May 27, 2023

Can You Endure?

Activision / Atari 2600 (1983)
This was broadcast on the radio to promote Enduro on the Atari 2600 which was released forty years ago this week..  It was a part of the of the commercial breaks in a recording of Casey Kasem's American Top 40 Countdown from May 28th, 1983.

May 26, 2023

Gimme Some Sugar, Baby

Zombiefest IX: Night One
Army Of Darkness
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
The preview night for Zombiefest IX had a little bit of everything.  Before the show, we got to kick back and relax for a few hours with our new friends (Kate, Mike, Susan, and Anthony), listened to some good music, and got to see an impromptu short film followed by a marriage proposal from the couple in the car that was parked next to us.

The poster and t-shirt for this weekend were available from the Exhumed Films table, and although it was a busy night on the lot, it's going to be an absolute madhouse over the next three days, so I hit them up before the chaos.  The design is from artist Jason Cortez, and although I'm limiting myself to just a few t-shirts this season, this is one that I couldn't pass up.

Another thing I couldn't resist (although I probably should have) is a Zombiefest commemorative cup filled with zombie juice.  Don't get me wrong, the cup is very cool and the juice was good, but the last thing I need right now is more sugar.

After seeing the trailer on Tuesday night, my wife mentioned to me that she had never seen Army Of Darkness before.  I couldn't believe my ears, because this is exactly the kind of movie that she typically loves, and I could have sworn that I showed it to her at some point over the past 20 years.  It all worked out though, because she got to see it for the first time the way it was meant to be seen - projected onto a giant screen from an original 35mm print - and she laughed her ass off the entire time.

I saw this movie for the first time on VHS with a group of friends when I was a teenager.  If I'm remembering correctly, we rented Army Of Darkness, The Pest and Grosse Pointe Blank from Blockbuster that night.  Why is it that I can't remember something that happened last week, but I can remember three movies that we rented on a random weekend 26 years ago?  At any rate, I enjoyed The Pest, and I either fell asleep or was too intoxicated to pay attention before Grosse Pointe Blank hit the VCR (in fact, I still haven't seen it yet), but I fell in love with Army Of Darkness that night.  It's still my favorite Evil Dead movie, and one that I never got to see on the big screen until last night.

May 25, 2023

A Certain Point Of View

Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi UK poster
Artwork by Josh Kirby
The final chapter of the original Star Wars Trilogy premiered in theaters across the country 40 years ago today.

Standard Speaker - Hazleton, PA  (May 28, 1983)

It would probably be more accurate to say that it premiered in theaters across the country who were willing to pay for it.  When I looked up my hometown's newspaper archives for the opening weekend of Return Of The Jedi, I instead found that the Church Hill Cinema in Hazleton was screening the sci-fi classic Spacehunter: Adventures In The Forbidden Zone in 3-D starring Molly Ringwald, Ernie Hudson, and Peter Strauss.  I mean, who needs Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader when you've got the preppy girl from The Breakfast Club starring alongside a Ghostbuster and the voice of Stoker Van Rotten?

The tag line for Spacehunter was "the first movie that puts you in outer space".  I suspect that the tag line that some parents had in mind was "bring the kids and tell them that it's Star Wars".  Just gotta use the old Jedi Mind Trick on the younglings.

Return Of The Jedi was the first movie of the original trilogy that I got to see.  While I had plenty of Star Wars action figures and had played the arcade game at Aladdin's Castle prior to this, I didn't actually get to see my first Star Wars movie from beginning to end until it premiered on HBO when I was six years old.  My grandfather recorded it on a VHS tape during their Free Preview Weekend and I watched that tape until I wore it out.  I still remember that the tape began with a few seconds of an episode of You Can't Do That On Television that he taped over, because even now when I watch Return Of The Jedi, I hear "Family Ties Gets Untied will not be seen tonight" echoing to me from my memory, which was the line in that particular episode that gets cut off just before the 20th Century Fox drums start.

May 24, 2023

Bring In The Perverts

Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
On Sunday, we got to see the directorial debut of Terrence Malick at the drive-in.  That was followed up last night with a screening of the film that was the directorial debut of Dario Argento: the 1970 giallo classic The Bird With The Crystal Plumage.  It's a movie that I discovered as a result of a cool piece of art that I found at a merch table.

I bought this Nick Jackson art print four years ago from one of the merchandise stands on the last day of Joe Bob's Drive-In Jamboree at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater.  At the time, I had never heard of The Bird With The Crystal Plumage and my only knowledge of Dario Argento was from the times that Joe Bob showed his movies on The Last Drive-In.  When I first looked at this print, I had no idea that it was from the movie.  I just thought it was a cool piece of art.  The man who sold it to me told me more about the film and I made a note of it as something I had to seek out.

