Friday, December 23, 2011

Looking Back at a Year of Repertory Hosting '11 (part 1)

As some of you may know, I help select and host repertory cult and horror film showings at the humblingly atmospheric Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA. If you're unfamiliar with this spectacular venue, the Colonial is famously remembered as the theater featured in the 1958 Steve McQueen horror flick The Blob, which they gloriously celebrate each year with a weekend festival dubbed "Blobfest". As you can imagine, it's the perfect local for a monthly late night horror show, which was started in mid-2008 by then local cinofile, Bob Trate. First Friday Fright Night (FFFN) has been an enormous draw for the theater and has been going strong for the past three years.

I've been a rabid attendee since I first heard about it prior to their 3rd show, a 35mm print of the immensely popular Evil Dead, in June '08. In July 2010 I began hosting a bimonthly showing of Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes which was not my first hosting duty at the Colonial but has grown to be my favorite (I love coming up with absurd, embarrassing and fun contests for the pre-show prizes!).

I'm bringing this up because it would become the jumping off point for an entirely separate cult film series (Colonial Cult Cinema) in the middle of this past year (which we'll discuss to in part 2 of this retrospective).

And so it's with all this in mind that I'd like to take a look back at all the cult and horror which has been lovingly showcased at the Colonial Theatre in 2011. Consider this my own "end of year list".


Dark City - Ah Dark City! Such a fantastic work, summoning qualities both noir and scifi then painting with a brush of gothic mystery- this flick is an amazing ride which didn't get the recognition it deserved upon release in 1998. The director's cut was screened on Blu-Ray, since there isn't a 35mm print of this version.

MST3K episode #813 "Jack Frost" - This Mike episode centers on lambasting a badly translated dub of what appears to be a beautifully shot Russo-Finnish fairy tale piece. As is typical of all the MST3K shows which I host, there was a pre-show contest for prizes. In this case, I held a "Ricochet-off", where those brave souls who joined me on stage had to out "Ricochet!" each other in the manner of Mike's invention from the Starfighters episode.


The Fifth Element - I adore this film. It's marvelous scifi never feels forced and all parts humor and action are as tightly woven strands, marking this as a crowd pleaser that holds up very well. And I'll just throw this out there: Chris Tucker at his absolute best.


In the Mouth of Madness - Our first true horror film of the year is commonly held, as host Bob Trate noted at the time, to be the last "good" John Carpenter film (I disagree, but we'll table that until another time). Drawing heavily from H.P. Lovecraft's body of work, we're treated to that special sort of madness which lies outside the limits of man's mortal bounds. Sam Neill turns in an amazing performance.

MST3K episode #417 "Crash of the Moons" - This wonderful episode contains exactly what I always think of when conjuring images of what MST3K means for me: Black and White 50's science fiction with cardboard sets and campy premise. Sure there are better episodes out there, but I dearly love the fun Joel and the bots' have with the adventures of space ranger Rocky Jones. Before the show our contest was an honest to goodness invention exchange. As I recall, the winner created the "Nerdvent Calendar" - in homage to both Advent calendars (with little gifts contained in each day) and all things geek leading up to Blobfest itself. Marvelous!


The Terminator - Our third scifi film of the year in the Fright Night spot is a true classic, catapulting it's director James Cameron and star Michael Biehn Arnold Schwarzenegger on to super stardom. Even better, the 35mm print was very clear and well preserved!


Maniac - This was an experience, more than just a screening. We were able to showcase a brand new 35mm print of this niche classic. If that wasn't cool enough, we had director William Lustig on hand. He both introduced the film and stuck around for an incredibly informative question and answer session at the conclusion (moderated by cohost to be Joel Rickenbach of You've Got Geek podcast fame). Even more fun for us was the chance to have dinner with Bill Lustig before the show. He was pleasant company and quite the affable chap! Hopefully he'll come back this year for Blobfest (he was floored when he found out he was hosting his movie at "The Blob theater"!)

MST3K episode #1008 "Final Justice" - This Joe Don Baker stinker is perfect fodder which we punctuated with a preshow Cowboy and/or JDB costume contest. Thankfully, no one dressed as Joe Don.


The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzi across the 8th Dimension - Which is more an impossible situation? For me to do this film justice in simple text form or for you to never have seen it? This amazing original film works so many angles, you might think you're being taken in by some nefarious con. You are being taken for a ride, but you aren't being grifted out of anything but your ignorance. Topping off my first chance to see this gem in 35mm was a showcase of props and collectibles on display thanks to Film Buff Online writer (and dear friend), Rich Drees.

There you have it, part one of our year in repertory review for the Colonial Theatre. Look for part two coming shortly, detailing the changing of the guard that took place and how the Colonial Cult Cinema night took shape.


  1. Re: Crash of the Moons

    Thanks for the shout-out! My daughter and I had a blast making the calendar, and enjoyed the prize (a 4-pack of MST3K episodes). Looking forward to more FFNF and MST3K nights.

    -Jeff (proud member of the Southeastern PA Nerd Herd)

  2. Jeff, that was a really excellent invention that you and your daughter must have spent a load of time on. It came out fantastic. I hope you bot really enjoy those episodes and I'll see you at more shows! (happy holidays)