East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Mutant monsters and changes of plans


I’m writing a new story for my Patrons, and today I was planning to finish it and translate it in Italian (all that I put on Patreon is bi-lingual) but then something happened that caused me to reconfigure my schedule: a friend informed me that Matinee, Joe Dante’s 1993 movie featuring John Goodman and Cathy Moriarty, is available on Prime. And I’ve just paid the annual fee to Prime.
And Matinee’s a movie I’ve been wanting to re-watch for 27 years.

And so I put my short story on hold, and sat back and enjoyed the movie, Joe Dante’s love letter to 1950s B features and a homage to B-movie giant William Castle, the man who gave us loads of cheap creature features and some of the unlikeliest promotional gimmicks.

John Goodman plays Lawrence Woolsey, a cheap purveyor of science fiction horror flicks, and he comes to Key West, Florida, for the world premiere of his latest movie, Mant!, bout a guy that turns into a giant ant. But as the Cuban Missile Crisis starts, both Woolsley, his associates and the kids in town are in for a hell of a show.

Matinee is a good-natured, sympathetic movie about horror and sci-fi movies and the people that love them and make them, and is to me a perfect family entertainment – it’s full of action and comedy, but it does make a point about the significance of horror in our growing up as human beings.

Lawrence Woolsey: [describing his movie-making philosophy] A zillion years ago, a guy’s living in a cave. He goes out one day, Bam! He gets chased by a mammoth. Now he’s scared to death, but he gets away. And when it’s all over with, he feels great.
Gene Loomis: Well yeah, ’cause he’s still living.
Lawrence Woolsey: Yeah, but he knows he is. And he feels it. So he goes home, back to the cave, the first thing he does, he does a drawing of the mammoth. And he thinks, “People are coming to see this. Let’s make it good. Let’s make the teeth real long, and the eyes real mean.” [Animated sequence of roaring Woolly Mammoth, squashed at end by Woolsey’s hand]
Lawrence Woolsey: Boom! The first monster movie. That’s probably why I still do it. You make the teeth as big as you want, then you kill it off, everything’s okay, the lights come up…

The movie also includes a lot of genre references (I mean, the guy with an insect head?) and winks at the nerds in the room, and features a delicious spoof of those extremely silly movies Disney made before Disney turned into an evil empire.
And there’s a love story or two, and the bomb scare, and everything else.
It’s absolutely great and you should watch it, just like I did.

So yes, I should have been writing, and I watched an old movie instead.
So sue me.
I’ll write after dinner, but only after I’ve arm-twisted my friend Lucy in setting up a podcast episode about this old, beautiful little movie. I’m sure she will not take a lot of convincing.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

2 thoughts on “Mutant monsters and changes of plans

  1. Dang. Not only I wasn’t aware of this movie, not only I wasn’t totally aware of “The Last of Sheila” but I wanna for sure watch both of them.


Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.