Thursday, 25 August 2011

Scala Forever!

If you are in London between now and the 2nd of October check out this series of screenings in honour of the Scala Cinema Club. Follow the link for details:

The Scala was,  for me, London's best repertory cinema and a mecca for cult/underground film fans. Some of the films I first saw there were: Tetsuo, Santa Sangre, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Cafe Flesh, Thundercrack!, Faster Pussycat Kill Kill! Singapore Sling and many more. The Scala did some great double & triple bills. I remember seeing Eraserhead with Blue Velvet and two early Lynch shorts: The Grandmother and Alphabet; a fantastic DePalma triple of Body Double/Dressed to Kill/Blow Out, and I saw Texas Chainsaw Massacre there at least three times (on a grainy 16mm print - all that was available as the film was still banned in the UK at the time) paired with Motel Hell and The Hills Have Eyes. One of the great things about the Scala was that, as a cinema club, the films were uncertificated. Their crowning glory was their regular all-nighters. I particularly remember an Argento all-nighter(Suspira/Inferno/Tenebrae/Opera) which I stumbled out of with a blinding headache but exhilarated (probably as much from the occasional whiff of dope that wafted across the seats as from the films -I'm not a big Argento fan). Some people would bring sleeping bags and doze through films they didn't care for.

My first visit to the Scala was in 1986 when I travelled to London for a movie marathon that started with a 70mm screening of Aliens at the Odeon Leicester Square, followed by a trip to the Cannon Wardour Street for the first run of Romero's Day of the Dead, and then after a few pints in the West End it was off to the Scala for a Romero all-nighter of Night/Martin/Dawn/Creepshow and The Crazies. The seedy ambience of the Scala (and its unbelievable repertory of films) was a revelation. As I headed home on the train early the next morning, bleary-eyed but happy, I vowed to return to this amazing cinema, and when I later moved to London I did - many times.

In 1993 The Scala Cinema Club went into receivership after losing a court case following an illegal screening of A Clockwork Orange. Kubrick and Warner Brothers did cult movie fans a big disservice.

Now film clubs and rep cinemas such as the Ritzy in Brixton are hosting a programme of screenings in the spirit of the old Scala Cinema Club, including a 'Scala Day' of documentary, talks and discussion on the future of repertory cinema, at the Scala itself on Saturday 17th September.


A hero never dies said...

I only ever managed one visit Jon, for an Eastern Heroes triple bill. I skipped a triple bill of the then Aliens trilogy the night before I had tickets for and set off about 5am. It was amazing, I enjoyed the unique atmosphere as much as the films and came out into King's cross late at night to see things my sheltered self had never seen! Fantastic place and I'd love to have been able to go more.

Wes M said...

Ah great memories Jon, I envy you… We never had anything approaching the Scala in Cork – there was one single arthouse cinema in the city, the Kino (which sadly wouldn’t survive the DVD-era) where we saw Requiem for a Dream and Crash while the Irish censor was dawdling about giving them certificates. Sociologists often refer to the congregational aspect of cinema-going – something I never felt in the multiplexes, but at the Kino, the enthusiasm for a different kind of film was genuinely heartfelt and serious. The second Shock Xpress book has an excellent eulogy to the Scala, mentioning a lot of the films in your post. It’s always been one of my favourite pieces of film writing…

Jon T said...

Thanks, guys. Yes, those were the days. The Scala was maybe the nearest thing to the 42nd Street grindhouse experience you could get in England. I must check out that Shock Xpress book, Wes.