Unholy Matrimony

Ellen Graham was aiming for the absurd when she wrote the screenplay Here Come the Brides, a "modern exploitation" film that explores the hot-button issue of gay marriage. Little did she realize what a timely topic it was. "We finished the movie in 2004 during the Republican National Convention," says Graham. "It was striking how similar the views that Senator Rick Santorum espoused were to the character I had written." That character, of course, was the grotesque anti-gay-marriage mouthpiece of the movie.

Though Graham and her husband, director John Aden, consider the issue of gay marriage to be close to their hearts, they didn't necessarily make Brides to serve any political agenda. "It ended up being a way for us to express our views about gay marriage, but I simply wanted to make an exploitation film," says Aden. "Ellen and I agreed that the topic lends itself very well to the format," he continues, referring to the sensationalism that historically has surrounded cautionary -- if melodramatic -- tales like Reefer Madness.

"The early exploiteers were straight out of vaudeville," says Graham, "and they used protesters to create the ballyhoo around their picture." But staging "protests" for Reefer Madness helped hype the film. So is Graham above a little prefab picketing? What about this group Citizens Against Exploitation, which picketed at the Denver premiere of Brides? "They have a very active Houston chapter" is all Graham allows. Funny, we've never heard of them.

Brides marks the first traveling enterprise for these two, who constitute the heart and soul of Shocking Beyond Belief Films. Their next film, The Darkest Corners, is already under way. The Flash Gordon-esque plot about a "crackerjack team of anti-terrorist operatives" was inspired by a speech by President Bush, in which he vowed to "fight terrorism in the darkest corners of the world." "The political landscape is very inspiring. It's just a great time to be an artist, and almost every medium is enjoying a renaissance," says Graham. "The ´90s were very boring in that way." The film screens at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Aurora Picture Show, 800 Aurora. For tickets and information, call 713-868-2101 or visit www.aurorapictureshow.org. $7.
Sat., Jan. 21, 7 & 9 p.m.

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