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Friday, August 08, 2014

Here's Where To Warehouse Small Fry ...

Charlotte's New Low In Kiddie Shows

Above and at left are ephemera from scrapbooks I kept during the mid-sixties, clipped out of our own and neighbor's newspapers. My family took the Winston-Salem Journal, but aunt-uncle down the street had The Charlotte Observer, so I'd raid at least two theatre pages daily for ads. These were mostly exercises in frustration, a canvas of shows beyond my reach thanks to Winston being 58 miles off and Charlotte more like 90. On roads of fifty years ago, two-lane and sometimes hazardous, you'd need compelling reason to venture either place. Seeing House Of Usher or Hammer's The Mummy at the Carolina's Saturday Kiddie Show (W.S.) was not sufficient cause to haul me that distance. Of matinees I didn't crave seeing, here are two, culled from the Observer and hung as holiday stockings by Charlotte's Village and Capri Theatres for 1966. Santa Claus, Mexico-made in 1959, pitted St. Nick against "the devil Pitch," who seeks to ruin Christmas. I knew not the origin of Santa Claus then, but smelled a rat based on ads that pandered so obsequiously to youth. The combo of Snow White and Rose Red plus The Big Bad Wolf roused as much suspicion. I could well believe these were "Never Before Shown Anywhere." Even for a child of eleven, they were brands called X. Snow White/Rose Red turns out to have been German-shot, and in 1955, dispelling the "All New!" tag on the Capri/Village ad (both among Charlotte's premiere hardtops), while "All Live!" implied stage rather than screen entertainment. Paul Tripp narrated the pair plus a number of other imported kid pics. The idea of such bookings was to give parents a place to deposit offspring during busy Thanksgiving or Christmas weeks so brats wouldn't be continually underfoot. If the show proved lousy, which these undoubtedly did, there was always corn or candy to gorge upon, if not joy of cacophonous moppetry by hundreds filling the Village (800 seats) and/or Capri (995).


Blogger Brother Herbert said...

Three decades later, the creepy, weird, glorious WTF-ness of SANTA CLAUS was unleashed upon the TV masses thanks to MST3K.

Suffice to say, you had excellent childhood instincts, John.

12:06 PM  
Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

I think "All Live!" was their space-saving way of saying "all live-action." I suspect that in some situations the only live-in-person attraction might be a guy in a Santa Claus suit.

The theater where I grew up booked a bunch of these K. Gordon Murray storybook imports in the late 1960s. I remember that the trailers tended to make me avoid the features in question. I preferred the theater's "name" attractions during the Christmas season (MARCH OF THE WOODEN SOLDIERS and THE CHRISTMAS THAT ALMOST WASN"T). I can still recall seeing the world's spliciest print of Max Fleischer's RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER (which must have been in service since 1948, judging from the condition).

12:20 PM  
Blogger b piper said...

SANTA CLAUSE is a deliriously creepy experience not to be missed. Many of these shows were imported by Florida based K. Gordon Murray. Years ago I was talking to a small time distributor who was planning to import foreign made kiddie shows for theatrical release. "You want to be the next K. Gordon Murray," I said. He replied, dead serious, "We should ALL be as successful as he was."

12:46 PM  
Blogger radiotelefonia said...

The advantages of growing up in a big capital city like Buenos Aires allowed me to see film exhibitions of any kind with ease and cheap public transportation. One of the only few things I miss from Argentina; the others being family, friends and the caf├ęs.

1:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

Ads like those were designed more for the parents than kids, I think. I can't imagine anyone over the age of 8, even then, actually looking at those ads and wanting to see those terrible movies.

1:12 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Donald Benson remembers some more low-grade kiddie shows:

Old enough to remember TV campaigns for "Santa Claus" (featuring the machine with lips on it) and"Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" (American-made, but cheap). Our discerning parents took us to "Magic Voyage of Sinbad" and "The Man Who Wagged His Tail", but not these. I finally saw both for the first time on Mystery Science Theater, which is probably the best way to experience them.

Some sort of prize should go to "Santa Claus and the Ice Cream Bunny," immortalized by Rifftrax (a trio of MST vets). It's an amateur-grade adaptation of "Thumbalina", padded out by a framing story of a visibly sweat-soaked Santa stranded in Florida vacant lot. It makes your double feature look like MGM.

Hit-and-run kiddie matinee features seem to be extinct, except as direct to video products (alongside those ultracheesy knockoffs of animated blockbusters). I think part of the reason is big studios chasing kid/family audiences with major features.

2:10 PM  
Blogger KING OF JAZZ said...

I recall these commercials circa 1966 or so, when I was ten. They definitely discouraged attendance! Not long ago I saw SANTA CLAUS, but that was highly entertaining in a very, very distorted way.

Best matinee I ever saw as a kid was MAD MONSTER PARTY.

2:37 PM  
Blogger Dave K said...

That way creepy, way crappy version of THE BIG BAD WOLF runs less than an hour and would repulse anyone over 6, horrify anyone under. The title character, a guy in a moth-eaten getup, devours almost all the cast at one point. The sole survivor sneaks up on the now bloated, sleeping villain, cuts him open, rescues his still alive comrades, throws rocks inside the wolf, sews him back up then throws him into a well to drown.

The older kiddies would have dozed off long before the end credits, while the littlest ones would probably have nightmares for weeks.

4:04 PM  
Blogger Randy Jepsen said...

I saw SANTA CLAUS in a theater for one of these matinees when I was 7 or 8. Also that horrible RED RIDING HOOD movie from Mexico. I just wish it had been the one where she meets the monsters.

4:41 PM  
Blogger rnigma said...

"Cagey" Murray also imported the adventures of the silver-masked wrestler Santo, who became "Samson" in the English dubs (one of these would also be featured on MST3K).

5:32 PM  

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