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Moriarty’s One Thing I Love Today! Joe Dante And The Movie Orgy!

Hey, everyone. “Moriarty” here. I have no excuse for days missed. I am currently finishing the final draft of BAT OUT OF HELL on a fairly demanding deadline, and it’s going well, but it’s also taking up 100% of my headspace. I’ve been at screenings and doing interviews and things like that every single day. Hell, this morning, I interviewed Hammer and Tongs at Paramount while yesterday, I stood next to Whitley Streiber and The Rock while shooting a cameo in a Disney film, so it’s not for lack of material that I have been absent from the site this week. So I’ve been working. Pretty much nonstop. Writing and rewriting. Taking breaks for screenings or other press related events, but that’s it. Except... on Tuesday morning, I got an e-mail from Edgar Wright asking if I was up for an orgy. And that’s when I remembered, in an earlier “One Thing,” I ran the announcement for Dante’s Inferno, Joe Dante’s just-concluded festival at the New Beverly in Hollywood. I was very excited when I ran the announcement. And of course, I didn’t see one thing. I didn’t make it to the Larry Cohen film. I didn’t see THE SADIST. I missed seeing Joe’s THE SECOND CIVIL WAR in the theater. I didn’t go to the midnight GREMLINS 2. There was a time when I would have been at every single one of those screenings. I am a lifelong film freak and, in particular, a lifelong Joe Dante fan. This programming’s been some of the most particular and original of any of the celebrity fests I’ve ever attended. These are not films you’d see anywhere else, really. Joe’s been writing about film as long as he’s been watching films, it seems, starting with regular appearances in CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN. If you read the always-excellent-and-essential VIDEO WATCHDOG, then you know that they reprint some of Joe’s vintage film criticism each month. He watched and reviewed everything, it seems, and I love reading his then-contemporary views on films that are, for any viewer now, practically trapped in amber, time capsules of a much groovier era in movies and culture at large. Like I said... it really bothered me to miss all of Dante’s Inferno. Friends of mine were going to see the screenings, like Andre Dellamorte from CHUD and Edgar and Devin, and I remember how easy it was for the ten years I lived in the heart of Hollywood, to just go see something at the Egyptian or the New Beverly or even in Santa Monica at the Aero, how last-minute those decisions could be. I live in Spielburbia now (literally, since the E.T. house is about six minutes from me), and getting to the New Bev is a premeditated act, something I have to plan for. With traffic, I’m looking at a minimum of five or six hours out of the house for a double-feature. And as much as the film geek part of me wants to do it every night the way I used to, that’s simply not my life now. Two kids. Three current jobs. Mortgage. Running myself ragged. And that’s cool. My life makes me very happy, stress and all. I just have to wrassle these contradictory impulses sometimes. So there I was Tuesday, working on the script, but thanks to Edgar’s e-mail, there was that little voice, that film geek itch that needed to be scratched, a chance to see something special. And all day, that itch kept getting worse. And I realized I was going to have to go. I saw more e-mails going back and forth as Jeremy bitched about being out of town and unable to attend and Devin said he couldn’t make it and Dellamorte reminded us all once again that he’d seen every single film of the fest and we were all giant pussies for not doing the same and there was talk of pre-movie drinks and food perhaps, and I looked at the clock and there wasn’t really enough time for to hang out before-hand, and I wasn’t even sure there was enough time to get down there for the film itself, but still... I found myself telling my wife that I’d be about four and a half hours, and I’d be home late, and then I was in the car and I was feeling so guilty about work that needed to be done, but still... compelled. And why? What is this thing I keep mentioning? What the hell is The Movie Orgy? I remember reading about it on newsgroups. Yeeeeeeeears ago. ‘93? ‘94 at the latest. I think it was an ‘80s movie newsgroup and we were all waxing rhapsodic about Joe Dante in general and I believe EXPLORERS in particular, and someone said that it felt to them like it was a big-budget remake of THE MOVIE ORGY. Huh? I mean, I thought I knew Joe’s filmography, and since I was a fanboy while his movies were being made, I didn’t thing I’d missed anything. When this guy wrote about having seen THE MOVIE ORGY several times “back in the day”, I was baffled. And his attempts to describe it only baffled