Tag Archives: 1951

Throwback Thursday: “Day of the Triffids” (1962)!

I remember getting excited about seeing “Day of the Triffids” (1962) for the first time.  It was the early 2000’s, and the advent of DVD-by-mail services enabled me to hunt down all the various apocalyptic sci-fi movies I’d heard about as a kid — including a few that I’d only seen portions of, because I’d tuned in late.  (The local video stores I’d grown up with had some of these films, but not all — and my interest in the sub-genre was truly exhaustive.)

“Day of the Triffids” was mildly disappointing.  It was positively lethargic for an end-of-the-world monster tale, even if those monsters were slow-moving plants.  (It’s a good bet that John Wyndham’s 1951 source novel did a better job with the story concept.)

I ordered this DVD through Blockbuster Video.  Here’s a little movie industry trivia for you — Blockbuster briefly had a DVD-by-mail offer that was better than the one pioneered by Netflix.  (You actually got more movies out of it, and you got them quicker.)  But this was around the end of the prior decade; Netflix had already won the war for the home movie market, while Blockbuster was suffering its first location-closing death rattles.  And the DVD-by-mail business model was itself becoming largely obsolete, anyway — the twin threats of Redbox kiosks and online movies saw to that.

 

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Throwback Thursday: “Mystery Science Theater 3000” at Mary Washington College!

As I’ve shared here at the blog before, “Mystery Science Theater 3000” was a pretty big part of my college experience.  MST3K parties were indescribably fun.  I honestly believe that I have literally never laughed so hard in my life.

I’ve previously linked to the priceless episode where Joel and the ‘Bots skewer Joe Don Baker and 1975’s “Mitchell.”  Below are three more that were the unofficial required viewing for the second floor of Mary Washington College’s New Hall during the 1993-1994 school year.

What was maddening about MST3K was how difficult it was to explain to the uninitiated.  (Bear in mind, this was before the days of Youtube, with which you could just send your friends a clip.)  It was an amazing TV show, but my efforts to explain it to friends made it sound preposterously stupid: There are these three comedians that make fun of old movies — really bad ones — as the movies are playing.  Two of the comedians are portrayed by robot puppets …  There’s an ongoing skit in which they’re stuck in space.  The special effects are really terrible — but that’s okay, because it’s kinda part of the joke …

The first episode below is 1966’s “Manos: the Hands of Fate,” which I understand to be the most popular among fans.  (Even aside from MST3K’s satirical riffing, I’ve read that this is widely regarded as the worst movie of all time — a distinction I’m not sure it truly deserves.)

The second is the episode devoted to 1944’s befuddling and blithely moralizing “I Accuse My Parents.”  (I and the other guys on my floor might have actually liked this one even more than “Manos.”)

The third is my personal favorite — the entry for 1951’s saccharine, preachy “The Painted Hills.”  In a strange coincidence, I think it’s actually the first one I ever saw.  And it’s also one that I’ve never heard named as a favorite by another MST3K fan.  Seeing the Joel and the ‘Bots make fun of a poor defenseless dog (played by the same dog who played Lassie, no less!) was just too irreverently brilliant.  SNAUSAGES!  (And does anyone else think that this was a morbidly strange film when it was first conceived?  It was marketed as a family-oriented “Lassie” movie, but it contains just a bit more murder and bizarre horror than you’d expect from that.)

*****

“Manos: the Hands of Fate.”

 

“I Accuse My Parents.”

 

“The Painted Hills.”

“If An A-Bomb Falls,” United States Government, 1951

This was an illustration from a government-issue comic book, tasked ambitiously with educating the public about how best to survive a nuclear attack.  I believe that the name of the artist here is probably lost to history, though I saw one Internet commentator speculate that it looked like Jack Sparling’s work.

You can find the entire comic at Ethan Persoff’s excellent website here.

 

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My take on the ambiguous ending for John Carpenter’s “The Thing.” (Major spoilers.)

John Carpenter’s 1982 tour-de-force, “The Thing,” is arguably the best horror movie of the decade.  It paid little attention to the movie it ostensibly remakes, the standard, boilerplate, flying-saucer Saturday-matinee of “The Thing From Another World” (1951). It presumably paid greater attention to its real and far darker source material, “Who Goes There?,” John W. Campbell Jr.’s 1938 horror-sci-fi novella.

One of the things the movie’s fans still debate heatedly is its bleak ending — I think it goes beyond ambiguous to downright mysterious.  Viewers actually are given no certainty whatsoever about who or what are actually pictured onscreen in the film’s Antarctic setting, after a fiery climax for this gory, special-effects-heavy actioner.  (Only people who have seen the film know what I am talking about.)

My own interpretation is a little less popular than the others you hear about.  To conceal spoilers, I’m sharing it after the poster image below.  [IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE MOVIE, STOP READING NOW!]

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Continue reading My take on the ambiguous ending for John Carpenter’s “The Thing.” (Major spoilers.)

Oh! Just one more Thing tonight!!

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You’re glad I reminded you, aren’t you?

I told Pete Harrison the other night that I watched the 2011 prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 masterpiece, “The Thing.”

He simply responded, “Why?”

To me and undoubtedly many others, the 80’s classic will always be the paradigmatic horror – science fiction movie.  Because I admire a well made house as much as anyone, but AIN’T NO CARPENTER LIKE JOHN CARPENTER.  (Nobody repeat that, I want to copyright it and sell bumper stickers at horror conventions.)

Yes, the recent prequel inexplicably has the exact same title as the 1982 movie, and I have no frikkin’ idea why.  That just seems … deliberately stupid.  Nor is that the 2011 film’s only flaw … it’s universally maligned.

Does the 2011 outing really deserve all its bad press?  I say no.  Among other things, it delivered some fine goopity-gloppity monster goodness, delivered by an archetypal flying saucer, no less.  That’s something that I find refreshing in a horror movie marketplace that just seems inundated with demons and ghosts.  (I loved “Insidious,” but enough already.)

C’mon, Hollywood.  There are plenty of horror fans out there who grew up loving giant ants, Marine-baiting “Aliens,” werewolves, swarms of spiders troubling William Shatner, and the adversaries of Godzilla.  It’s why I gave a positive review to this year’s “Jurassic World,” despite a script of the same quality as that of “Gilligan’s Island.”  I want to see velociraptors chase a speeding truck.  I will ALWAYS want to see velociraptors chase a speeding truck.

And … I liked the 2011 movie’s protagonist!  Trying to mimic MacReady’s cunning anti-hero would have redundant!  This story featured a smart, young lady scientist who turned out to be tough under pressure.  That kinda worked for me.

I actually have seen 1951’s “The Thing From Another World,” but that was 30 years ago on VHS, with my “Movie Uncle,” John Muth.  I have NOT read “Who Goes There?,” John W. Campbell, Jr.’s 1938 novella upon which all of these films were based.  But I’m planning to.  (Last time I checked, it was floating around online somewhere.)

I’m just waiting for the first big blizzard to hit next winter.  Because ATMOSPHERE.