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Crime Without Punishment: William Friedkin Comes To Town

We spent the weekend with a truly incredible filmmaker!

Crime Without Punishment: William Friedkin Comes To Town

This weekend we were lucky enough to host legendary filmmaker William Friedkin for screenings of his films SORCERER and TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. A massive critical and financial failure on its initial release, SORCERER has slowly been picking up fans over the years, gradually building the superlative reputation it's always deserved. Friedkin recently won a hard-fought battle to sort out the legal rights for the film and get it meticulously restored, and now it's making the rounds on the repertory circuit looking and sounding better than ever. A notorious perfectionist, Friedkin worked with our projectionists to insure optimum presentation. As our projectionist Tiernan adjusted the lumens on the projector, Friedkin was heard to shout at him, "I want my blacks to be god damned black!" In its beautiful new restoration, audiences can finally appreciate SORCERER for the masterpiece it is.

In addition to the screenings at the theater, Alamo Victory members were offered the opportunity to join us for a special lunchtime conversation with Friedkin and his wife Sherry Lansing (former CEO of Paramount and the first woman to head a Hollywood studio). As our chef Trish Eichelberger served up a delicious meal made from all local ingredients, Billy spent time talking with our guests about everything from art forgery to the Oculus Rift.  We learned that he esteems both Orson Welles and Beavis & Butthead with equal enthusiasm, heard about the shooting of his first film, the documentary THE PEOPLE VS. PAUL CRUMP, which saved the life of an innocent death row prisoner, and talked about his life-long friendship with EXORCIST author William Peter Blatty ("We've never once discussed his other films"). When asked about his reputation as Hurricane Billy, his legendary blow-ups and take-no-prisoners approach to filmmaking, he conceded that a lot of tales grow in the telling. "I've only ever hit an actor three times," he says.

Before the meal, Friedkin participated in a long standing Alamo Drafthouse tradition: sabering a bottle of champagne. This is a tradition dating to the Napoleonic era. On the eve of battle, soldiers would use their sabres to open their bottles. The idea went that if the endeavor failed and the bottle shattered in their hands then they were fated to lose the battle so they might as well get as drunk as they could. If they succeeded in popping the top off the bottle then they were fated for victory and might as well get as drunk as they could.

In his Q&A following SORCERER he shared an incredible story about the sequence in which the characters have to blow up a fallen tree using unstable nitroglycerin. After his special effects crew loaded the tree with explosives but barely damaged the thing, Friedkin called in a friend. This friend was "Marvin the Torch," noted beauty-supply salesman and convicted arsonist. The Torch got the job done right. We also learned that the counterfeit money created for TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. was so convincing that Friedkin passed some of it into circulation himself. "Crime without punishment!"

It was a wonderful weekend with an incredible filmmaker! What Hollywood filmmaker these days would reference Claude Lelouch and Buster Keaton when intro'ing their pulpy Secret Service action movie? William Friedkin is a real-deal cinephile and a treasure to us all.

News Categories: General News, Main


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