me more. It sounded like some KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE sketch film, and I couldn’t find any reference book that acknowledged its existence. Since then, I’ve spoken to a few film nerd friends about it over the years, but never really found anyone who had seen it or who could adequately describe it. When Scott and I were researching CIGARETTE BURNS, we had lunch with Joe to talk about print collecting. He’s been doing it for years, and he gave us some insight into the subculture and the sort of people you encounter at times. And I was reluctant to bring up THE MOVIE ORGY because I still didn’t even know if it was real or some newgroup brainfart, and I didn’t want Joe to say, “What are you talking about? What orgy? You’re not hitting on me, are you?” I just saw it all going so terribly THREE’S COMPANY wrong. And that compulsion led me to be in line on Beverly at 7:10 or so, ready to go in and get a seat. By the time I got there, the line was already to the corner. I spent my time in line talking to Mike Williamson (a director of some badass horror shorts and a great guy who did post on the whole series of MASTERS OF HORROR with us) and some other guy in line, and they’re both feeling that same sort of eager anticipation to see what Joe’s got planned, and I find myself relaxing a bit, slipping into geek mode. But then half of me is already saying, “Okay, stay for a half-hour so you get a taste of it, and then get ready to go. That way you can say you’ve seen it, and you’ll get the point.” When Dellamorte shows up with Edgar and Bill Hader and QT and the seemingly-very-cool Michael Bacall and his friend, there’s a front row for us to all sit in, but I opt to sit further back. Near the door. Thinking about what to do when I leave. How to get home quickest. And the guilt’s bothering me and I’m thinking about three things I need to do when I get back, including printing out directions for the place I need to be at 8:30 in the morning. And I settle in, and I start thinking about it. About what it was that compelled me. I mean, what do I expect from this curiosity that’s not even evidently a “real” film, but is instead a crudely edited montage of all sorts of source material? What kind of experience do I think it’s going to be? It was designed to tour college campuses and play to drunk and stoned college crowds that would drift in and out of the theater as it played. What could it possibly be besides a bit of ephemera? What made me itch all day and get in the car and do this on this particular night, above every other choice I had available? And I realized something. Do you know how few movie choices I make that are genuinely motivated by nothing more than scratching an immediate itch? It is a rare and special moment when I put something on with no agenda other than “I hope I enjoy this.” Because I write about everything I watch, there’s always a part of me that’s thinking about each film as a commodity. I’ve gotten used to it, but there was a period where that started to really wear me down. It started to rob me of the pleasure of watching films. Considering how long that pleasure’s been a major part of my life, that’s a scary thing to lose touch with, even if it’s just a matter of degrees. The thing that compelled me to end up at the New Beverly was pure curiosity. I wanted to see it. I knew that if I didn’t see it on Tuesday night, I might not ever see it, and after weighing all my options, I decided that would not be acceptable. And when I realized that, I realized that there was no way I’d be cutting out early. I decided to go down front to sit with my friends after all since I was going to stay and wouldn’t be offending anyone by visibly getting up and leaving while it’s playing. And I’m glad I did because they were all in the perfect frame of mind to see it, all of them hungry for it in the same way. I saw some other faces in the crowd as I made my way to the seat that surprised me, people who I didn’t think of as hardcore film geeks, but who were there all the same. Joe’s introduction was self-deprecating and charming, and he tried to really downplay what we were about to watch. He talked about the evolution of it. Originally, he and Jon Davison (producer of ROBOCOP and AIRPLANE! and TOP SECRET! and STARSHIP TROOPERS) would screen 35mm prints of films and then sometimes use a second projector to screen clips that they strung together of old TV shows and commercials and educational films and cartoons and they’d cut similar movies together or string together clips of one actor in the same costume in different movies or they’d juxtapose two things to make a political point by showing some startlingly racist bit of mainstream pop culture or some similar social artifact. They started modestly, then started to really experiment with the idea, buying