Tag Archives: Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday: the trailer for the original “Westworld” (1973)!

Today’s Throwback Thursday is something that I don’t actually remember — the trailer for 1973’s “Westworld” was a bit before my time.  But this was too good not to share.  (I’ve been on a weird “Westworld” kick lately — probably because I recently happened across this quite promising trailer for the brilliant HBO remake’s third season.) 

It’s funny seeing the same plot setup and motifs for the campy-looking original film (which was, surprisingly, written and directed by Michael Crichton).  I must say that Yul Brynner looks like he made a pretty decent bad guy, though.


Throwback Thursday: Masks from The Johnson Smith Company Catalog!

I found the picture below floating around Facebook — it’s part of the selection of masks advertised in The Johnson Smith Company Catalog, probably sometime in the late 1970’s.  (As I’ve mentioned a few times here at the blog, I cherished that catalog and anything I could afford to buy from it when I was a kid.)

If memory serves … these were more expensive by the time I got my hands on the catalog in the early 1980’s.  Maybe the prices went up by then?  (I thought the masks sold for $20 or $25.  I desperately wanted several of them, but my spending range capped at maybe $10 when I was a second or third grader.)

It was the monster masks that excited me.  (Characters like the “Dirty Old Man” or the presidents had their genesis in some kind of weird grownup humor that befuddled me as a kid.)  That “Skull” mask was one that I desperately wished for.  (I also remember some sort of screaming skull face with sharp teeth that I wanted even more badly.  It had a protruding mouth and a black cloth over its head, maybe?)  The “Werewolf ” also would have attracted my attention.

If you look closely, you can see that some of these masks aren’t all that impressive.  The “Alien” is probably a little less menacing than its designer intended, and “Santa Claus” feels problematic.  “Frankenstein” is just sad; he looks like Michael Myers fathered a child with Smurfette.  Oh, well.



Throwback Thursday: “Gargoyles” (1972)!

“Gargoyles” (1972) was a fairly corny made-for-television creature feature that’s still remembered fondly by a lot of older horror fans.  Despite its predictably campy nature, this weak-premised ABC Movie-of-the-Week just … inexplicably worked.  There are still people today who comment about how badly this scared them when they were kids.  It didn’t exactly terrify me when I saw it rebroadcast in the 1980’s, but I definitely found it pretty thrilling when I was in the second grade or so.

I think that there are a few elements of this apocalyptic monster flick that combined to make it effective — at least for impressionable youngsters.  The first was its garish costuming by Thomas S. Dawson; the film’s eponymous monsters looked kitsch, but nonetheless creepy.  The second was the movie’s sound editing — the bad guys’ grunts and electronically distorted voices could get under your skin.  The third was film’s dark, desert setting, and the fourth was director Bill L. Norton’s choice to film the attack sequences in trippy, 70’s-tastic slow motion.

Don’t get me wrong — I don’t think that “Gargoyles” is frightening by today’s standards.  But back in the day, it was unusually good for a made-for-TV horror film.  (You can find the entire movie for free on Youtube if you want to see for yourself.)

Postscript — that is indeed a young Scott Glenn in the trailer as one of the movie’s heroes.


Throwback Thursday: Invasion(s) of the Body Snatchers!!!

Below are the trailers for all four major film iterations of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”  Though these movies enjoy varying degrees of fame, they all remain close to my heart.  There is just something about Jack Finney’s original paranoia-inducing story idea that’s timeless and frightening.  (Finney’s 1955 novel served as the basis for the first film, directed by Don Siegel, a year later.)  And I always thought that the identity-stealing, alien body snatchers were an elegant monster concept too, because they can be rendered effectively on film with little or no special effects.

The first trailer is for the original 1956 classic, which still holds up surprisingly well.  (If you haven’t seen it, then you might discover that it’s got more urgency and less camp than you’d expect from a typical 1950’s alien invasion flick.)  The second trailer is for the genuinely frightening 1978 remake, which is, quite simply, one of the top science-fiction/horror films of all time.

I was introduced to both of these movies by my “movie uncle,” Uncle John.  I remember thinking the original was far better than I’d expected for an “old black-and-white.”  (I’d had a an adolescent’s predictable skepticism about old movies.)  And the dour 1978 masterpiece got under my skin and stayed there forever.

