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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Everyone Entering Will Be De-Bugged!


Bring A Flit Can To These Marathons

Came across a poster done some years back for Greenbriar's "Bug-O-Rama," designed after all-nighters that were a staple at drive-ins during 50/60's outdoor pic-going boom. Management could book three or more insects for a comparative song: $15 per title, seldom over $25, what with most aged in the wood like termites eating away at exchange shelves. Total infestation could be had for under $75, and being buggers needed less than rapt concentration, there'd be steady march to, and spending at, the grill. Easy to forget how far movies ranked down a drive-in's priority. Canteen and concessions earned way more than admissions, adults there largely to gorge, or if younger, adjourn to the back seat for sleep, or livelier activity. By a second or third onscreen pest removal, it was all a black-and-white blur anyway (The Fly virtually alone among big bugs for being in color). Flit-gunfights were surprisingly evergreen. The Liberty brought back Tarantula and The Deadly Mantis in summer 1964, enabling late-date theatrical sit for both. 50's insects could earn, if modestly, well into a following decade where all that mattered was content that crawled, and came cheap.

Buy It, Bring It, Prepare It --- Drive-Ins Were All About Food.
By The Way, Is That Flit Spray The Man Is Holding?

My latter-day stunt was to stir interest, if there was any, for combos revolved around crawly things that so thrilled patronage years before. Toward that end, we got up an ant costume and fitted a student for it. He'd crash the show part way through, give chase after plants in the audience, then be "exterminated" by a uniformed pest controller with a spray can. Preshow bally emphasized the live portion, films on view being more or less interchangeable, though the three selected, Tarantula, Them!, and The Fly, probably are best of a buggy lot. Management of drive-ins surely had mixed emotion doing bug-a-thons, what with war waged against insects throughout show season. Mosquito repellent often came with admission at afflicted venues. Erect your screen near a body of water and there'd be air raids on vehicular parking from there. A window partly down to hang speakers was also ingress for winged invasion more frightful than what screens allowed. It sometimes got bad enough to clear a drive-in's whole lot, the Fly's audience reduced to insect brethren.

2 Comments:

Blogger Dave K said...

"This One Scared Hitchcock! Ask him!"
Chortle!

Love your story about your own Bug Fest... I'm sure it was a blast. The closest I ever got to any such marathons back in the day was Saturday matinee I missed when some family weekend plans shifted; MOTHRA and BLACK SCORPION double featured!

Have always had a soft spot in my heart for these giant sized infestations that reaches back to a distant memory of a Sid Ceasar TV parody. His character was a mutated half man, half termite and he spent most of the skit quite literally chewing up the scenery!

11:10 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Donald Benson ponders the Parkway Theatre Bug-A-Thon's lineup of features:


Noticed they put the two cheesiest films up front, then "The Fly", and finally the hokey but watchable "Mantis."


On a program like that, was it really a good idea to lead with the dregs? Were they counting on teens stick through two sub-B stiffs to get to "The Fly", and to stay conscious for the money shots of the monster in "Mantis"?


Finally, pity whoever got stuck with judging the biggest bug contest.

7:44 PM  

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