The true story of the single best piece of mail of 2009

08.11.09 8 years ago 5 Comments

Alamo Drafthouse/Austin Chronicle

When I get mail, it’s not just a matter of an envelope or a package being dropped off.  Ohhhhh, no.  Not in Casa De McWeeny.

No, in my house, every time the doorbell rings, it’s an event.  And since it’s Northridge we live in now, it’s appropriate that a seismic level of activity erupts at the idea of “SOMEONE’S AT THE DOOR! SOMEONE’S AT THE DOOR! SOMEONE’S AT THE DOOR!”  I go with them, I sign for whatever it is, and then I give it to Toshi and his little brother so they can deliver it to me back in my office.  I have to go sit down and wait for them to bring it to me.  Toshi in front, actually carrying the delivery, and then baby brother Allen following close behind, pointing at the delivery and his older brother and screeching, over and over, to get my attention.  And honestly, I love it.  Everyone should have their mail delivered like this.

In this case, it was just a simple yellow envelope that they brought in.  Nothing elaborate.  Not a big package.  But inside… oh, man.

I’m a big fan of the “42nd Street Forever” DVDs that Synapse Films has been releasing for the last few years.  In fact, I reviewed volume 4 in the series just about a week after starting this blog here at HitFix.  And it’s sort of funny, looking back at that review now, to see how I referred to Tim League and the Alamo Drafthouse when talking about why I love exploitation trailers.

Seems like Synapse’s Don May decided to go straight to the tap for this latest release, because when I opened the envelope, I was delighted to see that volume 5 is called “Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.”  It’s got commentary by Tim League, Zack Carlson, and Lars Nilsen, and it’s even got a 30-minute documentary about the theater called, unsurprisingly, “Remember The Alamo.”

But mainly, it’s got trailers.

And this is where the Alamo Drafthouse really shines.

[more after the jump]

As I’ve said before, no one builds an event around a movie the way Tim League does, and this DVD definitely reflects his aesthetic.  Even the opening menu is great and crazy.  From the moment you walk into a Tim League event, he’s playing with you.  He’s a wizard.  He’s William Castle and PT Barnum and every roadside huckster faith healer all rolled into one.  He is determined that you’re going to have an experience. And right away, the menu gets it right.  It’s the sort of white noise freakshow blather that Tim loves to play as people are finding seats.

When you hit “Play all,” first up is Charlton Heston on a tennis court.  Which is, of course, Solid Gold.

But the idea that it’s Charlton Heston explaining the ratings system… selling it to the audience and explaining what’s what?  DOUBLE GOLD.

I’ve never seen this before.  Which is hilarious, since I’ve seen ten years worth of Alamo presentations.  But this is a fantastic find.  I guess I don’t remember the beginning of the ratings system.  I do remember the introduction of the PG-13.  Vividly.  Since I was 14 when it happened, I remember thinking, “Hey, knock yourself out.  I’m fine with under 13 not being in the theater.”  I was too busy worrying about the R at that point.  But when the system first went into effect, this must have been how theaters got people ready for it.  Slick.

And to be fair, I think Heston’s description of the system absolutely nails it.  His advice about how parents should treat the ratings system really puts the responsiblity onto parents, where it should be.

And then we’re into the trailers.  And the first one definitely sets a tone.  “A Life In Ninja.”  When you start with something this great, how can you possibly get any better?  Ninja films are great.  Ninja films with what look to be protracted mud wrasslin’ and hot chick torture sequences are even better.

There are so many good trailers on this collection that are tied to so many of the memories I have of great evenings at the Alamo that it’s not possible to be objective about the pleasures this disc offers.  Like the trailer for Sonny Chiba’s “The Bodyguard.”  Unless you’ve seen it with a crowd that starts to chant “VIVA… CHIBA… VIVA… CHIBA” in time with the trailer, you just don’t understand its full magic.  And if you’ve never witnessed “The Secret Of Magic Island” trailer at 4:00 in the morning after sixteen hours of Butt-Numb-A-Thon, then you won’t fully understand how much of a drug-free acid trip that can be.  But you don’t need to have ever been to the Alamo to appreciate trailers like “Putney Swope,” “Pretty Maids All In A Row,” or “Lucky Seven.”  These things speak for themselves.  And if you want to sit with three of the smartest programmers working anywhere in the world today and watch these trailers, just flip on the commentary track, where Tim and Zack and Lars chat together.  I think all DVDs should come with this particular combination of commenters, and if you give this a listen, you’ll know why.

“42nd Street Forever, Vol. 5: Alamo Drafthouse Cinema” will be in stores and available from Amazon on Sept. 29th.  It should be in any self-respecting film nerd’s house immediately afterwards.

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