Oct 31, 2023

They're Coming To Colorize You, Barbara

Night Of The Living Dead
The 1968 George A. Romero horror classic Night Of The Living Dead premiered in theaters in Pittsburgh 55 years ago today.  It almost single handedly reinvented the zombie genre and went on to become one of the most influential movies of the 20th century  Eighteen years later, the movie was broadcast on television across the country on Halloween night, but in a controversial move, it was not shown in its original black and white.  The film had been colorized by Hal Roach Studios.

I found this recording on a VHS tape that I picked up at a flea market when I was in college.  Night Of The Living Dead is in the public domain, so I decided there would be no harm in sharing this recording on YouTube with its original commercials.

There are at least two other recordings of this film from October 31st, 1986 that have been shared on YouTube: one that was broadcast on WTAF TV-29 Philadelphia and the other one which aired on WOR TV-9 New York.  They're both very good quality and include the original commercials which definitely help to put you back in the time and place when this was broadcast, but the KDKA recording is unique from these in two ways.  First, it was broadcast in the area where the movie was filmed.  Night Of The Living Dead is to Pittsburgh what Rocky is to Philadelphia.  It's an iconic film that the city is rightfully very proud of.  Second, this broadcast was hosted by famed movie critics Siskel & Ebert.

During the commercial breaks, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert informed the viewing audience that a poll was being held to decide if fans liked or disliked the colorization of black and white movies.  This was broadcast ten years before dial-up internet became common enough to hold such a vote online and about fifteen years before cell phones and texting went mainstream, so viewers who wanted to cast their vote had to do so by calling a 1-900 number at a cost of 50 cents per call.  I strongly advise that you do not call either of these numbers today, but if you want to risk getting charged by whoever owns it today, be sure to let me know who answers the call.

The viewing audience of Pittsburgh and its surrounding communities on Halloween Night 1986 had good taste, and now you can have the same experience that they had.  Go ahead and pop some popcorn, scroll up to the top of this post, click the full screen icon and press play to be magically transported back in time to 1968, by way of 1986 and its disastrous colorization of a classic film, and immerse yourself in a world of zombies and commercials for ridiculously inexpensive fried chicken.

Seriously... an 8 piece KFC bucket costs over $20 today.  That's two less pieces of chicken and without the four biscuits that are included in this deal from 1986.  Give it another 30 years and it'll probably be over fifty bucks.

Oct 30, 2023

Banned From CBGB For Being Too Erotic

The Lost Boys
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
The last show of the 2023 season was a memorable one that started off with a 35mm screening of one of the greatest vampire flicks of all time.  This was followed by a concert performance from a musician that appears in the film for just a few seconds, but who's time on camera may be recognized by more people than the film itself is.

The dude with the saxophone who looks like he's just stepped out of Wrestlemania is Tim Cappello.  He played sax for Tina Turner and was cast in The Lost Boys as the singer and sax player for a band who was performing a cover of I Still Believe in the scene where Michael sees Star for the first time.  If you've ever used any form of social media, the chances are pretty good that you've seen a gif or a screenshot of this scene used as a meme.

Show banner designed by Andrew Kern

The one and only Tim Cappello was the special guest for the 2023 season finale at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater to meet fans, sign autographs, take pictures, and to perform a concert after the movie.

We got lucky with warm weather and clear skies on Friday and Saturday night, but no such luck on Sunday.  The temperature dropped by at least 15 degrees and it rained steadily throughout most of the night.  This meant that we had to enjoy the movies from inside of the car but it slowed down enough after the movie that a hoodie was enough to stay reasonably dry to enjoy the concert outside.

The pre-show included a screening of the 1951 Tex Avery/MGM cartoon Cock-a-Doodle Dog.  We saw this one earlier this year at the Mahoning before a Tuesday night screening of Back To School, but I could watch these old cartoon shorts a thousand times without getting tired of them.

The Lost Boys premiered in theaters on July 31, 1987.  I was seven years old at the time, and while I was aware of some horror movies at the time, this was not one of them.  I caught it for the first time when I was a teenager, and I was an especially big fan of the soundtrack, which has a lot of mid 80's new wave and dark wave songs that I've come to enjoy even more as I've gotten older.

