Matinee (1993) (Blu-ray film review).
‘Matinee’ (1993) is a Joe Dante film I’ve heard of but never actually seen…well, until now, that is. The advance version only has one blu-ray disc so can only address that contents. Even from the beginning, if you’re familiar with producer/director William Castle’s ‘B’ horror films than to realise that producer/director Lawrence Woolsey (actor John Goodman) is based on and that’s what contributes to Dante’s lovefest movie.
‘Mant’ is played out as a 50s movie although set in 1963, right down to the colour choices, outside and inside. Hardly surprising then that we have the Cuban crisis playing out in the background the two kids, Gene (actor Simon Fenton) and Dennis Loomis (actor Jesse Lee) belong to a sailor father off to near Cuba on a blockade ship. With the USSR placing nuclear missiles on Cuba, tension was building as to what would happen next. For the kids of that time, you go and see a movie.
Things build up for Gene when he takes Sherry (actress Kelly Martin) to the Saturday matinee and her ex-boy-friend and released from prison Bill (actor Mark McCracken) causes havoc for him, more so as he performs as the Mant in the cinema to make some money. Saying too much is spoiler and ‘Matinee’ is very much a family film with giggles for all ages and holds up pretty well today. If anything, you have to wonder why cinema chairs can’t be wired today.
You can spot Dante’s love for this era and have some fun with it at the same time with many guest appearances making this a did you spot so-and-so. It might not be SF but it is the kind of film that supports it and the 1963 situation. Even more scary is the advice given to kids to survive should an atomic bomb explode and realising what garbage was really told. You would have thought the footage of what happened in Japan would have shown that there would be no survivors had Russian nuclear bombs in Cuba had gone off. If you thought misadvise stopped there, then this was intensified more with a teacher telling a class that they had to eat meat three times a day.
The key extra is ‘Mant!’, the film within the film and seeing it in its entirety. Dante explains how this 16 minute footage was put together and getting famous 50s actors like William Shallot and Kevin McCarthy to perform. The special effects was based on what could be best achieved for the time period and played straight because the comedy would become apparent by the age. It is also the most funny skit I’ve seen in a long time, more so as the shoe salesman accelerates or grows in size after first being bitten by an insect and mutated into part ant after an atomic bomb explodes and touching an electrified cage gets changes faster and gets bigger. Truly horrifyingly funny. You’ll never see a dentist in this light, luckily, ever again.
There is also a look at how and what it means to become one of Joe Dante’s bit players by being dependable to whatever is offered to them, from star to support.
The half hour interview with Dante himself was conducted in 2011 and gives insight into his own knowledge of the time period and the difficulties of marketing ‘Matinee’. I suspect, prophetically, like with 50s monster horror movies being remembered far more than the award winning films of the time period is something that is just as likely to happen to ‘Matinee’. After all, how many modern day made early 1950s films can you name? There. See the problem. The most telling point from Dante’s interview is that there just aren’t enough American directors with first-hand knowledge of the period around today and the ability to get it made. None of this is helped by having to convince a studio that it can actually make money, which was one of ‘Matinee’s stumbling blocks.
There is also the ‘Making Of’ and the problems of filming in the southern states. You also get a sharp reminder that Dante started off as a film editor so understands the process of getting the right shots. Seeing the out-takes and extended scenes, as well as behind-the-scenes makes this disk the complete collection of ‘Matinee’. The fact that is it hilarious and after watching all the extras has made me want to watch the film again should speak for itself. Watch and fear the Mant who can scratch a lady’s bum.
(region B: pub: Arrow Video. 2 blu-ray discs 98 minute film. Price: £15.99 (UK).
cast: John Goodman, Cathy Moriarty, Simon Fenton, Jesse Lee, KellyMartin and Charles S. Haas
check out website: www.arrowfilms.co.uk