Buffalo is full of people helping to cultivate cinema and we want to celebrate those involved. The Cultivators is a new monthly feature in which we highlight individuals who are integral to the presentation, promotion and production of film here in the queen city.
THE CULTIVATORS #013
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
As compared to reality? No contest. Or so it seemed at the time, anyway.
As a kid I was fascinated by monster movies. There was always the unspoken promise that, if you could just sit through all the tedious plot and bad acting, you would be rewarded with the sight of something you could never otherwise have imagined. At least for a few seconds before the hero disposed of it.
This was before VHS or cable TV, so the only way to see them was every Friday night at 11:30 on WKBW’S Fright Night program, which showed all the classic Universal monster movies. It was also a treat any time the local theaters—the Bailey or the Genesee—brought in any Hammer movie, or at least one with Vincent Price.
From there it wasn’t much of a stretch out to other kinds of film. It helped that popular cinema seemed to be maturing just at the same time I was (late 1960s/early 70s).
I went to law school at Boston University. The reason I am not a lawyer today is that I spent more time going to the movies than I did studying. At the time (still pre-VHS), the Boston area had several repertory theaters, places that showed a different double feature every day. We never had anything like that in Buffalo—there were a few attempts, but they never caught on. It was an irresistible way to check out all kinds of films I had read about but had never been able to see, as well as movies I had never heard of but which had been selected by knowledgeable film professionals.
I had the sense to be born here. I left a few times to work in New York and south Florida (a spell with the National Enquirer when they were planning to publish a video magazine), but I’ve always come back.
More opportunities for communal film viewing. Of course, that would require a regular audience willing to go out to see movies, which is always a problem. I’ve always hoped that boutique operations like the Screening Room would catch on, but people have so many choices available in their living rooms that it’s hard to get them to brush their teeth, put on their shoes and venture out in public.
Sometimes I look at old newspaper ads and fantasize how it must have been to live in a time when there were theaters in every neighborhood and everyone went out to the movies at least a few times a week. Of course, people also smoked in theaters then, the seats weren’t very comfortable, all of the sound came out of one speaker behind the screen and decent projection was a matter of luck. Now we have movie theaters with comfortable recliner seating that provide blinding images and gut-churning sound, all to show you comic book movies.
Reading about movies is like dancing about architecture.
TOP TEN FILMS
I once got polled for a book asking, What 10 movies would you take to a desert island? I thought about it for a week, then told them that if I couldn’t take 20 movies I wasn’t going. And I was much younger then: in the intervening years I have discovered so many more films to add to the list.
To answer your question I spent a few minutes compiling a “first cut” list. It soon got to be impossible. How could I have only one Billy Wilder film and not most of the others? Any given Preston Sturges movie is wonderful, but so much better when you’ve spent a week watching all of them.
For what it’s worth, here’s as far as I got with the list before tossing up my hands in despair:
Film stills from left to right, top to bottom are Frankenstein, Vincent Price and Linda Hayden from Madhouse, and The Screening Room.