Why did the secret screening become a 30 year old classic Geek film from the vaults of ILM's storied past?
Simple, it's what Guillermo Del Toro and I wanted to play. Back in December, Guillermo wanted to come into BUTT-NUMB-A-THON 12 to present and introduce Charles Laughton's amazing HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME - THE version of the story and one of Laughton's greatest performances. Alas, his busy multi-tasking life kept him from it. As he joked on the stage of the Paramount last night, "I couldn't make it because," pregnant pause, "I was working on IN THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS" followed by maniacal demented traumatized laughter...
But Guillermo didn't come to Austin to talk about Universal's decision on Mountains, nor did he come to hype up PACIFIC RIM, which is going to be one of those projects that as more and more gets out - geek kind will become obsessive compulsive about. I'm, unfortunately sworn to secrecy at the moment. No, Guillermo came to Austin because he wanted to spend an old fashioned day hanging out with me and Yoko and just talking about life, enjoying the sweet healthy protein of lean BBQ at THE COUNTY LINE off Bee Caves... and then hanging out in the alley behind the Paramount - and best of all - backstage of the Paramount - where we looked up into the rafters and behind the layers of curtains and remembered that upon this stage Houdini performed... Katherine Hepburn performed... The bleeding Marx Brothers performed... And we soaked it in.
Guillermo is one of my oldest filmmaker friends. Upon first meeting, his wife declared us brothers and we talked from 6pm till the sun rose - and by that dawn he had decided to move to Austin. We've been friends ever since. Moving from Austin was always a hard choice for Guillermo, but as I told him last night, he is infinitely more productive in Los Angeles. And his amazing wife is happier - and that is everything.
Guillermo & I had discussed bringing JULIA'S EYES or DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK... but JULIA'S EYES had already played - and DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK has been promised to the Los Angeles Film Festival already - and they're doing a great tribute to Guillermo at their festival and it would be rude to infringe upon that celebration. Besides - Guillermo and I don't need a new film to have a reason to get together. Our friendship wasn't born from his new films, but from him coming over to my house and me visiting him in his and watching films that neither had seen - or that we both loved.
We both love DRAGONSLAYER. Well over a decade ago, Guillermo was hosting Matthew Robbins, the director of DRAGONSLAYER, to work with him upon one of the many scripts they've collaborated upon... and I, of course, brought my one-sheet of DRAGONSLAYER to his house to get Matthew to sign - and he remembered how geekily euphoric I was to be talking to the man that made this film. We also noticed that 2011 was the 30th Anniversary of this great landmark in Geek Cinema. Really and truly, it was the first time that Fantasy was nailed in the rather particular method that Peter Jackson took to the next level with LORD OF THE RINGS... but we both love DRAGONSLAYER - and hoped by presenting the film, that we could possibly shame Paramount into allowing Matthew Robbins to do a great digital transfer to get the film pristine and properly honored with the right kinds of extras and behind the scenes - which geeks that love Vermithrax Perjorative could fully appreciate.
The existing transfer is - unacceptable. But in this, DRAGONSLAYER's 30th anniversary, Guillermo and I wanted to call attention to the title again. Phil Tippett, Ken Ralston, Brian Johnson and Dennis Muren's fx work was honored with an Academy Award nomination, with its only competitor, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK taking the bald guy home. But Guillermo and I both love Tippett's greatest creation - his magnificent magic dragon. Guillermo would have preferred that Vermithrax swallowed up Peter MacNicol whole.
When Matthew first previewed this film, the audience went nuts - and George Lucas who was sitting in front of him turned around and congratulated him on having a hit. But then Disney was afraid to push the rather tough film, and Paramount was distracted by the mega-hit RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK - and just didn't quite push this film the way it cried out to be pushed.
15th Anniversary year. It is amazing that I've been doing this that long. But then, Guillermo now has a teenage daughter - and my own nephew is 10. Both unimaginable things when I started this site.
I don't believe many of you were around at the beginning of AICN - when I used to write about the backyard 16mm screenings that I hosted before the Alamo Drafthouse came to town. When I would mix vintage film writeups - alongside the modern stuff that was being pushed upon us all.
This year, I'll be hosting a bunch of early big premieres, but this night was about friendship - and that which made us. Hardcore film lovers don't just love the gigantic box office successes, but the films that didn't quite make it. DRAGONSLAYER was nominated for two Academy Awards, for effects and for Alex North's amazing score. It didn't win either, but the film did make its mark on the geeks that read STARLOG and CINEMAFANTASTIQUE and CINEFEX. That read about it in the pages of FAMOUS MONSTERS - and who saw Phil Tippett as the future for Stop Motion and the innovator of Go-Motion. Yeah - DRAGONSLAYER is a film geek's film. A movie to share and love.
A wonderful performance by Ralph Richardson, a fantastic Emperor Palpatine death... and some good old fashioned PG nudity and violence, which pushed a rating that didn't have the PG 13 between it and R.
As I was sitting at the back of the theater for the screening, I saw about 76 people that began to take off as they began to perceive that they were really going to be watching DRAGONSLAYER. I can't pretend to know their reasons. At a film festival, many come to see new films only. Vintage titles struggle to get respect, and I find it sad that these folks couldn't stay and enjoy the whole show. They missed out on a very lively and fun Q&A with me and Guillermo. But for many, they just wanted something new, though I clearly stated it was a vintage title.
But the films of our past are more precious than the ones of tomorrow, or at the very least - deserving of the exact same respect. Guillermo and I had discussed bringing a film like Cocteau's BELLE ET LA BETE or VAMPYR, but again - we felt that would be a bit too highbrow for what we wanted to do. We wanted a relaxing, celebratory screening of a film that helped reinforce our love of geek cinema.
Now PARAMOUNT - give Matthew Robbins a call, put a great team together to do a great 30th Anniversary job on DRAGONSLAYER and interview Phil Tippett, Dennis Muren, etc - and get a BluRay out that is worthy of this very seminal work of geek cinema.
For the 700 or so that watched and enjoyed the whole evening! You folks rule!