Set against the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis, an independent movie entrepreneur smells an opportunity and opens his new atomic-powered monster movie while the world teeters on the brink of nuclear Armageddon...
A giant love-letter/biographical recollection of his misspent youth, director Joe Dante's film is one big inside joke with his fellow monster-addled brethren on the surface (-- sadly, I was the only one who laughed at the General Ankrum joke in the theater back in '93), but you don't have to dig very deep through the lavishly heaped on dreck to find a rather refreshingly sweet, teenage-fueled romance that would have probably curdled on the target audience back in the 1960's. Oh, well, it works great, here...
John Goodman is an absolute scream as Lawrence Woolsey, an amalgamation of Roger Corman, Bert I. Gordon and William Castle, who were big on the hype but often a little short on the end results. Most of Dante's stock players are also present, including Robert Picardo, Dick Miller, Belinda Balaski -- even his old buddy, John Sayles, who scripted Piranha and The Howling, makes an extended cameo. (And I hold out hope that someday, Dante, Sayles, and producer Jon Davidson get it into their heads to make another monster movie. Namely, THEM! Please-oh-please-oh-please...)
Mant, the film within the film, is also an amalgam and littered with many genre veterans (William Schalert, Robert Cornwaithe and Kevin McCarthy). Inspired by the giant bug-movies of the 1950's and William Castle's cinematic gimmickery -- where he often wired seats to stragegically jolt the audience, or required signed releases before being allowed to see his films -- Woolsey's like-minded Atomo-Vision rings true as these types of film were petering out by 1962, replaced with Gothic Guignol and Beach Parties, and these one-lung producers behind them would try almost anything to get some butts into the seats.
I sincerely doubt that Rumble-Rama, Illusion-O and Percepto were as effective back then as we'd like to believe it was. Still, we can at least pretend that it was, and films like Matinee certainly helps to perpetuate that myth, making it all seem cooler than hell. And like the old saying goes: When the legend is more entertaining than the truth, print the bullshit. And before we go, I think it's high time we get this thing back in circulation on DVD. My old VHS tape is about wore out -- and have you seen what they're charging for used copies on Amazon?
Matinee (1993) Falcon Productions :: Renfield Productions :: Universal Pictures / P: Michael Finnell, Pat Kehoe / D: Joe Dante / W: Charles S. Haas / C: John Hora / E: Marshall Harvey / M: Jerry Goldsmith / S: John Goodman, Cathy Moriarty, Simon Fenton, Omri Katz, Lisa Jakub, Kellie Martin, Robert Picardo, Jesse White, Dick Miller, John Sayles
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