Monday, April 25, 2011

Dreaming of a Better Life (or Should I Say Death?)

I know that this will be a different kind of blog from Monster Dad, and I apologize for going a bit "off-topic", but it's something I just wanted to share. If you read it, thank you. If you don't, I understand...

Like everyone else, I've had many, many dreams over my lifetime. Happy dreams, nightmares and just plain-old strange dreams have filled my sleeping head over the past few decades. I detailed a couple of my Recurring Nightmares in an earlier blog. Generally my dreams tend to be a bit too "abstract" to make much real sense. I couldn't count the number of times that I've awakened from a strange dream and thought about telling my wife about it--only to not be able to remember the details. It seems that they make so little sense that they simply dissipate into thin air almost the moment I wake up. I've thought of starting a dream journal. A few things have kept me from doing that. When I wake up I can't seem to snap into an instantly alert state that would allow me to start writing about what just "happened". Because of this I can't write fast enough to get it down on paper before it leaves my mind. Plus (and most importantly) I'm just too lazy to actually start a project like a dream journal.

I've occasionally had a dream that stayed with me long enough to remember. These seem to tend to be the more "mundane" dreams that are easier for the unconcious and conscious minds to reconcile with each other: they follow some logical or semi-realistic line, they obey the rules of physics, they seem to be rooted in reality... Of course, these are the dreams that are the most boring and least worth writing down and digging into for hidden meanings or messages.

One thing I've rarely, if ever, had is a dream that seems to have a deep, meaningful and obvious reason behind it (at least not the ones I remember). That changed last night. We've all heard about dreams where lost loved ones come back and give us a message of love or peace that helps us deal with the pain and suffering of the loss. Kind of like the "light at the end of the tunnel" stories of people who have near-death experiences, it's sometimes hard to know how seriously to take such dreams. Unless you're the one experiencing it, it seems to sound like a nice story--but you kind of wonder how much it really happened and how much the person just imagined it or wanted to think it happened. I'm not saying I don't believe any of these stories, dreams, experiences or whatever they might be--just that it's hard to think that something so meaningful and "concrete" can come out of a semi-conscious or unconscious state. After forty-one years, I've finally had my first experience with what I consider a truly meaningful dream--or at least one that I've decided had a real meaning for me anyway.

As I've mentioned, my father has been battling cancer for quite a while. This has obviously been a very stressful time for him, my mother and my entire family. Over the past year-and-a-half he has had both good and bad periods. It all seemed to be leading up to something none of us wanted to think about, but which was inevitable. Yesterday, the inevitable suddenly became a lot closer. My father took a turn for the worse. Without getting into all the specific details, it became obvious that the end was near. I went down to my parents' house to be with my Dad and stay with my mother so she wouldn't be alone in that situation. I stayed overnight and we spent most of the night trying to sleep between having to give Dad medications every two hours and listening for changes in his breathing or condition while trying to keep him as comfortable as possible. Needless to say, neither my Mom or I got much sleep.

But, during one of the short sleep periods when I was drifting into and out of consciousness I had an experience that I can only consider a dream. It seemed so real that I initially thought it actually happened--until I realized that was impossible. In the "dream" my parents were both in the bed that they were actually sleeping on in reality. I was lying on the same couch nearby that I was lying on in reality. The sounds, dim lighting and even smells in the room were the same as they were before I fell asleep. The dream was incredibly simple. Because of this (and the realistic nature of it) I initially just accepted what had happened as being part of reality. So what happened? Very simply, my Dad sat up in bed, swung his legs over the side and stood up. He was fully dressed and looked healthy and happy. I believe that he slipped on a jacket and started walking across the room toward the door. I'm not sure if he acknowledged me as he passed by me on the couch, but I believe he was smiling. He walked out of the room and to the front door and then out of the house. That's it.

