Honestly, I wasn't planning on doing another entry in the Analog Time Machine series so soon, but as I was digging through my ancient stack of VHS tapes, I came across one that filled me with a giddy excitement I haven't felt in a long time. The tape in question, a hodgpodge that includes NBC's Sunday Night Movie presentation of Top Gun, David Copperfield's Niagra Fall's Special among other strange and wonderful delights.
I very well may come back to this tape to look at some of these artifacts of a time gone by, but the thing that I really wanted to talk about tonight is a short lived movie clip show that aired on USA called Shadow Theater. I don't think it even lasted a full season there were maybe five or six episodes. It's hard to say though because this show isn't even listed in IMDb! Shyea! It's THAT rare! So, dear reader, you are in for a special treat here, because for the first time (I think pretty much in the history of the internet) you are going to get a full review of the premier episode, complete with the original commercials that ran with it in 1990! If that isn't reason enough to jump in with a brand new Analog Time Machine, I don't know what is! Let's get cracking!
The USA Logo
A long time ago, on a TV that utilized cathode rays to function, this was a very common sight. See back in the 80's and 90's USA was one of THE cable channels to keep an eye on for all your horror movie needs. Shows like Night Flight, Commander USA's Groovy Movies, Up All Night and Saturday Nightmares kept us horror hounds coming back week after week for our dose to the macabre. It makes me sad to look at the state of the channel now. All reruns of CSI: Miami and Burn Notice. Boo.
When I think of my formative years, nothing ignites my nostalgia quite like USA does. Sure there were other channels that aired great genre programming, but USA had by far the widest variety, I think. Don't get me wrong, I love TNT's MonsterVision, early Sci-Fi Channel as well as the weirdness that would pop up on various other stations, but it was USA that consistently had the goods.
Ah, Shadow Theater. The opening of the show was a great montage of clips from tons of different horror movies. I'm pretty sure I can name most of the films, but there are a few I'm not sure on. That may be a follow up segment. Anyway, it's a fantastic opening, suitably creepy with some great atmospheric organ rock music while Robert Englund narrates the opening prose.
It's Robert Englund!
When we first join Robert, he's standing on his chair and yelling at an off-screen dog named Hitchcock to get back. I guess Hitchcock is a large rowdy dog. We never get to see him, so we'll never know. That's kinda the schtick on this episode. After Hitchcock backs off (I guess) Robert gets down off his chair and introduces himself and informs us that when he starred in the latest film adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera, they moved the location from Paris to London and as such we'd be taking a look at some films that also take place there. We're advised to stick around. Guess it's commercial time already!
The Marshall Chronicles
First up, an add for one of ABC's new sitcoms called The Marshall Chronicles. I'll be honest, I remember this commercial very well, but I don't think I ever watched the show. The commercial is fairly amusing though. See, Marshall here is informing us of how he stacks up against Doogie Howser, M.D. (See first photo). In case you're wondering what the naked women thing is....Marshall is telling us how Dr. Howser gets to examine naked women all day while he himself is lonely. You know, now that I think about it...I highly doubt you'd see mention of naked women on a sitcom commercial these days. Oh how times change.
No Sweat! By Revlon
NO SWEAT! By Revlon. It's anti-perspiration and odor control at it's most aggressive. Or so this commercial would have me believe. While extremely fit men and women work out in front of a multitude of brightly colored backgrounds, we're informed that No Sweat will give us a burst of deodorization and keep us dry when we need it most. The chiseled beautiful people stare intently at the screen and inform us that it's "No sweat." I mean, the colors are cool and all, but I kinda miss teenage Denise Richards trying to sell me Secret deodorant. Cause it's strong enough for me, but PH balanced for a woman. By the way, that is true. As a married man, I can attest to the fact that Secret is, in fact, strong enough for me, yet PH balanced for my lovely wife.
The Ford Aerostar. Minivan of choice for Soccer Mom's in the late 80's/early 90's. My family never owned a minivan, but if this commercial is to be believed the Aerostar appears to be in direct competition with the Chevy Lumina APV Minivan. As a side note, my father did have a Chevy Lumina Sedan. Nice car Wonky shocks. Totally going off subject here. Anyway, being that my experience with minvans is precisely zilch, we'll just suffice to say that as far as car commercials go, this one wasn't bad.
