Jul 31, 2022

Schlock-O-Rama VI

Schlock-O-Rama VI
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
This is one of my favorite annual events at the Mahoning.  Last year, we were only able to make it out to the third night to see The War Of The Worlds and Invasion Of The Body Snatchers.  This year, we're going to the first two nights.  No disrespect intended to The Three Stooges, but I need a break after eight movies in two days, and I've got work on Monday morning. 

Here is the lineup of films from the first two nights of Schlock-O-Rama VI:

Night One
Night Two

A key part of the creature feature experience was the gimmicks that theaters and movie studios would come up with to draw in the crowds and to give them a more immersive experience once they got there.  An example of this is the Space Shield Eye Protectors that were given to fans who attended screenings of Frankenstein Meets The Space Monster in 1965.  It wasn't fancy - just a piece of plastic with a story that using it would protect you from high intensity cobalt rays that glow from the screen, but it made the theatrical experience more fun.

The folks at Exhumed Films managed to get their hands on some of these pop culture artifacts and they repackaged them for Schlock-O-Rama VI and made them available to the fans in attendance.  It's amazing that after 57 years, not only can we still enjoy vintage films on 35mm at a drive-in theater, but we can do so with the goodies that were given away to the fans who saw the movie when it was brand new.

Another thing that Exhumed Films and the Mahoning Drive-In Theater is known for is the vintage 35mm trailer reels that are shown before and in between each of the films.  They set the tone for the night, and they give me a lot of ideas for movies to look up and watch at home.

The first film of Schlock-O-Rama VI was a 1953 Hammer Films classic called The Creeping Unknown.  This movie was originally released in the UK as The Quatermass Xperiment and it tells the story of an astronaut named Victor Carroon who was sent by Professor Quatermass up into space in a rocket as a member of a three man crew.  The rocket crash lands back to earth, and Victor is found to be the sole survivor with the bodies of his crewmates nowhere to be found.  Victor is mute and not quite comatose when he is rescued from the wreckage.  Little do they know at the time that he was infected by an alien life form while he was on his mission, and it is in the process of mutating his body.

Before long, Victor goes on a killing spree in which he sucks the life out of the humans and animals that he comes into contact with, and the race is on to capture him before he can release spores that will spread this predatory alien species across the planet.

It!  The Terror From Beyond Space was the second film of the night.  It premiered in theaters in 1958, but the story is set fifteen years in the future in the technologically advanced world of 1973.  Like the first film of the night, it tells the story of the sole survivor of a space mission.  However, instead of crash landing back to earth, this survivor (Col. Edward Carruthers) was stranded on Mars with a crew of nine others.  He is rescued by a second crew who intend to bring him back to Earth to face a charge that he murdered his crewmates.  The rescue team doesn't believe Col. Carruthers when he reports that his crew was killed by a Martian life form, but they soon learn the hard way that he was telling the truth.

The timing of the second intermission was perfect for what I had planned.  My wife's birthday was on Saturday, and It!  The Terror From Beyond Space ended just a few minutes before midnight on Friday.  She stopped at the concession stand, which gave me enough time to bring out the slices of birthday cake that were hiding at the bottom of the cooler and have everything ready before she got back to the car.

Instead of trailers, they played a  cartoon after the second intermission reel on Night One.  It was a Tom & Jerry short from 1967 called Advance And Be Mechanized.  It was the second to last Tom & Jerry cartoon that was produced by Chuck Jones, and it fit in perfectly with the theme of the night.  It's a sci-fi episode that takes place on another planet and features the cat and mouse along with their android counterparts.

I wish I could tell you more about The Man From Planet X.  It's one of the movies I was looking forward to seeing the most.  Unfortunately, I only made it through the first 15 minutes or so.  It started drizzling during intermission, so we put the chairs in the trunk and sat in the car for this feature.  I had been awake for nearly 20 hours straight at this point because I had to wake up early for work that morning, so being warm and cozy in the car was too much to overcome.  I woke up about five minutes before the end of the film.  Thankfully, the rain had stopped by then, so we were able to bring the chairs out of the trunk and the cool night air helped to keep me awake for the fourth and final feature of the night. 

As much as I regret sleeping through the third feature, I'm glad that it gave me enough of a rest to be wide awake for Frankenstein Meets The Space Monster.  At the beginning of the film, we are introduced to Col. Frank Saunders who is about to make his first trip into outer space.  We soon learn that Frank is not a man, but an android who is partially built out of human remains.  Frank's ship is shot down by Martians which causes him to crash down in Puerto Rico.

Frank is followed to the island by a Martian spaceship which is piloted by the very eccentric Dr. Nadir and Princess Marcuzan, who is the only woman left alive on Mars after a nuclear war.  They have come to Earth to kidnap women in bikinis from the beaches of Puerto Rico with the intention of using them to repopulate their planet.  The conflict culminates in a battle between Frank and a Martian Space Monster named Mull.

