In my 23 years of watching Joe Dante movies (and 3 years of actually knowing who Joe Dante is, heh) I don’t think I’ve seen a better one. Maybe it’s just a dreamy first impression thing, and I’d be saying the same if I’d just watched “The ‘burbs” for the first time. We’ll see. Anyway, great movie.
Set in 1962 during the Cuban missile crisis at the height of cold war fever, John Goodman is a monster-movie peddler (based on William Castle of “The Tingler” fame) who’s literally coming up with new ways to shock people. I thought he’d be the movie’s lead, but not really, it’s this kid who just moved into a Florida town with a father (who we never see except in photos) who’s part of the Naval blockade of Cuba and a mom and a little brother and, if he can manage it, a girlfriend at school (a budding leftist). Kid’s new friend is trying to date a girl with a dangerous ex-boyfriend who ends up getting a job running the special effects during the MANT screening and seeing the two of them together. Oh, and the nervous theater manager has a bomb shelter in the basement. Hilarity ensues.
Movie is exciting and funny and intelligent while remaining entirely wholesome (rated PG). It’s all about the love of horror films without ever trying to be a horror film… and about growing up with the movies, the way they can reflect and affect people’s moods.
The great Kevin McCarthy as a general fighting the MANT:
Left: our kid. Right: Dick Miller, whose cohort was played by John Sayles.
Reportedly William Castle and Alfred Hitchcock shared mutual respect… no, really.
MANT escapes from the screen, takes a hostage: