Monday, June 6, 2011

Trailer Trash and Tintorera: A Talk With Dion Conflict

Dion Conflict's Trailer Trash screens on Friday, June 10th at 9:30pm. Tintorere screens on Sunday, June 12th at 7:00pm.

Dion Conflict is a bit of a fixture on the Toronto film scene. The man behind the wildly successful Shock and Awe all night film festivals and the Hunka Junk DVD series made up of found footage returns this weekend to the Toronto Underground Cinema for two special events. Conflict, who is the proprietor of one of the largest collections of 16 and 35mm film prints in Canada, joins us first on Friday night for his popular Trailer Trash series, a nonstop (until it does stop, of course) program of classic trailers from the past 40 years assembled like a madman's mixtape. On Sunday, in the middle of an "animals gone wild" feature weekend at the Underground that also includes Jaws (Thursday at 7:00pm and Sunday at 9:30pm) and the William Girdler classic Grizzly (Thursday at 9:30pm as part of our Exploitation Alley series), Conflict brings the little known Mexican Jaws knock-off-slash-borederline-porno Tintorera. Conflict sat down to talk about both events and shares some of his favourite trailers from Trailer Trash and some of his favourite Jaws knock offs.

Toronto Underground Cinema: Can you give us an overview of what Trailer Trash is all about?

Dion Conflict: Well, the history of that one is kind of interesting because the one thing I have always wanted to do is to try different things. Back in the 1980s there were these videos that were released that were just movie trailer compilations. Those are coming back in style now with DVD and special features and all that. I have collected a fair amount of 35mm movie trailers. At one point around, like, early last decade, I thought to put on this festival of movie trailers and just run that.

Trailer Trash basically follows the growth of the movie trailer. By mixing new ones and old ones and different genres you can definitely see a difference in the selling of the movie.

The one thing that I think you will see is that a lot of the 1970s stuff is a Ron Popeil type pitch. A real hard sell "you've gotta see this movie" kind of thing. Before that there was a lot more text on the screen like "starring the screen sensation" or "starring the lovely." Then you see past, like, the 80s and you always have this Moviefone style narration that was. like, "They were on a mission..." and then you witness in the past couple of decades the use of pop songs and retro tracks as a sort of backing track to the trailer. But I always liked the hard sell better. That's what works best for me, but to sell a movie like that without giving anything away, that's an art form.

Lots of times the trailers are a lot more interesting than the main feature. When I had been doing screenings before when I worked for Festival Cinemas I had no shame in how I linked trailers together. I would follow a Jessica Simpson flick with something like Mandingo. I remember I pitched the idea to them and they said it was a really awesome idea. There was one blogger who had said that I was the overlord of flea market cinema. I loved that and I thought that was great.

The first time we did it, it played really well because it was this mix of old and new. Just a lot of fun. It was like waiting for a movie that was never going to come so you just sit transfixed by these trailers. I think that people just want to be entertained by it, you know? The last time we ran this in Montreal people were taking notes to remember what movies they wanted to see.

TUC: Just to give everyone an idea of how big your film collection is, would you mind talking about it?

DC: It's stored in two different countries. A great portion of it is down South, which is kind of where it needs to be if I want to transfer it for home video, and I have three film vaults full of things I have collected since I was 16. All of the trailers I show come from my archive and I have gotten them from all over the globe. A lot of the things I have are things where there aren't very many left. Like when we showed Ed Wood's last film, The Snow Bunnies, at the Underground. That is maybe the only print at all in Canada and probably one of the only uncut prints of that film left in the world, if there are even any left.

3 of the best Trailer Trash trailers picked by Dion Conflict:

1. Hardbodies - "I programed this trailer once before some skin flick we were showing a while ago and the audience loved it so much they actually applauded. The trailer is amazing, but it is a great example of a trailer being so much better than the movie. The movie is terrible!"

2. Times Square - "I really like the feel of this one. It has a great vibe to it."

3. Hard to Hold - "Rick Springfield, ha! I have tried for so long to get a print of this movie, but I have always been turned down. Once, someone I had working with me even got in touch with Universal and they flat out said no."

TUC: Let's switch gears for a minute and talk about the other movie you are bringing to the Underground this weekend, which is Tintorera. What's that all about?

DC: Sometimes there's films that I have presented that I thought the audience would beat the shit out of me for bringing it in, but the funny thing is that every time we have run Tintorera people seem to hate it and love it at the same time. The best way to describe it is as American Gigolo or Emanuelle meets Jaws. It's a shark film and sexual freedom all rolled up in one.

I remember I was introduced to Tintorera first when I was a kid. I was such a video junkie and I remember going to Bandito Video in Whitby, which I always thought had this amazing selection, and they had this movie there and I saw that it had a shark on the cover of it, which was good enough for me. I didn't have any clue what it was and only when I was on my way home with it did I even question why I had gotten it in the first place.

It's basically a Mexican flick with a little bit of UK financing. The Mexican version is much longer than this one is. The Mexican version is over two hours long. But it's got Susan St. George, Fiona Lewis, Andres Garcia, and Hugo Stiglitz. Right after I see it, I want to see it again, which is funny because of all the films that I have run, this one has been played multiple times around the Toronto area. There's a weird kind of magnetic attraction to the flick. It's got real sharks, both live and dead, and lots of nudity. Not bad for a print I found stashed under a set of stairs in a Santa Barbara, California editing room.

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