We finally got around to watching Joe Dante's tribute to B-grade horror movies, Matinee (1993). And by got around to, I mean Netflix finally sent us the movie, after it sat at the top of our list with status "Very Long Wait" for a very long time. Very annoying and makes it hard to orchestrate the optimum weekend viewing experience. But I'm not complaining.
Matinee takes place in Key West during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Simon Fenton plays a young navy brat (13? 14?), whose father has shipped out to blockage Cuba. Fenton doesn't really fit in on the base or with the townies, and he's at just the age when he needs to. His main passion is monster movies, which he scares his little brother with. And the most amazing movie is coming to town: director Lawrence Woolsey's (John Goodman) Mant!
Goodman's character is a larger than life B-movie director, something like William Castle. He drives around in a big Caddie with a beautiful starlet, smoking a huge cigar and wires gimmicks under the theater seats to make people jump. So the movie is a collision between B-movies, kids coming of age, and the threat of nuclear annihilation.
The kids' side of the story is great. Fenton makes a friend, a townie boy who wants to date a student council type good girl, who has a bad boy ex-boyfriend named Harvey Starkweather (any relation to Charles?). Meanwhile, Fenton meets a sad commie girl with long straight hair and liberal parents, who refuses to "duck and cover" when the air raid drill sounds. She was my favorite - she reminded me of the girls I wanted to hang out with.
So, good coming of age movie, good turn by John Goodman as a low-budget movie magnate. BUT! The scenes from the movie-within-the-movie, Mant, are awesome! I think everyone who has enjoyed Matinee says the same thing - "But I really wanted to see Mant." It's the usual dental X-rays causes a man to transform into a giant ant movie, a touch of The Amazing Colossal Man, a little bit of The Fly, and a big dash of The Beginning of the End, the Peter Graves giant grasshopper movie.
One of the scenes shows General Ankrum (Morris Ankrum plays the general in Beginning of the End) explaining the plan in front of a map of Chicago, and watching an ant climbing up the side of a picture of a building as a special effect - pure Beginning of the End. But please! Don't tell your friends about the astonishing ending of MANT!