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Nostalgia as the Drug of Choice: THE CREATURE DOUBLE FEATURE ROUND UP 2

I fondly remember my mother kicking me out of the house by 11 AM on Saturday mornings after I had watched about four hours of cartoons ranging from the awesome (classic Warner Brothers, that, unknown to me, were re-edited to meet network standards) to the awful (anyone remember the Filmation Tarzan Lord of the Jungle series?)

My family lived in Warwick, just south of Providence, Rhode Island, and my mother insisted that I get outside into the fresh air and play like children were supposed to. Outside, in the bright, warm lazy summer weekends of my youth, all I wanted was to get back inside, pull the curtains to block out the sun, and watch the blurry distant signal from Boston’s Channel 56, which showed the Creature Double Feature from noon till three. 

Channel 56 was a UHF station, something that means little to youth today what with their cable TV and their Hulu. UHF meant static-y signals on mysterious, hard to tune stations from distant lands over an hour away by bus.

In addition to Channel 56 there wereChannels 27, which showed Gerry Anderson’s UFO which had acting only slightly better than the “Supermarionation” puppetry of his previous shows, and Channel 38, which featured a clown on weekday afternoons named Willie Whistle who would introduce cartoons and, true to his name, communicated entirely in whistles like a laryngectomy survivor gasping for air.

Willie Whistle
UHF meant adjusting the rabbit ear antennas on your TV, or better yet, having one of those large rotating antennas on the roof of the house, high enough to peer over the curve of the earth and pick up those distant, weak signals. My friend Rob had a great set up in his basement, and his mom didn’t care if we went outside or not, so when my mom kicked me out of the house, I biked, walked or cajoled a ride out of my parents and hung out in his basement, thoroughly counter to my mother’s intentions, enjoying a steady stream of the coolest, stupidest monster movies ever made.
“I’ve got a golden ticket!”
The Creature Double Feature Round Up 2 was the second annual gathering to celebrate this classic show. What Channel 56 had done was to get a film package from a distributor, the same film package that was presented across the nation to UHF stations everywhere. This collection of movies featured classic Universal and Hammer monsters, as well as AIP and Republic fare, and of course the Japanese monster movies I loved so much, such as Godzilla and Gamera, movies you could never find on theater screens. Anyone (but mostly males) of a certain age and geographic location remembers his local monster movie package.

Sometimes there were horror hosts (often just the weatherman in a fright wig and tuxedo) but Channel 56 simply had a killer Emerson, Lake & Palmer clip played over altered video clips from various monster movies (Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster and Frankenstein Conquers the World come to mind.) It was simple, but effective:

They let the movies be the entertainment.

The CDF Round Up is the brainchild of Aaron Chauncey (family man, karate instructor and website manager of and Matt Sanborn, horror writer and film critic.) They presented not only a multimedia extravaganza which included classic clips from many CDF films, but also included many of the commercials that played during the films themselves. They brought along local legend and FOG! columnist Robert Jaz to DJ the event, who kept the room buzzing with horror themed music that just knocked me out. I still have Blue Oyster Cult’s “Joan Crawford has Risen from the Grave” stuck in my head.
Famed Godzilla artist Bob Eggleton spoke, as did Mike Howlett, a comic historian who recently published a book entitled The Weird World of Eerie Publishing, a must have for fans of the genre.

The capstone of the evening was the airing of the greatest giant monster movie of all time, Gamera vs. Guiron, and the so-called worst movie of all time, Plan Nine from Outer Space. A couple of caveats here. The edition of Gamera vs. Guiron shown was unedited, and included the gruesome scenes never seen on Channel 56, and Plan Nine from Outer Space, as great and classic as it is, was never shown on Creature Double Feature.

But if this isn’t exactly what Creature Double Feature was, then it’s what it should have been.

That was the point. The show wasn’t just a nostalgic revisiting of the past, it was a bold attempt to bring the show into today, to continue it’s greatness, to bring it back just one more time. There was a time when the only way to see these movies was to wait until they were aired. Quickly though, that all changed as VCRs and later DVDs and the Internet allowed us to access virtually any movie, any time. The Round Up allowed us to remember that if you weren’t in the right place at the right time, you’d miss it all.

One of the guests (I think it was artist/filmmaker Christian White) said “Nostalgia is my drug of choice” and that sums up the event nicely. Nostalgia is a drug, and like any drug, it can be either therapeutic or addictive. Visiting the past can certainly ground one in the present, but it also has the danger of trapping us. Collector’s have amassed vast collections of comics, magazines, toys and videos. Each item has the potential to bring us back to that special feeling we had as children hen the most important thing in the world was a new Star Wars toy or a poster of Godzilla. It was a feeling of awe and wonder at the infinite possibilities of life and our imaginations.

Dipping into nostalgia, to remind ourselves of that joy, can be important, especially if it helps us to relate to the world of the here an now.

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