This really isn’t movie "news" per se, but once you’ve read these two stories – the first by The New York Post‘s Lou Lumenick and the second a supplemental anecdote of sorts posted to Livejournal by "moroccomole" – about the Fair Theater, New York City’s "Last Grindhouse", I’m confident that you’ll thank me for running it. Actually, I’d read Lumenick’s somewhat entertaining piece earlier in the day, and would’ve never considered it especially linkworthy, but that latter tale, a harrowing account from "Curtis", a movie buff whose innocent quest to finally see Lady Terminator on the big screen plays out kind of like a spoof of Tsai Ming-liang’s Goodbye Dragon Inn, compelled me to share both stories with you, dear reader.
Curtis’s ordeal is particularly fascinating because it reminds us of a time when movies like Fight for Your Life, The Candy Snatchers and Mark of the Devil were unattainable obscurities known only from their tantalizingly brief capsules in Michael J. Weldon’s The Psychotronic Encyclopedia (i.e. for anyone not lucky enough to have lived in New York City or Los Angeles during the grindhouse heyday). Though even the most controversial titles of the 1980s horror/slasher explosion were available in any well-stocked local video store (my film education began at Bowling Green, Ohio’s The Video Spectrum), the majority of truly fucked-up productions from the 1970s that unspooled day and night for slumbering winos in and around Times Square were extremely hard to come by. That means when, say, a friend’s cousin got a hold of a fifth-generation bootleg video of an already shitty transfer of Dolemite missing the first eight minutes, there was a palpable and deeply pathetic exhilaration.
That’s mostly gone now. There are still some out-of-print stragglers out there (many of which are being screened at the New Beverly’s ongoing Los Angeles Grindhouse Festival), but the abovementioned rarities are all quite available – even Lady Terminator, though I’d like to think Curtis still doesn’t regret dodging dueling handjobs at the Fair Theater in his brave effort to see the Indonesian oddity.
Speaking of the Fair Theater, there’s scads of information about East Elmhurst’s gay rendezvous mecca at Cinema Treasures; in fact, the Fair’s comments section is rife with some killer anecdotes of its own. According to user "hardbop", the theater was at one point erroneously advertising Killer Force and Fist Full of Yen (sic) – the former a Val Guest actioner with a classic all-star 70’s cast (Peter Fonda, Telly Savalas, Hugh O’Brian, Christopher Lee, Maud Adams and Mr. Oranthal James Simpson), and the latter a reference to a film that, as far as I know, does not actually exist as a stand-alone outside of Kentucky Fried Movie. According to Lumenick’s article, the theater still advertises genre fare like The Daisy Chain and Eastern Heroes, though it doesn’t sound like they’re actually being shown. But for all you New York City Chewers eager to get jerked off in a well-maintained vintage theater while The Prestige is grainily projected from a DVD player, the address is 90-18 Astoria Boulevard, the admission is $15, and be sure to give Devin my best (i.e. a gentle jerking motion that stops at mid-shaft).