Snackbar Confidential / Art Au Go-Go !


Saturday, May 26, 2007

The FIRST "Summer Movie" EVER......

I really really hate the term "Summer Movie" and all it implies. Let it be known , however, that before 1975 THERE WERE NO SUMMER MOVIES! I went back and looked at all the releases before the "Summer of Jaws" in 1975, and there were no calculated summer movies. None. Anyway; here's a great ad from when I saw this for the first time at the Huntington Shore theater. (The following year's summer movie was "Logan's Run" which I also saw at The Shore in 1976). And we all know what 1977's big "summer movie" was! "Orca" ! (ADDENDUM: TO ME, SUMMER 1979 WILL ALWAYS BE "SUMMER OF DAWN OF THE DEAD" -----EVEN IF "ALIEN" WAS A MUCH BIGGER HIT. 1978 WAS A TIE BETWEEN "GREASE" AND "ANIMAL HOUSE" FOR SUMMER HIT MOVIES AND "JAWS 2" WAS NOT A BIG HIT THIS SUMMER).

Wrong or Right, the 1970's was it's own creature...

Two splendid polar opposites from 1975. The Ronkonkoma "Art" Cinema was one of Long Island's oldest porn theaters (and there were not many of them either). The "Art" portion of the name is the give-away; back in the pre-ratings code days (1967) there were Art Theaters that showed foreign films, many of which contained nudity and or soft-core sex. Some of the films were actual "art" (think: Pasolini ) and then there were pseudo-art fims, usually filmed in Sweden and about a young high school girl becoming a "woman". The sleep inducing plot would be padded out with some soft-core sex scenes. This would then make it the most talked about movie in town---which is laughable by todays standards. After the first hard core sex movies made the main-stream ("Deep Throat", "Devil in Miss Jones", etc.) in 1972, the places that formally showed the "Art" films went totally "XXX", (which I forgot about). "Triple X" meant that you saw EVERYTHING. I think the theater was still going strong in the (late?) 1980's********On the flip side: in the early 1970's, Jerry Lewis lent his name to a chain of movie theaters, that initially was only supposed to show "family oriented films" (!). Yeah, right. His ugly caricature graced the ads, and theater marquees, and were out of business by (I believe) 1976.

More Groovy Long Island Movie Ads

1975. I saw this odd double bill at the Larkfield theater in East Northport, but this ads lists that it's playing at the Commack Drive-In, (which is where I should have seen it!) I think "Arnold" (a 1940's themed horror-comedy) is a lost movie. (Many times, in these old movie ads, you mind plays tricks on you. The features you saw were NOT playing at the theater you actually saw it in--as stated in the listings. I have two theories: 1) Some films (or double bills) played on week in one theater, then played the next week in another theater. The syncopation with movie releases at Drive-Ins and regular "walk in" theaters is askew. (As stated above)--it could be at your drive in in July, then turn up in a conventional movie theater in August. In the 1970's, film release dates were wonky--as the 1970's truly were! Theory Number 2) You're gettin' old and your memory is getting wobbly. I remember seeing "Frogs" and "Conquerer Worm" at the Commack Drive-In, yet the only ads I have found, have this double bill at the Huntington Route 110 Drive In...did my memory lie?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

This Rules !

Sideshow banner to cash in on the popularity of my all time favorite movie: "Rosemary's Baby" (1968)! The great ad campaign told us to "Pray for Rosemary's Baby".
What could have been in there?

Commack Drive In Ads from April-June 1975 !

