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WAMG Interview – Director Joe Dante on THE HOLE and THE MOVIE ORGY

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Interview conducted by Tom Stockman November 1st, 2012

This Saturday and Sunday (November 10th and 11th) will be Joe Dante Weekend at St. Louis’ fabulous Hi-Pointe Theater. It’s all part of Cinema St. Louis’ upcoming St. Louis International Film Festival (SLIFF) where Dante will receive a lifetime achievement award from Cinema St. Louis. Directors who have previously been honored with a SLIFF Lifetime Achievement Award include Paul Schrader, John Sayles, and Rob Nilsson. Joe Dante is the director of PIRANHA, THE HOWLING, GREMLINS, INNERSPACE, MATINEE, and many more great films.

At 6:30pm on Saturday the 10th there will be a screening of Dante’s 2009 family friendly 3D horror film THE HOLE. This will be followed by an on-stage interview with Dante moderated by Video Watchdog editor Tim Lucas. Tim did a similar interview with director Roger Corman last year at the Hi-Pointe as part of Vincentennial, the Vincent Price 100th Birthday Celebration here and Cinema St. Louis has invited him back to pick Dante’s brain (so to speak).

At 10pm SLIFF offers a double dose of comic mayhem from Joe Dante with a screening of his classic GREMLINS followed by a midnight show of Dante’s GREMLINS 2.

Then on Sunday, November 11th, things get really crazy with a screening of Joe Dante’s legendary 1968 comp epic THE MOVIE ORGY. Before Dante established his Hollywood career, he travelled around the country with producer Jon Davison, toting the endless number of reels that made up THE MOVIE ORGY, an epic seven-hour compilation film that the pair screened at colleges and rep houses in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Scavenging the detritus of pop culture, THE MOVIE ORGY smartly juxtaposed trailers, B-movie excerpts, old commercials, sex-hygiene films, newscasts, and music clips to create a sly narrative full of wit, humor, and unexpected new meanings. Largely unseen since its original tour, THE MOVIE ORGY entered the realm of film legend. Recently, however, Dante transferred his decaying 16mm original to a digital format, and a slimmed-down version – now a mere 270 minutes – is making a welcome return to highly select venues. Dante will be at The Hi-Pointe Sunday to introduce his orgy of movie madness.

Cinema St. Louis’ site with all the details of the St. Louis International Film Festival can be found HERE

http://www.cinemastlouis.org/sliff-2012

The Hi-Pointe Theater’s site can be found HERE

http://hi-pointetheatre.com/

We Are Movie Geeks caught up with Joe Dante to discuss THE HOLE, THE MOVIE ORGY, and his upcoming trip to St. Louis

We Are Movie Geeks: You’re showing THE HOLE as part of The St. Louis International Film Festival on Saturday at 6:30. I have not seen THE HOLE.

Joe Dante: Well, you’re in good company. Neither has anybody else.

WAMG: You premiered THE HOLE in Toronto in 2009. Can you point to a few things that delayed its release?

JD: Well, the fact that it was in 3D delayed the release. Back in those days, there were only so many theaters that could play 3D and we thought we had a lock on them and then converted movies came out that weren’t shot in 3D came out and they were playing in all the theaters and they all had big marketing budgets and we didn’t have anything like that. So after a while, we realized that we had missed our window.

WAMG: Did you enjoy working in 3D?

JD: Oh yes, I love 3D. I think 3D is a fascinating medium but it just turned out to be the wrong medium at the wrong time for me.

WAMG: Do you have any favorite 3D movies?

JD: My favorite is probably DIAL M FOR MURDER but not many people saw that in 3D but it’s really remarkable how different it is seeing it in 3D than 2D.

WAMG: I was looking at the list of films you directed and I’ve seen all the movies you directed at the theaters since PIRAHANA except for LOONEY TUNES BACK IN ACTION

JD: Wow

WAMG: Bruce Dern is in THE HOLE. He was also in your film THE BURBS. Do you have a working relationship with him?

JD: Sure, he’s one of my gang of people that I go to.

WAMG: And Dick Miller of course. Are you involved in the new documentary about Dick Miller that’s coming out?

JD: I’m in the documentary but not really involved in it.  I think they’re editing it now.

WAMG: Is Dick in good health.

JD: He’s in fine health. He had some problems a few years ago but he’s fine now.

WAMG: How would you describe THE HOLE? I’ve heard it’s a horror movie for teens.

JD: Not really. I don’t go into the making of these movies think “who is it for?, what audience am I trying to get?” I make them for myself. If I find a script I respond to with characters I can relate to, and it’s got some twists and challenges, I go for it and make the movie the way I would want it to be if I walked in of the street and saw it myself.

WAMG: Would you consider making another R-rated, more full-blooded horror film like THE HOWLING?

JD: Sure, it just depends on the material. THE HOLE did not lend itself to that. It was obviously more family-friendly but I’m not interested in doing splatter movies, which I have done in the past but I frankly would love to get away from doing horror pictures, but it seems like that is what I am most offered.

WAMG: Do you go out to the movies a lot?

JD: Every weekend.

HWAMG: ave you seen HITCHCOCK yet?

JD: No, but I saw the other one (HBO’s THE GIRL) with Toby Jones. Pretty bad. . They filmed it in South Africa and their attempt to make it look like Hollywood is just laughable.

WAMG: So next Saturday (11/10) at The Hi-Pointe, we’ve got THE HOLE at 6:30, then Tim Lucas will be interviewing you after that, then they’re showing GREMLINS followed by GREMLINS 2.

JD: Wow.

WAMG: Yes, then the next morning, Sunday the 11that 11am, they’re showing your film THE MOVIE ORGY, so it’s a real Joe Dante weekend.

