The Hat Trick
I’m not usually one for sports analogies but this seemed like the perfect one to acknowledge the third anniversary of Retrorama on this wonderful website we call Nolan’s Pop Culture Review. As the site’s resident retro-ologist, I’ve spent the last year conducting guided tours of films, music, comics, television and generally all things nostalgic in between. The great thing about discussing classic culture is that no matter how deep you dig into it, there’s always more to unearth and I have a few archaic archeological expeditions planned for the next year.
Not a week goes by that someone doesn’t say something to me like “do you remember that movie where…..” or “what was the name of that film where the guy…..”. Over the past three years, since my second column in fact, I’ve covered a lot of rare fright flicks in the Forgotten Horrors section. This seemed like a perfect designation in the beginning but, as time has moved on, I’ve realized there are many obscure films not related to the horror, science fiction, or fantasy genres that deserve space in these electronic pages. Effective immediately, Forgotten Horrors is becoming Forgotten Films and I will be revisiting some cult movies in the near future that don’t feature rampaging monsters or alien invasions. Don’t worry though; there are still plenty of creepy classics to discuss both here and in the DVD reviews as these films find their way back into the hands of fans through modern formats.
I grew up in the prehistoric age before home video, Internet downloads, and movies on demand. After a film played at my local cinema, it was usually at least a year before it turned up on television in an often heavily edited form. Network broadcasts were reserved almost exclusively for A-list movies. Their lower budget relations were usually jettisoned to late night screenings, if they turned up on TV at all. Before the days of instant information access on anything imaginable, film fans like me had very few outlets to keep on top of what was coming soon or now playing in theaters.
The largest resource we had was the daily newspaper. Not only were there almost always ads inside for movies and television programs but it was also very economical since the paper could usually be had for free once mom and dad had finished with it. I was one of those kids who scoured the movie listings, especially in newspapers from larger cities like Orlando and Jacksonville, looking for any sign of lurid titles and artwork to fuel my fertile imagination. This was at a time when a great deal of thought went into print advertising, especially those ads trying to lure potential patrons into the theater and separate them from their hard earned dollars.
I learned at an early age that the anticipation of seeing a movie was often better than actually viewing it. I had a kid in my elementary school class who today we would refer to as a pathological liar. He claimed to have seen just about any and every movie you could imagine. Not realizing he was completely fabricating the plots, my friends and I would sit spellbound while he told us about some creepy new horror movie we had all seen the preview for on television or the advertisement for in the newspaper. Years later, when I was finally able to see some of these films on home video or cable television, I realized the stories he had concocted were usually far more entertaining than anything these films could actually produce on screen.
All of this is a long way of introducing a new segment of Retrorama that will be starting soon. The Lost Drive-In, named in honor of those outdoor theaters that went to the greatest lengths of pompous promotion to attract audiences, will feature vintage original newspaper ads for a psychotronic assortment of fractured films. These ads will be categorized by genres and we’ll discuss some of the strangest themes to ever fascinate the movie going public. You won’t want to miss these twisted trips down the back alley of advertising that is a lost art form today.
Nostalgia continues to provide Hollywood with the creative equivalent of a bailout as they become increasingly more bereft of ideas to entertain potential theater patrons. Some of these big screen reincarnations, like the recent A-Team film, can be enjoyable fluff that are satisfied with giving fans another look at something they have previously appreciated without feeling the need to redefine the entire concept. Others, like the Will Ferrell abomination Land of the Lost, are cash-in garbage with a complete lack of understanding of their source material. There are more retrospectives on the horizon of classic television series that are headed to a theater near you.
Not enough? Wondering what other forms of memory magic might be coming in the next year? Well for this next trick, I am going to need some volunteers from the audience to assist me on stage. I was very pleased with the response The Top 10 Movies That Scared Us for Life got this past year and I think the PCR could use a few more articles that require reader input. I’m always fascinated to hear other people’s opinions on subjective subjects so keep your thinking caps handy in the days to come and get ready to share some sentiments with fellow fanboys.
In troubled times, nostalgia is a comfortable chair to relax in for a few hours after a hard day at work. I promise to do my best to spend the next twelve months reminding you of all the cool stuff you forgot about when you got busy paying bills, cultivating a career, and generally trying to be a productive citizen. Check back in these pages each week for a dated dose of the television shows you used to look forward to or films you wanted to see at your local theater but couldn’t. You’ll also catch a glimpse at some obscure comic characters you may have never heard of or even some toys you loved as a kid. Just don’t be too passive a reader as you could be called on to address the class at any time. As an old instructor of mine used to say about algebra, nostalgia is not a spectator sport! See you next week!