1 September 2002 | Tommy-5
A pleasant stroll down Memory Lane
`Half Man, Half Ant, All Terror!,' screams the promotional for fictional film producer Lawrence Woolsey's newest film, Mant. Mant is the film within the 1993 film titled Matinee. Matinee, starring John Goodman as the William Castle-like Woolsey, is director Joe Dante's valentine to all of us who grew up in the middle of the cold war. That he has managed to combine a salute to the science fiction films of the 1950's and early 60's with a warning about nuclear power and human imperfection is quite impressive. The plotline is straightforward. Woolsey and his delightful lover, leading lady and all around Girl Friday Ruth, ably played by Cathy Moriarty, (who shows she could have been a great 50's sci-fi heroine), roll into Key West, Florida for a sneak preview of his latest film, Mant. The weekend of the big event, autumn of 1962, also happens to be the time of the Cuban missile crisis. Here the story gets a little stretched as we try to keep up with all that is going on. Panicky theatre managers, adolescent love and jealousy, and several amusing scenes from Mant are among the many points of interest against the sobering backdrop of the missile crisis, only 90 miles away in Cuba. This film is a bit hard to describe, the best thing to do is rent it and enjoy it for yourself. Much of it takes place in the theatre on Saturday afternoon and is a true trip down memory lane for old guys like me who lived during this era and remember very well what indoor theatres were like in 1962. Mant is a special treat for all of us who love the sci-fi films of that era. It has several un-credited science fiction legends in it (Kevin McCarthy, William Schallert and Robert Cornthwaite appeared with the sultry Moriarty) and numerous insider jokes. McCarthy was `General Ankrum.' Oh Brother! Is there a sci-fi fan anywhere who is not aware that the late Morris Ankrum made a career of portraying military generals in these types of films? This is only one example of a ton of fun in this film. There were other appearances by old time favorites, such as Jesse White and Roger Corman regular Dick Miller. It is obvious that everyone had a good time making Matinee and just about all of the performances are way over the top, especially Goodman's. He held his oversized stogie just like Castle used to. I've heard that there are more Mant scenes in the DVD version of Matinee but I have been unable to locate what has turned out to be a harder to obtain film that I imagined it would or should be. Matinee is a warm-hearted gem. By all means make the effort to see this one if you can obtain a copy. I promise, you will not be disappointed.
The Strand Theatre, where the `action' takes place, has a big Milk Duds ad over the snack bar. Hmm . . . sounds like an idea to me!