Special Report: Mondo Movie Night 5 – By Jordan Garren

William Lustig and two happy fans.Thanks to a rather aggressive grass-roots ad campaign and the sheer presence of Director William Lustig, this most recent Mondo Movie Night was fairly successful and we had a great turnout! The evening was rather interesting to say the least with a few odd occurrences in store for yours truly. Rather than doing the driving this time out, Tara borrowed her Aunt’s car and drove us to the Endless Mountain Theater. Now, I love Tara to death, but I have to say that she is one of the absolutely worst drivers I’ve ever known. (Luckily we don’t live together, or else I’d be sleeping on the couch for that comment.) After a little “stunt driving” on her part, we got the theater extremely early and I was one of the first to meet Bill Lustig. He definitely wasn’t what I was expecting as he was pretty down to Earth and politely demanded that everyone just call him Bill. Truthfully I was expecting him to be pompous, but he turned out to be one of the friendliest people I’ve ever met!

So things were starting off well enough, though admittedly I was nervous, I mean, what the hell do you say to a film director/President of a DVD company without sounding like a complete and utter fanboy?! To calm myself down a bit, I wandered around the lobby and was introduced by Doc Zombie to several people who are writers, not unlike myself. Of the group there was a very outgoing fellow named Rich who writes for his very own online movie news / web-zine (at this point, the name of his site has escaped me) and a fellow named Darryl Mayeski, the Editor of Screem Magazine. It was shortly after my meeting with these other fans of cult movies, that I started meeting forgotten people from my past. It all started when I was assaulted by a crazed Amazonian goddess (resembling Julie Strain) named Jessica. I attended college with her several years back at Marywood University, and we pretty much lost touch after I reluctantly dropped out. (Marywood is a great school, but too damned expensive I tell you!) We quickly caught up on old times and parted ways once again once Bill Lustig began signing autographs. (Side Note: Tara was very jealous when Jessica leaped into my arms! I can’t help it baby, I’m just a chick magnet!)

Though I was still a bit nervous, I chatted with Bill as he signed some glossy flyers, VHS tapes, and DVDs that I had brought with me. During our conversation, I learned that Bill is adamantly against huge corporations like Wal-Mart and Blockbuster Video. (Speaking of which, Blockbuster is currently trying to merge with Hollywood Video in order to become the largest movie rental chain on the planet! This cannot happen or else I’ll be out of a job!) After my autographs were signed I ran into another long lost acquaintance, Jeremy, who graduated with me from Scranton High School back in 2001. He was on leave from military service for a few days so he managed to hang out for a bit with Tara and I. (At this point I was expecting to meet a lot of other long lost classmates and friends, but alas, Jeremy was the final surprise guest of the night.) I pretty much just kept wandering around from that point on, though I constantly gravitated toward Bill’s table. After a good hour or so, they finally announced that we could start taking our seats for the show!

Once everyone was seated, Doc Zombie and Bill Lustig sat before the audience for a rather in-depth Q&A session. Yours truly was supposed to go up and help moderate the session, but I sort of got cold feet. I clearly wasn’t needed up front however, because the good Doctor asked some great questions and Bill happens to be very talkative when you hit the right topic. The main focus during the questioning was on Bill Lustig’s experience with the 42nd Street Grindhouse theaters. Bill gave some great information about the old grindhouse theaters and shared some funny anecdotes. To paraphrase one of said anecdotes: “Sometimes you’d be watching a movie and then something would run across your feet or you’d see something in your peripheral vision. It wasn’t uncommon for most of these theaters to have rats and some theaters actually had cats running around inside to take care of the rodent problem!” Bill also gave a little background on his past involvement with Anchor Bay DVD before he broke away and started up Blue Underground DVD, and talked about the amount of work that goes into producing high quality transfers and audio for Blue Underground’s releases.

