Music Box of Horrors 2017

20141012_040816Many, many years ago, while set up at a little movie memorabilia show in Rosemont, Il, a young lady came strolling by our table. For some reason, she looked a bit familiar, but we just couldn’t place her. As it turns out, it was none other than Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni, an actress who had appeared in a few Italian films like Demons 2 (1986) and Opera (1987). How and why would she be just wandering around this show, here in the states?!?! Turns out that she had been living in Chicago for a while and was dragged to the show by a friend. We started talking and became friends over the next couple of decades. We introduced her to Ken Kish, who quickly had her appear at his Cinema Wasteland show in 2001. In fact, he even had her back once again in 2008. At that show, because of Coralina, I had the glorious opportunity to meet the talented director Mariano Baino, director of Dark Waters (1993), a film that I have always loved and admired, for its look, atmosphere, and originality.

Fast forward to 2016, at the annual Music Box of Horrors, while I was chatting with Will Morris, the genius who has been programming the marathon the last couple of years. I asked him if he knew of the film Dark Waters and immediately his eyes lit up and said, “I love that movie!” I then told him that I knew the director, Mariano, and I’m sure he’d love to come out here if they would screen his film. And now, as they say, the rest is now history. Well, there was a lot more to that, but let’s just say that thanks to Will, Ryan at the Music Box, and of course the fine folks at Severin Films, it all came together for this year’s Music Box of Horrors.

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As usual, we were vending at this event, right in our little corner in the lovely Music Box Lounge. I know there is probably more traffic when you’re out in the main lobby, but I kind of like being in our little area. More room for shoppers to stop and browse and well as more room for us behind the table. And when you’re going to be there for hours at a time, comfort is an important thing for us! But it also is about meeting and chatting with other like-minded horror fans as much as it is setting up as a vendor. Sure, we’re there to make money, but it really is so much more than that. We were there bright and early to get set up before the show. Lucky the weather was being nice to us and the rain was holding off. An hour or so later, we were all set up and ready for the crowds to start piling in.

When we got there at 8:30am, there were already a couple of people in line! I can’t say how cool that makes me feel. These are some hardcore fans that are into the films so much that they get here 3-4 hours before the first movie starts. Hard-core dedication, right there, my friends. More and more fans started to pile up the closer it got to show time. It just shows how popular horror films still are these days. Maybe now more than ever.

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With the recent losses in the horror genre this past year, there were a couple of tributes during the marathon. Tobe Hooper’s Funhouse was in the lineup, along with George Romero’s Land of the Dead (2005) and his segment from Two Evil Eyes, The Facts in the Case of Mr. Vademar (1990). With these two icons leaving us this year, Will had put together a nice little tribute to them. Sad, but nicely done. Representing some other Masters of Horrors that are still around, we had John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness (1994) and Clive Barker’s Hellraiser (1987).

The marathon started off with William Girdler’s The Manitou (1977), which while it had played before at one of the marathons back in 2013, it got a great response again telling me that most of the audience had never seen it before. Honestly, it was great to see Girdler getting some props for a film that is 40 years old. The Manitou was another big hit for Girdler, following Grizzly (1976) and Day of the Animals (1977), getting him closer to the big league. Unfortunately, the year following this film, he was killed in a helicopter crash while scouting locations for a new film.

And of course, anytime they screen a silent film with a live score, it is always a thrill. This year was the 1927 film The Cat and the Canary with Evan Hydzik providing the music. Great stuff.

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But it was the screening of Dark Waters that I really was excited about. This would be only the third time that this movie has been screened in US theaters, the first time in the Midwest. It is a damn shame that it took almost 25 years for it to happen, but that was about to change. Mariano came with some prints of his amazing artwork, both from the film as well as his creative if not terrifying imagination, showing some creatures that can only be described as from a nightmare! Such a multi-talented person.

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He came out with Will to introduce the film and then was back afterwards for a very enlightening and entertaining Q&A. Kudos to Will once again for leading this so well. Always great to have someone running these who knows what they are talking about. Makes it so much better for the guest as well as the audience! Some of the stories he told of making of the film is only a small percentage of what really went on then. Check out the documentary on the Blu-ray for all the insane details. After the Q&A, Mariano came out to the lobby to sign autographs for the fans, of course, for free.

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One thing that I’ve always loved about these marathons at the Music Box is that, other than one year, the guests have always signed autographs for free. I can’t tell you much that means to the fans to feel that they are being treated like fans and admirers of the work of these filmmakers and not a customer. So kudos to the Music Box for continuing that tradition alive and well.

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I didn’t have a chance to sit down in the theater and watch any of the films in their entirety, but did pop in every now and then to catch a few minutes here and there. Always a double-edge sword setting up as a vendor at these events. You do miss out on seeing some great cinema on the big screen, and from 35mm, which is a very rare thing these days.

I think it was somewhere around 2 or 3am when we decided to call it quits and start to pack up. It was a long day but well worth the time and effort. I know we’ll be back next year to do it all over again. And I can’t end this without giving a special shout out to our friend Bryan Martinez who was there right from the early morning helping us out when needed, as well as stepping up and helping Mariano out at his table! Always a pleasure to have you around.

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Please Note: All photos were taken by Jon Kitley and can not be used without proper permission. Want permission? Just ask. It’s that simple.

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