Like most movies, I've gained a new appreciation for The Lost Boys after seeing it on the big screen at the Mahoning.  I've always enjoyed it, but I don't think I ever noticed how stunning some of the shots are; particularly those set on the boardwalk and in the ruins of the hotel that was destroyed during the 1906 earthquake.  If you haven't seen this movie before, I strongly recommend it, especially this time of year.
"The Star" was a dance move.  He wasn't propositioning us.

As promised, Tim Cappello performed a concert outside of the concession building.  It was about an hour long, with lots of stories and crowd interaction in between each of the songs.  One of the most memorable moments was when he asked the crowd if we knew what we wanted our tombstone to say, and to share with us what he wants his to say: "Banned from CBGB for being too erotic".  That's a hell of a thing for a musician to have on their resume, dontcha think?

This is the setlist from Tim Cappello's Sunday night performance at the Mahoning.  It wasn't a super long setlist, but it was a hell of a lot of fun... and how many people in this world can say that they saw a 35mm print of The Lost Boys at a drive-in theater, followed by a live performance of one of the songs in the movie by the artist who not only performed the song on the soundtrack, but also performed the song on screen in the film itself.

And that's a wrap on the 2023 season at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater in Lehighton, Pennsylvania.  It's been one hell of a season, filled with lots of great movies (140 of which I was in attendance for), great food, great music, special guests, and literally hundreds of hours of great times spent under the stars with our drive-in family.  I'm not exaggerating when I say that I've made more friends on this lot in 2023 than I've made in the previous ten years of my life combined.  I don't think I've ever found a place where I could truly be myself and feel as welcomed as I feel at this place.  It really is something special, and I am honored and privileged to be a part of all of this.

Oct 29, 2023

What Ever Happened To My Transylvania Twist

Universal Monster Mash VII
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
We were in attendance for Monster Mash V in September 2021 and Monster Mash VI in August 2022.  It has become one of the annual events that we look forward to the most at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater.  They scheduled things a bit differently this season by holding off on Universal Monster Mash until the final Friday and Saturday of the season, with the The Lost Boys as the season finale on Sunday.  I am totally in favor of saving this event for the final weekend of the season and I hope that they keep this schedule for the future.  I can think of no better way to close out the year than to all get together to watch vintage horror classics during Halloween week before one last surprise on the final Sunday of the season.

Show banner designed by Andrew Kern

The lineup of Universal Monster Mash VII consisted of six films, including a 90th anniversary screening of The Invisible Man, Creature From The Black Lagoon, and The Raven on Friday night, and an 80th anniversary screening of Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man, The Mummy's Ghost, and an 80th anniversary screening of The Mad Ghoul on Saturday night.  There were secret features on both nights, and while I won't share them on here, I will say that they weren't Universal monster films, but they were classic horror films that fit the tone of the event.

The poster (left) and t-shirt (right) for Universal Monster Mash VII were both designed by artist Tom Bifulco, who just got married a week ago today.  Congrats dude, and awesome artwork as always!

Our friend Louie absolutely killed it with his cosplay, as he has done all season long.  This weekend, he came to the event as The Invisible Man.

There was a costume contest on both nights of Universal Monster Mash VIILouie's take on The Invisible Man was my favorite, closely followed by Gene and Ben dressed up as Virgil, but there were a lot of other incredible costumes, including Wolf Cop, Frankenstein and Bride Of Frankenstein, Cocaine Bear, and a group of folks who dressed up as characters from different Twilight Zone episodes.

We really lucked out with the weather for Universal Monster Mash VII with temperatures in the mid 70's during the day and in the high 50's to low 60's after the sun went down.  There also wasn't a drop of rain, so we got to have one last weekend sitting out in our camping chairs and enjoying these classics under the stars with our drive-in family.

There were two cartoons shown before the first film on Friday night.  The first was a short called Absolution, which was written and directed by Jill Yapsuga.  I wasn't able to find anything about it online so I don't know where to recommend you go if you want to check it out, but it was very dark and very cool, and it set the tone for a night of horror classics.

