For those that were following the previous summer season of theatrical movies, it’s been a great year. Perhaps the winner of them all was The Walt Disney Company. According to the folks at BoxOfficeMojo.com, a website operated by the folks at Amazon that reports upon how movies did box office wise, four out of the five features released since late April of this year–the period where the summer movie season begins, were titles released through Disney. Those titles still in theatrical release as of September 1st in their order of domestic dollar gross: Avengers: Endgame, The Lion King, Toy Story 4, Spider Man: Far From Home, and Aladdin. Although Spider Man: Far From Home was released through Sony/Columbia, the Spider Man character is part of the Marvel Comic Group universe that is owned by The Walt Disney Company. So it appears that the folks at 500 South Buena Vista Street in good ol’ Burbank is the dominate leader!
However, this article isn’t so much about the current summer movie season. It’s in reality, a personal recollection how this writer, better known as “me”, used to commemorate the end of the summer season by going to the movies to say goodbye to those lazy hazy crazy days, and the known fact that for the next nine months (give or take), I would spend much of those weekday hours trapped inside of a school house where I would have to go through the rituals of leaning about reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic! And never mind the fact that I didn’t know what a hickory stick had to do with anything about school days!
Anyhow, here’s the back story. For five years during the period I was enrolled in grade school to the time I would start high school, I made an effort of heading off to a neighboring theater (or actually, neighboring movies theaters as there were more then one located near where I was living at that time), to see a flick that wasn’t airing on TV.
Although I did enjoy going to the movies, I didn’t do it as often as I would have liked to. Perhaps the reasons heading that notion was the fact that I didn’t necessarily have transportation to get to the movie house. I could not drive a car, and I didn’t know the bus routes too well. So I had to rely upon my mom to drive me to the local moving picture house. (One theater was walking distance from my home, but most of the others were not!) Also, my budget was rather scarce. Although I did go on a child’s ticket for the most part, plunking down anywhere from seventy five cents to $1.50 ate a large chunk of my savings, so I had to pick the movie titles I wanted to see wisely. However, all of these times I usually went with somebody else, either it was with a sibling of mine (with their friends) or with my gang of best buds. Nevertheless, I had to pay my own way. And since I wanted to have snacks with my movie, I had to figure how I can surpass the concession stand since a medium sized bucket of popcorn cost anywhere from seventy five cents to as much as $1.75. A cup of soda was at least fifty cents! And those boxes of movie style candy? That would set me back another fifty cents for a box of Milk Duds, Rasinetes, and those ever lovin’ Jujubes that would stick to your teeth if you didn’t watch out!
But since I brought my own snacks along where the theater didn’t seem to care if I did (or at least they never enforced the rule of “no outside food permitted” to me), that notion was well taken care of. However, going to the movies for me was indeed, a really big thing to do!
With this being said, I will reminisce on those five Labor Day weekend years where I conducted my ritual to say good bye to summer with a little help from the folks in Hollywood.
This timeline stretches from the Labor Day weekends 1971 through 1976. All of these movie screenings occurred on Labor Day itself–the first Monday in September. The neighborhood theaters were located in the community of Evanston, Illinois, a north shore suburb of Chicago. Sadly, none of the movie houses I attend back then are still in existence!
In 1971, I, along with an elder brother and his buddies, attended a double feature: Willard and The House That Dripped Blood. Willard starred Bruce Davidson about a social misfit who seeks conform in raising two pet rats, only to discover his revenge through his pets who had since multiplied! The House That Dripped Blood was made by Hammer Films of England and was an anthology of four separate tales taking place in the title home. My brother and his gang chose this entry. Since both were horror films, I was convinced to come along!
The next year, (1972), I attended a triple feature. Earlier that year, United Artists made a deal with the ABC TV network for the rights to air the James Bond films for the next ten years. To commemorate that deal, UA released in a selection of neighborhood theaters, a packaging of the first three Bond films. The titles I saw were Dr. No, Goldfinger, and From Russia With Love–in that order! An elder sister and I attended. We both picked this screening! Out of all of the Labor Day movie screenings in this list, this one was the best of them all! It beat tuning in on the Summer Olympics from Munich that ABC was airing around that time.
In ’73, sticking to the Bond theme, that same sister and I attended Live And Let Die at a neighborhood movie house where on its marque it stated “All seats 75 cents”. From what I recall, the theater was packed! Also to note that in the back of the theatre, a stuffed couch was alined along a rear wall there anyone can sit on that couch as if they were watching the movie in their living room! I recall that the couch itself looked rather shabby. Perhaps it was dragged in from the alleyway into the theater? Who knew? But for 75 cents admission, what did one expect anyway?
