On the eve of 14th December, Nottingham’s most venerated film conglomerates, Kino Klubb, Mayhem and Kneel Before Zod banded together at Broadway Cinema to bring us a selection of the finest cult cinema there is to offer. It was a night they dubbed ‘Ghouls, Frankenstein & Murder’, and there was plenty of all three. Kino Klubb began the proceedings with Ken Russell’s controversial classic The Devils, then Mayhem stepped up to the plate with hilarious exploitation-fest Frankenhooker, and KBZ finished things off with the Roger Corman-inspired Chopping Mall. It was a hugely successful night overall, and perhaps a sign that these three clubs shouldn’t hesitate to get together and battle it out more often. Here’s our take on each film:
Kino Klubb presents The Devils (1971)
Set in 17th Century France in the town of Loudon, Ken Russell’s The Devils tells the story of Father Urbain Grandier, a corrupt priest who sleeps with young women under the pretence of schooling them, while at the same time attempting to save the town from being taken over by Cardinal Richelieu, a man intent on knocking down its walls. So controversial it was when released in 1971, that stars Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave were banned from ever setting foot in Italy.
While Reed and Redgrave both give astonishing performances as Father Grandier and sexually repressed nun Sister Jeanne, the film sadly fails to live up to its reputation. Some scenes are brilliant, Reed’s speeches especially, but others seem dull and muddled. There are even moments that, if viewed out of context, might look scenes from a Monty Python film – who knew that a crocodile could be used in a sword fight? It was enjoyable to watch, but not really for the right reasons. Perhaps this is merely a classic just for its controversial status.
Mayhem presents Frankenhooker
Mayhem’s entry into Broadway’s movie battle royale, Frank Henenlotter’s Frankenhooker provided a modern take on Mary Shelley’s classic tale. James Lorinz stars as Jeffrey Franken, a power plant worker/amateur surgeon who tragically loses his fiancée in a freak lawnmower accident. Distraught, Franken decides to piece his life together by hatching a scheme to re-assemble his deceased lover in his ad hoc back yard laboratory. However, he first needs to source some shapely spare body parts, resulting in a trip to New York’s red-light district in search of some unsuspecting ladies of the night.
Needless to say, with a body builder pimp named Zorro, and a suitcase of volatile “super-crack”, things don’t exactly go to plan. Culminating in a series of slapstick sight gags that parody the horror genre, featuring exploding hookers and a gurning patchwork bride to be, Henenlotter’s dark comedy makes for the perfect B-movie. The absurdist humour coupled with the deadpan delivery of its central star resulted in tears of laughter from everyone in the audience. Everything about the exploitation-comedy is pitch perfect, with the gore, one-liners, animatronics, and well, exploding prostitutes being used sparingly throughout; Henenlotter’s cleverly executed farce ensuring its place as an essential part of any late night movie marathon.
Kneel Before Zod presents Chopping Mall
Typical 80s teenagers breaking into a typical 80s mall are attacked by typical 80s robots. Everything about Chopping Mall screams of the decade good taste forgot, and it is wonderful. A graduate of the Roger Corman school of filmmaking, director Jim Wynorski followed closer in the footsteps of his teacher than other notable alumnus, making a career from low budget creature features and exploitation flicks. In the same year, Wynorski bestowed on us Komodo vs. Cobra and Alabama Jones and the Busty Crusade, of the many words you could use to describe his filmmaking prowess, monotonous is not one of them.
But his second feature is the one he’ll be most remembered for. Chopping Mall is ridiculously fun. So bad it’s good? More like so bad it’s great. It does not have an original bone in its shoddily designed aluminium body; it’s predictable and acted horribly. Yet with a runtime of a mere 77 minutes, it’s one of the most fun cinematic experiences and a highlight in the canon of camp, comedy horror. While certainly a step above usual made-for-TV fare, next time you dismiss titles such as Piranhaconda and Busty Coeds vs. Lusty Cheerleaders, you may just be missing the next Wynorski masterpiece.
Felix Taylor, Malcolm Remedios, Sam Todd & Josh Franks