This movie is every bit as ridiculous and awesome as it sounds, and it was the perfect way to end the first night of Schlock-O-Rama.

Saturday night began with a cartoon that was the perfect setup to the first film of the second night of Schlock-O-Rama VI.  It was a 1969 short from animator Marv Newland called Bambi Meets Godzilla.  This cartoon was shown prior to Godzilla 1985 during its initial theatrical run, and it was even included in the home video release of the film.

The first film of the second night was Godzilla 1985.  It was the only movie at this year's Schlock-O-Rama that I've seen before this weekend, and it's one of the earliest examples of a reboot sequel that I can think of.  This is a little tricky to explain, and I'm far from being the most qualified person to attempt to do so, but I'll give it a try:

Godzilla 1985 is the American localized version of the 1984 Japanese flick, The Return Of Godzilla.  Both the American and Japanese versions were the Halloween 2018 of their time.  The end products of the American and Japanese films are very different, but both were created to be a direct sequel to the original Godzilla films in each country.  In other words, the 1984 Japanese film The Return Of Godzilla picks up the story of the original 1954 Godzilla film from Japan, and the American Godzilla 1985 movie builds directly off of the story that was told in the 1956 Godzilla - King of the Monsters film, which was the Americanized version of the original 1954 Godzilla.  Both The Return Of Godzilla and Godzilla 1985 disregard all of the other movies in the Godzilla franchise except for the first film released in each of their respective countries.  It resets the timeline of the franchise, both in America and Japan, as a two-movie series.

I realize that I've probably just made it sound way more complicated than it really is, but Godzilla 1985 is a hell of a lot of fun.  I first saw it at my next door neighbors house when I was eight years old, back when my mother and I lived in a half double on First Street in Hazleton.  It's one of the movies that made me fall in love with Godzilla as a child, and I'm very glad to have gotten to see it at the Mahoning.

This is my favorite part of the ten minute intermission reel that plays at most of the double and triple features at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater.  You can hear the sound of people saying "awwwwww" echoing across the lot as soon as the puppies and kitties hit the screen.

The Monster That Challenged The World has got to be one of the greatest names for a film that I've ever heard of, and it might be my favorite movie of the Schock-O-Rama VI weekend..  It puts a picture in my head of a giant green monster shaking his fist like a drunk at a bar and challenging everyone on the planet to a fistfight.

This creature feature from 1957 is better than anything I could have imagined from the title.  It's the story of prehistoric giant mollusks that are let loose into the Salton Sea after an earthquake.  They hunt down their prey to drain them of every drop of fluid in their bodies until the United States Navy get involved.  It's the perfect combination of wacky creatures and sincere acting performances in a cheesy flick.

The giant squid flick of the weekend was the 1955 creature feature, It Came From Beneath The Sea.  I don't know what it is about the third film of a quadruple feature that conks me out, but this is another film that I partially slept through.  We were outside in our lawn chairs, so I was awake for a lot more of this than I was for The Man From Planet X the night before, but I was snoozing through enough of it that I'm having a hard time remembering too many details about the plot.  I'll have to have a double feature at home some night to catch up on these two films and give them the attention that they deserve.

The final film of Night Two was the 1953 RKO release Port Sinister.  It's one of the most obscure films that I've ever had the privilege of seeing at the Mahoning.  It was never released on home video in any format and it's not available to stream on any service that I'm aware of, so your only two choices to see this movie are to watch one of the few surviving film prints or a bootleg that was made from one of them.  It was released as Beast Of Paradise Isle in the UK, so I'm guessing that the 35mm print that we got to see was originally shown overseas.

Before the movie began, Michael got on the radio to let us know that the print had suffered from significant water damage, so there would be moments that it will look pretty rough and go out of focus, but it didn't hurt the experience - especially for a movie as rare as this.

Port Sinister is the second film of Schlock-O-Rama VI to feature William Schallert (the other one being The Man From Planet X).  I know him best as the father from The Patty Duke Show.  In this movie, he plays a scientist who is planning to lead an expedition to a sunken island that is said to be the hiding place of pirate gold.  He gets attacked by a thug who is intent on stealing the treasure for himself.  When he regains consciousness, he heads out to the island in pursuit of the thugs, only to learn that the giant crabs that inhabit the island are in pursuit of all of the newcomers who have come to shore.

And that's a wrap for our nights at Schock-O-Rama VI.  I'm sure that The Three Stooges night was a lot of fun too, and I would have gone to it if it was just about any other weekend, but Friday and Saturday were both pretty busy days where I didn't get a lot of sleep.  I've also got work early on Monday morning, so I had to say no to Larry, Moe and Curly Joe.  I'm hoping they do another Three Stooges themed night at some point in the future though.