I woke up (though in my sleepiness it didn't feel like my conscious state really changed like it usually feels when I awaken from a dream) and slowly came to the realization that what had just happened didn't actually happen (because it couldn't have). I'm just assigning my own personal meaning to this dream and don't claim to be a qualified dream interpreter in any way, but it just seemed like it was my Dad's way of saying that it was time to go. It was very simple, and no words were used, but it just seemed to make perfect sense. With all my heart I hope that this is what the meaning was. Maybe, just maybe it will make things just a little bit easier when the time does come that I have to face the reality that my Dad has really "walked out of the house" for the last time. I hope so...

I Love You Dad!

Rest In Peace

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Anorexic Toy Soldiers

Believe it or not, I didn't only watch monster movies as a kid. I also enjoyed partaking in other childish behavior like playing Army. This included both running around and imagining great battles as well as playing with little plastic Army Men (like the ones in the movie "Toy Story").

Another interest was comic books of course. While not a voracious reader/collector of comics I did have my share of titles that I liked to read. They included "Sgt. Rock", "The Haunted Tank", "Swamp Thing" and "Micronauts" (which was based on the line of Micronauts toys by MEGO, which I also loved).

Regardless of the comic book, one of the most interesting things in them (for me at least) was always the ads. You could find (seemingly) amazing stuff available to kids for a very small price. I imagine that everyone remembers the classic "X-Ray Specs"--which filled pre-pubescent boys' minds with visions of being able to see through women's clothing (as well as seeing the bones of your hand through the skin I suppose--but that was pretty minor compared to seeing through clothes!). Other things offered in the pages of those comics (as well as magazines like Boy's Life) included Sea Monkeys, hovercrafts, six-wheel all-terrain vehicles, 8mm movies, T-shirt iron-ons, posters, magic tricks, practical joke stuff (disappearing ink, snapping gum packs, hand buzzers, soap bars that stain the hands of those using it...), and on and on and on... This isn't even mentioning all those ads for things you could sell to earn prizes. You could sell greeting cards, subscriptions and even Grit (whatever the heck that was!). Prizes included telescopes, remote-control cars, walkie-talkies, watches, binoculars, metal detectors...

There are many places online to find those old ads and discussions about them by people who grew up reading them and wanting all that great stuff. There's a message board dedicated to the old Boston-area Saturday afternoon show Creature Double Feature that I'm active on. A thread was started there a couple years ago that's all about comic book ads. See it here. And here's a site that's full of old comic book ads: Comic Book Ads.

I wasn't able to actually send away for many of these treasures, and that was probably a good thing. Most of these offers were just ways to separate kids from their (or, more likely, their parents') money. The actual products left a lot to be desired compared to what the descriptions and pictures in the ads stated. One of the few ads I was able to respond to was this one:

ONE HUNDRED toy soldiers for only A DOLLAR AND SEVENTY-FIVE CENTS?!? AND they were all packed in your very own footlocker too? Sign me up! I remember sending in my money and waiting impatiently for the package to arrive. When it did, I distinctly recall the feeling of disappointment when I saw the "footlocker" and its contents. I guess that the people who put this offer out were cashing in on the naivety, gullibility and imagination of kids. They actually delivered everything they promised, but it simply was not what one expected when sending in the order form. I remember trying to play with the set a couple of times before putting it away and never seeing it again. Or, at least never seeing it again until...

Last summer I picked up a number of "Micronauts" comics at a couple comic book stores. Apparently "Micronauts" never became a highly sought after collectible title, so I was able to pick up a bunch of them for around fifty cents apiece. Even though thirty or more years have passed since I first purchased these comics, the covers instantly evoke old feelings and memories. I recognized a couple of the covers like I just read them yesterday instead of decades ago. Issue number five was one of these covers:

Inside this very same issue is the old ad for the 100 Toy Soldier set. That is the one I ended up scanning for the photo above. It may have very well been the exact issue that I originally ordered my set from (though that's purely speculation). Anyway, it was neat to see some of these old comics (and the ads within) that I fondly remembered from my youth.

