Cult cinema ‘zines have enjoyed a recent resurgence in
the last few years, with savvy publishers taking advantage of how
print-on-demand publishing makes it easier and less costly to get their musings
out to the world. You can also publicize your work via a variety of online
platforms, most notably Facebook and Twitter. As a result, there’s a whole new
crop of publishers out there, looking to become personalities in the world of
And then you’ve got Journal
Of Interstitial Cinema. They take the same print-on-demand route favored by
their fellow ‘zinesters but otherwise do things in a way designed to keep
themselves out of fandom’s spotlight. The publishers pen their work
psuedonymously and there’s no Facebook or Twitter pages to communicate with readers.
One could argue they’re trying to keep their publication as cultishly obscure
as the films they cover.
Thus, it slipped Schlockmania’s mind that the JOIC crew put out another issue last
year: #7, subtitled the “Special Summer Travel Issue.” As that
subtitle suggests, there’s a loose theme of travel integrated throughout the
issue’s contents: it contains both articles about films with travel themes and
cinema-themed travels on the part of the contributors. Also included are some
fun articles that stick to the magazine’s traditional focus on cinema’s roads
less traveled, covering everything from the arthouse to the grindhouse. The
result is another distinctive, often witty read from this secretive set of
As has become the standard with the last few issues, the
contents are divided between founders R.J. Wheatpenny and Grog Ziklore with
newer recruit The Po Man. Wheatpenny offers a mixture of reviews and pieces
that deliver factual info with an element of literary whimsy. On the former
tip, he starts with a fascinating piece on how the concept of
“interstitial cinema” is hard to define in a world where massive changes
in film distribution have disrupted all levels of cinema. He then clarifies his
newer, more conceptual definition of the phrase with a dozen capsule reviews of
films that didn’t find traction in the current commercial marketplace. By the
end, you’re reminded of just how much new cinema is out there today and how
hard it is to get noticed.
Wheatpenny also contributes a poignant look at Photographic Memory, the last and most
overlooked work from cinematic diarist Ross McElwee, and an overview of a
series of short films produced by the U.S. Postal Service about mail fraud. The
latter sound like fun viewing, a kind of modern, mail-centric update of the Crime Does Not Pay short subjects from
Elsewhere in the issue, he writes some clever essays:
one is a history of home video piracy methods that plays like a comic battle of
one-upsmanship between tech developers and determined pirates and a tale about
a theater robbery from Hollywood’s early days, written in the style of
late-period James Ellroy. The latter offers a pretty dead-on channeling of
Ellroy’s terse “tough guy” writing style. He rounds all this work out
with another installment of “The Screamproof Coffin,” the ‘zine’s
regular horror review column, that is cleverly subverted to show just how much
indistinguishable genre product there is out there today.
Ziklore divides his time between straightforward reviews
and diary style pieces that run with the issue’s travel theme. The first of his travel pieces covers four
different trips (two in New Jersey, one each to Delaware and California). He
looks for landmarks, hunts for books, trades DVDs and muses on the short-lived
supernova of Moviepass as he visits an obscure theater. A separate piece delves
into a Texas trip that began with looking for Texas Chainsaw Massacre locations and turned up megalodon teeth(!).
His trio of reviews focus on fascinating Alan Rudolph thriller Endangered Species and two t.v. movies
with real-life origins, porn star suicide drama Shattered Innocence and proto-X-Files
sci-fi piece Mysterious Two. The
latter is fascinating because it covers the beginnings of what would ultimately
become the Heaven’s Gate cult.
Between the work of the ‘zine’s two founders, there are
three excellent pieces by the Po Man. The first is a bit of Wheatpenny-esque
whimsy in which a little daydream about going back in time to an old drive-in
weaves in a clever, judiciously timed reference to a beloved cult film.
The other two are interview pieces. The first is a kind
of oral history of the live promotions that producer/distributor Joe Solomon
did for his drive-in faves like The
Losers and The Savage Seven. The commentary is woven from chats with actors
John Garwood, Randee Lynn Jensen and Gene Cornelius: they fondly remember how
Solomon could use his saleman’s chops to get the red carpet treatment in little
Midwest towns and also how the locals would get starry-eyed at the chance to be
near someone involved in making movies. Solomon made a lot of biker movies so
there are also a few choice tales involving biker gangs.
The final interview piece is a one-on-one chat with
Ferde Grofe, Jr., a self-taught filmmaker who pioneered the use of the
Philippines as a filmmaking location as he cranked out a string of war-themed
action flicks between the mid-’60s and the late ’80s. It’s a fun, candid
interview where Grofe Jr. discusses the challenges of working with eager but
untrained crews, his love/hate relationship with fading star and sometime
producer George Montgomery and the challenges of selling independently-produced
work to major studios. And this is just the first half of the interview (the
remainder will appear in the next issue)!
In short, this is another read packed with distinctive
wit and insights from its press-shy crew. Don’t let the ‘zine’s obscure nature
faze you: it’s some of the best, most unique cult film writing out there so you
should join its intrepid writers on the cinematic road less taken.
For all issues of Journal Of Interstitial Cinema, click here.