Sunday, May 23, 2010

Monster Kid Movie Memories Part 1

My very first Famous Monsters issue I ever got, warts and all! I have another copy of it in mint condition

Over the years I sometimes reminisce about memories I had of catching certain movies and television programs from a little boy in the late 70's and into the early 1980's. A lot of memories were from frequenting a couple of (then) local drive in's as well as catching dozens more on several local channels. Some of the films featured here are genuine classics, but many of them were movies that stuck with me from childhood up to my current big kid status of today. This will be a two parter and there's some TV shows and magazines thrown in for good measure. I figure I should jot them down before I forget them totally. Maybe others have some memories that make them wish for those younger days? These aren't reviews, just movie memories of films I am partial to from a time that would be ever so cool to be able to go back and revisit.


The old, world wide recognized black and white trendsetters were the very first monster movie exposure I ever had. Thanks to the likes of DRACULA, THE WOLF MAN, THE MUMMY, FRANKENSTEIN, THE INVISIBLE MAN and even ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN, this led to a monstrous fascination with anything that involved blood, beasts and monsters from outer space. I'm not as into those old classics so much now, but do revisit them once in a blood red moon. I even had a Universal monsters lunch box (see below) when I was in kindergarten and 'Monster Mash' was (and still is) one of my favorite songs.

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I first saw this movie in bits and pieces over at an uncles house. It was one of his favorite movies ever and although I enjoyed it, I didn't fully appreciate the film until much later. My favorite parts at the time all involved Gort. Gort was super cool. He could melt tanks and other military weaponry with his zippy laser beam. The first time I ever saw a science fiction movie. The Bernard Herrmann score is both haunting and opulent at the same time. One of the best outer space movie soundtracks and one of the greatest science fiction films ever made.

GODZILLA 1954 and RODAN 1956

These were my first experiences with Japanese monster cinema on home video. I saw them both at the same time. Both movies were pretty scary seeing them as a kid. A shot of Godzilla appearing over a mountainside stayed with me for several years and the scenes with the gigantic Meganulon bugs in RODAN were very creepy.

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Both movies are far better in their original Japanese versions. A true shame Toho altered the look of Rodan for future appearances. This, along with any number of Japanese sci fi were regular features on weekends and shared airtime with the big Hollywood movies of the day.


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Every Saturday morning, it was a ritual to wake up to ULTRAMAN, the anime import, BATTLE OF THE PLANETS (aka GATCHAMAN) and LAND OF THE LOST prior to Saturday morning cartoons followed by the onslaught of assorted monster movies. BATTLE OF THE PLANETS was one of my favorite cartoons at that time. I haven't seen it in years and have yet to get the DVD's, but I vividly remember the bird-like superheroes and heroines and the Batman-like main bad guy.


One of, if not the very first B/W giant bug movie I ever saw. Far from one of the best, but it has moments. I remember seeing this on a Saturday morning after an episode of one of the FLASH GORDON serials and I was instantly hooked on 50's big bug movies. The giant mantis seen here was always imposing to me for some reason. Maybe it was that cartoon roar they saddled it with? Still, it led to much better movies such as THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953) and THEM! (1954). Channel 48, a local station, always showed a lot of B/W serials followed by various science fiction and horror movies. Channel 48 is going to get an enormous amount of mentions on this list.


Bava's Italian mega classic of B/W horror from beyond the grave caused me to have the single most frightening nightmare I ever had as a kid. The nightmare is still vivid in my mind. I dreamt I was playing with a watch case in bed. Suddenly, a huge hairy arm reached up and took it away from me. I quickly raised up and Dracula's decapitated head is sitting in my doorway cackling at me. I immediately began screaming and crying till my mom came rushing into the room. Needless to say, I was back at it again the following weekend.


Not a favorite of mine, but this movie made an impression on me as a kid. I can't remember if it was MOTHRA, or TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA that was my first Japanese giant monster movie I ever saw on TV, but it was one or the other. One of the most unusual looking monsters and one of the most interesting storylines. Some choice effects work, too. I wish I still had that 45 of the Mothra theme by the Peanuts that was released here. I do have that theme on a Godzilla comp CD. I also had that GREEN SLIME 45 and damned if I can find that one, either!


