If there was any root cause that was the source of my interest in the fantastic genres, it was my childhood love of monsters.
I don’t know where this interest originally came from. All I know was that as a child, if a show or a movie on TV had a monster, I was there. If there was a book in the library that had pictures of monsters, I had to check it out (and I resisted checking it back in). Through these I would discover the names of the stars of movies that had monsters, and made lists of movies I wanted to see.
Then, finally, I learned about a late-night movie show called “Creature Feature”. I didn’t have much control over the TV in my family’s house, but I did manage to stake out that time as my own, and every week I would sit down and take in whatever horrific creation they were running that week. Not all the movies satisfied me; they would occasionally run monsterless movies like ISLE OF MISSING MEN that barely held my attention, but most of the time, I got my monster fix.
This wonderful time came to an end in the late seventies. One night, I turned on the TV and, instead of the usual wind, thunder and creaky house effects I was expecting, some late night comedy show appeared in its place. I hung on in the belief that it was just some short-term item that would probably last no more than thirty minutes, but it dragged on and on, and it didn’t release its stranglehold on the television until midnight, when finally, my show started. Yes, I had witnessed the birth of “Saturday Night Live”, but I never forgave it for pre-empting my monster movie show.
Midnight was a much more difficult time to negotiate; the audience for the show shrank and the budget got cheaper, and the movies got chintzier and duller. Furthermore, once I went to college and no longer had access to a TV set I could call my own, I abandoned it. It did manage to hang on until I was finished with college, but it was a shadow of its former self, and when the man who played the horror host for the show passed on, the show vanished.
Not that this marked the end of my love for fantastic cinema, but that story will continue in my next post in the series…