Monday, November 3, 2008


The Senate Theater on Market Square in Harrisburg where I first saw LILI.

It was unusual for an MGM film to be screened at the Senate which was usually the home of Universal International and RKO. This proves what Caron said at the screening, that MGM really did not know what to do with LILI, and that the film was almost not released at all.

Photo from a color slide by Ross Care. The beautiful Senate has of course since been razed.

Poster for Leslie Caron's appearance at the American Cinematheque in Santa Monica. In the LILI still she is seen with Carrot Top.


A few weeks after the screening of MGM’s LILI, the whimsical poignant charm of which (in our currently mega crass age) now seems beamed in from another more benign age and planet, another spacey entry filled the Sunday evening slot at the American Cinematheque’s Aero Theatre in Santa Monica.

Ed Wood Jr.’s PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE was the final offering of a monumental Halloween series that included a Nov. 1 dusk-to-dawn Horrorthon of six films ranging from THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, PART TWO (1986) to LET’S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH (1971) and DEATHDREAM (aka DEAD OF NIGHT) (1974).

All that was missing for the Horrorthon was a drive-in setting but the mode at least continued with PLAN 9 the next evening. Though screened in the cozily retro setting of the neighborhood Aero on Montana Ave. there was an added attraction in the form of the three Mystery Science Theatre guys, Michael J. Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy who provided the kind of running commentary familiar to and beloved of fans of TV’s gone but never forgotten MST3000 show.

The guys were in top form though the occasional longueurs of Wood’s magnum opus at times even put a strain on their usually razor sharp repartee. However, a grand time was had by all and the audience was still chortling after Criswell concluded his epilogue and the “The End – Made in Hollywood, USA” (just like MGM) finally flashed on the screen and everyone left in high spirits.

Actually (and unlike MGM in Culver City), PLAN 9 apparently was made in Hollywood USA (and far flung environs including the then-city limit of San Fernando). Some of the most interesting footage was too brief shots of period LA for the “Saucers Over Hollywood” sequence, including a very brief shot of the Macambo on Sunset with Eartha Kitt’s name of the marquee! (A sign for Frances Faye also made a brief appearance, and knowing Wood’s taste these could not have been arbitrary choices).

At the conclusion of LILI audiences could actually admire the four beloved puppets from the film that were on display in the lobby. Much attention was paid and comments such as “Carrot Top vanished for fifty years.” And “Was Carrot Top married?” were heard.

Before the screening the lady who sat down beside me and, perusing the Aero program with the photo of Caron and Carrot Top (shown above) asked me “Is that Howdy Doody?”

Well, no, it wasn’t I said, and told her who it was, an explanation which still seemed to leave her somewhat disappointed and a bit mystified.

Re PLAN 9: I cannot conclude my account without expressing the crushing disappointment I felt when I first realized that Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot were not going to be seen anywhere at the screening.

However, the MST guys are now called RiffTrax Live and if I had read the schedule program more carefully I would have seen they were referred to as the “former writers and cast-members of Mystery Science Theatre 3000” and perhaps avoided the chilling trauma that gripped me when I realized there was only going to be mere humans, however droll and astute, commenting on the film.

So though I did have a great time, I do feel that the least they could have done was put Tom and Crow in a glass display case in the lobby. I’m sure they would have gotten as much attention (or more) as Carrot Top and his companions. And who knows what wonderful audience reactions and comments this may have inspired?

And, speaking of puppets, one of the most terrifying ever created - not! - will put in a rare appearance when the Cinematheque/Aero shows THE GIANT CLAW (1957) on Thurs., Nov. 6 as part of their 4-day ATTACK OF THE GIANT SCREEN post-Halloween series!

Imagine Bill Baird on a bad trip.

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