The Midnight Mafia

THE MIDNIGHT MAFIA: X: The Man With The X-Ray Eyes

7/17/2013 - 11:59PM

At the height of his ‘60s Poe phase, Roger Corman also laid down this haunting, unforgettable blend of science fiction and morality play. In one of his best latter-day roles, Ray Milland is a doctor pioneering a new kind of eyedrops, rendering the human eye capable of seeing through solid matter — and after losing his job and fleeing a murder charge, he continues to use the drops until he can see well past the realm of normal perception, into something far more ghastly and dangerous than he could have imagined. One of the best acid head movies before such a thing even existed, X sees to it that its see-through gimmick is exploited well, as Corman uses a canny mixture of scientific jargon, comic relief, suspenseful chases, and ultimately Grand Guignol horror to demonstrate the numerous possibilities of such a hideous gift. The usual Corman collaborators are all here and working overtime, including composer Les Baxter (providing one of his oddest scores), cinematographer Floyd Crosby (working colorful wonders with an impoverished budget), and a supporting cast peppered with such familiar faces as Don Rickles and Dick Miller.
Dir. Roger Corman, 1963, 35mm, 79 min.

Watch the trailer for “X: The Man With The X-Ray Eyes!”
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THE MIDNIGHT MAFIA: Mario Bava's "Shock"

The final film of Mario Bava!
7/3/2013 - 9:45PM

A claustrophobic gut punch that drags the viewer straight down into the mind of a woman going completely mad, Mario Bava’s 1977 suckerpunch Shock, featuring a score by ex-members of Goblin, is a psychologically devastating little chamber piece, not to mention a strangely appropriate final film for the maestro. After Dora (Argento’s muse Daria Nicolodi) and her new husband move into a new house along with her son from a previous marriage, strange events immediately plague the household, with the cute little boy prone to such homilies as “I’m going to have to kill you, mommy.” Is the kid possessed by his dead drug addict father, or is Dora besieged by her own insanity? Either way, soon the boy’s doing nasty tricks with razor blades, while Dora experiences horrific visions from beyond the grave. Nicolodi delivers the best performance of her career, beginning as a sweet and maternal figure but gradually shattering into a completely hysterical wreck. A rare but prime example of Bava’s style, Shock pulls off so many magnificent little flourishes that even the most demanding Eurofanatics will be gleefully pleased.
Dir. Mario Bava, 1977, 35mm, 90 min.

Watch the trailer for “Shock”!
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THE MIDNIGHT MAFIA: The Brain That Wouldn't Die

Freaky-deaky Atomic Age weirdness!
6/19/2013 - MIDNITE

“Alive — without a body — fed by an unspeakable horror from hell!” It’s been twenty years since this campfest made its legendary appearance on MST3K — now it’s time to experience this freaky-deaky slab of Atomic Age weirdness in 35mm for the first time! Featuring Virginia Leith looking very Joan Crawford-esque as the iconic “Jan In The Pan” (the disembodied head containing the titular Brain), The Brain That Wouldn’t Die is a gas, with its perfectly ridiculous arrogant scientist/decapitated fiancée/medical experiment troika in full bloom. Scuzzy strip clubs, telepathic powers, snaggle-toothed mutants caged in the basement, a growing resentment of asshole husbands — what else could they possibly have crammed into this, c’mon now! Fun with a capital FUN.
Dir. Joseph Green, 1962, 35mm, 81 min.

Watch the trailer for “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die”!
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THE MIDNIGHT MAFIA: Elvis Presley in "Follow That Dream"

The King is stranded in Florida!
5/29/2013 - MIDNITE

The King of Rock and Roll’s filmography can be a bit unwieldy to tackle — a little over 30 movies made in a little less than 15 years(!), of widely varying quality — but few are as honestly hilarious, low-key or offbeat than Follow That Dream, an early-’60s effort written by the fantastic Charles Lederer (who had a sizeable hand in crafting scripts for such classics as The Front Page, His Girl Friday, Ocean’s 11 and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.) In this gentle redneck comedy, Elvis plays the oldest son in a large family that finds itself stranded on the Florida coast. Amongst a handful of breezy musical numbers, the King is genuinely good in this kooky character study; far from his oft-wooden, “how did I get here, and where’s the nearest exit?” style of filmic performance, Elvis here exudes the same kind of effortless charm and smoky sexuality that initially shot him to superstardom.
Dir. Gordon Douglas, 1962, 35mm, 109 min.

Watch the trailer for “Follow That Dream”!
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War Party (25th Anniversary screening!)

