Throwback Thursday: WOR-TV Channel 9’s “Million Dollar Movie” intro!

This will probably be a pretty obscure Throwback Thursday post, but the segment below should be recognized by people who grew up in the New York metropolitan area in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.  It’s none other than the intro for WOR-TV Channel 9’s “Million Dollar Movie.”  (That music you hear is a particularly brassy rendition of Max Steiner’s “Tara’s Theme” from 1939’s “Gone With the Wind.”)

If you were in the New York area at that time, it ought to bring back memories of the old days of broadcast television.  (It’s actually surprising how much nostalgia people online report at seeing this 44-second clip.  And it’s amazing what you can find on the Internet.)  A few commenters note sardonically that the clip makes Manhattan look like a nighttime paradise — while The Big Apple in the 1970’s was not always an easy place to be.  (The city if far cleaner and safer today.)

Some of the comments I read were befuddling.  There is one blogger who wrote that he remembers this intro from as far back as the 1950’s.  (Had they really used it for more than two decades?)  And a populous minority of commenters remember being unsettled by the clip.  (They describe it as ominous, and the music as creepy, which mystifies the rest of us who remember “Million Dollar Movie.”)

This intro had an indelible effect on me.  While it recalls monster movies like “King Kong” (1939) and “Godzilla” (1954) for a lot of others, it will always remind me of my father watching war films and cowboy movies on his days off — along with the occasional Charles Bronson flick.   “The Great Escape” (1963), “A Bridge Too Far” (1977) and “Shane” (1953) all spring to mind.

When I was in the first or second grade, I habitually enhanced my Dad’s enjoyment of the “Million Dollar Movie” by peppering him endlessly with questions about whatever was playing — even if I had only wandered into the room for a few minutes.  “Why did they call it ‘a bridge too far?'” “Why did they fight World War II?” “The British and French were good guys in the war, right?” “Why did the cowboy drop his gun on purpose?”  “Why did the guy fake his death?”  (Bear in mind, folks, this was broadcast television — long before the days of Netflix and DVD’s.)

If any kid did that to me when I was watching my favorite movies, I’d go nuts — even if I had a pause button.  My father was a saint.

 

Amateur footage of New York City, 1976

I’m linking here to the stuart bailey media Youtube channel — this is footage of Manhattan over 40 years ago, shot by some unknown tourist with a Super 8 camera.  Most of the buildings look the same.  The clothes, haircuts and cars look very, very different.

Check out the frame you can see below.  That is indeed the original “Rocky” playing at a Loews Theater — alongside the year’s truly awful “King Kong” remake that I’ve mentioned previously here at the blog.

 

Throwback Thursday: the WOR-9 Thanksgiving Monster Movie Marathon!!!

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:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTuHnzGSNOs

 

 

 

Throwback Thursday: H.G. Toys’ 1976 “King Kong” jigsaw puzzle

I can’t believe I actually remember this — the 1976 “King Kong” jigsaw puzzle produced by H.G. Toys.  I received it during a backyard birthday party on a hot summer day … either that year or 1977?  I guess that would have made me four or five years old.

I mostly remember the box occupying the disastrous floor of the bedroom closet that I shared with my older brother.  I’m pretty sure the pieces fell out; I never assembled it.  The target demographic for this 150-piece puzzle was well beyond my age group.  That didn’t bother me.  I had no interest in jigsaw puzzles — as a tot, I just liked examining the illustration on the box.

That is indeed a version of King Kong straddling the World Trade Center.  It depicts a movie poster from the truly forgettable, 70’s-awful version of the classic monster story — the one starring Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange.  The 1933 original, so beloved by my father and me, was far better than this version.  It even had better special effects.  (Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion photography is still fun to watch; this stinker gave us a man in a gorilla suit.)

That illustration is still pretty cool, though, even if the fate of that bomber clutched in Kong’s hand is somewhat confusing.  (Is is just disintegrating?  Was it made of Legos?)

I never saw this “King Kong” in the theater.  My family didn’t do that much.  But I remember being excited to see the movie on broadcast television a few years later.

As I’ve noted before on this blog, jigsaw puzzles for kids were kind of a thing in the 1970’s and maybe early 1980’s.  (I have since never seen or heard of a child older than a tot playing with one.) Some of the 70’s puzzles, just before my time, were bizarrely sold in cardboard cans.  (I remember seeing those among my older brother’s possessions.)

 

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