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Premieres & Events

'An Important Cinema!': The Pioneer Brings the Mayhem In October

Despite my previous encounter last year with Dr. Reinhardt van Nostrand -- horror aficionado, scholar of the undead and possible nom de plume of someone closely associated with the Pioneer Theater -- I totally forgot what to expect when I went down to meet him a while back at the East Village venue. I recalled our meeting might occur in a pitch-black theater (it did), I might get stuck listening to tapes of some rambling satanic ritual cranked on the speakers (check) and that whoever it is under that wash of darkness hates it when I am late.

Bill Plympton's Hair High screens Oct. 18-25 as part of the Pioneer Theater's month-long horror program (Photo: Plympton Studio)

"I am very tired," said van Nostrand, in town as part of his nominal duties programming the Pioneer's annual October binge of blood, gore, giggles and chills. He mentioned recent stays in Sitges, Spain, and Iraq before recounting rushing off to study President Bush, whom Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez had just referred to as "the devil." Upon returning to New York for his month-long film series, he went into catch-up mode with the calendar. "As you know, I did not just want a program of what are typically called 'horror movies,' " he said. "It is 'horror, terror and general mayhem.' Though the horror programs certainly are a major part."

Among the cross-genre highlights of this year's series, van Nostrand cited the "very significant" stop-motion scarer Blood Tea and Red String, tonight's never-before-seen director's cut of Harry Kümel's Daughters of Darkness (with the filmmaker in attendance, all the way from Belgium) and a wicked little no-budget number called Frankenstein's Bloody Nightmare.

"It is by a young man named John R. Hand, who is 20 or 21 years old and who is himself Dr. Karlstein," van Nostrand croaked in his matter-of-fact, Lugosi-meets-Lowenbrau drawl. "It was shot mostly on Super-8 with very little money -- with as little money, I suppose, as you can have while still shooting and developing on Super-8. And we are very proud to have discovered this film, which I think will be a revelation to many. He is a very talented artist. The important Web site Twitchfilm has compared him to Shinya Tsukamoto, the Japanese filmmaker. There is perhaps some truth to that. But there are many truths, and I think this will be a powerful film for many people from many different perspectives. It has nothing going for it in terms of promotion to an audience. It is, however a dark and powerful film."

The doctor noted his program's neo-silent films, including The Listening Dead and the adults-only Humoresque (described as "D.W. Griffith with some kind of perversity," which sounds much funnier when he says it). He also emphasized the selection of a contemporary sound remake of one of cinema's most famous silents, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. "In the genre world -- or better said, the world of the documentation of paranormal activities -- 'remake' is a dangerous term. 'Remake' often means 'shitmake.' That is not the case with the new Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. This is a strong film -- a powerful film. And the wiles and danger of Dr. Caligari continue."

There is also some New York star power planned for the month, with Bill Plympton set for a week-long run of his film Hair High; he will be in attendance at each screening and promises an original Plympton sketch to every ticketed audience member. Later, hipster-porn princess ("a talented woman from Brooklyn," the doctor clarifies) Joanna Angel is expected to return to the Pioneer for an encore screening of The XXXorcist, which, according to van Nostrand, can only improve after 2005's near-riot.

"Hopefully this year she will wear more clothes when she comes," van Nostrand said. "It was difficult to keep people out and to keep the streets calm afterward. We endured, but they are not a friendly crowd." So why rebook? I asked. "Because it is an important cinema!" he shouted. "The XXXorcist shows other dangerous manifestations of demons and shows an important and previously undocumented method of exorcism, which is to fuck the hell out of the possessed. It is important that the world knows about this."

And then there's the annual all-night séance of witchcraft and warlock movies on Oct. 28: a six-film marathon featuring the other Kim Novak/Jimmy Stewart classic Bell Book and Candle, Vincent Price's The Haunted Palace and four other titles for $25. The catch: It's a séance. You can't leave. Not that you'd want to. Van Nostrand also notes the appearance of filmmaker Jeff Lieberman at the Oct. 30 screening of his 1976 electric-worm opus Squirm, at which audience participation is highly encouraged. "We are expecting a radical reaction from the audience, many of whom know the film very, very well," the doctor said. "And we expect we will have to clean up quite a bit afterward."

Posted at October 2, 2006 2:11 PM

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