Happy Halloween from the SLIFR Drive-in Trailer Park!
This week’s edition is designed to gorge you on the great triple and quadruple features that were commonplace in drive-ins in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. My own hometown movie palace, The Alger, routinely featured horror programs, usually taken from the American International or Hammer vaults, but very rarely did we ever get double features—I can remember bills of The Return of Count Yorga plus The Crimson Cult, Whatever Happened to Jack and Jill? with co-hit The Strange Vengeance of Rosalie and Countess Dracula alongside Vampire Circus, but that’s about it. On New Year’s Eve, Friday the 13th and, of course, Halloween night we got our horror, all right, but usually only in single title doses, and we were damned happy to get that—why would you want to go trick-or- treating when you knew that Cry of the Banshee or The House That Screamed or The Green Slime was crouched somewhere in that unassuming little movie theater just waiting to leap out and tear your soul apart?
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The great triple and quadruple features were left to my movie-fueled imagination, one that could only experience them through the special joys of the movie pages of the Portland Oregonian. In 1969, Portland had a lot of drive-ins, most of them in or near the city, as well as a lot of second-run indoor houses, that frequently played host to the kinds of “four-unit Ghoul-o-Ramas” like the one pictured above. The very idea of being able to sit in a drive-in and soak up The Oblong Box, The Conqueror Worm, Horror House and The Crimson Cult was the height of excitement for me as a young movie buff who rarely, if ever, had the opportunity to actually attend such a bounteous banquet of fear. And I just loved the print ad campaigns for the AIP films— I still do. There was a certain wonderful ripeness about them, and everything from the ad copy to the terrifying fonts in which the titles were rendered seemed so specific and exact—they sold the purplish terrors we horror fans so badly wanted to find on the screen. AIP’s ads had a great sense of graphic continuity too that made them instantly recognizable (at least to these eyes)—it was gratifying to me that somewhere in the world such a Ghoul-o-Rama was playing, and if I could only know about it by looking in the Oregonian, well, that’d have to do. The American International ads made that looking almost as much fun as seeing the movies themselves, and in the case of The Crimson Cult, I know I imagined a much better movie just looking in the movie pages than the one that played out for me when I eventually saw it at home.
(Click on image to enlarge and see reproduction in much clearer, darker resolution)
The triple features showcased in this week’s second featured ad aren’t bound by the sensibility of a single releasing entity. Instead, these programs span a range of release dates, quality and subject matter that makes them seem somewhat random, thematically speaking. But I guarantee that would have made no difference to me. If I knew it was in the cards that I could see a triple feature of The Green Slime, Night of the Living Dead and She!, or Mad Doctor of Blood Island, Blood Demon and Battle Beneath the Earth, I would have knocked down just about anyone, or buttered up any of my older cousins or aunts who had driver’s licenses, in order to get to the theater. What’s fun about these very nicely put-together layouts is their relentless busy-ness and all the extra added info for potential patrons who wanted to read closer (something the relatively poor reproduction here makes difficult). How thoughtful of the theater to provide FREE mystic potion to all patrons so that they might all take part in the WEIRD RITES of The Mad Doctor of Blood Island as they happen! And that challenge—“Who Can’t Be Scared? You?!” Why, give me a ticket, Mister! I'll show you I can take it! And who wouldn’t want to grab a carload of wisenheimers and check out Sherry Leonard, Queen of the Snakes, and her living pets IN PERSON?!! What a wonderful drive-in age, when this kind of merry exploitation was fairly commonplace!
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The “body disposal” triple bill, as I used to refer to it when I saw it in papers in the early ‘70s, was always a favorite too. The Corpse Grinders, The Undertaker and His Pals and The Embalmer were all low-rent drive-in fare that gained in attraction because of the cheapo carny barker-like pitch of their lurid and ludicrous advertisements. “The Final Dimension in Shock… Like Spending a Night in the Grave!” the print ads assured audiences. The Corpse Grinders also featured one of my favorite hyperbolic come on lines—“Turns Bones and Flesh of Young Lovelies into a Screaming, Macabre Blood Death!” And if you didn’t believe it, well, there was that very tasteful sketch image to prove it-- you know, the one of the apparently still kicking (well, not kicking, I guess-- writhing, maybe), screaming, living "corpse" being turned into Gaines Burgers. This really looked like the real thing! And there was that little matter of signing that Certificate of Assurance that you were of sound mind and body-- just in case the movies drove you barking mad with terror, the theater owner could in no way be held liable. (“He signed the paper saying he could take it, Officer. It’s right there!”) I think I heard from an independent source somewhere (maybe in the pages of Castle of Frankenstein-- or was it The Monster Times) that The Corpse Grinders et al. were really bad movies that didn’t even come close to living up to their ghoulish, lurid advertising. But I don’t remember being disappointed upon hearing this news. I think I probably already knew it—this was one of many times when the cheap ad really was the whole show. (Also, I love how the second newspaper ad for the Body Disposal bill felt it important to emphasize that these films were “not for children.” Did the drive-in management think the image of a buxom blonde being shoved into a meat grinder a little too ambiguous for some parents? On second thought, I’ve seen moms and dads dragging their kids along to some pretty inappropriate movies, so I guess no measure is entirely wasted…)
Okay, moving on, in honor of those excellent triple and quadruple feature programs, I decided, since this will be our last run at horror in the Trailer Park for a while, to have our own little orgy of trailer horror right here on the pages of SLIFR. So imagine, if you will, that it’s 1969 or thereabouts, and you and your buddies are all piled in a car and headed out to the local drive-in, which has a Halloween all-nighter in store for you. The six movies highlighted below make up the Ghoul-o-Rama you and your soon-to-be punch-drunk pals are about to see. So press the play button and get in the ghoulish mood with the SLIFR Drive-in Trailer Park’s Festival of Horror Previews!
Rent your room now in THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL!
You will die a thousand deaths as you watch… THE ASTRO-ZOMBIES!
What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s happening! It’s THE WASP WOMAN!
Do your eyes dare witness total terror? If so, please observe FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE SPACE MONSTER!
What evil power pulsates from the ovum the queen wants to transplant to Earth? Only the QUEEN OF BLOOD (and perhaps her interstellar obstetrician) knows for sure!
Dig, if you will, THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH!
Tricks? No, all treats! Happy Halloween!