That movie premiered in West Berlin on June 24th, 1970 and it spread throughout the rest of the continent in the weeks and months that followed.  It is considered one of the most influential giallo films of all time, and it's reputation is well deserved.

I'm not sure that anything in this movie reminded me of Psycho, but it's a damn good murder mystery with a lot of beautiful shots and a story that held my interest from start to finish.  If you weren't able to make it out to the Mahoning, you can check it out on Tubi.

May 23, 2023

Top Of The Pops

Kool-Aid Pops
Kraft Foods (1990-1992)
These packages were recently shared on Twitter by Retro News Now (left) and Dinosaur Dracula (right).  I haven't thought of these in years, but I used to love them when I was a kid.  The concept is pretty simple: a vanilla ice cream bar that has a frozen Kool-Aid coating in a variety of flavors, but they were absolutely delicious!

One of the things that made these bars fun when they were first released in 1990 is that each box included a Mystery Berry flavor.  The Kool-Aid coating on these bars was white, and the box came with a Wacky Mystery Decoder that you could use to reveal the secret flavor.  I still have a couple of these in my ridiculous horde of late 20th century ephemera which I have scanned for this post.

When you lifted the little door on the back of the Wacky Mystery Decoder, the Kool-Aid Man's face was removed, leaving behind a red film in an oval that you could then place on top of the coded message to identity the Mystery Berry flavor.

The flavor in this box that this decoder was packaged with was Berry Blue.  I don't remember if the Mystery Berry flavor in every box was Berry Blue or if you could have gotten one of the other flavors that you see printed around the "Lift Door Here" flap on the back of the decoder, but it wouldn't surprise me too much if that was the case.

You could save up your Wacky Mystery Berry Flavor Cards and use them the same way that you would use Kool-Aid Points from drink mix packages to redeem for prizes.  This is probably why I saved the two that I had for so long.  Over the years, I'll bet that I've gotten well over a dozen toys and other prizes from sending in Kool-Aid Points.

Later packages of Kool-Aid Pops from 1992 removed the Mystery Berry Flavor and the Wacky Mystery Decoder from the box, but they did include a couple of Totally Zany Trading Cards that you could cut out from the back of the box.

I don't have any of the trading cards, but I did find these two on eBay selling for a price that I'm not willing to pay.  I'm not positive that these are from the same package that was sold in stores back in 1992, but the Rock-A-Dile Red and Purplesaurus Rex flavors were being produced at the time, so there's a good chance that these are the cards that were on the back of these boxes.  Check out those card numbers though!  Were there really at least 329 different cards in the set?

May 22, 2023

Takes All Kinds

Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
Last year, we had the opportunity to see Night Of The Hunter at the Mahoning.  I hadn't heard of the movie before the screening was announced, and I deliberately avoided watching the trailer or reading any reviews or descriptions of the plot.  The only expectation I had when the film first hit the screen was that Virgil and Rob both called it one of the greatest movies of all time.  It's not often that you have the opportunity to go into a movie to see a movie on the big screen that was released before you were born that is just as fresh and new to you as a new release... a movie for which you don't know any spoilers, and haven't seen any memes or parodies or other references.  It ended up being one of my favorite nights that I've ever had at the Mahoning.

Last night, I was fortunate enough to have this same experience with another one of the all-time greats that I had never seen nor even heard of before it was put on the Mahoning schedule: the 1973 Terrence Malick classic crime drama, Badlands.

This is a film that definitely lives up to the hype.  One of the few things that I had heard about it before seeing it for the first time is that it was the inspiration behind Natural Born Killers, and I can see why.  The end of Badlands, particularly the scene with the lighter and the handshake, reminded me quite a bit of the way that Mickey Knox was presented in the 1994 film, especially the part when Woody Harrelson is telling jokes to police and prison staff in the moments before all hell breaks loose.

I'm tiptoeing as best I can without giving away any spoilers because I don't want to risk robbing anyone else of the kind of experience that I had last night.  It's not part of any streaming subscription, but it is available to rent on YouTube and from several other providers.  If you haven't watched it before, I strongly recommend it.

May 21, 2023

Life's Like A Movie. Write Your Own Ending.

The Muppet Movie
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
This is the show that my wife was looking forward to the most out of all of the movies that have been announced so far for the 2023 season at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater.  While she doesn't like the second half of this double feature at all (the 2011 Disney film: The Muppets), the original 1979 film The Muppet Movie is one of her all-time favorites.

