Tag Archives: Throwback Thursday

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: “The Birds” (1963)!

“The Birds” (1963) was yet another film that I grew up with; it got plenty of air time in the 1980’s, and it was such a gem that my Uncle John had it in is movie library too.

As far as I am aware … this is the only time Alfred Hitchcock delved into science fiction -horror.  (Somebody please correct me on that if I am wrong.)  I only learned just now that it was based on a 1952 novel by Daphne du Maurier.  (I thought the name sounded familiar upon reading it, and also learned that she wrote the eponymous source material for Hitchcock’s “Rebecca” in 1940.)

The trailer below is kind of interesting — it features Hitchcock himself hamming it up, with almost no footage from the film.  I don’t think it would make it past a modern marketing department — it’s more than five minutes long, and it takes a bit too much time getting to its point.

 

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Throwback Thursday: “C.H.U.D.” (1984)!

Happy Halloween!  “C.H.U.D.” (1984) was another science fiction-horror movie that I and the kids on my street really enjoyed back in the day — it was a bit of a legend in my peer group, and it actually scared me a little.  The monsters were a lot of fun.  They were gross and ferocious, and they popped snarling out of the shadows of the New York City sewer system, and that’s the sort of thing that holds a middle school boy’s attention.

The movie boasts a young John Heard and Daniel Stern among its leads, and none other than a pre-fame John Goodman in a minor role as a cop.  (It was only his fourth film role.)

I’d love to hunt this flick down and revisit it.  I have no idea how well it’s held up since the 80’s, but I can’t say I’m hopeful — its audience score over at Rotten Tomatoes is just 32%.

Ah well.

 

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Throwback Thursday: “Willard” (1971) and “Ben” (1972)!

“Willard” (1971) and its sequel, “Ben” (1972), were another pair of 1970’s movies that got plenty of airtime on 1980’s television.  I read both books when I was a kid too.

First I picked up Stephen Gilbert’s Ratman’s Notebooks at a yard sale, because that’s how you found cool horror books during summer vacations when you were too young to drive.  (Sometimes adults had few compunctions about what they sold to minors too.  I bought a vampire book in gradeschool that was full of nude photos, for some reason, and that led to what I’m sure was an interesting conversation between my parents and the neighbor-proprietor down the street.)

Anyway, I absolutely loved Ratman’s Notebooks (despite its lamentable absence of nude photos) and I finished it in a day or two.  The novelization of the “Ben” film by Gilbert A. Ralston was somewhat less impressive, but I still enjoyed it.

If you’re a comics fan, like I am, then it might occur you that “Willard” and his army of trained rats seem to inspire a villain in Batman’s rogue’s gallery — Ratcatcher.  Ratcatcher has been a minor league villain since he debuted in DC Comics in 1988, but he’s a pretty neat bad guy when placed in the hands of the right writer.

I feel certain that anyone will recognize Ernest Borgnine in the first trailer below– his  face and voice are impossible to confuse with those of another man.  If the disaffected, spooky, eponymous Willard looks familiar to you, that’s none other than a young Bruce Davison.  He’s a good actor who’s been in a lot of films, but I think a plurality of my friends will know him as Senator Kelly from the first two “X-Men” movies (2000, 2003).

You’ll note the presence of flamethrowers in the trailer for “Ben.”  Flamethrowers were a staple of 70’s and 80’s horror films; it was just part of  the zeitgeist.  They were handy for heroes fighting any nigh-unstoppable nonhuman baddie — think of “The Swarm” (1978), “The Thing” (1982), “C.H.U.D.” (1984), “Aliens” (1986), and “The Blob” (1988), for example.  Hell, 1980’s “The Exterminator” featured a vigilante using a flamethrower to kill criminals.   It was a weird time.

 

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Throwback Thursday: “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” (1978)!

“Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” was a spoof of sci-fi/horror films that hit theaters in 1978, and broadcast television shortly after that.   (The first video below is the film’s trailer; the second is its campy theme song.)  I think I was a second grader when I saw the movie on TV, and I positively loved it.  I still remember rolling around on the living room floor in peals of laughter.  I talked about it for weeks — and to anybody who would listen.  (If you think my social skills are lacking as an adult, you should have seen me in the second grade.)

I was surprised to learn recently that this film has a cult following.  I’ve hardly heard about it since the close of the 1970’s — and I’ve known a lot of flick nuts.

 

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Throwback Thursday: “The Swarm” (1978)!

I was surprised when I recently discovered that “The Swarm” (1978) was a feature film; I remembered it as a made-for-television movie from my childhood.  (After its theatrical release, it debuted on NBC with a hell of a lot of fanfare in February 1980.)  I was also surprised to read that it was both a critical and a commercial flop, and is often named as one of the worst films ever made.  I was in the second grade at the time, and — let me assure you — this was THE movie the kids in school talked about.  We were in awe of it.

The people behind “The Swarm” had high hopes for it in 1978.  The internet informs me that it was based on a best-seller by famed novelist Arthur Herzog. And it was helmed by director Irwin Allen, who gave us two classic 70’s film adaptations of disaster novels — “The Poseidon Adventure” in 1972, and “The Towering Inferno” in 1974.  (Those were a pretty big deal back in the day.)  And just look at the cast named in the trailer below.  It’s like a who’s who of 1970’s cinema.  Yet it all apparently just didn’t pan out … contrary to my memories of second grade, “The Swarm” went down in pop culture history as a train wreck.

Check out the bee-proof suits worn by the guys with the flamethrowers.  Talk about an excellent G.I. Joe toy that was never made.  (Of course we had “Blowtorch,” but he was 80’s rad, and these guys in white are 70’s kitsch.)

 

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Throwback Thursday: “Kingdom of the Spiders” (1977)!

“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.

 

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