Saturday, May 21, 2011


A while back I showed you a pic from the Mexi-monster movie LADRON DE CADAVERES (a.k.a. THE BODY SNATCHERS) where I first saw it in Uncle Forry's FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND #1 (and then in a few subsequent reprints). The gawd-awful looking creature that was Lobo Negro creeped the crap outta me as a young and impressionable monster kid.

Well, even before that life-scarring event, I had another indelible image or two that found themselves wiggling into my head like an insatiable family of earwigs looking to feed off my gray matter right down to the brain pan. It was a collection of images, all courtesy of Robert Wise's 1963 production of Shirley Jackson's THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE that done did it. With the title truncated for maximum spooky effect to simply THE HAUNTING, the family went and saw this one fine Saturday night at the (now lamentably gone) Torrance Drive-In.

It was dusk when the cartoons came on and dark when the movie started. Then the masterful prologue began that set the mood for the rest of what surely must be the greatest haunted house story every filmed.

The first image that got me was the doomed "2nd Mrs. Crane", after she fell down the stairs and broke her neck . . . or had she died of fright first? That shot, from slightly below camera angle, with her cold, dead eyes staring out of the screen transfixed me for the rest of the film's running time. There would be no falling asleep during this one.

The next creep-out came during the time lapse shot of Abigail Crane as she turned from young girl to old invalid in just a few short seconds. Hey, I wasn't the only one. Even LIFE magazine had a page on what they thought was a pretty scary scene. Then, there was the later sequence with the ghostly booming of her cane against the halls and walls of Hill House.  This little monster kid in the making was terrified!

The next day, I made the big mistake of telling my older sister what scared me from the previous night's movie. She wasted no time in getting me baited into the garage. She then managed to slam the door down on me . . . and proceeded to pound on the garage door just like the disembodied Abigail Crane did in the movie! Trapped inside that dark garage, helpless, with the BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! from my sister's malicious fists, I screamed and blubbered at the top of my little lungs! Folks, I have never been so scared in my life to pee my pants, but this was about as close as it ever came.

After a while, the "Dickens" finally came back to me. A couple hours later, a strange sensation came over me. I realized that . . . I liked getting scared! Of course, I would not let my sister know until years later!

The 1,200 car capacity Torrance Drive-In Theatre, located at 5501 Torrance Boulevard in what was known as the "South Bay" area of Los Angeles, was opened for business in June of 1955. It was independently owned and operated at first, but in later years it was sold off to the conglomerate called Pacific Theatres due to financial difficulties. I remember it having a great snack bar and I no doubt started rotting many a' tooth chomping on candy bars and slurping down cokes from its hallowed counters. Like so many other iconic American structures -- and one I will remember with a bit of sentimental fondness for the rest of my days -- the Torrance Drive-In was finally closed up in 1988. It was later torn down and demolished.

Would it be any surprise if I told you that Condos were built on it's sacred ground?

If you want to watch the legendary prologue to THE HAUNTING, I have it posted above behind the 'WATCH MONSTER MOVIES' tab.

Today's post brought to you by:

The end of the road.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I remember spending Saturday nights at the Torrance drivin back in the 1960s. it's just a memory.


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