prints instead of renting them, cutting more and more material together, expanding it, contracting it, making it a living thing with each new showing. At one point, it ran over seven hours long, but eventually ended up between four and five, in the form we saw. Every splice in the entire thing was done by hand, directly onto the one print that exists. Joe recently had it transferred to video so that he doesn’t have to run the print through a projector anymore. I would imagine it would disintegrate after a while. He warned us that sitting up front, it might not look great. He also warned us that the whole thing might just feel too dated, and that we should brace ourselves. He encouraged us to walk out at any point, to come in and out and just sample it, and said we didn’t really need to see all of it. He’s just being modest. I’m glad Jon Davison was actually there on Tuesday as well, and I wish I’d spoken with him. I think his sensibilities are just as evident in THE MOVIE ORGY as Dante’s are, and it’s interesting just how much of the films both of them made later was obviously influenced by this experience. Basically, imagine you had a remote control that allowed you to flip randomly through pop culture from 1950 to 1970, and you spent four hours doing that on a big crazy random loop, and over the course of those four hours, you saw bits and pieces of some films repeatedly, and you sort of followed the stories, but they got all jumbled together while at the same time, you got these happy accidents where one thing made another thing funnier or even changed the meaning of it, just by virtue of context. Well, that’s sort of what it’s like. But I’m still not doing it justice. I can give you an example of just how beautifully this works on an audience, though. Early on, you see the opening titles for a film called SPEED CRAZY. It’s a Brett Halsey juvenile delinquent movie, and one of Halsey’s earliest starring roles. He’s Nick Barrow, tough guy on the run. He’s got his car and the open road and that’s all he needs. He grew up in an orphanage, see, and the whole time he was there, the bigger kids were all over him, stealing from him, beating him up, crowding him. Now, nobody crowds him. Nobody, see? He’s got a chip on his shoulder the size of Gary Coleman, and he doesn’t care who knows it. He gets in fights he can’t win, he treats his women like garbage, and as soon as things get ugly, he’s on the road and out of town again. He’s a loner, Dottie. A rebel. It’s a funny couple of clips precisely because of how seriously Halsey takes it, and how director William Hole (big ‘50s and ‘60s TV guy) makes Nick such a blatant loony. He says his spiel about “people are always crowding me” several times, and it’s hilarious because it’s played straight. This guy’s not proving any point... he’s the ‘50s archetype turned stupid, Rebel Without A Brain, and his bungled robbery is a thing of beauty. And then after about ten minutes of SPEED CRAZY, it’s just over. We cut away, and maybe an hour of The Movie Orgy goes by. We see dozens if not hundreds of other bits of information. Then a clip comes up, two people talking about an old man who died. And they talk about how he died on the way to the hospital. “Did he say anything before he died?” one of them asks. “Yes,” the other replies. “He kept saying something about ‘don’t crowd me.’” And when he said that, the entire New Beverly roared because they suddenly realized we were seeing a callback, and that we’d cut back into this movie we’d abandoned an hour ago. It was a great moment of group recognition, and that energy, that communal excitement... ... that’s why I do this. That’s why I do any of this. The Movie Orgy did for me what BNAT does for me each year, and what Sundance did for me in 2001 and what my first viewing of THE IRON GIANT workprint did and what STAR WARS did in 1977 all summer long. The Movie Orgy is not some meta-textual commentary on pop culture... it is a syringe full of pop culture, a spike directly into the heart that adrenalizes my love of movies all over again. I couldn’t have guessed how much I needed to see it until I saw it, and now I feel recharged, ready for the summer, ready for even bigger new writing projects ahead. When we all stumbled out of that theater not long before one o’clock in the morning, we may have looked bleary-eyed and we may have seemed tired, but speaking for myself at least, I was practically jumping for joy. I feel like I got centered by this experience. My compulsion to attend, that itch that I had all day on Tuesday, turned out to be something that had been brewing for a while, and this was the exact thing that had to happen. Hopefully this turn-in frees me up to finally get some big fun stuff written and up here for you guys to read. Let’s see what sort of traction I can get this weekend.

