THE big news for adventurous movie lovers this week is surely the return of the SCAD Savannah Film Festival. The 2019 installment of that major, seven-day, star-studded competition and showcase of buzzworthy, soon-to-be-released international feature films and short subjects (along with plenty of informative and educational roundtable discussions) kicks off on Saturday, Oct. 26.
As usual, it promises a valuable and unique vantage point on narrative, documentary and even experimental, non-commercial film, and I highly encourage all who can attend at least one of the dozens of screenings in this year’s festival to do so.
While most of the high-profile evening screenings are already sold out, the truth is that many of the most interesting movies (as well as the ones which are least likely to ever play our market at regular multiplexes) are actually programmed during the daytime. That means there are often plenty of seats to be had for those shows, and tickets cost a bit less, to boot.
You can find the full schedule at savannahboxoffice.com, and order tickets online there as well.
However, if you’re willing to drive, bike, walk or rideshare down to the Trustees Theater Box Office, you can purchase tickets or passes in person and save a bundle on online or phone order service charges.
Check out the advance articles on the SSFF in this issue, and look for additional advance pieces and comprehensive, regularly updated coverage of the event from myself and other fine members of this paper’s staff throughout the week at connectsavannah.com.
Now, let’s take a gander at all the alternative cinematic happenings taking place over the next seven days or so which are not related to the wonder that is the SSFF...
On October 23, the award-winning Psychotronic Film Society’s long-running Wednesday night coffeehouse series of overlooked or underappreciated feature films from around the world continues at the Sentient Bean on the Southern end of Forsyth Park. In honor of Halloween, this month they’re showing nothing but forgotten horror and thriller films. That night, they’ll screen the mesmerizing 1975 romantic horror-fantasy “The Reincarnation of Peter Proud.”
The tale of a man plagued by recurring nightmares that he comes to fear may be long-buried memories of a previous life, it languished in almost total obscurity after a brief theatrical run, and is almost completely unknown to this day – despite being directed by the British filmmaker behind the original, Savannah-shot “Cape Fear” and the classic military epic “The Guns of Navarone.”
The following week, on Oct. 30, the PFS will show ultra-rare 1983 “folk horror” gem “Eyes of Fire,” which has never been released on DVD or for digital streaming in the USA. Notably, unlike most examples of the folk horror genre, “Eyes of Fire” is not set in the U.K., but rather in pre-U.S. wild West of 1750. The multi-faceted plot involves pagan witchcraft, polygamy and Native American superstition Now’s your chance to see it on the big screen, as its creators intended.
Both of the aforementioned Bean screenings take place at 8 p.m., with that restaurant’s award-winning vegetarian and vegan menu available, and discounts on craft beer and organic wine.
On Oct. 24 out near the beach, the Tybee Post Theater presents a one-show-only revival of Roman Polanski’s bona fide psychological horror classic “Rosemary’s Baby,” starring Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes. One of the eeriest occult-oriented dramas ever released by a major studio )in this case, Paramount Pictures), this tale of a young NYC woman’s pregnancy and the strange attraction her unborn baby holds for an odd group of her and her husband’s acquaintances was nominated for two Academy Awards (supporting actress Ruth “Maude” Gordon took home the Oscar for her portrayal as a conniving neighbor), and was named the ninth greatest American horror movie of all time by the American Film Institute.
Produced by the iconic suspense producer, writer and director William Castle, it deserves to be seen at least once in a dark and quiet theater. 7 p.m. showtime, and admission price includes your choice of beer, wine, or soft drink.
That same night, the restored, historic Mars Theatre in Springfield, Ga. (about a 35 minute drive from downtown Savannah), which is similar in size and approach to the Tybee Post, begins a n extended booking of “Downton Abbey,” the debut feature-film spinoff from the beloved British TV period drama of the same name. Picking up after the end of that show’s sixth season, it boasts many of the series’ stars and focuses on the ins and outs and ups and downs of a fictional clan of English aristocrats bearing the surname Crawley.
So far, this picture is raking it in at the box office, and its success bodes well for a sequel, if not an ongoing post-series film franchise. 7 p.m. showtimes on Oct. 24, 25 and 31, plus Nov. 1 and 2, with matinees at 12 p.m. on Oct. 26 and 3 p.m. on Oct. 27.
Heading back into town, on Oct. 25, local film organization Cinema Savannah (which specializes in one-show-only engagements of first-run foreign and independent features) offers the regional non-theatrical premiere of the 2018 German/Austrian thriller “Styx,” directed and co-written by Wolfgang Fischer.
This “unrelentingly intense” tale of a middle-aged female emergency room doctor whose dream of sailing a boat from Gibraltar to a small island in the Atlantic is irrevocably altered by her discovery of a damaged fishing boat overflowing with refugees that is in desperate need of life-or-death assistance.
“Styx” swept the international film festival circuit, racking up scores of major awards for its technical execution and the high caliber of the performances of its cast – most notably its female lead Susanne Wolff. However, outside of a few stateside festival screenings, I do not believe it ever received any sort of official cinematic release here domestically.
This is likely your only chance to ever see it on the big screen here. In spoken German, with English subtitles. 6:30 p.m.
And last but not least, as is the case on the last Sunday of every month, The Look Back, the area’s only dedicated Queer Cinema series, takes place at the Savannah LGBT Center near the Starland District.
Co-curated by yours truly and local drag performer and community activist Max Arnzen (of the House of Gunt), The Look Back aims to spotlight memorable, notable examples of LGBTQ-oriented filmmaking in all genres – providing locals and visitors alike the opportunity to have perspectives broadened through the magic of cinema.
Since Halloween is on everyone’s minds this month, we’re offering an extraordinarily rare public viewing of “Miss Leslie’s Dolls,” an ultra-low-budget Florida-made “transvestite horror” flick from 1973 that was believed completely lost for almost 40 years before it was resurrected and shown in a British cinema in 2009.
Essentially a queer version of an “old dark house” thriller, in which a group of naive yet sexually active young people take shelter at a creepy, remote old mansion in the middle of the night and soon fall prey to whatever malevolent forces or creatures lurk within (think “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”), it’s a gloriously inept movie packed with amateurish acting, ridiculous dialog and an odd twist on what would otherwise be a fairly hackneyed plot. It also boasts an, ahem, “impressive” turn by Charles Pitts, who’d later play a featured role in Russ Meyer’s 1975 jiggle-fest “Suprvixens.”
One reviewer opined that “Miss Leslie’s Dolls” might best be described as resembling what 1975’s cult sex farce “Thundercrack!” might have looked like if it had been directed by “Plan 9 from Outer Space” auteur Ed Wood, Jr., and that’s a fairly apt description of this mesmerizingly weird and queer oddity.
If this sounds like your kind of movie, it is. 7 p.m. showtime, with free admission and free popcorn, candy and soft drinks for everyone (voluntary donations are always appreciated). Join The Look Back’s private Facebook group at facebook.com/groups/2296346350647094/ for advance info on all their upcoming screenings.
Until next week, see you at the movies, be kind to those around you and don’t forget to turn off that cell phone.
Jim Reed directs the Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah.