On September 10 and 11, 2010 the fourth annual Drive-In Super Monster-Rama was held. And, I was finally able to attend this amazing event for the first time--after hearing stories about the first three editions. A couple friends were kind enough to take me along for the ten or eleven hour ride down to Pennsylvania (actually the trip was even longer for them-they came from New Hampshire and picked me up in Massachusetts).
If you're a fan of drive-ins and/or great old horror movies this is a trip you simply must at least consider. It's worth traveling a distance for. Over two nights the Riverside Drive-In hosts the show, which is organized by George Reis and DVD Drive-In. Each night features four (yes, I said FOUR) movies that start at dusk and run right through the night, finally wrapping up sometime between four- and five-o'clock in the morning. You can attend both nights, or just pick the one that works better for you. The price is only ten dollars per person. That's the suggested price, but it wouldn't hurt for someone who could afford to give more to do so (this is a labor of love, not a money-making venture, and they're lucky to break even). From what I've heard the attendance has increased each year as word of mouth spreads about the show and more and more people find out about it.
The Monster-Rama is held the Friday and Saturday after Labor Day. This works out perfect for everyone because the Riverside closes for the season after Labor Day weekend. They extend the season for one more week specifically for this show. The drive-in doesn't make any money off the movies, but they keep their refreshment stand open throughout the evening/night/morning. This gives the drive-in a chance to make a little more money at the end of the season without actually interfering with its regular schedule, and also gives the Monster-Rama a venue. It's a great symbiotic relationship where everyone wins (the drive-in, the organizers and the fans who show up).
The Riverside Drive-In is located in North Vandergrift, PA in what feels a bit like the middle of nowhere. The location is great for watching a bunch of scary old movies. The only thing that seems to be close by is a bowling alley right next to the drive-in (and practically right behind the screen). This makes for interesting extra sound effects. At various points during the night you'll hear rumbling and wonder if it's an approaching thunderstorm, part of the movie, or someone rolling a strike (which is usually the case). To add to the atmosphere, you also hear distant trains blowing their whistles in the dark distance every once in a while.
In addition to the eight great movies featured (which are all presented on 35mm film--the way they were originally seen) there are also many wonderful trailers for all kinds of similar films, as well as cartoons, shorts and a ton of classic drive-in intermission material. It would be incredibly easy (as well as inexpensive) to simply show a DVD projection of all this stuff, but this is a show put on by true fans of drive-ins and the movies that were shown at them and they want to make it as close as possible to a true classic drive-in experience. This means that everything you see is film-based. It's not only a great thing for drive-in fans, but also for film fans in general. If you're a fan of both, then you're pretty much in heaven for two long nights!
The Riverside's projection booth ready to spool out all kinds of 35mm treasures
And now, our feature presentation...
A retro-inspired advertising piece for the show to set the mood
Friday, September 10: We got to the Riverside Drive-In early to be first in line. Other cars started lining up behind us soon after and the anticipation and mingling among like-minded movie fans started before the gate even opened.
The Riverside's sign, screen and ticket booth
First in line!
Looks like a nice evening for a movie (or four!)
Once inside and parked in a prime spot we headed into the refreshment area to check out the fare and get a head start on eating some yummy food!
Frankenstein beckons at the door to the Snack Bar
The Snack Bar itself
The snack bar, as reflected in the fish-eye mirror on the wall
Vintage Pepsi machine in the lobby
Even more ambiance in the Snack Bar area!
The Riverside has pretty much all the regular drive-in food you'd expect, plus some other interesting choices. Rather than listing everything myself, why not just take a look at the menu to see everything offered:
Being as this show was actually held the week after the drive-in had officially closed for the season, they seemed to run out of some items early (probably the last of the season's stock--no need to replenish the supplies when the place would be closed for months after this show). Nearly everything I tried was exactly what I'd expect and hope for from drive-in food--with one exception... I wanted to get a chicken sandwich as an alternative to hot dogs, hamburgers and pizza (all of which I had already tried). Unfortunately the chicken was one of the first things to run out. I tried the Bacon Cheddar Fries instead. Unless you're a huge fan of such things I'd avoid this concoction. The fries are fine by themselves, but add a bunch of liquid cheese and a generous portion of bacon bits and you feel like you're eating a pre-ordered heart attack. I could practically feel my arteries clogging! An acquired taste I'm sure, but not one for me.
