A look at a serious illness, and a serial-killer canine


OK, we know you all stayed up until the wee hours of the morning at yesterday's opening-night party at the Evergreen House. Hey, that's no excuse for not starting this first full day of Maryland Film Festival 2001 bright and early.

So drag yourself out of bed, grab an Egg McMuffin up at the North Avenue McDonald's and make it to the Charles by noon to kick off your day with "I Remember Me," Kim Snyder's documentary about chronic-fatigue syndrome, a mysterious affliction from which the filmmaker herself suffers. Festival major domo Jed Dietz cites this as one of the weekend's strongest documentaries.

At 2 p.m., Ron Shelton's "Cobb," which new Sun movie critic Michael Sragow believes has been unjustly ignored by movie audiences, gets a screening in the Charles' main auditorium; stop by and see if you agree. Paul Seydor, who edited the film, will be on hand.

No one who's ever seen Sam Peckinpah's 1969 "The Wild Bunch" has ambivalent feelings about the film: Either you see it as a masterpiece of revisionism, a film that revealed the Old West for the scabrous place it really was, or it's a piece of ultra-violent junk where bullets replaced plot lines and violence was celebrated as a virtue. Without doubt, it's Peckinpah's defining film, the one that best exemplifies his potent mix of mythic storytelling and harsh realism.

"The Wild Bunch: An American Montage," screening at 5:30 p.m., takes us behind the scenes of Peckinpah's movie with 75 minutes of 16mm home-movie footage shot while the film was being made. Peckinpah's daughter and surviving cast members are interviewed, and Peckinpah himself is heard via quotes read by actor Ed Harris.

Use the time from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. to grab some dinner and prepare yourself psychically for this evening; things are going to get weird. At 8, John Waters will serve as host for "Baxter," a French film about a serial-killer dog (who looks suspiciously like Spuds McKenzie). Nuff said.

At 10, hold onto your sense of decency: It's time for Herschell Gordon Lewis' "Gore Gore Girls," the story of a strip club (run by Henny Youngman!) where the dancers are being killed off one by one. Of course, in typical Lewis fashion, there's nothing subtle or left to the imagination about the methods behind their demise -- count on lots of sex, nudity and gore.

If your eyelids haven't slammed shut from fatigue by now, MFF 2001 has one final offering in store: a midnight showing of "The World's Greatest Sinner," in which actor Timothy Carey (who also directed) plays an insurance salesman who decides to start his own religion, political party and garage rock band.

Sounds like the American dream, right? The 1962 film's score was provided by a then-unknown Baltimorean named Frank Zappa.

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