Thursday, 29 December 2016

A Year and a Bit of The Lobotomy Room Goes to the Movies Club!

Now that 2016 is circling the drain, won’t you indulge me in reminiscing a bit about Lobotomy Room Goes to the Movies? My free monthly film club (focusing on the cult, the kitsch and the queer!) in the basement Bamboo Lounge of Dalston’s Art Deco fleshpot Fontaine’s is just over one year old. Let’s get all retrospective and wistfully re-visit the titles we’ve presented over the past year.

Let the countdown commence!

Seven Sinners (1940) – 24 November 2015

The seven films director Josef von Sternberg and his muse and leading lady Marlene Dietrich made together between 1930 and 1935 were dark, erotic, witty and sublime works of art. Together they honed Dietrich’s complex, sultry and feline persona and brought a whiff of genuine Weimar decadence to mainstream Hollywood. By comparison Seven Sinners (made after Dietrich and von Sternberg’s personal and professional relationship imploded) is pure trash - but kitschy, enjoyable fun trash of the highest order! It’s a romantic comedy starring Dietrich as good time girl nightclub chanteuse Bijou Blanche, set adrift and stirring up trouble in a South Seas port, while pursuing a hunky naval officer (played by a young and still relatively unknown John Wayne).  

Pee Wee’s Christmas Playhouse Special (1988) - 15 December 2015

In honour of the holiday season, let’s get festive and combine some Christmas cocktail capers with the most kitschy and campy of all TV specials – Pee-Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special from 1988! In which that bow-tied perverse brat Pee-Wee Herman welcomes a mind-boggling selection of special guests to his playhouse - including Grace Jones, Little Richard, Cher, Joan Rivers, Charo, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Oprah Winfrey and kd lang! [Note: the TV special is actually just under an hour long, so before and after I will play my most abrasive atomic-era Christmas tunes to pad things out!]. So … won’t you join me for a snowball, glass of prosecco or mulled wine and learn about the true meaning of Christmas with Pee-Wee Herman? See you there!

Kitten with a Whip (1964) - 27 January 2016

The featured presentation this month will be the ultra-lurid 1964 juvenile delinquent exploitation psychodrama Kitten with a Whip – starring quintessential atomic-era sex kitten-gone-berserk Ann-Margret. This sleazy little black and white B-movie urgently poses the question: why do the sweetest kittens have the sharpest claws? Fresh from cavorting with Elvis in Viva Las Vegas, red-headed vixen Ann-Margret plays a vicious teenage sociopath escaped from her high-security juvenile detention centre – who then takes hostage and torments straight-laced local politician John Forsythe in his palatial suburban dream house. (Yes – a cardigan-wearing and still dark-haired John Forsythe as in Dynasty’s silver fox Blake Carrington!). From there, Ann-Margret’s gang of thug friends turn up – and things just get wilder!

Morocco (1931) - 24 February 2016.

Considering Valentine’s Day falls this month, February’s selection is a love story. But bear in mind this is, after all, Lobotomy Room Goes to the Movies – so the love story is a twisted, high camp tale of amour fou. In Morocco (1930) – directed by visionary maestro of kinky exotica Josef  von Sternberg – dissolute nightclub chanteuse and woman of mystery Amy Jolly (German screen diva Marlene Dietrich in her sensational Hollywood debut) finds herself adrift in North Africa and caught in a love triangle, torn between a handsome amoral Foreign Légionnaire (lanky young Gary Cooper at the height of his beauty) and a wealthy playboy (Adolphe Menjou. Perversely, Menjou is meant to represent von Sternberg himself – who in his complex off-screen relationship with the bisexual Dietrich stoically stood by and watched her seduce legions of men and women both). Depending on your sensibility, Morocco culminates in an ending which you’ll either find irresistibly romantic or totally absurd. Either way, the film is a blast!

Desperate Living (1977) - 23 March 2016

The featured presentation this month will be John Water’s ultra-twisted punk-y black comedy Desperate Living (1977). It’s one of his relatively lesser known gems (probably because his usual muse and leading lady - three hundred pound drag queen Divine - isn’t in it). The genuinely nasty Desperate Living has something to offend everyone! See the film that Variety lambasted as “amateur night on the psycho ward” and that Waters himself has called “the worst of all my films. And it’s the grimmest!”