The 1993 installment, simply titled “Body Snatchers,” is probably the least well known —  I’ve never heard it mentioned outside of horror fan circles.  I myself had never heard of it until I stumbled across it in a video store more than a decade following its release.  It had a very limited theatrical release, and it sometimes feels like the most generic of the “Body Snatchers” movies — like maybe a made-for-television movie or an especially good entry for the first revival of “The Twilight Zone” (1985-1989).

I love it.  You could tell it was a labor of love for its screenwriters and its director, Abel Ferrara … it was obvious that they truly “got” Finney’s concept, and that they set out to deliver just what genre fans wanted.  This “Body Snatchers” was freaky, fast-paced and unsettling, and I still feel it deserves a broader following.

The fourth trailer is for the most maligned and recent adaptation of Finney’s novel, 2007’s “The Invasion.”  (My god, was this really made 13 years ago?  Tempus fugit.)  People really dislike this movie, despite a cast led by Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig.  It was generally panned by both critics and audiences, and I sorta understand why.  It’s got its share of flaws — most notably a hasty happy ending that feels tacked on by the studio.  I don’t quite love it, but I really like it quite a lot — it’s stylish and ambitious and has a lot of creepy moments.  And if you think Nicole Kidman is easy on the eyes, as I do, you’ll see that she looks like a million bucks here.

If you really enjoy these films and are hungry for more, there are two other alien invasion movies that seem to channel the same muse as Finney’s.  The first is 1994’s “The Puppet Masters” by Stuart Orme.  (It should not be confused with its soundalike contemporary, the “Puppet Master” (singular) horror franchise, which depicts demonic dolls.)  “The Puppet Masters” is campy, but still very cool, and it adapts the eponymous 1951 novel by Robert A. Heinlein.

The second recommendation I’d offer is 1998’s “The Faculty.” It’s an even campier horror-comedy aimed more at mainstream audiences, but it’s still a lot if fun.


Throwback Thursday: January 1, 1980 magazine covers

I hope that you are all looking forward to a rockin’ New Year’s Eve.  It’s hard to believe that we are not only ringing in a new year, but also a new decade — “2020” still sounds like science fiction to me.

Where does the time go?  Somewhere irretrievable.

Anyway, here’s a couple of Pinterest finds for my fellow 1980’s nostalgia nerds.  (We’ve got a nice little subculture goin’ on Facebook.)  These are a few covers from January 1, 1980 (or in the case of the weekly TV Guide, the decade’s first full week).  Try to wrap your head around the fact that, in a few days, the decade will have begun a full forty years ago.

Oh … I couldn’t resist throwing in a couple of comic book covers dated January 1980, too.  I actually had that issue of “Battlestar Galactica.”  I still remember it sitting in a stack at the bottom of my closet, with one or two others — vastly outnumbered by “Sgt. Rock” and various “Archie” titles.


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Throwback Thursday: “Independence Day” (1996)!

“Independence Day” was THE move that everyone was talking about in the summer of 1996.  It was the year’s highest-grossing film and it dominated the box office for three weeks straight.  It was an event.  It was a lot like “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” (1991) or “Jurassic Park” (1993) before it — it was a sci-fi spectacle with special effects that were so groundbreaking at the time that it was a topic for conversation at parties.  Did you see it?  Did you see it?  (The internet wasn’t quite a thing yet in 1996 for the average person; not a single person I knew chatted about movies online.)

I think it’s held up really well after 23 years, and this movie still has a dedicated fanbase.  Even it special effects are still decent by modern standards.  Sure, it feels a little corny.  But the climactic aerial dogfight at the end still looks great and it really works for me.



Throwback Thursday: “War of the Worlds” (2005)!

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog,  I will never stop loving Steven Spielberg’s 2005 take on H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds.”  It was a damned decent science fiction epic, the special effects were fabulous, and it’s actually pretty scary upon its first viewing.  The movie successfully channeled post-9/11 anxieties without exploiting them, and Spielberg characteristically humanized the story’s apocalypse by framing it through the eyes of a realistic, relatable modern family.  (The terror of the genocidal monsters is a little ironic, too … when I was a kid, Spielberg was known for the wondrous aliens of 1977’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and 1982’s “E.T. — The Extra Terrestrial.”)

Say what you want about Tom Cruise … I think he’s a decent actor, and he’s led some really terrific science fiction films.  Dakota Fanning was fantastic child actor here, and Tim Robbins was predictably brilliant (even if his story arc, in my opinion, was largely unnecessary and too depressing).

This was a great flick.