Monday, June 27, 2016

Join Me at Classic Horrors

Today I launch a new, more focused blog devoted to the area of pop culture I love most.  At Classic Horrors, we'll celebrate "from silent screen to Halloween and everything scary in between."

It's been fun working on it the last couple of months.  I've tried to incorporate all the things I'd like to see in a classic horror website:

  • Movie Index w/links to the Internet Movie Database
  • Playlist page listing songs and soundtracks w/links to Amazon
  • Reading List page listing original source material, tie-ins and reference books
  • Trailer Park page w/links to movie trailers
  • Milestones widget w/the week's birth, death and movie release dates
  • TV Guide widget w/the week's airings of classic horror movies and TV shows

With the new blog comes the required social media pages and sites:

Finally, I've also launched a new YouTube channel.  Of all the posts I've done through the years, I continue to get the most feedback from people who've seen the few videos I put on YouTube, so I'm hoping to really take advantage of this opportunity to offer entertaining and fun content on a regular basis.

Consider this your formal invitation to join me at  (Isn't that fun?  Thank you for the idea, Tim Canton!)  Click here to read more about why I'm doing this and why I'm doing this now.

Thank you for your support!  I'll probably keep this blog and occasionally post personal and non-classic horror-realted content.  Until then, I hope to see you at Classic Horrors...

Friday, January 29, 2016

My Blog Comes to Life as Pop-Up Store

As my "About Me" quote indicates, I'm a lifetime collector and sometimes hoarder.  Over the years, I've had many interests come and go, especially for the two decades that I worked in video stores and eventually owned a small chain of my own stores (Couch Potato Video).  I recently made a committed decision to begin releasing my "treasures" to the world.

February 5-7, I am going to have a table at Panic Fest at Kansas City's Screenland Armour Theater.  I'd like to think of it as a "pop-up" store for my blog because it represents many of the things about which I write on a semi-regular basis.  I'll be peddling only a fraction of my wares, focusing on the 1990's, give or take a few years on either side.

There's a terrific lineup of movies at Panic Fest this year, so if you share the interest in them that I do, I'm certain you'll find something you want or need at my table.  Stop by, say "Hi," and enjoy looking at my memorabilia, all of which is for sale at very reasonable prices.  (Although I'm using eBay as a basis for price, I'm happy to negotiate.)  Continue reading for some highlights and my personal favorites.

Home Video Release Kits

Back when video stores were huge cash cows for Hollywood studios, no expense was spared in promoting new VHS releases.  Sometimes their home video divisions sent only a glossy ad slick, but other times they sent elaborate release kits with heavy-duty brochures or books, screeners, and other advertising materials (buttons and stickers) and tchotchkes.


Cool World – home video announcement kit in original oversized (oddly-shaped) packaging

The Iron Giant – home video announcement kit w/VHS screener, action figure & all packaging/inserts

The Matrix Reloaded – home video announcement kit w/posters, counter cards & shelf talkers

Titanic – home video announcement packet


Many home video release kits included folded posters; however, video distributors like Ingram Entertainment would send a tube of rolled posters monthly, many of which rivaled the beauty of their theatrical release counterparts.  During this period, I also collected every giveaway poster I could grab from theaters.  These were usually mini-posters, which I found more room to hang at home.


The Fly (1986) – Laserdisc release poster w/unique art

A Nightmare on Elm St. 5 – "It's a Boy" horizontal poster

Robocop 2 – rare 16" x 20" poster

The Silence of the Lambs – folded home video release poster


These little giveaways were fun to collect and represented great creativity from those paid to market the movies.  Some items stretched a connection, such as a packet of seeds for Driving Miss "Daisy," but others were brilliant, such as a two-handled mug for Raising Cain.  Some items have appreciated greatly in value, at least based upon prices on eBay.


The Dark Half – packet of bird seed

Honeymoon in Vegas – plastic cups w/roulette wheel in bottom & playing cards

Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy – bottle of "Gleemenex" pills

Radio Flyer – tiny red wagon


The current value of some tchotchkes causes me to categorize them as "premiums" ($20 for a tiny Indian in the Cupboard action figure).  In the 90's, though, I was also collecting outside the video stores.  Toys and action figures have maintained their values and some have increased.  I have items from popular movies and TV shows such as Akira, The Drew Carey Show, The Simpsons and South Park.


The Drew Carey Show – Mimi Bobeck doll

Dune (1984) – Baron Harkonnen action figure (never opened)

Magic Earring Ken doll (controversial)

Tarzan (Disney) – Rad Repeatin' Tarzin doll (controversial)

The Simpsons & South Park

I loved these two hugely popular animated TV shows in the 90's and still own many collectibles.  With their appeal enduring to this day, some of these vintage items are quite special and have increased in value.


The Simpsons - Bart Simpson telephone (in original box)

The Simpsons - Clue game (never opened)

South Park – box of Cheesy Poofs

South Park – Mr. Hanky plush


Because I could buy them at cost, I collected more movies than I ever needed.  In fact, many remain unopened to this day.  Some of the VHS tapes have never been released on DVD, so their subjects are not only unique to the decade, but they are also true collector's items.  In the late 90's, I went through a J-Horror phase, so my collection also includes several Asian movies on Video CDs.


