Thursday, May 25, 2017

Star Wars Plus 40 Years



A Long Time Ago indeed!

Today marks forty (40!) years since "Star Wars" (also known as "Star Wars: Episode IV -- A New Hope", but it'll always be "Star Wars" to me) was released.  Forty years...  That might not be that much time in relation to how long ago the events in that Galaxy Far, Far Away took place, but to me it's a long time.  I was seven years old when "Star Wars" came out, and to be honest I had no real idea about it for some time afterward.  I remember going to see it well after the release date.  It was a small local theater (which is now a parking lot for a bank) and the line for tickets stretched out the door and around the block (obviously Star Wars mania had really sunk in!).  I also remember it being very cold outside.  It may not have been the winter of 1977-78, but was probably close (maybe November?).  For years (decades even) I thought I had seen "Star Wars" at our little town's drive-in during the summer of 1977.  But years later, while I was researching the topic for another blog entry, I realized that it never even played at our drive-in in 1977.  It turns out that I didn't see it there until it was re-released for the summer of 1978!  I remember sitting in the back of my dad's truck and playing with my little R2-D2 and C3PO action figures while watching the film.

Local drive-in's newspaper ad from July 1978

It's kind of hard to fathom in this era of mega-blockbusters constantly churning out of Hollywood (like the continuous flow of superhero films of the past decade or so), but there was a time when the idea of a summer blockbuster was a new idea.  When "Star Wars" came out it had only been two years since "Jaws" pretty much invented the idea of a summer blockbuster upon its release in 1975.  Nowadays we breathlessly await new teaser trailers and "leaked" information for months (even years it seems) before hotly anticipated movies are released.  But I don't think anyone really knew back in May of 1977 just what "Star Wars" would ultimately mean to the world.  It didn't take too long for it to catch fire, but in the beginning it really was kind of an unknown film by a relatively little-known director.  The film was pretty different for its time, and of course, for many years afterward we were treated to all kinds of movies that were either direct rip-offs of "Star Wars", or at least borrowed liberally from it or were obviously inspired by it.  I am extremely happy to have been a little kid at that time, and to have experienced everything that "Star Wars" was and everything that it would become right from the beginning.

Could anyone have guessed that forty years later we would be about six months away from the release of the eighth film in the nine-part series?  And that there would have been another film outside of the "official" line released in 2016 ("Rogue One") that bridged the time between the third and fourth parts ("Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith" and "Episode IV -- A New Hope")?  And how about the fact that Star Wars had become such a "force" in the world that it would end up being owned by Disney?  Probably not, but it didn't take the world (and this seven-year-old) too long to realize it had something special on its hands.

I didn't really know a ton about science-fiction at that time.  I liked it, but wouldn't say I was a real "fan" of it yet.  I had grown up (well, actually, I was STILL growing up) watching all kinds of monster/horror/science fiction films on a Saturday afternoon show broadcast from Boston's WLVI Channel 56 called Creature Double Feature.  Syndicated episodes of the original "Star Trek" series was also a staple of my childhood TV viewing.  I was certainly primed for what "Star Wars" would show me.  But I wasn't really anticipating it.  It just happened.  And I just happened to be the perfect age to soak it all in.  It certainly didn't hurt that "Star Wars" really redefined the idea of movie merchandising not long after its release.  By the time "The Empire Strikes Back" came out in 1980 I was a full-on Star Wars fan!  I had a number (but certainly not ALL) of the action figures and toys, and was a regular collector of all those different colored series of "Star Wars" trading cards.  Actually, I remember a shocking moment from my youth that was caused by those trading cards.  I was collecting the "Empire Strikes Back" cards before ever getting a chance ot see the film, and I didn't really know much about the story line at the time.  When I saw the card of Han Solo frozen in carbonite I was convinced that he was actually dead!  I couldn't believe it.  Strange that some 35+ years later we would have to deal with the death of Han Solo for real...  Oh well, I digress.  We're here to talk about what happened in 1977.

Empire Strikes Back card no.97

To be honest, I don't think I can really add a lot to what has already been written about the Star Wars universe in the past forty years (can you imagine just how much HAS been written--including scripts, film reviews, interviews, comic book adaptations, book adaptations, new series of books taking the characters to all sorts of new adventures, magazine articles, blog posts...  It boggles the mind!), but I really couldn't let this milestone pass without recognizing it.  I'm not really sure what the world at large thinks of this anniversary.  It doesn't seem to be as big of a deal as I was expecting it to be.  And I've been waiting for a few weeks for it too--ever since I mistakenly thought that May 4th (better known as Star Wars Day) was the date of the anniversary instead of today.  I was shocked and dismayed to not see ANY promotion of the fact that Star Wars was turning 40.  Once I realized my mistake (and written about it) I started preparing for today.  I was expecting to see a wonderful and imaginative Google doodle, but was disappointed to see this instead:



Now, I'm certainly not saying that there isn't ANYTHING out there about the 40th anniversary.  Obviously old people like me want to remember the world of 1977 and their introduction to "Star Wars", and many websites and companies want to take advantage of the opportunity to commemorate the event.  Of course StarWars.com had a ton of coverage, and I'm sure all the fan forums and blogs have been busy with anniversary stuff.  But it just doesn't feel like as big of a celebration as I had expected.  Maybe, just maybe (not to start a conspiracy theory or anything), could Disney itself actually want to downplay the fact that its prized franchise has hit middle age so as to not allow it to seem "old" or "dated" in some way?  Star Wars will always appeal to young people (I would imagine) and there's no reason to make kids of today aware of the fact that their parents (maybe even grandparents) were going to see the original "Star Wars" FORTY YEARS AGO!  Okay, I'm sure that has nothing to do with anything, but it's an interesting idea.  I can't deny the fact that saying "Star Wars" premiered forty years ago not only makes me feel nostalgic, but it also makes me feel a bit old.

