Monsters Run Amok in ‘Matinee,’ a Cold War-Era Tribute

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John Goodman as B-movie impresario Lawrence Woosley in a scene from the Joe Dante's 1993 film "Matinee."

In the 1993 film “Matinee,” director Joe Dante pays homage to William Castle, the master of exploitation who provided his audiences with extra frissons by wiring movie theater seats to give electric shocks during his 1968 film “The Tingler.”

Though the seats won’t be wired, the story of Castle will be told when the Sag Harbor Cinema (SHC) screens “Matinee” as the final film in its “Here Comes the Cinema!” winter series. The film will be screened on Sunday, February 23, at 2 p.m. in Pierson High School auditorium in Sag Harbor and will be followed by a conversation with Museum of Modern Art curator Dave Kehr.

A ferocious satire of Cold War fever and a loving ode to B-monster movies, in “Matinee,” John Goodman channels Castle in his role of Lawrence Woosley, a B-movie impresario who arrives in Key West, Florida in 1962 — right in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis — for a special Saturday matinee preview of “Mant,” his latest opus, starring a very large mutant and announced by an ad campaign that promises “Half Man…Half Ant…All Terror!!!”

The clips of the movie-within-a-movie are dead on, with hilarious in-jokes, surprising cameos (including Kevin McCarthy, the star of the original “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and fellow independent filmmaker John Sayles) and special attention for historical details from the ’50s and ’60s.

“Joe Dante’s passion for film as reflected in his very special blend of horror, subversive comedy and sharp political satire makes for very unique voice in American cinema,” says SHC’s artistic director Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan. “After the ‘Gremlins’ director kindly appeared via skype for SHC last year to introduce his rarely seen ‘The Second Civil War’ as part of our Present Tense series, we chose one of his most beloved titles, ‘Matinee.’”

Dave Kehr, who will take part in a conversation after the film with D’Agnolo Vallan, is a curator in the Museum of Modern Art’s Department of Film. In a previous life he worked as a critic and journalist for the Chicago Reader, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Daily News and the New York Times. Among his books are “When Movies Mattered: Reviews from a Transformative Decade” (2011), “Movies That Mattered: More Reviews from a Transformative Decade” (2017) and “Italian Film Posters” (2003). Described by Roger Ebert as “one of the most gifted film critics in America,” Kehr was an early supporter of Joe Dante’s work.

Tickets to “Matinee” are $15 for adults (free for ages 14 and under) at sagharborcinema.org or at the door. Pierson High School is at 200 Jermain Avenue in Sag Harbor.

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