Clandestine Celluloid Film Series
Renaissance Arts Hotel, 700 Tchoupitoulas St.; www.ponderosastomp.com
Tickets $20 per day
During one of Arch Hall Jr.'s first trips to New Orleans, he played music to promote a movie. His band Arch and the Archers starred in the 1963 film Wild Guitar, created by and also staring his father Arch Hall Sr. After their show, the band went to an after-hours club.
"It was at a place called the Dreamroom and it had a revolving stage," Hall says. "We got to play with Mac Rebennack — or Dr. John."
More recently, Hall has returned to New Orleans to perform at the Ponderosa Stomp (see page 39). He grew up an avid fan of blues and R&B, and the Stomp has been a treasured experience for him.
"These guys are some of my heroes," he says.
This year, Hall will reunite with some members of his band onstage (9:20 p.m. Saturday), and he'll be a guest for a daylong program in the festival's Clandestine Celluloid Film Series. Hall made several films with his father in the early 1960s, and he'll do a Q&A following Saturday's screenings of Wild Guitar (11 a.m.), Eegah (1 p.m.) and The Sadist (3 p.m.).
The Clandestine Celluloid program features rare concert footage, features and documentaries. Friday's screenings include a Fats Domino concert film from 1962, the documentary The Original Soul Men: Sam & Dave and a compilation of clips of Stomp performers.
Although Hall has performed at the Stomp before, these are the first screenings of his films at the festival. Hall and his father worked together on a diverse collection of films from 1959 to the mid-'60s. Wild Guitar (1962) lifts and melds parts of both of their lives. Hall Sr. grew up in South Dakota and moved to Hollywood to work in radio and film. In the film, Hall Jr. plays Bud Eagle, a young guitarist from South Dakota who moves to Hollywood to break into the music business. He's spotted by an unscrupulous talent agent, played by Hall Sr., and the story pits the wide-eyed and good-hearted youngster against the industry's unseemly practices, including payola and publicity stunts. Although the young Hall actually loved blues and R&B music, in the film Eagle is more of a crooning teen idol.
Eegah (1962) also features Hall as a young musician, but it's a beauty-and-the-beast story. James Bond fans will recognize the 7-foot-tall Richard Kiel, who starred as Bond nemesis Jaws. In his film debut, Kiel starred as the last caveman, the title character who miraculously survived undetected in California. He stumbles upon and terrifies teenage Roxy, and when she tells her father (Hall Sr.) about the giant, he heads into the mountains to see for himself. When he doesn't return, Tom (Hall Jr.) and girlfriend Roxy go looking for him. Eegah captures Roxy, and in a sometimes campy way the film flirts with the giant's sexual attraction to her. It doesn't have the fast pace of a contemporary monster film (though it's not intended to be a monster film), but it's got an amusing and precocious take on cultural sensitivity.
The Sadist (1963) achieved cult status for its dip into criminal depravity and was ahead of its time for drive-in movie releases. Hall Jr. plays a young psychopath on a killing spree, and he likes to watch his victims suffer in anticipation of their fate. It's in black and white, and the cinematography was handled by Vilmos Zsigmond, who went on to do The Deer Hunter and other classic films.
Of the three, Eegah is the most entertaining, but together they offer a fun look at modest-budget independent filmmaking from the early 1960s.