A total tomahawk to the skull!
5/15/2013 - MIDNITE

It’s a crying shame that a movie this genuinely fun and well-crafted has been mostly lost to time, but let’s try to rectify the situation. Picture the same amount of mindblowing-to-your-inner-twelve-year-old, coming-of-age action radness of Red Dawn, but also with the small-town naturalism of a John Sayles film — and M. Emmet Walsh as an ultra-smarmy bounty hunter! A shining diamond buried in the still-not-yet-released-on-DVD hinterlands, War Party stars Lost Boys vamp Billy Wirth alongside Entourage’s Kevin Dillon in this rollicking, on-the-lam Midwestern tale. A Civil War battle re-enactment is just what’s needed to economically revitalize our heroes’ Indian rez in Montana — except that racial tensions flare, real guns are fired during the “show”, and a large batch of really awesome chaos erupts. Director Franc Roddam (Quadrophenia) keeps things slick and appropriately dusty, Wirth is full of broody charm (as well as sports a wicked Ian Astbury-style, bangs-heavy ‘do), and more than one tomahawk gets firmly planted in villainous rednecks’ skulls.
Dir. Franc Roddam, 1988, 35mm, 97 min.

Watch the trailer for “War Party”!
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Salo, or The 120 Days Of Sodom

A midnight movie of grave allure!
4/24/2013 - 11PM

Arguably the original arthouse video nasty, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom — the Italian iconoclast’s final film, and infamous transposition of the Marquis de Sade’s “School of Libertinism” texts — brought a career of sexual, religious, and political provocation full circle. Structured as a visceral four-part rite of passage through Dante’s Circles of Hell, the film depicts in unflinching detail the systematic sexual torture and mental abuse perpetrated on a group of teenagers kidnapped by libertine fascists in the wake of the Mussolini regime. Igniting the ire of government officials and Italian Social Republic extortionists before the film had even wrapped, Pasolini’s impassioned portrayal of rape, sadism, sodomy, and murder would, along with his ties to Communism, eventually lead to his murder in the months leading up to the film’s premiere. Whether seen as an allegory of Nazi Germany, a ritual of spiritual agnosticism or a blatant authorial affront, Salò remains a nightmarish vision of inhumanity, and a midnight movie of grave allure and enduring implication.
Dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1975, 35mm, 116 min.

Watch the trailer for “Salo, or The 120 Days Of Sodom”!
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Two-Lane Blacktop

James Taylor, Dennis Wilson and Warren Oates!
4/3/2013 - MIDNITE

Monte Hellman’s early-’70s stone classic, in the perfect time-slot! Two of the hottest leading men of the seventies — James Taylor, and Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys — pit their souped-up Chevy against Warren Oates’ GTO in a cross-country race, with hippie chick runaway Laurie Bird along for the ride. Oates gives one of his greatest performances as the self-deluding burn-out in pastel sweaters, with a trunkful of drugs, hooked on the next thrill — and the boys, neither of whom had acted before or have since, are supercool, laconic naturals. The point of it all isn’t who wins, but the getting there, and the making of contact along the way. Yes, it’s an existential metaphor for the human condition, if you want it to be, but it’s also the ultimate American road movie, with a brilliant, near-invisible script by Rudy Wurlitzer, and one of the most incendiary endings in ‘70s cinema. Come see why Two-Lane Blacktop was just added to the National Film Registry — these satisfactions are permanent.
Dir. Monte Hellman, 1971, 35mm, 102 min.

Watch the trailer for “Two-Lane Blacktop”!
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Kidnapped Co-Ed

One of the great lost Seventies exploit-o-gems!
3/27/2013 - MIDNITE

Decades ago an unforgettable film came not from Hollywood, but from the Carolinas — one in which star-crossed lovers are sullied by sexual sadism, in which hayseed sincerity is tarnished by pitch black humor, and Rockwellian idylls are rife with grisly crime. No, not Blue Velvet; ten years before Lynch patented his blend of naive noir, Frederick Friedel, with only the “video nasty” Axe under his belt, birthed Kidnapped Co-Ed. Jack Canon (a perfect Clint Eastwood/Harry Dean Stanton hybrid) hijacks heiress Leslie Ann Rivers for her daddy’s money, but a disturbing detour leads the unlikely couple deep into the heart of darkest America, where unspeakable thrills await. If you’re anything like us, after seeing Kidnapped Co-Ed you’ll feel personally wronged when you realize that there aren’t scores of other Friedel/Canon pictures to discover — but since we dwell in a reality where Friedel isn’t listed as a favorite director in 60% of all teenagers’ dating profiles and Canon doesn’t wear sunglasses in the first row at the Oscars, we’ll just have to suck it up and savor what we’ve been given. Friedel’s Stockholm Syndrome fairy tale is incandescent with unthinkable images, uproariously (and intentionally) funny dialogue, heartbreaking romance and irresolvable mystery; that it doesn’t enjoy Twin Peaks-level fame is a crime worse than kidnapping.
Dir. Frederick Friedel, 1976, 35mm, 76 min.

