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Sun, Aug 05


@ 1:06 PM

Sherman Torgan, the owner and programmer of the New Beverly Cinema, died last month. 

He's a major reason for what little success I've had so far in this business.

I don't know the particulars of his life -- the curious can go over to the New Beverly Cinema's MySpace page and get them.

All I know is, when I moved to Los Angeles in May of 1995, the New Beverly was a cool, dark continent of then-forgotten history.   It was Saturday, May 20th -- blazing and white outside on Beverly Boulevard.  I watched a double feature of Ace in the Hole and Sunset Boulevard.   Ace in the Hole just came out on a deluxe Criterion DVD.  Thanks to people like Sherman Torgan, "NOT AVAILABLE ON DVD" will quickly go the way of phrases like, "Who's Michael Reeves?" and "I've never seen El Topo or Blast of Silence -- are they good?"

I now have a supremely fun job as a consultant at a major studio.    I go in a few days a month, look over their projects in development, and tweak story, character, and landscape.   It's a profane amount of money for playing, "What if?"   Everyone I work for thinks I'm some sort of savant, with all the film and pop culture history I've got stomped into my bumpy skull.

Thank you, Sherman Torgan.   Between 1995 and 1999, I spent every night I WASN'T doing stand-up sitting in those spine-tweaking seats of yours, devouring movies.   Every film I'd read about in Roger Ebert's Movie Guides, and in Jonathan Rosenbaum and J. Hoberman's MIDNIGHT MOVIES, Sherman unspooled before my suburbanite eyes.   That's why I know the title fonts of The Road Warrior and Race with the Devil are the same.   That's why I can say sage-ful things like, "If we're going to do this sword fight right, then your animators should watch Scaramouche, and Captain Blood, and The Duellists," with conviction.  

Thank you, Sherman Torgan.  After my four years at the New Beverly Film School, Sherman gently pushed me out into the world.  "I think you've graduated," he actually said to me, as I bought tickets for Aguirre, the Wrath of God on Sunday, April 18th, 1999.   "I thought you'd be giving me a screenplay to read by now."   Stunned but also weirdly energized, I watched Werner Herzog's crazed paean to fascist nation-building, went home, and started writing. 

Thank you, Sherman Torgan, for letting me experience, in your theater:

::  Lawrence Tierney, wandering into the middle of a screening of Citizen Kane, watching twenty minutes of it, then heaving himself to his feet and muttering, "I ain't never seen that cocksucker.  Not half bad."

::  The collective gasp of the audience at the end of The Searchers -- something I'd love, for once, to create in an audience watching a film I wrote or directed.

::  The laughter of disbelief during The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, as an audience of twenty-something hipsters realized that "too far" is where comedy should ALWAYS be.

::  The film breaking during the "Here's looking at you, kid" speech in Casablanca, and the audience laughing at the absurdity of it, and then whistling "As Time Goes By" in the dark while the film got fixed.

::  The explosion of applause when Peter Sellers makes his first appearance as Dr. Strangelove.

::  Having my expectations about two seminal, nearly-cliched foreign films exploded when I finally saw them:  Breathless (boring) and The Seventh Seal (genuinely, weirdly funny).   I really thought it'd be the other way around.

Sherman died of a heart attack while bicycling.   I'd hoped he would have died in a shootout with gangsters, or poisoned by a femme fatale, or simply walking into the hazy distance, seen through a darkened doorway.   But life is not a movie.   Which, I guess, is why we see them.

But by watching and loving movies for so long, perhaps Sherman built an eternal movie palace in his soul.    And maybe he's there now, eating that amazing New Beverly popcorn, and sipping a Coke, and watching the movies that great directors dreamed of making, or made and saw devoured by time and entropy, or were in the process of planning when, as it so often happens in Hollywood, things fell apart.  

So, as a tribute, here's the August schedule at The Torgan, somewhere between the winds:

August 1st and 2nd

A Confederacy of Dunces
dir: Hal Ashby
(w/ John Belushi, Richard Pryor, Warren Oates and Lily Tomlin)
Blood Meridian
dir: Terrence Malick
(w/ Gene Hackman, Robby Benson and Marlon Brando)

August 3rd and 4th

Stalingrad (1988)
dir: Sergio Leone

August 5th, 6th and 7th
Orson Welles Double Feature!

Heart of Darkness (1942)
Batman: Riddle of the Ghoul (1944)

August 8th and 9th

Weeping Blade, Laughing Bullet
dir:  Seijun Suzuki

Whisper of Panic
dir: Allen Baron

August 10th and 11th
Irene Dunne Double Feature!

Ride a Cockhorse

August 12th and 13th
Kenneth Anger Double Feature!
On the Road
The Ticket That Exploded
(w/ James Dean and Sal Mineo)

August 14th
Grindhouse Double Feature!

Space Jockey
dir:  Forrest Tucker (1952)
Billy Jack vs. Blacula
dir:  Melvin Van Peebles and Tom Laughlin (1977)

August 15th and 16th

dir:  Sam Peckinpah
Doctor Strange
dir:  Francis Ford Coppola
(…yes, at one point in the 70's, each of these properties was being developed by their respective directors.  Wow!)

August 17th and 18th
Disney Double Feature!

Half Magic
The Phantom Tollbooth

August 19th, 20th and 21st

Jerry Lewis Double Feature!

The Day the Clown Cried
Catcher in the Rye

August 22nd and 23rd
Michael Reeves Double Feature!

The Wasp Factory
The Land of Laughs

August 24th and 25th
Russ Meyer Double Feature!

Jaws of the Vixen

August 26th, 27th and 28th
Hitchcock Double Feature!

The Boy Who Followed Ripley
I Was Dora Suarez

August 29th and 30th
Buster Keaton Double Feature!

Hassle Magnet
Masters of Atlantis

August 31st and September 1st
Scorsese Double Feature!

The Moviegoer (1978)
(starring John Cazale)
The Hawkline Monster (1974)
(starring Robert DeNiro and Harvey Keitel)

OH DEAR GOD (4:54 p.m. PST):  I posted this same blog over on my MySpace page.  I've never had to delete so many comments to save people looking stupid, so I figure, who not nip it in the bud here?

NONE OF THESE FILMS EXIST.  Except for SPACE JOCKEY (maybe) and THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED (filmed but incomplete) these movies exist only in the fevered imaginations of film nerds and, at times, the directors who could've made them.   This is a roll call of the never-weres (BILLY JACK vs. BLACULA), the could-have-beens (Peckinpah's SUPERMAN) and the "lost" (JOCKEY and CLOWN).

Although, the ignorant comments over on the MySpace page -- and I've already deleted them -- were a living testament to how badly we need places like The New Beverly.

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