The most inter­est­ing thing to hap­pen in the cult movie scene in the last few years is the revival of the ‘zine. Long after the inter­net sup­pos­ed­ly mur­dered this per­son­al form of expres­sion, it seems the same com­put­er tools have enabled an unex­pect­ed but wel­come res­ur­rec­tion of this old-fash­ioned read­ing plea­sure. Old warhors­es like Cashiers Du Cinemart and Exploitation Retrospect have revived them­selves to print new issues and more than a few fresh­ly-mint­ed ‘zines have popped up, par­tic­u­lar­ly now that desk­top pub­lish­ing and print-on-demand have made it eas­ier to assem­ble and dis­trib­ute them.

JOIC-01In a world of fan­dom dri­ven by blogs, a good ‘zine has a few dis­tinct advan­tages on its online com­pe­ti­tion. There’s the tac­tile sat­is­fac­tion of hold­ing a care­ful­ly con­ceived pub­li­ca­tion, thumb­ing through the pages and tot­ing it wherever you like. More impor­tant­ly, the lev­el of work involved in cre­at­ing a pub­li­ca­tion encour­ages the bet­ter ‘zine scribes to put more thought and craft into their work than you get from the aver­age blog, which are often dri­ven by the desire to be first instead of best.

One of the most inter­est­ing ‘zines to emerge in this revival era is The Journal Of Interstitial Cinema. It’s five issues into its run yet it remains the best kept secret in the cult film ‘zine world. This is part­ly because of the chal­lenges involved in get­ting it: it oper­ates under a cloud of under­ground-style secre­cy, with infor­ma­tion about it or its cre­ators being hard to come by. Thankfully, all its issues are avail­able on a print-on-demand basis via the Magcloud web­site so catch­ing up on its run will be no prob­lem for the devot­ed ‘zine con­sumer.

It’s inter­est­ing to note that the Journal’s two founders defy the cur­rent ethos of scribe-as-scene-celebri­ty by using pseu­do­nyms to cre­ate an air of mys­tery: one uses the anti­quar­i­an-sound­ing nom de plume of R.J. Wheatpenny while the oth­er goes by the more sci-fi moniker of Grog Ziklore. The dif­fer­ence in styles of name is reflect­ed in their styles of writ­ing: Wheatpenny favors lengthy, com­plex and scrupu­lous­ly researched pieces that feel like some­thing you might read in Film Comment while Ziklore goes for a clas­si­cal ‘zine style where a row­dy, Lester Bangs stream of con­scious­ness approach dove­tails with a deep, fine­ly detaJOIC-02iled sense of nos­tal­gia.

In the Journal’s five issues, lay­out and graph­ics tend towards vin­tage ‘zine sim­plic­i­ty but that ensures that the reader’s focus remains on the con­tent, which always has a few sur­pris­es up its sleeve. Issue Five also found them adding a new name to the ros­ter in the Po Man. Like the oth­er scribes involved in the Journal, he keeps his per­son­al details pri­vate but this much can be said: he is a vet­er­an of the ‘zine scene who brings major inter­view­ing and research­ing chops to the over­all pack­age. As his work in Issue Five reveals, he is also pos­sessed of a sly wit.

The fol­low­ing is a quick run­down of The Journal Of Interstitial Cinema’s first five issues and what makes them worth the pur­chase. Schlockmania hopes you enjoy this infor­mal overview… and tf the descrip­tions tan­ta­lize you (and they should if you’re into cult cin­e­ma and ‘zines) then you can get any of the fol­low­ing issues by click­ing here:

Issue #1: The first issue runs just 24 pages but there’s a lot of rhetor­i­cal dex­ter­i­ty between its cov­ers. Eclecticism is the name of the game here, with a review of the Taviani Brothers’ his­tor­i­cal film Luisa Sanfelice sit­ting next to a review of Computer Beach Party. The stand­out arti­cle is an extend­ed piece on Arlington Road that com­pares and con­strasts its rela­tion­ship with real-life mod­ern American his­to­ry, specif­i­cal­ly the case of Timothy McVeigh. It’s smart, bit­ing­ly crit­icJOIC-03al of Hollywood’s desire to tack­le polit­i­cal themes with­out going deep and more dili­gent­ly researched and craft­ed than a lot of arti­cles you’ll read in main­stream film pub­li­ca­tions. Other high­lights include an inter­view with the fic­tion­al char­ac­ter of Colt Hawker from Visiting Hours (an ear­ly exam­ple of Interstitial whim­sy) and a “video store­og­ra­phy” that chron­i­cles the video stores of the authors’ youth. The lat­ter piece will inspire both nos­tal­gia and depres­sion in reformed video store-holics of a cer­tain age.

