Thrillville Beat
By Will the ThrillMartini Anyone?
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Thrillville Beat 

1/4, 9:15PM, $6: Inoshiro Honda's BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE (1959), with Japanese film experts August Ragone and Bob Johnson as our panel guests, and a sushi special on the menu!

1/18, 9:15PM, $6: Ray Harryhausen's awesome spaceships destroy Washington (YEA!) in EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS (1956), with live theremin by Robert Silverman!

NOTE: Thrillville Theater is going to an every other week basis at the Parkway beginning this month. It's not because I suck, either. (Though I am a bit tired.) Or that our appeal has become "more selective." Rather, I am expanding Thrillville Theater into the Thrillville Revue and taking it on the road. I am also starting my own web site soon to be found at both and (where you will be able to find a version of this column as well.) The twice a month format frees me up creatively to expand my horizons. But no matter where I go, The Parkway remains my home base. Thrillville Revue will become more of a multi-media event than ever before. Also, I am doing away with my played-out monthly theme routine. Every single show will have its very own theme. Stay tuned, Thrill seekers - as The Chairman sang, the best is yet to come.

In case anyone out there is paying attention, The Thrillville Nursery has been cancelled because Monica, Tiki Goddess was getting ideas I had to put the kibosh on. She's not through raising me yet, not by a long shot. I refuse to share any of my toys.

Now then, on with the show:

I can't think of a better time for beings from outer space to attack and destroy our planet than right now. I will gladly help them, and not even feel like a traitor. Rather, I'd be a humanitarian - putting our pathetic people out of their misery.

I would start off by pointing out the obvious: the sad weakness of our elected officials (assuming it's Bush and Cheney). All I have to do is raise my hand when they intone, "Take me to your leader." The most powerful nation on Earth recently voted (?) in a "president" who has less than half a brain along with a vice president who is more than half dead. Obviously, we are a suicidal race, begging for own annihilation, subconsciously or not - hopefully we'll be obliged by ruthless Kevorkians, from the merciful planet Kevorkia.

As I've stated in this column before, there are two kinds of people in this world: Mars Attacks people, which are Thrillvillians (hey, I like that!), and Independence Day people, who are everyone else. (I'm not saying people who occasionally deign to attend my show all prefer Tim Burton's brutally sardonic comic masterpiece over that mega-hit blockbuster flag-waving piece of crap, but the ones who come back again and again are definitely ack! ack! kinda folks.) Mars Attacks took its inspiration from a popular, and controversial, pack of trading cards that came out in the early 60s. The Martians in the film (and the cards) strongly resemble Paul Blaisdell's bulb-headed cat-eyed aliens in the 1957 AIP drive-in classic Invasion of the Saucer Men (screened in my old Midnight Lounge, and sadly, that one available 35mm print is about ready to crumble into dust). Another inspired bit is the near-total destruction of Washington DC, obviously borrowed from Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, with special effects by the master, Ray Harryhausen, which I am featuring this month in a beautiful print, as Aliens Invade Thrillville! See, if little green men in flying discs actually came to the Parkway on a Thursday, I would welcome them, we'd kick back with some brews, I'd offer them a few tips, and then they'd be on their way. The only actual destruction here would take place safely on the screen - as will be the case all this month. For a suggested guide I would definitely screen for my alien pallies the magnificent sight of Ray Harryhausen's amazing flying saucers taking out the Capitol building and toppling the Washington Monument (a spectacle duplicated by Tim Burton's invaders). But then I'm sure they've seen it already - again and again and again.

To illustrate the main differences in modern Hollywood's approach to an imagined alien invasion: in the feeble, crowd-pandering Independence Day, the US president (Bill Pullman) jumps into a fighter jet to ward off the marauders and save the nation; in Mars Attacks, the prez - Jack Nicholson! - gets impaled by a crawling Martian hand and drops dead!

Mars Attacks and Independence Day both came out in 1996. Last year there were two films about flights to Mars (since similarly themed movies always come out in pairs, for some reason): Mission to Mars, which I saw, regrettably, and Red Planet, which I skipped (I am learning to be kinder to myself). They were both big bombs at the box office. Know why? Because Hollywood is trying to appease two totally different types of audiences, and are completely missing both. Movies about fanciful missions to Mars, or any planet, are made (or should be) for drive-ins and their derelict denizens. There hardly are any more drive-ins, but there are plenty of people who still watch those kinds of movies on video. People who went to drive-ins wanted two things: sex and monsters. The recent Mars movies didn't have either. Why? Because they want to draw in the mainstream audience that flocks to safe, sappy crap like Contact and Apollo 13, but also aim a little lower for the weirdos (me included) out there who love cheesy lowdown outer space monster movies, sans all that talky New Age Star Trek/Star Wars philosophical jazz. The problem is, the modern mainstreamers are not keen on old-fashioned monsters, at least not the cool ones that have zippers down their backs. They are also not big on intergalactic hay-hay. They want a movie that is "inspiring" as well as "exciting," "uplifting" as well as "suspenseful." And they want lavish special effects, within a "realistic" context. Excuse me, but Angry Red Planet, made for pocket change back in 1960, is an infinitely more entertaining experience than Red Planet. Why? Monsters, babes, cheap thrills, total fantasy, all on a budget that couldn't pay for Val Kilmer's lunch. Next time, leave in the anger, or don't bother. The only anger around the new Red Planet is the pissed-off ripped-off patrons who got suckered into this glossy garbage.