I've never had much of a green thumb. Beyond that, living in either condo's or apartments, I've never owned my own lawn, so I can't say that I understand the struggle of proper lawn maintenance. I imagine that if I DID have my own lawn, I would be quite proud of it and I would want to keep it lush and green. I hate complicated crap though. So, I can tell you that I would definitely use Greensweep. It looks nice and easy and this fella looks like he's having a grand old time dancing around while watering and fertilizing the lawn. Unlike his neighbor there, who looks like he's having an absolutely miserable time with cumbersome bags and a roller thingy and other unwieldy shit that looks like a major pain in the nads. No thank you. I'll be a Greensweep guy with my imaginary lawn, thank you very much!
USA SATURDAY NIGHTMARES PRESENTS LASERBLAST!!!!!!!
OH MY GOD! What an awesome bonus this is! First of all, Laserblast is an awesomely bad sci-fi movie from the 70's that I freaking love. Secondly, SATURDAY NIGHTMARES! YES! Man, this caught me right in the cockles deep down in my heart. I have fond memories of watching Laserblast on Saturday Nightmares and on Up All Night! If I remember correctly, it was one of the weekends that I spent at my aunt's house. I must have been around eleven or twelve. I'm sure I've mentioned before that I used to occasionally spend a weekend at my aunt's house. We'd stay up late watching horror movies and eating garlic bread with apple jelly! HEY! Don't knock it until you've tried it, damnit! It's the food of the Gods!
Anyway, I remember one Saturday night we were watching some old movie she had taped off TV....I want to say that it was The Indestructible Man, with Lon Chaney Jr. It was around quarter after eleven and her roomate called saying that her car was broken down and she was stranded at her job (I think she worked in a factory type place). Anyway, my aunt didn't want to drag me out into the cold so she told me to stay put. Off she went and the whole place was mine for about an hour and a half or so. I came across Laserblast on Up All Night. I was at once captivated by the stop motion aliens and also highly disturbed by Billy's appearance when he turned all green and started blowing shit up. It was a very weird feeling, being all alone at night away from home and watching this weird flick. My aunt got home with her roomate just after it ended. I'll never forget that night.
Just seeing this movie all grainy and stuff on VHS, I'm highly considering finding a copy of Laserblast on VHS. Sure, I've got it on DVD.....but it just isn't the same. I want the analog pop and hiss. I want the tactile feel that brings me back to that night 25 or so years ago.
You can expect to hear FAR more about Saturday Nightmares, Up All Night and the like in the future. I've created a nostalgia monster of myself.
I never saw The Take. It was a made-for-cable movie according to IMDb, however it looks like it also got a video release. I think I'm going to have to check it out, because it actually sounds pretty awesome. The gist is that a corrupt Miami cop goes to prison, gets out and ends up involved in the Florida drug trade, the Cuban mafia and a briefcase full of cocaine! Sounds like a good time to me. Plus it's a made-for-TV movie from 1990...so you KNOW it's going to be cheesy as hell! I'll let you know when I hunt down a copy, cause you can count on a review!
Viewer Discrection is Advise!
Even something as simple as a Viewer Discretion screen was so much more vibrant and amazing in the 80's and 90's. These days, we get a black screen with white lettering. We get the TV rating system. There was no TV rating system back in the day. The only warning you had that you were gonna see some serious shit was a warning such as this one. Also, they didn't just SHOW the warning. Creepy announcer guy read the warning to you. You know....just in case you were really paying attention or something.
As we rejoin Robert, he's found a nice colorful beach ball for Hitchcock to play with. He tosses the ball off screen and sooner than you can say "How sweet! Fresh meat!", the shredded ball is flying back at Robert and he catches it. Looks like Hitchcock is going to need some sturdier toys!
We are now introduced to our first clip segment, which include Halloween, Hellraiser (and Hellbound) as well as A Nightmare on Elm Street. We're treated to a pretty sweet Freddy bit before the clips start too!
First up we see some clips from Halloween as the narrator (which is not Robert Englund) remarks about how Halloween changed the horror filmscape forever. We get a few interview clips with John Carpenter as well, who likens the film to a western.
