Made on the Margins

For 15 years, the Dallas Video Fest has flickered on the fringe

Slam Bang Theater No doubt this will be the highlight for those who grew up in Dallas-Fort Worth in the '50s through the early '70s, back when Icky Twerp introduced the Three Stooges--and his own trio of monkey men--to the locals on Channel 11. This two-hour compilation, assembled by Paul Camfield, reminds that there was a time when local television was as exciting and as experimental as the network feeds; Twerp, "played" by Camfield's screwy pop, Bill, was the area's Sid Caesar and Ernie Kovacs and Milton Berle, an unkempt lunatic (black wig, ill-fitting fedora, etc.) willing to do anything for a laugh or half of one. He didn't always succeed--in retrospect, some of this stuff plays cutesy and quaint--but when Camfield was on, he was as much a subversive as TV's best ringmasters. One sketch, in which Icky Twerp and a TV repairman futz with the picture, recalls Andy Kaufman and David Letterman's later attempts at screwing the tube; another, in which two politicians debate each other for the job of porn inspector, remains viable and glibly profound (Q: "How long do you think politicians should serve?" A: "Till they're caught."). If only Channel 11 would rebroadcast these gems late at night, maybe after Craig Kilborn; then, we'd never get any sleep. Appropriately, this trib falls between Paul Howard Remembers Moe Howard , during which the son of Stooge will proffer a peek at Moe's home movies, and Edie Adams' presentation of The Best of Ernie Kovacs . Icky'd be proud. (RW)

T-shirt Travels According to Barney Lehrer, an American export agent, "95 percent of Salvation Army clothes aren't even unpacked." Instead, they're sold for 10 to 15 cents a pound to dealers who ship them to Africa so they can sell them to entrepreneurs like Luka, the young man hustling to make a better life for his brothers and sisters. Luka and his fellow street-level businessmen buy a bale of T-shirts for 360,000 kwatcha ($180 U.S.) and then sell them out of the secondhand shops, which seem to be the only successful businesses in Zambia. The largest export to Africa, the T-shirt trade is a multimillion-dollar operation that has put Mickey Mouse and X-Men and Kurt Cobain tees on the backs of the African people. And it has almost single-handedly crippled the economy of countries like Zambia, where Shantha Bloemen's documentary sets up shop and pleads its case. It's a strong one: The influx of "dead white man's clothes" (as they're known to some of the secondhand shop owners) has killed Zambia's own textile business, the industry upon which many African countries once based their economy. In its absence, Zambia and others were forced to take out loans they'll never pay back; between 1990 and 1993, Zambia spent $37 million on primary school education and $1.3 billion paying back its debt to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Bloemen provides the nuts and bolts to back up Bono's passionate speeches, and while it's difficult to grasp all the facts and figures and charts and graphs she tosses out, it's no less gripping for it. (ZC)

Tales of the Weird Two shorts make up this compilation, and, once again, this writer suggests drug use beforehand. Nitwit Predelick (you heard me) concerns a hick boy and his girl. They pour juice on pictures of horses and lick it off. Between scenes, floating pictures of baby heads and birds narrate transitions. Her man shaves while talking to the hick girl on the phone about playing "hot damn"--we then cut to them squatting over each other in a field yelling, "Hot damn!" (No, I'm not making this up. And, yes, it's pretty damn funny.) The horse-lickers then decide that there is "a whole house full of stuff" to lick, which they do. A clump of hair laughs and freaks out in a corner. It's completely horrible. I loved it. Transgenic Hairshirt , meanwhile, is shorter and more horrible, and I'm not sure what I think of it. Again with the hair: While we watch a chest protector made out of human hair and worn by a cat, we hear a man argue with his girlfriend. A choir sings. The end. It's probably brilliant. (EC)

The revolution was televised: Ernie Kovacs' rare TV work will be presented by wife and fellow performer Edie Adams.
The revolution was televised: Ernie Kovacs' rare TV work will be presented by wife and fellow performer Edie Adams.
A hole in the head, top: This is, we guess, a scene from Headcheese. Checking out, below: Rhys Ifans and David Schwimmer kill time in  Mike Figgis' Hotel.
A hole in the head, top: This is, we guess, a scene from Headcheese. Checking out, below: Rhys Ifans and David Schwimmer kill time in Mike Figgis' Hotel.

Details

May 16-19. Tickets, ranging from $65 for an all-fest pass including Video Association of Dallas membership to $10-$15 for single-day passes, are available at the door or at www.videofest.org. The opening-night film, Hotel, will screen at 7:30 p.m. May 15 at the Magnolia Theater, 3699 McKinney Ave.
Dallas Theater Center Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd.

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Tribute How Tributehas gone for so long without distribution is incomprehensible, because it's a remarkable film--a years-in-the-making glimpse into the lives of fetishists and fanatics who live out their rock-star dreams by becoming their favorite rock stars. Filmmakers Kris Curry and Rich Fox, making their debut with a film exec-produced by Steven Soderbergh, aren't out to belittle their subjects but to sympathize with them, to explain precisely how someone can fall so deeply in love with an icon it's only inevitable he'd want to crawl inside his skin. We're presented with five bands that re-create, from look to sound, Journey (Escape), the Monkees (The Missing Links), Queen (Sheer Heart Attack), Judas Priest (Bloodstone) and Destroyer-era KISS (Larger than Life)--and, more poignantly, the toll such worship can exact upon its practitioners and their followers. Larger than Life's original Gene Simmons so loses himself in the character he goes mad, setting each room in his house on fire on his way to finding God and renouncing the band. The Missing Links' Davy Jones and Mike Nesmith part ways and form competing Monkees tribs, neither of which lasts long; Davy's too busy being George Harrison, anyway. The Queen trib nearly busts up when its Freddie Mercury departs for a stint in the German Cats, almost killing "superfan" Mark, a lonely soul who lives to hear his dead hero's voice every weekend. Funniest and saddest of all is the lead singer of Bloodstone, who forsakes family to beRob Halford and can't stand that Tim "Ripper" Owens (made famous, barely, by Mark Wahlberg in Rock Star) got the Priest gig when Halford was booted from the band. The auditions scenes with Larger than Life and Sheer Heart Attack are hysterical; the interviews with superfan Mark are heartbreaking. And the whole thing's done without a whiff of condescension; sometimes, Fox and Curry seem to be saying, all you want to do is close your eyes and pretend you're somebody else (or with somebody else), which for some people is just enough. (RW)

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