We’ve seen already how Edinburgh International Film Festival’s documentary strand this year is an embarrassment of riches, but turns out it’s a gala year for looking back too. Without further ado, here’s my picks from the old films screening again at EIFF 2015:
1. Walter Hill: The Early Years Retrospective 1975-84
18-28/06, various times at Filmhouse
One of my favourite EIFF memories is 2009’s Roger Corman retrospective. If memory serves, there was a Corman film every day, early afternoon in Filmhouse 1, and Corman himself even poked his head into The Trip to provide some impromptu director’s commentary from the rear (Joe Dante was there that year too, for an In Person, and provided his personal print for Corman’s The Intruder). All that’s to say that EIFF really know how to do retrospectives and this year’s focus on the early (best) years of Walter Hill seems set to be an instant classic. It’s hard to pick a highlight from an undeniably world-class run, including The Warriors, which should need no introduction, Southern Comfort, the thinking man’s Deliverance and The Driver, which was curiously, criminally ignored in favour of Michael Mann’s Thief when all the love was being poured on Drive a few years ago. But, if you can only see one, make it the underdog, the lost classic, the rock ‘n’ roll fable to end them all, Streets of mother-fucking Fire!
2. Santa Sangre (dir Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1989)
27/06, 23:10 at Filmhouse 2
Alejandro Jodorowsky made his name as the undisputed godhead of psychotronic cinema over 40 years ago, with El Topo (1970) and The Holy Mountain (1973). However, before his recent resurgence, sparked by the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune, the psycho-horror Santa Sangre (Holy Blood, 1989), represented a late flicker in a stop-start career that seemed to be burning out for good. The film broke an 11-year lull since the impersonal and compromised Tusk, and Jodorowsky immediately followed it with 1990’s The Rainbow Thief, another impersonal and compromised film which he immediately disowned. Jodorowsky then abandoned filmmaking altogether until his triumphant return with The Dance of Reality, some 23 years later. So Santa Sangre is an orphan among orphans – surreal, psychotic, bloody and magical – a masterly work that deserves to be seen on the big screen.
3. Roar (dir Noel Marshall, 1981)
18/06, 23:30 at Filmhouse 1
I don’t know how this film could have been out of circulation for so long, but then I’d never even heard of it until the US-based Drafthouse Films announced its re-release last year. Described as “the most dangerous film ever made”, it features Hitchcock star Tippi Hedren and then-husband Noel Marshall, who wrote, directed and starred in the frankly incredibly reckless project. Marshall’s thin narrative is based upon their living side-by-side with a range of wild animals – namely 150 lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars and elephants. Melanie Griffith, Hedren’s teenage daughter, quit the production for a time, saying she didn’t want to come out with “half a face”. The future Working Girl eventually returned to set, only to be mauled by a lion who left a wound requiring 50 stitches. Hedren is reportedly unimpressed with the re-release, but I think it sounds just grrreat.
4. The Night Stalker (dir John Llewllyn, 1972)
21/06, 20:45 at Filmhouse 3
The Night Stalker is screening as part of EIFF’s Little Big Screen strand, celebrating the USA’s unusually cinematic televisual output of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The 1972 TV movie, adapted by author Richard Matheson from an unpublished novel by Jeffrey Grant Rice, was such a success it inspired a sequel, The Night Strangler and a short-lived series, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, which became one of the key inspirations for The X-Files. An investigative journalist (Darren McGavin) tracking a serial killer through Las Vegas struggles to persuade authorities of his increasingly out-there suspicions. It’ll be an exciting, not to say rare, experience to see something like this in a cinema, and a tough choice over Tobe Hooper’s Salem’s Lot, also screening. I mean, go and see them both if you can, moneybags.
5. Fritz the Cat (dir Ralph Bakshi, 1972)
26/06, 20:40 at Filmhouse 2
A counter-culture classic immune, unlike so many, from mainstream recuperation, Fritz the Cat was inspired by Robert Crumb’s 1960s comic strip and was the first animated feature to be given an X certificate. Despite that perceived handicap, renowned animator Ralph Bakshi’s debut film eventually earned $90 million worldwide. Bakshi, who will be joining the audience via Skype for a post-film chat, is also known for 1977’s cult classic, Wizards and his 1978 Lord of the Rings adaptation (both screening at EIFF) as well as the incendiary, often misunderstood Coonskin (1975). Also the live-action/animation hybrid Cool World (1992). Remember Cool World? Anyway, Bakshi is a bona fide living legend, so his (virtual) appearance alone is worth the price of admission.