Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation.
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation.
John Peterson’s The Secret Hide-out was absolutely one of my favorite books growing up — and with good reason. As I’ve noted on this blog before, I and the other boys on my street placed paramount, enduring importance on whatever iteration of our “club” that we had going — whether we had a viking club, an explorer club, a “ninja clan,” or whatever. (Did other groups of boys act like this? I honestly wonder. The human instinct for affiliation ran pretty strong at an early age for me and my neighbors.)
Anyway, this book was a goldmine for a second grader with our particular brand of preadolescent tribalism. It was about a trio of boys who find a mysterious “club handbook” behind a stone at two of their number’s grandmother’s house. The handbook outlines club minutes, membership tests, and the location of the titular secret hideout — along with instructions on how to craft the masks, spears and shields — and with whistles made out of paper. (I swear to you that those whistles were easy to make and that they really worked quite well.)
Anyway, The Secret Hide-out was a 1960’s book that my brother would have brought home from school in the 1970’s — probably from one of those Scholastic Books fairs. It wound up in my hands by 1980 or so. I am by no means the only person who remembers this book; it was a favorite for a lot of people. There’s even a Facebook page dedicated to it.
There’s even a sequel, as it turns out — Peterson wrote Enemies of the Secret Hide-out a year later. This time out, the Amazon description informs me, there is a rival club of boys who try to appropriate the clubhouse. (I know from boyhood experience that such conflicts were entirely common.) I might have to hunt that one down someday ona lark.
“Kingdom of the Spiders” (1977) was yet another 70’s bug-apocalypse flick that aired from time to time on 1980’s television. As I recall, this one was kinda good … or at least it was scary enough to impress me as a grade-school kid. The movie wisely made use of a truly frightening adversary (and used live tarantulas for filming). And it had the kind of jarring, open-ended final scene that I hadn’t seen before for a sci-fi/horror film.
The only thing that detracted from its creep-factor was the presence of William Shatner as the lead. It wasn’t that Shatner did a poor job with the role — it was just that he was indelibly linked in my young mind to his iconic role in the original “Star Trek” (1966-1969). I simply couldn’t get past the idea that Captain Kirk was an ordinary veterinarian; it took me out of the movie. I’m willing to bet that Shatner was helming the cop drama “T.J. Hooker” (1982-1986) at around the time that I saw “Kingdom of the Spiders,” but that was a show I didn’t watch.
Anyway, if you want to catch the flick in its entirety, you can find the whole thing over at Youtube right here.
Oil on canvas.
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.”
I found these videos on Youtube. They were taken between 1965 and 1967 in the neighborhood of Woodhaven in Queens, NY — where my family lived when I was a baby. I wasn’t around in the 1960’s, but this is how the community looked around the time my siblings were born.
No, I wasn’t around in 1965, but I absolutely remember this song from when I was a tot in the late 1970’s. My parents played it quite a bit; they had a few Frank Sinatra albums among their stacks of 8-track tapes in the living room entertainment center. I wasn’t supposed to touch them, but I did. (Hey, they were right at the bottom level, where I could fiddle with them. And, as a kid, would read anything — even album titles.)
Anyway, this Internet thingamajig tells me that the song was written in 1961 by Ervine Drake for the Kingston Trio. Sinatra won a Grammy in 1966 for his rendition of it, as did Gordon Jenkins for his accompanying instrumental work.