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Anything But B-Grade

Usually when people share their ‘two cents’ and talk loudly during a film it’s a major irritation. That’s not the case however with the hilarious Cinema Fiasco experience. On the first Friday of every month, film loving performers and all-round funny buggers Geoff Wallis and Janet A. McLeod take over the glorious 1920’s Astor Theatre in a unique comedy film critique event.

Together they become the Margaret and David of bad movies, ransacking the dark basement of mostly American Cinema in search of B-Grade schlock with which they will accompany their unique live commentary. Dull and dry film critique? Forget about it! Geoff and Janet take audiences through a funny and entertaining experience where they have a laugh and sink the boot into those classic cinematic misfires. It is a real alternative to the usual humdrum offered by corporate movie Multiplexes.

“The Astor, like the few remaining independent theatres left in Melbourne, offers film goers a rare experience. You can witness the latest films anywhere, but you can only re-live great classics and cult features at cinemas like the Astor,” explains Wallis.

“And events like Cinema Fiasco don’t exist anywhere else… at least not yet.”

Cinema Fiasco began its life last year as a Comedy Festival event. It turned out to be so popular with audiences that it was repeated, and this year the two have been given a residency at the famous Astor theatre for the year.

“I work at the Astor. The manager of the theatre was looking at other alternatives for events that could be staged at the theatre and asked the staff for ideas. I already had Cinema Fiasco in the back of my mind as something I’d wanted to do, and so I mentioned it. He thought it was a great idea.” Explains Wallis.

Wallis, a VCA drama graduate, has worked for years in Theatre in education, and for 6 years was the artistic director of what has become Improv Melbourne. Janet runs several comedy nights and open mike nights around Melbourne, and during Comedy Festival time can be seen hanging out of the Comedy booth matching the right punters to the right shows. McLeod and Wallis originally met in Ballarat, and realised they had a connection. That connection was to ignite in Cinema Fiasco years later.

“The moment I got the green light, I started thinking about who I would do it with. Janet instantly came to mind. We had great energy, she’s funny, and let’s be honest, she was willing to do it. Willingness to do it… yes that is a big part of what made her the right person for the job” he joked.

So what makes a Cinema Fiasco movie? Wallis is quick with the answer.

“First and foremost what makes a Cinema Fiasco film is an utterly ludicrous concept, coupled with production values and terrible acting that reflects that it may have actually had a $20 budget… oh yes, and Cat throwing [ laughs ] you know, during those suspenseful moments.” he says.

Italian zombies, French lesbian vampires, hypnotizing killer frogs, terrible editing, special effects that are anything but, dated nauseating fashion and appearances by dusty fading Hollywood or TV stars… the films featured in the duos’ firing line are indeed some of the most pitiful excuses for entertainment ever committed to film. They are so bad, they’re good, especially when teamed with the commentary and film trivia. According to Wallis, they aren’t as sad as some of cinema’s more recent offerings.

“I think the real sad thing is the score of multi-million dollar budget movies that come out today, that are just as terrible, if not worse than the ones we show. At least the films we feature were made for twenty bucks and let’s face it, never had a chance. In a way the B-grade films still have a life, a redeemable quality… perhaps even a cult following. But all those sad multi-million dollar films that are just shocking… what a waste.”

I have flashes of Transformers 2 and Terminator Salvation. Yes, that is sad. I think of all the B-grade films that could have come from those budgets. Films like the 1970’s offering Skyjacked, which is the next film to get the Fiasco treatment this week. Charlton Heston, battles psycho–hijacker James Brolin in the hilarious melodrama from the golden years of the disaster movie. Sounds like a winner.

“We’ve been doing it long enough to have honed it down to a fine balance of commentary, film and just plain silliness. And we’ve got some wonderfully bad films picked out, like Skyjacked.” Says Wallis,

“Audiences have been steadily growing since we began Cinema Fiasco. It’s doing great. I think part of the events’ success comes from its thrown together quality. It’s fun, it’s entertaining and different.”

Cinema Fiasco presents Skyjacked this Friday 7th August at 7:30pm at the Astor Theatre in St Kilda.

For full details from our What’s On guide, click here.

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