This was my very first exposure to Halloween and the scenes utterly terrified and thrilled me. I don't know exactly how long it was after seeing this that I finally got to watch Halloween for the first time, but I believe it was at least a couple of years. When I finally did get to see the film, I remember being very excited every time a scene that appeared on Shadow Theater would come up in the film.
Hellraiser & Hellbound: Hellraiser II
Next up we're whisked away to meet the Cenobites in Clive Barker's Hellraiser. These scenes really freaked me out when I was younger and the narrators commentary about heightened levels of pleasure and pain really confused and upset me. My young mind was completely incapable of understanding how these two polar opposites could be intertwined or connected, but something about the concept absolutely terrified me.
I didn't actually see Hellraiser (or any of it's sequels) until I started working for Video Paradise, though I was familiar with the series thanks to this show as well as Fangoria and GoreZone magazines. As a matter of fact, my very first issue of Fango covered Hellraiser III...so I was well versed in the concept before actually seeing any of the films. On top of that, I actually started with Hellbound: Hellraiser II and then say the first film. It was an absolute revelation for me at the time and I became an devout fan not only of the Hellraiser series (even the less than good sequels) but of Clive Barker as well.
A Nightmare on Elm Street
If you've been a reader of Midnight Cinephile for a while or listened to the podcast, then you'll know that A Nightmare on Elm Street was the first horror film that I really cut my teeth on at a pretty early age thanks to my sister and my cousin. It truly started me on the path that I have followed....and in a way lead to me starting Midnight Cinephile. So, thanks, AnnMarie!
What can I possibly say about NOES that hasn't been said before about a gazillion times? If you haven't seen it, then do so immediately. You won't be disappointed. Unless you don't like horror movies. But if you don't like horror movies, why the heck are you reading this right now? Weirdo.
Hitchcock Don't Like Being Groomed
And we're back with Robert. He enters from the right side of the screen looking more than a bit disheveled. He informs us that Hitchcock can be a bit of a baby when it comes to getting groomed. It's a quick segment and before you know it we're into more commercials.
The First Power Trailer
Oh man, I totally forgot about this movie! The trailer is freakin' awesome. Mr. Creepy Announcer tells us that since the dawn of time, Satan has worked to create the perfect killer. Que the first image. HOLY CRAP! Mr Creepy Announcer tells us that he was created to kill many, without reason. Cut to The Killer walking down a hallway using what appears to be a ceiling fan as a spinning weapon of death. HOLY CRAP! Mr Creepy Announcer tells us to be warned because this man exists today. Cut to crazy action sequences. WHOA! The trailer used to kinda creep me out, so I'm downright shocked that I didn't seek it out before. This movie looks bad ass and I can't believe that I've never seen it. Luckily a quick jump over to Amazon and $11 dollars later, the DVD is en route to Castle Cinephile as we speak. So you can bet on a review coming up within the next week or so.
The Pizza Hut Lover's Collection
Man, oh man. Who doesn't love Pizza Hut? I grew up in a house that loved Domino's Pizza....but for a period in the early 90's Domino's changed their sauce or something because we stopped liking it for a while and that's when we started ordering Pizza Hut. It became my preferred pizza after that....despite the fact that I then went to work for Domino's Pizza in the late 90's (Still one of the best jobs I ever had. I mean seriously. They paid me to drive around and listen to my radio. How cool is that! Plus I lived in college town so on the weekends I made CRAZY amounts of tips.). Anyway, I'm totally getting way off topic here. Which surprises no one, I'm sure.
Pizza Hut's Lover's Collection (Meat, Cheese, Pepperoni) were the best damn pizzas on the planet as far as I was concerned. My favorite was always the Pepperoni Lover's Pizza. Don't get me wrong. I love all kindsa meat, but when it comes to my pizza, I prefer to keep it simple. Extra cheese. Extra Pepperoni. It's a thing of beauty.
Damnit, now I really want a pizza.
J&B's Grille in Townsend, MA! Growing up, my Godparents lived in Townsend and I can remember going here a few times. As I recall they had really good crab cakes and clam chowder. It's kinda funny watching this commercial because they way they shot it, you would never guess that this restaurant is right smack dab in the middle of a shopping plaza. There's a McDonald's to the right. Stop & Shop behind it and several other stores all around. Used to be a Mom & Pop video store in that plaza too, I think it was called Country Video.
