Music Box Sci-Fi Spectacular 2
by Jef Burnham
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On Saturday, May 10, 2008, the Music Box Theater in Chicago once again opened its doors to those fanboys and girls with $20 and the endurance to sit through 14 hours of classic science fiction cinema. With host Rusty Nails and special guest, Mary Woronov (Death Race 2000, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School), we couple hundred fanatics sat glued to the big screen as noon blurred into 2:30 AM.
For those of us who have survived one of the Music Box’s 24-hour Horror Movie Massacre, which takes place every October, the 14-hour marathon is far more manageable. Whereas the Massacre sees a lot of people passing out in their seats at about 3:30 AM, the crowd on the 10th was able to remain attentive, screaming and applauding every time a character was thrown over the railing of a ship, run over by a speeding automobile or decimated by the destructive power of one robotic police officer’s handgun. The level of excitement generated by this kind of audience is rare, and keeps my wife, my friends and myself returning to the Music Box for every event.
Let’s not forget the great guests, who take to the stage for an interview with Rusty and often hang around afterwards to chat with fans. At the Winter Massacre, for instance, there was a Friday the 13th cast reunion the first night, plus Robert Englund (who I shouldn’t have to remind you played Freddy Krueger) and Ray Wise (Leland Palmer from Twin Peaks) the second night. Mary Woronov was a great sport and remains an inspiringly independent woman, humbled though she was by her uproarious reception from the audience. During the interview portion, she talked all about working with Roger Corman and the virtually unknown Sylvester Stallone on Death Race 2000, and explained how it was that she became involved in the Andy Warhol scene and danced onstage for The Velvet Underground.
The 7 films ran as follows:
Island of Lost Souls (1932, starring Charles Laughton as H.G. Wells’ Dr. Moreau)
Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (A Ray Harryhausen classic)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (The original 1956 version)
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Death Race 2000 (followed up by the interview with Mary Woronov)
The Road Warrior
The prints of these films were all fantastic, with the exception of Death Race 2000, but truthfully, I prefer my Death Race gritty and grainy. Any sort of wear you may see on this film only enhances the experience. The last time I saw Death Race at the Music Box, it was mysteriously subtitled in what I believe to be German, or one of the Germanic languages. Also, the print of The Road Warrior showed the film’s title as Mad Max 2. I was very happy to see that.
Though I had seen the 1978 and the 1993 versions, this was my first viewing of the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and I’m very glad I put it off, as it was an incredible experience in the theater. Island of Lost Souls, which I had also never seen, was a fantastic film, and I would like to delve into it deeper here, but I’m afraid I’d never shut up. Earth vs. the Flying Saucers was the only film that even slightly dragged, which is impressive for a marathon of this length. It was a bit sluggish and over-explanatory at times, as science fiction films from that era tend to be, but the Harryhausen effects of flying saucers crashing into national monuments more than compensated for that.
Finally, I have to comment on the impeccable scheduling of the seven films. Each film was faster and more exciting than the last, picking up momentum and peaking at The Road Warrior, then leveling out with Robocop—the ending of which made for a wholly satisfying wrap to the event.
Jef Burnham is a writer and film critic living in Chicago.
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