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The Secret Cinema Afterschool Special: School Life and Moral Guidance in the '70s & '80s

  • The Maas Building 1325 North Randolph Street Philadelphia, PA, 19122 United States (map)

Break out the Crayolas and circle Friday, October 6 on your inner child's appointment book -- that's when the Secret Cinema goes warm and fuzzy and presents THE SECRET CINEMA AFTERSCHOOL SPECIAL: SCHOOL LIFE AND MORAL GUIDANCE IN THE '70S & '80S at the Maas Building.

The program consists of several rare short films made for school projectors and television. While none of them are believed to be from THE ABC AFTERSCHOOL SPECIAL (which featured longer programs), some perhaps share that series' comforting and now nostalgic perspective on the problems of growing up. 

T.S.C.A.S. is yet another in the continuing series of "Greatest Hits" presentations that we are dusting off this year, to mark 25 years of the Secret Cinema. It was originally presented in our very first season at Moore College of Art & Design, in 1997 (and revisited in 2002 with a packed screening at the Print Center).

There will be one complete show at 8:00 pm. Admission is $9.00.

Some highlights of the program are:

INSIGHT: THE PARTY (1971) - Picture this...three high school couples make a weekend trip to the seaside home of someone's absent hipster uncle, with the primary objective of getting laid. A young Meredith Baxter (later Baxter-Birney of BRIDGET LOVES BERNIE and FAMILY TIES) counsels her nervous, virgin friend ("Hey, don't get uptight... all you have to do is relax. You've got it all together -- you've got a guy you dig with experience, a fantastic pad, the ocean -- the whole thing!"), all as a very long-haired Billy Mumy (LOST IN SPACE, BLESS THE BEASTS AND CHILDREN) sings and strums a James Taylor-ish love ballad in the background. This long-running series (25 years) was created by Catholic priest Ellwood E. "Bud" Kieser, for his Paulist Productions company.

In 2006, Mark Quigley and Dan Einstein of the UCLA Film & Television Archive presented a fascinating illustrated talk at the Orphan Film Symposium on this unusual series, called "A Meeting of Church and State: Television's Paulist Twilight Zone: INSIGHT (1963-1980)" It can be listened to (minus illustrations) here.

JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL (1977) - A 40-minute featurette offering embarrassing musical slices of life in school, most notable for the appearance of a 14 or 15-year-old Paula Abdul (who gives a perky performance singing "We're Gonna Have a Party!"). The plot focuses on a Ricky Segall-lookalike who wears puka shells and frets over asking a girl to the dance, between countless painfully cloying songs, like a modern, shorter (but perhaps not better) GREASE. The music was arranged by Julius Wechter, known to A&M Records fans as leader of the Baja Marimba Band.

The participation of Abdul, Wechter, and jazz composer Dave "Schoolhouse Rock" Frishberg (who appears as a rather sadistic shop teacher) marks this otherwise obscure film as having genuine "before and after they were famous" significance. However, we would be remiss if we did not point out an error in IMDB's listing for JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL: the cast member named Ira Kaplan did NOT go on to start the popular indie rock band Yo La Tengo.

REVENGE OF THE NERD (1983, Dir: Ken Kwapis) - Not to be confused with that Anthony Edwards feature film you're thinking of (that was made one year later, and with plural Nerds), this charming short film was initially seen on CBS' "Afternoon Playhouse" series. It follows a similar (if more concise) plot arc, however, with the titular hero using his superior skills with early microcomputers and other high-tech devices in an attempt to gain the respect of his intellectually inferior classmates.

...and more!

Earlier Event: October 1
La Milonga Que Faltaba
Later Event: January 26
Secret Cinema Two-Reelers!