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Interview with Dan Halsted, curator of the Grindhouse Film Festival

June 4, 2016



Dan Halsted is in Chicago this weekend, bringing his traveling Grindhouse Film Festival to the beautiful Music Box Theatre. Halsted is the head film programmer at the Hollywood Theatre in Portland, OR, where he has founded the theater’s monthly “Grindhouse Film Festival” and “Kung Fu Theater” series’. An avid film collector with a passion for Hong Kong cinema, Halsted unearthed a massive collection of extremely rare 35mm kung fu films in 2009. For his unorthodox film preservation efforts, he was dubbed “The Indiana Jones of film archivists” by the Willamette Week newspaper. How did he get into these films and what are some of his favorites? Halsted recently answered some of my questions via email. You can find them and a full schedule of the festival below….

David J. Fowlie: How did you get into collecting and eventually curating these specific festivals?
Dan Halsted: I’m a huge fan of all genres of movies, but I’m especially passionate about 70’s exploitation films and kung fu movies. When I first started programming movies for audiences, I quickly found that the movies I really wanted to show weren’t available on 35mm anymore. Not only that, but nobody seemed to care. I set out to try to save as many of these movies as I could on 35mm (to see photos from my adventures unearthing 35mm kung fu films, click here:

DJF: Are there any misconceptions regarding the genre – its validity and place in cinema history?
DH: There are definitely misconceptions that these are “lesser” movies that don’t deserve respect or to be treated seriously. Unfortunately too much of “film history” (or movies deemed “important) has been decided by the squares. My argument is always that these were the independent and foreign films during their time, and are really cool movies. They’ve just never received respect.

DJF: What’s a good gateway Grindhouse movie for newbies to discover this genre (and even the subgenres within)?
DH: I think that all the movies I’m playing this weekend at the Music Box are excellent gateway movies. Lucio Fulic’s GATES OF HELL and the Secret Screening on Sunday and incredible films that are even more impressive when screened on 35mm with an audience. Also for the Kung Fu Double Feature, these are two of the greatest independent martial arts films to ever come out of Hong Kong! And these are the only known 35mm prints of these films.

DJF: Is there a specific Grindhouse movie you are consistently championing, hoping it finds a larger audience?
DH: Not a specific film, but I’m such a huge fan of classic kung fu films, I’m always championing those movies endlessly. Kung Fu movies have always been treated like the bastard children of cinema, and never received the respect they deserve. MYSTERY OF CHESS BOXING is one of the biggest crowd-pleasing movies of all time, I’m always excited to bring it to a new audience.

DJF: What are you most excited about in regards to this festival?
DH: The Secret Screening on Sunday is my personal favorite movie of all time. Can’t wait to unleash it on the crowd!




Friday, June 3rd

10:00pm: Grindhouse Trailers

Saturday, June 4th

7:00pm: The Mystery of Chess Boxing
9:00pm: Shaolin vs Wu Tang

Sunday, June 5th

5:00pm: The Gates of Hell
7:00pm: Secret Screening


Double Feature Tickets are $12
Music Box Member Double Feature Tickets are $9
Tickets to Grindhouse Trailers are $9
Music Box Member Tickets to Grindhouse Trailers are $6


– More about The Grindhouse Film Festival –

The Grindhouse Film Festival screens 35mm prints from the exploitation heyday of the 1970’s and early 80’s. Genres covered include horror, crime, blaxploitation, sexploitation, hicksploitation, revenge films, biker films and more. Vintage 35mm trailers play before each film. In addition to being a cinematic study, this series is also a sociological study of the time period these movies came out of. Some of the movies are offensive, some are sexist, some are excessively violent. It’s the responsibility of the series to show these films, even if some of them are extremely controversial. Dan Halsted, the Hollywood’s Head Programmer, is the organizer and founder of the Grindhouse Film Festival.

– About The Music Box Theatre –

For the last two decades, the Music Box Theatre has been the premiere venue in Chicago for independent and foreign films. It currently has the largest theater space operated full time in the city. The Music Box Theatre is independently owned and operated by the Southport Music Box Corporation. SMBC, through its Music Box Films division, also distributes foreign and independent films in the theatrical, DVD and television markets throughout the United States.

Follow The Music Box Theatre on Instagram @musicboxchicago and Twitter @musicboxtheatre


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