Every year since 1989, 25 movies are added to the National Film Registry, deemed worthy of preservation for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Their current number encompasses Eraserhead (1976) and Enter the Dragon (1973), the Zapruder and Hindenburg footage, The Muppet Movie (1979), “Let’s All Go to the Lobby,” Stan Brakhage and Kenneth Anger films, and This is Spinal Tap (1984) — as well as, you know, Citizen Kane (1941) and stuff. Which is to say, it is one of those ways in which democracy just kinda works.
However, even a list as diverse in age, genre, theme, and purpose as this one is capable of heinous omission, the kind that makes you question the whole system and wonder why somebody just doesn’t do something. You may not even want to continue here, because what you are about to read will infuriate you. It is this: there are 550 movies at present in the National Film Registry. And not one is Heavy Metal Parking Lot (1986).
You could argue it is not there because the Library of Congress does not want future generations to know a truth that ugly — but then, how to explain the presence of Hoosiers (1986)? Simply, it is an injustice that can only have been orchestrated by evildoers who hate freedom. They do not want you to rock.
Fortunately here in San Francisco we know how to rock out — yes, frequently with our cocks out — and will be doing so particularly when the Found Footage Festival returns to the Red Vic. This is good news enough, but it is made extra-special because in addition to their debonair live commentary on the latest batch of mind-boggling VHS clips culled from garage sales and thrift stores, FFF curators Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett will be presenting a 25th-anniversary screening of Heavy Metal Parking Lot.
In 1986, Jeff Krulik and John Heyn had the extremely good idea of taking their camcorder to the late Capital Centre stadium in Landover, Md., before a Judas Priest concert and letting the fans outside just … be. The resulting anthropological study went viral in an analog era, spurring countless homages and imitations, eventually getting a theatrical release (opening for Chris Smith’s longer 2001 documentary Home Movie — much as Dokken opened for the Priest!) and, once a few music rights issues were ironed out, a deluxe DVD. Not afraid to milk it, the filmmakers later explored further vistas of hot pavement in Neil Diamond Parking Lot, Yanni Parking Lot, Michael Jackson Arraignment Parking Lot, Pro Wrestling Sidewalk, Science Fiction Convention Lawn, and so forth. Proving there is, perhaps, endless variety between groups of people who are exactly like each other.
Which in Heavy Metal‘s case means shirtless, drunk, mullet or teased-haired, and absolutely certain everything either sux (like Dokken) or rüles (duh). What really sucks, of course, is everything not metal, like the musical and societal blight known as “that punk shit.” With inimitable logic, one young buck opines “Madonna can go to hell. She’s a dick.” But he’s unusually verbose — most of the kids here stick to sentiments short enough they’ll have no trouble heaving them onto the cement a couple hours later.
The titanium-strength cluelessness on display is enhanced by one’s knowledge that this sea of fist-pumping testosterone was shortly about to worship the rare metal lead singer who not only looked like he’d stepped out of the Folsom Street Fair, but probably actually had. (Denial is the most powerful weed: even I was shocked along with the rest of a 1978 Queen concert’s Kalamazoo, Mich., audience when Freddie Mercury acted kinda … you know. I mean, who’d have guessed?)
Heavy Metal will just be only one of the many amazing artifacts excavated and edited for your edification by the Found Footage Fest dudes, who have been doing this for seven years now and might actually make money at it. Their current program of video oddities from the golden age of VHS includes montages devoted to ventriloquism instruction (oddly creepier even than the sex-hypnosis segment), real-life Elmer Fudds’ hunting calls, things strange even by public-access-channel standards, horrifyingly dull seminar speakers, and the inevitable vintage exercise-video grotesquerie.
Other highlights include a bit from How to Spot Counterfeit Beanie Babies (what Pruehler calls “this adorable crime”), the lowest of all Linda Blair career lows, and something called “Rent-A-Friend,” which stares into an existential void more terrifying even than Heavy Metal Parking Lot.
FOUND FOOTAGE FESTIVAL
Fri/4–Sat/5, 7:15 and 9:15 p.m., $12
1727 Haight, SF