Editor’s Note: Broome Arts Mirror reviewer Nancy Oliveri was unable to attend the Cult Movie Thursdays series opener Sept. 12, at the Bundy Museum, 129 Main St., Binghamton, and sent her sister in her stead.
Reviewed by Therese Bohn
The Bundy Museum’s new film series – “Cult Movie Thursdays”– promises to feature the best in high camp, low budget mid-century B-pictures. Although event coordinator Nick Rubenstein clearly is targeting the twenty-something crowd, the series surely should appeal to any adult who loves, as he puts it, “trash cinema at its finest.” And what better way to start this schmaltz-fest than with the granddaddy of them all: Plan 9 From Outer Space?
The movies are shown in the Theater Annex, tucked behind the main Bundy Museum building. The cozy auditorium, decorated with paintings by local artists (some for sale), can hold a hundred or so people. A canopied party area leads to the entrance, which is next to the Southern Tier Broadcasters Hall of Fame. A bar serving beer from local breweries adds to the party atmosphere. (The first week’s libations came from The North Brewery in Endicott.)
The inaugural evening’s program started with a pastiche of classic coming attractions, with laughable clips from such forgotten gems as Invasion of the Saucer Men, Werewolves on Wheels, Wonder Women and Master of the Flying Guillotine.
This was followed by a locally produced short by Fringe Films called The Walls Within (2013), a mini-horror movie about a douchy doofus, his girlfriend and the creepy ex-fling he still wants to sleep with. It’s a kitchen sink mash-up of every horror cliché you could imagine including spooky houses, wacky relatives, knives, blood and cannibalism. Many of its moments were quite laughable and kitschy, although I’m not quite sure if that was the producers’ intention.
But Walls was no match for the main feature. No greater example of big movie dreams with tiny movie budgets exists than Plan 9. It’s a masterwork of classic camp, with the most wooden of acting and the thinnest of cardboard sets. Between Vampira’s cleavage, Bela Lugosi’s ennui and Tor Johnson’s frog- mouth stare, you couldn’t ask for a better piece to inaugurate this series. A glorious mess of a movie indeed!
But why pay for a bad movie when you can probably find it online for free? Because nothing beats the joy of discovering the worst Hollywood had to offer with a room full of laughing strangers. This is the best venue for old clunkers, and there were times when the patrons couldn’t resist emulating Mike and the robots from Mystery Science Theater 3000 — talking over and adding dialogue of their own to the viewing, especially in the second half, after imbibing much free beer. The annex was mostly filled with college types having a grand old time.
In addition to the movies, there were giveaways as well as the sale of beautiful custom “Plan 9” T-shirts designed by tattoo artist Paul Ulrich and printed by Casey Coolbaugh and Chauna D’Angelo of Muckle’s Ink. It’s wonderful to see that Rubenstein is incorporating local art and business into the venue. He also wants to add local bands to the weekly event. With all of this for $6, it’s a perfect, quirky date night, and a great way to launch your weekend a little early.
And don’t let the “trash films” label fool you. Many of the upcoming screenings aren’t stinkers, but true sci-fi gold. This week’s installment (Sept. 19) is Godzilla (1954); coming up: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). Rubenstein is wisely planning a theme for each month: September is classic monster and sci-fi, October is classic horror films,and November will be psychedelic offerings, such as The Trip (1967) and Psychomania(1973). He even is planning a couple of sing-along nights featuring Hedwig and the Angry Inch and (naturally) The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Be sure to check the Bundy website and Facebook page for the titles and times.
Rubenstein said he will continue to host this film series at 8 p.m. every Thursday until he “just can’t stand it anymore!” This viewer hopes this series won’t end until every last “gem of trash cinema” is screened. As the wise (?) clairvoyant Criswell rambled at the beginning of Plan 9: “We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. … And remember, my friends, future events such as these will affect you in the future!”
In other words, film buffs and B-picture fanatics, you would do well to spend your future Thursdays at the Bundy Museum!
NOTE: Between the beer promotion (free with proper ID) and the mature themes of the local short films, this is not an event for children.