Midnight Movies – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Written and Directed by:
Stuart Samuels

John Waters, Roger Ebert, David Lynch, George Romero, Richard O’Brien, and Alejandro Jodorokowky

Run Time: 86 minutes
DVD Release date: November 13, 2007

What do The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Pink Flamingos, Eraserhead, El Topo, The Harder They Come, and Night of the Living Dead have in common?

The answer to this question is: not much, aside from the common bond of being midnight movies, and being profiled in the appropriately titled Starz documentary Midnight Movies: from the Margins to the Mainstream.

To those for whom this midnight movie concept is unfamiliar, along about 1970 a theater called the Elgin started showing a film called El Topo after regular hours. El Topo is an odd Mexican film, evocative of spaghetti westerns, Browning’s Freaks, and European art films.

Seeing El Topo at midnight became the hip thing to do, especially when folks like John and Yoko started showing up. From there other theaters replicated this thing, showing films salvaged from the drive-in (i.e. NotLD), from the underground (Flamingos), “student films” (Eraserhead), and the occasional Jamaican reggae-singing anti-hero picture (The Hard They Come).

The biggest success story of the midnight format is, of course, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The film was adapted from the stage, flopped in the mainstream, and thrived for decades in the midnight runs, with the audience supplementing the theatricality lost in cinematic translation.

Ostensibly about the phenomenon of the midnight movies, Midnight Movies tends to devolve into six short subject documentaries about the 6 aforementioned films. So much time is spent talking about El Topo, then interview subjects talk about NotLD, and then Pink Flamingos. There is not much overlap in the stories, making it seem less like a single documentary and more like a weekly series. And there is only so much you can learn about a movie in the ten minutes or so each receives.

At times, this format works. We can easily draw parallels in a diverse collection of films. Some are celebrations of the outsider, others are anti-establishment, and most appealed to college crowds who would smoke pots during these late night screenings.

But for the most part, the parallels must be drawn by the viewer, while the documentary merely supplies redundancies. We see the same thing over and over: said film doesn’t find an audience, gets shown at midnight, slowly gains an audience through word of mouth, and becomes part of popular culture.

All in all, it’s hardly essential viewing. The film has its faults and feels a lot like a meal of appetizers. But, it’s always nice to see John Waters and George Romero talk movies, and there are some entertaining industry stories where names like Brit Eckland are dropped.



The DVD Lounge’s Rating for Midnight Movies
(OUT OF 10)






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