Sorry not to get this post up earlier, but it has been a crazy period with Fest duties and clearing out the basement of the Royal...
Ten years over... It finally came and it was quite the day. I spent the afternoon at The Royal in the basement along with two disciples mastered in the boxing arts, Matt and Graeme, as we packed up prints from my collection of 35mm prints. Since the Royal was closing on the 30th, this has been an intensive endeavour to say the least. I think I spent around $600 on boxes that are the right size for these 50lb suckers. A film crew from CBC at Six stopped by and did some interviews with me and the owner of the cinema, Chris McQuillan about the state of rep cinemas in Toronto and the fate of these glorious spaces. I have a bright outlook on that, but more details on why, when the cards finally fall and get picked up...
I just had enough time to head back home, shower the filth off, leap into a cab and arrive at the Revue to meet up with the CBC crew again as they wanted to get some cool footage in the cinema with the film playing in the background. Once that got done, I joined boxing art master Matt and his lady friend and fellow Kung Fu Fridays devotee, Kate, at The Local, the cool bar next door for a drink. We were joined by Luis Ceriz, (owner of Suspect Video), Dave Constable (uber cinephile and print traffic grandmaster from the Film Circuit), his lady friend, Kagan McLeod (the ink pugilist responsible for the Infinite Kung Fu comic book) and several others who dropped by as we swigged beers and reminisced about the series. As I glanced out the window I saw my mom and sister walk by, who came all the way from Ottawa as a surprise! I was bowled over to say the least and almost started to weep!
Things started rolling as a line began to form earlier than usual for the show. With dexterity and speed, prize tickets were passed out thanks to the help of Dave Ferris, who has stepped up to help in the past when I found myself overwhelmed at previous shows. All seemed to be going smooth until I got some news sooner than expected from Midori, the manager of the Revue - at 9:30, fifteen minutes before show time, we only had 30 tickets left and a line-up of around 80 down the block.
It was tense, but we managed to get as many seated in the temple of fu, and rather than have a potential fire hazard due to over crowding, regrettably informed the line-up that the show was sold out. I was fretful about that, but everyone seemed to understand and I got an enthusiastic round of applause and thanks for my efforts over the years of putting on the shows. Time to start the show!
I did my usual schtick and introduced some coming attactions, that of course, are never coming to a theatre near anyone! I usually show 2 or 3, but packed with five! These included: POLICE STORY 3: SUPERCOP (which got rawkous applause when the Brit superintendent says, "We need a cop - a SUPER COP" and Jackie Chan shows up and salutes!); DEAD CURSE (a good contender for a Halloween show); CHINESE KUNG FU AND ACUPUNCTURE; ZEN KWAN DO STRIKES IN PARIS; and the show stopper, CHALLENGE OF THE LADY NINJA (aka CHINESE SUPER NINJA 2), complete with stripping lady ninjas, Chen Kwan-tai, and some funky ass muzik!
Light went up and I ran back to reintroduce myself and give a little rundown on how Kung Fu Fridays started. Not going to recite it again, but in brief, I looked back at the humble start at the Metro Cinema (Toronto's last remaining porn house) with a print of SNAKE IN THE EAGLE'S SHADOW that turned out to have no subtitles! I name checked the night we had a celebrity in the house at the screening of MASTER KILLER (aka 36 CHAMBERS OF SHAOLIN) - Quentin Tarantino and a rather bored looking Mira Sorvino. I rambled on some more and started throwing out props to the folks who helped over the years like Tim Smy, Hal Kelly, the staff at the cinemas, Dion Conflict, Suspect, Magic Pony, our valiant projectionist Kai (who I first worked with at Golden Classics), and Peter McQuillan, the late owner and cinema fan who owned the cinemas, giving me the chance to relocate to the Royal and the opportunity to start my little theatrical distribution game with BUBBA HO-TEP.
With the help of Prize Queen Jen, her magic box of raffle tickets, and courtesy of Suspect Video, we gave away around 14 dvds and some gift certificates. As I was about to wrap it up, the above mentioned Kate, came down to the front and presented me with a trophy (with a cool karate dude on it) for my efforts along with an amazing piece of artwork by Kagan. And she even had a prize for Jen! Then two long time disciples, Donald and David Simmons (these two spear headed anime screenings in Toronto) presented me with a Bruce Lee poster that they had the audience sign!
And finally Dion Conflict of Trailer Trash/Hunkajunk/Conflict Archives fame gave me a trophy with a baseball player, but he modified the bat into a nunchuck! The thing that really humbled me was when the whole cinema gave me a rousing standing ovation.
Picking CRIPPLED AVENGERS as my final title for Kung Fu Fridays turned out to be a random choice. When scheduling for June I originally intended to schedule AVENGERS to fit in with the end of the Shaw Brothers series at the Cinematheque Ontario followed Taoism Drunkard to continue with the Yuen Wo-ping theme. After turning in the write-ups, I was told that the owners had decided to close the Review and the dates I wanted were unavailable. I decided to play only one title in June and AVENGERS was it, but I was unaware that AVENGERS was actually the second title that I screened after moving the series to the Royal in 2000 and it also played on June 23rd! AVENGERS turned out to be the best choice as the audience went nuts for the flips and kicks matched by the classic Shaw Brothers English dubbing.
After the screening I was joined by others at the sports bar up the street, Joe Mercury's, where we our ears were assaulted by drunken locals doing karaoke. Luckily Hal Kelly brought a cake to celebrate which made things better. As the booze flowed, dubbed lines and flubtitles were quoted back and forth. Truly a good way to bid farewell to Kung Fu Fridays. One chapter closed, another is just starting...
Photos courtesy of Jen Howard and Greg Woods (editor of The Eclectic Screening Room)