Now that I think of it, I have another reason to be pissed off at the late Stanley Kubrick, who, to his credit, made two of my all-time favorite flicks, The Killing and Dr. Strangelove. He lost my respect with his tragic swansong, Eyes Wide Shut, that preposterous, ponderous, pretentious, insultingly dull ode to Tom Cruise's seemingly infinite ego. Back in '68 Stan made 2001: A Space Odyssey, which came out in 1968. I respect this flick, and enjoy it, particularly the first twenty and last twenty minutes (the long in-between is an epic snorefest), and it is without a doubt one of the most influential sci-fi flicks ever made. It changed the way sci-fi cinema is viewed by the public at large forever. In effect, it ruined it. The future was no longer fun, and monsters were no longer the menace - the antagonists were more abstract, the concepts more "mature." Yawn.

Here are we, in the actual year 2001, and Stan's futuristic, antiseptic vision seems as far-off and fanciful as it did back in '68. But Hollywood still takes on sci-fi with this really ridiculous self-serious tone of significance that began with this film. Even Star Wars, with all the shoot-em-ups and creatures, is way too phony and boring for my tastes. Also, I just don't dig the Stars Wars movies aesthetically - visually, they are about as compelling to me as a computer or video game. Granted, many people love computer and video games, so once again, I humbly admit I am in the minority here, but I don't care. Star Wars leaves me cold, and does Star Trek, all of 'em, except for the 60s TV series that started it all. Now that was a great show: goofy aliens, space babes in mini-skirts, an emotionally unstable and sexually obsessed starship captain, time travel, ray guns, etc. Sure, they were philosophical and talked a lot, but not for too long - it was only a matter of time before Kirk took off his shirt, wrestled with a monster, and made out with some funky alien sex kitten. Now that's entertainment. Philosophy I can get on my own - give me the fantasy. That's why Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea is one of my all-time favorite TV shows - monsters, babes, sleek machinery, colorful sets, bad but great acting, and not a lot of yada yada watering it all down for mass consumption.

In Thrillville, when the aliens invade, they will not be doing a lot of talking. They will simply attack, as you drunkenly giggle. Thrill vicariously to the destruction of our miserable world from the safety and comfort of your sofa!

Back in the era when this month's two flicks were made - the 50s - xenophobia pervaded the culture. In retrospect, the profusion of atomic mutant/giant bug/alien invader flicks were written up by film scholars as allegories for the then-encroaching communist threat that could someday infiltrate and infest our growing suburban utopia. That never happened (the infiltration or the utopia). Now I view these flicks as what they truly were: kickass fun fests. Another big difference is now I root for the aliens. They aren't communists. They aren't bad buys. They're our saviors.

First is Inoshiro Honda's so-called "sequel" to The Mysterians, 1959's Battle in Outer Space (1/4, 9:15PM, $6), a rip-roaring visual smorgasbord of colorful interplanetary warfare, exploding in beautiful mind-blowing Tohoscope. My special guests at the Thursday night 9:15 show will be Japanese fantasy film experts August Ragone and Bob Johnson, and, for the first time ever at The Parkway, there will A SUSHI SPECIAL ON THE MENU!

Two weeks later, right before Inauguration Day, comes the aforementioned matinee masterwork, 1956's Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers (1/18, 9:15PM, $6) with my very special guest Robert Silverman playing his thrilling theremin!

And as always, Uncle Bill the Trailer King supplies us with selections from his amazing collection of classic trailers before each program, worth the price of admission right there (which is going from $5 to $6 - but you will be getting even more bang for you buck on a regular basis.)

Now that the Anti-Thrill has taken over the White House, you can find refuge from this nightmare right here in Thrillville, home to aliens and anarchists alike.

NEXT MONTH ON THE THRILL-BILL (at The Parkway Theater):

2/1, 9:15PM, $6: Dennis Hopper's EASY RIDER - bring your bikes!

2/15, 9:15PM, $6: Roger Corman's BUCKET OF BLOOD with a special expanded edition of UNCLE BILL'S TRAILER SHOW!

And also in February…THRILLVILLE MEETS THE WEREPAD! That's right, we're invading the infamous underground San Francisco cult movie haven, our evil but wondrous cross-Bay doppelganger! Details to come, check back here in mid-January and also at!

Any suggestions and complaints and donations regarding Thrillville should be sent to me, Will the Thrill, via e-mail,
Monica's fans should write to her at Nothing nasty unless they're from lesbians. We both can appreciate those types of scenarios. Will the Thrill says keep an open mind, you never know what can fly in.

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