The fondly-remembered fleapit, Scala cinema in King’s Cross, may have died and been reincarnated as a nightclub (following an illegal screening of the then-banned A Clockwork Orange), but the film club’s kaleidoscopic and outré spirit lives on today with Scalarama.
This nebulous initiative encourages weird programming and offbeat screenings, while supporting independent venues and community cinema across the country. Now in its fourth year, Scalarama runs from 1-30 September and is backing over 500 screenings, with a wealth of grindhouse favourites and forgotten gems on show here in London.
There’s almost too much strangeness to choose from, but to give you some idea, a typical show might be horror critic Kim Newman introducing 1979’s The Visitor at East Finchley’s Phoenix. This psychedelic assault on the senses stars John Huston as an intergalactic warrior who joins forces with a cosmic Christ figure to battle a demon that lives inside an 8 year old girl. Who has a pet hawk. Exactly.
Then there’s wobbly cult favourite Plan 9 From Outer Space, playing as a double bill with the creepily atmospheric Carnival Of Souls at Dalston’s Scenario bar. Or how about surrealist Czech satire Daisies at Wilton’s Music Hall? Prefer an all-dayer of iconoclastic treats? The Genesis Cinema in Mile End has a seven-movie line-up of obscure Jack Nicholson films on 28 September.
As well as getting repertory cinemas involved, there are new spaces like Hackney’s Hollywood Spring, which is screening a strange range including the frisky film noir Gun Crazy and Highlander (to mark the vote for Scottish independence we assume). Good to see also, that the at-risk Horse Hospital in Bloomsbury is ignoring its financial woes and putting on a bunch of wilfully obscure art films including The Beaver Trilogy.
Non-professional participation in Scalarama is encouraged with national Home Cinema Day on 28 September and the Open Programme, where anyone can apply to put on a screening in the manner of the Edinburgh Fringe (there may still be time to apply).
Exhibitions taking place alongside the films include Saturation 70 at Horse Hospital, which is about an unmade sci-fi epic, and posters by the late Hans Hillmann at the Kemistry Gallery (with accompanying screenings at the Goethe Institut and Ciné Lumière). Finally, there’s a fundraising closing party with shorts and a pub quiz at Kennington’s Cinema Museum on 30 September.
For more information, wade through the listings on the festival website or seek out the extensive paper guide which includes contributions from Martin Scorsese and John Waters. There’s also an interactive map to help you find screenings in your area.