May 19, 2022

East Bound And Down

Smokey And The Bandit
Universal Pictures (1977)
One of the most iconic films in American history premiered at Radio City Music Hall 45 years ago today.  Smokey And The Bandit, starring Burt Reynolds and Sally Field, went on to earn over $126 million dollars in North America which made it the second highest grossing film of 1977.  The only movie that year to be more successful at the box office was the first Star Wars film.

Despite the fact that this movie was played repeatedly on television throughout the 80's and 90's, I didn't see this movie for the first time until I was in my 40's.  It was literally introduced to me, as so many other films have, by Joe Bob Briggs who hosted his How Rednecks Saved Hollywood show at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater last July.  This show was immediately followed by a 35mm screening of Smokey And The Bandit while Joe Bob and Darcy met with fans near the concession building throughout the runtime of the film, which ended after 2:00 am.

This night may have been the most fun I've ever had watching a movie.  Everything just came together perfectly: we got to meet and talk with both Joe Bob and Darcy, we had some good food, the weather was beautiful, Joe Bob's show was hysterically funny, and finally, we got to see a true classic of American cinema for the very first time the way it was meant to be seen - on the big screen, projected from 35mm under the stars on a beautiful summer night at the drive in.  It was an incredible night, and it's a memory I will always cherish.

May 18, 2022

At The Drive-In, No One Can Hear Your Tacos Crunch

Alien (1979)
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
There are a hell of a lot of excellent Tunnel Vision Tuesday shows on the lineup this year, but it's going to be hard to top this one.  The movie that was screened last night was the 1979 Ridley Scott sci-fi horror classic Alien.

Harvey gets very excited every time we tell him that he's coming out to the drive-in.  He loves to walk around the lot, and he especially enjoys the attention he gets from folks who stop by to pet him.  He usually ends up falling asleep in my lap or in the back seat of the car about halfway through the first movie, so single features are the best time to bring the little guy out. 

It was also Taco Tuesday at the Mahoning with the concession stand selling hard shell tacos with Rico's nacho cheese and your choice of toppings.  I don't remember these being offered at any of the previous shows that I've been to, but they definitely hit the spot.

Prior to the start of the show, there was a trailer reel from Exhumed Films.  This included some shows that were already screened at the Mahoning this season, such as Predator and The Fly, as well as shows that are scheduled for upcoming events, like Night Of The Living Dead, House and Re-Animator.

Last night's screening of Alien was about as perfect of a night at the drive-in as anyone could hope for.  I'm not sure what the attendance was, but the place was packed.  The last time I remember seeing this many cars at the drive-in on a Tuesday was for Terminator 2: Judgment Day last June.  It's easy to understand why.  It was a beautiful warm Spring night without a cloud in the sky or a drop of rain.

Virgil said something during the pre-show that I hadn't considered before I started to come to the Mahoning - there's something special about seeing a space movie on a clear night at the drive-in.  When you see the Nostromo surrounded by the stars in space, and then you look up, above and around the screen to see the stars in the night sky, it's an almost magical experience.  It is immersive in a way that no 3-D movie can touch, and it just makes you thankful to be at this place, and at this time, and in these circumstances.  What better way to spend a warm spring evening than at the drive-in with a plate of tacos watching one of the greatest sci-fi horror flicks of all time?

May 17, 2022

Live From The Upside Down

Doritos 3D Crunch: Three Cheese
Frito Lay (2022)
Another cross-promotion with Stranger Things can be found in the chip aisle with a release of special packaging for Doritos and 3D Crunch Doritos in a variety of flavors.

This packaging is part of a concert promotion called Live From The Upside Down, which is scheduled to take place on June 23rd. The show will be available to stream online for those who pre-register for tickets, and it will feature Corey Hart, The Go-Go’s, Soft Cell, and Charli XCX.

May 16, 2022

Hang Loose, Home Slice

Surfer Boy Pizza
Palermo Villa Inc (2022)
The fourth season of Stranger Things is still 11 days away, but the cross-promotional items are out in full force.  My favorite so far has been the line of Surfer Boy Pizza that I found in the freezer section of my local Wal-Mart.

Before I even get into the pizza itself, take a look at that logo of a long haired surf dude standing barefoot on a pepperoni.  He's got a pizza box in one hand, he's throwing up a shaka with the other, and he's surfing on what looks like a marinara wave.  Brilliant!