Well, they’re won’t be enough people drunk or stoned to appreciate it.

WAMG: That’s what I wanted to ask. What’s it like showing THE MOVIE ORGY in 2012 as opposed to what it was like showing it back in the late ’60s?

JD: In the day we were paid by Schlitz Beer to take these 16mm reels all over the country to different colleges and they would sell beer and we would show this movie which ran seven hours. They usually wouldn’t start it until around 8pm. There would be some controlled substances ingested as well as a lot of beer and the audiences tended to be pretty raucous. What’s interesting about it is at that point a lot of this material was very unfamiliar to the audience having not seen a lot since they were children on television. There was no video then and a lot of the material that THE MOVIE ORGY consists of is baby boomer stuff that they may have seen on television. And the reaction that you would get was a combination of nostalgia and hilarity. This was material they had loved as kids and they were now seeing how silly it was. There was a lot of pop culture and political stuff in it. It was a very au courant movie. It really played to the times but when we revived it later, just five or six years ago, I had no idea if any of this material would play ,whether anyone would relate to it or it would just seem weird or geeky or what. Somehow, unbeknownst to me, there was an underground reputation for this movie which had started over the years by kids on college campuses who had talked about it. It was kind of this legendary experience. We ran it at a downtown theater here in Hollywood and I wasn’t sure if anyone was going to show up but the place was packed and there were lines around the block and they stayed through the entire movie and the applauded at the end, laughed all through the picture. And this was a short version, maybe five hours. Along the way many pieces had come and gone.

WAMG: Back in the ’60s, when you were taking it from city to city, did you just have one print?

JD: One print

WAMG: Did it have all the splices in it?

JD: Yes, it was one print. Made up of different film stocks. Thousands of different films. We nicknamed  it 2001: A Splice Odyssey

WAMG: Did it fall apart in the projector?

JD: Constantly. That was why we always had to send somebody with it. You had to ride the focus. You had to ride the sound. You had to make sure the sprockets didn’t get too ripped and get caught in the gate. This is no on digital but back then it was literally projected thousands of times and the scratch level of course was pretty unpleasant, but it’s amazing how good it looks.

WAMG: It was originally 7 hours and now you’ve edited it down to just over 4 hours.

JD: Well, it really wasn’t edited down. It was finding the pieces. At one point Schlitz said that some of the material was too old and that we should put new things in like The Flintstones and Man From U.N.C.L.E. and I tries to explain that these were self-aware programs and they were not funny in the same way as the material we were using, the Ed Wood kind of stuff, stuff that was funny because of how sincere it was. So we would find a new piece of film and try it out at a screening and if it got laughs, we’d leave it in. If it didn’t, we’d take it out. Sometimes things got so old we just couldn’t stand watching them anymore. The original format was that there were like five or six features that  intertwines. We would show just parts of them and then cut to other stuff. We would switch out the features so one screening might have LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS and THE TINGLER or I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF. Some of the ones that have survived are EARTH VS FLYING SAUCERS and ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN.

WAMG: I really like your Trailers From Hell website (http://www.trailersfromhell.com) and even bought the ‘best of’ DVD . How hard was it to track down all the material on that website?

JD: Originally it started with my collection of trailers. I used to make trailers and collect them so I had a pretty decent collection of horror and exploitation trailers. As we kept going with the site and adding more and more commentators, we found that their range was a lot wider than that so we started expanding into different genres. So now we’ve gone past 800 trailers and we’ve got 45 different commentators and the only difficulty comes in producing a ‘theme week’, trying to find three things that are part of a theme to make up a week. There are certain trailers that are frustratingly hard to find but there’s a remarkable number of trailers available not just counting DVD collections but on the internet. For us it has to do with the quality level, there’s a couple of films I’d love to talk about but all the material we find on You tube is just so degraded and awful.

WAMG: I find the site very educational and informative.

JD: That’s the idea. These are pictures I grew up with. Everybody remembers these movies because they ran all the time on television and now, nobody knows about them. We’re trying to direct people to movies they might never have heard of. One of recurring themes is ‘Movies You’ve Never Heard ‘.

WAMG: Are there some movies that you grew up with that you have not been able to track down?

JD: I haven’t been able to find the trailers for some movies.

WAMG: How about the movies themselves?

JD: The movies themselves you can usually find. I’ve been looking for the trailer for one of my favorite movies from when I was a kid LONG JOHN SILVER with Robert Newton, not the Disney version, but the Australian sequel and it was much bloodier. The movie is now out but the trailer has long disappeared. There are certain things we’re always looking for. A lot of the trailers we have are exclusive. We get them off of film prints.

WAMG: I saw a movie at the Drive-In when I was 15 called THE FARMER with Gary Conway and Angel Tompkins. I’ve been pulling my hair out for decades trying to track that movie down.

JD: Yes, that came out when I was at New World making trailers and we made a comedy trailer for that and called it TRACTOR DRIVER. It was like TAXI DRIVER but it was a farmer with a gun. But that movie I’m sure is out there somewhere.

WAMG: Have you ever been to St. Louis before?

JD: I have but only in passing. I’ve never spent time there.

WAMG: John Goodman (who starred in Dante’s MATINEE) is from here and so is, as you probably know, Vincent Price.

JD: I did know that

WAMG: You’re gonna love the Hi-Pointe Theater where you’ll be doing your presentation next week. It’s a real old-school theater with one screen, an outdoor marquee, seats over 400. That will be a terrific weekend.

JD: That sounds terrific

WAMG: Well, thanks for talking the time out to talk to We Are Movie Geeks and we look forward to you appearance here in St. Louis next weekend.

JD: I look forward to it as well.

Here’s a clip from Joe Dante’s THE MOVIE ORGY:

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