Before I get too much farther into the night, I have a confession to make.  I didn't grow up as a fan of The Muppets.  In fact, I don't think I watched a single episode of The Muppet Show, or Fraggle Rock, or any of their movies until I was in my 20's.  The closest I came in the 80's and 90's to seeing anything Jim Henson related was his work in the original Star Wars trilogy and in movies like Labyrinth.  I didn't even really watch Sesame Street all that much when I was a little kid (Mister Rogers and The Magic Garden were more my jam).  I have no idea why The Muppets were so far off of my radar when I was a child... they just were.

I grew to appreciate a lot of Jim Henson's work as an adult.  Two of my favorite Christmas specials that I watch every year were created by him: Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas and The Christmas Toy, the latter of which makes me cry like a baby when they sing Together At Christmas at the end.  I've also fallen completely in love with Fraggle Rock.  However, while I certainly do like The Muppet Show, I can't say that I love it.  Something about The Muppets themselves just doesn't click with me the way that it does for so many people.  I wish that it did.  In fact, I'm insanely jealous of all of those people who sway back and forth with a tear in their eye while singing along to Rainbow Connection.  There's obviously something very special that's there, and I feel like it's a ball that's hit just out of the reach of my glove.  I try to catch it, but it's always just a few inches out of my grasp and I have no idea why.

Does this make any sense to anybody?  I'm not an insensitive guy.  Hell, I've cried while reading some Peanuts comics.  Why is something as pure and wholesome as Kermit The Frog not landing with me the way that he does for millions of others?  I like The Muppets... I really do... but I don't love them and I can't explain why that is the case.  What the hell is wrong with me?

Alright, this is starting to get way farther into self-psychoanalysis than any post about the drive-in should ever get.  Moving on...

While we were waiting in line to pull into the lot, our friend Kate surprised my wife and I with these two puppets that she made especially for us.  Angie named her puppet Zenni, and I named mine Bernie.  I'm not sure if my wife has a character in mind for her little fuzzy friend, but Bernie's story came to me in about 90 seconds.  He's a grouchy old man from Conshohocken (which I am now singing in my head to the tune of The Little Old Lady From Pasadena by The Beach Boys).  He is obsessed with bagels and he dismissively refers to all people as "human".  The takeaway here is that if you give me an outlet to express something creative, I'm going to make it weird.  It's just what I do.

By the way, the grouchy look on my face was meant to be me expressing the personality that I created for Bernie.  I was in no way grouchy.  To the contrary, I was very touched that Kate thought enough of us to take the time to make them and give them to us.

The special food item for the show was Mahna-Mah-Nachos, which are Rico's Nachos topped with seasoned ground beef.  Luckily for me, Monday, Wednesday and Saturday are my "meat days" while I'm transitioning to a plant-based diet, so I was able to enjoy a tray of them.

It was drizzling before the start of The Muppet Movie, and the rain started coming down a bit heavier as the movie began, so we put the camping chairs back in the trunk and watched it from the car.  It really is a very good movie with a lot of funny moments, so please don't misunderstand what I wrote earlier.  It's not that I don't enjoy or appreciate this film... it's just that I don't seem to be capable of having the same experience with it that I see in so many others, and it bothers me a little bit.  Maybe I'm just over-thinking it.  I tend to do that sometimes.  Arrgh, there I go again self-psychoanalyzing!

The rain stopped entirely about a half hour before the end of The Muppet Movie.  After the credits rolled, everyone gathered together to the stage outside of the concession building and sang Rainbow Connection.

We headed home during intermission.  It's not something that we usually do, but Angie really doesn't like the 2011 Muppets movie.  I don't think I've ever seen it, but if I had, I've forgotten what it's about.  I felt kind of bad leaving early, but on the drive home, Angie said something that put my mind at ease.  I'm not sure exactly how she worded it, but the jist of it was that it was her dream come true to see The Muppet Movie at the drive-in and then capping the night off with the Rainbow Connection sing-along, so seeing a movie at the end of the night that she just doesn't like very much would only hurt the memory of this experience.  I totally get that.  Kermit put it best.. life's like a movie... write your own ending.

May 20, 2023

The Last Drive-In (of May)

The Last Drive In
Shudder (2023)
I was originally planning on going to see the Spin Doctors perform at the Fine Arts Fiesta last night, but it was one of those days that I really needed to not be around a large group of people.  As luck would have it, the mid-season finale of The Last Drive In with Joe Bob Briggs was streaming on Shudder so it was still a fun night.

The first movie was the 1984 slasher The Mutilator (aka: Fall Break), which I had never seen before.  It was screened at the Mahoning last season on Thursday night of Camp Blood, but we weren't able to make it out that night, so I'm glad to have had the opportunity to see it.

