Joe Dante, 2014. (Getty)

He forever traumatized—or enlivened—your holiday season. He may have given you Mogwai envy. He made junior high space travel possible. He even embellished every nosy suspicion you had about your neighbors to hellish proportions. Spending a couple of hours immersed in Joe Dante’s cinematic gaze is escapist nirvana, a peek into a subconscious informed by Bugs Bunny, matinee monsters, and old fashioned suburban paranoia.

Recruited by Steven Spielberg after braving indie pioneer Roger Corman’s tutelage, Dante has spent nearly half of cinema’s history by paying tribute to it while cultivating some of its staples. Though his last mainstream release was Looney Tunes: Back in Action—which has recently found kudos in New York’s critical and repertory circles—Dante’s childlike enthusiasm for the craft can be found in indies (most recently Burying the Ex, starring the late Anton Yelchin) and on his highly addictive website Trailers From Hell, where he, John Landis, Eli Roth, and others provide snack-sized commentaries on life-shaping films. But even as he excels digitally, Dante’s true home is the theater.

That’s where BAM comes in. Starting August 5th, a whole month of Dante’s staples and rarities will show on glorious celluloid. The retrospective, Joe Dante at the Movies, hoists a slew of two-for-one double-bills comprising both of the director’s works and his hand-picked influences and legacies. His werewolf shocker The Howling finds bedfellows with giallo maestro Mario Bava. Tom Hanks’ comedic brilliance in The ‘Burbs leads into trailblazing everyman W.C. Fields. Plus, a secret screening will follow the immortal Gremlins 2: The New Batch. The full roster can be found here to your mouthwatering delight, and keep an eye out for the screenings featuring Dante in person. Don’t miss this chance to fall in love with going out to the movies again.

It’s probably easy for BAM to make a whole month revolving around your movies, because yours are just full of a love for cinema. It must have been pretty fun to hand-pick some of the movies, not just from your own catalog. That’s always the fun part. Since every movie I’ve ever seen since I saw Snow White has influenced me, it’s a rather large order. This place runs 35mm, and a lot of places don’t anymore, and a lot of these pictures don’t exist on DCPs, so just programming repertory must be one of the most challenging things imaginable these days. The private collector world being what it is, just trying to get your hands on a picture that’s not available anywhere else is pretty tough job. These are representative samples of movies I love. Pictures that I knew were available, and usually have connection with something I had done, are programmable as either double-features or sidebars.

The only other retrospective that was more complete than this was at Switzerland’s Locarno Film Festival in 1999, and they ran literally everything. Every commercial, every TV show, every episode, but they asked me to program, and they got prints of movies like Hellzapoppin’, The Terror, and they managed to get 35mm prints made of pictures that I had on my list. That was back when everything was on 35, and I have a 35mm movie collection, which I’m glad I have, because people will come to me and say, “I want to run The Abominable Snow Man and I don’t know where to get a print,” so I have it. Or The Day The Earth Caught Fire, which we ran for Val Guest at the Cinematheque out here [in L.A.], and he was floored by the fact that he got a standing ovation. That’s one of the reasons to collect 35. But the opportunities to run this kind of stuff are dwindling.

Are there particular titles that you are excited to have people see? As deep as somebody can go into finding or researching movies, there’s always plenty that a lot of people are unfamiliar with. I grew up in a time when movies were everywhere. They were on television. They were used as filler in the middle of the night. There was a movie culture! People talked about movies and they were a part of our lives. Today, not so much, with all the other distractions people have. That aspect of moviedom is becoming more obscure for people in the new generation. There’s a lot of interesting stuff that people would really like if they knew it existed. Part of the reason I did my website, Trailers From Hell, was to call attention to movies that might have slipped under people’s radar. As long as there were contemporary people talking about them, it’d be sort of a way in for modern audiences. The opportunity with BAM was to bring out some warhorses that don’t get shown very much and show them to people that are lured by the fact that this is a series of movies for people who like movies. If you pull out a mystery like The Big Clock, or a weird one like Confessions of an Opium Eater, or an unseen American indie like The Fool Killer... then, for me, the fun thing about the BAM retrospective is not the part where they’re showing my movies, but the opportunity to promote other movies that I think people might like. I hope they sell a lot of popcorn.

It’s cool that I can still find out about these movies through a retrospective, and not through Netflix, even though for most cases lately it’s the other way around. I don’t even know where to go on Netflix to find old movies. I know that all the current items come and go, and there’s lists running where “this is running this month, this goes away,” but they’re always movies from the past ten, fifteen years, and I know there are places where you can see older pictures, but usually an old movie to them is Casablanca, which is something everybody has heard of. There’s probably some Hitchcocks, and not much Fritz Lang, and then you get down to the substratum of movies that just don’t have contemporary relevance to people. I’m glad that they are available in any format! The irony is that there are more movies available to see than ever before in my lifetime. Movies that haven’t been seen in seventy, seventy-five years are being rescued. But who’s going to tell the audience about these movies? Who’s gonna say, “Here’s a director you’ve probably never heard of, but if you look him up, he did a lot of interesting movies”?