Drew McWeeny, Los Angeles

Readers Talkback
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  • April 25, 2008, 6:03 a.m. CST

    Not First!

    by Motoko Kusanagi


  • April 25, 2008, 6:04 a.m. CST

    GREMLINS 2 fucking rocked!

    by Motoko Kusanagi

    Nuff said.

  • April 25, 2008, 6:04 a.m. CST

    TOO SOON!!!

    by Motoko Kusanagi


  • April 25, 2008, 6:05 a.m. CST

    Joe Dante is cooking the books!!!

    by Motoko Kusanagi


  • April 25, 2008, 6:05 a.m. CST

    Just got off the phone with the gremlins

    by Motoko Kusanagi

    they told me to not feed them before midnight.<p>or was it after?

  • April 25, 2008, 6:06 a.m. CST

    Joe Dante has chosen Blu-ray and here's why

    by Motoko Kusanagi

    Cause it's teh suck.

  • April 25, 2008, 6:06 a.m. CST

    Well, this sounds like TOTAL FUCKING DESTRUCTION!!!

    by Motoko Kusanagi


  • April 25, 2008, 6:07 a.m. CST

    Joe Dante has jumped the shark

    by Motoko Kusanagi


  • April 25, 2008, 6:08 a.m. CST


    by Motoko Kusanagi

    Nobody else interested in this? Weird.

  • April 25, 2008, 6:08 a.m. CST

    Joe Dante is AWESOME!

    by Motoko Kusanagi

    Y'know, like, Michael Bay awesome.

  • April 25, 2008, 6:10 a.m. CST

    Gremlins is Bugnuts!

    by Motoko Kusanagi

    says the big one

  • April 25, 2008, 6:11 a.m. CST

    Hmmm, there must be a very interesting

    by Motoko Kusanagi

    tb somewhere where all the tb's are...

  • April 25, 2008, 6:15 a.m. CST

    I work for Dick Jones!

    by Motoko Kusanagi

    Dick Joooooooones!

  • April 25, 2008, 6:15 a.m. CST


    by Motoko Kusanagi

    DAMN! I'm lonely.

  • April 25, 2008, 6:27 a.m. CST


    by kwisatzhaderach

    Have you been the secret author of all the posts on here all this time?

  • April 25, 2008, 6:29 a.m. CST


    by kwisatzhaderach

    Great article. Hard to believe it's 20 years since Dante's heyday. Gremlins, Explorers and Innerspace are three of my all-time favourites, absolutely insane pictures. Oh, any chance you can put some pics of the E.T. house up sometime? T'would be cool.

  • April 25, 2008, 6:52 a.m. CST

    I repeat:!

    by DerLanghaarige

    Joe Dante, Edgar Wright, John Landis and others speak audiocommentaries for old movie trailers! I'm still shocked that so many people don't know about it!

  • April 25, 2008, 7:06 a.m. CST


    by kwisatzhaderach

    Just discovered this a couple of weeks ago on another talkback here, absolutely amazing site. Geek heaven.

  • April 25, 2008, 7:33 a.m. CST

    I have No Excuses For the days Missed

    by Internet Thug

    and then you list two paragraphs of excuses for the days missed. This is why you fail as a writer.

  • April 25, 2008, 7:43 a.m. CST

    It sounds a bit like Amazon Women on the Moon...

    by tonagan

    Which was a little more scatalogical than Kentucky Fried Movie, I think...

  • April 25, 2008, 8:10 a.m. CST

    What's he doing?


    Now. Anyone know? Someone there must have asked him. 'The Man with Kaleidoscope Eyes'? 'Thirst'? This man needs his name on a cinema movie NOW!

  • April 25, 2008, 8:14 a.m. CST

    another "don't crowd me" homage

    by slappy magoo

    Back in the '90s, Showtime had a series of original movies all based on juvenile delinquent "teens in trouble" movies of the 50s & 60s, called "Rebel Highway." Joe Dante, who may have also been an E.P. on the whole series, directed one of the better, (intentionally) funnier movies in the series, called "Runaway Daughters." In a similar vein as "Matinee" but on a made for TV budget. Paul Rudd played the mandatory brooding rebel without a clue, and his mantra throughout the movie was, sure enough, "Don't crowd me." Now I know why "crowding" was such a big deal for Dante, thanks for the heads up. I believe all the "Rebel Highway" movies were released on VHS under their seperate titles (not under a "Rebel Highway" banner), but not on DVD yet. If any of them deserves to be seen again, it's Dante's and if you can find an old VHS copy or a DVD transfer, snap it up. It won't change your life, but it's really enjoyable and clearly comes from a place of love.