Fast forward to last week. I was at my parents' house and poking around in the attic. I found an old box of stuff I had put up there many years ago. Not sure exactly what was in it, I brought it home to check out. Wouldn't you know, buried in that box was my very own little footlocker filled with Army men. Yes, the very same 100 Toy Soldier set I bought all those years ago had somehow avoided being thrown out--as has traditionally been the fate of so many childhood memories. Suddenly I had a physical form to put with my vague memories of the set. I could see exactly why I had been so disappointed when it came in the mail. At the same time I actually managed to find a greater appreciation for the set. More on that later. For now, here is my very own set of 100 toy soldiers!

Here's the "footlocker" that the set came in. I was disappointed by this. I imagined it being a lot larger (and even being green--as it was in the ad). To be fair, the ad did specify its dimensions as 6 1/2" X 3" X 2 3/8". Other than the color, it actually does look just like the one in the ad! Because they called it a "Toy Storage Box" I was envisioning something that I could actually use as a cool toy box in my room.

And, here's what's left of the set itself:

Ready for battle once again after all these years!

Here are some of the individual parts (and note how "HONG KONG" is proudly emblazoned on the vehicles!):







(Not exactly sure which is which)

That is certainly a lot of product for $1.75. I counted a total of 85 pieces in my box. Most likely a few were lost/broken during the short period of time that I played with them, but I have a feeling that I never received exactly 100 pieces to begin with. There is a list of what you were supposed to get on the comic book ad:

While I am missing a number of pieces (whether because they weren't included or because I lost/broke them) there are also some items that I received too many of. For instance, there were supposed to be four Riflemen--I have five. There were supposed to be four Machinegunners--I have seven. They didn't seem to put too much effort into quality control (what do you want for a buck-seventy-five?). But, whether I received 100 pieces or only 85, this still seems like a pretty good deal for the price. So why was I (and so many other kids who sent away for this set) so disappointed? I suppose a lot of it can simply be chalked up to the imagination of a child. Looking at the "Imaginary War Scene" depicted in the ad and picturing 100 toy soldiers in my mind made me expect quite a bit from this offer. I was also expecting these soldiers to be like the Army Men I already owned. These ones were of a similar size, but...they were wafer-thin! Check out this Bazookaman for an example:

From the side he looks fine...

But, from head on, he was quite...skinny.

Another problem was the fact that eight WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service) and eight WACS (Women's Army Corps) were included. I had no problem with them including some of these--but SIXTEEN? They just stood at attention. It wasn't like you could put them in the middle of a battle. Not only that, but they looked very similar to each other. There are subtle differences, but I don't really know which ones are supposed to be WAVES and which are WACS. The ones on the right in the photo below appear to have rank insignia on their left shoulders, so I'm guessing they are the WACS.

Along the same lines, the eight Officers included were also pretty useless. They were standing at attention too--the only difference was that they were also saluting. I suppose you could have set up a nice diorama of a company of WAVES and WACS in formation with an Officer(or eight) saluting them, but that's not really what I envisioned doing with my Toy Soldier set. I was more interested in recreating the "Imaginary War Scene Shown" in the ad.

A dramatic formation of seven WAVES, seven WACS and six Officers!

Between the WAVES, WACS and Officers (24) you had nearly a quarter of your total set made up of items you couldn't really use in battle. The funny thing about the number of women soldiers included was that this set came out LONG before Political Correctness came along and dictated such things. I could see a set of army men coming out these days that included soldiers of many different races and nationalities as well as of both sexes, but I wouldn't have expected that in the late 1970s/early 1980s.

I think the most glaring problem (besides the flatness of the pieces) was one of scale. They included not only soldiers, tanks, cannon, trucks, Jeeps and planes, but also included sailors, battleships and cruisers. My set only has one remaining sailor (who seems very lonely and out of place). The problem is that the sailor (as well as the rest of the soldiers for that matter) is nearly as big as the battleships! It's hard to imagine (even with a child's active imagination) a crew of sailors being able to board and run these mighty ships.

To make things worse, the sailors are even larger than the cruisers! That just doesn't work, no matter how much you try to suspend disbelief.

So how is it that I can now have a greater appreciation for this set that disappointed me so much as a kid? Well, the ad really didn't lie--other than the exact number of soldiers (100 vs. 85) I got pretty much exactly what I paid for and what they promised. The footlocker did look like the one in the ad (other than being white instead of green). They clearly state the dimensions of the footlocker, the fact that it's made of "pasteboard", and that the ad depicts an "Imaginary War Scene". And, the soldiers and vehicles even do look much like the ones in the ad (other than being flat of course). Note how you can even re-create scenes from the comic book ad using the pieces of the set. To wit:

Pretty impressive re-creation, huh?

While the pieces of the set don't resemble the traditional Army Men toys I was expecting, it's hard to say that I didn't get my money's worth. Even if there were only 85 pieces when I received the set, that's comes out to about two cents apiece--and that doesn't include the "footlocker" or the shipping (which today would cost well over $1.75 itself). The ad states "Satisfaction guaranteed or money refunded". I wonder how many people took them up on this. Considering how much it would probably cost to send the set back to get your $1.75 back, it would be cheaper and easier to simply toss the whole thing in the trash.

I guess the best thing that kids could have gotten out of this set was a valuable life lesson. They learned that adults were willing to take advantage of anyone to make a quick buck (even naive little kids). Other important lessons include: "Let the buyer beware" (Caveat Emptor), "You get what you pay for", "If it looks too good to be true then it probably is" and "A fool and his money are soon parted". Lesson learned.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Death, Destruction And The American Monster-Kid

It's strange how when you're a kid you kind of expect certain things from life, and you have a specific idea of what life is. As a grown-up you realize that many of the things you thought as a child were naive--and possibly even unrealistic. But, that's part of the point of being a kid, isn't it?

Everyone's life is different, and everyone's life is unique to them. So many variables--both big and small--go into what makes us who we are that there's no way to expect two different people to be exactly the same. Experience is a huge part of what influences our personalities and outlooks, and many things that we may or may not consider important combine to mold us as we change from children into adults: where we live, who our parents are, our social and economic positions, people we are exposed to (friends, family, acquaintences, people we randomly come in contact with...), and so on and so forth...

I was lucky enough to not have experienced much in the way of hardship as a child. I wouldn't go so far as to describe my youth as "perfect", but at the same time I don't have much to complain about either. I know people who suffered a lot more than I did as a kid--people who lost parents and other loved ones at a young age. My father is currently battling cancer. While I know what the eventual outcome of this battle will be, I also know that I've been very lucky to have had both my parents with me for the forty-plus years I've been on this planet.

Having said all that, here are three random events from my youth that I can't help but feel had an influence on me (whether direct or indirect) because of the sheer unexpectedness and uniqueness of them. When you have your own child-like idea of what life is, and what it should be, unexpected events can easily shake those ideas--that's part of the reason they're "unexpected" after all. All three of these things felt very out of the ordinary and shocked me in some way. Life happens, and as humans we more-or-less have to remember to expect the unexpected--as impossible as it may be to do so.

Random Event #1: A Death in the Family

When I was in second grade my grandfather died. While not as traumatic as losing a parent, it certainly was a big learning experience for me. I was young enough that I didn't really understand what was going on. My grandfather (on my mother's side) was the only one of my grandparents that I really had a chance to get to know. The rest had either died before I was born or when I was too young to know them. My grandfather had lived with us for the last few years of his life, and I remember visiting him in his room--where he'd always give me some Nilla Wafers (he always seemed to have a box of them in his room).

When my grandfather died I became acutely aware of not only my own mortality, but more importantly, the mortality of those around me. It was the first time I realized that my parents, loved ones, friends and even myself would eventually die. Yes, that's one of the most basic traits that makes us human (you know what they say about death and taxes), but I hadn't needed to know it before then. I'd seen people killed off in movies and on TV, and even "died" myself while playing Army, but death seemed like more of a plot device than a reality. I'm pretty sure that my grandfather's death combined with my problem with the concept of time (as detailed in Monster Dad vs. Time) to make me a bit more morbid in my attitudes than I really should have been as a second-grader.

Random Event #2: A Death at Sea

When I was in the Cub Scouts as a kid my Pack visited the Battleship Massachusetts in Fall River (MA). It was a great time except for one odd moment. My fellow Scouts and I had a grand old time touring the battleship and the rest of the exhibits of Battleship Cove. I distinctly recall having an acute sense of history as we toured the mighty ship and learned a lot about life on a battleship in the days of World War II. But the random event that happened also sticks in my mind and tends to overshadow the rest of the day. It was totally unrelated to the day-trip we were on (and thus was "random"). While on the deck of the Massachusetts we saw a police boat speeding by in the water below. We all thought is was a cool thing to see (kind of like an unscheduled bonus feature of the tour). Heck, I didn't even know that there was such a thing as a police boat before then. After the boat was out of sight we resumed gawking at the huge sixteen-inch guns of the Massachusetts, and pretty much forgot about it.

Battleship Cove in Fall River, MA

As the day ended and we headed toward our Scout Leader's car we noticed that the police boat we had seen in the water was now on a trailer in the parking lot. What a great opportunity to check out this cool thing a little more up close. A police officer was standing near the boat and kind of nonchalantly motioned to us to keep away from the area. I figured he just didn't want us kids getting too close to the boat, but he didn't seem overly concerned. As we continued to work our way around the area we noticed something even more unusual. There was a metal sled-like thing (the closest thing I can describe it as is one of those rescue "stretchers" that they use to lift someone onto a helicopter) on the ground with a lifeless body on it. The metal looked pretty oily and appeared to have been in the water for some time. I don't know it the body was found on the metal thing or if it was placed on it later, but needless to say, the body was the main focus of my young eyes as we passed by. It was the body of a man. He was wearing a white t-shirt and appeared to either be rather obese, or his stomach was simply bloated from spending an amount of time submerged in the water. His shirt and body were stained with oil and other contaminates that one would expect from a busy waterway like Fall River. We were only exposed to the body for a short time, but it felt much longer (in fact it seemed like time slowed down as we passed by it). And, of course, that quick sighting of a dead body quickly overshadowed everything else we had seen on our tour of Battleship Cove that day.

Random Event #3: The Accident

I've also been lucky enough to have not been involved in a major car accident in my life (so far). But my third unexpected, random event does revolve around a car accident.

My mom was making hot dogs for dinner one summer evening. She sent me to the local convenience store to pick up some hot dog buns. I hopped on my bike and started out for the store. As I approached the end of our street I heard a loud metallic banging sound. The only thing I could picture was a large garbage dumpster being overturned. As I reached the end of our street and looked left to make sure no traffic was coming I saw something very unexpected--a car on its roof, resting perpendicular to the road. Apparently the driver took the turn too fast and hit the inclined bank of dirt on the shoulder of the road. In another example of time seeming to slow down I remember everything being very quiet and still. No police were around the accident scene; no one was trying to help the driver; no other traffic was driving by. The accident had just happened and I was the first person on the scene. I hoped that another car would happen by, or that someone would come out of one of the nearby houses, but it was just me and the car. Without really thinking I jumped off my bike and ran over to the car. I was struck by the oddity of trying to open a car door that was upside-down. The driver-side door was hard to open and it creaked pretty loudly when it did open (obviously the weight on the roof had partially jammed the door). As I opened the door I was also aware of a pretty distinct smell of gasoline. Looking into the car's interior I saw the driver. It was a woman who was sprawled out on the roof. She was apparently unconscious (at least I hoped she was only unconscious). I asked "Are you okay" and got no response.

Still no one was coming around to help or tell me what to do. I can't remember ever wishing so hard for an adult to show up. It seemed like I would have to go for help myself. For whatever reason (I obviously wasn't thinking clearly or logically at that particular moment) I didn't go to one of the houses nearby to ask for help. Instead, I ran down the hill and knocked on the door of a house that I delivered newspapers to on my paper route. Luckily someone answered and I asked them to call the police because there had been an accident up the street. Once they made the call I returned to my bike and headed straight for home. I remember being both terrified by what I had just experienced and worried that my mother would be mad at me for not getting the hot dog buns she sent me out for as I pedaled my way home. My mother said that she saw me coming up the street and knew something was wrong because I was as white as a sheet. I believe that I heard a few days later that the driver of the car was okay, but for the rest of that night (at least) I was a nervous wreck.

Exactly how all these events affected me I can't really say. Whether they had a major influence on me or whether they were more subtle in their effect, I do know that they were unexpected little chapters that happened suddenly and which I still carry with me in some way.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Godzilla Attacks Worcester II: The Recap

"Godzilla Attacks Worcester! A Creature Double Feature!" was a show put on by the good folks at That's Entertainment in Worcester (MA) a couple nights ago. Luckily, I was able to attend and met up with two good friends at the Elm Draught House in Millbury for the proceedings. What can I say, it was a blast!

Monday, April 4, 2011 was a cold, raw, rainy day in the Worcester area. Pretty much what one would expect from an early April day in New England. There was even some thunder and lightning too. Perfect weather for going out to the movies! Not to mention perfect weather for Godzilla movies. It kind of reminded me of the sort of day that was tailor-made for watching Creature Double Feature on channel 56 (WLVI) in the Boston area back in the 1970s and 80s. If the weather was too nice you might be forced by your Mom to go outside to play, but dreary conditions like Monday's meant you would be able to hunker down in front of the TV at 1:00 on Saturday afternoon for three hours of monster movie heaven!

As I mentioned in my earlier blog about this show, tickets were free--but had to be picked up in person at That's Entertainment comic book store in Worcester. Obviously store regulars would be in a great position to get tickets. But people who had never been there (or lived further away and couldn't find the time to get out there) might not be as likely to get these coveted passes. It was a good ploy to bring bodies into the store, but I was a bit concerned about how many people would actually make it to the show. In addition to the ticket policy the show was being put on on a Monday night (not the best time frame for a four-hour Godzilla-fest, but the only day that the Elm Draught House is closed--and thus available for a program like this). Well, I needn't have been worried. I am not great at estimating crowd numbers, but a lot of people did indeed show up. I can't imagine that the show's promoters were disappointed by the attendance. Late in the evening I was chatting with the owner of the Elm and he said that he felt there were around 125 people there. That's a VERY good number for a show that was being put on for the first time, with a somewhat off-beat ticket policy, on a Monday night... I guess it goes to show that Godzilla can still fill seats even after all these years!

The show was advertised as being family-friendly, and a lot of people seemed to take this promise to heart. In addition to all the young adults that one might expect for a comic book store's show there were some slightly older folks (such as myself) in their 30s and 40s who would have remembered watching Godzilla back in the Creature Double Feature days. Not only that, but a number of people brought their children too! There was a group of ten-year-olds hanging out in the first couple rows having a grand old time all night. It truly was an all-ages event!

One of the interesting aspects of the show was the fact that they didn't announce which two Godzilla movies would be featured until showtime. It would be difficult to complain about their choices regardless of what they ended up being--I mean, if you like Godzilla and come out for a show like this pretty much any Godzilla movies would be fine. I guess some people might have a preference for the older movies (the ones from the 1950s to the 1970s) and some people might prefer the more recent ones from the 1980s up to the present, but they're all Godzilla movies, right? Okay, I also suppose that some might even be turned off by the 1970s-era films where Godzilla was usually a good guy and became increasingly kid-friendly and, dare I say, "lovable"? As for myself, I was hoping for two from those early days, and I would have been fine with the "Godzilla-as-a-good-guy" ones because those are the ones I grew up watching on TV. Well, they ended up splitting the difference and going with one old title and one new one. The first movie was "Godzilla vs. Gigan" (aka "Godzilla on Monster Island") (1972). This was a great choice, as this corny episode had plenty of funny stuff to keep the crowd laughing and throwing out puns throughout the movie. This is also the movie that has probably the oddest Godzilla moment ever: namely the part where he orders Anguirus to leave Monster Island and head to Japan to see what's going on. What makes this so "odd"? Well, we actually hear Godzilla and Anguirus talking to each English! Hilarious! Regardless of the cheese factor, the crowd really got into it during the climatic monster battles. It was a great thing to hear everyone cheering the good monsters on and reacting to every body slam and cheap shot as the action unfolded.

The second movie was "Godzilla: Final Wars" (2004). When they first announced that they were going to show a newer film I felt a touch of disappointment, but it turned out to be a great choice. Fans of the original series of Godzilla movies who might not have watched any since they were kids (and who therefore wouldn't be familiar with the newer ones) got a chance to see how Godzilla movies have changed over the years. And younger fans who might be most familiar only with the newer titles (through the movies and the video games) got to experience the fun of an older title like "Godzilla vs Gigan". The action in "Final Wars" was certainly big-screen worthy. And, it features pretty much ALL the monsters who have ever battled Godzilla over the years (with the exception of Mechagodzilla). Some only appeared for a very short time, but it was fun to watch anyway. Appropriately enough, Gigan and King Ghidorah were heavily featured in both movies. Also, both movies featured aliens (disguised as humans) who planned on taking over the earth with monsters that are under their control. Not sure if these facts had anything to do with the choice of titles, but it did tie the two otherwise very different movies together pretty well. Some of the biggest cheers of the night came when Godzilla kicked the ass of the monster from the 1998 American version of "Godzilla". That movie bombed big time when it was released, and is pretty much universally despised by all Godzilla fans.

Before the first movie the That's Entertainment people welcomed the crowd and thanked them for coming. Next came a vintage "Coming Attractions" bumper. But, instead of trailers for old movies they showed the excellent Tom Selleck narrated Father's Day PSA that featured Godzilla and his son Minya, and the old Nike "Godzilla vs. Charles Barkley" commercial from the 80s.

Another treat was that they had an on-screen introduction to each movie by local Horror Host Crypt Meister (and his sidekick Warren) from the show Creepy Castle. I'm a big supporter of public-access shows like this and had never heard of Creepy Castle, so it was a treat to be introduced to something that was new to me. Here's the introductions as they appeared at the show.

The Creepy Castle Introduction

Between the movies they put some classic drive-in intermission ads (including the very suggestive one where the hot dog jumps into the bun) on the screen while the crowd mingled a bit, used the restrooms and got more food and drink. Then they gave out the door prizes. Prizes included an Anguirus toy, a Godzilla toy, a gift certificate for That's Entertainment and a DVD of "Godzilla vs. Gigan"!

The raffle prizes were a big hit

The Elm crowd enjoying the intermission activities

The toys were appropriate of course--since the monsters were featured in the movie we had just watched. After intermission the second half of the show began with the title sequence from the 1970s Hanna-Barbera cartoon "Godzilla" (the one with his son Godzooky).

Then the Creepy Castle folks made another on-screen appearance, introducing "Final Wars". It seemed that nearly everyone stuck around for the whole show. I thought that the kids would leave and the crowd would significantly thin out for "Final Wars", but it didn't seem like too many people left. The roars of laughter, cheers and applause from the crowd were every bit as loud as they were during the first film. Everyone seemed to have a great time.

All throughout the evening the Elm Draught House's snack bar/refreshment stand was kept busy fueling the crowd with pizza, hot dogs, burgers, nachos, soda, beer, wine and some of the best-tasting popcorn anywhere. Their extensive and reasonably priced menu is always a highlight of a visit to the theater (and the fact that they serve beer and wine is obviously a plus!).

Godzilla prepares to demolish one of the Elm's pizzas

After "Final Wars" ended the That's Entertainment gang returned to the stage to thank everyone once again and raffle off the rest of the prizes. The second batch of prizes included a King Ghidorah toy, tickets to the Elm Draught House, another That's Entertainment gift certificate and a "Godzilla: Final Wars" DVD (which they promised was only viewed once!). A little over four hours after the scheduled start time of 6:00 everyone filed out of the theater and headed home happy and (I imagine) hoping for future installments of shows like this one. I know I was! Outside the theater the night was cool, quiet and there was a lot of fog. One could almost imagine it as being the setting of a Godzilla movie. A perfect ending to a great night of food, friends, fun and monsters. What more could one ask for? Maybe...another show like this in the future? Let's hope so!