Thursday, November 6, 2014

Jason goes to Niles to see a classic Bob Wilkins Creature Feature Show

Thanks to Tom Wyrsch (director of WATCH HORROR FILMS, KEEP AMERICA STRONG!) for putting this together. This is the third of four shows. You see, when Bob Wilkins did Creature Features back in the day, the movies were shown on 16 mm and the bumpers (skits, interviews, snide comments, etc.) were pre-recorded on video tape. After they were shown, the video tapes were returned to the new department and taped over. So almost none of them exist--except for four that survived, and Tom has reconstructed them, and kindly played the previous two at Niles.

But first, there was a giant raffle contest. I think Tom clears out his garage for these raffles, because there was a stage full of prizes. And I won his Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots! He bested me twice before the film (and we tied one last time) but I'm gonna practice and practice and practice until I can smoke him next time.

Anyway, as the show began there was the classic Bob Wilkins sitting in his big yellow chair and smoking his cigar. I have to pause now and confess that I didn't grow up in the Bay Area and never knew about Bob Wilkins before I came here. And so this is another example of weird 'false nostalgia' I have for a world I never actually lived in. Anyway, the highlight of the Bob Wilkins segments was an interview with George Takei. He's become so huge as a gay icon and Internet star, sometimes I forget he was on this show called STAR TREK. And in this interview he thanked the fans for their rabid support in convincing Paramount to make a big screen movie based on the show.

Okay, then the actual film, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1962): Not the Lon Chaney version, not the Claude Rains version, certainly not the later versions (Bob Wilkins had many powers, but not time travel.) No, this is definitely a "lesser known" version (unless you're a Hammer Horror fan.) And...well...it's not exactly bad but there's a reason this is lesser known. It has its charms, from the plagiarism-avenging backstory to the Igor-like assistant (rather, a mute sewer dweller who saved the phantom's life) and...heck, I changed my mind. This is actually a great version of the Phantom of the Opera story. No reason it shouldn't be a classic.

Running Time: 115 minutes
My Total Minutes: 371,573

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