From 1978 to 1993, not far from King's Cross Station, the Scala movie Theater showed the most unclassifiable, the most deranged and the most licentious films on our planet, and though it shut down a quarter of a century ago, it doesn't change anything : this theater, that showed Bergman classics as well as Midnight Movies masterpieces by Alejandro Jodorowsky or Russ Meyer, had already become a counter culture legend.
Founded by Stephen Woolley, initially on Tottenham Street, in the center of London, then two years later moved to its permanent residence in King's Cross, the Scala also welcome diverse live or artistic events, from mythical concerts (Joy Division, Throbbing Gristle, Divine) to photography exhibitions. One of the Scala's major successes was to project films shunned by traditional theaters that have now become cult movies, like Curt McDowell's Thundercrack or Stephen Sayadian's Cafe Flesh. John Waters, whose films were often shown there, was once the host of a memorable evening : "I remember the audience was even crazier than anything I'd seen in America. They were ecstatic and really noisy. It was great, almost scary."
Jane Giles, author of books on Jean Genet or of The Crying Game, historian and active alt-cinema journalist, worked as a programmer for the Scala for several years. She's recently published a book on this mythical venue, and has selected, especially for us, a series of films to give us a taste of the madness of the Scala's screenings.
-- SCALA!!! by Jane Giles --
«The Scala had magic. It was like joining a club – a very secret club, like a biker gang or something. It’s like they were a country club for criminals and lunatics and people that were high. Which is a good way to see movies» – John Waters
The Scala was the UK’s most notorious and influential cinema, showing a different double-bill every day from 1978-1993. Specialising in horror, cult movies, LGBT+, music, Kung Fu and the unclassifiable, the Scala’s iconic monthly programme provided an unofficial film education for a post-punk/pre-digital generation. Its greatest hits included the films of Dario Argento, Russ Meyer, John Waters, Pasolini and David Lynch, with onstage appearances by everyone from The Cramps to Nick Cave, New Order to Divine.
An exceptionally atmospheric venue with an enormous beer-splattered silver screen, urban graffiti murals, resident cats and a steep auditorium which rumbled every time the tube trains passed by beneath the building, the Scala attracted audiences from far and wide. Over a million people passed through its doors including artists, writers, musicians and students who would become filmmakers: Peter Strickland, Ben Wheatley, Martin McDonagh, James Marsh, Carol Morley, Joe Cornish. Christopher Nolan still carries his last membership card in his wallet, more than 25 years after the Scala shut down, sunk in a perfect storm of economic recession, local redevelopment to make way for the new Channel Tunnel terminus and a devastating lawsuit.
But now the spirit of the Scala is back, with an award-winning new book ‘Scala Cinema 1978-1993’ by Jane Giles (FAB Press), festival screenings and more. As a tribute to the Scala, l'Étrange Festival is showing three of its favourite films, Santa Sangre (Alejandro Jodorowsky 1989), Ghosts… Of the Civil Dead (John Hillcoat 1988) and Taxi Zum Klo (Frank Ripploh 1980).
A new generation prison center, stuck in the middle of the Australian desert, conceived like a shopping mall and painted like a kindergarten, sees all its supplies cut off. Tension mounts among the inmates.
Fenix is the son of Orgo, an American knife thrower, and of Concha a trapeze artist, amputated by her husband. Locked up in an asylum, Fenix recalls his childhood with his parents, and the dwarf Aladin, the beautiful trapeze artist Alma, the tattooed woman and other colorful characters.
Frank is a 30 year old city dweller, living his homosexuality freely. When he isn't teaching in an elementary school with great pedagogic talent, he cruises for one night stands, until he meets Berdn, a movie theater cashier.