Austin Connection: Mondo’s Showings of Gremlins 1 and 2

I admit it: I’ve been on a Gremlins kick lately. After buying a Mondo Gremlins movie poster straight from Australia (and having it signed by Rhys Cooper because it was in Australia anyway at the time), I watched Gremlins on blu-ray while the poster was en route from overseas. After watching Gremlins I was bummed to notice that Gremlins 2 was not on blu-ray.

Anyway, I got distracted by other things – like framing up that Gremlins poster.

Rhys Cooper's Gremlins Framed

About a month after framing the print, I noticed a tweet by Mondo creative director Justin Ishmael: “I’m going to see GREMLINS 2 Friday night. You should, too….”

Gremlins 2 was showing at the Drafthouse Ritz downtown. And the lead dude at Mondo said to be there. Images filled my head of maybe a Tyler Stout or Rhys Cooper Gremlins 2 poster – that would be one hell of a companion piece to my Gremlins print. Hell, even if there was no poster at the event, I still wanted to see the movie, especially with the rare 35mm film reel so that it could be like I am back in the early ’90s watching it on the big screen.

After arriving to the Drafthouse on screening night, I noticed a huge package shaped the size of a poster addressed to Mondo in the lobby. I was thrilled, to say the least.

Gremlins Pin-up dollBefore the movie started up, the ZZang!! guys behind the event said a brief introduction about the movie. They mentioned how great the movie was, talked about it for a bit, etc. They also asked if anyone was here because of Mondo. I heard one or two shouts from the audience (I never speak up in the audience whenever someone asks such a question). I don’t recall exactly what one of the ZZang!! guys said after that, but he said something to the effect of, “Well, that’s too bad because they have these pin-up dolls,” and then he pulled out this weird looking Gremlins spider pin-up thing. I just kind of laughed because I thought he was joking.

The lights went off, the Drafthouse PSA went up with no talking and all that, and then there was darkness. That’s right, the movie didn’t start up. 30 seconds passed. People started to nervously laugh. Finally the projectionist yelled out, “Sorry, it will be just a minute. Remember that part in the Gremlins when they took over the projector?”

The movie did finally start up after another couple of minutes. Maybe it was planned to make the audience think that there were actually Gremlins in the booth.

The movie was great. I think it had a lot more magic on the big screen. I won’t give anything away even though the movie is 20+ years old, but many of the scenes just worked on the big screen. It was a lot more zany than Gremlins – I see the two as polar opposite movies kind of like Alien vs. Aliens. In any case, I had a blast. I caught the significant other dozing off, but she always does with the movies I like.

After the movie ended, my buddy Roman asked if I would buy one of those pin-up doll things. I laughed and said there’s no way that that’s what Mondo has – the box I saw was poster sized and sealed. The Drafthouse Ritz downtime is very small, and it took forever for us to get down to the stairwell of the lobby. I looked over the rail and saw the Mondo manager Mo trying to sell the Pin-up Gremlins doll thing to people. My heart didn’t really sink, but I felt a little bit of disappointment. Who knows? Maybe we could see a Gremlins 2 print someday.

Weeks passed…and then Mondo announced they were doing one last showing at the Drafthouse this year for a movie called Gremlins with the artist as Ken Taylor. Anticipation followed.

Mondo’s poster sales online sell out sometimes in seconds. When Mondo is involved with Drafthouse ticket drops, similar results follow. To grab a ticket, you have to start refreshing the ticket page hours in advance. You never know when the ticket is going to drop, so you have to be there on the spot at all times, and God help you if you step away from the computer at the wrong time. I was refreshing the page and instant messaging my friend Rainbolt at the same time with sentences like, “Man, I have to take a major leak. These tickets had better drop soon.”

The ticket drop for Gremlins was easier than past Mondo drops. I was able to grab one ticket, and then the tickets stayed up for an entire three to five minutes afterward before selling out.

