM.

The Brood (dir. David Cronenberg, Canada, 1979, 92 mins), Elliot advises, is probably Cronenberg's "most profane film. What psychological secrets compelled him to make this film?" A shattering, brilliant early shocker from the director of such horror classics as They Came From Within, Scanners, and The Dead Zone as well as recent hits like A History of Violence and Eastern Promises. A sickening brood of mutant children begin a terrifying, inexplicable reign of terror with completely unpredictable results! Terrifying and gruesome, this is one that is tailor-made for Halloween! Prepare yourselves for a seriously insane movie! Starring Oliver Reed, Samantha Eggar, and Art Hindle. In Color. 35mm Studio Archive Print! Saturday, October 30 at 4:15PM and 8:00PM.

Corruption aka Carnage (dir. Robert Hartford-Davis, UK, 1968, 91 mins) is a rarely seen Hammer horror opus and a veritable slaughter-fest of gore as a crazed surgeon conducts severely disgusting acts of carnage in order to restore his hideously disfigured wife to the beautiful woman she once was. A not-to-be-missed mindbender, Corruption is—as the film's poster attests—"not a woman's picture", though I doubt the Roxie will insist on women being accompanied to this "super-shock" film. Starring the iconic Peter Cushing, Sue Lloyd, Noel Trevarthen, and David Lodge. In Color. 35mm Studio Archive Print. Saturday, October 30 at 2:30PM, 6:15PM, and 9:45PM.

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