I’m late, but here’s some nerdy trivia. Being sort of a TNT MonsterVision historian, (you can see my video tribute to MonsterVision here) I feel the need to update some information that I got wrong before. I’ve always been saying the Christmas marathon of stinkers happened in 1994. Somehow I remembered it being the last MonsterVision before Joe Bob Briggs came on board, but this is one of those cases where my memory had somehow been distorted all these years. The Christmas marathon actually happened in 1993, well before MonsterVision fizzled out by the end of 1994, only to be resurrected by Joe Bob. I confirmed this by an old TV guide, not to mention, MonsterVision always happened on a Saturday. Christmas was a Saturday in 1993, but not in 1994. This is one of those marathons where I distinctly remember trying to stay up all night to record all the movies on my VCR. I was planning to make some kind of tribute in time for the 20th anniversary, but I was thinking a year behind. I just missed it!
Check out my MonsterVision history page, which lists all the marathons that I can remember.
Anyway, about the Christmas marathon. Here’s the commercial. 12/25/1993
Every Sunday morning, I would run out onto the lawn to grab the sunday newspaper. I’d pull out the TV guide and flip straight to the end, hoping that there was a MonsterVision that coming Saturday. That year, there were lots of them! Maybe the movies would be good, or maybe they’d be crap. There was no internet, nothing to clue you in, except for a title and a vague description. Of course there’d be a star rating as well, but I never cared about that. Even if it was “one star” (according to whoever rates the movies in the TV guide), you knew the movie at least had to have a monster. How could you resist a movie called “Creature with the Atom Brain”?
TNT started winding down with MonsterVision. It seemed like they were coming less often all the time. Everytime I’d flip to Saturday and see no MonsterVision, I’d be really disappointed. That meant I had to wait another week to try again. And even then, I would still have to wait another week after that for the next Saturday to come. When Halloween came around, I was sure there had to be a MonsterVision, but nope. If memory serves me right, it didn’t come back until Christmas, of all nights!
There were 7 movies that night, none of which I had ever seen before. The Giant Claw was always on my wish list. I’d see clips from it in other MonsterVision commercials, and always remembered that goofy looking bird. One time, it came on while I was at school, so I programmed the VCR to record it. Unfortunately, my dad turned it off, and I only got the first 10 minutes or so of the movie. He always had a habit of doing that, and I would always yell at him and throw a fit! This time, The Giant Claw was first on the lineup, so I didn’t miss it.
Recording a whole marathon of movies on TV was a complicated ordeal. I knew I would have to sleep at some point, so there was always some kind of game plan to switch out the VHS tapes. After midnight, in the late hours of the night, I would start fighting to hold my eyelids open, and begin slipping in and out of sleep. I would catch bits and pieces of the movies. Sometimes, it was almost like the different movies were being edited together into one single movie in my brain, so I could never tell which movie I was watching. In my dreams, it was all the monsters of the night combined.
VHS tapes were reusable, so I would never have enough tapes to record the whole thing. My family would rarely buy new tapes. Either it was because of money, or not wanting to make a trip to the store, I don’t know. Thinking back, I wonder why I didn’t just switch the tape when I went to bed, and put it on SLP (“super long play”) or EP (“extended play” as it’s sometimes called). I could have probably gotten most of the marathon, if not the whole thing, that way, assuming I already got the first half on the first tape. But I didn’t like stretching the tape out. Back then, having a movie you recorded on VHS, was the equivalent of owning a Blu-ray today. But it was even better, because you did the work. You stayed up. You hit record. It was like a project. There was something special about it. So I didn’t want to ruin that experience by tampering with the quality of the tape. So I planned to record as much in SP (“standard play” or “short play”) as possible. The only thing holding me back was that I didn’t have that many tapes to work with. I had to try to predict which movies I was going to want to keep. The others, I would use the extended record modes, and eventually record over, when there was another marathon.
