Wait, Huh? Jerry’s Most “WTF” Double Feature Experiences!

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Growing up in the ’80s, my childhood was filled to the brim to double features. Whether in the local multiplex, or at the drive-in, there wasn’t a single thing that I enjoyed more than giving the box office my couple of bucks, and seeing whatever weird ass double features they programmed. I wasn’t around during the wonderful grind-house double feature days of the 1970’s (which happens to be my favorite era of horror), so my experiences were usually limited to films of the ’80s and ’90s. Usually, the theaters in which I frequented typically tried to pair similar movie together, but every once in a while, even as a kid, I ended up wondering, “What is going on here?” with their choices. So, because nostalgia is always oh so fun for me, I thought I’d give y’all a glimpse into four experiences from my childhood, that even today, leave me wondering “WHAT.THE.HELL?”. While not all of these are necessarily horror films,  some of the experiences were quite “horror”ific (hehe). So, here are four of my most “WTF” double feature experiences:

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arone

 

4.) PREDATOR/REVENGE OF THE NERDS II: NERDS IN PARADISE

In July of 1987, my stepfather at the time decided it was a nice enough day outside to do something, and while I figured that meant going to the park or something of the sort, he thought taking my older brother and I to the local cinema, which was playing a good amount of current releases. Once we arrived at the theater, there was a long debate between my brother and I, as to which film we would be seeing. Being into Arnold films already, I was jumping up and down in excitement at seeing the one-sheet for his newest masterpiece (though I knew NOTHING about the plot), PREDATOR, with the “Now Showing” underneath it. My older brother, not caring about cool stuff like Arnold or aliens, but being the constant “think of others” kind of brother, agreed, and we bought our tickets, and into the theater we went!

When we sat down, the lights were already down, and obviously the box office attendant didn’t know their times, because when we sat down, REVENGE OF THE NERD II: NERDS IN PARADISE was only halfway through (both films played right after each other, due to the amount of screens that the Arizona theater we were at had. “Should we just go wait near the snack area?” I asked, but my stepfather insisted that we watched the second of NERDS, then we could watch PREDATOR.

After the pervy-hijinks of the first film had ended, and following a few trailers, my eyes opened WIDE and I witnessed PREDATOR, a film I STILL adore. Everything about it just screamed my name. The way it started as one kind of film, got you comfortable WITH that type of film, then pulled the rug from beneath you and gave you something entirely different. I sat there, amazed by it, enthralled by the design of the Predator, the UV-effects, the invisible cloaking, every single thing about that film just made a younger me so very happy. When the credits rolled, I was excited as hell to get up, act like Dutch for the rest of the day and imagine myself fighting that ugly Predator beast, but to my surprise, my stepfather and brother just sat there. “What are we doing?”, I asked. My stepfather then told me that he was more impressed with the second half of REVENGE OF THE NERDS II more than the whole of PREDATOR (what the hell?), and that we were going to stay seated and wait for NERDS to restart so we could watch the first half. Imagine, as a kid, having the brilliance and absolute badass-ness of PREDATOR fresh in your mind for the first time, and then sitting through REVENGE OF THE NERDS II right after. Scarring. While the experience of ROTN II, isn’t as bad as I’m making it out to be, it was a weird experience that has never left my mind, and was ALMOST as weird as some of the other pairings below.

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ARTHREE

 

3.) BATMAN/YOUNG EINSTEIN

Having already seen Tim Burton’s BATMAN around 5 times in the theater at this point, when the cousin OF my cousin (that would make him my 2nd cousin??) visited and wanted to go to the drive-in to see some movies, I instantly yelled out, “BATMAN is still playing!”. After a couple of looks and a “haven’t you seen that already?” were passed, we all agreed to go see the bat kick some Joker ass, and rode over to the drive-in, sitting in the back of my cousin’s truck (this was during a time when that could happen). When we got there, we saw that BATMAN was paired with YOUNG EINSTEIN?? Not only was the bat paired with a movie I had never heard of, but like the trend before and after, it looked as if I would have to sit through the other one before heading into Michael Keaton being a mysterious and complete badass for an entire film.

Truth be told, I spent the majority of YOUNG EINSTEIN walking around the drive-in, hanging out in the concession building, and passing time, but I do remember some parts having to do with him inventing rock and roll? I dunno, not my cup of tea and probably definitely not my thing these days.

After the odd first film ended, and any traces of daytime had dissipated (going to the drive and watching ANY first film was always a little frustrating because the first quarter of it would be blocked by the fading daytime), BATMAN‘s opening began, and hot damn, did I enjoy that film just as much as the first five times I had seen it (until JURASSIC PARK, BATMAN held the title for how many times I had seen the same movie theatrically, BATMAN-7, JP-12) . None of its appeal had lessened, and to this day, every time I watch BATMAN (’89), I still feel like a kid, sitting there watching it for the first, second, or seventh time. While viewing #6 was yet another magical BATMAN experience, I still to this day ask myself…”YOUNG EINSTEIN?…really?”

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ARFOUR

 

2.) FERNGULLY/ALIEN3

This pairing, and #2’s pairing both take the cake for being the WEIRDEST fucking double features of all time. This time, visiting my mom in Oregon, I was happy to accompany said mother as well as my older brother, to the theater to watch a double feature. We had no idea what was playing, but in those days, it was just fun showing up on a weekend (or in my case, most weekdays as well) and catching whatever genre film might be playing.