The next year (1974), I shifted away from my siblings, and stated to hang with my gang from my junior high school. That year, I attend a neighborhood theater not too far away from where my school was located. The theater itself was once a single screen movie house that just converted itself to a due screen joint. One theater featured first run films while the second one served as a “scratch theater”, showing second run titles or more of the “B” movie variety. That year, my boys and I saw The Groove Tube, a comedy that was a satire of TV shows with take offs of everything from TV commercials to the evening news. It was co-written and directed by Ken Shapiro who was part of the satirical TV series The Great American Dream Machine that aired a few years before on PBS. Although The Groove Tube was a hit-and-miss film, it did clear the path for such future series as NBC’s Saturday Night (Live) that premiered a year later. In fact, one of its early stars, Chevy Chase, made his film debut in this feature.
My gang and I picked out the title to see since we were going to meet the next day for the first day of school, located a few blocks from the theater.
In 1975, I, along with my gang, returned back to the same movie house to see The Great Waldo Pepper, starring Robert Redford as a barnstorming airplane pilot in the 1930’s. That movie was a lot better that the previous year’s Groove Tube. And from what I can recall, the movie that was playing in “cinema one” was Chinatown. That title was a lot better that Waldo Pepper, but it would be many years until I took a glance at that flick at a revival screening sometime in the late 1980s. (Not on the Labor Day weekend though, and it was just by myself!)
In the final year (1976), I had since graduated from junior high school, so my gang broke up to attend their own separate high schools. I would be starting high school the very next day as a fresh (and somewhat fearful) freshman. My elder sister would be starting off her senior year at the same school. So she and I, along with my sis’s BFF Tina who I had took a mild shine to (another story into itself), attended the same movie house where we saw the Bond triple feature a few years before, to see the re-release of the Warner Bros. feature The Exorcist. As one could expect, this movie scarred the hell out of me–no pun intended! My sis and her best bud picked the title, and were “forced” by my mom to take me along! Since this movie house was only a few blocks away from my home, the arrangement was that after the movie, my sis and Tina would go to her house to spend the night and to head directly to the high school the next morning. I would go back to my house to meet them at the school–or something like that! What made this movie attending memorable to me was the fact that they picked the last showing of the evening, around 9:45. So that means that the movie was out by 11:45 that night. Since I was scared s#itless, I had to walk some three blocks home all by myself in the dark!! After the gals left me after the movie, I attempted to walk home alone through the darken streets. I was looking behind my shoulder ever ten seconds, looking for creepy figures that were ready to get to me. I stopped at the mouth of an alleyway before crossing to glance if anything was lurking in the shadows. When I saw a strange figure moving somewhere in the darken alley (either it was an alley cat or just my imagination), I panicked! I then took off running as fast as I could in udder fear! I finally made it home within five minutes. My folks were sound asleep so the place was dark and quiet. I then bolted into my room. Once inside, I turned on my Sony black and white portable TV set to calm my nerves. What came on the set once I turned it on was The Tomorrow Show, where host Tom Synder’s guests were a group of pinball machine fanatics speaking on the art of playing pinball! Although I tried to watch, I was still rattled.
Perhaps the most interesting thing on that movie going junket was the fact that the movie theater featured a selected short subject, one of those corporate sponsored titles, on the subject of glass blowing! It was presented by Corning Glass, and showed how the art of glass blowing was indeed, a unique treasure. As for The Tomorrow Show, I recently did a preservation assignment for The Paley Center for Media providing the center a series of Tomorrow Shows recorded off-the-air for their collection. That pinball machine episode was one of the titles I provided to them. So I did have the chance to see Tom speak with a group of pinball machine players when I wasn’t breathing heavily, my heart pounding, my hair standing on end, while breaking out in a cold sweat. I also viewed the show in color as I originally saw it on a black and white set. All of this took place some forty plus years(!!) long after the fact!
