It is a known fact that the Alamo Drafthouse is one of the best places to watch a movie on planet Earth. That said, sometimes the confines of a movie theater are too restrictive for the level of awesome that the Drafthouse wants to achieve. The Rolling Roadshow was born as a result and it was good. Junkfood Cinema auteur Brian Salisbury and I had decided to sample this year’s offerings together. So it was with thoughts of cold Shiner Bock and hot chainsaws that we found ourselves driving out to Kingsland on a warm Texas evening for the second stop on the Alamo’s annual Rolling Roadshow tour.
Kingsland, for those who are unaware, is the site of the now infamous house used in Tobe Hooper’s classic horror film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. While shooting originally took place just north of Austin around Round Rock, the house was moved to Kingsland in the 90s to avoid demolition. In any case, it is the very house used in the film and there was something eerie about seeing the house on a large inflatable projector mere feet away from the actual building. Being able to glance back and forth and notice small details made for quite a cool experience.
For some reason, I had the house from the remake in my mind, blasphemous I know, so when we arrived the house didn’t immediately strike me as familiar. As part of the VIP ticket package, we were treated to a wonderful meal inside the house itself, which is now a restaurant. When ordering the prime rib, I was informed that all the meat was being cooked to medium rare to make things easier on the chef. That may have been the reasoning, but digging into slightly bloody flesh in the Texas Chainsaw house was appropriately poetic.
With the meal done, I took a quick trip to the restroom before the movie started. To find the restroom, I had to walk past the staircase at the front of the house and through the doorway where Leatherface had slammed shut a sliding metal door with terrifying finality, sealing the fates of his victims. While it looks quite different now, it wasn’t too difficult to imagine the blood and bones that had once graced those floorboards.
Afterwards, we stocked up on beer and made our way to our seats. Alamo founder Tim League was on hand to do the introductions and preside over two quick but important events before the film started. First up was a scream queen contest judged by none other than Marilyn Burns herself. If you somehow haven’t seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, believe me when I tell you that Ms. Burns is a certifiable expert in the art of screaming. She simply out does herself in the film. Luckily, several of the contestants were more than up to the challenge and soon enough a winner was crowned. Next up was the headcheese eating contest, and if you don’t know what headcheese is then count yourself lucky and move on. The disgusting quasi-food was nevertheless devoured quickly by several able-bodied young gents, and one faster than the rest was deemed champion. His prize? A full loaf-like brick of headcheese.
Finally, the film started. Fun though the pageantry was, it was the movie that made it all possible. The print shown was, quite frankly, beat to shit. It was possibly the best way to view a film like Texas Chainsaw. It’s a film I had seen on VHS, DVD and yes, even Blu-ray before that night, but seeing the slightly red-tinted, scratched and spliced 35mm film unspool before my eyes, I was finally able to see it as some other young guy might have seen it at a drive-in with his girlfriend clutching his arm back in 1974.
Tim League returned after the credits rolled to moderate a question and answer session with stars Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger, and Edwin Neal along with screenwriter Kim Henkel. It was fun and playful with a few interesting tidbits but before long it was over. The night had come to a close and we made our way back to our car to start the drive back to Austin.
The Rolling Roadshow continues this month with upcoming Texas-centric screenings of No Country For Old Men, Giant and The Last Picture Show. If you’ve never experienced a Roadshow screening, you should really give it a shot. It’s hard to beat cold beer and a great film out under the stars on a warm summer night.