- Expo guest Kevin Van Hentenryck (left) and Belial, star of Basket Case
Cleveland in the '60s and '70s was paradise for B-movie lovers. Thanks to a gaggle of local TV movie hosts, fans could be sated every weekend with hours of horror, sci-fi, and exploitation films. And that didn't include the plethora of drive-ins and small independent grind-house theaters, with offerings like Dracula's Dog, Track of the Moonbeast, and The Living Head.
The credits rolled on that era by the '80s, with the rise of video, the demise of most drive-ins, and Hollywood's purchase of independent theater chains. Heck, even Big Chuck and Little John, the heirs to Ghoulardi's TV horror throne, are more likely to show Mr. Mom than The Hills Have Eyes. But it's an era that Ken Kish has built his life around, and he wants others to experience it firsthand at the Cinema Wasteland Movie and Memorabilia Expo, his celebration of all things "B."
Kish, a dealer in DVDs, movie posters, action figures, and other film memorabilia, grew up loving movies. "My dad didn't get much time off," he says, "so when he did, he'd haul the family -- brother, sister, Mom -- out to the drive-in for carload night and, like a fool, let my brother and I pick the movies. We watched nonstop horror movies and black action films through the '70s."
Thirteen years ago, Kish dreamed of leveraging his love of drive-in movies into a video rental store, but with a full-time job taking up most of his day, he started a rental-by-mail service instead. He quit his job when his side venture took off, in the process expanding his personal inventory from 500 to 5,000 videos. When the rental business slowed, he concentrated on selling memorabilia at movie and comic conventions. "There's a lot of guys like me . . . who grew up the same way, got hooked, and now we're like a little band of gypsies traveling the country."
In 1999, Kish decided to put on his own convention. "I said, I'm going to run a show that I would go to as a fan. I get my guests up for events like live commentary over their films . . . I let the fans ask questions."
This year's guests include Robert D'zar, the star of Maniac Cop and its many sequels; Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni, who has starred in more Italian horror movies than you can shake a severed hand at; and various other actors rarely recognized when not covered in latex or a bucket of fake blood. Other highlights include the Evil Dead Museum, containing props from both Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2, and the "learn how to create an alien" makeup demonstration. And, of course, films. "We show a lot of movies," says Kish. "Movies that you're not going to see anymore, [that] kind of give it the drive-in flavor."
Those with fond memories of Dracula's Dog won't go away disappointed. It screens Saturday at 9 p.m.