  • April 25, 2008, 8:51 a.m. CST

    Gremlins two is my favorite sequel

    by NomoredirtyjokespleaseweareYanks

    Its so fuckin crazy it feels like a cartoon. Above all it has aged well, I still watch it and laugh my ass off.

  • April 25, 2008, 8:52 a.m. CST

    I love how part two parodies the first to the point where

    by NomoredirtyjokespleaseweareYanks

    Kate's emotional moment turns into a running joke in the second.

  • April 25, 2008, 8:55 a.m. CST

    What are the chances of ever getting this on DVD?

    by Knuckleduster

    Probably zero. Getting all the rights can only be a nightmare. Would love to see it, though.

  • April 25, 2008, 9:30 a.m. CST

    Mori, has Dante ever mentioned Explorers and in particular

    by Paulseta

    the fact that Paramount took it away from him before it was finished? I would truly love to know more about what the final film would have been like had he been given the chance to finish it. Incidentally, did anyone else ever notice that Jerry Goldsmith did a kind of riff on his Capricorn One score when the kids are building their ship? Always gave me a grin.

  • April 25, 2008, 11:01 a.m. CST

    Hey Moriarty, Don't Crowd Me!

    by Mr.Krinkle

    I was there for the Movie Orgy at the New Beverly and it was amazing. My friend and I decided before it started that we would leave after maybe the first 2 hours. Nope. We stayed thru the whole thing. It was incredible, and difficult to describe to anyone who didn't see it. The "don't crowd me" guy was the greatest character ever. We all went nuts everytime that came back. I feel like we all witnessed something truly special that night. Joe Dante gave us all a special gift for sure. Now, quit crowding me!

  • April 25, 2008, 11:29 a.m. CST


    by Motoko Kusanagi

    that is top secret<p>;-)

  • April 25, 2008, 12:04 p.m. CST

    Sounds exactly perfect.

    by Archive

    I'm glad for you, mate! It's been that kind of year - the Iron Man stuff has me feeling great in a way I haven't since before Episode 1.

  • April 25, 2008, 12:11 p.m. CST


    by GrantChastain

    I said the bitch don't live here!

  • April 25, 2008, 12:27 p.m. CST

    Sounds like Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid

    by ThePilgrim

    Were one clip from another film plays into another clip from another film too tell a whole new story. It's called a "Mash Up" now.

  • April 25, 2008, 12:30 p.m. CST

    Sweet Pee-Wee reference, Mori...

    by Somerichs

    So did you throw that in because it was one of the clips in the Movie Orgy and you were reminded of it or do you just know that line as the good movie geek you are? :)

  • April 25, 2008, 12:39 p.m. CST

    Mori like Grems 2 but not Dusk Till Dawn

    by ThePilgrim

    Gremlins 2 is great and all, but theres no point what so ever in taking any of it serious... It's campy as fuck! The serum bits being the worst. One of them drinks the brain elixir and he comes back up with glasses on. Another one turns into a bat, he's given a sunblock shot (which none of the others grems take- cause that would make too much sense!) and then he flies through the building and the destroyed walls silhouette makes the batman symbol. Another one gets acid thrown in it's face and they lift up a phantom of the opera mask too cover it. He had that mask on stand by, and the female grem instantly changes complete with lipstick, fishnet stockings, a dress and long hair. <P> You like this???? and Dusk Till Dawn wasn't your thing!!!!

  • April 25, 2008, 1:02 p.m. CST

    The 'Burbs

    by Samuel Fulmer

    As much crap as that movie gets, it's my favorite Dante film, and near the top of my favorite Hanks films.

  • April 25, 2008, 2:51 p.m. CST

    how lucky are you exactly?

    by billyhitchcock

    i'm more than a little jealous that you get to watch movies with EW and QT!

