Who doesn’t love surprises, dressing up and classic films? Well – if like me – you do then you’ve no doubt already stumbled across the wonderful Secret Cinema.
The lovechild of film lover and perfectionist Fabien Riggall, the buzz and audiences for Secret Cinema (SC) are growing with every new event.
Alien | Ridley Scott | 1979
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Sigourney Weaver | John Hurt | Tom Skerritt | Veronica Cartwright | Harry Dean Stanton Ian Holm | Yaphet Kotto
I got my first taste of SC back in 2010 with ‘Alien’. The whole experience starts even before you walk into the venue, and for Alien it’s an abandoned warehouse near Shoreditch. We’re all kitted out with the obligatory white boiler suits (yes I still have mine in the cupboard) and piled into a lift for a terrifying ‘ride’ down into the bowels of the ‘ship’.
After surviving the lift and a run in with the ‘Alien’ I we started to explore what we could see through the fog. Look one way and you’d happen upon a fully kitted out spaceman, look another and you’d see a gaggle of alien pods looking ready to hatch. I quickly walked past these on into the brightly lit canteen to steady my nerves with a stiff drink only to be greeted with alien autopsies and all too real ‘Kane’ lain out on a bed, alien suckered firmly to his face.
Finally it’s time for the main event, and just to make things even more special we’re treated to a personal message from Ridley Scott no less before the opening credits role.
For the film, well it was as good as I remember it and – in fact – nowhere near as scary.
Bugsy Malone| Alan Parker| 1976
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Jodie Foster | Scott Baio | Florrie Dugger | John Cassisi | Martin Lev
Next up was the 70’s family favourite Bugsy Malone and for this one SC found the perfect venue (an old dance hall) in Limehouse, East London.
As soon as we arrived I guessed the film as we were thrust into a throng of gangsters delivering splurge guns. After exchanging a single red rose in return for my entry I was gobsmacked straight away. You could get yourself a drink, sit back and just watch the dancers and singers on stage. Or you could go for a stroll and take in a boxing match, have your photo taken or drop by the barbers for a hastily applied ‘tache. One thing about SC, is that people take the dress code very seriously and you could see some people who’d really gone to town on their 1920’s outfits.
Cue the film and the opening song (Paul Williams wrote a great score). It was great to be able to see the film on the big screen for the first time and it brought back memories of me watching it again and again on my family’s Betamax video player back in the early 80’s.
Finally the piece de resistance, and what would be a showing of Bugsy Malone without a custard pie fight. I left that night buzzing and wanting to do it again the next night.
Blade Runner| Ridley Scott| 1982
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Harrison Ford| Sean Young| Rutger Hauer| Darryl Hannah
SC chose this seminal 80’s sci-fi for the next event I went along to. Instructions were to meet at Canary Wharf tube station in futuristic garb. There we were greeted by ‘police’ and ‘stewardesses’ from Utopia Airways and marched (the buses weren’t working that night) through Canary Wharf to the location. To add to the atmosphere we were ordered to put up our umbrellas, to protect us from the acid rain of course.
Once we arrived I knew that SC had once again upped the ante with an abandoned warehouse on an industrial estate standing in as a mini Los Angeles (Blade Runner style).
Your eyes and ears were bombarded with a bazaar complete with jostling street-sellers, dancing girls gyrating in front of huge screen to techno music and a trip to Chew’s laboratory. You could escape outside for some refreshments and watch the gangs hanging out in the beat-up cars.
8 o’clock arrived and we were all hustled back into the warehouse to grab a chair and sit down to watch the film (the final cut version which is sans narration but features the unicorn reference and an updated Zhora death scene).
It had been such a long time since I’d seen the film that it was great to re-discover it again. I’m beginning to sound a bit repetitive but yes, yet another triumph for SC.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest| Milos Forman| 1975
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Jack Nicholson | Louise Fletcher | William Redfield | Brad Dourif
So to my latest (but hopefully not last) SC adventure.
We received instructions to meet outside Ladbroke Grove tube station in our dressing gown and slippers. Ooo – I thought – this might actually be the first time that I guess the film in advance, although you should never feel too confident as SC have a knack of giving great clues which could lead to many different possibilities. To be honest, the first film that crossed my mind was Terry Gillian’s ’12 Monkeys’.
Having been led in virtual silence through the backstreets of Ladbroke Grove we arrived at an abandoned and soon to be demolished hospital. We were ‘processed’ on arrival, given a hospital gown and colour coded wristband and ushered quietly into the hospital to explore. The place was in darkness and sombre music was being played on the PA system. This abruptly changed when the lights were switched on – to reveal the ‘patients’ laying in beds behind a metal screen – and the PA rudely announced it was time to get up.
We decided we needed a drink and headed off to get our prescription cards (you couldn’t get drinks – sorry meds – without one) and then receive our meds in a from a nurse. Once medicated we roamed the halls and wards chancing upon exercises classes and group therapy, not to mention R P McMurphy being man-handled by some burly orderlies.
Before we were sent off to our designated ward (white ward in our case) we were all shuffled out into the hall and took part in a performance of ‘Sounds of Silence’ which echoed through the halls. It really set the tone.
Installed in our seats and following a briefing from our nurse to ‘Tell no One’ the film started. It was great seeing Jack Nicholson in his prime and reliving the quietly menacing performance that earned Louise Fletcher an Oscar for her role as Nurse Ratchett.
So, that’s Secret Cinema. An experience where everything is spot on and boasts an army of actors and extras that lead you through the whole wonderful night. Add to that some of the best sets, props and attention to detail I’ve seen outside a movie set and you can understand why people are flocking to the events in their droves.