"Have you ever spoken aloud to yourself in a mirror?" "Has your general state of mental health deteriorated over the years?" "Do you believe yourself to be sincere although others might not be?" If you answered "Yes" to any of the above questions, you're obviously ready to enjoy Exploit-O-Scope, a summer Wednesday-night series of exploitation movies from Hollywood's golden age of gimmicks, now running at the Pacific Film Archive.
The questions are part of the "D-13 Test," a "psychological profile" used to scare up interest in Dementia 13, a 1963 cheapo shocker from producer Roger Corman that was the first directorial screen credit for Francis Ford Coppola, who would go on to make the Godfather films. Coppola disowns Dementia (August 18), no doubt partly because Corman inserted a grisly murder scene to get a higher body count, but also because of laughable publicity stunts like the D-13 Test. In the easygoing '60s and '70s a lot of movies used gimmicks, says PFA video curator Steve Seid, who with a team of student assistants combed studio vaults for hard-to-find prints of such flicks as William Castle's Mr. Sardonicus (it plays August 4, and features a "Punishment Poll") and John Waters' Polyester (with its Odorama Card of awful smells, on August 11). Castle's Psycho piggy-backer Homicidal, screening tonight (July 28, 7:30 p.m.), sends frightened audience members to a "Coward's Corner" -- just follow the yellow line -- and offers a money-back guarantee for those too chicken to watch. Other flicks gave away blindfolds and barf bags.
In most cases, Seid had to replicate long-ago gimmicks as best he could. He lucked onto a cache of several hundred Odorama cards when Polyester came out on DVD last year. Then he tried to book the 1981 film itself. "I went to Fine Line, and they told me they were going to destroy all their prints of it," he recalls. Seid immediately phoned Waters in Baltimore with the bad news, and the next day heard from Fine Line that they were striking a new print instead. "They said, 'John was really mad,'" Seid laughs. That's trash-ertainment. Info: BAMPFA.Berkeley.edu
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