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Your July Random Movie Club Results Are In!

Tagline: They're here.


Pizza: Joe Peeps



Another great crowd. I was surprised there were people here who had never seen POLTERGEIST, and even more surprised that some attendees didn't like the movie. I love it.

1982 was a great year for movies. True, we lost Vic Morrow - but who cares, we got Thora Birch! We also got FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, TOOTSIE, MISSING, ONE FROM THE HEART, AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMEN, GANDHI, THE WALL and THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP (saw those last two on the same day), ROCKY III, THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY, VICTOR/VICTORIA, BLADE RUNNER (not for me, sadly), THE THING, STAR TREK II (the only good one, right?), NIGHT SHIFT, SOPHIE'S CHOICE, MY FAVORITE YEAR (yay!), FRANCES, DINER, and of course, the greatest movie in the world, BUTTERFLY.

We also got a little movie Spielberg made called E.T. I said "little movie" not to be cute, but because that's what Spielberg himself thought - that POLTERGEIST, which he produced (Tobe Hooper directed), would be the huge movie and E.T. the small one. He was wrong. The-little-alien-that-could beat the shit out of the ghost (and every movie) at the box office...by a lot. Looking back, it's hard to believe that POLTERGEIST and E.T. were released one week apart. Anyway, this is not to say POLTERGEIST failed...it was still in the top ten of '82. Makes sense, because POLTERGEIST is scary good.

While a family sleeps, a being, not human, skulks around their house. Starting in the living room, where dad has fallen asleep in front of the TV, it then makes its way upstairs to the kids' rooms, enticed by leftover potato chips like E.T. to Reese's Pieces. Its name is E. Buzz, and he's the family dog. And the family is The Freelings.

The Freelings live in pop-culture infested suburbia (mom sings a Miller beer jingle as she puts a Star Wars sheet on her son Robbie's bed). Robbie (Oliver Robins) reads a Captain America comic and sleeps in his Dodgers cap. Dad and his friends watch the football game while fighting with the neighbor. At night, mom smokes pot while dad reads REAGAN: THE MAN, THE PRESIDENT. It's 80s America, and as if to drive the point home, the first thing we hear is THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER.


Steve and Diane Freeling (Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams, a Mother I'd Like To Haunt) are Yuppies. Once teens in love - if you do the math, Diane was 15 and pregnant with their first child, Dana (Dominique Dunne), they're now suburban potheads with three kids. Steve sells houses for the new and blossoming Agrestic-like community they live in called Cuesta Verde, and he's the top sales person. Until their house gets haunted.

It starts off slowly. Why is that, anyway? Can't ghosts just haunt out of the gate? Must they slowly make their way into our world through TVs, scary trees and murderous clown dolls that make Chucky look like Malibu Ken? Anyway, it starts with their youngest, Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke). Apparently, she can speak to people in the TV set after the station goes off the air and turns to snow (remember TV snow? No???). The family isn't disturbed by this...at first; but as more and more unexplained phenomena occur, they become aware of something in the house. Chairs not only slide across the kitchen floor but assemble themselves into a pop art sculpture you'd see at MOCA. Soon, their cutlery won't be the only thing that gets bent out of shape.


Of course by this time, you and I would have moved someplace safer, like 1982 Beirut. "Want my house, Casper? Sometimes you have to jiggle the toilet handle, the gardeners come every other Thursday, here's the key...bye!" Why do humans always feel attached to their houses? It's still going on. Decades later, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY finds the couple haunted nightly, yet they stay. In that movie, they claim it's her, not the house. But me? I'd still move. I moved once because my neighbors were noisy. But the Freelings stayed. That's just Darwinism at work, which is fine by me. It's time to thin out the herd, and if it takes spooks to do it, then so be it. Anyway...

In a turn similar to the original TWILIGHT ZONE episode LITTLE GIRL LOST, Carol Anne disappears, yet she can still be heard through the TV set, though she sounds like a Beatles' record being run backwards. At this point, if you're still moronic enough to stay in the house, at least call the cops. Your kid is gone "for weeks" (man, she must be starving), file a damn missing persons report. Sure, you can go get a ghostbuster, but why first? That's not just my gripe, it's pretty universal.
Even Eddie Murphy did a bit on this the following year in his can-one-person's-act-really-be-this-funny HBO stand-up special DELIRIOUS. So yeah, instead of leaving, they call up some parapsychologists to assess the situation. Even this trio, with all their experience, cameras and oscilloscopes have never witnessed Industrial Light & Magic effects of this caliber. Unable to help, they call in Tangina (isn't that an orange drink?), played by the colorful Zelda Rubinstein. And that's where the fun gets...funner.