The second movie of the night was a 1981 European psychological horror flick called Possession.  I dozed off for most of its runtime, but this is in no way meant to be a dig on the quality of the movie.  It looked very interesting, but I had to wake up early for work on Friday and was up for almost 19 hours by the time this film started.  It's definitely a movie that I'm going to circle back to later this week.

The Last Drive In is now on hiatus until June 23rd.

May 19, 2023

Imagine A World Where Comfort Is A Way Of Life

Photo Credit: Ellarian Photography
The only bummer about the Patreon screenings at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater is the fact they're all secret features.  While it is pretty cool to know that these experiences are just for our little drive-in family, my memory is pretty terrible.  One of the reasons I've kept this blog for so long is so I can look back and have a trigger to help me remember things that may have gotten lost in the jumbled mess of wires that I've got between my ears.

Since I can't share the name of the movie that we watched last night, I can at least preserve one of the quirky pieces of film that accompanies all of our Patreon screenings.  The print seems like it's in significantly worse shape than the first time I saw it, so I'm not sure how many plays it has left, but I managed to find a digital copy.

If you're the kind of person who likes to sit under the stars with a bunch of other movie fans and cheer for an old waterbed commercial, you're our kind of people!

The movie that we watched was a quirky 80's comedy that just happened to include the first on-screen appearance of Brad Pitt.  He was an extra that was only visible in the background for a couple of seconds.

May 18, 2023

Let's Give The Galaxy Something To Remember Us By

Guardians Of The Galaxy: Volume 3
Regal Cinema - Hazleton, PA
My relationship with comic book movies over the years has been pretty weird.  I didn't read comics too much when I was a kid, and while I've enjoyed most of the movies that I've seen that are based on comics, I usually end up forgetting just about everything that happens in the film about a week after I've seen it.  There are only three that I can think of that have really stuck in my memory: Batman (1989), The Crow (1994), and Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014).

Until we signed up for Regal Unlimited, I really didn't go out of my way to see very many comic book movies.  Part of that is because there are just so many of them that come out every year that they don't really feel special to me, and part of the reason is because the trailers for all of the MCU films all look pretty much exactly the same to me.  I'm sure that this is because I didn't read the comics and I'm only vaguely familiar with the biggest characters (think Spider Man, Wolverine, and The Incredible Hulk), and not at all familiar with anybody else.  The little bit that I do know about the comic book world comes mostly from video games, Saturday morning cartoons from the 80's, and a set of Marvel Comics trading cards that I had when I was a kid.

I had never even heard of Guardians Of The Galaxy characters before I saw the first movie on a flight from Philly to London.  There were three things that I knew about the movie going in: it had a lot of 80's music, there was a character who was a tree, and WWE wrestler Batista was one of the actors.  I ended up really loving the film, but for some reason, I never got around to seeing the sequel, so in anticipation of seeing Part 3 on the big screen, we watched Guardians 1, Guardians 2, and the Guardians Christmas Special early last week on Disney+ to catch up.  As it turns out, I really should have watched some of The Avengers movies too, which I still haven't seen, but I'll have to get to those later.

They were giving out free posters at my local Regal.  At some point, I have to start hanging these up in the garage.  Between the posters from here and the Mahoning, I probably have enough to cover all of the walls twice over at this point.

We originally went to see the movie in a non-3D screening, but there were a group of kids in the back who wouldn't shut up, so we left after about ten minutes and asked if we could just go to the next screening instead.  As it turned out, the next screening was in 3D, so they gave us a couple of pairs of glasses and in we went.  There were at least twice as many people at this screening, but thankfully, they were all there to actually see the movie and not discuss their precious little social lives at the top of their lungs.

Having seen all three Guardians Of The Galaxy series in the same week, I have to say that this is one of the most fun sci-fi movie trilogies that I've ever seen.  I hope that Batista reconsiders his decision to step away from this character.  His performance in these three films is a hell of a lot stronger than it was in Knock At The Cabin, which was disappointing for a number of reasons.  In any case, with or without him, this is a story that I would be glad to see continue.

May 17, 2023

Gaming Under A Neon Light

Judging by the presence of an Atari Jaguar on the counter, I believe that this photo is from late 1993 or 1994.  It was taken inside of a Video Gamer store and was shared on Twitter by Twitch streamer @LazrDaddy.  His parents owned and operated the store throughout the 80's and 90's.

Detroit Free Press  (February 20, 1994)

I wasn't able to find an advertisement for this particular store, but there were ads for franchise opportunities for a store chain that went by the same name.  The logo in the ad is pretty similar to the neon sign on the back wall of the store.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find any other information about a chain of Video Gamer stores, but it looks like a pretty awesome place.  It reminds me of the game stores that we had in Northeast PA throughout the 90's.