The dreaded Bacon Cheddar Fries!
One more great thing I have neglected to mention so far is that the folks from Creepy Classics set up tables inside the concession building and have tons of great merchandise for sale throughout both nights of the show. In addition to literally thousands of DVDs (ranging from common, easy-to-find ones to some very rare stuff) they also have posters, books, magazines, models and toys of interest to fans of the kinds of movies featured at the Monster-Rama. Between the snack bar and the merchandise (and the cool old pinball machines) there is plenty to do between movies or even during one when you find your eyes getting very heavy as the night turns into early morning. Of course there's also plenty of opportunity to chat with monster movie fans from around the country too.
The good folks of Creepy Classics and their wonderful wares in the lobby
Another view of the Creepy Classics bevy of booty
and, just a portion of the DVDs that Creepy Classics had out for sale
The Riverside's Evel Knievel and Lost World pinball machines
As dusk turned into night the Drive-In Super Monster-Rama show itself officially starts with a welcome from George Reis and the playing of the National Anthem (a tradition of the Riverside).
Then the fun really began. Both nights of the Monster-Rama spanned the 1960s and 1970s. Night one featured The Comedy of Terrors (1963), The Oblong Box (1969), The Witchmaker (1969) and The Incredible Melting Man (1977). Night two featured Frankenstein Created Woman (1967), Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974), Blood on Satan's Claw (1971) and Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965). Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing were all well-represented. In between all those glorious movies the crowd was treated to trailers for not only those films, but also such others as: "Beach Party", "The Terror", "The Man with the X-Ray Eyes", "Frankenstein Conquers the World", "Riot on Sunset Strip", "Angels from Hell", "Succubus", "Blood Demon", "The Shuttered Room", "De Sade", "Horror House", "The House that Screamed", "Curse of the Vampires", "Flesh Feast", "The Mad Butcher", "The Gorilla Gang", "The Amityville Horror", "Love at First Bite", "Challenge to Survive", "Gas Pump Girls" and many more... All that and more short subjects (a Three Stooges short, a Mr. Magoo cartoon...) and drive-in intermission ads than you could shake a stick at! In the interest of keeping this to a manageable length I won't include EVERYTHING that was shown. Suffice to say it was a LOT of entertainment over two fun-filled nights. For more details about each night please see part two of this blog entry (coming soon). It's difficult to imagine anyone going to this show and not feeling that they got their money's worth.
Of course, part of the whole drive-in experience is that you have no control over the weather. The first night was pleasant. It did get downright cold (as is wont to happen in the middle of September). That's not a problem as long as you bundle up and bring along a few blankets. The second night was a bit tougher. It started out okay, but a while after the show started the rain followed. It was light at first, but got steadier as the night went on. Patrons were forced inside their cars but didn't seem deterred. I can't say that I saw too many cars leaving during either night of the Monster-Rama. Obviously some people had other obligations and simply couldn't stay for the full four movie slate, but for the most part the majority of cars that drove in stayed throughout the night. It was an incredible experience which I hope to be able to have again.
Which brings me to the end. I feel bad about waiting nine months to finally get around to writing about last year's Monster-Rama, but now is actually a pretty good time to mention it because... Not too long ago George Reis finally announced that there will indeed be another edition of the event in September of 2011! The movies have been announced too. The fifth annual Drive-In Super Monster-Rama will feature Black Sabbath (1963), The Last Man on Earth (1964), Castle of Blood (1964) and Island of the Doomed (1967) on Friday September 9, and The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972), Count Yorga, Vampire (1970) and I, Monster (1971) on Saturday September 10. If you can make it out to the show I'd highly recommend it! If you remember the good old days of the horror shows at the local drive-in then it's a great recreation of that lost time. If you are too young to remember the experience then it's a great chance to see what you missed out on.
Here's the official page for the show at dvddrive-in.com with all the details: 2011 Drive-In Super Monster-Rama. Hope to see you there!
I have posted another blog about last year's Drive-In Super Monster-Rama. Part Two concentrates on exactly what was up on the screen during the first night of the show. Check it out here: 2010 Drive-In Super Monster-Rama Part II if you think you can handle more on the topic! Warning: Part Two features a LOT of photos!
And, finally, I have also posted Part Three of this series (the last one I promise). Part Three focuses on the second night of the show. Here it is: 2010 Drive-In Super Monster-Rama: Part III.