The pizza itself wasn't amazing, but it's definitely not bad either.  It sort of reminds me of the Tombstone Pizza that my dad used to pick up when I was a teenager so that we could get the free baseball card inside.  On the other hand, this combination of toppings is pretty amazing.  It may look strange, but the pineapple and jalapeno flavors work together tremendously well.  I'm going to have to remember to recreate this combination after these Surfer Boy pizzas are no longer available.

May 15, 2022

Double Dick Saturday

Sing-Along Weekend
Mary Poppins / Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
So, the official name of this double feature at the Mahoning is the Sing-Along Weekend, but I kind of like the unofficial title.  Both movies feature one of my favorite comedy actors of all time, the legendary Dick Van Dyke, so when Virgil promoted the upcoming shows on the radio during the pre-show for Predator, it was referred to as the Double Dick Weekend.  The fact that it refers to such wholesome family movies as Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang make it all the better.

This is one of the weekends at the drive-in that my wife was especially looking forward to because Mary Poppins was one of her favorite films when she was growing up.  I'm honestly not sure if I ever saw the entire movie from beginning to end before last night.  I know I had seen clips of it, and I've listened to the music from the movie a lot of times when I was a kid because my grandparents would play the record for me when I came over to visit on the weekend, usually with my grandmother singing along to Chim Chim Cher-ee.

Before Mary Poppins, they screened a 35mm print of one of the greatest Daffy Duck cartoons of all time - The Scarlet Pumpernickel.  This 1950 Loony Tunes short is a true masterpiece of animation history with nearly every character in the cartoon being performed by the legendary Mel Blanc.  Following this they showed the theatrical trailer for Snow White, Bambi and Peter Pan.

Mary Poppins was the highest grossing film of 1964, and at the time of its release, it was the highest grossing Disney movie of all time.  It was critically acclaimed with thirteen Academy Awards nominations (including Best Picture), five of which it won, including Best Original Musical Score, Best Original Song (Chim Chim Cher-ee), and Best Actress (Julie Andrews).  It brilliantly blends live action and animation in a way that few other films could match to this day.

There was a short intermission between the two films with two 1942 Goofy shorts: How To Swim and How To Play BaseballDisney's series of instructional videos are among the greatest animated shorts ever made, and I'm always very happy to see them.  They're one of the few things that could make a 5 year old and a 95 year old laugh, and in most cases, they'd be laughing for the same reason.  When a future civilization digs up the entertainment produced in our time, I hope that they uncover these because they are truly one of the high points of our culture.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a film with a lot of talent behind it.  It's based on a novel by James Bond creator Ian Fleming and was filmed from a screenplay co-written by Willy Wonka author Roald Dahl.  I had never seen Chitty Chitty Bang Bang before last night, and unlike Mary Poppins, I don't remember ever hearing any songs or seeing clips from the film.  The only thing I ever remember seeing from the movie is a Clockwork Lullaby Machine that was on display at the Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum in Atlantic City.

The movie is a little on the long side, but it's a very nice musical about an inventor named Caractacus Potts (Dick Van Dyke) who tinkers with an old race car which he, his love interest and his children have named Chitty Chitty Bang Bang after the sound that the engine makes.  Potts modifies the car to the point where it can fly and operate as a motorboat.  This attracts the attention of the villainous Baron Bomburst of the nearby land of Vulgaria, and chaos ensues.

I wasn't prepared for the length of this double feature.  Most of the family films that I grew up with are pretty snappy, clocking in at around an hour and a half.  That is not the case with either of these two movies, with Mary Poppins clocking in at 139 minutes and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at 145 minutes.  I generally don't mind a long runtime for most films where the plot keeps moving, but it can really feel like a drag when the story is constantly grinding to a halt for a song and dance routine.  Don't get me wrong, they're very charming, but at one point I looked down at the clock and was shocked to see that it was nearly two in the morning.  Then I looked up at the screen to see Dick Van Dyke dancing around and the story not seeming to be too close to wrapping up.  This left me with the feeling that they could have cut a good half hour out of each of these films without negatively impacting the movie one bit.

I'm glad that we got to see both of these movies at the drive-in, but I'm also pretty happy that they're the only family musicals on the lineup this summer.  It won't stop me from going to any of them that they announce in the future, but I sure hope that they're Sunday night single features.

May 14, 2022

Kinky Noodles

Tai Me Up
Bridge Street - Phoenixville, PA
Passed by this place on the way back to the car after seeing Joe Bob last weekend.  We had already eaten, but I think I'm gonna have to check this place out soon.

May 13, 2022

State Your Peace Tonight

Shuttered Room
The Fixx (1982)
The debut album by The Fixx was released in the UK 40 years old today.  It includes the first single by the band, Stand Or Fall, which hit #7 on the Billboard Top Rock Tracks.