The other thing that bugged me was the commercials. I didn’t want them! If I was going to cherish this tape for years to come, I wanted just the movie, without interruptions. The only exception was if it was a MonsterVision commercial. I especially loved the long montage of clips with the narrator saying “Are you afraid of the dark? TNT thinks so! And we have the monsters to prove it!” Whenever that would come on, I’d get real excited. It was hard to predict when it would show up, so when it did, I’d hit the record button as fast I can, but the VCR takes it’s sweet old time to get going, so you’d lose the first 5 seconds or so. It took a while before I was able to get the whole thing, and when it did happen, it was by accident. Sometimes, using two VCR’s, I re-recorded the movies onto another tape, to edit out the commercials. Sure the picture quality would suffer, but at least you’d get rid of those commercials. Funny how nowadays, if you have any old VHS tapes, the commercials would be the most valuable part!
Anyway, cutting out the commercials LIVE on the fly, was a lot of work. You had to sit there, hit STOP, then wait for the commercials to end, and hit RECORD. You had to be fast on the draw or else you’d miss a few precious seconds of the movie, not to mention, those awesome MonsterVision bumpers. The worst thing that could ever happen was if you forgot to hit record. Whenever that happened, I hated myself for it! Sometimes I would never realize it until the next commercial break. I’d hit stop, only to realize it was already stopped. Nooooo!!! You had to be like an eagle. You had to be eyeing those commercials, waiting for that bumper, like a predator waiting for its prey. If you had to go to the bathroom, you had to be quick. That’s what made these tapes so special. You did the work. Nowadays, you can just order any movie, and you could have it commercial-free on DVD or even Blu-ray, but back then, it was a survival of the fittest hunt through a black & white grid of vague blurbs on a thin fragile sheet of paper.
By the next morning, looking over everything I managed to record, I realized there was not one good movie in the bunch. It left me with a bad hangover feeling. What did I do last night?! These movies are all TERRIBLE!
Lineup: (Confirmed by TV Guide)
The Giant Claw (1957) (8:00pm)
A bird “as big as a battleship” from an antimatter galaxy comes to Earth to next. 20 years after seeing it, I’m still fascinated with this movie to this very day.
SEE THE CINEMASSACRE REVIEW.
The Cyclops (1957) (9:30pm)
A search party looking for a missing man in a radioactive terrain, encounter giant beasts and a one eyed giant who just might be who they’re looking for. No classic, but you can’t go wrong with the monster-maker Bert I. Gordon, actor Lon Chaney Jr and lots of cheesy effects.
SEE THE CINEMASSACRE REVIEW
The Wasp Woman (1958) (11:00pm)
If you’re a woman who uses cosmetic serum to get rid of your wrinkles, make sure that honey isn’t in the ingredients, or you might turn into a bee. This stinker from Roger Corman is the one that put me to sleep. You barely see the wasp woman at all, but once you do, she is kind of creepy and memorable. This was before I realized Roger Corman also made great classics like Fall of the House of Usher, and all the rest of the Vincent Price Poe movies.
Creature with the Atom Brain (1955) (12:30am)
Creature? Atom Brain? Not so much. It’s just zombies. Resurrected by science. An early example of the genre. Pre-Night of the Living Dead.
From Hell It Came (1957) (2am)
A research team on an island encounters a killer tree harboring a condemned man’s spirit out for revenge. I can’t help but love that tree monster.
SEE THE CINEMASSACRE REVIEW
Valley of the Dragons (1961) (3am)
On a comet, there’s a bunch of stuff happening from other movies. That’s almost exactly what the TV Guide says, because this movie is notorious for its use of stock footage. Even Rodan makes an appearance! There’s TONS of footage of live reptiles, which gets tiring, but those cave guys are really cool! I wish you see them more often.
The Werewolf (1956) (5:15am)
Yes. THE werewolf. NOT the Wolfman, NOT the Werewolf of London, NOT the Teenage Werewolf. Just another generic run-of-the-mill werewolf. But this one’s created by science!
Here’s the listings. I couldn’t scan the whole marathon, because it’s one of those stupid TV Guide magazines, where they only have a couple pages of the grid for Saturday evening. The rest is a mess of text that you have to sort through. I hate those! At least I got the information I needed.
I couldn’t help but notice TNT’s batch licensing of these movies. Many of them conveniently belonged to the same companies.