Hidden Flick: Hidden Theatre

There was never a cover over the seats, just one over the stage, so if it rained, the show would either go on, with fans getting drenched, or it would end if the owner felt the band was at risk of electrocution, or worse, an inability to play along with the music of the water slicing through the sky en route to its final destination on this sacred ground.

This evening was the first experiment, the first chance to see if his venue could still be useful, and the first chance to go outside of the box and present some other form of entertainment. Sure, it had been tried before, but this little Hidden Theatre was special, and he thought he could get the weirdos and odd balls and the just plain strange to come out and chew on some cinema. BYOF was painted on the entrance booths, and when I asked him what that meant, he looked at me with a silly grin as if I should know the answer to that question. Indeed, it rang true as I looked around: “Bring Your Own Freak.”

The owner had taken the cover down that had once protected the stage, and had put up a fairly large screen—almost IMAX-like height and width—in the back of the stage to show a handful of films that he thought were fairly interesting, flaky, and eclectic. Unlike me, he didn’t care if his selections were obscure, once praised but soon forgotten or, in many cases, hidden and lost in the vaults of time. He just picked things that he liked—some new, some old, some better off dead—and away we went.

The first film was a 35-minute animated feature called Dark Fury which seemed to build a bridge between Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick, both directed by David Twohy and starring Vin Diesel. Dark Fury was decent, action-oriented, and witty with Diesel supplying the terse lead character’s dialogue, and directed by Peter Chung, who in the 1990s came to American fame by working on MTV’s Liquid Television program; more specifically, the groundbreaking Aeon Flux series. Peeps cheered Chung’s name.

The Monkees’ Head followed and was a fairly surreal slice of the 1960s with just as much acid-drenched imagery thrown across the screen as there was music coming out of the large speakers that the owner of the Hidden Theatre had placed on either side of the large white screen. Head is the Beatles turned inside out—the Monkees showing the Fab Four, with the help of Jack Nicholson and Bob Rafelson, how to make a truly non-linear, space-bending psychedelic film and Head is arguably one of the lost classics from that strange era, and a nice introduction to the little band that could…and did.

Rene Laloux’s disturbing early 1970s animated feature, Fantastic Planet, was screened next and after the odd but fun Head, the film just sort of ran like an extension of the psychedelic experience, only this time, the trip was descending through hell…FAST. It is an extremely imaginative and colorful film in every sense of the terms, and the script is forged with a point of view that we are not only NOT alone, but we make great pets, too.

The Oms live on Ygam, and are the pets of the blue-skinned Traags who are giants, and the Oms’ overlords. Essentially, the Oms appear to be us, and the Traags are the real significant species in this film, but the Oms find a way to gain their freedom, and change that fact. Indeed, they find a way to project their voice across the abyss of existence, proving that size doesn’t matter in this equation, this fight for life in the expanse of space.

The owner, sensing that he needed a pick-me-up for those still awake just past midnight, screened The Devil’s Rejects, which was written and directed by Rob Zombie, with a dry and wicked sense of humor, and had a sort of anti-human progress message, but hey, this is what you get when the beast finds freedom and doesn’t know what to do with it—kill whatever comes next? Eat it? Maim it for life? Love it? Are there really folks out there as sick and depraved as these people? Can Zombie’s real life wife really be that interesting to watch one minute, and the next, she’s finding a new way to kill an innocent victim? Well, in Zombie’s case, he chooses to just show how things are, and how things can really be if one lets the imagination run a bit wild in this little sordid section of our own deep expanse of space on this tiny little planet housing the friendly, old yet refurbished Hidden Theatre out in the…yes, true again…out in the darkness on the edge of town.

Randy Ray

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