The album didn't come over to the United States for another five months, but I don't ever remember hearing any of the songs from it when I was growing up in the 80's.  In fact, I didn't really know too much about The Fixx until I was in my 30's and found a recording of the KROQ Top 106 Songs of 1983.  Someone taped the whole show on four cassette tapes from the radio back on New Years Eve and shared on  Three songs from the album were included on the countdown: Shuttered RoomStand Or Fall, and a song that quickly became one of my favorite new wave songs of the 80's, Red Skies.

May 12, 2022

Is It Tomorrow Or Just The End Of Time?

Are You Experienced?
The Jimi Hendrix Experience (1967)
The first studio album from the legendary Jimi Hendrix was released 55 years ago today.  Literally every song on the North American release of Are You Experienced is an absolute masterpiece, including Fire, Hey Joe, Foxy Lady and a song that would be in the George Washington position on the classic rock Mt. Rushmore, Purple Haze.
Purple Haze all in my brain
Lately things just don't seem the same
Actin' funny but I don't know why
Excuse me while I kiss the sky

Purple Haze all around
Don't know if I'm coming up or down
Am I happy or in misery?
Whatever it is, that girl put a spell on me

Purple Haze all in my eyes
Don't know if it's day or night
You've got me blowing, blowing my mind
Is it tomorrow or just the end of time?

May 11, 2022

May 10, 2022

Straddle The Line In Discord And Rhyme

Duran Duran (1982)
The second studio album from the legendary Duran Duran, and arguably the greatest new wave album of all-time turns forty years old today.  The album went double platinum and includes three songs that have gone down as 80's classics: Rio, Hungry Like The Wolf, and my favorite song on the album, Save A Prayer.
You saw me standing by the wall
Corner of a main street
And the lights are flashing on your window sill
All alone ain't much fun
So you're looking for the thrill
And you know just what it takes
And where to go

Don't say a prayer for me now
Save it 'til the morning after
No, don't say a prayer for me now
Save it 'til the morning after

Feel the breeze deep on the inside
Look you down into your well
If you can, you'll see the world in all his fire
Take a chance like all dreamers
You can't find another way
You don't have to dream it all
Just live a day

Don't say a prayer for me now
Save it 'til the morning after
No, don't say a prayer for me now
Save it 'til the morning after

Pretty looking road
I try to hold the rising floods that fill my skin
Don't ask me why, I'll keep my promise
Melt the ice
And you wanted to dance
So I asked you to dance
But fear is in your soul
Some people call it a one-night stand
But we can call it paradise

Don't say a prayer for me now
Save it 'til the morning after
No, don't say a prayer for me now
Save it 'til the morning after

May 9, 2022

Duck Season

Kwik Shoppe Drive In
Route 61 - Shoemakersville, PA
We've passed by this place on the way to and from every Reading Phillies game and I've always wanted to stop.  I was finally able to check this place out on Saturday when we were on the way to see How Rednecks Saved Hollywood.

According to their website, the Kwik Shoppe Drive In opened in 1971, and I'm assuming that their glorious neon sign has been proudly standing out front for the past 50+ years to lure people off of Route 61 to stop for a hot dog and a soda.

The inside of the restaurant is simple and charming.  It reminded me of the Mister Donut in Hazleton that I used to go to when I was a kid.

There's an entire section of the menu dedicated to duck.  All of it is very reasonably priced, so I decided to try the Duck Burger and Duck Fries.  Not gonna lie - the duck burger was kind of disappointing.  It didn't taste bad or anything, but there wasn't much to it.  The Loaded Duck Fries were pretty damn good though.  I definitely want to come back, but I'm going to go for the Coney Island Hot Dogs and pierogies next time.

Last, but not least, we each had an ice cream sundae cup.  That's a banana split on the left and a strawberry sundae on the right.  They have a soft serve machine and can make just about anything you want, but I saw a bunch of these cups lined up in the freezer and couldn't resist trying it.  Both sundaes were loaded with fruit and definitely worth the money, but I think I'm going to try a milkshake next time we stop by.

May 8, 2022

Joe Bob Is Back In Town

An Evening With Joe Bob BriggsHow Rednecks Saved Hollywood
Colonial Theater - Phoenixville, PA
We saw this show for the first time on day one of Joe Bob's Drive-In Jamboree at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater last year.  It was a great show and my favorite night of the Jamboree, so when it was announced that Mr. Briggs would be coming to the historic Colonial Theater in Phoenixville, I knew that I couldn't miss it.

