In Search of Newark’s Great Lost Grindhouse Auteur: The Vaughn Christion Story, from Silent Death (1983) to Key of Brown (2013) . . . and Beyond!

 

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Cinema does not get more Newark than this, from the opening credits to Vaughn Christion’s 2013 film Key of Brown. Here’s a local filmmaker whose career dates back several decades, including the lost horror flick Silent Death (1983), the martial-arts drama The Wrong Disciple (1991), the heist movie Heaven (1997), and the lurid, pulpy thriller Key of Brown—a body of work that makes him not only the king of Newarksploitation, but by my reckoning, the longest-active Newark filmmaker, period.

And yet, when I went in search of information about Christion or his Newark-based production company, Reina, I found very little: few reviews of his films, not much in the way of biographical information, and no interviews. This seemed . . . well, just wrong. Especially in an era of online cult-movie communities that have brought renewed attention and shed deeply-researched light on previously obscure and elusive films and directors, supporting an entire distributional infrastructure where Vinegar Syndrome and Code Red and Distribpix and Bleeding Skull, among others, can recover and restore lost and esoteric works, and where the valorization and even fetishization of the cheap, the tacky, the grimy, and the lost (or the paracinematic, as Jeffrey Sconce theorized it in a great scholarly article) means there are cults around everyone from Doris Wishman and Andy Milligan to Fred Olen Ray and Don Dohler, AND—I swear, this sentence ends soon—where the highlighting of regional cinemas in such books as Stephen Thrower’s brilliant, gargantuan Nightmare USA seems poised to hail a Newark filmmaker, the question remains: where in the hell is the appreciation of Vaughn Christion’s work?

Well, it’s here, at least. I appreciate it. I’ve been watching, researching, and digging Christion’s work for a while now—that which I can find, at least—and I wanted to do right by him in a post. Without much info to work with, though, I felt like I needed input from the man himself; fortunately, after some digging around, we made contact, and met up at Rutgers University-Newark for a pretty lengthy interview.

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Vaughn Christion is a charming, insightful guy who was generous enough to share his memories and thoughts for the below account, and I’m grateful. Before digging in, a quick montage from his work over the course of three decades:

From this, you can probably tell whether or not you’re interested in what follows. Continue reading

Archive Fever: Pelting Gay Marchers with Eggs and Busting Porn, a 1980s Wisconsin Flashback

Here’s a depressing spectacle, but one that bears witnessing and remembering: Ray Fisher of Sparta, Wisconsin, waiting with smile on face and egg in hand, to pelt participants in what would have been the town’s first gay rights march.

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Would have been the first march, “but no gays showed up.” I wonder why. Continue reading