Introducing the subject of Marginalia

Having started writing reviews for my project made me aware of certain things that didn’t really matter to me when it was a private project. One such issue was that I sometimes found myself in a possession to comment on whether movie I watched actually qualified for my project. I was supposed to be covering fantasy, science fiction and horror. Yet I often found myself watching movies that didn’t quite fit neatly into any of these genres. Here is a short list of several movies I’ve covered over the years. Each of them had appeared in one of my sources. But could any of these be said to really belong to one of these genres?

Houdini (1953)

Sunset Blvd. (1950)

Deliverance (1972)

Charly (1968)

Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

From Russia With Love (1963)

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939)

Richard III (1955)

Camera Makes Whoopee (1935)

You’re Telling Me (1934)

In each case I found myself asking whether these movies could really be described as genre or not. Yet there must have been a reason each one of these was included in their respective sources. Still, at any rate, I would eventually consign many of these movies to an area called Marginalia: Movies that don’t strictly belong to the genre but which contain elements that make the movie nudge up against one of the genres in question. In my next post on the subject, I’ll give a quick rundown on how these movies served as marginalia (or not, as the case may be).

The other half of the project…

The second half of the project came five months later.

I remained a member of the Sinister Cinema message board during this time, but things had taken a turn for the worse. It had become plagued with infighting, trolls, and hackers. It was rather unpleasant and dispiriting to visit the place.

I was wondering if there was something I might do to make the place a little more inviting, and I began toying with the idea of taking my movie-watching project a public affair rather than a purely private one. I hit upon an idea – what, if after each viewing of a movie, I posted a short review of the film as a starting point for discussion? It sounded like a good idea to me, and thus, the Movie of the Day project was born.

It was rather strange at first. I’d already watched 150 movies, and I wanted the review section to not skip them. I decided I would write two reviews a day; one for the movie I saw that day, and one for a movie earlier in the list; I would store the newer review in the My Movies section of IMDB, and post the older review on the board.

As might be expected, some of the earlier reviews were fairly vague; it’d had been several months since I’d seen them and often had to rely on memory for my review. At least once I had to go back and rewatch one of those movies, as I didn’t remember a thing about them.

Eventually, someone suggested that I hold on to copies of all my reviews, which I also decided was a good idea; up to that time, I didn’t bother. At any rate, that is why this website exists; it holds all of the old reviews for these movies.

There’s more to the story of what happened with this project. For example, the Sinister Cinema message board is long gone and the project appeared at one time or another in various places. Perhaps I’ll discuss that another time. My next post in the series will bring me to the beginning of my discussion of the subject of Genre Overlap, the title of this series.

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.