From starwars.com

Either way, it DID indeed happen forty years ago.  A lot has changed in the world over that time, and Star Wars has managed to remain a vital and relevant part of pop culture.  Despite the fact that there was a long dry spell in the Star Wars film universe between the release of "Return of the Jedi" and "The Phantom Menace" (1983-1999) and then another long wait between "Revenge of the Sith" and "The Force Awakens" (2005-2015), Star Wars has managed to stay in the public's eye all these years.   Once "The Last Jedi" is released in December there will have been eight films released over these forty years.  I know they haven't been released on a regular schedule, but still, that's an average of one movie every five years!  And that's not even including "Rogue One"!  Not a bad output at all.  Of course I'm only talking about the official movies from the nine-part saga that George Lucas supposedly envisioned from the beginning.  That leaves out not only "Rogue One", but also myriad other stuff in the media like the re-releases, special editions of the films, multiple home video releases (first on VHS, then DVD, Blu-ray and digital formats), all the novels and other books, the comics and graphic novels, waves upon waves of toys and other official merchandise, animated series like "Droids" and "The Clone Wars", and even..."The Star Wars Holiday Special"!  It would seem that Star Wars has been with us constantly in one form or another for the past forty years.  And it all started with that one little unknown space movie that was released on May 25, 1977.


Let's finish up with a few relevant images related to this auspicious day...


Here's a story from today at io9.gizmodo.com



Here's one of the MANY articles at starwars.com today

My old Stormtrooper from when I was a kid...

...Which accompanied me to "Rogue One" last December

Facebook reminded me today that I posted this on this day back in 2011




 The above image was taken at Star Wars Day at the Higgins Armory in Worcester, MA on May 25, 2011.  We were able to meet and greet a bunch of Star Wars characters there.  Here's the post I wrote back then about that special day:



MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU


Thursday, May 4, 2017

May the 4th be With You (2017)


Image from StarWars.com


May the 4th be With You!

Or... May the Fourth be With You! (your choice)


So, why have I decided to write a post on May 4th?  Well, obviously it's Star Wars Day!  But beyond that there's another reason for the ever more reclusive Monster Dad to crawl out of the abyss to write something new.  Despite being what I think would be considered by most to be a pretty dedicated Star Wars fan, I have to admit to a little bit of a lapse on my part.  "Star Wars" (or what I suppose should be termed "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope"--even though it will always be "Star Wars" to me) was released back in May of 1977.  That means that this month marks the 40th (FORTIETH!) anniversary of the Star Wars universe!  That's a pretty big milestone.  So, what was the lapse on my part that caused me to write this post?

Well, I had forgotten that "Star Wars Day", which occurs every May 4th, is a fan-generated holiday that has nothing to do with Star Wars (in an official sense).  It has become a big enough event that many official Star Wars entities (Lucasfilm, Disney...) have been more than happy to cash in on the phenomenon, but it really doesn't have anything to do with Star Wars in any real way beyond the fact that saying "May the 4th be with you" sounds a heck of a lot like saying "May the Force be with you".  But since Star Wars Day has become such a notable day and it happens to fall in May I had kinda-sorta started thinking that May 4th was the day that "A New Hope" was released in 1977.  No need to bombard me with comments about how stupid I am to think such an erroneous thing, or how can I consider myself a Star Wars fan with thinking like that.  I am here humbly admitting my mistake.  Yes, the original "Star Wars" was released on May 25th, 1977.

But...  Since I woke up this morning and put on my Star wars t-shirt thinking that today was the 40th anniversary, I was pretty dumbfounded by the lack of media overkill on the subject.  Last September Star Trek celebrated its 50th anniversary with much media coverage.  Obviously a fiftieth anniversary is a bigger deal than a fortieth anniversary.  But I'd also argue that, despite the J.J. Abrams-ization of Star Trek, Star Wars is a bit more of a media darling in general (especially with the new Disney ownership, the current annual release schedule of new Star Wars films, the build-up to this year's "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" and, well okay, the J.J. Abrams-ization of the franchise).  So I was shocked to discover that there really wasn't much being said about this big milestone.  Google is always a good sport about noting big anniversaries and events (and the searches that are bound to be big on those days) with special Google Doodles (some of which are even animated) and which will bring you directly to search results of whatever subject they're commemorating.  I've used examples of these Google Doodles in previous posts on subjects like the 46th anniversary of Star Trek and Amelia Earhart's 115th birthday.  I was very confused when I went to Google only to find the most generic Google homepage one could imagine:

Today's Google homepage


I was also stunned to go to the Yahoo! homepage after checking out of my email, only to find NO stories trending about Star Wars!  Luckily StarWars.com was able to set me straight on the subject.  I actually realized my mistake when I went to IMDb and found the correct release date, but StarWars.com was able to give me more information on the origins of Star Wars Day (May 4th).

IMDb had a special section for Star Wars Day


Today's banner at StarWars.com

StarWars.com's history of Star Wars Day


And when all was said (and written) and done, the day wasn't a total wash.  I WAS able to publish a new blog post--which is saying something these days.  And I was also able to snag a great Star Wars-related deal!  If there's one thing I like even better than Star Wars, it's getting a great deal.  And, if that deal is Star Wars-related in some way it's even better.  One of the few references I saw to Star Wars Day before realizing my mistake was an email from 80sTees.com about their one-day-only May The "One Fourth" Be With You sale.

