Your proprietor had been looking forward to tonight's screening at the Clay Theatre - two films starring Vincent Price: THE LAST MAN ON EARTH and THE TOMB OF LIGEIA. The latter film in particular was a bit of a prize, since the last time we'd seen that name on a San Francisco marquee the film print had been lost in transit, by a shipping company I decline to name.
So I was pleased to see local impresario and curator August Ragone get another shot at screening it. I wasn't looking forward to THE LAST MAN ON EARTH, which had been aired on late night television numerous times and hadn't captured my interest, but whatever.
TLMOE remains a low-budget oddity, marked by low production values and very uneven acting, but seen theatrically, in its proper Cinemascope ratio, it does become more than I had expected, with some fine moments of Price at his most despairing and two or three genuine chills as Price, the final survivor of a plague that has turned the human race into feral vampires, struggles to preserve a life he's no longer sure is worth living.
The film wasn't the problem. The audience, comprised mainly of hipsters or others who should Just Fucking Know Better, were the problem: snorting audibly at the admittedly hackneyed dialogue, not turning their cell phones off in advance of the movie, coming in mid-movie and kicking the seats in front of them. I switched my seat several times during the film, each time confronted by a different latecomer who sat near me, unengaged, giggling at (not with, crucially, but at) the film.
Those who know the film may note a weird commonality between the struggles of Price and the proprietor, being a lone man struggling to avoid aberrant behavior until he's no longer sure what he's fighting for or why. When at the film's end (SPOILERS, obviously) Price is finally killed by a society of half-human survivors, the message is rendered clearly and painfully: Price is the monster, having annihilated several members of this new race who are only trying to survive.
Thus chided by the film I was trying so earnestly to give a chance, I left the theatre as soon as it had finished. Not sure if I'll ever get another shot at LIGEIA projected, but I live in hope. I have returned to the House of Sparrows to enjoy a brownie and a glass of milk, and watch tonight's EASTWICK in lieu of this elusive film.
That said: If you've snorted at a movie through its running time, you don't get to pat yourself on the back by applauding at the end.
Let that be the epitaph of your proprietor, The Last Douchebag On Earth.