Saturday, November 30, 2019

Thanksgiving cornucopia, part 2: 1969

Following is a selection of movies playing in Columbus over Thanksgiving 50 years ago, in November of 1969. As befit the times, of a Hollywood undergoing big changes in a "youthquake" era, it's a bag of oddities.
Paint Your Wagon was another nail in the coffin of the big Hollywood musical. I've never seen it but that odd trio of stars (Lee Marvin, Clint Eastwood and Jean Seberg) would seem to spell disaster for a musical.
Liza Minnelli's first leading role--and it's not a musical or comedy, but a gloomy coming-of-age melodrama. She's good but it doesn't feel like holiday viewing.
The Undefeated, a western with John Wayne and Rock Hudson.
Two big zeitgeist movies from the year, Alice's Restaurant and Midnight Cowboy.
And at the drive-ins (with electric car warmers), Change of Habit and Eye of the Cat (not a bad little thriller)

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Thanksgiving cornucopia, part 1: 1933

Here's a few days worth of movies that were playing on or around Thanksgiving over the years. Unlike at Christmastime, these are mostly not films with holiday themes, but they are often family movies or films getting an early shot at holiday traffic.
Opening in time for Thanksgiving viewing in New York in 1933 was Design for Living, a witty and sophisticated romp based on a play by Noel Coward. He complained that the screenplay was a complete rewrite of his story of an attempt at a long-term threesome, but it still has its moments. It was playing at the Criterion, and coincidentally, the movie was released on DVD as part of the Criterion Collection.

For less high-class comedy, you could see Duck Soup, the Marx Brothers classic, over Thanksgiving. The top ad is from New York, the bottom from Atlanta the week after Thanksgiving. At the time, the movie was not a box office hit like their earlier ones were, but it is now considered their funniest. I like Animal Crackers more, but this one will do.
A Busby Berkeley musical spectacle, Footlight Parade, also opened in Manhattan for Thanksgiving, complete with live vaudeville acts, though I suspect none of the live performers could outdo the production numbers that Berkeley put on the screen.

Finally, the legendary Mae West, in one of her last hit movies before the Production Code came into effect next year and tamed her ribaldry.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Horror-rama 2

I didn't get around to posting as many horror ads for October as I would have liked--work and vacation got in the way. But here are a couple more.
A Sioux City, Iowa "dusk to dawn" horror bill from 1969 anchored by The Devil's Bride (aka The Devil Rides Out), one of my favorite Hammer horror films. The story of a small band of intrepid do-gooders out to save two people from being baptized into a Satanic cult is interesting, and based on a pretty good pulp horror novel by Dennis Wheatley; the budget is too low for most of the shocks to really be effective, but it's still fun, and Christopher Lee gets to play a hero. Also playing: The Vengeance of She, The Power (sci-fi thriller), and the Roman Polanski comedy The Fearles Vampire Killers.
Also from 1969, The Witchmaker, a B-horror film that is surprisingly good, set in a swamp and involving graduate students who run, as in The Devil Rides Out, into some murderous devil worshipers. Playing in Akron, Ohio in November of 1969.

Finally. The Crawling Eye (1959), one of the first horror movies I saw, as a child of 7. Seen as an adult, the effects are not terribly impressive, but as a kid, it gave me frights.

Thursday, October 17, 2019


The multi-movie horror fest had a long tradition, especially during the heyday of the drive-in theater.
And Now the Screaming Starts (1973)--Terror in the Wax Museum (1973; with Ray Milland and Elsa Lanchester)--Ben (1972; sequel to Willard). Columbus Ohio triple bill at a couple of drive-ins in September 1973. 
Don't Go Near the Park (1979; with Aldo Ray and Barbara Bain)--Don't Go in the Basement (aka Don't Look in the Basement, 1973)--Don't Answer the Phone (1980). Playing at a Columbus drive-in in the summer of 1982. Never heard of any of these movies, but the "don't go" theme is clever. 
Nightmare in Wax (1969)--Blood of Dracula's Castle (1969)--Blood and Black Lace (1964). Triple horror bill at Columbus drive-ins in September 1970. Dracula's Castle is the only movie I've seen by the notorious Al Adamson, and it's cheap but not bad. Blood and Black Lace is beautifully photographed.

Another Al Adamson cheapie, Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1971), and two classier horror pix from Hammer, Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and Horror of Dracula (1958), the movies that revived the horror fad into the 1960s. This bill was playing in Columbus during Halloween week, 1972.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

October is horror month

I'm a little late getting started, but it's time to post some horror movie ads from my collection.
A Halloween night triple feature from Akron, OH in 1969. Teenage Psycho is better known as the grade-Z classic "The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies" which you may know from Mystery Science Theater 3000. Also Hammer's Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and Castle of Evil (1964) with Barbara Steele. 
Black Sunday, another Barbara Steele movie, in Tucson in 1961. A witch is brought back to life to wreck vengeful havoc. This is the movie whose opening freaked me out so much, I had to leave the theater when I first saw it in the mid-60s (I was 9, and it was the iron maiden scene) and I didn't see the whole thing until I was in college.

The Horror of Party Beach, a B-movie which tried to combine the appeal of the monster movies and the Frankie & Annette beach movies. It did not succeed. I owned a photo-comic of this movie in the 60s and didn't see the actual movie until sometime in the 80s. It did not live up to the magazine, but again, it made good fodder for MSR3K. Ad from Dayton, 5/9/64.
As I seem to be on a Mystery Science Theater kick, here's The Mole People, on a double bill with Curucu, Beast of the Amzaon, showing in Atlanta in December of 1956. My first experience with Mole People, as with the above Party Beach, was owning a photo-comic book. The movie itself is deadly dull. I'm sure I saw Curucu at some point in the 60s on Chiller Theater; I'm trying to track it down again but it seems to be in hiding.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

(Maybe not so) Astounding!

The Astounding She-Monster (1958) provides a good example of ads vs. reality. Below are 1) a sexy full-color ad for the movie (about a space woman wondering through the woods, scaring people with her blurry figure); 2) an example of the kind of ad that ran in newspapers--it was released as the second feature to Viking Women and the Sea Serpent; 3) what the She-Monster (Shirley Kilpatrick) really looked in the movie.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Merkins and Humppes

One of the oddest movie titles ever is Can Heironymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? This 1969 film, directed by and starring Anthony Newley, was rated X on its initial release (sexy but not pornographic according to critics). I've always wanted to see this, but I've never run across it. After reading some summaries and given that it's Newley at the helm, it's probably very similar to his Stop the World I Want to Get Off, which was interesting but not nearly as charming or profound as Newley seemed to think it was. The first ad is from Columbus Ohio, 50 years ago this week; the second from Honoluly in August of '69.