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Now in our fifth calendar year
PCR #235  (Vol. 5, No. 39)  This edition is for the week of September 20--26, 2004.

Book Review: “Seasons of Real Florida” by Jeff Klinkenberg
 by William Moriaty
"Mr.  3000"
 by Mike Smith
Fanzine Memoirs, Part 3....Advent #2 Memoirs by William Moriaty
  by Vinnie Blesi
How Pop Culture Drives Horror/Sci-Fi/Fantasy Films
 by Andy Lalino
It Begins In The Fifth Grade?....Andy Is Right....Coming Soon To A Message Board Near You
 by Brandon Jones
I'd "Rather" Not....Rodney, You Have My Respect....Top Ten Challenge
 by Matt Drinnenberg
Gabba Gabba Hey....Get Well....Thanks, Hugo....What The....Passing On....Meet The Beatles, Part 35
 by Mike Smith
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Andy Lalino
Oddservations by Andy Lalino

How Pop Culture Drives Horror/Sci-Fi/Fantasy Films

By now we all know Nolan has based his website not on the very elements he and his writers live for, namely horror/sci-fi/fantasy, but rather 'pop culture' itself, which was a little confusing to me at first, but after some weeks I realized it was a brilliant move in that the banner of 'pop culture' can include most anything: movies, literature, politics, the paranormal, etc. I think Nole has rightly established the fact that despite the title of "Pop Culture Review", most of the opinion on the site centers around fantastic films. This got me thinking about a topic that Nolan has brought up before on both the website and in conversation: how does "pop culture" effect the very media we're exposed to?

Now, it's not like I have devoted a whole lot of brain matter (what little I have) to this subject, but right off the bat I can think of a few societal events that 'steered' pop culture, which in turn was reflected in the movies we watched and the books we read:

The Nuclear Bomb ('40s/'50s): No, I'm not kidding. After the '40s ended, remember this was post-WWII and the advent of the A-Bomb, the early '50s ushered in a near endless stream of science-fiction movies that were based on themes of science itself and the side-effects of radiation. Sci-fi ruled the '50s, that is until Hammer Films released "Curse of Frankenstein" in '58.
The Roswell Incident/Area 51 ('40s/'50s): For similar reasons as explained above, the supposed crash of a U.F.O. in the Nevada desert in 1947 ushered in a "flying saucer" craze as popular today as it was back then. This event, coupled with the Nuclear era, helped fuel the sci-fi genre in the 1950s.
Rock & Roll ('50s): Needless to say, rock & roll had a major influence on nearly everything in our lives since the mid-'50s. Whether it be doo-wop, Punk, New Wave, Heavy Metal, or the corporate bubble-gum 'pop' we suffer through today, rock & roll is truly here to stay, even though most people in my generation believe it should have died at the end of the '80s.
Hammer Horror ('50s): Hammer had an immeasurable effect on the pop culture of horror films in the late '50s. They released full-color horror pictures featuring buxom babes and snippets of gore, which seemed like the next level after wonderfully rubbery alien monsters of the B&W sci-fi films up to that point. Hammer opened the door to violence, profanity, and nudity, which were to become a studio staple in 1970 upon the release of M*A*S*H.
Drugs ('60s): Yes, drugs were used and readily available pre-'60s, however the flower children of the late '60s embraced the drug culture, and thus influenced pop culture heavily during that time period. Suddenly, innocent pop of the '50s and '60s gave way to the drug-tinged sounds of Jimi Hendrix and (-ugh-) Janis Joplin.
The Hippie Movement ('60s): Influenced by drugs and counterculture/underground art (Crumb & Warhol), the hippies took over in the late '60s, having a tremendous effect on pop culture at the time. If you don't believe me just watch Grace Slick sitting next to a conservative-looking Dick Cavett on his talk show. The hippie thing went on for many years until Punk Rock kicked it aside in '76.
Album Rock ('70s) - Kind-of related to the hippie movement, the great album rockers (Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin) established themselves as the Boschs and Dantes of their time. They ruled the roost until disco and Punk came along in the mid/late '70s and threatened their existence. There was a backlash however in the early '80s when true rockers fought back, chanting "Disco Sucks!". The album rockers managed to survive well into the music video age, happily co-existing with Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet.
Punk Rock ('70s) - Thanks to the Sex Pistols, The Damned, The Ramones, etc. Punk Rock emerged in '76 and changed damn near everything. Scraggly hippie hair and drug rugs made way for mohawks and safety pins through the cheek. Punk was rebellious, noisy, artsy, colorful, and fun. Despite it's hard edge, it managed to influence the next generation of art-rockers, the New Wavers/New Romantics of the late '70s and early '80s.
"Star Wars", "Halloween", and "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" ('77, '78, and '82 respectively): An unbelievable one-two-three punch that paved the way for an unprecedented era of popularity for the science-fiction, horror, and teenage sex comedy genres. This wonderful era lasted until 1987 when people inexplicably began preferring "Three Men and a Baby" to "Return of the Living Dead", "Home Alone 2" to "The Road Warrior" and "Pretty Woman" to "The Last American Virgin". Thanks a lot, assholes.
New Wave ('80s) - Many New Wave band members insist they were influenced by Punk Rock, however I contend that the more effeminate New Wave sound was more influenced by prog/art rockers Yes, Roxy Music, Genesis, Peter Gabriel, the Velvet Underground, and the Moody Blues. That aside, however, New Wave was the perfect music to suit avant-garde cinema. New Wave was artsy, colorful, varied, and the band members themselves actually looked like rock stars. Even music videos themselves had a tremendous impact on motion pictures; they still do.
The Video Revolution ('80s) - Although we didn't know it at the time, thanks to VHS tape rentals, fans were exposed to the works of great European horror film directors, such as Jess Franco, Dario Argento, Lenzi, and many others. Most were packaged in great-looking covers but included horrible film-to-videotape transfers. I believe this movement helped maintain the popularity of horror and sci-fi in that those were the titles most young men rented. I'm amazed that when the DVD revolution came along in the late '90s, most of the films that were VHS throwaways in the '80s have now been remastered and treated with the respect they deserve.

