Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The New Line Files: Midnight Madness

As noted in the intro, New Line began its life as your average, everyday independent film distributor with re-releases of dubbed foreign films but it really found success in midnight screenings of cult movies.

 One of the all time great bad movies, Reefer Madness is a supremely silly propaganda piece from the 30's about pot and its effect on the youth of America. Initially made by a church group, this ended up on the exploitation circuit in the 30's and went unseen until the early 70's when New Line got a hold of it in 1973 and began midnight screenings. It made them a ton of money and is still probably one of the funnier anti-drug films ever made.

Whilst Reefer Madness is fairly easy to enjoy as a comedy, the other three movies I want to cover are more of a gut-punch experience in different ways.

 Nearly 50 years later and George Romero's debut film is still an effective sledgehammer of a horror film. The first "zombie apocalypse" movie, this came out at just the right time during the most turbulent part of the sixties, 1968. Amidst all the chaos and strife of the year (it really says something about how bad that year sucked that most of the positive highlights for that year were found on the big screen). In its own way, the film perfectly encapsulates everything people were pissed off about during that time: race issues, war, probably somewhere a guy watched this and thought to himself "Boy, if only my annoying brother would get eaten by zombies"

Reviewing the movie seems somewhat redundant (I'm certain every movie review site on the net has at least indicated an opinion about this one) so I'll just nod towards every rave review this film has ever gotten and say "Yeah, pretty much."

Though I'll always love Dawn of the Dead more. Just saying. The original is more of a gut punch, however. New Line handled the 1978 re-release, appropriately enough since Dawn came out the same year..

Speaking of gut punch horror experiences, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre! Tobe Hooper really delivered one of the strongest 70's horror films ever with this sparse, minimalist yet really unsettling proto-slasher about some kids who run afoul of a deranged killers in the middle of nowhere. Apart from the first sequel, it really never got better than this for the franchise with its deliberate pacing at the start (Leatherface doesn't show up until about 36 minutes into the 83 minute running time) and intense final third. It still works pretty well today, the lack of really seeing anything gory (plenty of implied stuff though and there is blood here and there throughout) giving it an almost novel feel when set against the stuff released now.

Unless I'm mistaken, New Line handled the re-releases in 1980, 1981 and 1983. They would also have the rights to the franchise starting with the third film and ending a few years ago.

Lastly is Pink Flamingos*, probably the ultimate John Waters bad taste comedy. Waters is one of the more successful independent filmmakers of all time with a string of endearingly disgusting films in the 70's and some lighter fare in the late 80's/early 90's. To describe this movie adequately, I'd have to take my personal standard of keeping things family friendly and flush it down the toilet. Let's just say that it has just about every single politically incorrect, perverse, generally disgusting thing you can imagine with the exception of somebody ordering lettuce on a breakfast sandwich. Pretty sure that'll get you snuffed in Baltimore.

*I wasn't able to actually watch this but I will cover one or two Waters flicks later on in the series.

New Line really made a good start for itself going this route. They would continue to pick and choose their stuff pretty carefully for the most part into the 80's, a practice that would eventually get them a decent degree of success.

Stay tuned for more New Line goodness.

No comments:

Post a Comment

About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.