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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Reels from the Attic: Bob & Teresa's Docs That Rock

Nobody knows the Enoch Pratt Free Library's 16mm film archives better than Bob Wagner and Teresa Duggan. Well, maybe a select few, like Skizz Cyzyk (who used to plunder the collection back when he screened films at the Mansion Theater circa 1993-1998) and Laure Drogoul ("La Hostess" often paired Pratt's experimental films with other music, art and spoken word performances at her 14Karat Cabaret performance space).

For years the Hampden couple have put together wildly imaginative film programs that they screened in their backyard for friends and neighbors; now they've branched out into becoming "curators," teaming up with 2640 Space on May 25, 2016 for "Reels from the Attic: Bob and Teresa's Documentary Picks and Not-Fiction Oddities," a selection of 16mm films borrowed from EPFL's film library and two videos from the Maryland Historical Society.

Bob Wagner projecting
As an AV Librarian with Pratt, I've come to know and love many of the films they've selected. Their taste is impeccable, particularly their choice of such obscure but delightful oddities as "Honeymoon Hotel," "Pigs vs. Freaks" - a short by Jack Epps, Jr. that was later remade as the feature film "Off Sides (Pigs Vs. Freaks)," starring Tony Randall; Epps went on to fame as a screenwriter whose CV includes Top Gun and Anaconda - and "Fantasy of Feet" (Frederic Goodrich, Encyclopedia Britannica, 1969, 8 minutes) which we've screened in the past at the library, but to much less appreciative audiences. (In fact, I think Teresa got "Fantasy of Feet" from me; I had scored it from a Pratt Book Sale and probably unloaded it with the glut of films I de-hoarded when I moved years ago.)

Here's my "Feet Accompli" Accelerated Decrepitude blog posting from November 29, 2006 that describes "Fantasy of Feet":

"Feets of Fantasy" film still
This is a wonderful montage of people and their feet coupled with fantasy pixilation effects and a Swinging '60s soundtrack courtesy of David Lindley & Kaleidoscope. (Multi-instrumentalist Lindley is best known for being Jackson Browne's longtime collaborator in the '70s and for fronting the band El Rayo-X). 
It was made by Frederic Goodich, the same director who did "Toes Tell" and "Whose Shoes?". According to the Academic Film Archive of North America's website, it won a Cine Gold Eagle award (awarded for excellence in documentary and other informational film and video production) in 1971. He was also the cinematographer on Board and Care (a live action short featuring mentally retarded performers) that won the 1980 Academy Award for Best Dramatic Short. Goodich currently teaches cinematography at the American Film Institute in L.A. 
Anyway, I like the part where people are dancing on plexiglass so you get a grounds-eye view of people's feet - a technique made famous by American avant-garde filmmaker Dudley Murphy in his 1929 Black and Tan short featuring Duke Ellington's orchestra - a concept Japanese culinary hentai took to heart with their no-pan shabu-shabu steakhouses (where the floors are mirrored and the waitresses wear short skirts sans panties - remember, presentation in everything at fine dining etablishments!).(Not to mention Baltimore's own 2nd level-glass-floored "raw bar" in ye olde Hustler Club!). The film also features a great countdown leader (with 666 appearing for the number 6!).

The view from "Black and Tan"

Sexy-Plexi: Japan's "No-pan shabu-shabu" worldview

Director Frederic Goodrich's "Fantasy of Feet," as well as his similarly themed "Toes Tell" short used to be available for viewing on YouTube. No more. So you'll have to check out the 2640 film screening or Pratt Library's 16mm print to realize your film feet fantasies.

Fortunately, you can still view a short clip from the historic "Pigs Vs. Freaks" short on YouTube:

Director Jack Epps, Jr. attended  Michigan State University and his short film was based on the school's famous "Bull Bowls" in East Lansing that pitted cops against hippies and raised money for Danny Thomas' St. Jude's Children's Hospital. (See Scott Pohl's "Remembering EL's Pigs vs. Freaks Football Clashes" article for details.)