The second cartoon that was shown before the first feature was the 1954 Loony Tunes short: Bewitched Bunny.  It's a Bugs Bunny cartoon directed by Chuck Jones, and it's the first appearance of Witch Hazel.  This is the one where Bugs discovers the witch that has lured Hansel and Gretel into her cabin. He rescues the children, but then discovers that the witch would be just as satisfied with a pot of rabbit stew.

The first feature that was shown was a horror film based on the 1897 HG Wells novel, the 1933 classic The Invisible Man.  I've never watched this before.  In fact, I'm pretty sure that all of the movies from this weekend (including the secret features) were first-time screenings for me.

As the title song from The Rocky Horror Picture Show says, Claude Rains is the star, but there are two other actors who make this film especially great.  The first is innkeeper Una O'Connor, who gives a whole new meaning to "scream queen", and the second is E.E. Clive, who plays the town's police constable who gives some of the most hilarious deadpan responses that I've ever seen.  This movie is a true classic that literally every movie fan in the world should watch at some point in their lives.

Next up was the 1954 horror classic, Creature From The Black Lagoon, which is the first in a trilogy of Universal Monster movies from the 50's to feature The Creature (aka: Gill Man) as the monster.

There was a nice tribute to Ricou Browning that was shown on the screen throughout the pre-show and during the intermissions.  The stuntman and actor who played The Creature in the underwater scenes was the last surviving actor who performed as one of the monsters in the original Universal monster films.  He also has had a long career as a director, writer, and stunt coordinator and has worked on a wide variety of films including Flipper, Thunderball, and one of my all-time favorites, Caddyshack.

Mr. Browning passed away earlier this year on February 27th at the age of 93.

The final announced film that was shown on Friday night was a movie that co-stars the legendary duo of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, the 1935 classic, The Raven.  It's the story of a doctor (Lugosi) who is obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe and with a young woman whose life he saves, but who is engaged to marry someone else.  Unfortunately for all concerned, this doctor also has a fully functional torture chamber in his basement, and the ability to use surgical techniques known only to him to deliberately disfigure a criminal (Karloff) whose face he will only fix if he helps to torture and murder the girl's father and fiance.  It's a twisted tale that was first shown to audiences 87 years ago and is just as disturbing as it ever was.

That's not quite a wrap on Night One because there was a secret feature after the credits rolled on The Raven, but it's going to remain a secret on here, so... onto Night Two.

The first movie of Saturday night was another classic horror film that paired two of the most iconic actors in film history.  This time, Bela Lugosi partnered with the equally great Lon Chaney Jr in the 1943 monster rally classic, Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man.

There were two Speedy Gonzales cartoons shown during intermission between the first and second movies on Saturday night.  The first was a 1958 short directed by Robert McKimson called Tortilla Flaps, and the second was a 1959 Friz Freleng short called Here Today, Gone Tamale that also features Sylvester the Cat.  I've seen the second one before, but I didn't recognize Tortilla Flaps at all.  I have watched Loony Tunes since I was old enough to know what a cartoon was, so it's pretty rare that I come across one that I haven't seen before.

The second movie on Saturday night was the fourth Universal Monster Movie to feature The Mummy; the 1944 Lon Chaney Jr classic, The Mummy's Ghost.  I know that I've seen the original 1932 film The Mummy, but this was my first time seeing The Mummy's Ghost.

There was a third cartoon shown on the big screen on Saturday night.  This one was a 1954 Popeye cartoon called Fright To The Finish that was shown during the second intermission.  As the name and the title card suggests, this is a Halloween-themed episode in which Bluto and Popeye try to scare each other away from Olive Oyl, who gets caught in the crossfire as she often does.  I'm not as familiar with Popeye cartoons as I am with Loony Tunes so this might not be as unusual as I think, but I was pretty surprised that Popeye doesn't eat spinach in this one.

The final announced movie for Universal Monster Mash VII is the one that I knew the least about going into the weekend, but may have been my favorite movie out of all of them, the 1943 film The Mad Ghoul.

