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Surviving Cinema - 'Maniac'

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Holy crap, it's already the end of November?  It feels like 2010 just got started.  November has been a strange month.  This is the first full month of this year that I've spent without Ratline post-production dominating my schedule, and this completes the first full month I've spent in my new working environment, having moved Wicked Pixel Cinema HQ out of our old building on Alaska Avenue last month.

I finally edited the first preview trailer for Ratline, which will premiere closer to Christmas (because, of course, Ratline really is good, wholesome, family Christmastime entertainment).  I'll announce when and where you can see the trailer right here and via Twitter first. 

Also this month, I put the final touches on the Stake Land Behind-The-Scenes documentary - so that project is done, unless the producers request additional changes.

Trevor Williams, who wore multiple hats on the production of Ratline (primarily the heavy and headache-inducing hat of production designer) has switched gears to create the behind-the-scenes documentary that will go on the Ratline DVD.  He shot interviews of me and actor DJ Vivona for the documentary around the middle of November.  He will be editing on that project throughout December.

November 17th was my birthday, and the Wicked Pixel Cinema gang threw me a booze-fueled wing-ding.  It was a nice distraction from my workload.  The party was a fairly low-key event.  No drunken fools running naked through the streets... I know - boring.  Actually, it was a welcome and enjoyable night off, spent with great friends.  At the end of the night we watched Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, which I had not yet seen.  (Thank you Jim Wayer and Jason Christ for hosting the shin-dig, and thank you Emily Haack for setting up the whole event!)

To cap November off, a group of us went to the Destroy The Brain! monthly Late Nite Grindhouse show at the Hi-Pointe theater in St. Louis.  Once a month, Destroy The Brain! presents a cult film and a grindhouse trailer reel to deviant late night theatergoers like us.  The evening usually comes complete with prize giveaways for lucky members of the audience.  In the case of many of the cult films presented, including Maniac, the Late Nite Grindhouse shows serve as the first-ever theatrical screenings of the films in St. Louis.  Learn more here.

This month's feature was a newly struck 35mm print of William Lustig's dark and gritty Maniac.  Most of the people in my group had never seen this classic before, which was surprising to me. 

While Maniac (1980) has its hardcore fans, I still consider it an underrated entry in the late 70s / early 80s slasher boom.  Because Lustig chose to make the movie more grim, sleazy, and creepy than the more campy slashers of the era, it was not well received by horror fans initially - probably because the somber tone was so unexpected.  But Joe Spinell's unsettling performance makes the film work much better than your average stalk 'n' slash.  And many film fans place Maniac right up there with Taxi Driver among the films that best capture the dank, seedy atmosphere of 1970s New York.  Plus, there is fx artist and actor Tom Savini's spectacular death scene.  That one really sucker-punched those in the audience who had not seen the film before! 

Seeing the movie, projected from a 35mm print in an old theater, was a blast.  Another welcome break in my often overwhelming workload.  Sometimes it does me a lot of good to step away from being a filmmaker and just be a fan.

Thanks for reading.

-Eric Stanze

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