Contrary to the Drafthouse event for Gremlins 2 where most of the audience had never heard about Mondo, the Gremlins event had many of the poster regulars chatting it up with each other. Excitement was in the air; people went to the theater hours in advance. These poster events are more than just receiving a poster: they are about interacting with like-minded poster aficionados and watching a cool movie. The poster is there to commemorate the event.

Justin Ishmael, the creative director behind Mondo, arrived at the Drafthouse and walked straight in. I managed to shake his hand and introduce myself briefly, but he was a very busy man especially since a film crew was there at the Drafthouse doing a documentary about the poster scene.

Once we got into the theater and sat down, we got to watch some really cheesy ’80s movies trailers kind of like how we did with Gremlins. Not only did we get to watch trailers for movies, but we also got to see some select scenes from movies like The Gate and Ghoulies. The Drafthouse likes to mix and match what shows before the movies with the theme of the movie.

Once 7:00 hit, Justin Ishmael came onto the stage in front of a lit Christmas tree and talked about the movie that was going to show. He said that they were going to try to do a Die Hard poster, but they couldn’t get the likeness rights for it in time. He also mentioned that Warner Brothers was weird about the ticketing for Gremlins and that they couldn’t include the poster in the ticket price, but you did get the present for free that they would give out later.

Justin also asked people to cheer if they liked Gremlins better than Gremlins 2 and vice-versa. He said he liked Gremlins 2 the most.

The lights turned off and they showed Gremlins in its original 35mm glory, but first we got to see the Drafthouse’s “No Talking” PSA, which contained the Gremlins blowing up in a theater. Also before the showing was a really creepy preview for Black Christmas and another preview for Ernest Saves Christmas.

After having seen the movie in blu-ray, I will say that the 35mm showing of Gremlins was quite a change. The director did all the effects in an old school manner without any cg effects or anything like that (this movie does contain a few awesome stop motion parts, however), so the film grain and static-y audio that the 35mm film introduced added a little bit of charm to the movie. It’s like the old school film quality and effects go hand-in-hand together.

Seeing the movie on the big screen allows the viewer to see small details that occur in the background like the main character’s mother fidgeting with a invention in the background to dim the lights (I don’t think I noticed that detail before). Speaking of small details, the pub scene where Kate is trapped with the Gremlins is by far my favorite scene still after so many years. The set design is just cluttered and trashed and filled with so many Gremlins hanging out and having fun. The scene showcases the Gremlins and their multiple personalities doing their normal crazy things mimicking life in the extreme. It is a very long scene, and I think the puppeteers and set designers were having almost too much fun making that section.

While Gremlins does contain a lot of cute creatures, it also contains many deaths. Back in the ’80s, this film and Red Dawn bridged the gap between PG- and R-rated films, so the MPAA created the PG-13 rating. I think what was implied was much worse than what was expressed in terms of violence in the movie. I won’t give anything away, but you’ll just have to watch the flick (again, hopefully) to find out.

After the movie ended, Justin came up onto the stage again and showed the new poster off that Ken Taylor did. He said that he found someone to do the Chinese writing of the three rules on the poster through Tom Whalen. Coincidentally, the guy who checked the translation was the kid in the beginning of the movie.

The gift that we received was a Christmas Gremlins ornament Moon Editions crafted out of wood. The wrapping paper they used for the present (and yes, they did wrap the tube as well) contains little Gremlins, snowflakes, and the Mondo logo. I need to get some of that wrapping paper for Christmas.

Overall, the event was really cool and was not nearly as crazy as the Mystery Movie 9. I have always believed that keeping it small is the way to go with these things, but that also means that people are left out of an awesome event. Seeing as how the tickets took minutes as opposed to seconds to sell out probably means that a good majority of the people who wanted to go to the event went to the event. I will be looking forward to the next Mondo event and chatting with all the poster addicts such as myself. Thank you Justin, Mo, Justin 2, Jessica, and the rest of the Mondo team for such an awesome event!

Until next time…