  • April 25, 2008, 4:44 p.m. CST

    Andy's Gang

    by GhostJax

    I got to attend as well, and it was exactly like Moriarty described it. However, there was one bit from the film that Mori didn't mention, and I have to. There were a couple of clips from Andy Devine's kids show ANDY'S GANG, but none of them were that exceptional... Dante mostly seemed to use that to intro other, longer clips. Except, of course, for the segment where Andy sings with Midnight the Cat and Squeakers. Midnight the Cat is an anesthatized, possibly dead cat which plays the piano. Squeakers is an almost definitely stuffed hamster that plays the bass drum, marching band style. Both are clearly having their limbs manipulated by wire. As this rather macabre scene plays out, Andy Devine (voice of Friar Tuck in the Disney Robin Hoood, so THAT VOICE, but singing, badly) croaks out the hymn "Jesus Loves Me." This goes on for, no lie, like six minutes, complete with cuts to a stonefaced, possibly terrified audience of grade-schoolers. I think it was the longest continuous laugh I've ever heard out of an audience, which was a good thing, because with imagery like that, you could either laugh or go batshit insane. It was awesome. Most fun I've had at a movie since I was a kid.

  • April 25, 2008, 6:25 p.m. CST


    by drew mcweeny

    ... yeah, if I'd tried to describe every moment seared into my brain, this could have been a 10,000 word article easily. That ANDY'S GANG segment fucked with me. I'm convinced that a piece of my soul died while listening to that funereal arrangement of "Jesus Loves Me," and if you needed proof that the ASPCA and the Humane Society weren't involved in media then, look no further. <p>You know the crazy part? Midnight and Squeekers were on every week. There are more of those musical numbers out there in the ether somewhere, and I pray to god I never witness one. Or that I get a DVD with all of them. I'm not sure which.

  • April 25, 2008, 9:41 p.m. CST

    Mori, quick question.

    by BGDAWES

    So was this straight up continuous clips from film cut together with nothing else at all, for three plus hours? <br> <br> If so, that's impressive. Did Dante and his co-editor overlay other music (contemporary for the times), add titles of any kind, splice in news footage, incorporate other nifty editing tricks (ie film stock melting, etc). Or was this really just cut after cut of movie after movie? <br> <br> If it was a pure straight up collage of various film clips then that's pretty impressive.

  • April 25, 2008, 10:31 p.m. CST


    by drew mcweeny

    ... four plus hours, actually. And yeah, it was continuous. The physical assembly of the thing was fairly crude, but the wit involved made up for it. Keep in mind... they did this in the late '60s without even a Moviola at their disposal. They were guessing about the timing on their edits and using simple splice tape to hold it all together. That's why Joe had this print transferred to video... it just wouldn't make it through a projector intact at this point.

  • April 25, 2008, 10:32 p.m. CST


    by drew mcweeny

    ... yes, lots of news footage (Nixon got some great face time) and commercials and TV spots for movies... basically anything they could get their hands on.

  • April 26, 2008, 1:47 a.m. CST

    Man...wish I could've seen that.

    by BGDAWES

    Dante needs to take that on the road, specifically to Chicago! <br> <br> Thanks Drew! Glad you went to see this, since it's obviously rare, to give us at least a glimpse in a review. Hang in there with everything else you have going on. I feel like I have a lot of pots on the fire with work and a mortgage however I really can't compare to you since I don't have kids yet, but it's only a matter of time. <br> <br> One last question - Chuck P. is releasing another novel soon; Snuff, and whole-lee crap it sounds wild. <br> <br> I'd definitely love your take on it when you get time to check it out. Thanks for the great reviews Mori! Looking forward to seeing your new stuff on screen!

  • April 26, 2008, 9:28 a.m. CST

    I'm advising my clients to put all their money...

    by Osmosis Jones

    ...into canned food and shotguns!

  • April 27, 2008, 1:58 p.m. CST

    Wait...Joe Dante's filming actors in an orgy? What?

    by MrMysteryGuest


  • April 28, 2008, 11:33 a.m. CST


    by cahcat

    i just had to say that I was there and I'm still blown away by all the things I saw as it was truly an incredible and inspiring evening!