"Pigs vs. Freaks" Bull Bowl program, October 1975

"Pigs vs. Freaks" film still 

You can still buy the film from Taos Land & Film Company. Here's the Taos Land & Film Company's description of how "Pigs Vs. Freaks" came about:
East Lansing, Michigan, the home of MSU (Michigan State University), had a history in the 1960's of violence between police and college protesters. Then one day, two police officers tried to kick some college students off of a high school football field, only to find themselves face to face with a challenge; settle the dispute with a friendly game of football! The police accepted their challenge, and 16,000 people came out to watch "The Pigs" lose to "The Freaks" by a single point. "The Pigs" vowed to settle the score "next year", but next year came and "The Freaks" won again. This documentary film provides dynamic coverage of the third consecutive year in this annual tournament. Who will it be in this year's Bull Bowl? Will "The Freaks" maintain their undefeated winning streak, or will "The Pigs" put their first notch on the board?

As for "Honeymoon Hotel," this four-minute short originally was shown on the award-winning early 1970s PBS television series The Great American Dream Machine.

PBS' finest hour: the late "Great American Dream Machine"

TGADM was a mix of comedy and social commentary, featuring comedians like Chevy Chase and Albert Brooks, pundits like Andy Rooney and Studs Terkel, and musicians like Nina Simone and Pete Seegar. Called "the intellectual's Laugh-In," its variety format combined short films, satirical sketches, and musical interludes in an attempt to address current American social and cultural issues. I can even recall seeing Evel Knievel's ill-fated crash after he attempted to jump over the Caesar's Palace  fountain in Las Vegas. It lasted from 1971 to 1973 and seemed to bask in controversy; it was truly rad, man.

"Honeymoon Hotel" aired as part of a segment on sex and marriage. It featured interviews with newlyweds who revealed their sense of values as they extoled the gauche pleasures of a Poconos hotel with its round beds and heart-shaped bathtubs.

OK, enough backstory about my faves in this program...on to Bob and Teresa's show!

Following is the rest of the 2640's "Reels from the Attic" program curated by "local film fiends" Bob and Teresa, as described on the 2640 Facebook page:


2640docs presents Reels From the Attic: a selection of 16mm films & video curated by local film fiends Teresa & Bob.

Enjoy two sets of vintage short films and videos about historic Baltimore and beyond, and then stick around to talk about them.

=== SET ONE == 
“Honeymoon Hotel” Interviews with young newlyweds in the Poconos, showcasing the gloriously tacky heart-shaped-tub rooms they've always dreamed of. (1971, 4 mins)*

“Jazzoo” A lilting jazz score plays as the St. Louis Zoo slowly comes to life in the early morning. Animals stretch, eat, preen, and prepare to meet their audience. (1967, 14mins)*

“Baltimore's geography, Jones Falls, the stream that shaped a city” Better than a brief history of this well-known waterway, this short film will transport you back in time. Photographer/lecturer Denny Lynch will participate in a Q&A about the Baltimore City Public School’s production of the film. (1983, 20mins)*

=== SET TWO ==
“Blueprint for Tomorrow” Imagine David Simon’s Show Me a Hero shot on VHS and produced by the Baltimore City Life Museum. (c.1996, 15mins)**

“Kurt Schmoke PSA” Baltimore, listen to Kurt Schmoke. (1998, 2mins)**

“Elysium” A poetical appreciation of that Charm City charm. (1961, 10mins)*

“Pigs vs. Freaks” East Lansing, MI. Late 1960s. Student protesters and police meet on the football field to settle their differences. (1975, 14mins)*

“Fantasy of Feet” A montage of people and their varied feet in motion, paired with stop motion animation and a swinging '60s soundtrack. (1969, 8mins)*

FREE EVENT! Doors at 6:30pm. Films start at 7pm. Refreshments available.

2640 Space | 2640 St. Paul Street, 21218 (St. John’s Church)

* Film borrowed from the Enoch Pratt Library.
** Video courtesy of MdHS.

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