Images from 80sTees.com's sale


I've been a fan of the retro offerings from 80sTees.com for some time now and get regular emails from them about current sales.  But I rarely purchase anything from them--both because the sale prices are usually still more than this cheapskate is willing to spend, and also because I rarely feel that I'm hip enough to be able to pull off actually wearing some of the great designs they offer.  But this "One-Fourth" sale wasn't one-fourth (25%) off of over 100 Star Wars products.  No, in this sale all the merchandise for sale was going for only one-fourth of the regular price (75% off!).  Add in the free shipping once you hit the $25.00 threshold and I simply couldn't resist.  I decided to celebrate Star Wars Day (and arm myself for the upcoming 40th anniversary of Star Wars) with two cool Star Wars t-shirts and a VERY cool-looking Boba Fett bomber jacket.  The list price on these items was $112.68, but I was able to get them all for just $28.16--and that put me over the free shipping threshold too.  Bonus!  Check out my loot:

A New Hope shirt
Rebel Alliance shirt


Boba Fett Bomber Jacket - Front
Boba Fett Bomber Jacket - Back



















Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Patterson-Gimlin Film Plus Forty-Nine Years


It was forty-nine years ago today (to paraphrase The Beatles).  Yes, as far as can be determined, forty-nine years ago Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin took a camera filled with undeveloped film inside and ended up with what to this very day is STILL the best visual evidence ever to support the existence of Bigfoot.  That is both a good and bad thing.  Nearly half a century has passed and we still have not managed to find conclusive evidence that Bigfoot does or doesn't exist.  It really says something for the footage that half a century later it's not only still the best evidence out there, but also that it has never been completely exposed as a fake.  Obviously people on both sides of the issue will argue that it IS real or that it IS a fake, but I've never seen or heard anything that I'd consider definitive either way.

Rather than go into a lot of depth on this matter, I will provide a link to the exhaustive Wikipedia entry on the film and leave it up to the reader to decide how far they want to go in further exploring this matter on their own.  I mostly wanted to commemorate the anniversary.  I think next year (the 50th anniversary!) will be a better time to write a typically long and dry Monster Dad missive about the subject.  For now let's just celebrate the 49th!


I actually have TWO reasons for writing today, but they're very much related.  Not only is today the anniversary of the Patterson film, but tomorrow I will embark on what is the absolutely COOLEST Bigfoot-related event I've had the pleasure to be part of.  Friday and Saturday (October 21 and 22, 2016) The Mahoning Drive-In in Lehighton, PA and Exhumed Films will be having what is being billed as simply "Bigfoot Weekend" (or as the Facebook page for the event is calling it, "Bigfoot Live in-Person")!  Now, I might have a teensy-weensy issue with the fact that they say "in-Person"--as we don't know fer-sur if Bigfoot is a person, animal or whatever--but that's quite the nit-pick.  Other than that, I can't really think of anything to complain about with this show!  Before divulging the details, lemme share a little background about the Mahoning itself.

In an age where drive-ins are rapidly becoming a thing of the past and a dying throwback to a bygone era, the relatively few that still survive have really become important to fans of the medium (such as myself).  It seems like a labor of love to continue operating in a world that sees the drive-in as a passe relic of the past.  But I think that the rarity of drive-ins means that the few that are still around are mainly owned by people with a particular passion for them.  The big digitalization scare of the past few years contributed to even more drive-ins closing their gates forever, but also ensured that the ones that were able to go digital at least had a chance to continue on into the future.  The Mahoning had a very unique (and awesome) response to the digital threat last year (2015).  They switched to an all-retro programming scheme that featured double- and triple-features (and even more in some cases) and great theme weekends based around old 35mm films.  I was only able to attend one of the shows last year, but it was a great one--a "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" double feature, plus great Spielberg and Lucas trailers and a bunch of Raiders merchandise on display in the snack bar!

This year's shows ramped up the awesome factor even further with the shows, but I wasn't able to get to any of them (the Mahoning's in Pennsylvania and I'm in Massachusetts, not a short jaunt by any means).  BUT, a good friend of mine in New Hampshire (who's a big movie and drive-in fan as well) has been making the trip from NH to PA more weekends than not over the past two seasons.  Not only has he been attending most of the shows, he's even become a drive-in employee while there--manning the ticket booth before shows and the snack bar during them!  My friend mentioned this particular late-season show (the drive-in will close for the season one week later after their big Halloween weekend event) and asked if I'd be able to make it.  Naturally this was a MUST and I made sure that it would most definitely happen--after checking in with The Wife of course.  I would have loved to be able to take The Little Monster along (who just happens to have recently asked to watch some Bigfoot movies after I showed her a Bigfoot episode of the 1970s paranormal investigation show "in Search of..."), but there's just no way that was going to be realistic.

From the Facebook page for the event

So, what makes this event so awesome?  Well, first of all, it's a Bigfoot event.  That's pretty much enough right there.  But, they're also promising some good old-fashioned drive-in promotion by saying that Bigfoot himself will be making an appearance and stalking the grounds during the show!  And finally there's the movies.  I've saved this part for last.  They're not featuring a double- or triple-feature of Bigfoot movies each night.  No, they're featuring SIX Bigfoot movies (three per night)!  And these aren't just any Bigfoot movies, these are "real" Bigfoot movies--old ones mainly from the 1970s!  To get an idea of why I consider these kinds of movies to be "real" Bigfoot movies, unlike the slew of new ones that have come out over the past decade or so, check out my recent post about My Top Five Favorite Bigfoot Movies.  Of the six films being screened there's only one that I'd really consider a bit of a clunker, and even that one will be in the so-bad-it's-at-least-interesting category.  Otherwise they're all perfect fodder for a show the likes of which I'd never had imagined would ever be put on.  In fact, a couple of my favorites from the list linked to above are part of the show!  So, here's what will be screened this weekend:

Friday, October 21: "Shriek of the Mutilated" (1974), "Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot" (1976) and "In Search of Bigfoot" (1976)

Saturday, October 22: "Creature from Black Lake" (1976), "Boggy Creek II: And the Legend Continues" (1984) and "The Legend of Bigfoot" (1975)

