Joe Dante was one of Roger Corman’s kids: His first job in the movies was cutting trailers for the king of low-budget exploitation pictures. Corman’s movies were uneven but he could certainly spot talent, and he let Dante out of the editing room to direct Hollywood Boulevard and the worldwide hit Piranha (from a John Sayles screenplay!). It wasn’t long before Dante graduated to directing goofily entertaining (and beloved) studio movies like Gremlins, The ‘Burbs and Matinee. His career throughout has been defined by the simple virtues of affection for his audience and a disdain for cynicism.
The Roxie brings the filmmaker and raconteur -- who’s in preproduction on a film based on Corman’s adventures in acid making The Trip with Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson in 1967 -- to San Francisco this weekend for a series they’ve dubbed Joe Dante’s Films in Films. The idea is to spotlight the witty short films he embedded in his features, with the director introducing the 1983 anthology Twilight Zone: The Movie (Saturday, July 1 at 9:30pm) and the delightful Matinee (Sunday, July 2 at 2pm). The weekend wraps with the anarchic Amazon Women on the Moon (Sunday at 6:30pm) after Dante blows town.
The kickoff and main attraction, though, is Dante’s presentation of The Movie Orgy (Saturday at 1pm). Screened in a seven-hour version on college campuses circa 1968, the marathon work consisted of the juicy parts of several psychotronic films cut together and interspersed with vintage TV commercials and other bits of celluloid. (Dante started out as an editor, remember.) He recently revived this weirdness in a four-and-a-half-hour version, and started taking it around the country. Dante explained to an interviewer last year, “People ask, ‘Why don’t you put a video out of it?’ Well, first of all I don't own anything on it. Some of it is unidentifiable. And more importantly, this only works with an audience, with a crowd. It’s an experience movie, it's not a movie movie.”
If that’s not a perfectly Cormanesque sales pitch, I don’t know what is.