The new midnight

Pub date July 3, 2007
WriterCheryl Eddy
SectionFilm FeaturesSectionFilm Review

"Nine p.m. is the new midnight," declares Will "the Thrill" Viharo, programmer and host of Thrillville, the East Bay’s giant cocktail shaker of B-movie bliss. Turns out Thrillville’s earliest incarnation was as the Midnight Lounge, which Viharo first oversaw in April 1997, just a few months after Oakland’s Parkway Speakeasy Theater opened. After a particularly scorching Elvis tribute event, Viharo decided his gig, eventually dubbed Thrillville, was ready for prime time. Viharo’s delightfully sleazy tastes ("A lot of old AIP stuff — Amazing Colossal Man, I Was a Teenage Frankenstein [both 1957] — mixed in with ’60s drug movies like The Trip [1967] and blaxploitation like Shaft [1971]. I really stuck to stuff that I loved") earned him a loyal following. He’s now the programmer and publicist for Speakeasy Theaters and hosts monthly Thrillvilles at the Parkway and the Cerrito Speakeasy Theater — both of which offer menus of beer and pizza — as well as the occasional road show.

Though he’s a devoted film fan ("My life’s a B movie. People like what they can relate to"), Viharo, whose events feature his wife, Monica Tiki Goddess, and any number of special guests, sees Thrillville as much more than just a screening. "I realized I needed to turn it into a showcase. That’s why I call it a cult-movie cabaret. I’m incorporating elements of the TV horror hosts of the ’70s but also the old midnight ghost shows from the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s. And also burlesque. The irony there is that burlesque houses back in the ’30s and ’40s actually gave way to grindhouses. And Thrillville is a combination of both — we’re basically bringing them back together."

Coming up at Thrillville: ever-popular tributes to the King (Viva Las Vegas, 1964) and William Shatner (Incubus, 1965), a spooky "Zombie-Rama" double bill, and, hopefully, the ultrarare Bare Knuckles (1977), which stars the fez-topped MC’s father, Robert Viharo. If all goes well, Quentin Tarantino will loan his print of what the Thrill proudly calls "the ultimate sleazy ’70s grindhouse flick." (Cheryl Eddy)

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