And just like the TOWERING INFERNO burns because someone cut costs by installing inferior wiring, Cuesta Verda (Spanish for "I want the green") harbors a similar secret. A secret that will bring skeletons out of the closet and into their faces.

POLTERGEIST had no buzz before it was released. I saw it in NYC at a sneak preview two weeks before it opened (I got lucky doing that with E.T. as well). The two women on line in front of me said something like this - Woman 1: "What's the name of this movie, anyway?" Woman 2: "I dunno. POLAR GEESE, or something like that."

Attached to the movie itself is the famous and silly Poltergeist Curse. Because Dominique Dunne died right before the movie came out (strangled by her boyfriend), and then Heather O' Rourke died six years later, all of a sudden the movie is cursed.
I was more weirded out by the fact that I was just thinking about POLTERGEIST yesterday, and then it gets randomly selected from over 2000 movies. I was channel hopping when I came upon RAIDERS and noticed how much of it looked like POLTERGEIST (the skeletons, that ILM sky). Doubly odd, this movie is the #1 movie in my collection, meaning, it was the first movie on Tape #1 (sharing the tape with TAXI DRIVER and AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT). Yep. Those darn poltergeists must have hacked into the Random Movie Generator.

Speaking of similarities between RAIDERS and POLTERGEIST, you may know about the brouhaha regarding who actually sat in the POLTERGEIST director's chair. Spielberg was forbidden to direct a movie while working on E.T.(FUN FACT! Drew Barrymore got her part in E.T. by auditioning for POLTERGEIST), so he produced it and gave the keys to Tobe Hooper, who had already made one of the scariest movies ever - THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974). The DGA even investigated. Why? Because POLTERGEIST looks, smells and tastes like a Spielberg movie. And I agree. With its sloppy kids and floppy dog, its fumbling father and merciful mother, its comedy pulled from character over situation...and the fun yet exaggerated suburbia found only in his movies, it's clear to me that Spielberg "ghost" directed (ha ha!).
But even if Hooper did do the entire movie, and Spielberg was stuck in a bear trap in Alaska the entire time, make no mistake - POLTERGEIST is a Spielberg movie. In fact, one early scene has the TV showing the 1943 movie A GUY NAMED JOE. At first, I thought it was just Spielberg winking at us, as only a few years later he would remake JOE as the movie ALWAYS. But I just now realized JOE is about a guy who dies but doesn't know he's dead. Same in POLTERGEIST. To quote Tangina: "People who are not aware they've passed on." And speaking of Tangina, Zelda is terrific in this, which, at nearly 50 years old, was her first meaty role in a movie. I once spotted her at local eatery El Cholo. Zelda died earlier this year. See? It's that Poltergeist Curse!!

I really loved how POLTERGEIST is now an old movie, with TV remote controls that effect your neighbors' sets, TV stations that sign off the air, and even...black and white TV sets. I'm sure some of you reading this don't even know about this stuff. And after watching it again, I realized something that hadn't occurred to me before. Though it's called a horror movie, POLTERGEIST is secretly a comedy. Watch it again and see for yourself. Keep a tally of laughs vs. scares. You'll see. POLTERGEIST is fun, funny, scary and smart (well, aside from that whole "not leaving the house" part). SLIGHT SPOILER: It's also the only horror film I could think of where nobody dies.

Oh, did I mention the scary tree?

Not scary were an assortment of Dawn's baked goods. If I'd known what movie we were seeing beforehand, I'd have asked her to bring them out while saying, "They're he-e-re!"

4th of July Goodies


It's just a coincidence that a movie whose tagline is "They're Here" came up after we watched a documentary about things that aren't here. In fact, we started watching this two-hour doc (the first of three) about historic Los Angeles last year, and loved it so much we decided to watch some more.

Despite its incredibly confusing and cryptic title, THINGS THAT AREN'T HERE ANYMORE is about things that aren't here anymore. This time round, we got to see the Cawston's Ostrich Farm in Pasadena. Man, if this place were still around (it was gone by the Depression) I'd be there once a week. You could actually ride an ostrich.

Next up, Mt. Lowe, where you can ride a 7 mile trolley up the mountain (also in Pasadena). Lowe (they ended up naming the mountain after him) also built a hotel at the top, as well as tennis courts, restaurants, an observatory and...a mule ride. Some really great footage (I wish there was more) of yet another destination I wish I could go to.

The next segment was on amusement parks; one in Venice, where you could actually ride gondolas through the canals and one in Long Beach which boasted The Pike coaster among many other attractions.

Other spots included Gay's Lion Farm, Beverly Park where the Beverly Center stands today, and Pacific Ocean Park which sometimes rivaled Disneyland in attendance (and at a cost of 90 cents for everything) and closed in 1967.

This show should have been called COOL PLACES YOU CAN'T GO TO ANYMORE....NYA NYA NYA!!!

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