Get Ready for Russellmania II
Alamo mystery marathon celebrates Kurt Russell (again)
By Richard Whittaker,
8:00AM, Wed. May 3, 2017
When the Earth quakes, and the poison arrows fall from the sky, and the pillars of Heaven shake, Kurt Russell just looks that big ol' storm right square in the eye and he says, "Give me your best shot, pal. I can take it."
That's why the king of the Western and killer of shapeshifters gets his second Tough Guy Cinema marathon with Russellmania II.
Back in 2013, the original Russellmania was the second ever Tough Guy Cinema marathon, following in the wake of the JCVD-praising Van Dammage, and setting the stage for a quartet of Nic Cage tributes, culminating in this year's now-legendary Caged 4-Ever.
On June 4, it's time for another five-movie marathon of all-mystery, all-35mm print screenings, celebrating the man whose career has stretched from Dennis the Menace to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and brought his disarming grin and steely stare to characters as iconic as Snake Plissken, Jack Burton, R.J. MacReady, Stuntman Mike, hell, even Elvis Presley himself.
For booker Greg MacLennan, it's a chance to go back to Friday nights, back when he was growing up in the Eighties. "My mom would give my brother and me 20 bucks to go to the video store and order a pizza. These were sacred nights. I remember my brother showing me the box at the video store and telling me, 'This is what we're renting.'" One night, that box contained Big Trouble in Little China, with its legendary crazy cover by poster icon Drew Struzan, and he was hooked. "This is one of those rare films that has all this insanity plastered on the cover and completely delivers on every aspect in that film."
That was his first introduction to the work of Russell, and remains one of his favorite films to this day. In 2013, he and former Drafthouse booker Zack Carlson were looking for a follow-up subject for the sequel to Van Dammage, and Russell was at the top of the list. That event was really Carlson's brainchild ("I thought I was as big a fan as any, but Zack truly worships the man."), so when he left the Drafthouse, it felt a little sacrilegious to do a second day without him. "But," MacLennan said, "I never say 'never,' and people didn't stop asking. Russell's catalogue was only getting richer, so I felt like I owed it to people to do it again." With Carlson's blessing, "now the world gets a second chance to spend a full day in an Alamo Drafthouse with the chiseled miracle we call Kurt."
The five-year history of these marathons is littered with curveball screenings ("Curveballs, or classics waiting to be rediscovered?" said MacLennan. "It's all semantics."), but normally he limits himself to one per show. The original Russellmania broke that rule with two: heartwarming family drama Dreamer and screwball comedy Captain Ron.
However, MacLennan isn't just trying to mess with people expecting the big hits and established faves like The Thing or Tombstone. "I only show films I truly care about and can stand behind. I guess I've learned that if you can convey a certain degree of passion and sincerity, people will follow along for the ride and give a movie a fair shake. Maybe that's just a testament to how great the Austin cinephile scene is, but it's great to sit around after a marathon or during one of the breaks between films and chat with people about how they saw something in a movie they'd never seen before, or have a completely new appreciation for a movie that they had previously disregarded."
So what is the secret behind Russell's success across a six-decade career? MacLennan has a theory. "He's KURT RUSSELL! He's just the absolute best, and he has the innate ability to seem relatable in any circumstance, and conveys such a sense of deep sincerity, whether he's playing a middle-age superhero or battling lightning-throwing martial arts masters. I mean, you root for him in Overboard, where he basically kidnaps a woman with amnesia! Kurt Russell is a one-of-a-kind, true blue, movie star. He's like a Medusa – you can't look him directly in the eyes otherwise you're helpless to his powers to charm you."
Russellmania II goes down June 4 at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz, 320 E. Sixth. Tickets at www.drafthouse.com.