I remember that Wednesday nights were dish nights back in the late '40s. My grandmother put together a complete serving for six or maybe eight. That means dishes, saucers, cups, other stuff that I don't even know the names for. That's a lot of Wednesday nights. That's a lot of movies.
That's how I got to see, at a very tender age, "Dead End," the original movie that led to all the Dead End Kids, East Side Kids and Bowery Boys flicks ad nausea.
But of all the Dish Night movies I saw the only other one I remember was the one that scarred my soul forever. The movie came out in 1931 before I was born so we must have seen it on the second or third go round. That's right, before TV movies were re-released periodically.
"Frankenstein" scared me like nothing had before. It is still, to my mind, the most disturbing thing on film. To this day I am kind of a Frankenstein expert. I get ticked off when I see an article about Boris Karloff and there is a picture of Lon Chaney Jr. or Glenn Strange as "the creature." Naturally I have it and Bride of... Son of... and Ghost of... on tape. After that the series declined.
Several years after the above I was taken to Coney Island one summer evening by my grandmothers. My father's mother had lived in Coney Island and my dad was born there. We entered one of the many "Freak Shows" but I did not know that one of the features was...you guessed it.
The way it worked was you paid your admission and walked into a large room where you went, as a group, from one site to another where a "barker" did the hype.
Finally we came to a raised stage with a large cabinet toward the rear. The "barker" went into his spiel and I heard the words "Frankenstein Monster." Then something about the "great expense" to bring it from Europe. The cabinet door was opened and there stood my worst nightmare with chains on its wrists. Then some nonsense about electricity. Then some sparks. (I still remember the smell.) I recall thinking : "What are these idiots doing?"
Suddenly, the eyes opened, the creature began to struggle with the chains; they could not hold it. The "barker" yelled "Oh my God! We used too much voltage."
All my short life I felt basically safe because, after all, it was only a movie. Now they did this to me. The monster tromped to the front of the stage. I was right up front. As a little kid it was the only place where I could have seen anything. I turned and streaked through all those legs right for....who knows anyplace...away...someplace else. THIS was much worse than a movie. I was in real DANGER. Sometime later I reunited with my two grandmothers and I remember Molly laughing and poking a little fun at me. But the important thing was that I was alive.
Of course I never let on to anyone, especially my family, how shook up I was over this bizarre, fictional character. When I was older they realized that I had a powerful interest in things monstrous and gruesome. I also like the original "Thing From Another World" and "Halloween."
Last changed: June 28, 2002