It's the story of the world's worst college professor who turns his prize student into a zombie.  The student snaps back and forth between being a normal (but sickly) young man, and a ghoulish zombie who must obey the commands of his professor when he's in that state.  The student has no memory of his behaviors as a zombie when he is lucid (and presumably vice versa), which is for the best because the professor is forcing him to take turns committing grave robbery and murder to obtain human hearts, which are the only thing that's keeping him alive.  Oh yeah, on top of all of this, the professor is trying to hook up with his student's singer girlfriend, and one of the reasons this hasn't worked is because she's already seeing one of his friends behind his back.  It's safe to say that this poor kid is having a pretty rough time.

It's a compelling story with excellent performances from the entire cast, and I wouldn't hesitate putting it in my top five favorite black and white horror films of all time.

The clock is ticking on the 2023 season at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater... just one more night before my favorite place in the world goes into hibernation for the winter.

Oct 28, 2023

Root Beer From Mockingbird Lane

Munsters Halloween Bag
A&W Root Beer
Darcy shared this awesome Halloween bag earlier this week.  I'm not sure, but I think that it's from the late 80's or the early 90's during the short lived sitcom The Munsters Today.

Oct 27, 2023

Easter Eggs In October

Mini Harvest Handfuls
Cadbury (2023)
My all-time favorite chocolate candy since I was a little kid are those little Cadbury Mini Eggs that come out every year for Easter.  These things are so good that I'd ask to include them in my last meal if I'm ever on death row.  I'm extremely happy to see that they're now available, under a slightly odd name, during the Fall.

Oct 26, 2023

Last Patreon Screening Of 2023

The seventh and final Patreon Screening of the 2023 season was tonight.  I'm not able to share the title here, but it was an English language psychological thriller from Sweden that was released in the early 70's, and it was pretty good.  I definitely didn't see the end coming.

We're down to the last weekend of the 2023 season.  Man, it really flew by quickly!

Oct 25, 2023

Method Of Modern Horror

source: Calendar Labs

I didn't get out to Regal as often as I would have liked to this Halloween season, but I was able to catch three modern horror flicks on the big screen over the past month.
The folks behind the Saw franchise have said that they regretted killing off Jigsaw as early as they did.  To work around this, the tenth movie in the series takes place at a point in time between Saw and Saw IIJohn Kramer is conned out of $250k by a team of scam artists who make him believe that they are able to cure his cancer.  He spends the rest of the movie making each of these folks regret their choice with a level of brutality that lives up to what we've come to expect from a Saw movie.  I'm not sure where I'd rank it in the series in terms of favorite to least-favorite because it's been a while since I've watched some of them, but I'm confident that it would be in the upper half.

This came across to me as misguided social commentary disguised as a horror film that is still pretty good despite its ham-fisted subtext.  The main character, Sam, is a high school girl from an Indian family who has adopted American culture after spending most (if not all) of her life in the United States.  That sort of thing didn't used to be controversial.  In fact, it was kind of expected that if you were going to uproot your life and move halfway around the world to live as a citizen of the United States that you were doing so to become a part of that country, and that every generation after you would naturally become more "Americanized" than the generation that came before it.  That's not to say that your heritage disappears, but it's only natural that a person's surroundings is going to have a greater influence on who they become than a culture thousands of miles away that they have never been immersed in. 

Sam's friends at school do not at all seem judgmental of her Indian heritage, but her mother is awfully judgmental of the fact that her teenage daughter (*gasp*) is pulling away from family activities to spend time with her high school friends.  Oh, the horror!  Sam also is judged in a harsh light throughout the film for spending more time with her non-Indian friends and less time Tamira, who is another girl of Indian heritage who Sam was close with when they were younger children.  Of course, no one ever grows out of the friendships that they had in elementary school and into friendships with a different peer group, right?  If anything, I think Sam is remarkably patient with Tamira, who walks around the school like the girl from The Ring clutching and muttering to a glass jar.  Yeah, I can't imagine why a teenage girl would ever put distance between herself and the weird girl to hang out with her crush and with friends who don't behave like, well, something out of a horror movie.