Mexi-horror cinema is tragically underrated. It's confusing that fans that enjoy both old Universal horrors and Hammer movies don't hold some of these in equal regard. This was my first ever Mexi horror and was one that mixed two of my favorite TV past times--horror and wrestling. Commander USA's Groovey Movies was a big part of my childhood and that's where I discovered the wonders of Mexi horror cinema. The Commander is another wonderful component of a grand, bygone era and it was a huge moment for this monster kid when I got an autograph from him in the mail. Review here.


This was the first of Corman's Poe pictures I ever saw and instantly fell in love with it. It was funny, preposterously scary and benefited from a rambunctious performance by Peter Lorre. There's so many great moments in this one. I could watch it over and over again. I remember catching it one night after NWA wrestling. In those days, this local channel always showed monster and horror movies after wrestling went off at midnight. THE RAVEN was one of my fondest memories.


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When video tapes became all the rage, I was introduced to a massive tidal wave of things I had read about in Famous Monsters or Fangoria. BLOOD FEAST was one such movie I seen up close in my Fangoria Postcard Magazine. I recall the evening I first saw this one. I had gotten home from school and my dad had rented it along with PIECES. Both films were my very first introduction to graphic gore. PIECES I was already familiar with having seen the trailer a couple of times and having stood outside the theater trying to talk my mom into letting me see it.

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Anyway, BLOOD FEAST actually gave me the willies, mostly due to the musical score. Even as a kid, the bad acting made me laugh a lot, but the movie did give me the creeps. I remember Fangoria selling the novelization of both this and 2000 MANIACS (1964). I was later amazed when I got a close look at the Continental VHS for BLOOD FEAST and was shocked to find the cover shot of the woman with her tongue removed. Continental had a lot of videotapes with gruesome images from the films on the front. I had a good number of them I picked up from this video store in town that was going out of business called The Video Station.


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LAND OF THE LOST was always a huge fave as a kid cause it had dinosaurs in it. I was hugely into saurian creatures for as long as I could remember and they were the primary focus on trips to the Natural Science Center that was nearby. LAND was my favorite of the Sid & Marty Krofft creations followed closely by SIGMUND & THE SEA MONSTER.


I saw this double feature on channel 48, a local station I worshipped back in the late 70's and early 80's. It was a Saturday morning and having been enamored of SUPERMAN (1978), suddenly I became aware of these Italian movies featuring musclebound superheroes that operated on much the same parameters. Seeing Mark Forest rip a tree out of the ground and use it to smash Mongolian warlords was exciting. Only later did I realize both of these were actually Maciste movies. Maciste was an Italian superhero who traveled the world righting wrongs. Not long after, I saw HERCULES (1958) with Steve Reeves. At the time, I much preferred the Fusto movies with monsters in them, but later came to appreciate the dramatic machinations of the gladiator movies, too. Reviews for both here and here.


I've always loved Don Knotts. He pretty much always played that same 'Barney Fife' type character his entire career, but this is my favorite movie he did. I could watch this one over and over and not get tired of it. I remember first seeing this one on my then favorite station, channel 48. It was a double feature of this and GAMERA SUPER MONSTER (1980). At the time, I didn't care much for ANDY GRIFFITH, but such movies as THE GHOST & MR. CHICKEN (1966) and HOW TO FRAME A FIGG (1971) got frequent airplay, but not as much as this tale of a henpecked husband who loved fish and wanted to be one. I seen this one on TV so many times and rejoiced when it was finally released on DVD.


I never went for this kind of movie as a kid, but sometimes, I would just happen upon one and would end up liking it so much, it would quickly become a favorite. It happened on a Sunday afternoon. The USA Network had a classic movie show and this was being aired that day. I had seen the preview for it the week prior after a showing of the awful Irwin Allen monster opus, THE LOST WORLD (1960). Seeing a drunken Cary Grant (no doubt a great actor) in a battle of the sexes with Leslie Caron on an island during WW2 didn't make me a fan of the man, but did make me a huge fan of this movie.


