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Posts Tagged ‘Drive in movies’

Mr. B.I.G.

Monday, April 15th, 2013

Orson Welles and director Bert I. Gordon on the set of Gordon’s film Necromancy (1972).

He never made any big budget films, and never really made any truly successful films, but Bert I. Gordon’s threadbare special effects extravaganzas, if that’s the right word for them, have a place in the affections of many film goers from the 1950s and 1960s. With such titles as The Cyclops, The Amazing Colossal Man, Beginning of the End (all 1957), Earth vs. the Spider, War of the Colossal Beast, and Attack of the Puppet People (all 1958), along with many other films to his credit, Gordon seemed obsessed with films that employed bargain basement trick photography (which Gordon himself was responsible for) to create images of enormous animals, insects, and/or humans wreaking havoc on society, shot in matter-of-fact black and white, and presented with ruthless economy in every department.

For sheer absurdity, they’re hard to top; perhaps my favorite moment in any of his films comes in Earth vs. The Spider, in which a group of teenagers accidentally discover a truly enormous and seemingly lifeless arachnid in a local cavern. The spider is subsequently transported to the local high school gymnasium (of course) for further study. Naturally, the students decide that this would be an excellent time for a rock and roll dance party, which awakens the spider, allowing it to embark on yet another murderous rampage. It’s all junk, but it’s pop art junk, and a real part of the American cinema experience in the 1950s, and for 75 minutes or so, worth the time to view as an authentic talisman of a vanished era. Still alive as of this writing, Gordon is in retirement, but his films are shown all the time on television, and many are available on DVD.

To see a brief video interview from 2010 with Bert I. Gordon, click here or on the image above.

Frame by Frame: Drive-In Theaters

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

I have a new Frame by Frame video out today on movie drive-ins, directed and edited by Curt Bright. Here’s a transcript:

“Hi. I’m Wheeler Winston Dixon, and this is Frame By Frame. In the 1940’s and 50’s and 60’s, drive-in theaters, or as they were called in the trade “Ozoners,” were incredibly popular throughout the United States. There were literally thousands of them, and I remember them with great fondness. They usually ran double or triple bills. They would sometimes run “dusk till dawn” shows of horror movies or genre movies and things like that.

They were a great alternative for families because you didn’t have to leave your car. You would drive in to the theater, and then you would either put a speaker in the window of your car, or else they would broadcast the sound on an AM radio station with a low-power transmitter to your car radio, and you would sit and watch a movie on a huge screen in this theater with 100s of other cars. The projection was usually very good. The cost was usually by the car; $4 to $5 per car.

Drive-in theaters flourished mostly in the Midwest and the South, although there were a lot of them in the East, where I grew up, and they were very popular as a low-cost alternative to going to a conventional theater. There was also something nice about being able to sit in you car and bring food, and you could also avoid hiring a baby sitter. You just put the kids in the back and put them to sleep.

But the rise of VHS and DVD made it much more easy to stay home. Huge flat-screen TVs began to replace the drive-ins, and they almost completely collapsed. It’s one of the saddest things, I think, in motion picture history, because they had such enormous screens. Now they’re all but gone. There’s only a few left in the United States. So that’s something that those of you who are growing up right now will never experience, but if there is still a drive-in near you, which you can visit to see what it’s like, or actually see a film there, I urge you to experience it, because it’s an entirely different way to view movies.”

Click here, or on the image above, to see the complete video.

About the Author

Wheeler Winston Dixon

Wheeler Winston Dixon, Ryan Professor of Film Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is an internationally recognized scholar and writer of film history, theory and criticism. He is the author of thirty books and more than 100 articles on film, and appears regularly in national media outlets discussing film and culture trends. Frame by Frame is a collection of his thoughts on a number of those topics. To contact Prof. Dixon for an interview, reach him at 402.472.6064 or wdixon1@unl.edu. Visit him at his website wheelerwinstondixon.com.

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