Saturday, February 26, 2011


John Goodman is the star, as he should be of this splendid comedy set in Key West, 1962.I have been remiss in that for some time now I have failed to check out a Key West based movie or two for the frozen huddled masses Up North who need to see a touch of sun on the TV screen. Matinee, from 1993 is available from Netflix streaming as well as on disc, so it could be construed as 99 minutes of instant gratification. The film is set in 1962 just as the Cuban missile crisis appeared on TV screens everywhere.The story is simple enough, Goodman is coming to Key West to open his new horror picture, Mant, complete with "rumblerama" special effects installed at the Strand theater on Duval. Mant is the sensation at Key West High School where the students are also talking about the escalating crisis with the Cubans. However the High School exterior in the movie looks wooded like nothing ever seen in Key West.
Matinee comes in two flavors- on the one had it's a goofy 1950s B movie horror flick premier in a funky small town at the very end of the road. On the other hand, juxtaposed against the nuclear mutation of man and ant -Mant!- is the actual nuclear holocaust threatened by the confrontation building over the Straits of Florida. Duck and cover anyone? Considering the historic pictures I've seen, the reproduction of Smathers Beach as the Hawk Battery front line looked quite authentic.And from pictures of the time I know civilians were wandering the beach, finding their way past the busy military, just as Gene and Stan do in the movie:Stan is being pursued by Sherry who has learned to appreciate herself as a woman by hanging out with an older guy. Life was quite complex in the shadow of nuclear meltdown hanging over Key West.Some exteriors certainly look as though they were shot on Key west streets. My favorite locally shot movie was Criss Cross, always worth a view, and from an earlier time check out The Rose Tattoo. a slightly confusing flick as it was shot in Key West, on Duncan Street some of it, close to Tennessee Williams' home, while the story was actually set on the mainland, on the Gulf Coast. John Goodman as, Lawrence Woolsey, plays the paternalistic film maker who takes his eager fan under his wing and is seen here walking on a street somewhere other than Key West. It looks similar though. Roger Ebert loved Matinee, saying in his review that it reminded him of his own childhood, the duck and cover generation brought up on corny horror movies of decades ago. Mant is the story of nuclear chaos, when a man and an ant get mixed up with horrible consequences.Cathy Moriarty does a lovely job of portraying the love interest in Mant as the half ant's girlfriend and as the love interest of John Goodman in Matinee.The nurse played by Moriarty at the matinee of Mant! is a detail straight from movie history we are told. A producer named Joe Solomon made millions from an inconsequential sex education film named "Mom and Dad" by stationing a nurse in the lobby, and parking an ambulance outside to rush shock victims to the emergency room. Lawrence Woolsey uses the same nurse technique to have patrons sign waivers in case they have heart attacks when they see the horror of the half man half ant on screen:.The horrors of nuclear misuse are clear in the subplot of Mant!But the silly plot line, shown on the screen during Matinee is simply a backdrop to the real nuclear horrors that face the world particularly during those terrible 13 days of 1962.Somehow rumblerama upstairs gets the already anxious theater manager into meltdown as he imagines nuclear catastrophe striking Key West and he fears the theater rumbles are nuclear explosions. As he gtes locked out of his private fall out shelter Gene and the lovely child Sandra played by Lisa Jakub are trapped in the time locked nuclear bunker fearing the rumbling theater above them indicates the end of Life As We Know it. They face the prospect, at their tender ages, of playing Adam and Eve and repopulating the world, but before they can act on this horrible fate...Oops- Nurse Corday is being ravaged by the half ant creature in the theater! John Goodman sees a fortune in his new techniques and plans are laid to bring rumblerama and all that jazz to theater audiences around the country. As preposterous as it all sounds cinema history assures us the silliness of the premier shown here in Key West actually took place in US theaters in the 1960s. In fact John Goodman's character is based on one William Castle who used the techniques in Matinee in theaters where he showed his films.In fact the "Strand" Theater shown in the movie flies a banner opposing the real threat of the early 1960s, not from Cuba or Russia but from "pay TV!" Matinee is a sun drenched feel good movie, silly sure, but lovable enough. And it includes a little sea sun and sand...
...and a few shots of key West to remind us all of the joy of the end of the road. for some other Keys pictures.