"200 Channels and Nothing's On"

Remember the Springsteen’s song from the early nineties, “57 Channels And Nothing’s On” about a guy who ends up shooting up his TV with a 44 magnum because there’s nothing on? Well, I had one of those kind of nights last night and  no matter how much channel surfing I did, I couldn’t find a damn thing worth watching and I’ve got DirecTV with a hell of a lot more than 57 channels! It’s hard to believe, with all that programming you’d think there’d be something to watch, but I found absolutely nothing that interested me. Pretty sad really, but then maybe it was my state of mind more than the quality of the programming. I really hope so.

I didn’t really feel like reading or writing for that matter, it was one of those nights I just wanted to veg out in front of the tube, you know, be mindlessly entertained. I then began scanning the movies available for streaming on Netflix. While searching I came across an old fifties sci-fi horror classic “Them.” I’d seen it before, but it’s been years, decades actually. I thought it was worth a look so I streamed it.

“Them” is the story of man’s clash with a colony of ants in White Sands New Mexico, nine years after the first atomic bomb was tested there. The ants have been exposed to years of  radiation and have become enormous and are a threat to man’s survival. “Them” was a real hit for sci-fi fans back in 54. Filmed in black & white, it was one of the first atomic radiation monster flicks and the first of the “big bug” movies. Although not a major release the film was actually nominated for an academy award for special effects and did very well at the box office.

Those were definitely the days for low budget, “B” horror movies. There were plenty of them. Perhaps you remember a few. Besides “Them”, there were other bug movies ,”The Fly,”  “Tarantuala,” “The Black Scorpion,”  “The Wasp Woman,” “Attack of the Giant Leeches” and “Mothra” to name a few. There were also a slew of creature features, “The Creature from the Black Lagoon,” “The Amazing Colossal Man,” “It Came From Beneath the Sea,” “The Giant Behemoth,” “Godzilla,” “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman,” “The Incredible Shrinking Man,” “Gorgo,” “Attack of the Crab Monster” and many more.

Let’s not forget all the films dealing with outer space and space invaders. “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” “Invaders From Mars,” “War of the Worlds,” “The Blob,” “The Angry Red Planet”and countless others. And we’re not even taking into account the werewolf, vampire and thriller/supernatural genres. Yes those were certainly golden days for scary movies.

“Them” is without a doubt my favorite atomic, giant insect movie. I loved watching it again. Man verses Ant! The race to destroy the queens who escaped the desert colony before they can lay thousands of eggs and the final battle beneath the streets of Los Angeles. Giant ants so close to home? Yikes! Burn those suckers!

Although I love this film and it is representative of the period, my favorite scary movie from that decade is from the threat from Space genre. Actually there are three films that I consider to be among the best, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” “War of the Worlds,  and “The Day the Earth Stood Still”. All three were excellent, but in my humble opinion “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” is the best. It is the most suspenseful and there are no alien monsters to battle, only giant pods that create feelingless human duplicates and replace the originals when they fall asleep. Great concept, but don’t go to sleep or it might happen to you. You could wake up as a cold, pod person! For awhile I used to worry about it and fought going to sleep. Hey! What did I know? I was just a kid!

The scariest of the bunch had to be “The Blob.” (the original not the remake} That movie scared the crap out of me! I was 7 when my parents took us to dowtown Los Angeles to see it. I was okay at first, but when that damn thing fell out of the sky and that stupid old man goes up and pokes at it with a stick and that acidy goo jumps up us arm and begins to devour him, I was done.

I ran out of the theater as fast as I could, the old man’s screams ringing in my ears! I burst into the lobby followed quickly by my dad. I was crying and too afraid to go back in. A kindly manager overheard my plight and told my dad he would keep an eye on me and so my dad could watch the movie. Every so often my younger sister came out to see how I was doing. I did manage to see the very end where a young boy is jumping up and down on his bed shouting, “The Blob is dead! The Blob is Dead!” So I got to see the beginning and the end and that was plenty. I have still never seen the whole thing.

Actually spending the time in the lobby wasn’t so bad. I got to sit behind the counter and the manager took good care of me. I got to have unlimited popcorn, ice cream, candy, and soda! Pretty cool! It helped me get over my embarrasment pretty quickly. To this day my sister occasionally teases me about it. In retrospect it is pretty funny. There have certainly been much scarier movies since then. Maybe I can stream it on Netflix. Maybe tonight. Hmm, on second thought I think a good comedy sounds better….

Just a Thought




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