New On Demand & Digital Series ‘Time Warp: The Greatest Cult Films of All-Time’ Worth Your Time

by Nick Spacek on April 20, 2020

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Solid Rock Fist Up]

Hosted by Joe Dante, along with John Waters, Ileana Douglas and Kevin Pollak, the three documentaries of the Time Warp series – Volume 1: Midnight Madness, Volume 2: Horror and Sci-Fi, and Volume 3: Comedy & Camp – basically form one excellent miniseries, covering the wide array of films which fall under the “cult” umbrella.

While there are many titles with which you’re likely familiar – The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Big Lebowski, Night of the Living Dead, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Blade Runner, et al – the sheer diversity of the lineup, and the people they get on-screen discussing these films, makes Time Warp: The Greatest Cult Films of All Time a highlight reel for the cinephile, as well as a primer for those looking to dive into lesser-known films.

At one point, actor Bruce Campbell defines a cult film almost perfectly, saying that a regular film might have 100,000 people who see it once, but a cult movie has one fan who sees it 100,000 times. It’s a perfect summation of the fact that fans really made these movies what they are. It’s an angle which pops up again and again, and the fact that many of the people involved are just as aware of it as the fans are make for many of the best stories. Diedrich Bader, talking about Office Space, has an almost blissfully shocked expression when relating the first time someone asked him, “What would you do if you had a million dollars?”

It’s these personal stories of actors and directors seeing their own films with the people who turned them from cast-offs to classics which are Time Warp‘s heartbeat. Behind the scenes stories are interesting, but hearing about Tim Curry showing his passport to a theater manager to get into a Rocky Horror screening for free is pure delight.

The organization has me baffled. Aside from kicking off with The Rocky Horror Picture Show as the first film in Midnight Madness, I have no clue as to why which films were chosen and why they were featured in the order they are. Rocky Horror, being the uber midnight movie, makes sense as the one with which to start, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why it’s not otherwise in some sort of chronological order, in order to better trace how these films worked in terms of influencing one another and fandom in general.

The films left out are intriguing. Volume 1 is an hour and 40 minutes and Volume 3 is over two hours, but Volume 2 doesn’t even hit an hour and a half. Now, arguably, horror and sci-fi have had enough of their own coverage in the past, with plenty of documentaries covering every facet of both subgenres, but talking about cult sci-fi and not leaning into something like Repo Man is curious. They do give time to Liquid Sky, however, which I have to admit, I did not see coming.

Volume 3: Comedy and Camp arguably covers the most well-trod material. Many of the films discussed are well-known and quoted to death. However, the fact that many of these movies, such as Office Space, were really working against preconceived notions, and took a good long while to find their fans, due to the really oddball nature of what they were doing. The camp aspect bookends the series really well, with The Room getting maybe the longest analysis of any film other than Rocky Horror, which makes perfect sense, given that it’s probably the first true “midnight movie” in years.

However, even given that there are titles left out, and the organziation is all over the place, the very fact that Time Warp manages to land big guns like Jeff Bridges and John Turturro on The Big Lebowski or Barry Bostwick on The Rocky Horror Picture Show, along with notables like John Cleese, Roger Corman, John Sayles, and Rob Reiner makes this series a star-studded event. Pam Grier basically gets her own segment, despite it ostensibly being about Coffy, and there are also crazy good interviews with folks who have since passed like Sid Haig and George Romero. Throwing in genre icons like Mary Woronov, a woman who deserves her own documentary, is just icing on the cake.

The only real downfall is that while Volume 1 is released this week on demand and on digital, Volume 2 won’t drop until May 19, and Volume 3 on June 23. While these docs all stand on their own, as binged series, the interconnectedness of all these titles, genres, and personages come together in a very gratifying way. Watch them all on their own, and afterward, sit down and do one big screening.

Nick is a self-described “rock star journalist,” which is strange, considering he’s married with two kids and three cats. This is just further proof that you can’t trust anyone online. In addition to his work for Scene-Stealers, Nick can be found bitching about music elsewhere on the Internet at his blog, Rock Star Journalist, and the Pitch’s Wayward Blog.

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