Valet Boy was 5 years old and living in the small north central Florida town of Lake Wales. Mom (Mrs. Boy) was pregnant with the 4th and last of her brood and for some inexplicable reason thought that an afternoon in air-conditioned comfort in a movie theatre was the place to be while dragging her little 5, 4 and 3-year-old monsters with her.
If you are at all familiar with Forbidden Planet, then you know it concerns a flying saucer landing on some virtually uninhabitable “forbidden” planet and has an eerie “spacey” film score. Its cold, barren and unfriendly sets make the invisible Monsters sprung from Dr. Morbius’ (Walter Pidgeon’s character) ID (his super ego) even more terrifying. A totally real robot, that whirrs, chirps, clanks and speaks named Robby. Robby the Robot was the true star of the film, which I’m sure played well with Leslie Nielsen, Anne Francis and Walter Pidgeon.
Robby the Robot had an incarnation many years later as the inspiration for “Robot” on the hit TV series Lost In Space.
So there wee Valet Boy sat, on the edge of his seat in this darkened movie palace, his pointy head craned upward toward the awe-inspiringly humongous screen, bombarded by a plethora of senses-shocking audio and visual input, sucking giant gasps of air as one terrifying image after another appeared larger that life before his beady little eyes.
(As adults it’s difficult to comprehend that at such a tender virginal age, when each new experience slams into us, the lines between fantasy and reality not only blur – they simply do not exist. There is no separating the fact that everything is real. Actually, beyond real for Monsters. They are Super-Real.)
Valet Boy rides this impressionable wave of sensory overload and is managing just fine, thank you very much….Until…..
In the film’s climactic moments, there is a night scene when Morbius’ ID attacks the spaceship’s crew, manifesting itself as a huge red flashing outline of a roaring vicious lion —- probably taken from the MGM Logo Lion that appeared at the beginning of every MGM movie…
I remember running up the aisle, screeching in abject terror, through the theatre doors, wild-eyed and arms flailing, out into the lobby, past the startled concessions staff and theatre patrons, sights set on the exit doors and blessed escape to daylight and safety. Mrs. Boy had to grab Valet Boy’s 2 younger sisters, pry her pregnant self up and chase after me.
Valet Boy doesn’t remember how many blocks he ran, crying and screaming, until Mom caught up with him. But, catch him she did. She managed to calm my adolescent terrors and settle me down. And then everyone went home. Ah, who doesn’t like a happy ending?
Is it any wonder then, after that chilling and horrific eye-popping experience, that Valet Boy became, not only a devotee, but for many years El Primo Aficionado of the Hollywood Horror Movie? I’m sure there was a strict Parental Moratorium on Monster Movies after the Forbidden Planet debacle. I can picture young Valet Boy saying to his infuriated Mother: “Mommy, mommy, that was so scary I peed my pants…Let’s watch it again!”
There were certainly more Monster and Science Fiction movies in Valet Boy’s future. Many more. The art and craft of Ray Harryhausen scared the bejeezus out of me in The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad. I had nightmares for days at the thought of the giant one-eyed horned Cyclops bearing down on me and of being surrounded by the clattering battling army of sword-wielding skeletons.
And, then of course afterwards, begged to see the movie once more to my Mom’s threats of “Never again!”
Giant monsters sort of became “My Thing” – Especially as an odd, quirky and ill-defined teenager, when my tastes in horror movies bent more toward the ridiculous and less to the scary. Those were sought for their impossible situations and implausible plotlines and their comedy potential. To this day one of my favorite “B” Movies is Attack of the Crab Monsters. (It’s probably more of a “C” or “D” movie though)
Like many of my contemporaries of the day, I borrowed Dad’s 8mm Movie Camera and, enlisting the aid and talents of friends and neighborhood children, made little Monster/Horror Movies of my own. Just call me VB DeMille!
My heroes were the directors Roger Corman and William Castle and the actors Peter Cushing, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi (for some reason at that early age, I was not a fan of Vincent Price or Christopher Lee. I think I viewed them as pretenders to the throne, but later I grew to appreciate them for their own uniqueness. ) —- I was indeed a strange little kid. In fact, my obsession with Monsters became so…so…well, obsessive.. That my Dad insisted they send me to a shrink to find out what was wrong with me….Dad was definitely “old school”. Valet Boy is certainly glad that never happened.
As kids, we loved being scared – as long as we were enveloped by that impenetrable cocoon of safety.
But as we got older, the Scary Things changed. No longer were our Monsters morphed from shrubbery on dimly lighted streets, no longer were our fears merely that Lions, Tigers and Bears might descend upon us from the shadows of the cloying darkness. Our Monsters ceased to be Boris Karloff wrapped in moldy strips of sheeting, menacing hand poised to grab our throat to visit upon us an ancient Mummy’s Curse.
Sadly, it would be better for all of us if our Monsters remained more of the Old Hollywood variety. But, alas they are not.
No. We are adults now. We have matured.
And our Monsters have matured right along with us.
More’s the pity.
Thanks for reading,
In Next Sunday’s conclusion of the 3 Part Series on Monsters, Valet Boy gets serious and discusses our Monsters of Today.