The Project Begins

It was the middle of March in 2021.

I found myself flipping through one of my several books on genre movies, and considering how much things had changed in the previous twenty years. In 1981, my only chance of seeing a genre movie was if it showed up at a reasonable hour on television of if it was magically revived for theatrical showings. Twenty years later, I had a huge collection of movies recorded off of television and purchased from video stores. If I was looking for a specific movie, I could check against a plethora of cable channels or check out the catalogs of several movie dealers.

I found myself wondering if just possibly I could go through these lists of movies I had, and find out how many I could actually get my hands on. I was willing to bet that the majority of the movies could be found and watched.

That’s when I hit on the movie-watching project. What if I made a list of movies to initially find, and began watching them one a day. How long could I go on before I would be unable to find one? So, I picked a book with a good starting selection of common genre movies (fantasy, science fiction and/or horror) and using a filtering system too complicated to explain at this point, began compiling a list.

My first movie? ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN. It seemed a good place to start. So I began my movie-watching project. However, the project was only half-formed at this point, though I didn’t realize it at the time. It was another five months before I extended the project…. but that’s for the next post in the series.

Further developments…

After the death of my local “Creature Feature”, I didn’t lose interest in fantastically themed movies. Though I no longer had the regular TV show, there were other developments that had an impact on me.

One was that I started to hunt for and collect books that featured lists of the types of movies I wanted to see. Some books I was able to find at local book stores; I found most of the John Stanley “Creature Feature movie guides” that way. Others were more difficult and more elusive. However, I eventually discovered a resource called “The Movie/TV Entertainment Book Club”. They offered books about movies and TV shows, including many from a book company known as MacFarlane.

Perhaps my favorite title from them was Bill Warren’s two-volume set, “Keep Watching the Skies”, dedicated to science fiction movies from the fifties, my favorite era. It was a joy reading through these books, and hearing about obscure titles from that period that never showed up on my local Creature Feature. How I wished I could actually watch all of these movies, but it seemed impossible.

However, other developments were changing the movie landscape. The rise of home video opened up the possibilities of actually possessing copies of these movies for repeated viewing. The rise of VCRs was next, allowing the recording of movie off of the TV, and with the ability to program them ahead of time, it was possible to catch things in the middle of the night or at times when you weren’t home. The rise of cable TV suddenly and dramatically increased the number of movies being shown on TV. As a result of these developments, I began to build a movie collection from video store purchases and recordings off of TV.

Yet there was one more development that needed to happen: the arrival of the internet. The rest of the world had opened up. More places to buy movies became available, and it was possible to connect with more movie fans than I ever thought possible. Then, one day, I visited the online site for one of my favorite sources for fantastically-themed movies, Sinister Cinema. To my surprise, they had something known as a “message board”, and looked it over. When I discovered that the author of “Keep Watching the Skies” was on the board, I joined in as well. There were other fantastic film historians as well, including Tom Weaver and Ted Newsom. I made several online friends and engaged in interesting discussions.

Everything was in place for me to begin the project…

Before the project….

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…

Intro to Genre Overlap

I’ve decided to start a series of posts exploring one of my favorite subjects – the way various movie genres overlap with the three genres that make up what I call “Fantastic Films”, namely –

a) Fantasy

b) Science Fiction

c) Horror

If you’ve spent any time on my site, you’ll notice that most of my reviews are for movies that clearly belong to one of these three genres. Yet, you’ve probably also noticed that there are quite a few reviews of movies which belong to other genres. I’ve covered westerns, mysteries, film noir, jungle movies, action/adventure, sword and sandal…and many others.

In some ways, I’m surprised I covered such a wide swath of movies. Yet, these movies were listed in guides to Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror movies.

These series of articles will discuss the ways these other genres intersect with the Fantastic Films genres. I’ll begin by talking about the history of my project, then some coverage as to what (in my mind) defines the Fantastic Film genres. Then I’ll begin discussing other genres and the ways they intersect.

I hope this will prove an enjoyable discussion.

NEXT ARTICLE: The project, what it is, and how it began.