I think it's a fair guess that everyone has seen ULTRAMAN at some point in their life. This show was such a huge influence on me as a kid, I figured it deserved its own entry. This Japanese superhero show was my super favorite as a kid. Channel 48 will get a ton of mentions on this list and that was where I first saw this excellent series.

We had this program called WHAT? Everyday it was one of three different shows--SPEED RACER, STARBLAZERS, or ULTRAMAN. The kick was you never knew which one they were gonna air for the day. I remember getting off the bus everyday at the babysitters house in '84 hoping that I'd get to see Hayata thrust the beta capsule skyward prompting him to turn into the silver and red hero just prior to thrashing some monsters from inner, or outer space. Great stuff and still lots of fun to watch. The theme song is all kinds of awesome. It's probably the one occasion I will vouch for a dubbed edition of a popular foreign import.


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This black and white nail biter was viewed the same night as Q (1982) and CREEPSHOW (1982). My dad was on a date and I was there by myself in that big house! Romero's goosebumper classic spooked me unlike anything in the other two although the thing in THE CRATE had me a bit afraid to get off the bed. I remember seeing DAWN OF THE DEAD in the paper playing at a nearby theater. I saw it first before the first movie, but Romero's original scared me far more than the sequel. The music and the sinister photography had lots to do with it.


My very first exposure to Amicus anthology movies. Saw it the very first time on channel 48 Saturday afternoon at 12pm. It scared the hell out of me even during the day. The first creepy segment had me afraid to look into the mirror (someone might be looking back!) and to go down the hallway. Later on I bought the Prism tape (it had that awesome SHOCK WAVES trailer on there) and rejoiced when the DVD hit some years after that. Review here.


Toro and Pancho, the Tijuana Toads; google images

The USA Network had the USA Cartoon Express on weekends, but at 7pm Saturday evenings, THE PINK PANTHER HAPPY HOUR was on channel 48 (this TV station is still around, but nothing like it used to be) where you had not only that Pink coated cool cat, but the Inspector, Ant & the Aardvark, Mister Jaws and Tijuana Toads. Where are the DVD's for these? Outside of the PINK PANTHER, there's half of THE INSPECTOR out and ANT & THE AARDVARK, but none of the other De Patie-Freleng toons outside of some bootleg releases.


Having seen DRACULA, PRINCE OF DARKNESS and DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE on television (channel 48 ruled), this was my first dose of Count Christopher Lee on VHS. Wow! The level of violence was extraordinary and quite different from the others in this series. This one's been a favorite ever since. Review here.


Channel 48 strikes again! My first experience with Elvira's Movie Macabre introduced me to Amando Ossorio's blind dead movies. Not only was I witness to the wonders of Cassandra Peterson and her heaving attributes, but also to the stalking chants of goatee sporting skeletal blood drinkers riding undead horses in slow motion. Amazingly, the Elvira version had gore footage that was cut from the Paragon tape. Elvira would also show cinematic sludge like BLOOD BATH, THE DAY IT CAME TO EARTH and MONSTROID. Review here.


Channel 13 out of Virginia was another great channel that showcased monster movies on the weekends. Shock Theater was a haven for movies like this one about a body hopping alien with a penchant for brain draining its victims and turning them into zombies. Truly a classic monster movie, this Spanish-British co-production got lots of airplay back then. And what a cast! Chris Lee! Peter Cushing! Telly Savalas! All aboard the HORROR EXPRESS!


THE MUPPET SHOW was another television program I looked forward to as a kid. It was one of the few really ingenious shows where you didn't have to be a kid to enjoy it. So many cool guests, too. I also had this big book called, simply enough, The Muppet Show Book. It had a slew of extremely well painted pages of select segments from the various episodes. The Vincent Price episode was a particular favorite. Seeing Stallone singing 'A Bird In A Gilded Cage' with Fozzy, Gonzo and a group of muppet parlor singers is one of many hilarious and memorable moments.


