MONSTERZERO NJ’S 15 FAVORITE CLASSICS AND CULT CLASSICS I SAW AT NJ’s LEGENDARY ORITANI THEATER!
The first flick where Jason wears the hockey mask and ironically the last flick MZNJ saw at the Oritani Theater before it sadly closed its doors!
If you’ve been visiting this site for a while, you’ve probably heard me mention more than once, The Oritani Theater in Hackensack, N.J. The Oritani was a grind house, that presented badly dubbed martial arts movies, horror flicks, and raunchy low budget comedies during the late seventies and early 80s. I lived only a town away, so this was a go-to theater on a Friday and Saturday night for my friends and I, who shared a love of B-Movie horror and sci-fi. I decided to compose a list of 15 favorite flicks that I saw there, which are now regarded as classics, cult classics, or fan favorites. Some of these were seen when first released and a few of the older titles were at revivals or midnight shows there!
If you’ve been visiting this site for a while you’ve probably heard me mention more than once, The Oritani Theater in Hackensack, N.J. The Oritani was a grind house, that presented badly dubbed martial arts movies, horror flicks, and raunchy low budget comedies during the late seventies and early 80s. I lived only a town away, so this was a go-to theater on a Friday and Saturday night for my friends and I, who shared a love of B-Movie horror and sci-fi. I decided to compose a list of 12 favorite flicks that I saw there, which are now regarded as classics, cult classics, or fan favorites. Some of these were seen when first released and a few of the older titles were at revivals or midnight shows there!
Click on the titles here to go to the review page for the corresponding movie!
(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)
To All A Good Night is another Christmas set horror that’s only distinction is that it was written by Alex Rebar, who starred as The Incredible Melting Man in that 1977 flick, is directed by The Last House On The Left‘s David Hess and stars Jennifer Runyon, who would gain attention a few years later as the pretty co-ed being ‘tested’ by Bill Murray in Ghostbusters.
The film opens with a Christmas party prank at a sorority going awry and a girl falls to her death. Two years later the same girls are throwing another holiday party and soon someone in a Santa Claus outfit is stalking and murdering them and their boyfriends. Who is this demented killer and why have they targeted the girls of The Calvin Finishing School?
As written by Rebar and directed by Hess, this holiday slasher is a fairly pedestrian and dull affair. It follows the early 80s slasher formula to the letter with being set on an important date and featuring a killer getting payback for a past misdeed. There is little or no suspense and the film moves at a funeral’s pace and has equally little atmosphere. The characters, including Runyon’s final girl Nancy, are all cliché, dull and evoke no sympathy when they are offed. The film is bloody but, none of the kills are all that impressive and the film looks and feels like a TV movie, if not for the bloody murders. That’s kinda it.
There’s really little to say or recommend about this flick. It’s a dull and routine slasher that really doesn’t take advantage of it’s setting and once we get our big reveal, we realize there was absolutely no reason for the killer to wear the Santa suit accept for exacting their revenge on Christmas. A forgettable 80s slasher only made a bit noteworthy because, it has been rightfully forgotten and is rarely mentioned when discussing this era and genre.
2 Christmas trees.
Proof of how obscure this flick is, I couldn’t find a decent trailer. But, I did find the whole movie…
My friends and I had a lot of fun when we saw this cult classic at the legendary Oritani Theater in Hackensack N.J. and it was gleefully for all the wrong reasons most of the time. The Incredible Melting Man is a delightfully bad 1977 sci-fi/ horror about ill-fated astronaut Steve West (Alex Rebar) who returns from a space mission exploring Saturn’s rings with a mysterious condition where his flesh is melting and he is radioactive. For some reason, just as mystifying as to how he got this way, (there is a hint it was caused by viewing the sun through Saturn’s rings, but it’s never confirmed.) Steve must consume human flesh to slow down the degeneration. As his mind degenerates, too, West escapes the hospital and begins to chow down on the locals while he is pursued by friend Dr. Ted Nelson (Burr DeBenning) and Air Force General Perry (Myron Healey). As Steve melts more and more, the more locals, including Nelson’s in-laws, fall victim to the stricken astronaut who becomes less and less human by the minute. Can he be stopped? Can the process be reversed? Who will be his next meal?
All the questions are answered and if this kind of flick is your thing, you’ll have a fun time watching the answers unfold. Despite it’s less then 90 minute running time the film is methodically paced. There are a lot of scenes of West roaming around the countryside with the last moments of the mission playing over and over in his head while Dr. Nelson follows his trail with his handy geiger counter. Most of the attacks are off camera thought there are plentiful shots of the gory carnage and one great shot of a dismembered head going over a waterfall and smashing on the rocks below. Aside from the gore and melting FX, which were done by the now legendary Rick Baker, there is plenty of hilariously bad dialog and unintentional laugh inducing situations. The film, by writer/director William Sachs (Galaxina), has an uneven tone, though it’s supposedly not all his fault. Sachs claims he wanted something more campy and fun like the sci-fi flicks of the 50s, while the producers wanted a more serious horror flick and these artistic differences give the movie an unbalanced mix of serious moments and much lighter moments. But the thing is, some of the more serious scenes come across as unintentionally funny and some of the humorous scenes meant to be funny, aren’t successful in their attempt and just come across as awkward. So they are very entertaining, but not for the right reasons. Sachs just doesn’t quite have the right touch to mix horror and camp as say, Joe Dante did in Piranha and The Howling though, it would appear that’s what he was going for.
But either way, this production’s heart is in the right place and the really cool work by future Oscar winner Baker is very effective…and of course all the intentional and unintentional entertainment it provides, is worth watching it for. The filmmakers were really trying hard here to deliver a new and horrifying movie monster, but the talent (aside from Baker) is just not quite there behind or in front of the camera and the disagreement between director and producers doesn’t help either. The acting is just as bad as the before mentioned dialog and the inept cast stumbling around finding body parts both of the victims and the Melting Man, produce far more laughs then chills. Also, some of the conversations between gore scenes are hilariously inappropriate, given the situations the characters are in and it’s hard to tell how much of this was intentional and how much was not, but it’s entertaining either way, so, ultimately, it doesn’t really matter.
To a degree Sachs got the kind of campy fun movie he was trying to make, but it’s not totally on purpose. Made by the legendary American International Pictures, Melting Man has earned cult classic status and has become one of MST3K’s funnier episodes and if you are a connoisseur of ‘so bad it’s good’ cinema then this is a prime example. The added nostalgia of this late 70s flick only makes it even more fun. The kind of movie they sadly don’t make anymore and a personal guilty pleasure of mine. Thankfully Melting Man is now available on a gorgeous extra filled blu-ray from the folks at Scream Factory! Also features cameos by 70s B-Movie regular Cheryl ‘Rainbeaux’ Smith (Laserblast) and acclaimed director Jonathan Demme.
MONSTERZERO NJ EXTRA TRIVIA: Rick Baker had some protégées working on this film, future make-up FX legends in their own right, Greg Cannom, Craig Reardon and Rob Bottin!