John Carpenter Film Festival
The first major Los Angeles retrospective of Carpenter’s work, featuring screenings and conversations with genre master John Carpenter!
Egyptian Theatre 6712 Hollywood Boulevard
26th 2002 was a windy and cool mid-winter day in Hollywood, California. The threat of
rain grew steadily but would not unleash its torrent until the following morning.
Out front of the Egyptian Theatre the crowd gathered quickly and a long
line formed east along the Hollywood Boulevard 'Walk of Fame'. This was
the second night of the John Carpenter Film Festival and, in my opinion as
well as many others, the biggest night featuring the best films. Up for screening was "The
Thing", "Halloween" and "The Fog",
arguably three of Carpenter's best films.
Ahmed cruising down Hollywood Boulevard.
Eventually we all got seated together in great seats up in the balcony. The Egyptian Theater was a sight to see indeed. The outdoor foyer was lined with tall palms and statues reminiscent of Egypt. It looked great at night and the interior of the auditorium was equally as impressive. The screen was large, seats and aisles plush. A nice venue to view your fave film indeed. I noted the chairs down on the small stage in front of the screen and knew JC would be seated there following the film. Although the balcony held the best seats for viewing a film they weren’t optimal to ask a question during a possible Q&A session. After a brief introduction of the Festival and the night’s films by the Egyptian staff who was hosting this event we were ready to roll "The Thing", but not before Universal was publicly thanked for letting the Egyptian Theater use a print of "The Thing" for this Festival. Thanks Universal!!
I’d like to write a bit about the films themselves. First up was "The Thing" We all know the beginning so well and the opening frame is a tell-tale shot as to the quality of this film. It is a black screen with the white lettering A UNIVERSAL PICTURE. I knew immediately it wasn’t a new print. The film held a distinctly pink hue, the natural deterioration of the color over time. Although not distracting, nor does it take away at all from the film it was interesting to note the print was an older one from 1982. But in fantastic shape for a 20 year old print. Still I’d like to see a re-print of "The Thing". It would be nice to have a newly struck print as they did for "Halloween", which from the opening shot you could tell it was new. It was a smooth, sharp, and brightly colored picture, free of any scratches or faults. The Egyptian had screened "Halloween" previously with Jamie Lee Curtis in attendance and (arguably) it is no surprise "Halloween" is a more popular film than "The Thing". Which explains why they would run off a new print for public screenings. I’m not a huge fan of "Halloween" or Carpenter’s other work. Repeat viewings of "Halloween" tend to be a little slow. (On the flip-side yet again "The Thing" flew by in what seemed mere minutes.) After an intermission "The Fog" was up. Although admittedly I was quite tired and ‘nodded off’ a couple of times I enjoyed the Hell out of this screening of "The Fog". A great low budget horror flick, it is seriously creepy. The print of "The Fog" unfortunately was not in the greatest shape. It was faded, skipped and had two or three bright green emulsion scratches running through certain reels. Celluloid does not hold up well against its most lethal enemy -time. "The Fog" was a great show all the same, a real rare treat to see big screen.
*Although I was not in attendance for the "Escape From New York" screening I’ve heard that the film snapped about 30 mins. into the screening and there was a minor delay, although no one complained. These are old prints and problems arise.
The opening credits to "The Thing" brought much applause. Rob Bottin, Kurt Russell, and finally John Carpenter got the loudest claps. And then the film began. The Egyptian Theater holds about 650 seats and it was a full house for "The Thing". (By the third film of the evening "The Fog" this had dwindled by about a third.) It was very interesting to know that it was a good bet the entire audience was on a repeat viewing of "The Thing", if not like myself a serious fan. Everyone enjoyed the film and the applause at the end was fantastic. However this screening was far different from my last. They were at opposite ends of the spectrum. This viewing was a fun ride full of laughs at many humorous parts. The audience made me see humor where I had not seen in it before, or in that light. I personally find "The Thing" a very spooky film, and while I can’t speak for everyone in the audience I’m going to say nobody was scared by the film on this run. Now, they did not laugh at inappropriate scenes. Please don’t get me wrong. Dogtown, Bennings, Norris, and Palmer scenes had people dead quiet and glued to the screen. (During these highlight scenes I quickly scanned the faces of people in the crowd around me and all eyes were wide and locked on the screen.) These scenes brought no laughs. Rob Bottin and his FX Crew had succeeded in their work that would still be as equally effective two decades later. Bravo.
I personally see little humor even in what may be seen as funny scenes in "The Thing" due to the foreboding atmosphere. It overpowers any urge to see light in it for me. It was interesting to see the humorous side of scenes like Clark and Palmer’s lines, Palmer’s entire character and even Blair’s character. One scene the audience laughed hard at was during the end of the blood test when Nauls tests negative we have a cut and now Nauls is suddenly aiming the torch rather than on the receiving end. I never saw humor in this but I guess it can be funny. To say again this viewing was a fun enjoyable ride, a rare experience to view the film with hundreds of others in attendance. But for me "The Thing" is a dark, apocalyptic horror film, intense and frightening. A series of nightmare scenarios you dare not imagine becoming a part of. It scares me and scares me good. I’d rather watch this film alone, in the dark, getting lost in the terror at Outpost #31 and spook myself silly.