Was 1975 that long ago? Yup. Well, as I had mentioned before, one of my best friends lived in an apartment behind the Commack Drive In, so at night we would just watch the movies (with no sound). Like I said before, we could time the "good" scenes and watch them several times a night. I actually remember these shows , and we made sure to watch the cockpit crash scene in "Airport 1975", and "Play Misty for Me" had a topless/knife scene we watched a few times.
"Death Race 2000" would be pretty much the perfect drive-in movie, and I remember lots of stand-out scenes in that one!
I'm sure they will remake this movie and totally miss the point (it was a "satire" to some extent). (I forgot to mention "Eat My Dust" with Ron Howard which was a big drive-in hit in 1976 and played at Commack). $3.00 per carload was a great deal, even by 1975 standards and nobody even bothered hiding friends in their trunks. *Interesting to note how "willy nilly" drive-in theatre triple bills could be: "Airport 1975" (action "thriller"), "Lords of Flatbush " (drama), "Play Misty for Me" (psycho melodrama). * " Death Race 2000" (comic book violent exploitation sci-fi satire), "Last Days of Man on Earth" (serious French psychological thriller about creating an artificial "perfect human"), "Two Lane Blacktop" (talky 1970's "road" movie with existential detours). Gone were the days of simple "Frankenstein", "Bride of Frankenstein" & "Son of Frankenstein" type triple bill formulas !

Friday, May 11, 2007

Two Defunt Movie Theaters; Commack L.I.

Two shots of the Commack RKO Twin Theatre. Gone by the late 1980's.
In picture #1 on your left, you can see a small white rectangle on the right side (with a red car below it). That was the screen of the Commack Drive-In (also GONE).
Movies I have seen at the RKO Twin: Monty Python's Life of Brian, King Kong (1976), When A Stranger Calls, Angel Heart, Spinal Tap, Taste the Blood of Dracula, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, King Kong memory of the RKO Twin: seeing John Water's Polyester in 1981 with the Odorama scratch n' sniff cards. When the movie was over everyone just dropped the cards on the floor (so we were like " GRAB 'EM !"). As for the COMMACK DRIVE-IN: I have a titanic history with this place:
My first memory of seeing a movie there was "Beneath The Planet of the Apes" (1970). My second other memorable film viewing there was : "Frogs" (1972), which I loved, and later in junior high school, a good friend of mine, moved from East Northport to an apartment (with his family) in Commack. Guess what their back windows faced? The friggin' Commack Drive-In ! So, all through the Spring/ Summer season, we would sit on the couch, looking out the window at movies like: "Death Race 2000", "The Grove Tube" and "Flesh Gordon" --- ALL RATED "R" and we were too young to see "R" movies on our own. Sure there was no sound, but you saw blood & guts & nudity! We could even time the parts of the movies we wanted to see over and over : "At 9:23 a head gets cut off" or "At 10:12 a woman's shirt gets ripped off". Lots of fun, all for FREE! Later in high school, I went there with my first ever girlfriend and saw "The Swarm", but I saw my *ALL TIME FAVORITE MOVIE* there in Spring 1979: "Dawn of the Dead"! That was the "horror summer" with "Phantasm", "Alien", "Night Wing", and "Prophecy" all being out at the same time. ("Phantasm" especially stood out in my mind as well--and played at the Larkfield theatre too!). The Commack Drive-In's last summer was 1986, last film, Dario Argento's "Creepers". I was very jealous as one of my best friends was actually there on that night and I chose to stay home! As the drive in shut down and decayed over the next 10 years, I documented it all the way with photos and yearly visits. slowly it just became a dumping ground (tires, etc.), the weeds grew like corn stalks, and even once I witnessed the (closed) snackbar on fire (set by vandals) ! I still have a piece of the plastic marquee sign from there as well. There was no great fanfare to the Commack Drive-In closing, but the Westbury Drive-in stole the show as far as it's closing went, with protests , petitions and news media. *NOTE* I still need a photo of the Huntington ROUTE 110 Drive -in (closed in 1976/77?) . Never saw one anywhere, even online. The Route 110 marquee sign (it was huge) stayed up for YEARS after closing though.

Jack in the Box!