The Colonial Theater is over a hundred years old.  It opened its doors in 1903 and was a venue for traveling vaudeville acts, musicals, and other stage shows.  It's best remembered today as one of the filming locations for the 1958 Steve McQueen classic, The Blob.

The tickets to the show were general admission, so I wanted to make sure that we got good seats.  Because of this, I didn't get as much time to explore the theater as I would have liked, but what I did see was absolutely beautiful.  The folks at the Colonial screen original 35mm prints of old movies, and they host an annual event called Blobfest, so I'm sure I'll be back at some point in the future.

Mr. Briggs had a meet-and-greet set up on the second floor before the start of the show.  We had the opportunity to meet him twice before.  The first time was in 2018 at a small convention in Stanhope, New Jersey.  The second time was last summer at one of my favorite places in the world, the Mahoning Drive-In Theater, during the first night of Joe Bob's Drive-In Jamboree.

He took a nice photo with us on both of those occasions, and I really wish I would have had one of them printed as an 8x10 to bring to the show today so that we could ask him to autograph it.  I didn't think of it until a few hours before we left for the show when it was too late.  Mr. Briggs has already signed a few things for us, but I didn't want to go to an autograph signing without having something to sign.

We bought this art print last year from T-Denton, who is the website artist for Mr. Briggs.  I'm going to get a frame for it and hang it up every year with the rest of our Christmas decorations.  You can find Mr. Denton's artwork for sale on DeviantArt and Etsy.  His work is incredible, his prices are extremely fair, and he's a genuinely good dude.

I couldn't resist asking Mr. Briggs to sign one more thing.  There are few things in this world that have brought me happiness for as many years as Garbage Pail Kids.  My first one was given to me by a little girl who I was friends with when I was five years old.  I don't remember her name.  Her parents were friends with my parents, so we played when they came over to visit, but I still have that card to this day (Joltin' Joe from series 1, card 41b).

I don't collect the newer GPK cards that have come out in my adult life, but I couldn't resist picking up the Joe Bob Briggs ones from their 2019 Revenge Of Oh The Horror-ible series.  It's a fun mashup of something that brought me a lot of joy as a kid in the 80's with a man who brought me even more happiness in the 90's and beyond, so having it signed by the man himself is pretty special to me.

How Rednecks Saved Hollywood is awesome!  Even if you're not as big of a fan of horror movies and The Last Drive-In as we are, I strongly recommend it.  Joe Bob is such a fun and engaging person that I would confidently say that everyone would have a good time at this show.  We've seen it twice now, and I wouldn't hesitate to go back a third time if and when he brings it back to our neck of the woods.  Don't sleep on this if you have an opportunity to see it.  You'll learn.  You'll laugh.  You'll find things to stream that you never thought you'd watch before, and you'll leave with a whole new appreciation for Smokey And The Bandit.

May 7, 2022

Remake Double Take

Remake Double-TakeThe Fly (1958) / The Fly (1986)
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
The Remake Double-Take is a tradition at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater where they show an original film back-to-back with its remake.  In the past, they've screened double features of The Thing (1951 / 1982) and The Blob (1958 / 1988).  This season, the Remake Double-Take double feature is The Fly (1958 / 1986).

The poster for this weekend's double feature was designed by King Hayden Hall of Sick Slice Studios.  This artist has created quite a few posters for shows at the Mahoning in previous seasons, including one of my favorite posters from last season, VHS Fest V.

The Mahoning has so many incredibly talented artists who they've partnered with over the years, and Tom Bilfulco has been one of my favorites.  Last season, he designed artwork for Joe Bob's Jamboree, the t-shirt for VHS Fest V, and posters for Janet & Jamie, Ricci's Pieces, Universal Monster Mash V, Cage Match, Frankenhooker, Honey I Shrunk The Kids, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, as well as posters and shirts for many other shows that we weren't able to get to.  For the 2022 Remake Double-Take weekend, he designed these awesome black and green t-shirts for The Fly.

The Mahoning Drive-In Theater has a podcast that is definitely worth listening to for everyone who enjoys movies and the drive-in culture, even if you live too far away to make it to Lehighton.  One of the things they like to do during these podcasts is play vintage drive-in theater commercials in between segments of the show.  This is how I learned about a nifty piece of merchandise called the Drizzle Guard.  They were produced and sold during the 50's and 60's, and it's basically just a piece of tarp that's connected to some metal rods, rope and suction cups.  The idea is that you stretch it across the top of your windshield to help keep it dry when it's raining so that you don't have to run your car or the windshield wipers during the movie.

