Time for my morning calisthenics
Yesterday afternoon the Scoobies gathered for the First Ever 1955 Boomer Birthday Dash Science Fiction and Horror Movie Extravaganza. As some of our members were born in ‘55, and everyone will celebrate another spin around the sun this year, we showed four movies, all released in 1955.
We cranked things up with one of my all-time favorites of the Big Bug species, Tarantula, it crawled onto our screens on 12/14/55. Evenly divided between those of us who’ve seen it and those who hadn’t, this is a well-done (pun intended, as Big T gets crispy-fried at the end). I’m not even doing a spoiler alert, as you pretty much know how these things wrap up.
Played straight, and well-acted, we have the great Leo G. Carroll as Prof. Deemer, living and working 20 miles out in the desert in a really cool house. Not really a mad scientist (maybe irritated, but not mad), he’s working in the feld of nutrient biology, trying to grow bigger critters for a hungry world — big rat, big guinea pig, and, of course, the star of the show, a big tarantula. Bad stuff happens, Big T gets loose, starts eating cows and people, and grows to ginormous proportions, until Clint Eastwood and his jet squadron come flying in with a batch of napalm.
Next up we switched gears to good ol’ Edward D. Wood, Jr., and Bride of the Monster, hitting the big screen in Hollyweed, 5/11/55. Bride and Tarantula both had atomic themes to them, in keeping with the time period. That was when Our Friend the Atom would solve everything. The first title for Bride was Bride of the Atom, but it sounded as though the producer might not have been happy with that, as he wanted everything to get nuked at the end to show all of us how dangerous Our Friend the Atom was. Hey, c’mon, it was a drive-in movie. Stuff blowing up was what we loved watching.
Bride had Bela Lugosi in a lab with Tor Johnson trying to make a race of superhumans with “… the strength of 20 men”. Okay, sure, why not? Guess he had nothing better to do. ‘Course, most of them died, but hey… We also had lightning, shots of a real octopus, an alligator, a stolen prop octopus, lab equipment, and 1950’s-style torpedo bras. And lots of bad acting. Lots. It was, naturally, lots of fun.
Next up we got serious once again with the Quatermass Xperiment, released in the UK 9/28/55. They kept saying Quoitermass, and I’m not sure why that was, but they also misspelled Experiment, so, I don’t what all that was about. Nevertheless, I had always wanted to see this film, having heard that it had a high creep factor, and they weren’t kidding.
Prof. Quatermass (Brian Donlevy) sends three men up in a rocket, rocket crashes back on terra firma, only one guy is left. And something ain’t quite right with the guy that comes back. This was back pre-Twilight Zone and pre-Outer Limits. Heck, it was before any of us really went outta-this-world, so there was plenty of speculation as to what would happen up there. It’s an extremely well-done film, dead-serious, looks to have been shot mostly at night, which helped with the creep factor. I can highly recommend this one. This seems to have set the stage for other alien-themed sci-fi shows and movies to come, especially Alien, The Green Slime, The Blob, The Andromeda Strain, and several Zone and Limits episodes.
We wrapped up with a great little quirky Hitchcock film that many folks had seen, but I never had. The Trouble with Harry, filmed in Vermont and released in Barre, Vermont for its initial release, 9/27/55, shows to anyone what a wild sense of humor Hitch had. Based on the novel of the same name, it’s amazing how much trouble a dead guy, namely Harry, could cause.
Starring Edmund Gwenn as Capt. Albert Wiles (Kris Kringle from Miracle on 34th Street), he’s out hunting rabbits, sees good ol’ dead Harry sprawled out on this hill, and assumes he accidentally shot him when he was shootin’ at rabbits. As more time passes, and Capt. Wiles deliberates on what to do with Harry, other folks stop by, and, it seems, each has some sort of interest in Harry, one way or another. Over the course of the movie Harry gets buried/reburied numerous times, more people in the odd little Vermont community become involved, and Harry remains unmoved on the matters. The people in the little town are all wonderfully just slightly off-plumb. It’s the kind of town that, if you’re a little bit odd yourself, you’d like to move to.
Each movie we viewed was unique in its own way, each different, all fun. Seems ‘55 was a good year, at least for the crop that we harvested yesterday.
‘til next time… Adios.