The Wild, Wild World of Jayne Mansfield (1968) - 27 April 2016

Rated “X” upon its release in 1968, the ultra-trashy faux documentary chronicles the kinky globe-trotting misadventures of Hollywood sex kitten-gone-berserk Jayne Mansfield.  Watch agog as kitsch icon Mansfield - the punk Marilyn Monroe, revered by John Waters and Divine (and “the face” of Lobotomy Room) - visits the hedonistic “sin spots” of the world, encompassing topless go-go clubs, gay bars, drag queen beauty contests and nudist colonies, usually accompanied by her pet Chihuahua! The low-budget Wild, Wild World was in production 1964 - 1968. Bear in mind Mansfield died in 1967. Part of the fun is spotting how the producers cobbled things together after Mansfield’s death in order to complete the film. Watch for the (many) shots of a body double filmed from behind wearing Mansfield’s dishevelled blonde wig. And the sound-alike who delivered the voice-over narration (nailing Jayne’s breathless babydoll coo) deserved an Oscar!

Valley of The Dolls (1967) – 25 May 2016

“You have to climb Mount Everest … to get to the Valley of The Dolls.” Before Mommie Dearest … before Showgirls … the original “What the hell were they thinking?” Bad Movie We Love was Valley of the Dolls. A perennial favourite of drag queens and a cult classic for connoisseurs of kitsch, the unintentionally hilarious and wildly entertaining 1967 film adaptation of Jacqueline Susann’s lurid 1966 bestseller took the already trashy source material – and went even tawdrier with it! (At the film’s premiere, an outraged Susann reportedly called the film “a piece of shit!”). A cautionary tale about the perils of show business, it follows the travails of three ambitious casualties of the glamour jungle: friends Anne, Neely and Jennifer. (The “dolls” of the title refer to the fistfuls of uppers and downers the characters pop like Tic Tacs throughout – usually washed down with booze). Valley of The Dolls packs everything discriminating thrill-seekers demand in its lunatic two hours: hammy performances, pill-popping, bouffant wigs, cat-fights, slurring drunken scenes, rehab, drug-fuelled meltdowns and crap-tastic musical numbers.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to violence, the word and the act. While violence cloaks itself in a plethora of disguises, its favourite mantle still remains: sex. Violence devours all it touches, its voracious appetite rarely fulfilled. Yet violence doesn’t only destroy – it creates and moulds as well! Let’s examine closely, then, this dangerously evil creation, this new breed, encased and contained within the supple skin of woman… the softness is there, the unmistakable smell of female. The surface shiny and silken. The body yielding yet wanton. But a word of caution – handles with care and don’t drop your guard! This rapacious new breed prowls both alone and in packs, operating at any level! Any time! Anywhere! And with anybody! Who are they? One might be your secretary! Your doctor’s receptionist! Or a dancer in a go-go club!” Yes! The Lobotomy Room Goes to the Movies film selection this month in the Bamboo Lounge of Fontaine’s is ultimate sexploitation B-movie Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1966). Perhaps cleavage-fixated director Russ Meyer’s defining masterpiece, it follows a trio of vicious thrill-hungry go-go dancers going on a homicidal rampage in the desert. As cinema’s sleaze maestro John Waters argues, “Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is beyond a doubt the best movie ever made. It is possibly better than any film that will be made in the future!”

[Pussycat! was our biggest hit to date - the first time we had to post a warning on Facebook that if you hadn't already reserved a seat in advance, don't turn up on the night!]

La Dolce Vita (1960) – 28 August 2016

Attention, jaded Continental sophisticates! Embrace the spirit of Eurotrash hedonism (and pretend we’re still in the EU) when Lobotomy Room presents a FREE special decadent Bank Holiday Sunday screening of Federico Fellini’s carnival-esque and hallucinatory epic masterpiece La Dolce Vita (1960)! You know that iconic image of voluptuous Swedish sex bomb Anita Ekberg frolicking in Rome’s Trevi Fountain? That’s from La Dolce Vita – one of the most stylish movies ever made! It captures the acme of Italian glamour: the cars, the clothes, the nightlife (no one films debauched nightclub, party and orgy scenes like Fellini in his 1960s pomp) and most of all – the sunglasses! While you watch the film, take the edge off your hangover with negronis or glasses of Prosecco! Needless to say, it’s illegal to smoke in the Bamboo Lounge, but feel free to keep your shades on! 

