A bygone age

Last night I did not video game as late as usual because I was suffering from pulled muscles that made sitting forward uncomfortable. I ended up surfing the channels on my TV looking for something to watch while I waited to unwind and get ready for bed.
On TCM (Turner Classic Movies) I spotted something that could have been a low-budget horror film from the late 50’s or early 60’s, but alas it was what looked a murder mystery. (Turns out to have been Girls On The Loose)

For the first time in years I thought about my Saturday night as an adolescent in Ft. Pierce Florida. Every Saturday night at 11 pm the local TV station would start Creature Feature. A double bill of horror and genre films that would play into the early morning hours.

I saw many an entertaining movie late Saturday night with a bowl of popcorn by my side. It was on Creature Feature that I first saw many classic movies such as The Creature From The Black Lagoon and quite a few of the Roger Corman ‘Poe’ Movies from the sixties.

Those days are gone. Late night TV now is a collection of infomercials — one of the sins of the Reagan era — and second rate TV shows. There isn’t much in the way of a Creature Feature with classic and cheesy movies I haven’t seen before. Now I know that we have DVD, Blu-ray, Movies on Demand, and Instant View movies on Netflix and I utilize all of those in my movie watching habits, but there is a real shortfall in this aspect of home video. It only shows me movies I have asked it to show me.

I never get surprised or exposed to a new movie this way because I search out the films I want to rent, buy, or view. Oh there is the occasional that I find by surfing the sites or rarely one that is recommended to me by the software actually looks interesting, but this is a different dynamic than the Creature Feature.

Every Saturday night I would lay back on the couch, the rest of the house asleep, and I was watch a genre movie. I usually knew no more than that when the features started. It was genre and that was enough to spark an interest. Sometimes the movies would be so bad or dull I would go to be, most of the time the movies were forgettable and have now been forgotten, but occasionally the movies would leave an impression that echoed through the decades.

I remember watching Planet Of Vampires on Creature Feature, a stylistic though flawed Italian SF movie. Years later I found it on DVD and bought it for a friend. We watched the film and man the makers of Alien were clearly influenced by this movie. Sadly I did not buy a copy of the DVD for myself and it is now out of print. I never would have seen this movie had it not been for Creature Feature.

This is terribly saddens me. Young people growing up today will not get the same exposure to the classic genre films that I got. They’ll see remakes of the really big name movies, such as The Day The Earth Stood Still, and perhaps track down the original, but that random sf/horror film of the weekend is a thing of the past. Many films that are not classics are going to be rarely seen just because of the death of Creature Features across the country. While The Killer Shrews is a film with more flaws than charms I am still happy that I saw the movie and when it turned up in a 50 movies boxed set I bought I was happy to watch it again.

Perhaps this is why I am a fan of our local club, San Diego Vintage SF, though my life has made it tough to attend in months. Every month a genre film from before 1968 is shown, along with a serial and cartoon. (Frankly I could skip the serial as it was never part of my movie going experience.) However SDVSF does not make up for the Creature Feature.

It would be wonderful is TCM did a regular program dedicated to SF,Horror, and Fantasy films. They already have these movies and they play them, but not as part of a generalized programming about them with a host, introduction and such. There is a richness in the genre and it extends beyond the recognized classics. A treasure likely to be rarely seen and forgotten with the years.