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The Engineer

The Life and Times of Donald F. Simmons

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Movie Week

It's been a movie watching week for me. Tuesday Cine-Cycle had a screening of White Zombie, a kick-ass Bela Lugosi film. A plantation owner in Haiti wants to steal away the bride-to-be of another man, so he turns to Bela, who's running a zombie-staffed sugar mill. Hilarity ensues. The woman's fiance, our "hero", doesn't do much beyond get drunk and pass out at a critical moment, it's the local missionary that steps in to save the day. Janet and I had a discussion on the economic absurdity of the zombie labour force (your quality control sucks (zombie falls into mill and get grinded up with the sugar cane), it leads to local mass unemployment and ruins your local market, etc.). Anyway, Bela is much spookier here than in Dracula, which frankly has never done much for me. I can't believe I never heard of this film before.

Leading up to it were a number of shorts, including something else I had never heard of, eight to ten minute 8mm short versions of various Universal monster movies, which were sold for home screening long before the VCR. I didn't know what they were at first as they were subtitled, but home projectors didn't have sound in those days.

Wedneday was Trouble the Water at the Bloor, part of Hot Docs Doc Soup monthly screening. It's about a couple from New Orleans who filmed themselves just before and during Katrina. After the storm they met by happenstance in a refugee center a pair of directors who were working on another project that was going nowhere, and they teamed up, the directors following them for a couple of weeks while they got re-settled and assembling all the footage into a film. Amazing piece of work, shown to a packed house. Apparently it's been a stuggle to get distribution for the film ("people aren't interested in Katrina anymore") but it should be a wider release in January. It's really worth seeing.

Yesterday at the Bloor was a Halloween double bill. The Neal Stephenson event the same night was originally going to be there, but they cancelled at the start of the month and moved it to Ryerson, so in a last minute bit or programming they showed the Bruce Campbell masterpiece Bubba Ho-tep, where a geriatric Elvis (Campbell) and JFK (the late, great Ossie Davis), both thought long dead but actually still alive, defend their Texas nursing home against a soul-sucking mummy. I've got friends who think the film is slow, but I think it's just very deliberate and it a great slow build. Great to see it on the big screen again. Only problem was they were accidentally shipped the first three reels only, so they had to run out and rent the DVD from Queen Video to show the second half.

for the second feature of the evening Colin Geddes, of Kung Fu Friday fame, turned up with his film copy of Mr. Vampire III, which features ghosts, hopping vampires, kung fu, innovative uses of urine, cameo by producer Sammo Hung, and a monster made out of congealed fat. There were even door prizes, crazy trailers, and an introduction by Colin, making the screening just like the late, lamented Kung Fu Friday. Maybe if we all wish hard enough, we can convince Colin to stage one of these again every few months.