This is where I feel I must stop. I cannot in good conscience discuss the 1990's and 2000's. The '90s were a decade completely devoid of lust for sci-fi and horror, that is unless one mentions 1999, which saw the release of "The Blair Witch Project" and "The Sixth Sense", which "breathed some life back into the genre". You may also argue that 1996 was notable too in that is when "Scream" was released, which supposedly revitalized the sub-genre of the "slasher" film. Despite these few-and-far-between successes, the '90s and the beginning of the new millennium wholly failed to maintain or re-capture the excitement and dominance horror and sci-fi held for many, many years, hell, all the way back to the '30s. I can only shake my head in disbelief when I pick up the movie section of my paper and see mostly dramas and comedies, and if you're lucky a horror movie or two. Such was not the case in, say, a year like 1982, when horror, sci-fi, and teenage sex comedies dominated the movie landscape.

Who's to blame? The generation of the '90s and today, being that they dropped the torch in terms of carrying on the standards of the modern Crazed Fanboy, or was it my generation that, although weaned on arguably the best years of horror/sci-fi/fantasy films, instead turned to creating crapola like the soap operas "Melrose Place", "The O.C.", and "Dawson's Creek"? Did political correctness play a role? I believe so. Does today's metrosexual male no longer want to see scantily clad beauties sliced up by chainsaws? Has "Dawson's Creek" truly won them over? I think it's a combination of all these factors. I just want things the way they were back in 1981. Fulci. Zombies. "Star Wars" inspired knockoffs. Italian horror. Dusk-to-Dawn horror films at the drive-in. Claudio Simonetti scores. Tangerine Dream. An actor who's up to the standards set by Kurt Russell, Harrison Ford, and Mel Gibson. Is that too much to ask?

"Oddservations" is ©2004 by Andy Lalino.  The Oddservations banner is a creation of Andy Lalino. All other graphics are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.