Saturday Secret Matinees @ The Grand Illusion

Curated by Seattle's finest cinephiles 💛

A black-and-white screencap from King of the Rocket Men. A group of people gather in an underground lair.
Through Mar
Too Late — You Missed It!

January 7th – March 25th

You wanna see some rocket-powered action from the 1940s, all projected in 16mm, in a series lovingly curated by some of Seattle’s finest cinephiles? May I present the 15th edition of Saturday Secret Matinees, put on by the Sprocket Society and running every Saturday afternoon at the Grand Illusion Cinema through March 25th.

“The series is a chance to see a movie serial in the way it was intended: one chapter a week, in a theater, with an audience,” says Spencer Sundell, series programmer and co-founder of the Sprocket Society. “As far as I know, there’s nowhere else doing this…in the world, I think.”

This year’s offering? 1949’s King of the Rocket Men, starring Tristram Chockley Coffin (fantastic name) as the titular man who rockets places and fights evildoers. The 12-part saga “is from the beginning of the end of the serial era, and it helped kick off the last flurry of sci-fi serials,” according to Sundell. “It features the last really inventive serial hero—a guy with a rocket pack and a bullet helmet. It has some great practical special effects and miniatures and, of course, some thrilling stunt work. (Stunts were always a hallmark of serials.)”

Each chapter, roughly 15 minutes long, is screened with a secret, thematically paired feature film, and Sundell has some delightful surprises in store. “The first two weeks are famously laughable 1950s sci-fi flicks that are totally in the ‘so bad they’re great’ zone. But the second two weeks are swashbucklers that are genuine classics. One of those is silent (with music, of course). I love silent movies, and I like to sneak one in once in a while when I can. This year, we’re showing two!”

No worries if you can’t make it every week. “You really don’t need to see every episode of a serial to be able to enjoy it,” Sundell explained. “It’s fine to just drop in whenever. They’re not very complicated, plot-wise. But the chapters are also designed to be fun on their own (even if there’s a cliffhanger to entice you back).”

(Full disclosure: Grand Illusion is 100% run by volunteers, and I am one of them.)


Jan. 7 & 14: It Came from Planet Blech!
Beloved cheesy sci-fi “classics” from the 1950s, so bad they’re out of this world

Jan. 21 & 28: Swashbuckling Generations
Father and son actors each in their own thrilling tale of swordplay and secret identities

Feb. 4 & 11: Haunted Avarice
Greed collides with the spirit realm in two art house masterpieces

Feb. 18 & 25: Nuts!
Madcap ‘30s comedy classics, each shown with a comic short

Mar. 4 & 11: Espionage!
Outstanding spy thrillers from the silent and early sound eras

Mar. 18 & 25: Space Epics in Cinemascope
Struggles to survive on hostile planets with hidden secrets. Rare widescreen prints!

📸: Courtesy Republic Pictures | King of the Rocket Men

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Marcus Gorman is a Seattle-based playwright and film programmer. He once raised money for a synagogue by marathoning 15 Adam Sandler movies in one weekend. You can find him on Instagram and Twitter @marcus_gorman.

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