Issue #2: You’ve prob­a­bly nev­er heard of Incoming Freshman but it gets a detailed explo­ration here, incor­po­rat­ing an inter­view with the direc­tor that reveals how his sin­cere indie film was reworked by oth­er hands into crass sex com­e­dy fod­der. Also includ­ed is an inter­view with will­ful­ly icon­o­clas­tic under­ground film­mak­er Damon Packard, Ziklore’s unique­ly per­son­al review of the t.v. movie Death At Love House and a thought­ful overview of Tim Lucas’ Videodrome book that gives Wheatpenny a chance to reflect on how it was a turn­ing point in David Cronenberg’s career. That said, the most cre­ative piece might be a fic­tion­al­ized arti­cle about a film student’s sui­cide that becomes a ruth­less satire of people’s video-cen­tric view­ing habits.

Issue #3: The rhetor­i­cal dex­ter­i­ty ascends to new heights here in a Wheatpenny piece that uses a cri­tique of Machete and its knee­jerk polit­i­cal con­tent as the frame­work for an explo­ration of sev­er­al Randolph Scott west­erns and what they have to say about American soci­ety. Other high­lights include an eye-open­ing look at the gonzo luna­cy of Michael Moriarty’s auto­bi­og­ra­phy, Ziklore com­par­ing the unex­pect­ed sym­me­try in Robert Aldrich’s first and last films, Wheatpenny cov­er­ing a few clas­sic one-shot ‘zines of the ‘70s and Ziklore giv­ing a run­down of NYC video store haunts from his ‘90s era that have since passed into mem­o­ry.

JOIC-04Issue #4: Cinematic anthro­pol­o­gists will get their money’s worth here with a Wheatpenny arti­cle on lost films of the ‘90s that offers detailed his­tor­i­cal and crit­i­cal treat­ment of films like The Target Shoots First and The Woman Chaser. Ziklore offers a fun piece on why Halloween II (the orig­i­nal 1981 ver­sion) is his favorite film and a review of To All A Goodnight that allows him to tell a dark­ly humor­ous sto­ry about a con­ven­tion encoun­ter with David Hess. However, the most impres­sive writ­ing here arrives in a piece called “If They Lived Ten More Years,” in which Wheatpenny imag­i­nes what an extra decade would have done in the lives of Frank Borzage, Mario Bava, Andrei Tarkovsky and Don Simpson. It’s the finest piece of whim­sy in the Journal to date, mix­ing well-craft­ed fic­tion with point­ed satire of how the film busi­ness warps the peo­ple work­ing in it (the Simpson entry is par­tic­u­lar­ly tren­chant in this regard).

Issue #5: this is the meati­est issue of the Journal to date, offer­ing a whop­ping 68 pages of mate­ri­al. Thankfully, the authors main­tain the con­sis­ten­cy of the mate­ri­al here. Wheatpenny gives full sway to his love of pieces that are deep-dish in both research and intel­lec­tu­al con­tent here: for instance, the nos­tal­gi­cal­ly-remem­bered cin­e­ma year of 1982 is revealed to be a hotbed of changes in Hollywood film busi­ness, with cor­po­rate own­er­ship and par­a­digm shifts in the­atri­cal dis­tri­b­u­tion lay­ing the ground­work for the event movie-dom­i­nat­ed approach that we live through today. He also explores the chaotic career of Harry Kumel via a review of a book on his career and offers a detailed film-by-film look at the career of French direc­tor Yves Boisset, whose career rep­re­sents an inter­est­ing bat­tle between the com­mer­cial and per­son­al­ized polit­i­cal con­tent.JOIC-05

Ziklore goes for short­er pieces, includ­ing a hilar­i­ous piece about a strange ref­er­ence in Cruising that leads to a strug­gle to get an answer out of direc­tor William Friedkin and brief but pithy odes to ‘90s Japanese ani­ma­tion and comic books. He also serves up anoth­er extend­ed chat with Damon Packard, in which he and Ziklore com­mis­er­ate over their abhor­rence of mod­ern film­mak­ing trends while cel­e­brat­ing their love of vin­tage film and t.v. Po Man also adds some gems here, all ori­ent­ed around the the­me of MST3K and its neg­a­tive influ­ence on geek cul­ture. He first illus­trates the idea with an anec­dote about how a con­ven­tion screen­ing of Empire Of The Ants went awry when one obnox­ious fan decid­ed he wants to be the enter­tain­ment instead of allow­ing the film’s rough edges to speak for them­selves. He also con­tributes inter­views with David Worth and Greydon Clark, film­mak­ers who have got­ten the MST3K treat­ment, to get their thoughts on the show and its influ­ence.

A final note: please under­stand that the­se cap­sule overviews can’t cov­er all the inter­est­ing and engag­ing­ly off­beat fare in this ‘zine. The Journal scribes do more with a reg­u­lar mag­a­zine length than some of their com­peti­tors do with 200 pages and there’s no way to cov­er it all with­out going on forever. Schlockmania encour­ages you to pick up some issues for your­self and explore their lov­ing treat­ment of the arcane.