Synopsis: From The Rocky Horror Picture Show to The Big Lebowski and everything in between, this fascinating deep-dive documentary begins its celebration of the greatest cult movies of all-time discussing the birth of the midnight movie.
Stars: Jeff Bridges, Pam Grier, Rob Reiner, Barry Bostwick, Michael McKean, John Turturro, Gary Busey, Jeff Goldblum, Fran Drescher, Penelope Spheeris, Peter Bogdanovich, Joe Dante, John Waters, Illeana Douglas, Kevin Pollak
Director: Danny Wolf
Running Length: 105 minutes
TMMM Score: (8/10)
Review: I don’t know about you but all this #StayHome #StayHealthy quarantine life has gotten me pretty nostalgic on the film front. While I’m still enjoying being able to screen the newer releases that are coming through digitally, my work desk faces a wall of movies and I can’t help but let my eyes drift throughout the day to favorite classic films of mine. There’s my Criterion BluRay of Blood Simple nestled in close proximity to a well-watched DVD copy of Captain Ron. Joe Versus the Volcano is being shuffled around to make room for the newly acquired 4K of Knives Out. And did I really mess up my alphabetizing and put my old DVD of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow before Shout Factor’s Collector’s Edition of Serial Mom? For shame.
Now, these aren’t all classic films (to some) but they may be that one flick for others that ranks high on the re-watchability scale…but how does a film earn the legendary “cult” status? That’s the question posed at the beginning of the first volume in Time Warp: The Great Cult Films of All-Time, a new documentary that aims to cover the oft-mentioned movies that started small and got big over time, and maybe perhaps uncover a few gems film fans have forgotten over the years. While subsequent volumes will cover the horror (Volume 2, out in May) and comedy (Volume 3, out in June) genres, this first entry corrals the true pick of the litter, the Midnight Madness titles that stand out as exemplars of the moniker.
Beginning with the granddaddy of all midnite movies, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, audiences will be treated to interviews with cast, crew, and fans talking about the origin, initial reaction, and staying power of the film over the last four decades. While it’s all fairly standard stuff and nothing anyone with even marginal information about the show likely wouldn’t know, there’s a marked energy among all (and all interviewees throughout the doc, come to think of it) that doesn’t make it seem like the warmed over info it is. Maybe that’s due to the fact that while the movies aren’t treated as high art, again and again their vital importance in the zeitgeist is stressed so if you do happen to count a movie like Eraserhead as better than Citizen Kane, no one involved with this production is going to judge you for it.
Some of the other titles covered are The Big Lebowski, a good example of a movie that isn’t for everyone yet has amassed enough of an audience over time to push it into cult status; Pink Flamingos, the John Waters tale of comic debauchery that definitely isn’t for everyone…dogs included; and Coffy and Foxy Brown, two Blaxploitation films that put star Pam Grier on the map. Each come with their own groupings of supporters that detail why the films had such significance then and how their influence was important over the ensuing years. Another dozen films are discussed in some detail with countless others mentioned in passing – it would be hard for any viewer to not hear at least one of their personal favorites tossed around at some point.
It doesn’t surprise me to learn that director Danny Wolf and the distributor are planning on breaking apart all three volumes further to create an extended TV mini-series because why else would we need a quartet of color commentators awkwardly set-up in a studio to chat about their personal favorite films between segments? Don’t get me wrong, I’d have welcomed Illeana Douglas (Cape Fear) and John Waters (Cry Baby) to serve as the de facto hosts but I just didn’t understand where director Joe Dante (Matinee) or actor/comedian Kevin Pollak (Indian Summer) fit in at the end of the day or what they really brought to the proceedings. (I’ve watched two of the three volumes at the time of this writing). That said, some of the people they do interview are quite entertaining, none more so than director Penelope Spheeris who appears to talk about her landmark documentary The Decline of Western Civilization. Dressed all in black with sunglasses on, she is an active and engaging participant but is the kind of straight shooter that guffaw-inducing sound-bites were made of.
I’ll hold off on more of my thoughts for the next two volumes but as a first entry, Midnight Madness is a swell introduction into Wolf’s look into a fun side of movie history. Providing some cinematic comfort food while we’re all hunkered down, Time Warp: The Great Cult Films of All-Time, is well-worth a look and an easy, entertaining watch.