I remember my mom weaving these terrible tales of trying to sit through this movie and it making her so nervous, that she had to get up and go sit in the lobby for the remainder of the movie. She said the scene where grandpa was sucking the blood from Marilyn Burns's finger was the last straw. Incidentally, she said my dad wanted to see it again, but she told him he'd be going alone. The day came I heard this movie was hitting video shelves from Media Home Video and I let it be known I wanted to see this one badly. For once, my dad was against it, questioning why I would want to see such a movie. I ended up having to rent it myself a few years later.


My first ever viewing of this wonderful movie happened upon catching it on CBS when they used to be cool. Back then, it wasn't unusual to see monster movies on there such as CURSE OF THE BLACK WIDOW (1977) and THE GREAT ALLIGATOR (1979), most often late at night. SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958) I caught up with not long after when my dad rented it on VHS. I later saw SINBAD & THE EYE OF THE TIGER (1977) on HBO. John Phillip Law will always be the ultimate interpretation of the Arabian hero in my eyes.


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This last entry in the 1970's was a huge favorite of mine as a kid and my first memory of Godzilla ever on television. I saw the extended version that was longer than the Japanese cut. It had a prologue detailing the history of Godzilla. I guess it was created to give some added monster footage since there's not a lot till the last 20 minutes. This is my favorite Ifukube score, too. From here on out I was a devoted Godzilla fan. I remember getting all excited when Paramount announced the VHS debut of several G films with TOMG being one of them. I was traumatized when I rented it only to discover it was horribly edited and the title of the movie wasn't even on there!

JAWS 1975

I saw the sequel before this one (well, most of the sequel. A relative erased half the movie by accident), but JAWS still has me afraid of being in the water to this day. I had that Jaws Log book which gave me even more of a fascination with the movies. I also had a freaky incident at the beach that put images of you know what in my head. It was Indian Summer and I was out a little to far. Baby Blue and Hammerhead sharks had been caught by pier fishermen closer in from where I was. Suddenly, this big wave comes, lifts me up high (I was 13 or 14 at the time) and I felt something long and slender brush up against me. I might have won the Olympics as fast as I was strokin' to get back on the beach.


This series holds a lot of sentimental value most especially the first and third films. I remember catching a double feature starting at midnight of both LAND THAT TIME FORGOT and THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT on good ole' channel 13. THE MAN WITHOUT A BODY (1957) was on right after, but that one was pretty dull. At that time, monster movies were my main interest followed closely by kung fu films. The coolest part of seeing these was that PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT had an additional sequence that isn't on the current MGM DVD. I still have the VHS tape from way back in 1982 and it still plays just fine. AT THE EARTH'S CORE I caught up with a little bit later again on a Saturday afternoon. WARLORDS OF ATLANTIS I didn't catch up with till the early 90's on HBO and as much as I enjoyed it, that one wasn't quite the same as the other three.


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The ultimate Nazi zombie movie (for me anyways) scared the ever loving hell out of me over the years as a youngster. I recall attempting to watch it three different times on Shock Theater and all three times with the covers pulled up to my eyes. Needless to say, I had to change the channel. I finally was able to watch it upon buying the Prism VHS tape. Excellent score and spooktacular trailer. A shame the film went nowhere theatrically, but later became a cult item. Review here.


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There were some other classic programs which I vaguely remember, such as JASON OF STAR COMMAND (That's good ole' Sid Haig above as the main villain) and others I remember vividly like BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY.

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BUCK ROGERS I really got into not only because of the science fiction angle, but it also had gorgeous women in tight spandex. The early episodes had a lot of action and space battles in them and the most fondly remembered episode was the one with the Space Vampire. The Nosferatu image stayed with me for years and I remembered that as much as Erin Gray and Pamela Hensley.


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When I first saw this movie, it really put the fear of God and the potential for eternal damnation in me. Years later, I came to my senses and realized I didn't need to be brainwashed into thinking a certain way and did just fine following my heart. Anyway, this movie was damn terrifying and did far more with its global scale hellfire and brimstone scares than any pea soup spewing, foul mouthed, Pazuzu possessed Linda Blair. THE EXORCIST (1973) was a defining movie for a great many, but THE OMEN made a bigger impression on me probably cause I saw it first.

