Stuart Gordon, Local Master of Theatrical Sci-Fi — Tone Madison

From January 30 to April 24, the UW film library in Le Chazen presents a a 35mm retrospective one Sunday a month from the quirky and imaginative playwright, screenwriter and director.

Header image: A collage of the four Stuart Gordon films in the retrospective. Clockwise from top left: John Brennick (Christopher Lambert) and his cellmates Nino (Clifton Collins Jr.), Stiggs (Tom Towles), D-Day (Jeffrey Combs) and Abraham (Lincoln Kilpatrick) plan their escape in “Fortress”; Achille (Gary Graham) and Alexander (Paul Koslo) face off in their giant robots in “Robot Jox”; the titular character (William H. Macy) wields a knife in “Edmond”; and Macanudo (Charles Dance) threatens his prisoners Mike Pucci (Stephen Dorff) and John Canyon (Dennis Hopper) in “Space Truckers”.

Although best known for his adaptations of Lovecraft Resuscitator (1985) and From beyond (1986), the late Stuart Gordon (1947-2020) was more than just a horror director. Starting out as a renegade theater major at UW-Madison, Gordon co-founded the Broom Street Theater before moving to Chicago to become main character on the theatrical scene of this city. Always unpredictable, Gordon got his start in film in the 1980s, with his gory debut Resuscitator establishing him as a unique master of the genre. This semester, the UW Cinematheque’s year-long retrospective of Gordon’s career begins with a 2 p.m. Sunday Matinee Series of some of his lesser known films – science fiction films Fortress (1992), Robot Jox (1989), and space truckers (1996), as well as its adaptation of David Mamet’s Edmund (2005). All four will be presented on 35mm prints at the Chazen Museum of Art, directly from the Stuart Gordon Vault at the Wisconsin Film and Theater Research Center.

Filled with ingenious practical effects and outlandish villains, Gordon’s sci-fi worlds are every bit as imaginative, anti-authoritarian and over-the-top as his horror films. Gordon had an obvious passion for the genre and returned to it throughout his career. During his stay at Organic theater in Chicago, Gordon adapted science fiction novels by Bradbury, Vonnegut, and others at the scene; and his own sci-fi series inspired by Marvel Comics Chain! had a brief Broadway run with comic artist Neal Adams’ art production. While his sci-fi films conform to genre conventions, Gordon clearly has fun working in form while adding his own personal touch.

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