Starz to Produce MIDNIGHT MOVIES Documentary

Originally Published: November 17, 2004

Starz Encore is producing an original documentary entitled MIDNIGHT MOVIES: FROM THE MARGIN TO THE MAINSTREAM, focusing on the phenomenon of 1970’s cult films, and the major continuing influence they have had on pop culture and society. The special, based on the book of the same name by noted film scholar and documentary filmmaker STUART SAMUELS (who produces and directs), is set to air on Encore in Summer 2005. Appearing in the documentary are directors JOHN WATERS of PINK FLAMINGOS fame, DAVID LYNCH, who directed ERASERHEAD, GEORGE ROMERO (NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD), A. JODOROWSKY (EL TOPO), PERRY HENZELL, director of THE HARDER THEY COME, featuring Reggae star JIMMY CLIFF and RICHARD O’BRIEN, who was the creator and star of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW. Encore will also present a series of “midnight movies” to accompany the special, including THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, PINK FLAMINGOS, and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD during the month.

The story begins over 30 years ago in the early 1970’s, which was a turning point in modern American culture. It marked a revolt and a revision of the dominant cultural values of the post-war world, driven clearly by the emergence of a worldwide youth culture. This shift in aesthetics and content is best represented by a handful of feature films made during the 1970’s that became known as “midnight movies.” MIDNIGHT MOVIES is the story of these films, and explores their content, their pop context and their influence by providing a unique historical and cultural window on that era. The documentary focuses on movies that re-invented the film medium while pushing the boundaries of bad taste and social taboos. These filmmakers shared a common desire to upset the traditional aspects of making films, taking filmmaking beyond the norm by making films for ritual viewing, not box office success.

According to the release from Starz, attending “midnight movies” became a social identifier, a badge of one’s intellect, a mark of a person’s cinematic sensibilities and cultural allegiance, a rite of passage for a whole youth generation in crisis. The groundbreaking edginess of these ’70s auteurs such as DAVID LYNCH, JOHN WATERS and GEORGE ROMERO have taken over our pop cultural mainstream, continuing to be a most influential force on up and coming filmmakers. As a result of the “midnight movie,” much of today’s movie audiences have come to accept the abnormal as normal, the bizarre as better, the grotesque as good, sexual diversity as fashionable, and the definition of sanity as relative.

STUART SAMUELS has produced and directed award winning documentaries such as VISIONS OF LIGHT: THE ART OF CINEMATOGRAPHY and HOLLYWOODISM: JEWS, MOVIES AND THE AMERICAN DREAM. Recent Starz Encore Entertainment originals exploring the world of films and filmmakers include SAM PECKINPAH’S WEST: LEGACY OF A HOLLWOOD RENEGADE and ART OF ACTION: MARTIAL ARTS IN THE MOVIES, which chronicled the history of martial arts in cinema.

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