Note that nearly all of the films are from a very close time frame (1974-76).  This is smack dab in the middle of what I consider to be the "Golden Age" of Bigfoot, which was basically the entire decade of the 1970s.  There's also a lot of "Legends" used in these somewhat similar titles.  The titles were similar, the subject matter was very similar of course and the many of the movies were pretty similar in many ways too.  But if it ain't broke don't fix it, right?  That formula of documentary or pseudo-documentary searches for Bigfoot worked just fine for me in the 1970s and those are still my favorite Bigfoot films to this day!  In fact, my favorite Bigfoot film of all time is included on Friday night, "Creature from Black lake"!  It definitely would have been even better if they could have managed to get another of my favorites for the show, "The Legend of Boggy Creek" (1972), but that might have been TOO much to ask.  The inclusion of "Boggy Creek II: And the Legend Continues" is a great alternate in its place though.  The original would have been awesome to see on the big screen, but in a way just "more of the same" when shown along with all the other 1970s films.  "Boggy Creek II" ups the ante a bit by offering a 1980s take on the legend.  And it was even directed by (and stars!) Charles B. Pierce, the director of the original!  The only "clunker", if I HAD to pick one would be "The Legend of Bigfoot".  Despite being from the same time period and having practically the same name as many of the other films, "The Legend of Bigfoot" probably ranks (and "ranks" might be a good word for it too) as one of my LEAST favorite Bigfoot movies from the "Golden Age".  don't get me wrong, it's STILL a Bigfoot movie, and it's STILL one from the 70s, so I'm still excited to see it's part of the show.  In fact, after two nights of fun and excitement, by the time "The Legend of Bigfoot" comes on as the finale it might give people a chance to nod off a bit and dream about large, hairy creatures roaming the woods.

If I manage to survive the action, adventure and pulse-pounding excitement of this weekend I hope to be able to report back with all the details (and perhaps even some new photographic evidence of Bigfoot to go along with the Patterson film!).  Stay tuned...

Here's a Bigfoot creature that we spotted last year, ironically enough on the way
home from the only other show I've ever seen at the Mahoning Drive-In!

Monday, October 17, 2016

My Top Five Favorite Bigfoot Movies

It's kind of funny, but the topic of Bigfoot has been a life-long interest of mine since I was a little kid--pretty much as long as I remember.  Yet, I've somehow managed to avoid writing much about the subject here at Monster Dad.  I think I've always felt that I simply have TOO MUCH to say about it to really know just WHAT to write, or where to start.  Bigfoot has appeared numerous times around here, but mainly in supporting roles in posts like Bigfoot Sighting in Foxboro, MA, Review of Bobcat Goldthwaite's "Willow Creek", Bigfoots or Bigfeet?, Separated at Birth 2: Tim Tebow and Bigfoot, The Berenstain Bears Meet Bigpaw, 2011 October Horror Challenge Recap (as well as many of the actual installments of that challenge), Movies My Sister Made Me Watch, The Horror That Is "Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer" , and An Absolutely Horrible Month.  So the topic of Bigfoot certainly has been raised on Monster Dad before, but I've so far avoided anything that really delved deeply into the subject.  There have been several posts floating around in my head all these years that I simply haven't been able to put down on paper (or type into the computer).  This is one of those posts.  I've wanted to write this for a long time, but never got around to it until now.  Why now?  Well, let's just say that there is a pretty direct reason for that.  More on that reason at the end of the post...

As I mentioned, I've been interested in Bigfoot (and all the other BHMs--or "Big Hairy Monsters"--around the world like Sasquatch and The Abominable Snowman or Yeti) for pretty much as long as I can remember.  And I don't recall just what (if anything) sparked that interest in the first place.  I remember going to the library to try to find books on the subject and being riveted by any movie or TV show about Bigfoot that would happen to show up on pre-cable TV back in the 1970s and early-80s.  This is a list of five of my favorite Bigfoot movies.  Note that I'm not saying that these are the "Best Bigfoot Movies of All Time".  Most of the ones I'm picking as my faves certainly wouldn't qualify as "good" movies, but they all have a lot of meaning to me personally.  First, let's give a little background on the subject of Bigfoot on film.

I believe that the first wave of Bigfoot-type movies were the Abominable Snowman films of the 1950s inspired by the discovery of huge footprints on Mount Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953.  There were a number of these films that really could probably be considered a genre unto themselves.  One of these films (and it's certainly not the "best" of them) makes my list.

For whatever reason (most likely having something to do with Roger Patterson's famous 1967 film footage of a large bipedal creature in Bluff Creek, California), Bigfoot movies really flourished in the 1970s.  I always refer to the 1970s as the "Golden Age of Bigfoot" (and have been meaning to write about that for years too).  The other four films on this list come from that period--and it's pretty tough to limit it to just four.  Many of the Bigfoot films from this time were actually documentaries, pseudo-documentaries or just felt like documentaries even if they weren't.

Over the past ten years or so Bigfoot-type creatures have really made a big comeback in movies.  As much as I was excited to see new Bigfoot flicks popping up in my local video store (when those still existed), I was almost always very disappointed in the films themselves.  They were nearly all straight-up horror movies with a Bigfoot-type creature taking on the part of the slasher or killer.  None of these movies appear on this list.  It might have more to do with my frame of mind (childhood) when I saw the old movies than any actual measure of quality, but I always tend to prefer older Bigfoot movies to newer ones.  That's a personal fact which might be helpful to know while reading this list.

There were some other films between the "Golden Age" of the 70s and the "Crappy Age" of the 2000s.  One of the few examples from the 1980s, "Harry and the Hendersons" (1987) would probably be at or near the top of my list if it was a list of "Best" rather than "Favorite" films.  I think it ranks up there with the best because, unlike most Bigfoot movies it was actually a real Hollywood movie with a real budget, real special effects and a real cast that included names like John Lithgow, Melinda Dillon, Don Ameche and M. Emmet Walsh.  This one holds a special place in my heart because it came out when I was in high school and I remember going to see it with my friends.  I couldn't believe that there was a real, honest-to-goodness movie about Bigfoot that we could go see in a real movie theater!  My only experience with Bigfoot movies up to that point was mainly with old, low-budget and often low-quality films and documentaries.  Despite the higher quality of "Harry and the Hendersons" and what it meant to me, it still doesn't make it into my top five.  So, I guess now it's time to see what those top five movies are, and just why they're my favorites.  For the most part this list is not in any particular order, with the exception of number one--which is indeed my favorite Bigfoot movie of all time!



