Two Joe Biden words:
Cowboys and Dinosaurs.
Before The Lad Strozek began a clueless attempt to understand the intricacies of girls (a condition that persists into the present) there were little plastic cowboys and big plastic prehistoric creatures. And these primary colored delights were the main characters in the Never Ending Replays of the Saturday Afternoon Matinee.
The Mother Load was the wonderfully cheesy genre-bending sci-fi cowboy epic THE VALLEY OF GWANGI which was played out ad infinitum on the abandoned ping-pong table in the basement rec room.
Prior to the advent of computer generated animation all the heavy lifting needed to make a Decent Monster Movie was done through a painstaking process known as stop motion animation.
The Undisputed Heavy Weight Champion of the Stop Motion Animation World at that time was Ray Harryhausen, a Brit about as far removed from Hollywierd as one could get. But the man was gifted when it came to filming fantastic creatures and so despite the fact he was comfortably hunkered down in London Town the B-grade movie world beat a path to his door.
Chronologically paralleling Harryhousen was the delightfully low budget British Hammer Studios. Hammer Productions made hay with a never-ending assortment of werewolf, zombie, vampire and what-have-you variations of the same flicks. The Sixties and Seventies were The Golden Age of Hammer’s “two takes and a wrap” low brow horror shows.
But for The Lad Strozek the Thing That Made Life Worth Living was the Monster Movie. GORGO rising from the deep off Ireland and plundering Piccadilly Circus like a Syrian dinosaur on Islamic Holiday or his Canadian Cousin THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS who, craving hot dogs with chili & onions, heads south and goes The Full Godzilla on Coney Island.
Oh, what wonderful stuff!
Back in Those Days you had One Shot at seeing the monster larger than life in the movie theater and if you missed it you were forced to wait many a long weekend for the The Resurrection (with commercials) on the Saturday Night Creature Feature shows.
Of course the Japanese had their own stable of monsters: Godzilla, Mothra, Gidhora, Rodan – the list is as long and rich as the menus from a Tokyo ramen shop crawl.
The English dubbing was of course terrible and that lent an extra quality of weirdness to the Asian Monster Genre.
Not to be outdone in the noodle department, even the Italians got into the act with a specialty genre of the downright weird by combining horror and absurdist riffs to make some, uh, connoisseur-focused “productions”.
But The Lad Strozek was more a basic spaghetti & meat sauce viewer so my Neapolitan Delight was 20 Million Miles to Earth in which the cute & cuddly Ymir from Venus quickly finds his inner Il Duce and after rampaging through Rome meets his demise in True Gladiator Fashion with a shoot-out at The Colosseum.
I shudda never agreed to let Ma Strozek throw those little plastic guys away…
(Originally published October 27, 2016)