ORCA 1977

Michael Anderson's reverse version of MOBY DICK gets a lot of flack, but also has a lot of fans. I remember fleeting images of seeing it in the theater, but vividly on television not long after. I remember being punished for something and being sent to my room while listening to my parents watching it in the other room. Boo Hoo. Ever since finally seeing it from start to finish on The Late Show on CBS, it's been a huge favorite. Review here.


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George Lucas' space opera was a monumental occurrence back in the day. Nothing had ever been seen like it. Even people that didn't like this sort of thing were checking it out. My grandfather didn't like it, but I loved it. I only remember scant images of it in the theater (I was just 2), but man, this movie was everywhere! For a long string of issues, the covers of Famous Monsters were owned by STAR WARS images. I had all but seven of the action figures, too. A shame my brother had to break the arms and legs off of them. I also managed to pick up a number of the comics and when EMPIRE came out, I got this movie magazine that opened up into a giant fold out poster on one side and movie information on the other. When RETURN hit, I picked up the Marvel Super Special which, unfortunately, I no longer have.

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this pic and insert--google images

....And then, the STAR WARS clones (haha) came fast and furious. Some were already mentioned above, but the most spectacular was BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. I absolutely loved this show. Mr. Cartwright himself, Lorne Green was the leader of the good guys who flew around the universe in these super cool spaceships battling against robot sentries called Cylons; aliens with a robotic outer shell who hated mankind and existed only for man's ultimate destruction. I still have this oversized Marvel Super Special (see below) and I couldn't fit the whole thing on my scanner, so I got what I could of the cover.

It's the comic version of the televised edition which was different from the theatrical release of the film. This larger than a magazine sized comic also had a lot of pictures and info on the behind the scenes aspects of the movie, men and monsters seen in the then biggest budgeted TV show in history.

JAWS 2 1978

This was my first experience with this series of movies and although it did possess a couple of surefire 'Boo' moments, Spielberg's original cemented the aquatic fear factor in me. In spite of recognizing its classic status, JAWS 2 is a slightly more enjoyable movie for me. It also took two tries to see the film from start to finish. Both times the film was either erased halfway through, or cut off just at the end before the shark gets a mouthful of power cable. I also had the full set of JAWS 2 trading cards, but don't ask me what happened to them.


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While THE OMEN was the ultimate foretelling of Armageddon by way of Asmodeus, THE EVIL actually delivered the Devil in the form of Victor Buono. This movie reminded me a lot of one of my favorite TWILIGHT ZONE episodes, 'The Howling Man'. It's a nifty spookshow about Old Scratch being let loose from the cellar of an ominous mansion. It really creeped me out as a kid and it's one I've been waiting for on DVD. It's coming soon from Shout! Factory. Review here.


One of the outright best kung fu movies ever made. This was the second movie on Black Belt Feature that got my attention in a huge way on a par with SUPER NINJAS. This was also my mom's favorite kung fu movie. We used to see a lot of them at the drive in where the weekends was often a haven for double and triple features of kung fu goodness. This was the second Chang Cheh movie I saw on television. We seen other Shaw Brothers movies at the drive in like MAD MONKEY KUNG FU (1979), STROKE OF DEATH (1980; MONKEY KUNG FU) and MASKED AVENGERS (1981). There were others, like SHAOLIN: THE BLOOD MISSION (1983), but outside of those mentioned, I can't remember the names of others. Incidentally, coming home from the drive in I managed to see a rather large owl in flight, the first and only time.


Ken Foree signed this for me at a Chiller Con a few years ago

I was barred from seeing this at the drive in and as mentioned above, saw it before the original on VHS tape. When my parents divorced in '83, it opened up a whole new outlet to see some choice movies I had been slobbering over. DAWN OF THE DEAD was one of them. What makes this movie a special memory is that it was the very first VHS tape I ever bought with my own money. Amazingly, my mom was with me and although totally against it, allowed me to purchase the tape. It was at K-Mart and back then, VHS tapes were hidden behind locked doors and you had to get an employee with a key to get what you wanted.


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