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Cecil B Demented

Threat advisory: Elevated - Significant risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

Lights... camera... anarchy!

Written and directed by John Waters, Cecil B Demented is an insane action comedy about a young underground filmmaker and his loyal cult of film fanatics who declare war on bad cinema. Kidnapping a Hollywood movie queen and forcing her to star in their radical outlaw film, the cinema terrorists wreak havoc on the city of Baltimore, committing brazen acts of guerrilla filmmaking and stirring the populace to new levels of cinema unrest. Stopping at nothing to bring his vision to the screen, the obsessed auteur demented converts his restyled starlet to the cause of celluloid revolution as he creates a magnum opus that does justice to his name.

Honey Whitlock (Melanie Griffith) is every inch a star and her career as an actress is flourishing even if her personal life is in disarray. Forty years old and divorced, she is still beautiful, rich and talented; an Oscar winner who is on every producer's short list, despite her reputation as a diva who throws "star fits". Honey's new film, Some kind of happiness, promises to be her biggest hit yet. arriving in Baltimore for the gala première to benefit the Maryland Heart Fund, Honey cannot know that she is about to encounter the most demanding director of her career.

By day Sinclair Stevens (Stephen Dorff) is the trusted twenty-something manager of the Senator Theatre, a fully restored art deco movie palace that is hosting the première of Some kind of happiness. By night, he is the self-proclaimed Cecil B Demented, guerrilla filmmaker and cult leader to the "Sprocket Holes", a group of cinematic misfits who have joined him in infiltrating the staff of the landmark theatre. With the charisma of Charles Manson, the style of Andy Warhol and the artistic temperament of Otto Preminger, Cecil is not a violent young man - unless you get in the way of his shot.

Cecil has recruited the perfect army to help him realise his cinematic vision, beginning with his actors: Cherish (Alicia Witt), Cecil's outlaw cinema girlfriend and one-time porno star, and Lyle (Adrian Grenier), a scary thespian whose method acting includes taking every drug known to man. The Sprocket Holes production crew is even more terrifying: obsessed cinematographer Pam (Erika Lynn Rupli); dangerously coiffed sound person Chardonnay (Zenzele Uzoma); art director and staple gun fanatic Lewis (Larry Gilliard Junior); the onanistic and aptly named costumer Fidget (Eric M Barry); satanic makeup artist Raven (Maggie Gyllenhaal); self-hating heterosexual hairdresser Rodney (Jack Noseworthy); loyal redneck chauffeur Petie; and, overseeing it all, the frighteningly effective producer Dinah (Harriet Dodge).

As the benefit première of Some kind of happiness gets underway with a speech by the chairperson of the Maryland Heart Fund (Mink Stole), Cecil and the well-armed Sprocket Holes spring into action. Snatching Honey from the Senator stage under a cloud of smoke and gunfire, they spirit the terrified star back to Sprocket House, their hideout in an abandoned movie palace. Held against her will, Honey is brainwashed into the twisted world of Cecil B Demented. Given an alarming fashion makeover for her role as the insane theatre owner in Cecil's Raving beauty, a no-budget film shot in "ultimate reality", Honey begins to sympathise with her kamikaze captors. Meanwhile, her personal assistant Libby (Ricki Lake) and the rest of the Hollywood establishment begin to trash Honey's reputation on national television. Cecil's universe of real-life cinema terror, sexual frustration and drug-addled film theory starts to feel like an attractive alternative to the formerly pampered movie star, and she becomes a willing soldier in the war against commercial cinema. Battling forces as diverse as militant family film supporters, the Maryland Film Commission, and the police department, Cecil B Demented becomes a hero to many Baltimore filmgoers, from action aficionados to porno enthusiasts and, together with newly recruited film anarchists, they rally to Cecil's cellu-revolutionary cause.

As Raving beauty nears completion, Cecil, Honey and the Sprocket Holes go all out to "seize the cinema" and begin the revolution to destroy mainstream movies by creating the ultimate fiery climax to their own little underground movie from hell.

Theatrical propaganda posters

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Target demographic movie keyword propaganda

  • Film comedy filmmaker terrorism cinema kidnap crime

Persons of interest

  • Melanie Griffith .... Honey Whitlock
  • Stephen Dorff .... Cecil
  • Alicia Witt .... Cherish
  • Adrian Grenier .... Lyle
  • Larry Gilliard Junior .... Lewis
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal .... Raven
  • Jack Noseworthy .... Rodney
  • Mink Stole .... Mrs Sylvia Mallory
  • Ricki Lake .... Libby
  • Michael Shannon .... Petie
  • Kevin Nealon .... Himself
  • Eric Barry .... Fidget
  • Zenzele Uzoma .... Chardonnay
  • Erika Lynn Rupli .... Pam
  • Harriet Dodge .... Dinah
  • Roseanne .... Herself
  • John Waters .... Screenwriter
  • John Waters .... Director

Cinematic intelligence sources

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

Uh... yeah.

Cecil B Demented is a pallid version of the anarchic films of John Waters' wild past. Having been sucked into the Hollywood system he has abandoned many of the ideals that made him the cult figure he is today. Once upon a time, singing arseholes, incest and eating fresh poodle shit were all in a day's work. Now it's bad hair, confused teens and "the system."

If you're a die hard fan you might find your faith wavering, despite the fact that John is trying to bite the hand that's feeding him. If you've always wondered who this John waters guy is, Cecil B Demented is a entry level introduction to his work. The casting of name stars in the lead roles looks more like an attempt to sell the film rather than make a statement about fame and studio based filmmaking.

Do I sound cynical? That's probably because I am.

See also Bowfinger for a studio movie about independent movie making.

Security censorship classification

MA 15+ (Medium level violence, drug use, medium level coarse language)

Surveillance time

88 minutes (1:28 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

Film: 18 April 2001

Cinema surveillance images

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