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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Bay of the Living Dead: Thundercrack Returns!

Posted By on Tue, Dec 8, 2015 at 10:00 AM

Man and ape. - SYNAPSE FILMS
  • Synapse Films
  • Man and ape.

Welcome to Bay of the Living Dead, a twice-a-month column about the horror genre. 

Curt McDowell was a San Francisco treasure. The openly gay filmmaker spent much of his short life making bizarre underground films which pushed the boundaries of cinema and of onscreen sexuality. Though rarely screened, McDowell's Thundercrack (1975) is perhaps the auteur's best known work. 

Thundercrack is about to enjoy a bit of a renaissance. On Dec. 11, drag superstar Peaches Christ brings the film to the venerable Castro Theater for two screenings, in conjunction with the film's release on Blu-ray courtesy of Synapse Films

Marion Eaton - SYNAPSE FILMS
  • Synapse Films
  • Marion Eaton

is one strange movie. Inspired by the black-and-white "old dark house" chillers of the 1920s and '30s, McDowell's film is set in a desolate farmhouse during a proverbial "dark and stormy night." Its beginning is similar to James Whale's classic The Old Dark House (1932), in which a group of sopping wet, world weary travelers seek refuge from an intense storm in a house populated by several rather unsettling characters. But that's where the similarities end.

In Thundercrack, the travelers proceed to engage in a variety of hardcore heterosexual and homosexual couplings — one of these sequences features a disturbing encounter involving an ape. (We can hopefully assume it was a dude in a suit.)

As the storm rages outside, we learn more about the creepy collection of house guests and their even creepier hostess, the eternally drunk, eternally horny Mrs, Gert Hammond (Marion Eaton). 

  • Peaches Christ Productions
"This film is such a wild and special cult film," Peaches Christ told SF Weekly. "I can honestly say there really isn't another film quite like it. It's the only gay porno horror film around!"

Peaches said that she loved to celebrate San Francisco's legacy of underground film-making. "This might be the mother of all locally made cult films," she said.

Peaches also spoke of the legacies of McDowell, and of Thundercrack screenwriter George Kuchar. A longtime instructor at the San Francisco Art Institute, Kuchar built quite a reputation of his own in the underground film scene. 

"Their legacies are their incredible collection of audaciously made, visionary films made for very little money that pushed boundaries and challenged our social norms," Christ said. "These films have inspired so many filmmakers over the years and I hope they continue to do so."

click to enlarge Blu Ray box cover - SYNAPSE FILMS
  • Synapse Films
  • Blu Ray box cover
Thundercrack has been restored to the impressive 160-minute director's cut, which may cut into the Peaches Christ tradition of presenting epic stage shows prior to the screening of the film being shown.

"Because the film is so long, the stage show will be no longer than 30 minutes, hosted by me," Peaches said. "We'll feature a Q-&-A with the cast, as well as a 'Best Low-Hangars contest', so we may get a bit naughty! We're only doing the live pre-show for the evening screening. The matinee show is just the film itself for folks unable to attend in the evening. We're screening the whole beautifully restored film and their will be an intermission."

Tickets for Thundercrack at the Castro can be purchased at Peaches Christ's website

Synapse is pulling out all the stops for the film's corresponding Blu Ray release. Now available at Amazon, Synapse offers a two disc edition of Thundercrack which includes the complete film, recently shot interviews with cast members, a 1975 interview with McDowell and Marion Eaton, sex scene outtakes, and a collection of McDowell's short films. On top of all that, you also get the feature-length documentary It Came From Kuchar, which documents the career of George Kuchar and his brother Mike. 

If you're perusing You Tube looking for something fun to watch, you can't go wrong with Dusty Old Movies. This charmer of a web series features young Bobby Collins, who must have a very old soul. Bobby has an obsessive love for the classic horror films and TV series of his parents and grandparents generations. In Dusty Old Movies, Bobby picks an old, scary movie and reviews it, complete with stills, clips, and his own amusingly grand recreation of his favorite lines from the movie.

We think Bobby is wildly talented and urge TCM to give this dude a regular spot on the network. In the meantime, here's Bobby's review of Dracula's Daughter (1936), the original lesbian vampire chiller. Enjoy!                 

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