This was the standard looking Jack in the Box restaurant from the 1970's. We had one that looked exactly like this on Jericho Turnpike in Commack, NY. Like a giant orange shoe box in the sky.
At the time when Long Island had NO White Castles; this was the ONLY 24 hour fast food to be had. Period. So, by default, every dirtbag, freak and drunk had to go here , and the weekends were especially hazardous! One of my friends was in there when an M-80 went off in the restroom! Her hearing was screwed up for a month or two. Fights? You bet! Lots of 'em. Mostly with the workers who were communicating with drunks through the drive-up clown head speaker! My personal favorite J.I.T.B. treat were the Tacos; they deep fried the whole damn thing and although they were short on cheese, lettuce, seasonings and tomatoes, you'd be licking the wrapper for the excess sauce that would drip onto the wrapper after the taco was gone.(and wasn't that soy mixed in with the meat?). The hamburgers were void of flavor/taste, as I recall. Bad french fries too, but it was the only place to get onion rings, so again, it would be your default side-order. Of course, they discontinued the "clown" motif in; you guessed it 1980, giving the chain a generic over-haul, and later killing people with Ebola in a Los Angeles restaurant. Out here, a few of the remaining stores (out here) were called "Jacks" and seemed to have a similar menu. *Note* a great scene of a Jack in the Box drive-thru, complete with clown heads can be seen in the rare feature film "The Todd Killings" (1971). In the 1990's they brought the clown back, as a bendable "happy meal" prize. They proudly "yuppified" him with a suit & tie and a lap top computer. Har de har har.....

The Larkfield Theatre in East Northport

(1950's-1985) This was my childhood/ local theater located on Larkfield Road in East Northport. (It was an independent theatre and not a chain--which was a GOOD thing). Movies I have seen there over the years: The Love Bug, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, The Spy Who Loved Me, The Legend of Boggy Creek, Dumbo, Snowball Express (dumb Disney live action movie), Hair, The Stepford Wives, Midnight Express, The Big Bus, Family Plot, Arnold, The Shining, The Eyes of Laura Mars, Asylum, Mary Poppins, Love at First Bite, Tunnel Vision, Magic, and the Grease/Saturday Night Fever double feature re-release. The "kiddie matinees" ran throughout the summers , with Disney double features for years starting in the early 1970's.

My most memorable time there was when in 1972, my father took me to see Tales From the Crypt, which scared the crap outta me (but I loved it!). Later on in life, I found out that friends of mine (that I had yet to become friends with) were there and called their mother to come pick them up because the intensely horrific theme song used was Bach's "Toccata and Fugue" , and they were almost in tears .
There was a small "Ma & Pa" drug store right next door (althouth it may have been a small Rexell ?) to the Larkfield and it must have killed the concsession stand inside the theatre, because people on line could just walk into there and by a candy bar for 20 cents (the 1974 price of a candy bar!). Fortunately (for the theatre) , the drug store closed at 6:00 PM and was closed Sundays. On the opposite side of the theatre was a decrepit machine shop of some sort--back in the day, East Northport/ Larkfield Road was NOT a shop-and-stroll town at all. The stores and business were scatter-shot, most of the "seedy" looking places were by the train station.
The Larkfield closed in 1985 (about a year or two after the accursed Commack Multiplex opened!) and the last movie that played there was Ken Russell's Crimes of Passion. At one point, a "Church" opened there (huh? SEE PHOTO) for about a year. People I know who had actually been curious ; popped there heads in just to look around said it was "strange". Afterwards it became a horrible & generic "office space" that NOBODY rented for YEARS.

P.S. It was at this theatre , that was the last time I remember buying Bonomo Turkish Taffy (the vanilla flavor was the best!).
Till this day some of my dreams and nightmares still take place in and around this movie theatre! *******************************************************
*****There is an amazing website called Cinema Treasures. com.
Here, you can see posts about any favorite long lost (closed) movie theatres from you past (with pictures too, in some cases). Some of the postings are from people that ran and worked there too, so you get some nice inside stories. *MANY OLD long-gone Long Island
Theatres are listed**