As Hollywood continues its obsession with sequels, prequels, spinoffs, remakes, and reboots, Tim Kirk has created a new niche with a fresh, and often demented, take on existing material.
A perfect example is DIRECTOR’S COMMENTARY: TERROR OF FRANKENSTEIN, a 2016 Other Worlds Austin Orbiter selection. Kirk directed and co-wrote this imaginative feature, utilizing the long-forgotten horror film TERROR OF FRANKENSTEIN (1977). Kirk’s brilliance is in creating a rich, convoluted, creepy, and utterly entertaining backstory to the making of the original film. The plot is revealed while watching a DVD of the film and listening to the commentary track. As the director and writer discuss the images on the screen, it becomes apparent that the horror behind the camera was far more disturbing than what was filmed.
DIRECTOR’S COMMENTARY: TERROR OF FRANKENSTEIN features Clu Gulager as the director of the 1977 original film who happily exploits the unmentioned tragedy linked to the film. The recording session of the commentary track unravels a mystery as he clashes with the screenwriter (Zack Norman) and, ultimately, its star (Leon Vitali from Stanley Kubrick's EYES WIDE SHUT, BARRY LYNDON) playing himself. DIRECTOR’S COMMENTARY: TERROR OF FRANKENSTEIN is MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 by way of Sartre, an icy satire of the monsters onscreen, behind the camera, and in the audience.
“I cannot begin to explain how brilliant this set up is,” says Bears Rebecca Fonté, OWA Founder and Artistic Director, “because as the writer and director discuss the film’s notoriety it becomes very clear that most people’s interest in the film stems not from what’s on screen, but from a series of gruesome murders and a lengthy public trial of one of the cast members. Bits of the story leak out as characters watch the film together, as well as old grudges and hints of blame. But it all starts very subtly, which is why it works so well. The audience is left to try to piece together what happened as they are asked to follow the placement and heaviness of a certain piece of prop luggage, which we later learn had parts of a dead body shoved in it.”
Kirk’s latest exercise in extreme meta-fictional tragicomedy is SEX MADNESS REVEALED, which makes its Texas premiere on Wednesday, September 19 as part of Other Worlds Austin Orbiter Series.
Starring Patton Oswalt and Rob Zabrecky, SMR takes the form of an audio commentary that plays out over the little known 1938 STD propaganda film SEX MADNESS. Patton (the voice of a persnickety film blogger) interviews the descendant of the original motion picture’s director who harbors a nefarious secret.
“Kirk has taken an old exploitation film that warns teens about the dangers of syphilis,” explains Dan Repp, OWA Senior Programmer and Event Director, “and added a commentary that tells a horrific and hilarious story of mad doctors, conspiracy theories, and the desperation of a filmmaker with a crooked agenda. Patton Oswalt delivers a memorable vocal performance as a film critic unraveling all the "truths" of the making of the film."
The experience for the viewer is an intoxicating brew: watching an unintentionally hilarious extended PSA from the 30s, while listening to the strange, gripping, and increasingly deranged story of the filmmaker, actors, and real people behind the scenes.
As with DIRECTOR’S COMMENTARY: TERROR OF FRANKENSTEIN, the scenes in SEX MADNESS REVEALED perfectly match the alternative narrative crafted by Kirk. At times, one has to remind oneself that the original film was never meant to undergo this kind of treatment. Luckily for us, Kirk unearthed this train wreck of propaganda and left us with a new cult classic.
One last ride on the Tim Kirk Experience is the “subjective” documentary ROOM 237, which Kirk produced in 2012. The film, directed by Rodney Ascher, explores numerous theories about the meaning of Stanley Kubrick's classic horror film THE SHINING (1980) and includes footage from the film and other Kubrick works, along with discussions by a number of Kubrick enthusiasts. The title refers to a room in the haunted hotel featured in THE SHINING, which a character is warned to never enter.
THE SHINING may be nearly 40 years old but it continues to inspire debate, speculation, and mystery. In ROOM 237, five very different points of view are illuminated through voice over, film clips, animation, and dramatic reenactments. Together they draw the audience into a new maze, one with endless detours and dead ends, many ways in, but no way out.
Once again, Tim Kirk finds a way to take an existing property (in this case, something everybody knows) and present it in an entirely new, imaginative, and entertaining way.
Please join us, and Tim Kirk, for the Texas premiere of SEX MADNESS REVEALED, Wednesday, September 19 (7:30PM) at Flix Brewhouse. Enjoy a ride on the Tim Kirk Experience, then query the director’s demented mind during a special Q&A after the film. You can get more info and reserve your tickets here.