Saturday, November 7, 2009

Cartoon Brunch!

The Minneapolis Suburban World Theater, that I wrote about on Oct. 11, suddenly revived their Cartoon Brunch. The interior had been remodeled several years ago into dinner theater type seating with small tables in alcoves, and they have a kitchen as well as a full bar. Between 9am and 2pm every Saturday and Sunday the theater shows free cartoons on a giant movie screen while serving brunch. The new video projector gives a superb image.

The cartoon brunches began over two years ago. They were programmed and presented by my long-time friend David Mruz, who lives a block from the theater, and David got many of the cartoon DVDs from me. We even added serial chapters from "Undersea Kingdom" in an early attempt at what Café Roxy is programming now. The brunches became quite successful when some parent group mentioned in a newsletter that it was a great weekend activity where the kids could run up and down the aisles. It seems unlikely someone actually wrote that, but it's what David told me. The success was up to 400 diners/viewers each weekend, who all ordered food.

The brunches screeched to a halt when the kitchen staff was not increased to handle the demand. When you wait 40 minutes for an omelette you are not likely to return! The audience also died when summer came. There were problems with the films as well. Which disc was shown when? Most audiences don't want to watch an hour of Popeye, etc., at one sitting. Some had racial jokes. Many were copyrighted and should not have been shown in public. The cook ran the films. While I had attended one cartoon brunch, I live a half hour away and did not pay much attention to what David was trying to do each weekend.

So the brunches are suddenly back! I went to the one today and talked to the owner, Don Driggs, about programming future shows. As I walked in, color Warner Bros. cartoons were playing from one of the Looney Tunes discs. They kept playing one after another, some good and some bad, but all color Warners. Don wanted more vintage cartoons, so he ran the sample show I brought that contained the cartoons listed on the first poster (shown on left).

I can provide a different poster each week for him to post on the Suburban World Website, and also to print out for his front door. I list the specific cartoons in each show so that repeat customers can be assured they won't see cartoons they saw at the brunch last month or even last week. This should make it easier for the projectionist! All cartoons are in the public domain and so are legal to show. All are top quality. None are duds. None have racial jokes. I alternate color with black and white cartoons. Each show has a few rare or lesser-seen cartoons like "The Haunted Ship," "Song of the Birds" and "Humpty Dumpty" on this program.

Because the average diner only stays an hour, I only include about an hour of cartoons and then repeat them to make up a two-hour DVD that the projectionist only needs to re-start twice at most.

Apparently we have a deal for me to supply future shows. Because it is a bohemian, trendy area, young people are always willing to try something new. The popular Uptown Bar, next door to the theater, closed last week to be torn down and something or other rebuilt in the spot. The Uptown served breakfast, so the Suburban World is ripe for success. Don's main challenge is to get free publicity in the form of a newspaper article or TV spot. We'll see what he comes up with.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Post Halloween Apocalypse!

Or watch classic horror year round!

I missed posting on Halloween, so here's a belated one. These notes were made for The Bijou Blog, and please check it out, but then cut because of space down to just the House on Haunted Hill review. Other contributors to the Bijou Blog Halloween post are Bob Campbell and Victoria Balloon, who meshed it into a single voice.

Johnny Legend
Behind the fearful beard lurks an American Rockabilly musician, actor, wrestling manager and film producer and archivist. Johnny released dozens of obscure cartoons, exploitation films, low-budget horror flicks and his popular Sleazemania series through Rhino Home Video. His rare and restored videos are currently ballyhooed at Legend House and Raunchy Tonk Video. Here are three Legend(ary) releases of Johnny's to chill your Halloween.

“House on Haunted Hill”
This high quality, 50th Anniversary Edition is presented in widescreen by Johnny Legend, a video pioneer who released low-budget horror and exploitation films in the early days of Rhino Home Video. William Castle’s 1959 thriller still shocks and mystifies with ghoulish plot twists. Vincent Price invites five random guests to stay overnight in a haunted house and get $10,000 for surviving. Not all of them make it. The bonus extras are true delights starting with two trailers for House, one trumpeting the “Emergo” process (skeleton flies over audience during climax), and trailers for Vincent Price and William Castle shockers -- The Fly, Tingler, Macabre, 13 Ghosts, Mr. Sardonicus, Zotz, Straight-Jacket and more. Mr. Castle appears in many trailers to explain his latest gimmicks. Johnny himself discusses the “House” today and actress Carol Ohmart. The disc closes with Vincent Price on the Jack Benny and Red Skelton Shows and as persecuted missionary John Hayes on “TV Reader’s Digest” from 1955.

Sweeney Todd and Crimes at the Dark House
Johnny Legend loves Tod Slaughter and you will too. Never shy about appearing in his own videos, Johnny relates how he discovered Tod in the late 1960s in Los Angeles’ Cozy Theater. This bonus is followed by British horror trailers, Slaughter poster art and a rare audio of Mr. Tod as Sweeney Todd.

Tod Slaughter, affectionately known as Europe’s Horror Man, is the ultimate old-fashioned melodrama villain. He laughs maniacally as he gleefully chokes his victims... in every single film! The fiend is simply mad. Tod’s over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek villainy is not to be believed until one sees it, which has made him a cult hero among Cinephiles. In most films Slaughter is a man of wealth or position who lusts after the heroine, often gets her by lies and murder, but is foiled in the end. This is the plot of Crimes at the Dark House (1940), based on the novel “The Woman in White.” Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1936) is Slaughter’s career zenith that years later spawned the stage musical and Johnny Depp film. The maniac barber kills for money, but the detail about turning his victims into meat pies is barely hinted at. Tod as Sweeney coos: “What a lovely throat she has for the razor. How I’d love to polish her off! The razor’s nice and sharp.”

Halloween in Hell
Johnny roams Hollywood Boulevard on Halloween interviewing denizens between horror trailers, then on to talks with horror directors Tim Sullivan and Ray Dennis Steckler and cult legend Arch (Eegah!) Hall Jr. If more Johnny is not enough, how about two more Tod Slaughter films! In Murder in the Red Barn (1935), Tod not only seduces the heroine but murders and buries her, laughing all the while. The Face at the Window is the most traditional horror film of the four with a monster and mad scientist scene. Is wealthy Tod the sinister Wolf Man whose hideous face appears at windows when murder strikes? All four Tod Slaughter films are highly recommended for their exceptional quality and refreshing dementia!