There’s nothing better than a good old fashioned creature double feature in a grand old theater surrounded by likeminded cinematic fans. I would often hear of such events in other cities but it wasn’t until last fall that I discovered we had our very own right here in the Kansas City metro area. Darrell Brogden, the man behind The Retro Cocktail Hour (two of the greatest hours on radio each week celebrating it’s 20th anniversary this year), is the driving force behind Cinema a Go-Go. Last Friday night, I attended my second night of flicks and it was just as enjoyable as the first.
Unlike last fall, where the double feature was clearly a camp fest with Attack of the Crab Monsters and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, this was a little more serious in nature. Well, at least 50% more serious. The evening opened with The Crawling Eye aka The Trollenberg Terror (1958). The version played was the latter, which meant a few extra minutes of footage leading up to the big reveal. Our main hero is Alan Brooks (Forrest Tucker), a United Nations representative who is called in to investigate mysterious deaths on a mountain with an odd cloud formation. There is a scientific team located on the mountain and there is a suspicion that this may be similar to another incident three years earlier. Add in a newspaper reporter, two women who perform a psychic act that may be more real than anyone suspects, and a few locals for good measure and you have the recipe for suspense. Yes, there is more to the cloud than meets the eye and while it may seem formulaic, the setting and execution are actually quite good. It helps that it was written by Hammer legend Jimmy Sangster and directed by Quentin Lawrence, who had already directed the television serial on which this is based. Forrest Tucker turns in a rather good performance, years before he would become more associated with comedy thanks to F-Troop. A lot more fun than it gets credit for.
After a brief intermission with great Hammer music playing and prize giveaways, the second feature turned quite a bit more serious. The Creeping Unknown aka The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) is a Hammer classic, the first of three films with Professor Bernard Quatermass. Again, we were presented yet another movie based on a television serial, it deals with the dangers of space travel and what happens when something follows us home. Brian Donlevy would play Professor Quatermass twice, in this film and its sequel, Quatermass 2 (1957). Despite creator Nigel Kneale’s displeasure at Donlevy’s performance, the film was a success, securing Donlevy’s return. However, Kneale would win out for the casting of the third film, Quatermass and the Pit (1967), which would feature actor Andrew Keir. The movie plays out like many of the early 70s Doctor Who episodes with Jon Pertwee as scientists and military investigate an alien organism, attempting to stop it before it takes over Earth. Not much opportunity for humor here but a definite sci-fi classic.
Despite the lack of opportunity for laughing at cheesy effects and acting (well, The Crawling Eye did give us that more than once), the evening was another great success. With free swag like posters and CDs, not to mention the chance to finally buy a Retro Cocktail Hour glass, I had quite the evening with my daughter Kayla, who loves to hear the audience react. The old Liberty Hall on Mass Street in downtown Lawrence is the perfect venue for a double feature like this. They’ve announced the next event will be on June 10 and we plan on being there! Thank you Darrell and crew for putting on a fun-filled evening of monster goodness!