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William Lustig Presents starts 8/12/10 in NYC

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William Lustig Presents starts 8/12/10 in NYC

Old 08-10-10, 11:03 PM
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William Lustig Presents starts 8/12/10 in NYC

Article from Today's Wall St. Journal (NY Edition)

Bill Lustig's Grindhouse Dreams Come True


These days, junior high school kids flock to Broadway's New Amsterdam Theatre to see "The Lion King." But in the late 1960s, 13-year-old William Lustig might have begun his day there with a double-feature of biker movies from American International Pictures. Then he'd move onto the Harris, the Liberty and the Apollo—all part of the 42nd Street movie theater circuit affectionately known as grindhouses.

"I hated going to school," said the 55-year-old filmmaker, who used to grab a bus from his New Jersey home into Manhattan and head directly to the Deuce, as 42nd Street was then known. "There were times I saw eight movies a day down there. My record was 11."

Some 40 years later, the former truant turned robust cult director ("Maniac," "Maniac Cop") acts as a curator of those youthful enthusiasms. Once again, Mr. Lustig has masterminded an eight-day retrospective of forgotten genre films at Anthology Film Archives. "William Lustig Presents," which begins Thursday, cranks up the cinematic Way Back Machine to turn the East Village repertory center into a sticky-floored grindhouse.

"These are movies that have been languishing," he said. "Some of them were never even on VHS." Screened in 35 mm prints mostly sourced from major studios, the films include such oddball gems as "Machine Gun McCain" (1969), an Italian-made mob thriller with John Cassavettes, Peter Falk and Gena Rowlands working on an off week; "The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover" (1977), horror director Larry Cohen's hilarious, yet oddly touching, bio-pic with Broderick Crawford as the legendary FBI director; and "The Town That Dreaded Sundown," a 1977 docudrama based on real-life Texas serial killings. "One of the few horror films shot in Techniscope," the cheerful Mr. Lustig said, "which gave it a widescreen creepy grainy quality."

In 2002, Mr. Lustig set aside his directorial ambitions to found Blue Underground, a DVD company devoted to the rediscovery of lost genre movies, which he said are given the same deluxe treatment that the Criterion Collection affords a Fellini film. He's now converting the entire catalog of 200 titles to the Blu-Ray format, arguing for the sustained vitality of so-called B movies against the bloodless artifice of contemporary blockbusters.

"The quintessential movie of today is 'Salt,'" Mr. Lustig said of the recent Cold War thriller starring Angelina Jolie while sipping coffee on a recent afternoon in a café on Avenue A, near his apartment. "It's a trailer in search of a movie. That's all it is. It's a movie star running around, void of any emotion. There was a time when action films were about the emotion. You didn't get a Happy Meal. You got a real meal. Really cool movie stars, good scripts, good direction."

Jan Michael Vincent gets violent in John Flynn's 'Defiance.' Both 'Defiance' and '99 and 44/100% Dead' will be screened as part of the 'Bill Lustig Presents' series beginning Thursday at Anthology Film Archives.

Audiences may recall Jan Michael Vincent, once a blond, hunky heartthrob, as a b-list has-been. But he was huge in the 1970s, and movies like "White Line Fever" (1975) and "Defiance" (1980), were mainstream, commercial cinema.

"['White Line Fever'] was the most wonderful summer popcorn movie," said Mr. Lustig, still alive to his adolescent passion. "It was a smart movie, it wasn't dumb!"

Not every pick is so straightforward, though. Mr. Cohen's Hoover saga, a kind of fake documentary, entertains with its juicy imaginings of contentious encounters between the bulldog-like Hoover and such historical figures as Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy—all driven by Broderick Crawford's imperious performance.

"You might think that he will hold back a little bit, but he really goes all the way," Mr. Lustig said. "Even the gay stuff. Which you'd think a Hollywood actor his age may avoid."

Last summer's inaugural series was a smash: Director Michael Winner ("Death Wish") did a surprise Q&A via mobile phone from London. And the house was packed for a Vietnam era drama from 1972 called "Welcome Home, Soldier Boys," starring Joe Don Baker. "There was applause! Thunderous applause!" Mr. Lustig said. "When it was first released, that movie lasted five days as a double feature, and yet it blew everybody away."

Mr. Lustig's zest for cinematic arcana offers a challenge to his host. Jed Rapfogel, a film programmer at Anthology charged with tracking down prints, never knows what he'll find. "A lot of his selections are not available," Mr. Rapfogel said of Mr. Lustig. "But it cuts both ways."

Mr. Rapfogel was pleased to secure a print of the Hoover film that was nearly pristine. "It's totally unpredictable," he said. "But our niche is uncommon cinema. It's a fun thing to do."

Mr. Lustig's own work as a filmmaker thrived at a time when the streets of New York could still pass for the set of a vigilante movie. The business and the city have changed so significantly that what was once deemed "exploitation" has become a cultural treasure to be preserved.

"But I think it may be coming back," Mr. Lustig said. "Because of the recession, you see a lot of boarded-up stores, and at night a lot of dark blocks. I'm starting to see more seedy, dodgy people coming out."
Old 08-10-10, 11:25 PM
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Re: William Lustig Presents starts 8/12/10 in NYC

good for him but I don't see grindhouse cinema coming back strongly. BUT I would like to take part in his event thingamabob.

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