Saturday, May 26, 2007

"Dirty Bird" Done Dirt Cheap

Bleary-eyed and with a headache ricocheting around the inside of my skull, I make the long and arduous drive back from London, Ontario at three a.m. Claire and I have successfully avoided a major argument over the directions, which is a marriage milestone I think, and I am deciding whether or not I should pull over and sleep. We have made this two-hour trip to sit in a movie theater with a handful of drunks and watch 60s nudie flicks. Was it worth it? I'd say so.

London, Ontario is a shithole town. I mean no ill will here; Hamilton, Ontario is also a shit hole town, for the most part. From what I can tell though, London is a bit higher income than Hamilton, and because of its university, totally overrun by frat boys. Claire warned me about this when we first drove in, and sure enough, the downtown shopping district resembled the back lawn of a frat house during rush week. The scum of the earth.

Happily, the crowd that arrived to see Dirty Bird was more freaky than fratty. Vagrancy Films has been showing these films in Ontario for about two years now. Conceived over beers and Jess Franco videos, their scheme has been to show authentic grindhouse films in a movie theater to the usual midnight movie crowd. Even better, they don't project DVDs, which would be easier, but actually spool 35 millimeter films, including a reel of exploitation trailers. I have no idea where they find these things, but the effect is rather like the Rodriguez/Tarantino film Grindhouse, but totally authentic. They also sell DVDs and have created a brilliant fake trailer for an exploitation film called The Pussy Pound, which they will hopefully expand into a full-length film.

I've seen more of these movies than I'd like to count, but I'd never even heard of Dirty Bird. Actually, that was an alternate title, and in true grindhouse fashion, the film actually had a different title The Sidewalk Cowboy quickly replaced by a title card reading Dirty Bird. The film was shot in the late 60s in New York and is sort of a coming of age (emphasis on the coming) about a young man who is in love with a nymphomaniac, but who can't perform because his mother beat him as a child for masturbating. The story, which was probably about ten pages in script form, includes lesbianism, voyeurism, masochism, and alcoholism. And a lot of walking around. In fact, entire sequences consist of our hero walking down sidewalks with guitar music on the soundtrack. They didn't call this one The Sidewalk Cowboy for nothing.

Anyway, the film was terrible, but a suitable distraction, and the audience was very entertaining. There were also a bunch of trailers that were even more obscure and entertaining, and a short film about lesbianism, murder, and betrayal in Hollywood. And a raffle- so pretty damned good for ten bucks.

Unfortunately, this might have been their last showing in London. Apparently, they're not pulling in enough money to put these shows on. They are planning a grindhouse night in Toronto, and it would be really great if they just started booking films in T.O. especially for Claire and I. But, it's sad to see these sorts of projects fall apart. The midnight movie is perhaps a product of the 1970s, back when the communal experience was more common. Now, the communal experience takes place on the Internet, in a no-place that doesn't exist. DVDs have made exploitation films respectable, but also more solitary. You can watch trashy movies at home, on the couch, with friends. Somehow, it's more fun though to listen to drunks yelling lewd things at the screen in the real world.

Well, maybe not the real world, but better.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Glad you liked "DIRTY BIRD"
Vagrancy and Rue Morgue team up for DEMONS 2 this summer for FESTIVAL OF FEAR. GEMSER -