I’m fascinated by how and which films and filmmakers become underground hits. That is, not mainstream movies generally, but indies and such that become embraced and then recommended and screened in off-beat places. For example, decades back when I was at Columbia, there was an organization that showed weekly art movies (the organization had a name that had something to do with a zoopraxiscope, but I can’t remember exactly what it was). I recall Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali’s bizzare Un Chien Andalou, Robert Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar, Tod Browing’s Freaks, and Philip de Broca’s King of Hearts. There were other cultish movies out and about at the time that I avoided because I suspected I couldn’t take their creepiness, say David Lynch’s Eraserhead, John Waters’ Pink Flamingos, and Alejandro Jodorwsky’s El Topo. It took me a while to finally attend a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Pictureshow, but I must say I had a great time when I did.
One of my personal favorites is Lindsay Anderson’s If… (you can read a bit more about my feelings about it here) and I was thrilled to see that it seems to be a favorite of Neil Gaiman’s too as it is one of the films he has selected to screen in a brief series he and his wife Amanda Palmer are doing. And was further tickled to see that she had selected King of Hearts. I haven’t see it in years and wonder how I’d respond to it today. I have seen If.. and still love it (partly…er…mainly…because of the young Malcolm McDowell), but do wonder how others will respond to it today what with the horror of school shootings.
What movies speak to you this way? I’m suspecting the films of John Hughes, perhaps? Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings? I’m curious.
4 responses to “Old Cult Movies”
John Hughes movies – definitely! :-) But that’s because I’m in my 30s and they were such a big part of my life in high school. But I love that you’ve mentioned other much more “cult” films. Freaks is fantastic. And Rocky Horror of course. I’ve never seen El Topo but have always kind of wanted to after seeing a documentary on “midnight” shows & they talked a lot about this one & others you mentioned. Good post. :-)
if you haven’t already, check out Hoberman and Rosenbaum’s MIDNIGHT MOVIES. Great discussion of many of the films you mention above.
I start to swoon at the idea of Balthazar being a midnight movie, in my perfect world the theater down the road would play it every friday and saturday night to a silent and eventually crying audience.
After finally reading Dahl’s BOY, the violence in if…. seems much more authentic (if still extreme)
I suspect we are of a similar generation as the cult movies you mention were mainstays of the midnight shows and rep houses I frequented growing up.
But as a student of film and in seeing how my teens “discover” and watch movies and TV shows, and with massive libraries of movies on-demand, I wonder if future generations will have the same sense of what constitutes a cult movie. A discussion for another time perhaps.
That said, I am particularly fond of the work of Terry Gilliam, a variety of 80s and 90s Hong Kong action films, and certain films by Altman and his shadow Rudolph. A few oddities: Robert Downy Sr’s “Putney Swope,” the Monkee’s self-destrctive “HEAD,” the fabulous “Irma Vep”, and the best Woody Allen film every made, “Stardust Memories.”
Definitely “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension,” Also “Repo Man” and “Paris, Texas” and “Earth Girls are Easy.” I loved “King of Hearts.” I remember “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” was big when I was in college, but I couldn’t quite figure it out. I was also nervous about seeing “Eraserhead,” and I must admit I’ve never seen “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Am I still allowed to be a member of my generation? Oh, how could I forget, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” Thanks for the “If…” recommendation; I’ve added it to my watchlist on IMDB.