Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream
Time Out says
Its story starts with Alejandro Jodorowsky’s brilliantly bonkers ‘El Topo’ (1970), which set the midnight movie template by unexpectedly settling into triumphant, dope-suffused residency at New York’s Elgin cinema. ‘Night of the Living Dead’ offered American audiences a more locally identifiable tranche of oppositional excitement that – like ‘Pink Flamingos’ – deployed shockingly coarse corporeal spectacle in the service of a militantly liberal sensibility. ‘The Harder They Come’, meanwhile, married political indignation to a sensationally popular musical form new to the US. We end with a couple of anomalies among such anomalous company: ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’, made by a major studio but only at home among the freaks, and ‘Eraserhead’, which is undoubtedly transgressive but not exactly a rollicking party of a picture.
Nodding at the scene’s revival of ’30s oddities and its influence on the later mainstream, ‘Midnight Movies’ leaves some tensions unexplored (could these screenings both hark back to committed ’60s activism and herald the ‘birth of irony’?) but shows a keen eye for practicalities. In many ways, it’s a document of a dying technology, a celluloid cottage industry whose means of production, distribution and exhibition are alien to today’s aspiring auteurs. Most of all, it’s a celebration of cinema-going as a ‘ritual experience or trip’, a communal adventure with no real equivalent in the exquisitely atomised YouTubeverse.