Monday, December 7, 2009

Thrillville, Black Christmas and Silent Film Era Pornography

I caught the Thrillville show on December 3 at the 4 Star. The show featured Project Pimento and the film Black Christmas.

This was my first Thrillville show. There were 40 or 50 people in the audience. To recap the show, the hosts are Will The Thrill Viharo (trading his trademark fez for a Santa hat) and his wife, Monica the Tiki Goddess. As I entered the theater, the film The Snow Queen, a 1957 Soviet animated film based on a Hans Christian Andersen story, was screening. The version screening was the 1959 English language version. I recall seeing this film as a child on television (perhaps courtesy of Tom Hatten and KTLA).

Before The Snow Queen finished, Will & Monica started their schtick. First, they got up on the stage and danced a little to their theme music. Then they kibitzed and told a few jokes. Next they introduced Project Pimento which for the uninitiated is a lounge band featuring a theremin. The five piece band was quite entertaining. The members included Dr. Robby Virus on theremin, Lola Bombay on lead vocals, Gentleman Jack on guitar, Carolyn Curacao on bass and Aaron Wallbanger on drums. I'm not sure why they chose psuedonyms. They played smooth jazz covers. The finale was the theme to the original Star Trek televion series with the seldom heard lyrics.

Next, Will & Monica gave away some schwag. Nominally a raffle contest based on the admittance ticket numbers or a trivia question prize, they seemed to be disinterested as to whether the answer was correct or the ticket number matched. Since the film was Black Christmas, Will asked a number of questions along the lines of "Who would be best cast in the film Black Valentine's Day?" The floor show was pretty low key.

Finally, the movie started. Will joked that Black Christmas is actually a good film as opposed to most of the films he screens. I have to agree. The 1974 film starring Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder and John Saxon was groundbreaking on its release. It allegedly originated two staples of the slasher film genre - the sorority house massacre and the telephone call from within house.

The plot...well the plot is now cliché - unseen stalker terrorizes a house full of women. Despite being 35 years old, predictable and saddled with some questionable 1970's attire, I was able to enjoy the film. The phone calls (it's me Billy) are still disturbing. There are some humorous scenes (intentionally and unintentionally) to move the film along. My favorite is when they trace the phone call, there is a technician in a old landline switching center running around the racks looking for the one where the call is being routed through. Also, the film leaves the identity of the killer (and Hussey's fate) open ended. Hussey, with her British accent, seemed like a fish out of water in the film but gave it her all. I would imagine that the star of Romeo and Juliet (1968) must have wondered what she was doing in a schlock film like Black Christmas. In hindsight, the film was quite tame and sophisticated compared to what came after it.

My bottom line is passively mild: Project Pimento - not bad, I'd like to see them again; Black Christmas - not bad but not good enough that I'll watch it again; Thrillville - not bad and I'll probably go to another show although I doubt I'll drive to the Camera Cinemas in San Jose or the East Bay to see them again.


I was looking at the paper copy of the November/December calendar from the Red Vic. I can't recall the dates except it's in the first half of January 2010, the Vic will present The Good Old Naughty Days - a compilation released in 2003 of "12 silent hardcore pornographic shorts." The Red Vic screened this program in January 2006.

Copying from their website which, if memory serves me, is identical to its description in the latest published calendar:

The Good Old Naughty Days is a collection of 12 silent hardcore pornographic shorts from the early 1900's. Beautifully restored by the National Cinematheque in France, these films were originally created to “entertain” brothel patrons as they awaited their turn. The exhibitionists in Naughty Days are a far cry from the pumped and greased up, silicone-injected bodies of our current porn stars. And although the set-ups are rather similar to contemporary plots (the pizza delivery guy is replaced by a monk) there is more humor and variance than by today's standards. Most scenes begin with two women (men have always liked to watch women go at it) and then in walks - surprise, a man. But if he doesn't watch out when he bends over he may also be happily surprised from behind. For adults only, no one under 18 admitted.

I usually don't watch porn but it is commonly understood that pornography transforms itself into art or erotica after 75 years. By the halfway point of this century, John Holmes will be considered a master thespian. Actually, that's not far from the truth as I recall seeing Deep Throat at the Roxie a few years ago. At the time, a documentary called Inside Deep Throat was a modest success on the art house circuit. I watched Deep Throat so I would have a point of reference but somehow I missed the documentary before it left the theaters.

Check out the Red Vic calendar for January to see dates and showtimes.

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