Blonde Venus (1932) – 28 September 2016

Of the seven sublime films director Josef von Sternberg and leading lady / muse Marlene Dietrich made together, surely the wildest and weirdest is Blonde Venus (1932). It stars sultry German glamour puss Dietrich as a hausfrau and mother forced to resume her career as a nightclub chanteuse due to circumstances too complicated to go into here – and then finders herself entangled in a romantic triangle between her sick scientist husband and a suave millionaire (played by a very young Cary Grant). But none of that is important! It’s mainly an excuse to luxuriate in Dietrich’s shimmering close-ups, multiple extravagant costume changes and sensational musical numbers. Most notorious of the latter is the riotously kitsch and freaky “Hot Voodoo” sequence. If you’ve never seen it before I won’t spoil it for you, but 1) “Hot Voodoo” is the campiest thing you’ve ever seen, 2) watching it might turn you gay and 3) over eight decades later, the likes of Grace Jones, Madonna and Kate Moss are still referencing it in videos, concerts and photo shoots. 

[This was the third Dietrich film I’ve screened. The previous two – Seven Sinners and Morocco – both bombed big-time and just didn’t lure any punters in – which was really demoralising, as Dietrich is possibly my all-time favourite actresses and I'd hoped to make her films Lobotomy Room staples. In retrospect, the main reason the two earlier two screenings belly-flopped was because I hadn’t yet mastered the dark art of promoting them properly online – which is, to shell-out loads of money to Facebook every month to reach more people! Happily, Blonde Venus was a maximum-capacity, red-hot triumph! It restored my faith in the allure of Marlene Dietrich!]

Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988) – 28 October 2016

Embracing the spirit of Halloween, the October presentation is … Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988)! A gleefully low-brow, raunchy broad comedy starring buxom, beehive-haired horror movie hostess Elvira, the beloved cult figure for generations of punks, psychobillies, Goths and misfits of all description. In the film, Elvira inherits a haunted house en route to making her Las Vegas debut – but really, it’s all mainly an excuse for endless boob jokes. If you’re a fan of trashy eighties cinema or the humour of Pee-Wee Herman and John Waters, this is the Halloween movie of your (wet) dreams! 

Sextette (1978) – 23 November 2016

This month we’re really scraping the barrel with perhaps the WORST film we’ve screened to date – Mae West’s infamous final film Sextette (1978)! Think of it as an unintended camp classick – or a freaky Diane Arbus photograph come to life! Bewigged, carefully shot in ultra-soft-focus, virtually immobile and never making eye contact with any of her co-stars, West frequently looks like she has been mummified or taxidermied. Just how nuts was West? When West and [Timothy]Dalton duet on the Captain and Tennille soft rock hit “Love Will Keep Us Together” (did I mention Sextette is a musical?), West insisted the original lyric “young and beautiful / someday your looks will be gone” be changed to “young and beautiful / your looks will never be gone!” Gasp in astonishment at the mind-boggling Sextette – one of the most wildly misjudged films ever made! See the movie that made The New York Times declare, “Granny should have her mouth washed out with soap, along with her teeth!"

Christen Christmas party season 2016 on a sweaty, desperate note – at Lobotomy Room! When we transform the Polynesian-style basement Bamboo Lounge of Dalston’s premiere Art Deco vice den Fontaine’s into Santa’s grotto! Friday 2 December! For the final festive and boozy Lobotomy Room of 2016, we’re combining the film club and the dance party! COME for the FREE screening of the most kitschy and campy of all seasonal TV specials – Pee-Wee Herman’s 1988 Playhouse Christmas Special! Watch agog as bow-tied perverse brat Pee-Wee welcomes a mind-boggling cavalcade of super star special guests to his playhouse - including queer favourites Grace Jones, Little Richard, Cher, Joan Rivers, Charo, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Oprah Winfrey and kd lang!

And so we conclude by coming full circle with Pee-Wee Herman. (His Christmas special is an annual festive tradition! Sadly, I’ve deduced from bitter experience that both Pee-Wee and Elvira – for me, beloved cult idols – just aren’t that well-known or appreciated in London judging by the tepid responses to the Halloween and Christmas screenings. And I blew a lot of money promoting these! For the most part, Brits – especially the millennials – just don’t know who they are!).

So - who knows what 2017 holds for Lobotomy Room Goes the Movies? The first film club of the New Year will be Wednesday 25 January and the title is yet to be determined. (An announcement will follow soon!). Some potential clues for upcoming selections: John Waters – the Peoples’ Pervert, revered Filth Elder and a holy religious figure for Lobotomy Room – celebrates his birthday in April. And June 2017 represents the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Lobotomy Room’s patron saint, definitive doomed Hollywood Babylon starlet Jayne Mansfield (19 April 1933 - 29 June 1967). You’d better believe we’re going to commemorate that! Suffice to say, I’ll be endeavouring to excavate more cinematic curios and oddities to titillate and corrupt! Follow me on Facebook here and/or here to keep informed.

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