The restaurant is still there, though now it's called Bailey's Bar & Grille and I was actually there in December. Still looks exactly the same on the outside. I think it still looks pretty much the same on the inside as well. Sadly, they did not have crab cakes anymore. But they did have a delicious roast beef with cranberry chutney and mashed potatoes! If you are looking for fine family dining and you are in north central Massachusetts, JB's/Bailey's is definitely a good option.
Oh boy. If you want to get a look at men's fashions in 1990 (at least in central Massachusetts) look no further than this commercial for Armando's. Mullets and mustaches are the order of the day here. Along with bright colors, bizarre patters and a whole lot of GQ posing from these fellas. As a matter of fact, most of the commercial consists of these guys shaking hands, high fiving, giving the "Hey There!" gun-finger-move", or just standing around pretending to have an important conversation while showing off all the latest that 1990 had to offer.
Armando's is also still there! I drive by it every now and then whilst doing errands and such. Never paid much attention to it until this commercial popped up. I just may have to go in there one of these days just to see what it's like. Maybe they've still got a bright yellow sports jacket in the back from 1990. I could rock that like nobodies business!
Snack time for Hitchcock
And we're back with Robert. He's got a nice big juicy lamb chop for Hitchcock. What a lucky dog! Immediately after tossing the chop off screen, a clean picked bones flies back at him. Wow, that dog can eat! Apparently, Hitchcock is just a puppy. So he needs his protein.
It's now time to take a look at the films set in London, as promised at the beginning of the show. Robert tells us to keep our eyes peeled during the American Werewolf in London segment for John Landis to come crashing through a window! That was one of the first "easter eggs" in a horror movie I learned about.
An American Werewolf in London
An American Werewolf in London is another film that I saw fairly early on....probably not long after I saw Shadow Theater. I was in middle school, Seventh Grade I think, and American Werewolf played on WLVI (Channel 56) on the 8 O'clock Movie. The thing I remember most from that first viewing was talking about it with my best friend the next day at school We both thought the scene in the porno theater was hilarious....what with a heavily decomposed Jack talking with David. Jack had no lips left, yet was able to still perfect articulate his words while his teeth gnashed up and down. Don't ask me why, but we thought that was freakin' hilarious.
Waxworks is a film that I don't think I saw until much later on....probably after high school even. If I remember correctly I found a double feature DVD of Waxworks and Waxworks II in the bargain bin at a music store called Strawberries. I think I may have rented Waxworks II back in the day, because I remember it seemed awful familiar to me when I watched it on the DVD. The Mummy scene shown on Shadow Theater is one of the weaker sequences in the film, I think....though it's still pretty bad ass.
I saw Lifeforce (well part of it anyway) on WPIX (which we oddly picked up out of New York) when they ran their Shocktober programming in October. It was a heavily edited cut (obviously) but I was completely enthralled by the vibe of the movie. It was like a cross between Alien and Dracula with a healthy dose of the 80's sprinkled in. Years later, I would finally see the uncut film on DVD and was completely obsessed with Mathilda May. I can't imagine why.
Obedience With Silver Bullets
We rejoin Robert as he's loading a gun with silver bullets. "There's only one way to train a dog like Hitchcock," he says. "Silver bullets! Just like the kind we used on the Count!" Wait. What? When the hell did anyone use silver bullets on Count Dracula? I mean, I know that Dracula (and vampires in general) have an aversion to silver, but I can't seem to recall anyone ever defeating Dracula with silver bullets. If anyone out there knows of a film (or book) where this occurs, let me know! I'm genuinely curious to see/read it.
What happens from here, I have no idea because my jackass younger self decided to choose right here to start recording The Monster Squad off HBO. What a dick. Sure, it's a cool movie, but I recorded over other episodes of Shadow Theater. WHY GOD?!?!? WHY!??!?!?? Man, if I could go back in time, I would bitch smack myself and instill the importance of preserving what I had recorded.
Never the less, this was one incredible journey. In roughly thirty minutes I was able to travel back in time twenty-six years and revisited a lot of great memories. I hope that you've enjoyed this as much as I have.
And for the love of God, if anyone out there has more episodes of Shadow Theater, please contanct me ASAP!
Until next time,