An introduction

IMPORTANT NOTE: I had started this blog at another blog site, but after the site went dark, I didn’t know what to do with these entries.  So, I’m republishing them here, and I’ll pick up where I left off with new entries once all the original posts have been added.  For most of you, this will be your first time to read these posts; for those who have read them before, bear with me–new stuff will be added soon.

The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film

Michael Weldon’s The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film was published in 1983, while I was on a break from college.  I don’t remember exactly how I found out about the book—I probably saw a review in Fangoria magazine, but that’s just a guess.  Whatever the circumstances, Weldon’s book changed my life.

I had been a fan of horror movies since I was a child.  I had seen Night of the Living Dead when I was nine years old, which probably explains a lot of things about me.  In fact, Night of the Living Dead was shown on TV when I was in 5th grade, and I forced my family to watch it.  That turned out to be a very poor decision, as it completely freaked-out my younger brothers and caused my dad to turn the TV off and give me a lecture, a rather stern lecture, about what is and isn’t appropriate viewing material for children not yet old enough to be in school.

I was also attending double-features at my small-town theater, The Strand, almost every weekend.  I usually only went to horror and science-fiction movies (which, back in the early ‘70s, were considered to be kiddie fodder), but I’d occasionally go see other double-features, too.  If I didn’t like the films, I’d always enjoy the previews.  Because the theater almost always ran double-features on the weekends, and because it didn’t have a problem running films that were up to ten years old, I saw some of the greatest horror movies of the ‘60s and ‘70s at The Strand.  Here’s a partial list of some of the films that I saw, all shown somewhere between 1970 and 1972:  Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, Kiss of the Vampire, Black Sabbath, The Raven, Cry of the Banshee, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, The House That Dripped Blood, Night of Dark Shadows, The Green Slime, and lots and lots of others, including the aforementioned Night of the Living Dead (double-featured with Planet of the Apes).

At some point during those years, a neighbor kid gave me an issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine.  That issue, featuring a cover that showed a frog with a human hand sticking out of its mouth, scared me so much that I ended up ripping the cover off and throwing it away.  But once the creepy cover was gone, I pored over the magazine, absorbing every detail about the films it discussed and salivating over movies slated to be released.  (There was a funny mistake in that issue that sticks in my mind—in the listing of upcoming films, Dracula’s Great Love was listed as Dracula’s Great Love Noise, which probably would have been a far more interesting film.)

I never subscribed to Famous Monsters, but starting in 1975, I bought the magazine religiously from a variety of local newsstands.  In fact, starting with Issue Number 120, I never missed an issue until it ceased publication in 1983.  Here’s a picture of Issue Number 91, the one with the frog.

Luckily for me, right about the time Famous Monsters ceased publication (it’s since started publication again, but with the original Editor-in-Chief Forry Ackerman dead, I don’t really feel the need keep up with it), The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film came along, filling the void nicely.  Through years of reading Famous Monsters and other related horror film books and magazines, I had heard of most of the films covered in Weldon’s book.  But there were still some titles that were new to me.  Also coinciding with the publication of The Psychotronic Encyclopedia was the home video boom.  I had bought an RCA Selectavision CED videodisc player (which I still have, by the way) and was buying a lot of horror discs, such as The Shining, Phantasm, Carrie, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  I had also, in 1983, just purchased my first VCR, and had started collecting videotapes, which were astoundingly high-priced at the dawn of home video.  The public domain eyesores for which I now pay roughly $1 to get on DVD were, in 1983, usually around $15 on VHS.  That didn’t stop me from plunking down my $15 for Night of the Living Dead and Alice, Sweet Alice.  When Dawn of the Dead came out at the astonishingly high price of $69.95, I special ordered it and got behind on other bills.

Psychotronic was invaluable for sorting through the detritus that starting showing up in the video stores.  It also clued me into which movies I needed to tape off TV.  And so, slowly but surely, I started building a collection of Psychotronic movies.

I guess the idea of trying to collect EVERY film listed in Weldon’s book hit me around 1990 or so.  VHS tapes had become much more affordable, and the studios were releasing amazing amounts of old movies on tape.  So I started buying ANY Psychotronic films that I found that were not too expensive, and taping any film listed in the book.  By 1998, I had a pretty substantial collection of prerecorded VHS and movies taped off TV.  And then DVD hit.

So, I started over.

Since 1999, when I got my first DVD player, I’ve been slowly replacing my VHS tapes and buying titles on DVD that were never released on VHS.  I now have almost half of the 3,200 movies or so reviewed in The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film.  I’ve also started buying a few on Blu-ray, but since I already have so many on DVD, I can only justify buying those that offer a significant upgrade in either special features or a/v quality.

Since everyone is blogging, I thought that it might be fun to start watching all of the films listed in The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film and to post my reactions to them.  Even though I’ve collected over 1,500 of the films listed, I haven’t watched them all.  In fact, I’ve probably only watched about a third of the DVDs I own.  So this is a perfect opportunity to put the collection to good use.

The purpose of this blog is two-fold, in that I’m able to eat my cake and have it, too:  I get the opportunity to wallow in nostalgia for some films that I loved while growing up, and I also get to revisit them and look at them with a much more critical eye.

A few notes before we start:

  • Even though Michael Weldon published a follow-up to the original Encyclopedia called The Psychotronic Video Guide, the first book will always be the one special to me.  I’m not going to even THINK about trying to collect all the films listed in the Video Guide.
  • If you’ve never read either of the books or Weldon’s now-defunct magazine, you owe it to yourself to find them and read them.  The books are unfortunately out of print, which pains me to no end, as my copy of the Encyclopedia (my third, due to massive usage) is beginning to get a bit dog-eared, and the spine is getting cracked.
  • As much as I’d love to reprint Weldon’s original reviews, copyright restrictions prohibit me from doing that.  So, if you have the book, read Weldon’s review first, then come read mine.  Or vice-versa.
  • I’m going to tackle the films in the order in which they come in Weldon’s book, i.e., alphabetically.  Sometimes a film can have several titles; I’ll review the film under the title that the copy I have carries, but I’ll review it in the order that its main review shows up in the Encyclopedia.  For example, Weldon reviews a film called All That Money Can Buy; I’ll review it under the title The Devil and Daniel Webster.  I will, however, review it between Alien Contamination and All Through the Night.

Okay, then.  I guess that we’re ready to begin.  Please feel free to comment, and subscribe to my RSS feed if the mood strikes you.  That way, you won’t have to play catch-up.  Besides, as John Belushi said in Animal House, it don’t cost nothin’.  Also, be sure to check out this blog’s sister blog, Unpopular Culture.


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