Number Five: The Snow Creature (1954)

"The Snow Creature" was one of the wave of movies about the Abominable Snowman from the 1950s that I mentioned above.  True, some people might say that movies about the Abominable Snowman or Yeti don't count as "Bigfoot movies", but I do feel that these creatures are related--if not by genetics so much as by the nature of their respective legends and their elusiveness.  And
I should mention that I don't think "The Snow Creature" ranks as one of the "best" examples of an Abominable Snowman film.  Hammer's "The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas"--or simply "The Abominable Snowman" (1957), while similar, is probably superior in almost every way.  My reason for listing "The Snow Creature" so high is a very specific and personal one.  I found a VHS tape from Goodtimes Video that had a strange double feature of "Godzilla vs. Megalon" and "The Show Creature" at Kmart in the mid-1980s.  This was a time when my little hometown didn't yet have cable TV.  It was a time WELL before the internet and streaming video and the capability of seeing pretty much whatever you want whenever you want.  To find a Bigfoot movie at a store (and on a tape that ALSO had a Godzilla movie too!) felt like one of the best things that had ever happened to me!  As I mentioned, I lived in a very small town.  Two of my best friends lived within walking distance of my house.  One Saturday I took my treasured videotape and went to visit one of them.  We planned on watching "Godzilla vs. Megalon" and enjoying the nostalgia of watching an old favorite from our (recent) youth while at the same time laughing at how downright kooky the movie is (even to a fifteen-year-old fan of Godzilla).  After the movie ended it was getting pretty late and I really should have said goodnight and headed home, but we decided to go ahead and watch "The Snow Creature" too.  The lateness of the hour seemed to add to the enjoyment of an otherwise low-quality film being watched on a low-quality VHS tape.  And there are a few moments of unintentional humor that we nearly died laughing over--and which we STILL laugh about over 30 years later!  It was a fun and lighthearted moment.  But, by the time I finally DID end up leaving my friend's house it was VERY late.  As I walked home on the quiet, dark night the humor and silliness of the movie suddenly turned into a somewhat scary moment fueled by the imagination of a teenager who had been interested in (and kind of scared of) all things Bigfoot for around ten years or more at that point.  I also haven't mentioned that the walk from my friend's house back to mine included a short jaunt through the woods at the end of a dead end street.  Where the street ended the streetlights that illuminated it also ended and I had to walk for a few minutes on a path through the dark woods that led to my house.  I was very familiar with that stretch of woods, but never enjoyed walking it in the dark.  So as you can see, my love of "The Snow Creature" has very little to do with its merit as a fine film and everything to do with the age I was when I saw it, the person I saw it with and the experience of finding such a silly film become much less silly when my surroundings became less friendly and well-lit.  Believe it or not, I actually still own that old VHS tape with the "Godzilla vs. Megalon" and "The Snow Creature" double feature.  Of course I now have both of the films on DVD, but I don't plan on parting with that old tape any time soon.

My VHS tape of the "Godzilla vs. Meglon"/"The Snow Creature" double feature!



 
 Number Four: The Mysterious Monsters (1975)

"The Mysterious Monsters" was one of many somewhat interchangeable documentaries about Bigfoot and other monsters that were abundant in the 1970s.  Much of the science behind some of these films (as well as the similarly-themed show "in Search of..." that I also loved and which also covered Bigfoot, The Abominable Snowman, The Loch Ness Monster, UFOs, ghosts and all sorts of other strange phenomenon) was less than reliable, but the subject matter was all that mattered to me.  The fact that I was watching a "real" documentary about a monster that might itself be real was almost too much to bear and made these otherwise less-than-stellar productions much more riveting and suspenseful than most mainstream horror movies of the time for me.  While I'm putting "The Mysterious Monsters" at Number Four, there are probably a few others that could easily take its place there ("In Search of Bigfoot" (1976), "Bigfoot: Man or Beast" (1972), "Monsters! Mysteries or Myths?" (1974)...).  I suppose the reason for picking this one is because I was able to get it on DVD (not an "official" one of course) quite a few years back and was able to enjoy it again after many years.  I don't know if this one ranks higher than some of the others in quality or "scientific-ness", but it DOES have Peter Graves as its narrator, and that has to count for something.  It's also not solely about Bigfoot, as the plural "Monsters" of its title implies.  It also covers The Abominable Snowman and The Loch Ness Monster.  And, to top it all off, I actually own a genuine movie poster for this film!

 

I don't really have specific memories of this one from watching it as a kid, but I DO clearly remember how excited I was whenever I saw in TV Guide that there was going to be some old Bigfoot documentary on TV on a Sunday afternoon (regardless of which one it happened to be).  Another thing this one has going for it is that it features John Green, Peter Byrne and Grover Krantz, three of the Four Horsemen of Sasquatchery.  The fourth member of that club was Rene Dahinden.  I was familiar with all four of these Bigfoot researchers from books, newspaper articles and, of course, the documentaries.  Whenever a documentary had one, two, three or all four of these men together I just knew it was worth watching!



