The drive-in that could have been


Everything that is old becomes new again, over a long enough period of time. Except for the double feature, a relic of the cinematic past that, save for a few niche spots like the remnant drive-ins you might find dotting the dry, windswept countryside, remains lost.

I only attended two double officials. Does anyone remember the “Grindhouse” project from 2007? An attempt by two well-known directors to take a working holiday by ditching big budgets and concocting two b-movie homages (one a zombie movie, the other a car photo) and bundling them under same ticket price, with real movie scratches, missing scenes and fake trailers for non-existent horror movies during intermission. I remember one guy got up and walked away then, laughing happily with the trailers, and never came back.

The second was a little-heralded double feature of “Men in Black II” and “Spider-Man” at the Mattoon Showplace 8 in the final leg of that hot, depressing summer of 2002, those last days when I suddenly found myself at the cinema with friends who are bored just before they all wake up and find better things to do. I remember it was four long hours. I think one of them managed to grab a stuffed bald eagle from the claw machine during intermission.

THE THROWBACK MACHINE: A VHS box set in history

You know something else that’s lost in time? This week’s Spooky Movie Spectacular presentation, a Skyway drive-in double feature of “The House By The Lake” and “Strange Shadows in an Empty Room,” from June 11, 1977, Journal Gazette, with “House” named as the winner of that year’s grand prize at what is called the “Stitges International Terrorist Film Festival”.

I’ve had this particular clipping in my possession for a long time, but waited because both films weren’t available to me other than by bothering to find a DVD to buy. And folks, that’s an emergency lever that I don’t pull except in extreme situations, which you might hear about next week.

Too bad, because I remember liking ‘The House By the Lake’ a lot when I rented it many years ago, on a VHS copy under its original title ‘Death Weekend’, like pretty much every movie from horror involving sadistic killers playing games with normal people in the middle of nowhere, the word “House” was added to its title in the wake of “Last House on the Left”.

THE THROWBACK MACHINE: you won’t know what you just watched

So with this movie, I have to lose my memory. Here is the entirety of what I wrote on “House By the Lake”, probably written at the turn of the Will-ennium. Ahem, millennial. Sorry, habit from the 90s:

“A taut copy of Last House on the Left features a model (Vaccaro) having a date with a namby-pamby letch in his plush, secluded lakeside cabin. Their rough weekend together is made even worse when four murderous punks arrive. With no way out and no man to rely on, Vaccaro fights to save her life. Unlike most other entries in this subgenre, this doesn’t resort to cheap thrills, slowly building up the tension before the satisfying final reel where Vaccaro turns the tables. I’d be damned if they didn’t try to spoil it at the very end with a bizarre freeze frame that suggests Vaccaro has deeper feelings for one of his attackers. Not much to look at in a visual sense (thanks Vestron’s typically muddy video impression), but worth a rental. – Three stars”

Yes, that’s how I wrote. At least when I found out the only person reading it was me. Ahh, if only I could go back and tell myself to take it easy with the swear words, which I quietly excised to print in a family journal. Also, “namby-pamby”? Wow.

By the way, this mention of “Vaccaro” refers to the raspy-voiced actress Brenda Vaccaro, someone I thought I knew from ads for Sine-Aid, a product I don’t even think I make anymore. Turns out I was thinking about actress Michael Learned, her of Waltons fame and, bless her still living heart, not a single horror movie.

Brenda Vaccaro was apparently in a series of supposedly groundbreaking ’80s commercials for feminine hygiene products. You can find them online, where I imagine they’re all more entertaining than the promised “Terror No. 2,” the equally hard-to-find Italian film “Strange Shadows in an Empty Room,” which, turns out, It’s not really a horror movie, but rather one of those post-“Dirty Harry” crime movies incorporating a serial killer. At least that’s what I think is happening, based on the poster. By that I mean the international poster, not the gimmicked, “oh, just throw it in the cornfields” poster that the distributors went with.

Apparently the Italian title translates to “A Special Magnum for Tony Saitta”, which puts it up there with other like-minded, mistranslated titles from the same sordid European subgenre like “Don’t Torture a Duckling “, “Amsterdamned”, “Eyeball”. “, and “Torso”, the latter two, yes, actually played in Coles County, described on their posters, respectively, as “The most terrifying vision of horror” and “Enter, if you dare. , into the bizarre world of the psychopath. – sexual spirit. In other words, the perfect double duty for those nights you’re looking to end with your date slapping you in the face and throwing a Mr. Pibb fountain on your head before she heads home. So refreshing.

Would you believe that I saw these two films too? I’ll spare you everything I’ve written about them, though I quite remember the nights I screened them both for friends on another one of those late, hot, dull, and dark nights. once in Coles County where we were all trying to think of something to do before the blame set in. I wonder if they remember that too.

“The Throwback Machine” is a weekly feature that looks back on items of interest found in JG-TC’s online archives. For questions, comments, suggestions or his “Song of the Day” recommendation, contact him at [email protected]

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