Sadly, that ended my Labor Day movie going. I never repeated that ritual ever again since I was going through a challenging period in my life at that time. (That explanation is for another article!) My movie going was since placed into a sporadic mode, just attending the flicks based on opportunity, such as the time I could have waited in my with my brother and his buds to see Star Wars at the only movie house in the area that was playing that film. I didn’t go then since there was a chance of severe thunderstorms for that evening, and my mom didn’t want me to get caught in a heavy cloudburst while waiting in line. But as time went on, going to the movies wasn’t the big thing as it used to be. Thanks to home video as well as pay cable TV, movies were plentiful, and looked just as good on the small screen as it did on the big. Although there was the emotional appeal in seeing a flick in a theater setting on a big screen in a darken room full of strangers that laughed, cried, yelled, and otherwise reacted to what was going on, sometime the hassle of dragging one’s self to a movie house to take advantage of that emotion wasn’t necessarily worth the time and effect. This was especially true if the movie one was seeing wasn’t that good to begin with! That was OK since all of the movies I would see of late in a theater setting was for free. However, if I was at a flick that wasn’t as good as expected, I would never get my time back! This could be the reason why the movies I look at in a theater to this very day are carefully chosen!
So on this Labor Day weekend, it’s the week to say “so long” to summer, and to say “howdy” to fall. However, living in Los Angeles shows how much fall looks like summer. And those movies currently in theaters that consist of action/adventure titles, animation picks, and other movies that are of the franchise/sequel/tentpole variety, drift off toward drama titles bucking for major awards that interestedly enough, look just as good on the small screen that on the big(ger) one! But as stated, that argument is set for another article!
NEWS AND REVIEWS
Theatre Palisades of Pacific Palisades presents Agatha Christie’s THE MOUSETRAP, a mystery “whodunnit” where a group of people staying in a remote country homestead isolated by a heavy snowfall discover that there is a person within their midst may be set for murder!
The backdrop takes place during the winter season at Monkswell Manor, a courtly dwelling converted as a guesthouse run by the Ralstons-Mollie (Grace O’Neill, alternating with Kelsey Koon) and Giles (Carl Meyer-Curtis, alternating with Jake Scozzaro). Mollie hears by way of a report on the wireless (radio) about the murder of Maureen Lyon that occurred nearby and the police manhunt for a suspect wearing an overcoat seen near the scene of the murder. Meanwhile, four expected guests are to arrive at their guesthouse for a stay, consisting of Christopher Wren (Benjamin Orf, alternating with Shane Weikel), Mrs Boyle (Peggy Flood, alternating with Sherry Coon) and Major Metcalf (Michael Bernstein, alternating with Richard Little), and Miss Casewell (Antonia Czinger, alternating with Cheyanne Gustason). A fifth person arrives, Mr. Paravicini. (Mark Fields Davidson, alternating with Samuel Capaldi). He enters the place claiming that his car ran into a snow ditch and is unable to travel further. He isn’t know by the Ralstons, but is allowed to stay. During that evening, a heavy snowfall occurs trapping everyone inside. Another visitor arrives by skis, Detective Sergeant Trotter (Michael Coleman, alternating with Jake Scozzaro), He’s investigating the Lyon murder, but visits based upon the address of Monkswell Manor found written in a notebook discovered near the murder scene. Det. Trotter interviews everyone with a notion that clues may be found. Before long, the phone line is cut. Then the five residents becomes rather restless. Is it because of their entrapment due to the weather? Or perhaps one of these five committed the crime? Did some other person do it? If so, where is the suspect?
This play, considered to be a modern classic and one of many of Agatha Christie’s “greatest hits”, is a stage piece that just gets better throughout the ages. Every character represented hold their own personality and charm, even if that character and charm possess itself with possible evil intentions. Within this production as presented by Theatre Palisades, the ensemble cast works very well with one another under Marc Antonio Pritchett’s stage direction. They supply their performance methods to a theater work where murder and mystery rings true.
What is also impressive is the set design by Theatre Palisades’ resident set and lighting director Sherman Wayne. The set showcases Monkswell Manon as a warm locale, stocked of brick laden walls, traditional candlestick wall light fixtures, and an feel of a classic English tudor setting. It’s not necessarily a spot at The Ritz, but it serves as a guesthouse that is conformable enough for hosting a murder!
No matter how many times one has experienced a murder mystery as THE MOUSETRAP, it is recommended to keep one’s “trap” shut on relieving the killer. That is what make murder mysteries as this one alluring. And this production holds the same appeal. Even if that said appeal is at the expense of whoever is getting bumped off!
THE MOUSETRAP, resented by Theater Palisades, performs at the Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road (off Sunset Blvd.), Pacific Palisades, until October 6th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM.
For more information and for ticket reservations, call (310) 454-1970, or via online at http://www.TheatrePalisades.com
Theatre Palisades can also be found and followed through social media via Facebook and Twitter as “Theatre Palisades”.
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ACCESSIBLY LIVE OFF-LINE (C) 2019 Linear Cycle Productions. All rights reserved. The views and opinions are those of the writers, and not necessarily of the staff and management. ‘Nuff said!