Bill had a lot to say that night, but a good chunk of that has since been swept from my terrible memory, though he did mention some titles that would be released by Blue Underground in the future which include Venus in Furs, The Blind Dead Collection, Fire and Ice, and 99 Women. Bill also mentioned a film that Blue Underground will be releasing in the future (under a new sub-label), called Bad Boy Bubby in which the main character defecates on the floor of his home, rapes his mother, and chokes a cat to death in the first five minutes of the movie! (Clearly you can add this to your must-see movie list!)
With time running out during the Q&A session, Doc Zombie allowed some of the audience members to ask some questions. This proved to be a huge downfall for myself as I was a little tired, overexcited, and still a bit intimidated by Mr. Lustig’s presence.

The marquee.

I started out asking a logical question concerning Bill’s working relationship with writer/producer/director Larry Cohen (best known for the It’s Alive films, Q – The Winged Serpent, and God Told Me To), and I had intended to simply ask: “Do you and Mr. Cohen plan on working on any future projects together?” Well I stuttered, had a brain fart and a garbled two part question came out. Rather than play on my stupidity or point out that I may have been using mind altering substances before attending the show, Bill gave a quick answer to my question and apparently he and Larry aren’t going to be working on any film projects together anytime soon. (Mr. Cohen has recently garnered mainstream success with his screenplays for Phone Booth and Cellular. Bill had a great joke here and said that he’s still waiting for Larry’s third installment… Pager!)

With my questions answered, Bill departed from the theater and “Maniac Cop” began to roll. I had first experienced this movie late at night on I believe Cinemax or maybe even on USA: Up All Night. Either way, after watching the movie once, I fell in love with it! The film is a sort of supernatural revenge tale, in which a wrongfully imprisoned and thought-to-have-been-murdered cop named Matt Cordell, begins a bloody trail of vengeance against the corrupt politicians that had him locked up. The film boasts an incredible cult movie cast including Tom Atkins (Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Escape from New York), Bruce Campbell (The Evil Dead films), Robert Z’Dar (Soultaker, Future War), Richard Roundtree (Shaft), and more! (And don’t forget Bill Lustig’s cameo as the Motel Manager!) As the film progresses, the seemingly unstoppable (and quite possibly undead) cop slays innocent police officers and civilians until he manages to reach the people at the top.

The film finally boils down to a one-on-one showdown between the film’s hero and villain! Bruce Campbell and Robert Z’Dar duke it out in the Battle of the Chins with Bruce being the victor! Although it seems that the maniac cop has been killed, the film is set up for a sequel, namely “Maniac Cop 2!” The print and sound quality of “Maniac Cop” was superb and it looked beautiful on the big screen. And as always, the audience was obliged to make comments, references, and jokes throughout. You may be wondering what Bill had to say about all of your heckling and such, but it turns out that he left the theater. Maybe that was for the best though because some people were just completely merciless in their heckling of the film. After the movie ended, there was a fifteen-minute intermission and people swarmed around Bill almost immediately. While I did manage to get a few pictures of Bill with other people, I myself wouldn’t have the same chance. Once “Maniac Cop 2″ had started, Bill was already back at his hotel room!

Before “Maniac Cop 2″ kicked off, Doc Zombie had a dozen or so Uncle Sam DVDs to give away. He had a brief trivia contest and gave away every DVD, even if people got the question wrong, which they did. The stumper of the night was: “Name two John Carpenter films that star Tom Atkins.” For the first time since the Blood Feast viewing, I didn’t enter the trivia contest because I already got a free Uncle Sam DVD for helping to promote the event. (I also received a super cool Mondo Movie Night T-Shirt!) After the contest ended, our second feature began but alas, half the audience had left! (What the hell?! You pay ten bucks to get in for two movies and to meet Bill, and you only stay for the first movie?! This better not happen at the next event!) On top of that, the sound on the movie was horrible! Earlier in the night, Bill briefly mentioned that we may hear a slight buzzing sound on the film’s soundtrack, but that really didn’t prepare any of us for the harsh static hiss that would rise and fall in pitch throughout the movie! ARGH!