Billy Idol's Cyberpunk: Shock to the System (VHS) - rare

Document of the Dead – Special Romero Signature Edition #169 VHS Box Set

Gumby (DVD boxed set) – rare; includes rubber Gumby figure

Star Wars Trilogy Special Edition (VHS) – widescreen box set


I've always collected pop culture related postcards.  You can still pick them up at movie theaters sometimes, particularly at art houses.  In the 90's, restaurants and bars had spinner racks with all kinds of promotional cards.  Small and easy to grab, store or display, I've hoarded hundreds over the years.  This collection spans beyond just the 90's.


Daredevil (2003) – sealed package of 4 character postcards

Psycho – greetings from the Bates Motel postcard

The Signal – set of 3 postcards in different color shades

Waking Life – set of 6 postcards w/artwork from movie


From the video store era, I've managed to save some shirts and baseball caps from home video releases.  I also saved a couple displays (or "standees").  Some of them were duplicates, so they've never been opened.


Edward Scissorhands – poodle standee

George of the Jungle 2 – jungle safari hat

Jerry Maguire – life-sized Tom Cruise standee

To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar – silk robe ("Attitude is Everything")
This is just phase one of my enormous purging initiative.  I have finally made an inventory of all my collections and plan to go back to basics, keeping only items from my core interests (in no particular order):  Hammer Films, Star Wars, Universal Monsters, Planet of the Apes, and Back to the Future.  Watch here and on Facebook for announcements about future sales and other opportunities to add to your own collections.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Creature Walks Among Us (1956)

For this year's Countdown to Halloween, it's all-Universal Monsters, all-the-time, from Dracula (1931) to The Creature Walks Among Us (1956).  Join me daily for a fresh perspective on movies you may not have watched in a long time, if ever.  Today, we come to an end with the one that's been written in this paragraph every day of the Countdown: The Creature Walks Among Us!

For what I would consider to be the final Universal Monsters movie, The Creature Walks Among Us (1956) seems fairly ambitious.  It’s not just the tale of a monster run amok.  In fact, the Gill-man isn’t the real monster at all.  He’s the victim of a mentally unhinged doctor who abuses his wife.  Don’t worry if that’s not how you interpret it; it’s how the other characters do and they’ll state that for you at the end of the movie so you don’t have to draw your own conclusions.

Speaking of being a little talky, that’s something the final movies I watched all have in common.  As they leaned more towards science fiction, they attempted explaining in detail the science part of the fiction.  Here, it’s something fairly simple: sonar.  The men on the expedition to retrieve the Gill-man from the Everglades can’t just use it to locate him without explaining to us how sound bounces off an underwater object and the amount of time it takes to return tells how far away it is.

In the 1950s, maybe sonar wasn’t commonly understood and The Creature Walks Among Us had to actually educate the audience.  On the other hand, it plays loose and free with the more fictional science.  Today, it’s fairly comical to believe that simply transfusing the Gill-man with human blood would actually change his DNA.  That’s what they do in an attempt to resume his evolution from amphibian to human.

Dr. William Barton (Jeff Morrow) is the aforementioned doctor.  He believes, among other things, that if he can change the metabolism of man, man will change.  This is for the greater good, right?  No, it’s so he can drink and drive.  Ultimately, they change only the skin of the Gill-man, not the animal inside.  This opens discussion about nature vs. nurture.  “What brings out the best in human kind and what brings out the worst, because it’s the stars or the jungle.”  Huh?

By the time doctors Morgan (Rex Reason), Borg (Maurice Manson) and. Johnson (James Rawley) realize Barton’s a kook, he’s pushing his wife, Marcia (Leigh Snowden), around like he hates her, yet bullying the man, Jed Grant (Gregg Palmer), he thinks is fooling around with her.  It turns out Grant really is coming on to her.  He says he just wants to be friends, but she replies, “Being a friend of yours isn’t going to solve my problems, can’t you understand that?”

It’s enough drama to drive the Gill-man into a rage, presumably to protect Marcia.  He really wants to jump back in the water and swim away, but since he’s lost his gills and developed lungs, he would only drown.  It’s a sad situation for him, spending the final part of the movie in a pen with the other animals.  They try to civilize him by putting clothes on him, but it doesn’t really work.  When he gets mad, walls start crumbling down and furniture starts flying.

With all this excitement happening, The Creature Walks Among Us still plays incredibly slow.  They spend much too long hunting and capturing the Gill-man during the first third of the movie.  In the second third, he’s wrapped in bandages while he recovers from third degree burns he received as part of being captured.  In the final third, he’s in his pen observing the soap opera unfolding around him until he can’t take it anymore, but then there's only six minutes of the movie left for him to rampage.

I’ll bet you can guess that even with its flaws, I enjoyed The Creature Walks Among Us.  It’s a fitting conclusion to the Universal Monsters legacy, featuring an original creation the caliber of Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy and the Wolf Man.  It has a structure similar to some of the earliest horror movies, yet takes a step forward toward the later science fiction movies.  Plus, it’s a sequel, something it has in common with 17 of the 34 movies I watched this month.

Tomorrow:  There is no tomorrow, as far as the Countdown to Halloween goes.  But there's always next year!  I don't write on here too much the rest of the year, but you can read my movie reviews and episode recaps for American Horror Story and Bates Motel on Boom Howdy.  I've also started writing recently for my old hometown's website, Enid Buzz.  Thanks for reading.  

Happy Halloween!