I’m very excited to see The Movie Orgy. Have people actually sat through all four-plus hours of it? Of course! It used to be seven hours! It was astounding to me that people sat through it, even when it was new. Then when I revived it, ten years ago or so, I brought it out of the closet and to the New Beverly in Hollywood, and it was a smash! It was packed and nobody left. We brought it to Museum of Modern Art, and even to festivals in European countries where they probably don’t understand half of it. It’s a time capsule for a time when most of the audiences never even lived through, but it’s entertaining by default. It’s a bunch of stuff, and it has a point of view, and it’s very crude. It’s just spliced together, there’s no color correction, sometimes to comment on itself, sometimes to intersperse different stories, different movies, times, characters. I don’t know what to call it! (laughs) Maybe a pop-culture potpourri. You’ll be surprised by how reluctant you will be to leave.

Any films that you are surprised to see get a good reaction? I think you’ll be surprised when you see Cold Turkey how much people will like it. It’s a pretty unknown movie, and it’s a dark political satire of the Nixon years with a wonderful cast of TV comics, and it’s only the picture that Norman Lear ever directed. I guess the fact that it wasn’t released for two years really put a damper on his feature-directing ambitions, but it’s a wonderful picture. I’m running Idiocracy, which is Mike Judge’s movie-

Perfect timing! Beyond perfect timing! We’re living in it! And who would’ve thought it would only take ten years to get where that movie is, which is supposed to be like hundreds of years in the future. It was killed by the studio. They did as little as they could contractually do to expose it. We’re running it with my HBO movie, The Second Civil War, which was made in 1997, which is another movie that whenever people see it, they say, “Did you make this yesterday?” There’s another movie called The Smallest Show on Earth, which is a British movie about a couple that buys a dilapidated movie theatre and they try to make a go with it, and it’s a true film lover’s movie. I’d be curious to see what the attendance levels are at these things, because New York used to be filled with revival houses. When I was in high school and college, there were tons of theatres that were constantly running old movies. It was a film lover’s paradise, now not so much, because those were single screen theatres, and we all know what happened to them.

I’m excited to see Gremlins 2 in the theatre, because I was only one year old when it came out, and I’d see it at home over and over again, but I’m excited to see it with a crowd. It usually has a pretty good audience reaction. I remember going to screenings in New York when it opened, and they were pretty raucous. People got it, and it actually got pretty good reviews, but they moved the release date from May to June after doing a lot of advertising and it kinda got lost commercially. Like so many movies made by people from the '70s and '80s, it was home video that really made these pictures into cult classics. They’d get the VHS, they’d hand it off to their friends, and they have parties.

Was it always going to be a New York-based movie? Yeah, because we didn’t want to do the “small town” thing again. We already did it. There wasn’t a reason to make a sequel in the first place, except the first picture made money. We didn’t want to do that, we wanted to make a completely different kind of movie. Once we got the idea of the smart building, which preceded the use of the Ted Turner/Donald Trump character, we knew we had to place it in the city, and there’s a lot of New York jokes in there. They said “Do whatever you want,” and we took that literally. (laughs)

What was it about Trump at the time that you wanted to parody? He was a guy who was a billionaire and a guy who builds buildings, and the whole plot is about clearing out places and building buildings. We also wanted him to have a cable network, and at the time there were these two moguls who were almost interchangeable in the audience’s eyes. We said, let’s give him Ted Turner’s cable network and his end of the world video and all that stuff, and then we’ll have Trump be the New York City icon component with this big building, which is fully automated and doesn’t work. He was originally going to be the villain, and John Glover played him in such an infectiously likeable way that he became this goofy, enthusiastic, boyish character. Excitable and with a short attention span which in some ways does mirror the real guy. At the time, we had no inkling that the name of Donald Trump was going to resonate in the way that it has. Of course it reflects on the movie, and I don’t know that if we had known what was going to happen, we were going to make him as sympathetic as we do.

Are you working more on TV stuff now, or are do you have more features on the horizon? It’s always on the horizon, that’s the problem. You pursue that, and occasionally people come up to me and say, “Here’s twenty scripts. We all got the money, do one.” The idea of doing my own pictures and going out to get money—that’s still going on, but to a degree I never had before, because I never had to worry about producing a movie myself, but now I do. In the meantime, of course, there’s television which is trumping—even though I don’t like that phrase—movies in ways that we never imagined. The movies are all spectacle, and the movies about real things go to cable. Movies are all very expensive or cost $1.98, and there’s not much in between. The industry is evolving and changing so fast that it’s hard to put your finger on at any given minute.

Do you jaded about it all, or excited? I feel lucky that I got to do what I did in that period, because I couldn’t do that now. The twentieth century is over, and film was the twentieth century art form. Now it’s the twenty first century, and something new is coming down the pipeline. The interesting thing is nobody quite knows what it is.