Watch the trailer for “Kidnapped Co-Ed”!
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The Sadist

Sixties serial killer sleaze!
3/13/2013 - MIDNITE

Notorious serial killer Charles Starkweather’s story has been molded into a feature film many times, from Badlands to Natural Born Killers, Kalifornia and a sizeable handful of straight-up bio-pics — but none are as gleefully chewy as The Sadist, this year celebrating its fiftieth freaky birthday. Stepping it up considerably from his usual deer-in-the-headlights disposition, ‘60s Z-grade movie icon Arch Hall, Jr. (Wild Guitar, Eegah!) delivers a chilling portrayal of a teenage thrillkiller engaged in a perverted cat-and-mouse with three unlucky folks whose car breaks down at a dusty desert junkyard. With his massive, oily pompadour, an arsenal of nonstop giggle fits and a permanent palsied snarl, Hall’s joyously playing to the back row here, and his deliciously over-the-top performance places him amongst the pantheon of The Greatest Simperers That Ever Simpered. Add to this some bitchin’ camera choreography from a very young Vilmos Zigmond, and the spirited wackiness of a campy off-Broadway play, and you’re ready to yell “BINGO!”
Dir. James Landis, 1963, 35mm, 92 min.

Watch the trailer for “The Sadist”!
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The Mafu Cage

Carol Kane is kompletely krazy!
2/27/2013 - MIDNITE

Meshing together the Gothic leanings of Grey Gardens’ shut-in vibe and the angle of feminist power that appeared in such ‘70s genre fare as The Stepford Wives or Daughters of Darkness, this thoroughly bizarre but unforgettable slice of psychological terror sports a shockingly high-caliber cast, and an even more out-there premise. In a remote, decrepit mansion decked out like an African jungle, astronomer Lee Grant tends to her younger sister Carol Kane: a who’s been allowed to grow up without any societal restrictions. After flinging her inner rage on her pet orangutans, Kane sets her crazy-ass sights on the dude trying to woo her sister! As rad as they are, The Mafu Cage’s impossible-to-predict twists are no match for the power of Kane’s gutsy performance; after striking great supporting roles in overground fare like The Last Detail and Dog Day Afternoon, here she seizes the lead role with her teeth and runs completely wild, delivering a quiveringly mad, scary, and oddly touching turn unlike just about anything else put on film.
Dir. Karen Arthur, 1978, 35mm, 102 min.

Watch an excerpt from “The Mafu Cage”!
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Standing Ovation

Like a koala hacked up rainbows in your brain!
2/13/2013 - MIDNITE

There’s an endearing little musical that had an all-too-brief theatrical run back in 2010, has yet to emerge on DVD — and will bowl you over with its power to stun midnight movie audiences into submission. But don’t just take our word for it; here’s what Cinefamily friend Marc Heuck had to say about Standing Ovation at the time of its release: “I can’t deny the fact that I am currently in the midst of a ridiculously ebullient love affair with [this] independently-produced, East Coast-lensed spectacle attempting to be the tweener intersection of High School Musical and Jersey Shore. Sure, I could make jokes about the numerous plot threads about gambling addiction and unrequited crushes and parental absence — or the fact this story relies on so many deus ex machinae that it becomes a veritable deus ex officina — but, see, those are the very things I love about the movie! To paraphrase from Sealab 2021, Standing Ovation is a movie that makes me feel like a koala bear hacked up a rainbow in my brain — and to me, that is a pleasant thing!”
Dir. Stewart Raffill, 2010, 35mm, 105 min.

Watch the trailer for “Standing Ovation”!
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The Corpse Grinders

Human mulch courtesy of Ted V. Mikels!
1/30/2013 - MIDNITE

After the quite-outside-the-box pick of The Red Shoes, The Midnight Mafia once again gets down and dirty with one of the most outrageous films from legendary exploitation king/quasi-polygamist Ted V. Mikels! “A wonder of tackiness. Maltby (real-life cat-fancier J. Byron Foster, playing a character who resembles one of those old baggy-pants vaudevillians) and his sinister partner (Dustin Hoffman’s cousin, Sanford Mitchell) operate a cat food company that grinds human corpses into its product! The tinfoil grinder contraption is one of exploitation’s cheapest, funniest Rube Goldberg inventions: a body drops in and hamburger meat churns out! The Corpse Grinders throws the audience from flash-forwards to flashbacks, and is populated by spectacularly exaggerated Hollywood Boulevard actors emotion hilarious bits of exploitation-rich dialogue. Little more than an hour long, The Corpse Grinders is a miracle of concision and its garish colors and tawdry, precise sense of composition help make it a standout in the genre. Its thoroughly skewed sensibility endeared it to Deuce audiences, who enjoyed seeing it again and again.” — Bill Landis and Michelle Clifford, “Sleazoid Express”.
Dir. Ted V. Mikels, 1971, 35mm, 72 min.

