“Insect/human mutation is far from an exact science.”

Directed by Joe Dante

Written by Jerico and Charles Haas

Cast

John Goodman as Lawrence Woolsey
Kathy Moriarty as Ruth Corday/Carol
Simon Fenton as Gene Loomis
Omri Katz as Stan
Lisa Jakub as Sandra
Kellie Martin as Sherry
Jesse Lee Soffer as Dennis Loomis
Robert Picardo as Howard
Lucy Butler as Rhonda
Mark McCracken as Mant/Bill
John Sayles as Bob

Available here.

Premise:

A filmmaker tests his gimmick-laden Grade B monster movie during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Hilarity ensues.

High Points:

Mant’s (the movie-within-the-movie’s) premise could have been the basis of an actual B-flick from the era. Virtually all of its gimmicks were tried in real life, though not in the same movie. Given these facts, I almost wish they’d made the dialogue and plot less obviously ridiculous, because the parody would have been that much more perfect. However, this is a comedy, and the more over-the-top Mant provides many laughs.

The scenes involving the bomb shelter provide the film’s comedic and dramatic highlights at once. I believed in these kids, even while I was laughing at them.

Low Point:

The fact that the film has never found a broader audience. This is not a blockbuster, but it’s a good little film. Matinee juxtaposes adolescent innocence, great humour, and geek in-jokes with a genuinely frightening historic situation, but it never becomes self-serious or overly preachy.

The Scores:

Originality: 4/6. Of course, those 50s and 60s monster flicks collectively commented on the perils of the Cold War, the Bomb, and Life in General, but this film does an excellent job of clarifying that commentary.

Effects: 5/6. The effects in Mant are actually better than those in the films it parodies, but appropriately cheesy nonetheless. The Matinee effects are low-level, but they work well.

Story: 5/6. This film intertwines multiple plots effectively.

Acting: 5/6. John Goodman gives a scene-stealing show as Woolsey, equal parts William Castle and P.T. Barnum. He also manages to be a huckster and the voice of reason. The teenaged characters—- actually played by teenagers—- deliver sensitive, believable performances.

The Mant cast give us hilarious, deliberately bad acting.Production: 5/6

Emotional Response: 5/6. If you’ve enjoyed old Drive-in Sc-Fi, in their original form or through the Mystery Science Theater filter, you’ll want to see this film.

Overall: 5/6.

34/42

“You think grown-ups have it all figured out? That’s just a hustle, kid.
Grown-ups are making it up as they go along just like you. You remember that, and you’ll do fine.”
–Lawrence Woolsey