Shock Show Update: Monster Movie Week (KHIZ-TV/DT, Barstow/LA)
Somewhere in my much-belated inaugural viewing of a reduced version of Macabre Theatre on what is basically a UHF-level local cable channel last Saturday, a commercial came on which carried, much to my glee, scratchy and faded images of frantic mobs of people (are there any other kind?) fleeing the giant, looming likes of Godzilla, Ghidorah, Megalon and Gorgo. Within the first few seconds (a scraggly sort of font, that you would swear all of the other fonts would have outlawed from Fontland eons ago) crawls across the bottom of the screen, proclaiming the word “MONSTER”. It is punctuated with a rather amateurish (though lovable) attempt at embellishing the word with some sort of dramatic effect: a yellow squiggly line that wiggles over and beneath the word. "MONSTER" then scoots off the screen, trailed by the yellow line as though it were some sort of verbal dragster. The word is followed soon by two others, each with squiggly yellow lines of their own: “MOVIE” and “WEEK”. Thereafter, the unadorned phrase (though in the same rough font): “ON KHIZ-TV”.
Using my "mad skillz" that I learned from Sesame Street back in the day, I was able to decipher this confusion and put the words together into a coherent sentence. Apparently, I surmised, there was to be some sort of a “MONSTER MOVIE WEEK ON KHIZ-TV” this week. As the mayhem and destruction of Tokyo and London continued apace on the screen, a voice, in what has to be one of the worst attempts at being cool in the history of recorded voices (apart from all that phony boy band crap) is heard intimating, “It's Monster Movie Week on KHIZ. Catch it Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Check out Godzilla and Gorgo -- this week on KHIZ-TV”. The attempt at first seems to be one of detached smoothness on the part of the narrator, but all his voice really comes off as that of a stoned dullard, and a stiff acting one at that, as he stumbles all over the last sentence.
The professionalism of the commercial aside -- which someone probably threw together at the last minute anyway; who cares about quality? – it was personally effective in that it gave me an excuse to check out that long-lost staple of my youth: the weekday afternoon monster matinee. As a matter of fact, even though I likely owned all of the movies they would be showing, it thrilled me to the core. There is a certain part of me that enjoys the commercial interruptions, and especially the cheesiness of some of those commercials (such as the one for the Monster Movie Week itself). However, finding when it aired was a small problem, since the listings provided nothing in the way of any Godzilla titles or even a “Movie Matinee” or “Afternoon Movie” block. What there was on KHIZ’s listings, however, was a two-hour chunk at one in the afternoon each day (except Wednesday, of course) titled “To Be Announced.” “This,” I proclaimed, “must be the place!” and I set my DVR to record them.
Here is what you will find: there is no “Welcome to Monster Movie Week” intro, which I really didn’t expect; the movie simply starts instead. When it does, you find in the first film, the sweetly inept though earnest Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster, what is probably the most scratch-ridden, haggard-looking copy of the film since some geekoid, sweaty, seventh-grade science teacher mistakenly decided to show it in his class as a lesson in pollution. (This really happened, and it happened to me – story at some later date.) Having a decent print on a VHS copy already, the film is all but unwatchable in this condition, but I carried on undeterred, still wrapped in the glowing memories of teenage monster afternoons on the television. The first commercial break does bring something fun: a “We will return to…” interstitial, showing a short clip from the film along with its title. “We now return…” naturally follows soon after the obligatory ads of Billy Mays yelling about “orange” cleaners and the like (along with a replay of the Monster Movie Week ad). The poor condition of the film never varied, but there was charm aplenty to be had from the situation, and I charged through the rest of the film, not even zipping through the commercial breaks, using them instead as they were intended (i.e. bathroom breaks, more popcorn popping, getting a soda, internet porn etc.)
Tuesday’s showing turned out to be Monster Zero, and if I thought that the Smog Monster had it bad in his shabby-ass print (well, Hedorah is sort of a shabby-ass character himself, so I guess it doesn't matter), then Ghidorah and his opponents have it even worse. The KHIZ-TV print of Monster Zero was probably the most washed-out and faded thing since Stephen Baldwin’s acting career (The Usual Suspects notwithstanding). There were points in the film where I swore I was watching the negative instead. Thursday, I prepared for the worst with Godzilla Vs. Megalon, but I was mildly surprised to discover that it was no worse (and maybe even better) than the public domain version that I've been coping with for eons, just waiting for a decent DVD release. Today's (Friday's) film was, of course (using the logic, as in, no logic), Gorgo, the famous British giant-monster-with-goofy-ears flick from the late 50's, and while I would have probably watched the KHIZ version just for fun, I recently obtained my official Widescreen Destruction Edition DVD of the film just a couple of weeks ago, and I really didn't want to spoil that particular viewing. So I am skipping it. I am, though, pleased to see it on the Monster Movie Week.
And that's the main thing, of course. However much I might rip on the prints being used for these films or the cheesiness of the advertising, I think back to those teenage years where I watched these same films on similar programs, and I smile. I may have even seen prints in as bad condition as these, but at that time, the films were new and important to myself and my monster-mad mind, and didn't know or care about the condition of the film that I was watching. It was merely taking advantage of the chance to see them. And if some kid out in Barstow or L.A. or Temecula is sick just one day of this week, and is flipping cable channels, and just happens to get a healthy dose of Godzilla action, then I would feel that KHIZ has done the world some justice. After all, someone has to grow up to carry the torch for the next generation.