A (slightly) new cut of amateur director Chris King's surrealist zombie silent film "Blind Cat Black" will screen outdoors at the Schlafly Tap Room at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, July 1 as part of a Missouri Zombie Double Feature that also includes "Song of the Dead" (2005) by Chip Gubera from Columbia.
The double bill will be shown outdoors, like a drive-in movie, in the parking lot south of the Tap Room, purveyor of delicious local Schlafly beers. The event is a co-production of Schlafly, Cinema St. Louis and Frontyard Features, and the price is right: It's free.
The local cast of BCB burgeoned to include something of a who's who of the St. louis underground arts scene. Hip-hop butch/diva Toyy Davis plays the lead part of The Absent Minded Tightrope Walker. Artist Jason Wallace Triefenbach plays the co-lead part of The Flower Shop Boy. Arts organizer Don Erickson plays The Dirty Man. Two real actors with legitimate acting credits, Stefene Russell (Aunt Sadness) and Ray Brewer (King of the Zombies), have significant parts. Club owner (The Royale) and man about town Steve Fitzpatrick Smith has a smaller part, as do major poet K. Curtis Lyle, pop producer Bradd Young, avante garde musician Tory Z. Starbuck, rapper Brooke HollaDay, rapper/rocker L.A., writer Thom Fletcher, actor Suzanne Roussin, jazz musician Christopher Y. Voelker, banker Neal Alster, urban conservation activist Michael R. Allen and some 50 people in zombie makeup and attire.
"As my friends in the local gospel scene like to say, I am 'blessed' with a very wide range of interesting and talented friends," King said. "Unbelievably, I think they are all still my friends, even after going through this exhausting ordeal with me - though Toyy is in between cell phones and braid-weaving gigs and she hasn't checked her MySpace page in half a year, so I don't even know if she knows about the July 1 screening."
"The movie is based entirely upon a very disturbing modern Turkish poem that is all about the secret street life of Istanbul, with lots of guns, rats, drugs, corpses, curses, tattoos, prostitution, gender-bending, violence, racial epithets, and sex," King said. "You will find some of all of that stuff in the movie. The South Grand scene is hard to faze, but you will still hear some chatter down there about the zombie orgy scene we filmed on the floor of CBGB on Super Bowl Sunday 2007. There is some, shall we say, 'objectionable content' in this movie. My friend Jamilah Nasheed, a conscious Muslim state rep, walked out on the premiere, not even half way through. I expect somebody will walk out on us on July 1 – well, since we are screening outside at The Tap Room, I guess they would have to walk in. Or away, into the night.
The film (shot on digital video, but called a "film," at least in King's own praise releases) premiered at the Tivoli Theatre in July 2007 as part of the 2007 St. Louis Filmmaker's Showcase.
"In the Filmmaker's Showcase, they slotted us on the 'Experimental' program, which made sense to me," King said. "Everything about 'Blind Cat Black' was an experiment. I had never made a movie before. My star, Toyy, had never really acted before, at least not in front of camera. And I would go so far as to say that a film had never been made in quite the same way as we made this one.
"Blind Cat Black" began its unusual life as Bakissiz Bir Kedi Kara, a book-length prose poem, written in Turkish by Ece Ayhan and published in Turkey in 1965. In 1997, it was translated into English, titled "Blind Cat Black," and published by Murat Nemet-Nejat, a Turkish Jew who lives in Hoboken and sells Oriental rugs for a living in New York City. King met the translator in Brooklyn, on a field recording journey with the mobile arts collective Hoobellatoo, just as the translation was coming off the press; and he reviewed it in The Nation magazine.
Almost a decade later, in 2006, Hoobellatoo had evolved into the St. Louis-based arts group Poetry Scores (named after its core form, a long poem scored as one would score a film); and King produced a poetry score to "Blind Cat Black." Drawn from Hoobellatoo original recordings accumulated over the previous decade, the score featured All Ireland piper Michael Cooney, Australian poet laureate Les Murray, King's own band Three Fried Men, and a number of names to conjure with in St. Louis, including songster Pops Farrar, raconteur Fred Friction and National steel guitarist Tom Hall. Poetry Scores released the CD at Mad Art Gallery in Fall 2006, accompanied by an invitational of artists from around the country responding to the poem in traditional media.
"By that time, we had been calling these weird little things we were making 'poetry scores' for so long, that I began to wonder why we had never made a film to one of the scores," King said. "Especially since I love silent movies, and that's bascially what would need to be done: to write and film a silent movie, and then edit it to the existing poetry score. So that's pretty much what we did.
The "we" in this connection makes for a long list. King began with local avante garde filmmaker Chizmo as the "visualizer" and local video veteran Aaron AuBuchon signed up as the eventual editor. But he quckly wore out Chizmo and grabbed AuBuchon and several other guys to help him finish shooting it. Then, in the editing process, he wore out AuBuchon and had to call in his old friend, the artist Kevin Belford, to help him finish editing it. He also wore out a makeup artist (party producer Leata Land), a zombie wrangler (nurse Dale Ashauer), a bartender (composer Eric Hall), and a patron who ran the Zombie Green Room (behavioral health exec John Eiler).
"The reputation of directors is of these manic, maniacal, absolutely impossible narcissists who act like the world exists solely to complete their film," King said. "Having now done this once – on no budget whatsoever, and with a demanding full-time day job – I can see where the reputation comes from.
Also screening at the Tap Room on Tuesday, July 1 as part of the Missouri Zombie Double Feature is "Song of the Dead" by Chip Gubera (2005), in which terrorists infect a spray intended to protect Americans against the dangerous 1,000-year Mosquito Awakening, bringing the dead back to life.
For more information, contact King at firstname.lastname@example.org or 314-265-1435. Or Cinema St. Louis at 314-289-4150 or www.cinemastlouis.org or Frontyard Features at 314-664-4330 or http://fyfstl.com/. (2005), in which terrorists infect a spray intended to protect Americans against the dangerous 1,000-year Mosquito Awakening, bringing the dead back to life.
''Blind Cat Black' screens outdoors July 1 at Tap Room
21st and Locust in downtown St. Louis
Amateur surrealist zombie silent film shows with 'Song of the Dead'