1993 was a crazy summer. JURASSIC PARK landed in the middle of 1993 and – in its wake – completely changed the way audiences would look at special effects in their summer blockbusters going forward. If a FX-heavy film was released on the wrong end of JURASSIC PARK's wake, it was screwed. SUPER MARIO BROS, another movie that heavily dealt with dinosaurs, was released two weeks earlier than JURASSIC PARK but it had its cards stacked against it from the beginning.
I've taken a lot of grief for programming SUPER MARIO BROS but I don't mind. This is a film that I strongly believe deserves a revisit. I'm not going to promise that, 20 years after the fact, the movie has miraculously metamorphosed into a beautiful butterfly. There’s a good chance audiences are still going to hate it as much as you did in 1993. That said, there is just something infinitely weird and wonderful about this misguided attempt to turn a children's video game into a nightmarish punk-sci-fi action film set in a bleak, hellish alternate universe. This is a movie that was production designed by the same gentleman who helped birth BLADE RUNNER! To consider this movie being made in 1993, picture somebody taking My Little Pony and turning it into a movie about flesh-eating horses that rampage across a post-apocalyptic Florida. In a world obsessed with making every piece of nostalgic children's entertainment from the past into a gritty, neo-realistic shadow of itself, SUPER MARIO BROS is like looking at a fish with legs. It's the birth of evolution and sometimes evolution is ugly but never is it boring!
With at least nine writers working on the script, SUPER MARIO BROS was a mess before production even began. The actors were constantly drunk and belligerent, the press was ready to pounce on what they saw as a wounded animal and the directors (co-creators of Max Headroom) were woefully over their heads. The movie was never going to work but - despite all that - there is something maddening and beautiful about this film nonetheless. It is an adaptation made by people who did not understand the property (some of which may have affectively had contempt for the video games). There's something incredibly interesting about that.
Today, if anything, video game adaptations are overly faithful to their source material – making for some very boring movies. In a world where your average video game is a completely cinematic, fully-interactive story with emotional depth on par with most anything Hollywood is putting out, why would you want to sit and watch some actor role play the game when you could be the one controlling the action yourself. With SUPER MARIO BROS, though, the filmmakers – rightfully confused on how you could turn a simplistic fairy tale into a live-action movie - threw their hands in the air and proceeded to open their maws and let the hornets fly out. This film is an angry, crazed reflection of the video games it was supposed to be promoting. In all that madness, though, there is something really cool and unique going on – from the creature designs to the props and costumes. This is a movie that doesn’t know what it wants to be but all the disparate parts work together to create something freaky, unsettling and oh so watchable.
At our screening, we'll welcome a very special guest - Blake Dumesnil. Blake has been collecting memorabilia from the film for several years now and has kindly volunteered to display some of the props and sketches he’s accumulated. Come early to check out a selction of artifcats from this insane movie and chat with a man who knows far more than I do about its production.
In addition, before the screening we'll have a selection of SUPER MARIO BROS games hooked up to our projectors so you can get in the mood for the movie by realizing just how far from the source material the film strayed. We'll also have a selection of classic arcade cabinets installed in our theater's lobby throughout the month of October. In fact, every Tuesday in October is dedicated to a different movie about video games. Here's the (almost) full line-up:
SUPER MARIO BROS
35MM ROULETTE - A 35mm screening of a film whose identity we can't reveal here but you'll love watching on the big screen. Tickets are only $1!
CLOAK AND DAGGER - With pre-movie scavenger hunt in the theater
We have one more title that we're not quite ready to announce yet. What could it be? WHO knows.
So join us Tuesday for a 35mm screening of SUPER MARIO BROS. Whether it’s been 20 years since you’ve seen this movie or you’ve revisited it every year since its release, I invite you to sit back, hold on to your seat and let this movie wash over you. Don’t try and fight it – let the film’s black sludge of a heart mingle with your own and see – as an experiment – what happens. Has time aged the film for the better or has your soul – weathered by the ravages of the time – come to match the nightmarish world found in SUPER MARIO BROS? Only one way to find out.