(Image courtesy of Charles Bruss. Click on image to enlarge.)
MORE ASTONISHING than your most fevered imaginings!
MORE FRIGHTENING than any nightmare known to man!
BOLDER and FUNNIER than any the boldest, funniest movie you’ve ever seen!
A WILD and ROLLICKING RIDE through the American pop culture landscape!
Can your HEART stand the SHOCKING FACTS of…
THE SLIFR DRIVE-IN TRAILER PARK?
Gather 'round, folks! There's plenty of room for everybody! For, you see, now every Friday I'll be posting a clunky, funky, or otherwise fascinating trailer (usually courtesy of YouTube or another one of those fascinating Web sites that we suddenly can remember ever being able to survive without), along with a choice selection from the vast collection of vintage drive-in newspaper ads of Charles Bruss, who operates Wisconsin Drive-in Theaters: An Evening Under The Stars, a Web site dedicated to drive-ins past and present in Mr. Bruss's home state. The site right now only features ads that appeared in various newspapers throughout the Dairy State, but Mr. Bruss tells me that he's close to finishing compiling, scanning and posting hundreds more ads, cut directly from newspapers (no muddy-looking dupes made off of microfilm here), collected from all over the country. Mr. Bruss has kindly offered his collection to SLIFR and we will be picking and choosing some of the highlights of what he has to offer, some originating from as far back as the mid '40s, to share with you. Mr. Bruss extends an invitation to everyone who enjoys what we'll be showing off here to visit his Web site, enjoy all the cool links and let him know you stopped in by signing his guest book. Thank you, Mr. Bruss, for sharing your great collection with SLIFR. I hope someday to find the boxes full of ads I clipped as a teenager from the Portland Oregonian and other area newspapers and offer them for you to use.
But enough introduction. Let us forego the sizzle for the steak and get right on with it.
(Image courtesy of Charles Bruss. Click image to enlarge.)
The first ad is a beaut, from around 1969 I'd guess, by the features listed. One of the interesting things to note is how the titles and genres seem so inappropriately mismatched. This is not necessarily a random decision by the film programmer, however. According to a book given to me by the owner of my hometown drive-in entitlied The Encyclopedia of Exploitation (which I'm guessing dates from around the early '50s-- and I have to guess, because I don't have the book at hand here where I'm writing), it was thought to be a far more appealing strategy for roping in as many viewers as possible by offering an abundant number of films (two is good, three is great, four is heaven) and letting those genres and tones and subjects crash together like gongs-- all the better to ensure that everybody was going to find at least one movie in the bunch they'd want to see, and ensuring variety for those who wanted to stay for the whole program. (The writer of The Encyclopedia of Exploitation, a book written for theater owners, didn't seem to hold much stock in the more imaginative approach toward booking films that shared thematic or genre relationships.)
And if you take a close look at the names of the companies that distributed all three of today's features, you'll notice that there is only one. And that was, and still is, as much of a deciding factor in determining double features at today's drive-ins as anything-- coupling films from the same studio, a strategy upon which many studios insist, often takes precedence over variety or a good, complimentary double feature. (This very night in Los Angeles, if you wanted to see jackass number two at one of the area drive-ins, you could see it on a double bill with Beerfest, which makes all the sense in the world from a match-made-in-heaven standpoint, or you could see it with second feature World Trade Center, presumably buzzkill of the highest order, but a double feature that also presumably was dictated by the fact that both movies are Paramount releases.)
Also worth noting is the prestige factor. All three movies above-- True Grit, Goodbye, Columbus and The Sterile Cuckoo-- were top-drawer studio fare, each of them nominated of Oscars in one category or the other, and among the triple feature a couple of actual wins were sported (as hinted at by the cut-and-paste presence of the Little Golden Man). A lot of people think that showing first-run films at the drive-in is a modern phenomenon and that most ozoners from the '80s on back were consigned to B-movie fare only, but as you can see that's not exactly the case. (One last note: I love the hodgepodge style of these local ads-- found art if there ever was such a thing-- and there are many more examples of that found art laying in wait for exposure here in the coming weeks.)
And now, to complete today's inaugural festivities, let's move on to the audiovisual portion of our program, a little something from that B-movie side of the drive-in experience that'll satisfy your taste for cheese, Wisconsin or otherwise:
So that's it, the first installment of THE SLIFR DRIVE-IN TRAILER PARK. Hopefully I've somehow whetted your appetite to head out to a drive-in and experience a movie under the firmament yourself, or at least tweaked your nostalgia for thumbing through the movie pages of 40 years ago or so. Coincidentally enough, the Southern California Drive-in Movie Society is headed out to the Vineland Drive-in in City of Industry this Saturday night with a ton of new and exciting things to talk about and show off. Founding member and friend Sal Gomez has been working like a dedicated fiend all summer and into the fall, and one of the results is the new Web site that he got off the ground late this past summer. Sal has been a major guiding force for the group, coordinating Huell Howser's TV program on the Mission Tiki earlier this year, and he's really stepped up and kept the vision of the society alive when some of us (me) haven't been as available as we'd like to be. So come on out, say hi to Sal, Juan Gonzalez, the Vineland's fine and dedicated manager/projectionist, me, Kathy Beyers, Warren Meyers, Lanna Pian, Chris Utley and everyone who will be celebrating not the end of the drive-in season, but the beginning of the FALL/WINTER drive-in season, this Saturday night, September 30, at the Vineland Drive-in in City of Industry!
See you there, and see you next week for another edition of The SLIFR Drive-in Trailer Park.