Sunday, November 09, 2008

Queen Thorina at the Vintage Mexican Sci-Fi Film Festival, and other surprises

Above you see the back of an upside down postcard, with an autograph of Lorena Velazquez, and below that a ticket for a showing of The Aztec Mummy vs. the Human Robot. This is how in my good fortune, so atypical of my normal fortune, I came to get these....

Manhattan's 92Y Tribeca, which confusingly is not on 92nd Street, but downtown, at 200 Hudson Street, near Canal, was having a brief Mexican sci-fi film festival from October 30 to November 2. I had been alerted to this by my good buddy Derrick Hussey (publisher of Hippocampus Books) some time ago, and later found out that David Wilt, Mexican film authority extraordanaire, would be at a Saturday showing (Nov. 1), so I determined to at least be there to meet David, whom I've been in contact with on the Latarnia message board and through a few e-mails. I was uncertain about whether I'd attend any other days of the festival, as the Vampiros and Monstruos book I'm working on centers around horror, rather than science fiction films. I placed all this info in the back of my mind, where it inconveniently disappeared.

But then Derrick shot off an e-mail to me early Thursday, the first day of the festival, asking me if I was going to attend that night's showing of La nave de los monstruos/Ship of Monsters. This was a thankful alert, as I had forgotten about the specifics of the festival. I read up on La nave, and with Derrick going, I decided I had to attend also, so off I went, winding up, after a bus ride, walking the length of Canal Street (and up an overpass) to get to the theater, which has just recently opened.

Once there, in the lobby, I saw that a photographer was taking pictures of a group of people, among whom I saw someone I thought I knew from film. But the person was decades older, so I couldn't quite place the face with a name. Then someone mentioned the name--"Lorena Velazquez."

Yes, Queen Thorina of Santo contra las mujeres vampiro was in attendance!

The event was attended by a small but enthusiastic crowd. (The movie theater itself is small; certainly less than 100 seats.) Velazquez sat in the front row.

Lorena Velazquez at another event. At the Vintage Mexican Sci-Fi Festival in NY she was dressed primarily in black.

The night of surprises was not over, as just before the film began, a guy walks in with his date, and I immediately recognize the legendary porn actor Jamie Gillis. What the hell is Gillis doing at a Mexican Sci-Fi Film Festival?! He and his date sit in the row right in front of me, a seat to my left. Having Jamie Gillis sitting so close distracted me from the film for a few minutes. After all, this is a guy whose "films" I've been watching since my Times Square days. And he is one of the most intense actors in the porn genre, with, pardon, loads of rough sex thrown in, real nasty stuff that an aficionado like myself appreciates. Hardly the type of guy you'd imagine going to a film festival like this with what looked like a normal date (who may have been in her fifties). A handsome couple, in fact. And Gillis looks still like Gillis!

I've never seen La nave de los monstruos/Ship of Monsters. What a delightful, charming film. And bizarre. It goes off on a vampire tangent that was bewildering, but wonderfully so. I'm doubt that I will have the time to include it in the Vampiros and Monstruos book, but somehow I'll get around to reviewing the film.

After the film, Velazquez took questions, which was my opportunity to "interview" her briefly. Once Q&A was over, I talked to Velazquez a bit more and got her autograph, as did a few other people, including Derrick, who added to his autograph ticket collection.

Later, everyone headed to another area of the complex, in which a "firing funky, folky Latin pop" group, Pistolera, was performing. A free beer or tequila was part of the ticket price. I decided to somehow approach Gillis, but the opportunity never presented itself before he left with his date, who, as Derrick found out later, is a noted Mexican restaurateur, Zarela Martinez. In the Q & A with Velazquez, Zarela seemed completely unaware about Velazquez's career, but Velazquez answered her two questions or so with unpretentiousness and a smile.

I also got to meet, briefly, underground filmmaker Nick Zedd, who was with his date Monica Casanova, whom I had met at the Two Boots Theater showing of Mil Mascaras: Resurrection a couple of weeks ago.

The next day was also memorable. I finally got to chat in person with Latarnia's Dr. Ling--David Wilt--with whom I could have spent the entire weekend (plus!) talking about Mexican cinema. Unfortunately David had to leave early, but it was great to meet and talk to him. The man is the authority on Mexican cinema (not just the horror/fantasy stuff). Give this guy a million dollar grant!

The book presentation event had several authors of the text giving introductions and answering questions. These topics are so rare that everything they said had extra importance. A real nice group of guys (Hector Orozco, Naief Yehya) and a gal (Itala Schmelz). Schmelz was the organizer of the book project, and I assume, festival.

I've yet to go through the text of El futuro mas aca, but everything looks impressive--the text and certainly the layout. BTW, the book is in both Spanish and English, so it's a valuable addition to anyone's library, even if they don't speak Spanish.


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