If you’re into the modern cult film zine resurgence, you owe it to yourself to check out its best-kept secret: the Journal Of Interstitial Cinema. Schlockmania previously rhapsodized about it wonders here and holds it in high regard amongst its competition. It has a distinctive voice because it only uses the skillfully-honed writing of a trio of participants and, unlike a lot of competitors, is willing to forsake grandiose page-counts in favor of a smaller, more focused number of pages where every sentence counts.

JOIC-5-5-01The men behind Journal – the mysteriously pseudonymous trio of R.J. Wheatpenny, Grog Ziklore and the Po Man – have just tackled a popular trend of the modern cult film zine by doing a “half-issue” to appease fans during the gap between larger, more substantial issues. However, the Journal’s quality-to-page ratio remains intact and Issue 5.5 finds its creators doing a lot with a little bit of space.

Here’s a breakdown of the issue by contributor… Wheatpenny dominates the back half of the issue, offering up an ode to forgotten softcore actress Sharon Lewis, a quickie about three modern trends he’d like to see die and a news piece on how one of filmmaker Yves Boisset’s films (covered in issue 5) reentered the cultural conversation in the director’s native France.

JOIC-5-5-02However, his biggest Wheatpenny piece in this half-ish deals with the tragic story behind Dracula Sucks, namely the mysterious disappearance/presumed murder of one of the film’s producers and his girlfriend. In typical Wheatpenny style, it’s a thoughtfully researched and conceived piece that deals with the story behind the film, the connection between classic-era porn financing and drug dealing and the history of drug-related crime in New Jersey. It’s a gripping read that captures both the dark fascination and the tragedy of its subject.

Ziklore focuses on short-form reviews that cover a wide range of material: there’s a look at the forgotten James Toback thriller Exposed (including some great Toback tales from a post-screening Q&A), a look at Hardbodies that sizes up its unconventional approach to the beachside sex comedy and some quick thoughts on the Dennis Hopper-centric documentary The American Dreamer.

JOIC-5-5-03The most interesting/amusing of the reviews is a review of Indestructible, an obscure, no-budget remake of the Chuck Norris vehicle Silent Rage: it’s the heartfelt, shot-on-video work of a superfan who sneaks in a few effects shots from its inspiration. There’s also another installment of “Grog’s Busted Bread,” an editorial that reflects the mixture of nostalgia and world-weary thoughts on modern life that is a running theme in Ziklore’s reviews.

The Po Man only contributes one piece to the issue but it’s a real lulu: “A Seagull Film” is an inspired and ambitious reevaluation of the classic Don Siegel crime film, Charley Varrick. Po Man offers up a unique theory that the film views its main character as a bird with clipped wings who must learn to fly again to escape the treacherous “land animals” that surround him.

He supports this unique theory by analyzing the differences between the script and the novel that inspired it, including several pointed examples of animal-themed dialogue, as well as connections between Charley Varrick and the early 70’s megahit Jonathan Livingston Seagull. It’s a bracing mixtJOIC-5-5-04ure of research, film theory and Journal-style whimsy that will charm film buffs who like writers to have fun with the possibilities of film analysis.

The above contents are plenty to chew on but the Journal gang has thrown in a free gift that enhances the value. It’s a “recently unearthed” copy of the Interstitial Cinema Review, the ‘zine that supposedly preceded the Journal. It’s a genuine cut-and-paste production, complete with clipart and glue-stick layout that makes it resemble the original xerox style of Sleazoid Express. The issue dates back to 1982 and covers a fun variety of films from the era – Silent Rage, A Little Sex, Amin: The Rise And Fall, The Beast Within, etc. – and also includes Po Man’s survey of drive-in theaters in the Syracuse area.

The results play like a bite-size version of one of National Lampoon‘s publication satires, right down to series of 1982-era predications that the following years would eventually disprove. The most memorable of these is an offhand bit of career advice for Vic Morrow in a story on Great White that will inspire a chuckle and a wince simultaneously.

In short, issue 5.5 of the Journal Of Interstitial Cinema is another smart, witty collection of cult film writing that is well worth the time of anyone devoted to this scene. There’s more value per page here than you’ll find in ‘zines that are ten times bigger.

(FYI: If you want to pick up this issue, it costs $4.00 and is exclusively available at the Journal’s website: http://www.journalofic.com/ )