Dateline: Oct. 24, 2015. The Midnite Drive-In, a somewhat part-time blog with no sense of purpose had been idle for 6 years. Then in 2015 I discovered the inspiration that triggered a now 5 year journey to recreate the blog. What was the inspiration? Blogathons! If you have been a regular reader over those 5 years you will have noticed that many of the entries were inspired by blogathons. I am much better at writing when shoe-horned into a concept rather than just winging it.
You won't find those earlier entries in the first iteration of The Midnite Drive-In. I erased them all. They were pretty bad. My initial attempt was to mimic my movie review idol, Joe Bob Briggs. I even copied his style of injecting a fictional bunch of malcontents to hang out with. But I lost interest, probably because I really didn't think the homage was any good. It's best to leave those entries in the internet grave.
Joe Bob was better at it anyway. The writer, whose real name was John Bloom, worked for years as a drive-in movie critic for The Dallas Times Herald, and his work has been collected in two books, Joe Bob Briggs Goes to the Drive-In and Joe Bob Briggs Goes Back to the Drive-In. If you are interested in what originally inspired me to try this gig, check them out. I have both, but since they seem to be OOP, you may have to haunt used book stores to find them. (And, no, you can't borrow mine...:-D)
I retained some of the humor that I had tried to inject in the original entries, but I opted for some more real, personal background to the experiences I've had watching these movies rather than with some fictional friends. As a result, I am still interested in doing this blog, and 5 years is a milestone. (The original Midnite Drive-In only lasted about a year, if I recall...)
So here's the deal. I had to find movies that meant a lot to me to celebrate this anniversary. I've been doing a lot of standard fare over the years, but the original intent, highlighting the drive-in experience, has been shoved to the side way too often. So for this 5th anniversary I selected two movies which, although I didn't actually get to see them on a drive-in screen, exhibit much of the same themes that made the drive-in experience so great in it's heyday. To wit: two films about aliens, nuclear disasters and giant monsters. Both of these movies may never have been paired at a drive-in theater, but man, what I wouldn't give to experience both as a double feature in that atmosphere... preferably with a date by my side. (Note: According to wikipedia, the original screenings had The Amazing Colossal Man paired with Cat Girl, and Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman was released with War of the Satellites. But that doesn't mean it has never been shown as a double feature in later years. I would do it if my dream of opening a classic drive-in were to come to fruition.)
The Amazing Colossal Man (1957):
Col. Glenn Manning (Glenn Langan) and a group of soldiers are preparing for an exercise to advance into the nuclear zone after the aftershocks of the detonation of a plutonium bomb. (In those prehistorical days right after the development of bombs, this was a standard exercise. For more interesting looks at attitudes towards atomic bombs in those days, I highly recommend a documentary called The Atomic Cafe, which is just a collection of newsreels and educational films from the era. It gives you some insight into the ignorance (or chutzpah) of the government's attitudes towards nuclear power.)
Anyway, Manning and crew are waiting, but something goes wrong. The bomb does not detonate on time. Meanwhile an unidentified and unauthorized airplane enters the forbidden zone and crashes. Manning, against orders, tries to go to the rescue of the pilot, but while out of his bunker, the bomb does go off, and Manning is hit with full force of the blast of plutonium. (Quite a bit more plutonium than it would take to send a modified DeLorean into the past, to be sure).
Amazingly, Manning survives the blast. But the result of it is that he grows, day by day to astounding proportions. And the result also affects his mind as he becomes rapidly resentful of what nature has inflicted upon him.
As Manning continues to grow, the doctors behind the scenes look for a way to return him to his normal state. One of them succeeds in developing a serum which, when used on an elephant and a camel, reduce their size so that they fit in a cage on the tabletop of the laboratory. So it seems that maybe they might just be able to help manning return to his normal size.
But time may be running out for the doctors. As Manning's mind continues to deteriorate he escapes the confines of his place on the base and goes on a rampage, tearing through the desert and winding up in Las Vegas, where he proceeds to destroy Sin City. (The casinos must've denied him credit. After all, where would a 100 ft. giant get a viable way to earn money?)
Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman (1958):
A rich heiress, Nancy Archer (Allison Hayes), is married to a rather emotional vacuous man, Harry (William Hudson). Nancy is portrayed as having alcoholic tendencies and has spent some time in an institution prior to the start of this movie. But she is out right now and travelling down a desert highway when she runs into a round satellite.
From the sitellite emerges a giant hand (that's all we see at this point) and she runs screaming back in to town to tell the news. Of course, no one believes her, since of course everyone knows she is an alcoholic and a former mental patient. Harry, more concerned with making time with a local chippie Honey (Yvette Vickers) is oblivious to her rantings. The sheriff and his deputies are equally unsympathetic.
Nancy is in a love/hate relationship with Harry. Although she despises his philandering ways she still wants him to love her. And manages to convince him to go looking for the satellite. But when they finally find it and a giant alien (Michael Ross, who also was cast as Tony the bartender) emerges from it, Harry empties his gun at it and runs off, abandoning Nancy to the alien.
The authorities, as well as Nancy's butler, Jess (Ken Terrell) suspect foul play. It doesn't help that everyone in town knows that Harry has been fooling around. But the sheriff and his deputy run across the satellite and it's inhabitant, also discovering that the alien has commandeered Nancy's diamond necklace. (It is suggested that the alien needs the diamond to somehow power his ship, but it isn't explained how that's possible).
As a result of contact with the alien, Nancy grows to tremendous size (eventually. It takes almost the entire movie for this to happen). She breaks free from her restraints and goes on her own rampage like Col. Manning from the previous entry. But she has a goal in mind. She's seeking out her philandering husband.
The quality of the graphics in both movies is pretty shoddy. Because the trick of making the people look like they are of monstrous size, apparently the trick was to superimpose the image of a normal sized person against a backdrop of a significantly reduced town. This has the effect of making the giants look somewhat transparent. (You can sometimes see trough the giant to the background behind them.) I understand this was in the primitive days of special effects, but it still looks a bit ridiculous sometimes. But the story is interesting enough to hold interest.
Drive safely foks. And keep an eye out for 50 ft people. They may be more dangerous than they look.