Note: The Egyptian Theater does not allow photos to be taken inside the theatre and at JC’s request there was no signings for an autograph or photo. More thoughts on this later.
“It seemed to me that the 80’s was a time of great body awareness, body anxiety. In Western culture there was the Jane Fonda Work-Out, everybody wanted to start running again and get healthy. We were all worried about our bodies. So I thought, why not rip the fuck out of it?” ~John Carpenter discussing "The Thing"
"Well I really don't know...the last good offer I had was in pornography, so who knows?" ~John Carpenter contemplating his future.
screening of "The Thing" the host for the evening welcomed John
Carpenter to thunderous applause. John came out, all very casual in manner
and dress, and waved to the audience. John was interviewed by the host and
asked a number of run-of-the-mill questions pertaining to "The
Thing". If you have followed most interviews and writings regarding
JC and "The Thing" it was all covered before. I don’t recall
all the questions but they were pretty standard. John also mentioned that
Jed the Norwegian dog has also since departed us. John praised the dog's
acting ability as he did on the DVD Commentary. John also revealed his
dislike of CGI saying "It just looks fake, it doesn't look
real," using examples from the recent films "The Mummy
Returns" and "Harry Potter". John stated a scene in
"Harry Potter" would have looked much better and more real had
they used special FX instead of computer generated imaging. The
interview/discussion was about 15 to 20 minutes and then they were going
to take some questions from the audience. Being up in the balcony I knew
this was going to be challenging and it took many attempts of "One up
here!" before finally being chosen. But to back up a step I was
planning to ask the question we all wanted to know…just whose shadow was
on the wall?? John was answering the questions pretty quickly (actually to
be honest he was quite curt with them) and didn’t really go into detail.
Most of the questions people asked could easily have been answered by the
DVD and/or reading interviews with John in magazines like Creative
Screenwriting and Fangoria. Of course he was tormented with the "What
about a sequel?" and he answered by recommending the comics (someone
from the audience helped him out shouting Dark Horse). John said the
comics would make an excellent sequel except but it would cost $200
million dollars to make. He didn’t seem keen on any sequel ideas and
said if it was made today it would be a bunch of teen-agers running around
in the Bahamas fighting the Thing. Well guess what the question was right
before I was chosen? Yup, whose shadow was on the wall? John replied very
quickly (it was neither Palmer or Norris but an anonymous person) and then
onto the guy up in the balcony.
If I could go back I’d change my question and ask John about the upcoming video game. No one brought that up, but what can you do? John came out again after a brief intermission again before "Halloween". He spoke about that film and even gave directions to the Myers house used in the film which was about only 10 mins. from the Egyptian Theater. (Regrets I don’t recall the directions and address…driving in L.A. is a not fun and I can’t recall how many times I got lost and had to turn around.) There was no question and answer period for "Halloween" and John departed just prior to the screening.
"I'm terribly sorry about my business partners churning out sequel after fucking sequel. It's fine by me because I get paid every time they make one." ~John Carpenter discussing "Halloween"
With my girlfriend Moon urging me we returned to the lobby after John finished talking after "The Thing". We didn’t come all the way to California to not make an extra effort to meet John face-to-face. I had the site outpost31.com address ready to hand to him. We came into the lobby and John was just standing there with maybe only 4 or 5 people around him. We hurried across the lobby to John’s side and waited for an opportunity to speak with him. The staff member who was onstage conducting the interviews with John came up and said "Sorry guys, no autographs or photos at his request". John then quickly turned away and left the lobby. I remained cool with this guy and asked him to pass along the web site info to Carpenter. He said he’d give it to John’s assistant.
I was disappointed to see John was making no effort to meet his fans, in fact turning away from them. At this event the first major retrospective of Carpenter’s work with him present I felt he should have put a little more effort into it. I hate to write this but after discussing it with my girlfriend I’m not going to sugarcoat anything. I may also be biased as I traveled quite a distance in hopes of meeting John. I know the Egyptian has stated that they have had problems with signings in the past and didn’t encourage them. It would be great to have an opportunity to have met John for an autograph and possibly a picture but if not at a John Carpenter Film Festival then when/where? I got mixed feelings from this event and I'll leave off with a statement from John himself to wrap it up as best I can; "Hey man, I'm on vacation!"
NOTE: You can catch a clip of JC greeting the audience from this screening on the Special Edition DVD of "The Fog" at the end of the documentary "Tales From The Mist - Inside The Fog"!!
All in all the entire trip to L.A. was great, the Carpenter Festival was only the Saturday night. We did a ton of things from visiting Venice Beach, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, touring live sets at Universal Studios and driving up the hills overlooking Hollywood and downtown L.A. to viewing a taping of Jay Leno. If anyone caught the show on Monday January 28th we were front row and center and I was the first person Jay shook hands with when he came out. (See pics below!) I've always liked Leno and his show and got more excited with this hour-long live taping than with John Carpenter! The shopping was super, I did manage to hunt down some new "The Thing" items for the Outpost #31 Collection & Archive which are now up in that section. L.A. was a great place to visit. Maybe one day we’ll go back!
"The Tonight Show" with
If anyone else was present at the screenings and has input to add please send it in. I don't recall all the details that went on and if I've missed anything important let me know. For more details of the JC Festival surf around, if you find any good links send them in too. Thanks!