"MATINEE: COLLECTOR'S EDITION"
Blu-ray, 1993, PG for mild language, violence and sensuality
Best extra: "Mant!" the full-length version of the movie-within-the-movie, introduced by director Joe Dante
WATCHING "MATINEE" again took me back more years than I like to admit.
It was the early-70s, I was in London and went to see "The Three Musketeers," the Richard Lester version starring Oliver Reed and Michael York. It was playing at what can only be called a palace, and the audience was into it from the start. When the Musketeers arrived to save the day, the full house erupted. What an experience.
That's what director Joe Dante was talking about when he was asked about "Matinee."
"[It's] a paean to the days when it was fun to go to the movies and I miss those days," he said. "I'm sorry that kids today don't have the experience that we did … Going to the movies is sort of like going to church for me. We got cartoons, we got newsreels … we got a lot of stuff. Now all you get is ads and trailers."
If you miss those days, too - or even if you weren't around -- then file "Matinee" under Must-See. One more reason: Dante is the mischief-maker responsible for "Piranha," "The Howling" and "Gremlins" and "Gremlins 2," and this loving nostalgia-fest is right in his wheelhouse.
Set in Key West, Fla., during the Cuban Missile Crisis, B-budget filmmaker/master pitchman Lawrence Woolsey (John Goodman, all those Coen brothers movies) senses an opportunity. He can use the prevailing unease to sell his latest epic, "Mant!" "Half Man … Half Ant … All Terror!!!" the ads scream. Who can resist?
Woolsey is modeled after William Castle, the legendary 1950s/'60s producer and director who rigged seats to buzz during "The Tingler," promised refunds to anyone who couldn't make it through "Homicidal" and offered life insurance policies to those who might be frightened to death by "Macabre." (Footnote: If you've never read Castle's memoir, "Step Right Up! I'm Gonna Scare the Pants Off America," you owe it to yourself.) Goodman is perfect.
Cathy Moriarty is his girlfriend/leading lady who puts on a nurse's uniform and has moviegoers sign consent forms promising not to sue should they faint. Simon Fenton, Lisa Jakub and Kellie Martin are the local teens dealing with their own crises as the premiere approaches. Look closely and you'll spot Naomi Watts ("Mulholland Drive") and writer/director John Sayles ("Eight Men Out").
Shout! didn't spring for a new transfer, but this print's fine. While there's a trace of edge enhancement, colors are rich and varied, blacks are plenty solid and detail, especially in the close-ups, is good. The picture is stable and mostly clean. There are two audio options: English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS HD. Both serve up clear dialogue and provide breathing room for the score, courtesy of the late, great Jerry Goldsmith ("Patton," "Chinatown"). If you're set up for surround sound, the 5.1 track is the ticket.
But Shout! did green-light a full menu of new extras -- some two hours of fun interviews with Dante, Moriarty, Jakub, cinematographer John Hora, production designer Steve Legler and Mant designer Jim McPherson and actor Mark McCracken. Pay extra attention to the latter because the best extra of the lot was picked up from a previous release.
The full-length "Mant!" concerns a man who's transformed into a you-know-what when his teeth are X-rayed. Kevin McCarthy, who sounded the warning in the classic "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," even shows up with a megaphone, beseeching the title creature to "come down off that building! We have sugar for you!" Lovingly filmed in black and white, it's a perfect re-creation of those 1950s late-night hair-raisers.
You know, when movies were fun.
- Craig Shapiro