Watch the trailer for “The Corpse Grinders”!
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The Red Shoes (Video Nasties winners' pick!)

Whatever the context, we're down to show it!
1/17/2013 - MIDNITE

Going against the grain, one of our Video Nasties contest winners has picked a movie quite unlike most of her contemporaries: the 1948 Powell-Pressburger masterpiece The Red Shoes. Whatever the context, we’re always down to screen it. “The realisation that we’re in the presence of genius comes just a few minutes into The Red Shoes, as a gaggle of eager balletomanes take their places for an inaugural performance. The roar around them fades, a cheery onscreen ticker reads ‘45 minutes later’, and Michael Powell moves us forward in time without even breaking the shot. These quietly radical directorial flourishes can be found throughout the film, but what sets this greatest of all British filmmakers apart from the competition is his refusal to thrust his genius in the audience’s face. Until the time comes to cut loose, at which point Powell unleashes the most eye-popping visual extravaganza imaginable. Blending impressionist art and expressionist film, blurring the barriers between theatre and cinema, body and camera, reality and dream, drawing equally on the avant-garde and the classical, the centrepiece ballet is a sequence of sheer, reckless transcendence.” — TimeOut
Dirs. Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1948, 35mm, 133 min.

Watch the trailer for “The Red Shoes”!
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Robby Benson in "Walk Proud"

Come discover your inner sensitive gangster!
1/2/2013 - MIDNITE

Hoo boy, we’ve been waiting to show this one since we opened the Cinefamily doors back in 2007, and now, the anointed high holy timeslot has finally revealed itself! Could this be one of the greatest/weirdest casting snafus in the history of Hollywood — clean-cut Robby Benson as a Chicano gang member?!?! Strange, but true; more unfathomable than Mickey Rooney as a Japanese guy (Breakfast At Tiffany’s), Omar Sharif as Che Guevara (1969’s Che!) or Lily Tomlin and John Travolta as a straight couple in love (Moment By Moment) is the portrayal of an East L.A. cholo by the sensitive Jewish ‘70s heartthrob star of Ice Castles. The plot is standard-issue “love across the tracks” romance fare, with Benson’s burgeoning teenage thug attracted to a lily-white Westside girl — but it’s both Benson’s outrageous brownface and bewildering accent that makes this a midnight movie for the ages. Come discover your inner gangster with us, as we jointly shout “Si, muy macho!”
Dir. Robert L. Collins, 1979, 35mm, 102 min.

Watch an excerpt from “Walk Proud”!
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The Face With Two Left Feet (actual screening!)

We are actually showing it this time!
12/19/2012 - MIDNITE

After the snafu from our previous Midnight Mafia kick-off, we’ve actually got the full 35mm print this time! Not a mere toe-dip into the waters of the truly weird, but rather a full cannonball into the deep end of Ludicrous Creek! It’s summed up in two words: John Travolto. Yes, rub the sleep outta your eyes and focus on that line of text — John Travolto, the centerpiece of the 1979 Italian disco ripoff The Face With Two Left Feet! It’s a simple premise, really: a nerdy hotel cook who bears an extreme likeness to John Travolta is roped by his friends into posing as the Hollywood star, in order for all of them to sneak into the disco nightclubs of their choice. Badass Digest puts it best: “The star’s carefully altered and manicured face bears such a bizarre resemblance to Travolta that you’re actually riveted as your mind, unengaged by the plot at any time, tries to imagine the genesis of the film — did they find this guy before they decided to make this film? (Signs point to yes.)”
Dir. Neri Parenti, 1979, 35mm, 87 min.

The Face With Two Left Feet

Ladies and gents, meet John Travolto!
11/21/2012 - MIDNITE

Our very first mid-week Midnight Mafia 35mm throwdown is not a mere toe-dip into the waters of the truly weird, but rather a full cannonball into the deep end of Ludicrous Creek! It’s summed up in two words: John Travolto. Yes, rub the sleep outta your eyes and focus on that line of text — John Travolto, the centerpiece of the 1979 Italian disco ripoff The Face With Two Left Feet! It’s a simple premise, really: a nerdy hotel cook who bears an extreme likeness to John Travolta is roped by his friends into posing as the Hollywood star, in order for all of them to sneak into the disco nightclubs of their choice. Watch them work their into the swanky hangout “John’s Fever”(!), and steal the dance competition out from underneath their rude competitors’ collective tuchus. Badass Digest puts it best: “The star’s carefully altered and manicured face bears such a bizarre resemblance to Travolta that you’re actually riveted as your mind, unengaged by the plot at any time, tries to imagine the genesis of the film — did they find this guy before they decided to make this film? (Signs point to yes.)”
Dir. Neri Parenti, 1979, 35mm, 87 min.