What’s Hallowed?

I am not a fan of Halloween. I have no good memories of it as a child. What memories I have are largely of EXTRO abuse and harassment. Even my parents  – at least my mother – harassed me. I HAD to go out to other people’s houses and collect inedible candy – if you think it’s bad today, it was horrible in the ’50’s – with other kids and parents. Talk about painful territory.

The only good part was my mother wouldn’t let me eat the candy. She rationed it and after a day I was able to avoid the ration and eventually it got to the rubbish can.

Even when I was an adolescent I had to participate in Halloween social activities. I especially recall a skating party where I was mugged by the jocks. I told my parents I fell. 

And as an adult I am expected to perpetuate this terrorism by being a distributor of candy to other people. Who call at my house. More EXTRO abuse.

Happily I am now a grouchy ORF and can ignore the doorbell and leave the lights off and not have to deal with terrorists on my doorstep.

And yesterday was actually a pleasant surprise. I was watching cable – DSL is TOO SLOW for streaming courtesy of living in the hinterland amid EXTRO bandwidth hawgs – and discovered that TCM was airing a series of ’40’s and ’50’s RED MENACE BOMB DENIAL movies. (Who says denial is a new thing? Repulsians have been doing it for decades and that’s just to my observation.)

How the people who schedule movies figure post-bellum SF movies are Halloween material is a matter of extreme puzzlement. Horror and Fantasy, yes; but SF? NEIN. 

But something I could enjoy. 

The series was: The Blob; The Thing; and Earth versus the Flying Saucers. Inserted in this was The Village of the Damned but it is such a boring bit of Quatermass imitation that it’s not really good enough to include. Of course, the rhetoric from the talking head around the showing indicated all they cared about was boxoffice gross and awards. And the VoD did appeal to the BOGs.

None of these are Science Fiction even though they are based on good science fiction writing. But Hollywood prides itself on making stercus out of aurum. Occasionally it is bonus stercus as in these three, but stercus nonetheless. Occasionally they come close to Science Fiction in their SF movies – Forbidden Planet is probably the closest – and the Germans and French do better than the English speaking peoples, and the English make it sound wonderful and good with those accents but it’s still cardboard crap. 

But when they get close it’s good. Not as good as real Science Fiction, but definitely worth the time and attention span. So I sat through all four, but wandered away a lot during VoD.

The Blob is the epitome of the adolescent SF movie. A tour de force of teenager being right and the establishment being WRONG! Made us feel validated when we saw this as endocrine wracked teens. It was movies like this that made us be successful inspite of our parents’ depression/world war mores. And easily the best of Steve McQueen’s movies. I know there is a cult of Bullit, but that was derivative of TB. Established him as the owner of the angry brooding teen as savior of civilization. Happily he never got to play Batman.

The Thing is the epitome of great SF. It’s based on a John Campbell short story. That short story illuminates why Campbell was the Dean of the American (covert) College of Science Fiction. A GREAT Science Fiction Author and Editor of ANALOG. The mentor of Asimov and Heinlein and many of the other greats. And got no mention by the talking head other than as author of the short story. But lots of stercus tauri about the praise and profit of the movie. And also Janes Arness’ greatest role. No speaking, which many consider his greatest accomplishment. And the electrocution scene! The epitome of pre-CGI effects. After TT, it was downhill for Arness. Except for THEM! But after the Bomb Denial movies all he had left was Oaters. 

Earth Versus is a bit of a let down after the other two. Except it is so seriously camp that it hurts. Amazing how humorously the military is portrayed in movies when Amerika likes them. Very different post-Vietnam. This movie is a study in mediocre excellence. The effects are superb, better than the CGI stuff in the Star * movies. But what makes it is the robotic mechanicalness of the whole movie. It never really crescendos. It just staggers along without major bumps. And that dullness lulls one into the visuals, which are superb. This was a showpiece for Harryhousen and it is a more fitting memorial than any of the classical soap operas he worked on. If anything, this movie is tinged with a wonderful message about human arrogance, mirrored in the pridefulness of the aliens.

So overall, a worthwhile afternoon of diversion and digression. Good result despite poor planning by TCM. Evidently Ms. Fonda couldn’t rescue them from their own greed. Which is why SF of this era is so wonderful today. It talks to what is wrong with our society. Still. Ever?

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