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/ )