Photo of East River Drive viaduct in New York City, 1949
Popular Publications. I cannot ascertain the cover artist, but I believe it was Norman Saunders.
Leading Comic Corp. (Marvel Comic brand.)
“Man starts over again everyday, in spite of all he knows, against all he knows.”
— Emil Cioran, A Short History of Decay, 1949
No, I obviously don’t remember “The Lone Ranger” during its initial run between 1949 and 1957. (At least I hope that’s obvious — I’m a couple of full decades younger than that.) But I absolutely do remember this show’s reruns from when I was a baby … maybe around 1976, if I had to guess? I would have been about four years old. (I was five when my family moved out of that house in Queens, New York, to rural Long Island.)
I know that people who claim early childhood memories are often viewed with skepticism — I get it. (And I think many of us are more prone to confabulation than we’d like to admit.) But I’ve actually got a few memories from when I was a toddler — and this is one of them.
I can remember my Dad putting “The Lone Ranger” on in the tiny … den or living room or whatever, to the left of our house’s front door and hallway. You see the part in the intro below where the horse rears up at the .31 mark — and again at the 1:53 mark? That was a verrrrrry big deal to me as a tot.
Go ahead, tell me I’m nuts. I can take it. You and I live in an age in which conspiracy theories have gone completely mainstream. If I share something online that seems implausible to others, I figure I’m in a lot of company.
Anyway, I pretty much forgot about The Lone Ranger after that. There was a 1981 television movie, “The Legend of the Lone Ranger,” that was remarkably well done — especially for a TV movie at the time. I remember being pretty impressed with that — its plot-driving scene where the good guys get fatally ambushed was unexpectedly dour.
But I never bothered with the infamous 2013 film. I occasionally enjoy movies that everybody else hates — something that earns me a lot of ribbing on Facebook — so maybe I should give it a shot. Hell, the trailer makes it look decent. And HBO’s “Westworld” has really whetted my appetite for westerns … which is weird, because “Westworld” is decidedly NOT a western — that’s sort of the point of its central plot device. But still.
“Killer Klowns From Outer Space” (1988) is generally a bad movie. It has the depth and execution of a mediocre high school play; its acting and screenwriting are almost uniformly poor. (The sole exception here is the wonderful character actor John Vernon, who is always fun to watch.) I’m not even sure it tries to be a good movie. But that’s probably okay with both the filmmakers and its target audience — as you can tell from its title alone, this is deliberate schlock.
And … it’s arguably pretty good schlock, despite its failings — depending on your tastes in bad movies. I don’t think I’d recommend this movie to others, but I suppose I’d rate it a 6 out of 10, based on my own enjoyment. In addition to its generous helping of 80’s cheese, “Killer Klowns From Outer Space” manages to do several things quite beautifully — namely its low budget creature effects, costuming and set design.
For a film so clumsily unimpressive, you’ve got to admit that a hell of a lot of creativity went into its titular monsters and their spaceship. (They are not human clowns, the movie informs us, but alien monsters in the shape of clowns — and we don’t get any more exposition than that.) The garish, creepy art designs are actually really damned good, and it’s easy to see why this film developed a cult following among fans of offbeat horror. It’s also easy to imagine that coulrophobics (people with a phobia for clowns) might find this movie genuinely unsettling.
Here’s the good news — if you aren’t sure you’d want to spend money on this movie, you can currently watch it for free (and legally) right over at Youtube. Here’s the link.
Postscript: I thought that Grant Cramer, who played one of the movie’s protagonists, looked incredibly familiar. Yet I was surprised when I learned I hadn’t seen anything else in his filmography. Here’s who I may have been seeing — he is the son of none other than legendary starlet Terry Moore. Classic movie fans might remember her from any number of films from Hollywood’s Golden Age. But if you’re a monster movie fan like me, then you remember her as the young heroine of 1949’s original “Mighty Joe Young.”
If you were a little kid on Long Island in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, then you remember Channel 9’s annual Thanksgiving monster movie marathon. Dear God, did I love watching it with my Dad. It was an EVENT. I loved it far more than any Thanksgiving turkey — if they played monster movies all day, I think I’d cheerfully just enjoy Cocoa Puffs nonstop in front of the color TV in the family’s living room.
The Holy Trinity of monster movies, of course, consisted of “King Kong” (1933), “Son of Kong” (1933) and “Mighty Joe Young” (1949). It’s a testament to these films’ staying power that they could still appeal to both children and adults roughly a half century after they were made. Retrospect suggests it was probably a nice little father-son bonding exercise … my Dad was watching me thrill to the same monster action he enjoyed as a boy. Special effects legend Ray Harryhausen truly blessed my childhood.
The DVD Drive-In website has a neat little nostalgic rundown right here: