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Now in our tenth calendar year!
PCR #459  (Vol. 10, No. 2) This edition is for the week of January 5--11, 2009.

MOVIE REVIEW
"Gran Torino"  by Mike Smith
LA FLORIDIANA
2008 Was A Year to Forget, But--December was a Month to Remember!  by Will Moriaty
RETRORAMA
Welcome 2009 and 1969 Revisited!  by ED Tucker
GROWING UP FANBOY
WPIX Channel 11  by Chris Woods
MATT'S RAIL
Today It's Your Birthday .... Christmas Bounty .... Football Playoffs  by Matt Drinnenberg
MIKE'S RANT
Enough Already I Beg You .... I Said Enough! .... Stop It! Stop It! .... If You Can't Beat 'em .... Passing On .... The Best Of 2008 .... And The Winner Is .... My Favorite Films, Part 2  by Mike Smith
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CF Presents Retrorama

Welcome 2009 and 1969 Revisited!

Welcome 2009, you couldn’t get here fast enough! 2008 seems more like one of those years we escaped from rather than one that fades quietly into the sunset as its successor takes its place. The losses to the Fanboy community in 2008 were truly staggering. Chief among them was the passing of Forrest J. Ackerman, the single greatest Fanboy to date and possibly of all time. His Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine had a tremendous influence on multiple generations of creature crazed kids. While 92 years is certainly a more than respectable amount of time in this world, I felt sure he would reach the 100 year mark through nothing more than the power of his own will. Sadly, time is the arch nemesis of the Fanboy and we are reaching a critical nexus in the cycle when the majority of the people we admired growing up are drawing uncomfortably close to the grasp of the Grim Reaper. As this decade pulls to a close, let us all hope we are granted a brief reprieve from these massive bereavements, if only for a few months.

Forty years ago in the far away time of 1969, the main focus on most American’s minds was space – both internal and external. As a country, we were still enmeshed in a war in Vietnam while struggling to put a man on the moon before the decade ended. We also welcomed a new President, Richard M. Nixon, into the White House. Over in England, the Beatles made the last public performance of their career on top of their Apple building and later released their swan song album, Abbey Road. Back in the states and supposedly under the influence of messages in the Beatles’ music, Charles Manson and members of his “Family” committed seven brutal high profile murders and sent the country into a panic. On television, the five year mission of the starship Enterprise ended after only three on Star Trek. Sesame Street and The Brady Bunch both made their debuts. Young Steven Spielberg cut his directorial teeth on one segment of a television pilot film, The Night Gallery, which would be picked up as a weekly anthology series the following year. In England, Monty Python’s Flying Circus and The Benny Hill Show begin.

Cinematically, 1969 was a year of indecision that managed to produce some classic films anyway. Americans still loved the familiar western and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (starring 2008 casualty Paul Newman), True Grit (earning John Wayne a best actor Oscar), and Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch were all box-office winners. Breaking new ground in theaters, Jon Voight played a Midnight Cowboy in a bizarre tale of a young man’s dream of becoming a male prostitute. This was one of the first mainstream films to receive an X-rating from the Motion Picture Association of America’s (MPAA) rating system which had gone into effect the previous year. Another type of dream, living free on the open road, was explored by Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Jack Nicholson in Easy Rider. The Byrds provided the memorable soundtrack. A Boy Named Charlie Brown marked the big screen debut of Charles Schulz’s Peanuts gang in a rare non-Disney animated feature that admirably captured the tone of the comic strip. One-shot Bond George Lazenby found himself On Her Majesty’s Secret Service with recent ex-Avenger Diana Rigg by his side.

Drive-in theaters were still big business in the late 60’s and hungry for product. Between this and audiences need for escapist entertainment, 1969 was a banner year for cult films. The highlights included:

Al Adamson’s troubled production Blood of Dracula’s Castle finally hits the big screen on a double bill with the Cameron Mitchell headliner Nightmare in Wax courtesy of Crown International Pictures. Learning from his mistakes and hitting the front end of the biker movie curve, Adamson also delivers Satan’s Sadists and The Female Bunch through his own company, Independent International.

Ray Steckler completes Body Fever (also known as Supercool and The Last Original B Movie). This was probably the most commercial film of his career but it received only limited release.

Larry Buchanan dropped the original It’s Alive onto unsuspecting late-night television viewers. Insomniacs across the country saw the closest thing to a nightmare ever committed to celluloid as former Disney star Tommy Kirk, Bill Thurman, and some guy in a bad Halloween costume all stare bug-eyed at the camera for ninety minutes.

In the process of wrapping up his busy career as a filmmaker and moving on to other endeavors, gore guru Herschell Gordon Lewis delivers the first lesbian western, Linda and Abilene. This seldom seen film, filled with nudity and (although understated by Lewis standards) violence, was shot on the same remote California property the Manson Family were occupying at the time.

Boris Karloff plays a Frankenstein for the last time in Mad Monster Party. In this case, the veteran actor lends his unique and distinct voice to the animated character of Baron Boris Von Frankenstein for this Rankin and Bass feature film. Sadly, the film is restricted to theatrical showings at children’s matinees but it later finds a welcoming home on television.

Author Terry Southern, Ringo Starr, musical group Badfinger, Peter Sellers and a whole slew of other actors team up for the strange but amusing Magic Christian. This sarcastic take on wealth and power has Sellers and adopted son Ringo proving that you can buy just about anything if you have enough money.

Also from England, Hammer delivers a weak late entry in their classic monster series with Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed. Peter Cushing returns as the Baron but still can’t get his experiments in brain surgery to work quite right. In America, Warner Brothers sat on the film for a year before quietly releasing it to theaters in 1970.

Wow, if only we could really believe that 2009 might even come close to equaling that output! Rest assured that many of these films will be revisited in the electronic pages of Retrorama during the next twelve months. Have a safe and happy new year!


"Retrorama" is ©2009 by ED Tucker.   All graphics this page, except where otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.