Naturally, the day is saved only when Sam learns to embrace her heritage to take on an Indian demon that feeds off of negative energy.  She literally takes the demon into herself to keep it contained and to stop it from hurting others, and they all lived happy ever after, I guess.  So... the moral of this story is what, exactly?  You're a bad person if you try to live your own life, and you must accept that you will be trapped by your family heritage to the point of allowing it to literally invade your body?  Um... ok.

Look, I don't mean for this to be a bad review.  It's a very good movie with strong performances from everyone in the cast and an engaging story that held my interest.  Maybe the subtext that I'm getting from this film isn't what writer/director Bishal Dutta intended, but in the ridiculously polarized climate of the United States in 2023, it's hard not to roll my eyes and think "here we go again".

Before we went to see this, I was pretty sure that we saw The Nun back in 2018, but I wasn't so sure after seeing this because none of the characters seem familiar to me.  I just went back to review a plot synopsis of the first movie and nothing I'm reading in there is ringing a bell either.  I'm not saying for sure that I have or haven't seen it.  Honestly, a lot of these demonic possession movies kind of run together in my memory and it's hard for me to tell one from another.

At any rate, I really enjoyed The Nun II.  I wish I had written about this right after I saw it because I've already forgotten a lot of the details, but I remember liking the fact that the story had a lot more to it than the old "bad demon takes over good person for no reason in particular" plot device that is all too common in movies like these.  The demon itself, its motives, and the ways that Sister Irene and Sister Debra fight him off kept me engaged throughout the movie.  Don't take my lack of detail as anything negative about the movie.  I just have a lousy memory, and as I said before, movies about this sort of thing tend to get all jumbled together in my head.

There are quite a few movies that we missed out on this month.  The most heavily marketed of these was The Exorcist: Believer.  I probably would have made time to go see it if not for one scene in the trailer that was so stupid that it moved this movie from "must see" to the "maybe I'll get to it if I have time" category.  The scene that I'm talking about is when the little girl walks into church saying "the body and the blood" over and over again in a voice that I guess is supposed to sound more creepy and ominous each time she repeats it.  This scene single handedly made me think that this entire film was going to be a waste of time, and from the reviews that I've read, it seems like that's exactly what it was.  Every time I saw this trailer, I laughed to myself as I imagined other people randomly chanting things in a failed attempt to sound creepy... like maybe a Raisin Bran commercial with a mother chanting "the raisins and the flakes", or a proctologist coming out to the waiting room chanting "the rectum and the sphincter".

Movies about exorcisms tend to fall flat in general for me because the storytelling is usually very shallow and inconsistent.  Some poor soul gets possessed by a demon, and then a white knight priest marches in there and shouts a bunch of prayers at it.  This usually results in some shit flying around the room that smacks the priest in the head.  Sometimes there's some levitation, or the lights flicker on and off, or the possessed person shakes their head around for a while, but the prayers never seem to actually do any good for the victim.  What are they expecting?  Is the demon supposed to say "oh, I get it... I'm the unclean spirit... why, goodness gracious, I never thought you wanted me to leave... let me just go ahead and grab my hat and find some other kid", or are they supposed to disappear in a puff of smoke or something?  All that ever happens is that they're seemingly killing the person who is possessed, which accomplishes what, exactly?  It doesn't kill the demon.  They can just go fly in to somebody else in the sequel.  That's not to say that movies in which somebody gets possessed are all bad because The Nun II was very good.  However, in general, the "exorcism" genre just doesn't work for me, and that includes the original Exorcist.  The best exorcism movie I've ever seen ranks alongside an average film in any other horror sub-genre, and it would take something pretty special and original for it to get a higher complement out of me than that.  By all accounts, The Exorcist: Believer is neither of those things.

I do regret not getting to see The Creator, The Boogeyman, A Haunting In Venice and The Expendables 4, and I'm still hoping that I'll be able to get out to Regal to see Killers Of The Flower Moon and Five Nights At Freddy's before they get pulled.  We should have plenty of time after closing weekend at the Mahoning.