New Beverly Cinema (a great revival theater), right here in LA! "Finally" I thought. "Finally I'll get to actually watch these movies with other kung fu fans!"
Not only was the theater less than half full (despite the fact that Quentin Tarantino himself chose the programming and introduced the films), but it was clear by audience reactions that none of these people were even remotely familiar with this genre of film. The only actor that got any sort of applause from the audience during the previews or the films was Lee Van Cleef during the "Stranger and the Gunfighter" trailer.
Lee Van Cleef!
Lo Lieh? Who's that? There was even a muffled giggle when he came on the screen. I still don't know what that was about. I couldn't hold back a "WHOOT!" when Tarantino mentioned Fu Sheng after "Avenging Eagle", seeing as during the credits, no one clapped for either Fu Sheng or Ti Lung. Someone had to represent.
The audience laughed heartily during "Avenging Eagle" (Ku Feng was killing people for some reason), but during "The Duel", which was dubbed, the few people who had actually stayed for the film were laughing like crazy. Of course there are hilarious moments in many Shaw Brothers flicks, I mean sometimes the wigs alone are enough. I'd feel differently if I thought they also appreciated the films, but I wasn't getting that impression. I mean, come on. How many times can you really laugh at someone scaling an impossibly high wall? It happens so many times in so many SB flicks that you'd think the audience would get tired of laughing. You'd be wrong.
There were in the audience, I'm sure, a couple of real fans. Really quiet fans. This definitely includes the guy wearing an "Avenging Eagle" t-shirt and sitting in the front row. Kudos to you, my friend. And much to my surprise and delight, Quentin Tarantino did actually impress me with his knowledge and his appreciation for the films.
As a fitting end to the somewhat disappointing evening, the theater was playing "Friday" after the Shaw Brothers double feature, and the line was around the block. Then I mysteriously got explosive diarrhea. WTF.
*Ahem*. Anyway, here's what I'm trying to say: I thought there would be more people there, and I thought they would be more familiar and appreciative of the genre. I got the feeling that most people there just wanted to see Tarantino, or have a laugh.
In my everyday life, I'd already given up trying to persuade people to understand why I enjoy these films so much. I never thought I'd have to put up with that same feeling of isolation while watching them with an audience in a revival theater.