Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Cheap Thrills and Memories For the Old Guy

I am a cheap date.

I have been reliving my childhood via old horror/sci-fi movies and I've been having a ball doing it. I'm all for the Time Marches On-Never Look Back Brigade, but sometimes looking back is just fun. I don't want to live in the past because it's over and done, but looking back helps to ground a person I believe.

I bought this little sci-fi gem thru Amazon at an obscenely cheap rate: $3.75 In fact, the shipping was almost as much. Good price for an old classic.

People today talk fervently about how young people's minds are being ruined by violent content on TV, video games and the internet and I'm not here to debate such a complicated subject, but I will tell you that these movies permanently ruined any chance of me having a normal outlook on life.

The first thing that ever messed me up was Mad Magazine. Then it was Chiller Theater, hosted by cheese-in-a-tux Bill "Chilly Billy" Cardille, and that dealt the next blow to my mental health.
From the web:
Chiller began in 1963 when Cardille, Pittsburgh TV station WIIC's wrestling announcer and host of the kiddie show Tip Top Time, was approached to host Channel 11's new afternoon horror movie showcase, called Chiller Theater from the beginning. The films Cardille had to choose from were the great bumper crop from Univeral's heyday — Screen Gems' famous Shock Theater package — plus a few select classics from the Atom Age fifties. The program finally came into its own after a time change to 11:30 p.m. in the mid-sixties.

Now that I'm a broadcaster, I wonder how Cardille felt when the station approached him first about the horror film host spot and then the move to the late-night gig. His family, his wife especially, was probably thrilled.

Me? Now? You wouldn't have to ask me twice.

In fact, I know that when Freaky Music Month comes, it is an attempt to create a similar fright into our listeners that I experienced those late nights with WIIC.

Because my memory for some things, especially dates, is often mush, I have to rely on the recollections of others. For instance, I have learned from the above web site that I was all of nine years old when I first watched The Crawling Eye on Sunday, January 22, 1967 at 1:05 AM. Even some 38 years later, I can remember quite vividly a few images from the film.

This movie, and so many others like it, burned images into this brain of mine at such an early stage of my development that they can not be erased, even by time. Ask me what I had for lunch yesterday and I'll scratch the back of my head and you can see me fish uncomfortably for the answer. Talk about Attack of the Crab Monsters or The Last Man on Earth and I'm there with every detail.

Watching The Crawling Eye now, even with all of it's unsophisticated production values, makes me realize that it's still a good movie. There are some cornball stereotypes like the pontificating-through-his-glasses scientist, a wacky over-the-top psychic, the overly swaggering, confident American(this is a British film by the way) played by Forrest Tucker who spouts "DO WHAT YOU'RE TOLD!" to these hapless villagers. And then
there are those monsters. These pictures speak for themselves.

Watching the film recently I yelled, "Now that's what I'm talking about! Why don't they have monsters like that anymore?!" I have the same insane, irrational enthusiasm for monster movies that most sports fans have for their favorite teams.

Speaking of that, there is still more entertainment value in these hopelessly cheesy eyeball octopi than most CGI creatures (Spielberg excluded, of course) with their billion dollar budgets. Why ye ask? Because of imagination.

My wife calls this movie "stupid". Of course it is, that's why I love it.
Don't expect me to defend this films on any intellectual or cinematic level. Hell no. I won't force you to watch a single frame. Just leave me alone when I want to, ok?

You see, I recognize that there is that warm buzz of nostalgia that comes with these films. Life was a lot simpler then. So clear, so easy to understand. It was a time that I can also remember my father. We spent a few nights watching old Chilly Billy's Chiller Theater. I suppose he got the inside wink-wink jokes that Bill Cardille and his cast of corney characters. My father passed away when I was 13 and so those memories are sacred to me. It is just a way to remember.

Ray Bradbury said that, as a kid, once he discovered dinosaurs, that his whole world changed. In a preface to one of his books, he says even today that he'll always keep his dinosaurs. I say a hearty amen to that.

You all can keep your reality. I'll keep my monsters.

And I'll betcha I live in a much happier world.

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