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Harem, scare 'em, or double-dare 'em

The Festival of Fantasy, Horror & Science Fiction scans the globe for varied treasures.

August 01, 2004|Susan King | Times Staff Writer

Oh, the horror of it all.

For the next month, the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood will be home to gigantic ants, vampires, vampire hunters, the undead, ghosts, ghouls, aliens and even Sinbad the sailor as the American Cinematheque presents its fifth Festival of Fantasy, Horror & Science Fiction.

"Every year, it becomes more and more popular," says programmer Dennis Bartok of the festival, which begins Thursday with a cast and crew reunion of the 1984 cult hit "Repo Man" and continues through Aug. 29. Fifty films are set to screen over 16 days, including the 50th anniversary of the horror classic "Them!" along with "Night of the Living Dead" and an early Peter Jackson effort called "Meet the Feebles."

As with previous installments of the festival, Bartok and his staff have included a wide range of movies from around the world. "New films this year include the L.A. premieres of Tobe Hooper's 'The Toolbox Murders' and this wonderful Korean sci-fi animated film called 'Sky Blue,' which played at the Sundance festival this year," says Bartok. "We have a new film from Dario Argento, 'The Card Player.' So it's great to be able to show new work by classic filmmakers as well as some first-time directors."

One first-time filmmaker is Chris D, one of the Cinematheque programmers and founder and lead singer of the seminal L.A. punk band the Flesh Eaters. The festival will be showcasing his film "I Passed for Human," which Bartok describes as a "junkie vampire ghost movie -- it is ground zero on the mean streets of L.A. with predatory vampires and ghosts prowling around every corner. That was a no-brainer [to include]."

Bartok learns about potential titles by perusing festival catalogs. "There is also an informal network of genre enthusiasts who are out there who will go to different festivals around the world and we e-mail them [about films]. We try to keep our ear to the railroad tracks."

The festival includes tributes to Czech director Pavel Juracek, Belgium filmmaker Harry Kumel ("Daughters of Darkness") and British actress Caroline Munro, who starred in several cult horror and sci-fi films, including "Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter," "The Golden Voyage of Sinbad" and "Starcrash" as well as the James Bond film "The Spy Who Loved Me."

Munro, the mother of two young daughters, is the only actress to ever have been put under contract by the legendary British horror studio Hammer Films. "Sadly, it was toward the end of Hammer," she says. "I got to do two films, 'Captain Kronos' and 'Dracula A.D. 1972' with Peter Cushing. It would have been nice to have gone on and do a few more. As I look back, how blessed I was to have had a chance to work with such great people."

The Hammer horror films, Munro reflects, were "very stylized. They were gothic, and even though I suppose at the time they were a little bit bloody, they still left quite a bit to the imagination."

"She is one of those iconic femme fatales from fantasy films," says Bartok. "There are these actresses who have huge cult followings, but their movies don't get screened at retrospectives. They normally don't get a chance to see their collected works shown and talk about their work."

Munro says she still can't believe the Cinematheque is honoring her career, which stretched over more than 30 years.

"It's lovely," she says, "and my children think it's a hoot."


Festival of Fantasy, Horror & Science Fiction

Where: American Cinematheque, Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles

When: Thursday to Aug. 29

Price: $9 for general admission; $8 for seniors and students with valid ID; and $6 for Cinematheque members

Contact: (323) 466-FILM or

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