When we arrived at the theater, my mother and brother both decided to watch a double feature of FRIED GREEN TOMATOES and something else, I have no idea. I had absolutely ZERO interest in the double feature they had chosen, but being an already huge fan of the ALIEN series, I noticed that ALIEN3 was playing. Stoked as all hell, I begged my om to just let me see that instead and she obliged. The real shock to me came, when I failed to see what film would be playing BEFORE ALIEN3. With my mother and brother in a different screen for a double feature’s length, I was on my own for two movies straight, and would have to take whatever film that would precede the greatness that would be ALIEN3 (hey, I was a kid, how would I know?). I paid for my drink and candy, and sat down, expecting another genre or sci-fi film to be played, and what did I get? EFFIN  FERNGULLY. Yeah, the kids movie about the environment with Tim Curry and Christian Slater.

When FERNGULLY began, I left my seat, and walked to the ticket-taker and asked “Am I in the right screen?” and was told yes, that FERNGULLY was playing before ALIEN 3. I returned to my seat, bummed as all hell, and spent the remaining running time annoyed. Anytime someone laughed at any of the silliness of those damned flying light-fairies, or whatever they were, I just sat and cringed. While I wasn’t that old myself (I think 12 at the time), I had been brought up on horror films and monsters, dry humor and a tad bit of cynicism. I didn’t want to see those flying bugs defeat the machine cutting down the trees, I wanting me some chestbursters, some Ripley kicking Alien ass!

After the horrendous first film, I was blessed (at the time) with ALIEN3, and while the parents who made the unfortunate mistake of sticking around after FERNGULLY ended up regretting it every time some horrendous fate was bestowed on the prisoners of the prison, I sat there, grinning ear to ear.

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ARM111

 

1.) LOST HIGHWAY/CRASH

This is a special one to me, one full of an adventure to tell. While being by far one of the weirdest (albeit BEST) double features around, the trek of getting TO this adventure served to be just as odd as the two films I would end up watching.

When David Lynch’s mind-fuck horror film LOST HIGHWAY hit theaters, it had a measly week-long stay at my local cinema in Visalia, CA. Already being a MASSIVE Lynch fan, when I finally was able to scrap around enough money to head down to the theater on my skateboard, sadly, it was gone :(. While that would’ve stopped a lot of people, I did everything I could to find the closest theater that the film was still playing at, by golly, it was on a double bill with David Cronenberg’s CRASH in an art-house theater in PASADENA, which was a mere THREE HOURS AWAY. Not even having my driver’s license yet, I almost gave up, until my friend Matt came up with a plan of him visiting me in Visalia for a week and then we would take a bus to Pasadena to see the movies, then head to Palmdale, where he lived.

The plan worked, and while en route to Pasadena, we were subjected to some of the most “Lynch-ian” situations, that could very well have been right out of TWIN PEAKS or similar fare. A woman had a mental breakdown in the back of the bus, cussing at herself and hitting her head against the window, two friends parted ways when one of them reached their destination and as he left, he told his friend “take it easy” to his friend, and out of nowhere, an older man who had nothing to do with the two friends’ exchange began to yell “Take it easy?! I DON’T TAKE IT EASY, YOU SCHMUCK!”. Yikes. As if those experiences weren’t odd enough, the ultimate one came about 10 minutes before arriving at our destination. Seated in a crowded bus, my friend was forced to sit towards the back, and I had a window seat, next to an old man who looked like a cross between William S. Burroughs and Johnny Knoxville’s BAD GRANDPA character. Out of NOWHERE, the man reached his hand over and placed it on my lap, like RIGHT on my lap. I sat there, in absolute shock, frozen in disbelief. I thought I was in a weird ass nightmare, and my body froze. The man didn’t do anything else, just left his hand on the lap of 16 year old frozen Jerry. Luckily, the bus reached our stop, and I bolted up, and my friends and I exited the bus. W.T.F.

The experience of watch LOST HIGHWAY was worth the adventure it had taken to get there, as I absolutely loved the film, and to this day, it remains my favorite film directed by David Lynch (yes, I like it better than ERASERHEAD and BLUE VELVET, sue me). I was instantly lost in the story of a man going insane and creating an alternate existence in his head. Bill Pullman was great, Robert Blake was about as eerie as they come, Marilyn Manson and Twiggy Ramirez were both in the film and boy oh boy, did I love the soundtrack.  When the film was over, we decided to stay for another film that we were both anxious to see, David Cronenberg’s CRASH. Though the film’s subject matter of people getting off (literally) on car crashes might have been a weird choice to watch following an already mind-bending first movie, and one of the weirdest bus trips of all time, we still went for it, and it definitely paid off. CRASH is a film that is definitely one Cronenberg’s most underrated of films,  a good examination of sex and violence and how as people, the lines between them can be quite blurry to our eyes. Weird trip, weird movies, great times.

*Editor’s note: Have any of you fright fiends seen double features that made you ask yourself “WTF?” If so, sound off!

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  1. […] LOST HIGHWAY does.  Maybe it was the adventure I had to go through to see it (read about that  here), or maybe its surreal, noir-like mood and tone of the film that made it so very easy to rope me […]



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