SF/32? 24 hours of science fiction movies viewed from the (relative) comfort of a Somerville Theater seat? Yes, please, I'll have some. This event has earned the right to be called "venerable", after having just finished its 32nd run. It started at the late, lamented Orson Welles Cinema
in Cambridge as a cure for those mid-winter, cabin fever crazies. "It Came From The Orson Welles" happened every President's Day weekend (with a special 36-hour marathon for its 10th anniversary) until 1986, when the theater burned and couldn't be saved. The Marathon, as it was now known, moved to the Somerville Theater
in Davis Square, then still in pretty dire un-renovated conditions (I have heard stories that, around the 18-hour mark, the un-renovated bathrooms at the theater became actual portals to Hell itself.)
Garen Daly, the Somerville's owner and general manager at the time, was big on bringing unique and different films to the theater and embraced the spirit of the Marathon. When he lost his lease on the theater and the Somerville's future looked dire, Garen brought the Marathon to the Coolidge Corner
theater in Brookline, where the Starship Coolidge held forth all the way up to 2003. Then the Marathon roamed, a ragtag fugitive fleet, for a few years -- 2004 at the Dedham Community Theater (with the Museum of Bad Art
in its basement/men's room salon), a Triumphant Return (somewhat) to the Somerville in 2005, and last year, at the West Newton Cinema. Both the Dedham and West Newton theaters were happy to have us and their staffs were great, but their locations were out-of-the-way for us city folk and the twinned screens meant you may find a seat in one section but your other pals would've found a spot in the other auditorium.
Along the way the "SF Marathon" became the "Boston Science-Fiction Film Festival", with attempts at events before or after the main 24 hours, but the old-timers still just call it the Marathon.
Finally, this year, the Marathon made Another Triumphant Return to the Somerville, and with the help of Ian Judge, the theater's new manager, it look like the Starship Somerville may be the home of the festival for a few years to come. This is great for Davis Square and science fiction fans with butts of steel (or at least iron.)
I've been attending this crazy event for nigh onto 13 years now, with only one missed in 2002 (as I was having my own marathon 30-hour move at the time.) Garen affectionately describes the event as "our Brigadoon
", a special community which only appears briefly once in a long time, though other cynics have commented sometimes it's more along the lines of "our 2000 Maniacs
No matter what, when you go, you are treated to 24 hours of science-fiction features -- anything from Georges Melies' 1902 classic Le Voyage Dans La Lune
to a new release (this year we had Slither
), from schlock like Plan 9 From Outer Space
to classics like Alien
, from 3D movies to silent films accompanied by a real live theremin player. There's also classic movie trailers, cartoons (the Marathon is traditionally started with Duck Dodgers in the 24th 1/2 Century
, and Dodgers himself has become a de facto mascot), live contests for Best Tinfoil Hat or Alien Mating Cry, and sometimes an indie film with QA with the director afterwards. Sometimes the QA is good, such as when we spoke with the makers of this great Canadian film called Top Of The Food Chain
; sometimes the QA is brutal, such as when the makers of a pretty stinky film called Niagravation
got up onstage and had to answer the first question of "Did you mean
to make this movie suck?" (Julie Corman, who was scheduled to speak after the viewing of Carnosaur
, actually ducked out before she could endure the slings and barbs of the audience.)
The audience is united in its love for science-fiction, but that doesn't mean we don't hoot and holler at the schlock. Audience participation is moderately encouraged but it's not an MST3K fest. A well-timed quip during a bad film will get a laugh; constant commentary will cause your neighbors to start throwing stuff at you. The usual rule of thumb is "If you're the only one talking, maybe you shouldn't be." We also have our own callback traditions: We cheer the good guys and hiss the villains (especially any who mistreat animals or slap women around), any gruff, grumpy military figure will be met with "Grrrr!", many people bring ray guns to shoot the bug-eyed monsters on-screen (or sometimes shoot the humans), we clap once for every name featured during the opening credits of a film (hint: "Cinemascope" isn't a name!) and any mention of the word "mark" will be echoed loudly. It's a long story involving Planet of the Vampires
a dubbed movie with a captain named Mark, whose name was mentioned almost every other line. We kept a running count one year; his name was said nearly 200 times. Then there's the Rice Chex/Wheat Chex "feud", which is an even longer story.( Collapse )
Next post: Midnight movies, shorts galore, and we eat crepes.