Number Three: The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972)

"The Legend of Boggy Creek" has the feel of one of the documentaries listed above, but it's actually one of the hybrid documentary/dramas that the legend of Bigfoot (which itself seems kind of rooted in both reality and myth) lends itself to as subject matter.  This one is a classic of the Bigfoot film genre (if there's such a thing).  Like most of the other films on this list this one is a particular favorite more because of personal memories about it rather than because it's an actual "good" film.  I was only about three in 1972, so while I WAS around when it came out I didn't actually see it until years later when it was shown on TV.  It might be hard for kids of today to relate to, but back in the 80s when cable TV had not yet spread everywhere and there was no such thing as streaming video or movies on demand you actually had to know what was on TV and tune in when it was on--or risk not being able to see it again unless you happened to get lucky.  Before my family got our first VCR in the mid-80s I was completely at the mercy of what was on the small variety of Boston and Providence channels that our antenna could pick up at our home in southern Massachusetts.  When I saw that one of the UHF channels (WLVI Channel 56 in Boston) was going to be showing "The Legend of Boggy Creek" on a Friday night I just knew that I HAD to be around to watch it.  It was true must-see-TV!  It probably seems a bit odd to think of most of these movies as actually being scary, but whenever I was able to watch anything about Bigfoot (a movie, documentary, an episode of "in Search of...") I was ALWAYS scared.  I think it had a lot to do with the fact that the subject matter was something that maybe, possibly, potentially might be REAL!  Other monster movies could be scary, but usually they were accompanied by the comforting fact that "it's only a movie".  But as I watched these films my mind would always remind me that Bigfoot MIGHT actually be real.  That's why the re-enactments in "The Legend of Boggy Creek" so effectively creeped me out when I watched it for the first time that night.  "Boggy Creek" was successful enough that it spawned a number of official and unofficial sequels, including "Return to Boggy Creek" (1977) (which featured Dawn Wells and Dana Plato, one of the more "star-studded" Bigfoot movies until "Harry and the Hendersons") and "Boggy Creek II: And the Legend Continues" (1984) (which had the interesting use of the roman numeral II, even though this was the third Boggy Creek movie.  But I suppose that this one WAS directed by Charles B. Pierce, the director of the original).



 
 Number Two: Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot (1976)

"Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot" was yet another of the 1970s documentary-style dramas that we've seen a lot already in the list.  Once again, that "realistic" aspect of the documentary style coupled with the potential that Bigfoot was real combined to scare the crap out of me as a kid.  This one took the direction of following a group of Bigfoot hunters/researchers into the woods to look for the creature (and ultimately find it of course).  Sprinkled throughout the story were some scary re-enactments of various Bigfoot encounters.  While none of these films on this list really qualify as "good" movies, this one might be the closest to actually being good that we've covered so far.  In addition to the fact that this one genuinely scared me as a kid, I also have to put it close to the top of the list because of my personal recollections of it.  This is the only one of these movies (and the only "true" Bigfoot movie from the "Golden Age" in general) that I actually saw in a theater.  My older sister brought my nephew and myself to see it, and it terrified me.  A couple of years later I remember being excited to see that it was going to be on TV.  Part of the legend of this movie (and what makes it unique and stand out from the crowd of 1970s Bigfoot films) is the fact that it became almost impossible to find for decades after its release.  After seeing it on TV that one time the movie receded into my mind.  I sort of forgot about it until I was looking around for all my old favorite Bigfoot movies (and others that I had never seen before) online in the mid-2000s.  Suddenly this kind of material was a lot easier to find.  If there wasn't an official release of a film, most likely someone had a bootleg copy or a rip from an old VHS tape that was put on a DVD.  There were a couple copies of an old VHS release of the movie on eBay, but they were selling for astronomical amounts.  After tons of fruitless searching all of a sudden I saw that Retromedia had released the Sasquatch Horror Triple Feature DVD.

 

Not only did this set have "Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot" on it, but it also had "The Snow Creature" and "Snow Beast" (1977) as well!  "Snow Beast" boasts one of the more "distinguished" casts of people you've at least heard of in a Bigfoot movie: Bo Svenson, Yvette Mimieux, Clint Walker.  I quickly picked up a copy of this set and all of a sudden had the ever-elusive (not unlike Bigfoot itself) "Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot" in my very own collection!  One final thing to mention about this movie is that it should NEVER be confused with the similarly-titled "The Legend of Bigfoot" (1975).  "Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot" is actually a pretty good and effective film in many ways (at least as far as Bigfoot movies go anyway), but "The Legend of Bigfoot" is pretty close to being unwatchable, and in fact is barely even about Bigfoot.  Keep in mind that this is coming from someone who has just told you that some of his favorite movies include "The Snow Creature", "The Mysterious Monsters", "The Legend of Boggy Creek" and "Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot".  That should tell you something!



Number One: Creature from Black Lake (1976)

So here we are, at number one.  As I said in the beginning, for the most part this list is in no particular order.  But "Creature from Black Lake" IS indeed my favorite Bigfoot movie of all time--and for many of the same reasons already listed for the other films.  Once again--and this has become quite the recurring theme here--"Creature from Black Lake" (not to be confused with "The Creature from The Black Lagoon") takes the documentary-style drama route seen in so many classic Bigfoot films.  It's the story of two college students who take a road trip to try to prove/disprove the existence of a large, hairy, man-like creature.  There's no real doubt that we're watching actors in a film, but the way they go about their business feels very familiar in a documentary kind of way.  And it also employs the use of re-enactments of past encounters with the creature, generally when characters are sharing their stories with the students.  I know that "Creature from Black Lake" doesn't rank up there with the greats of cinematic history in terms of acting, directing or pretty much anything else, but I do feel that it's probably one of the best made (along with "Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot") Bigfoot films ever.  That might not seem like very high praise, but it really is meant to be!  This one also features another cast with some familiar names in it: Dub Taylor, Jack Elam and Dennis Fimple.  I didn't know who Dennis Fimple was when I saw the film as a kid, but he had a very distinctive look that I remembered when I saw him in other stuff later.  He plays one of the two leads.  But Jack Elam really steals the show as the local drunk who lost his trapping partner to the creature.  So, why does this film rise above all the others on my list?  Well, first off, I saw it as a kid on Boston-area TV.  Perhaps it wouldn't mean as much to me if I never got around to seeing it until I was an adult?  Second, I really do enjoy the road trip aspect of the film.  I like getting to know the two leads and following them through their adventures.  There's some good humorous moments with them.  Third, it has those creepy (to that young version of myself) re-enactments of Bigfoot encounters.  Fourth, there is a genuine creepiness and sense of suspense in many of the scenes.  And, fifth, the climax of the movie is surprisingly scary and violent.  It almost doesn't fit in with the rest of the movie, but really makes it a complete experience--it has interesting characters, adventure, humor, suspense and horror!  There's very little negative that I can say about this movie.