Despite the bad sound though, I think everyone who stayed really enjoyed the movie. In “Maniac Cop 2,”
Matt Cordell is back on the beat and continues his revenge streak. The film may have quickly garnered the hatred of several Bruce Campbell fans because he bites the dust within the first fifteen minutes. To take his place, Robert Davi steps in as a tough cop with a “shoot first, don’t have to ask questions” code of conduct. (Not unlike Matt Cordell before he became an invincible zombie cop!) As the movie progresses, Cordell teams up with a serial killer in order to complete his quest of vengeance. The film ends as Cordell invades Sing Sing prison and kills the inmates that had attacked him, butchered his face, and left him for dead. As the film closes during Cordell’s funeral (after his case was reopened and his name cleared) the film is set up for yet another sequel which would be Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence, the weakest film in the Maniac Cop trilogy. In that movie, Cordell’s undead origins lead back to the use of voodoo and black magic.

Event organizer Blake and his girlfriend the lovely Carrie.Cordell watches over a female police officer that was wrongly accused of shooting an innocent girl. Cordell then takes it upon himself to protect her and clear her name and then… marry her?! (I wonder if this movie is known as Bride of the Maniac Cop in other countries.) It’s a very silly film at times, but overall isn’t bad at all and ends with a great car chase! Anyway, as the end credits for Maniac Cop 2 began to roll, the “Maniac Cop Rap” started to play and I really wanted to stick around and listen to it. However, Tara was tired, miserable, and sick and she hurried me out of the building. (If I had driven my truck, I probably could’ve kept the upper hand and stayed a while longer.) So that ended the evening and I pretty much felt cheated because I didn’t get a picture with Mr. Lustig and didn’t get to chat with him as much as I would’ve liked. But I can safely say that Bill is probably one of the most down to earth people I’ve ever met and really enjoyed talking with fans of his films and of his Blue Underground DVD releases. (I recall seeing one guy who wanted his Mondo Cane Collection autographed, and Bill’s eyes just lit up. Bill joked around a bit saying, “I didn’t make these movies you know.” The Reply: “Yeah but if it wasn’t for you, they wouldn’t be out on DVD!” Bill was clearly overjoyed to hear that.)

Once we got back to Tara’s house, I got a phone call from my ever vigilant mother. It turns out that I forgot about my dentist appointment the following day! So about four or five hours after I fell asleep, I had to get up and drive an hour to have a dentist poke and prod my gums and teeth with their usual assortment of deadly weapons. It was no picnic either my friends, as I got a “deep cleaning” and was spitting out blood for some time and had “achy gums” for most of the day! I’m dreading to even think about how I’m going to feel when I have my date with the dentist’s drill on January 19th! Well that’s it folks, Mondo Movie Night 5 was a success and has gained a lot of support and notoriety since its humble beginnings. I was a bit dismayed to see so many people leave after the first movie though. Why even show up if you’re only going to enjoy half of the event? I don’t care if you have work the next day, you keep your butts parked in those seats and watch the movie!

So you may be wondering now, what could possibly outdo this most recent Mondo Movie Night event? How about two nights of cult classics from Troma for a very Troma Weekend, featuring Tromeo and Juliet, The Toxic Avenger, and Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV! Lloyd Kaufman, Toxie, Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. and others will be there to meet and greet all of us fans and Lloyd will even be teaching a “Master Film Maker Class” before the movies each night! (Learn from the master of low budget film making indeed!) Sadly, the event was scheduled for January 14th and 15th but has been postponed until further notice because Lloyd has a business trip to Thailand on that weekend. However, Doctor Zombie MD has informed me that he plans on having something to make up for the lack of Troma in January. But have no fear, Lloyd will be coming to Endless Mountain Theater in the near future, “So If you’re in Scranton, look to the horizon and maybe, just maybe, Lloyd Kaufman will be there!”