Apart from being a fan of drive-in theaters, I am also addicted to new old stock (don't even ask me about our coffee pot), so I had to track one of these down.  It wasn't too difficult, as there were a bunch of them on eBay, and I think I paid around eight bucks for this with free shipping over the winter.  Since we had a light but steady rain throughout the day, there was no better time to break this puppy out.

It worked out surprisingly well.  It doesn't keep the entire windshield dry, but it doesn't have to.  It kept the rain off of the top half of the windshield, which was more than enough of an area for both of us to see the movie without the rain obscuring any part of the screen.

This thing had the most durable suction cups I've ever seen.  We put this up at around 6:30 and it stayed in place through the entire night.  I'm not sure if it would hold up to a thunderstorm (in fact, the package flat out tells you to remove it in high winds), but it was definitely up to its intended purpose.  There was only one minor hiccup, and it was kind of amusing.

When the tarp collects enough rain water to weigh it down, it dumps the water down the center of the windshield.  This happened about once every 20 minutes, give or take.  The good news is that it always dumped directly down the center of the windshield, so the Drizzle Guard still did it's job of keeping the area of the movie screen dry even when it... um... climaxed.  It made me wonder if it would be possible to attach something else to the top of the windshield.  Maybe something like a rain gutter that's shaped in a slight arch to direct the water to the left and right of the car.

The only downside that I could find is that you have to sit up in the car for the Drizzle Guard to be effective.  If you bring pillows and put the seat back to recline and watch the movie, your field of vision is going to change and you'll be looking through the bottom of your windshield where the rain is still collecting.

All things considered, this is a pretty decent product.  It's not perfect, but not too shabby for a product that has sit unopened for the past sixty years.  I can only imagine how many different theaters, stores and warehouses this thing sat in before it found its way to me, but it's getting put to good use now.  What better way to enjoy a vintage film on 35mm than with a piece of vintage drive-in technology.

I think I have a pretty adventurous spirit when it comes to trying new things, but I had to pass on the Fly Trap Fries.  It's pretty hard to enjoy a double feature when you're in a sugar coma.

As always, the photo op at the Mahoning was incredible.  The incorporated elements from both the 1958 and 1982 films, and it all came together perfectly.  I can't imagine the amount of work it takes to put these together week after week.

I wasn't the only one busting some new old stock free on Friday night's double feature.  Before the show, Rob announced that one of the previews that he would be screening for us before the first movie was a teaser trailer that has sit in its packaging, unopened and unplayed, for forty years.  It was for the David Cronenberg classic, Videodrome.  Long live the new flesh!

Neither my wife or I had ever seen the original 1958 version of The Fly, but we were both blown away.  It's an incredible movie, and the 1986 version so different that it's hard to even call it a remake.  This isn't like Coke and Pepsi with minor differences that you might have a hard time putting into words.  It would be more accurate to say that these are two completely separate films that are both a part of a fly-related teleportation genre.  That may sound ridiculous, but go ahead and watch the two of them back-to-back and tell me if you don't agree.

The only thing that they two movies have in common is that it involves a scientist who invents a teleportation machine, and he suffers ill effects after trying to teleport himself because a small housefly has entered the pod with him.  I realize that might sound like a lot, but it isn't.  Everything else about these two films is completely different - the plot, the tone, literally everything, and seeing these two movies back-to-back on the big screen really drives it home.  You can truly watch and appreciate each film as a unique piece of art.

The David Cronenberg version of The Fly is one of my favorite horror flicks of the 1980's.  It's one of the many movies that I saw for the first time when I worked at Blowout Video as a teenager, and the Mahoning has once again made a dream come true of seeing it on the big screen.

This movie is absolutely disgusting for all of the right reasons, from Jeff Goldblum's body falling apart to his vomiting digestive enzymes as a weapon to dissolve the hand and foot of the Particle Magazine editor who has broken into his home to rescue Ronnie.  It's not gross for the sake of being gross.  It's relentless in its pursuit to tell the story that it wants to tell, and it's done with such intensity that it feels like the movie is daring you not to watch these scenes.  I didn't look away, and I never will.

The season's just getting started and we already got to see five classic movies over three nights under the stars.  I wish I had my own teleportation device that I could use to pop onto the lot whenever I wanted.  I could disguise it as one of the port-a-potties with an out-of-order sign on the door.  In all seriousness, I consider myself extremely fortunate to have my health, to be financially stable, and to live close enough to this wonderful drive-in theater to be able to have so many amazing nights in front of its CinemaScope screen under the stars.