So that's my list of favorite Bigfoot movies.  Along with all the others that were touched on in the list there are many more that I enjoy and would recommend to any Bigfoot fan.  Some of these include "Half Human" (1955), "Man Beast" (1956), "Bigfoot" (1970) (a silly one with bikers and John Carradine!), "The Beauties and the Beast" (1974) (a softcore Bigfoot movie!),  "Shriek of the Mutilated" (1974), "Curse of Bigfoot" (1975) (a pretty bad film all around, but fun for its ineptness), "The Capture of Bigfoot" (1979), "Night of the Demon" (1980) and many more!

I was inspired to finally get around to writing this blog post by an upcoming event that I can hardly believe is actually happening.  The Mahoning Drive-In in Lehighton, PA has been exclusively running retro drive-in programming for the past two seasons.  It's been an amazing thing to see some of the shows they've been putting on and some of the movies (most in 35mm) that they've been screening.  I only got to one show in 2015 (a double feature of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom").  I wasn't able to get to ANY of the great shows they put on this year, but the season isn't quite over yet.   They're running right through October and this weekend (October 21 and 22, 2016) they're putting on a show with frequent collaborator Exhumed Films that I never thought I'd see the likes of.  It's called Bigfoot Weekend and it will feature no less than SIX classic Bigfoot flicks (including some from my list) over the two nights!  And, supposedly Bigfoot himself is going to make an appearance and will be stalking the grounds during the show!  Here's the lineup:

Friday, October 21: "Shriek of the Mutilated", "Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot" and "In Search of Bigfoot"

Saturday, October 22: "Creature from Black Lake", "Boggy Creek II" and "The Legend of Bigfoot"


I can't wait for this awesome event and, if I manage to survive the weekend, will hopefully report back here with all the gruesome details!  Wish me luck!

Menaced by a Bigfoot spotted on the way
home from the Mahoning Drive-In last year!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Overwhelming Onslaught of Oreos




This isn't really a Halloween post.  But, then again, maybe it is.  Well, I guess the reason it got written was initially because of Halloween, but the topic mostly isn't about Halloween.  Confused?  I'm starting to get that way too.  Why don't we get to it and see how it all unfolds?

October 2015.  I realized that Halloween was rapidly approaching and we hadn't really done much to get into the spirit of the season.  One morning after dropping The Little Monsters off at school I was doing a little grocery shopping and it occurred to me that the Halloween Oreos must be out.  I decided that I should pick up a package.  Halloween Oreos seemed to be becoming a bit of a new tradition--I remembered getting a package last year--so I felt I should carry on the tradition by getting some this year (plus, I rather like Oreos).  In our household we don't get too many chances to eat a lot of junk food.  That's a good thing from a health standpoint, but not the most popular one for a couple of elementary-school-age Monsters like ours.  Well, to demonstrate just how infrequently The Monsters get to indulge in stuff like Oreos, I tried to find the photos I took of them enjoying their Halloween Oreos while watching the "Ship of Ghouls" episode of "The Love Boat" last year (the last time we had  Oreos).  Well, wouldn't you know, I couldn't find the photos for a long time because it had actually been TWO years since they were taken!


The Little Monsters enjoying their 2013 Halloween Oreos
while watching Vincent Price in "The Love Boat"

So, anyway, even though it wasn't really a hard and fast "tradition" I still wanted to get some of those yummy Halloween edition Oreos for The Monsters (and, yes, for myself as well).  Cruising down the grocery store aisle that contains the snacks, crackers and cookies I was dumbfounded.  I must have passed this section hundreds of times since the last Oreos purchase, but I hadn't really payed much attention to it while passing by looking for healthier fare.  I frankly couldn't believe how many varieties of Oreos there were.  They must have greatly expanded the selection since even that last time I picked up a package.

Holy Oreos, Batman!

I remember regular old Oreos as a kid.  They were a pretty standard and common (and tasty) snack food.  Of course there were also the Oreo rip-offs too: the Hydrox Cookies (which actually came out BEFORE Oreos, but still feel like the knockoff), and all the various store brand "sandwich cookies".  I have no idea just how many Oreo-like cookies are currently available, but even Paul Newman's Newman's Own brand has gotten into the act.

Hydrox Cookies (image from the web)

Newman-O's

Back to the "old days".  Despite all the different companies putting out their own versions of Oreos, I always felt that the "real ones" were the best.  But at the same time an Oreo was an Oreo.  There wasn't much variety in the brand (and didn't need to be) until they introduced the "Double Stuf" Oreos, which were the same as the regular ones, except with twice the amount of creme filling (which was the best part of the cookie anyway, right?).

The classic, standard Oreos
Even regular Oreos come in a number of different packaging options,
like these boxes of handy six-packs

I don't recall there being many other choices if you wanted to get Oreos.  But that's not the case anymore.  Not by a long shot!  Check out some of the varieties I spotted in that Oreo section (and I have no idea if they even had ALL the varieties that might be available).  Some of these seem like great ideas, some seem kind of odd and some even seem like they might be kinda gross:



In addition to the regular and Double Stuf Oreos you can now also get Mega Stuff ones.  Or you can go in the opposite direction and get Oreo Thins.  Those varieties simply change the amount of creme, or "stuf", you get inside the cookie, but the bulk of the newer varieties I saw change the flavors of the creme, the cookies or both.  Here are some of the ones I saw:



  • Golden Oreos (probably one of the earliest varieties, along with "Double Stuf", this one replaces the chocolate cookies with "vanilla" ones--probably done to compete with all the "vanilla sandwich cookies" from various companies that had been available next to the chocolate ones for years)
  • Heads or Tails Oreos (where you get one chocolate and one vanilla cookie surrounding your creme)
  • Birthday Cake Oreos (in both regular and golden cookie versions)
  • Mint Oreos
  • Lemon Oreos
  • Berry Oreos
  • Brownie Batter Oreos
  • Peanut Butter Oreos
  • Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Oreos (for a little cross-branding)
  • Pumpkin Spice Oreos (to cash in on the Halloween/Thanksgiving fall season)
  • Caramel Apple Oreos (ditto)
  • Marshmallow Crispy Creme (think Rice Krispies treats)
  • Toasted Coconut Oreos (What?!?)
  • Reduced Fat Oreos


Even though Oreos are a snack food (read, junk food) I'm actually a bit surprised that, considering the sheer numbers of varieties that they produce, they don't make more "healthy" or "healthier" versions for people who might want to experience Oreos, but who don't want to die as soon as their cookie-chomping counterparts.  True, there are the "Reduced Fat Oreos" listed above (and Oreos seem to have joined the rest of modern society by getting rid of trans fats across the line), but where are the "Whole Grain Oreos", or the "Organic Oreos" (non-GMO guaranteed of course)?  "Artisinal Oreos"?  "Ancient Grains Oreos" (with Spelt and quinoa)?  And how about allergies?  There are Peanut Butter Oreos, but what about "Nut-Free Oreos" (guaranteed not to be made on equipment which may also make products containing peanuts and/or other nuts)?  And how about "Gluten-Free Oreos"?  "Sugar-Free Oreos" for diabetics?  Or "Vegan Oreos"?  Okay, I get the fact that they're not meant to be a healthy snack food.  And I suppose that I actually appreciate the fact that, other than offering Reduced Fat, Nabisco doesn't even pretend to be offering something healthy.

These are most of the varieties of what I'll call "traditional Oreos" (same sized cookies with different flavors and/or amounts of "Stuf"), and most of them seem to be found in different versions (like regular, Double Stuf and Mega Stuf).  But there are also other variants that go even further, like Fudge Cremes and Mint Fudge Cremes (which are standard Oreos covered with fudge to make them even less healthy!), as well as Oreo Minis and Oreo Minis Reese's Peanut Butter (which can be found in boxes, bags and little plastic snack cups).

Some of the different packaging for Oreo Minis

Have you had enough Oreo varieties?  Well, the above list covers most of what I found in just the cookie aisle of the grocery store.  But the Oreo brand and taste can of course be found in other places and products too.  A quick tour of the store showed a few other examples (and I'm sure there are many more than what I found).  A little further down the aisle where the cookies are found you encounter the cracker section.  Not surprisingly, there is a bit of a gray area between what is considered a "cookie" and what is considered a "cracker".  For example, graham crackers have the word "cracker" in their name, but I think a good argument could be made that they are actually more of a cookie.  Well, you can add Oreos to the confusion between cracker and cookie classifications.  First off, the Oreo Thins portray themselves as being "Thin & Crispy", which (despite the cookie and creme factor) sounds kind of cracker-like.  And remember the classic "Handi Snacks", the little packages with crackers on one side and a separate part with cheese spread that you'd put onto the crackers with a little red plastic spreader?  Years ago they added newer versions of Handi Snacks that had cracker sticks or pretzel sticks that you could dip into the cheese instead of having to actually spread cheese on the crackers.  Well now they even have an Oreo version--where you dip your rectangular Oreo cookie into a cup of Oreo creme.  While I wouldn't really consider this to be a "cracker" product, I DID find them nestled into the cracker section among the regular Handi Snacks.



And the range of products with the name Oreo attached gets even wider.  While it's now discontinued, there used to be an Oreo-O's cereal.  And I kind of miss the Oreos Cakesters "Soft Snack Cakes" which also seem to be discontinued (they reminded me of little whoopie pies!).  In the ice cream aisle I found two different ice cream products that featured Oreos: Klondike Sandwiches (which actually look like giant Oreos) and Breyers Blasts Oreo Cookies & Creme Chocolate.  And of course this doesn't even include all the generic "Cookies and Creme" or "Cookies & Cream" products all over the grocery store that don't have the license or permission to use the Oreo name.  I was a bit surprised when I saw the Pop Tarts selection (which rivaled the Oreos for sheer number of varieties) and didn't find Oreo Pop Tarts.  Well, I think that there WOULD be an Oreo version if it weren't for competing brands.  You see, Oreos are made by Nabisco, while Pop Tarts are made by Kellogg's.  So, naturally, there is a generic Frosted Cookies & Creme Pop Tarts variety instead!



The Pop Tart selection
(nearly as overwhelming as the Oreos!)
Kellogg's (non-Oreo) Cookies & Creme Pop-Tarts

I'm sure that many more Oreos products, flavor combinations, variants and knock-offs can be found, but it's time to wrap this post up.  Remember my original reason for perusing the Oreos section of the cookie aisle?  It was to pick up a package of Halloween Oreos.  Well, even with all that stuff in the big, overwhelming Oreos section of the cookie aisle...I didn't find ANY Halloween ones!  But luckily they were in their own cardboard display box at the end of another aisle.

Now, that's what I was looking for!

I picked up my package and headed home to contemplate everything I had just witnessed.  The funny thing is that Halloween Oreos aren't a new or different flavor.  They are simply standard Oreos with the traditional white creme switched out for an orange one (making for a perfect orange and black Halloween color combination).  But they DO give you five different cookie designs to make them even more fun.  Not only that, but I noticed that the designs used in this year's package were different than the ones in the 2013 package I bought earlier.  Can't say what happened in 2014, as we missed out on our little "tradition" last year.  Oh well, now I can't wait to see what Nabisco has in store for us for NEXT year's Halloween Oreos!

2013 Halloween Oreos
2015 Halloween Oreos

A couple happy Little Monsters!


And here's the five different designs
(they all have the same Oreo back seen in the middle)