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Projecting A Future Fright Film Fest for Downtown L.A.

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Saturday, October 30, 2010, at 03:00PM
it came from downtown Ed Fuentes

The weekend has Downtowners busy with Halloween-themed specials for the nightlife crowd, Day of the Dead processions, and ghost stalkers willing to look in dark corners. Still, one would hope that someday room can be made for a screening series of sci-fi film gems that use Downtown Los Angeles as location.

Granted, there is no shortage of movies that use Downtown as a backdrop and punching bag, including those building-crushing flicks that have the city under a computer-generated siege of natural causes, freak storms, and aliens. Even now "Skyline" is due for a November 12 release and "Battle Los Angeles" is expected to land March, 2011.

But before we consider those big budget flicks, or list the go-to L.A. based sci-fi staples "Bladerunner" or “Terminator” franchise, I ask you, the local film jury, to consider this slate of older films that have costumed Downtown Los Angeles as Downtown Los Angeles.

They Live (1988): A declining 1980s economy is controlled by a ruling class of aliens that influence consumerism through subliminal messages, such as the phrase OBEY appearing through special sunglasses. (Yes, street artist Shepard Fairey’s propaganda manifesito has its beginnings in this film). The film was directed––and ghost written––by John Carpenter, as adapted from a short story "Eight O'Clock in the Morning" by Ray Nelson. The hero George Nada, played by then wrestler Roddy Piper, discovers the alien infestation living across the street from homeless camp on a City West ridge.

Night of the Comet (1984): Directed by Thom Eberhardt, this 1984 comedy-thriller is a cultural time capsule that follows Valley Girls to a post-apocalyptic Grand Ave, and fer shur, Downtowners have become zombies. The tried and true sci-fi scene of an abandoned Downtown Los Angeles were updated a bit, this time filmed in a red haze of romanticized isloation.

The Omega Man (1971): This remake of 1964's "The Last Man on Earth" with Vincent Price is a predecessor to 2007's "I Am Legend" with Will Smith. Set in 1978, Dr. Robert Neville (Charlton Heston) is a survivor of global biological germ warfare between China and Russia. By day Downtown has resources allowing survival; at night it is populated with diseased mutant––yet organized––scavenging Downtowners called "The Family.” This abandoned Downtown Los Angeles is a distressed environment, oddly windswept with fresh looking white papers.

Little Shop of Horrors (1960): The little film that inspired a rock musical, and later a film adaptation, was filmed in two days by Roger Corman. It gained cult status through the years by being one of Jack Nicholson's first film roles. While the musical was set in New York, the true roots of the hungry plant is L.A.'s Skid Row.

Them! (1954) Despite the cheesy title, "Them!" had audiences on the edge of seats waiting to see if mutant ants could be flushed out of the storm drains under Downtown Los Angeles. First conceived to invade New York's subway system, costs had the producers change the climatic location to the tunnels that dump into the Los Angeles River.

War of the Worlds (1953): H.G. Wells 1898 sci-fi novel, as adapted by Orson Wells for his fear causing 1938 radio play for a Halloween broadcast, is also this 50s era classic by sci-fi master George Pal. Downtowners encounter a hostile Martian alien-invasion that destroy City Hall with an Oscar-winning death ray. In a panic, those same Downtowners ignore Dr. Clayton Forrester (Gene Berry) pleas to not take over his truck filled with sensitive scientific instruments and data. Forrester manages to escape the riot (from a studio back lot) to the corner of 8th and Hill after running through, yes, an abandoned Downtown Los Angeles.

Have a safe Halloween everyone –– and watch out for those Downtown zombies.


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