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November 17, 2003
Never underestimate the power of cheese

Forget about politics. Let's talk about me.

Me, I like old movies. I like cheesy old movies best. You get the right kind of cheese factor in newer movies sometimes, but the best cheese was, IMO, produced before the 70s. there's a combination of naiveté in the acting and the special effects that just can't be beat.

I have no intention of "researching" all of these, so just live with whatever fuzziness surrounds my memory of dates, names, or plot points. I feel like blogging and this is what I feel like blogging about today.

Journey to the Center of the Earth is a great one. Heck, most of those movies made from Jules Verne novels were fabulous. (That's another love of mine. The "Golden Age" science fiction. But that's a different post.) This one is from the late 50s and lives on in my memory because it starred Pat Boone and there was that fabulous scene with everyone eating giant mushrooms. And also because the earth's "magnetic core" really existed and stole all of the travelers' metal belongings.

Creature from the Black Lagoon I know, I know, this one is a "classic" but I consider it classic cheese. I loved the swamp creature, which was arguably one of the least-frightening monsters ever created. The poor actor inside the suite clomped across the screen so slowly that the about-to-be-kidnapped heroine had to hold her pose of "frozen panic" for what became a ridiculously long interval. And I defy almost anyone to find a "classic" movie that, in the end, was so nearly completely devoid of actual, you know, movie. They went from opening scene to the climax of the movie with a determination to avoid the complexity of red herrings and subplots that I wish some of today's moviemakers could emulate.

Them! Okay, so the swamp creature isn't the least frightening monster ever conceived. 'Them" are mutant killer ants. You gotta love it, okay? I mean, I still think they should have tried poisoned sugar, but their solution was okay and I have a secret affection for things blowing up.

(Only in the movies, okay? NOT in real life. Do NOT report me to Homeland Security or put my name on a terrorist watch list or tell my mother I need therapy, okay? Lots of people like movies with explosions or they wouldn't make so many of them. Sheesh.)

(I just remembered - the world's least-frightening monster movie had to have been the one with the frogs. You know the one I mean. People living on some island in what looked like the bayou find themselves surrounded by frogs that . . . stare at them. I'm just saying. I don't indulge in recreational drugs, but if I did, I suspect this is exactly the sort of movie that would have been improved by the experience. Oh, no! Frogs! And they're . . . they're . . . they're looking at us!)

The People That Time Forgot Dinosaurs and explosions abound. And Doug McClure, who tends to stick in my memory as someone I frequently find in these movies. I mean, he's probably not in all of them, but some days it seems like he is. And that woman with all the cleavage. She or one of her sisters is in every one of these, occasionally as some kind of "native" but sometimes as a "civilized" woman who, for various reasons, tends to gradually approach nudity as the plot unfolds.

At The Earth's Core McClure again. There's this giant drill that these guys ride in to try and drill down to the . . . you guessed it . . . earth's core. It's all a bit Freudian today, but I'm sure it looked highly technological in the 50s. As I recall, they meet some flying people and overthrow their government, just proving that you really can't trust the British or the Americans to keep their fingers off of other people's cultures. (Ahem. sorry.) As I recall, a woman over-burdened with cleavage was significant to the plot. Big surprise.

Day of the Triffids Okay, it's not cheese. But it's old and I love it and it's my list and the time we get to the lighthouse, I'm usually rooting for the Triffids.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers What is it when it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, but it's not a duck? Pod people! I love the pod people movie, but it has to be the original, not a remake.

I Married A Monster From Outer Space A woman is about to marry Her Dream Man but on the eve of their wedding, he's possessed by an alien spirit. Turns out the aliens are here to have sex with Earth Wimmen. Heh. It's amazing how many aliens travel the galaxy looking to get lucky, isn't it?

Reefer Madness Watch out, kids. One toke and you'll go insane! You'll listen to the Wrong. Kind. Of. Music. And everyone knows that leads to . . .murder.

Almost but not quite as good is The Cocaine Fiends which stays in my memory mostly because (If I'm remembering the right movie) there's a bar in there that just had to be the precursor of that alien-infested bar in Star Wars. Reefer Madness was better in every other way, though. I love those clean-cut 50s kids jazzing it up under the influence of the evil Reefer.

Flash Gordon Super powers and a lot of cool techno-gadgets! Actually, there was a series of these and an arch-villain who had to be defeated again and again. (And, strictly for the over-21 and broadminded, the softcore porn and even more hilarious Flesh Gordon, with his sidekick, Dr. Jerkoff who are on a continuing mission to fight the planet Porn! I first saw this one at a small SF convention twenty years or so ago and the audience was laughing so hard no one could hear a line of the dialogue . . . such as it was. I haven't seen this one since and have no idea if it would be as funny today.)

I'm embarrassed to have to admit that I've never seen Attack of the Killer Tomatoes or The Blob. I'll have to rent them.

Anyhow. A kind friend gave me an Amazon gift certificate for my birthday, and I think I'll use it to buy this. Except that once I read it, I'm sure to find myself searching out and buying every movie it mentions. I'm compulsive that way.

Also, I like documentaries about sharks. I watch the new ones the Discover Channel does each year. Last year they offered some visuals in 3D which was exceptionally cool and, yes, I went out and got the 3D glasses and sat there with them on my face while I watched, because sometimes I'm just geeky that way.

I'm just saying, okay? There's more to me than whining about politics. And now I'll bet you're wondering what I did Friday, on my day off. I ain't telling.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:08 AM


If you enjoy shark stuff, there are two books on the Matawan Creek attacks that are very good: Fernicola's Twelve Days of Terror and Capuuzo's Close to Shore. They cover the same event, but they each have a unique take on the event, so they're fun reads. And I found the opportunity to read about the events that inspired Jaws very interesting indeed. Much more fun than politics, certainly. ;)

Posted by: Andrew at November 17, 2003 11:07 AM

Thanks for the recs. :) I'll certainly check out both of those!

Posted by: Anne at November 17, 2003 02:32 PM

Don't watch "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" unless you want to hear a theme song that will stick with you forever and ever and ever and drive you batty :) Okay, so "The Blob" has a ... catchy ... tune in it too. But Killer Tomatoes is more of a parody than a B movie. I loved them both, along with most of the other cheesy movies you mentioned.

Posted by: Dail at November 17, 2003 06:46 PM

I love just about anything featuring Ray Harryhausen creations. Great Sunday afternoon matinee stuff. Fire up that microwave popcorn! I remember seeing Clash of the Titans in the theatre with my bestest college friend Billy when it first came out, and it was so wonderful and wince-able that for months afterwards we'd spontaneously break into a "Bu-bo! Bu-bo!" cheer. Still among my favorite cheesy flicks.

Posted by: Elayne Riggs at November 18, 2003 07:00 AM