Children’s matinee recollections
My name is Daniel Griffith. I am an independent filmmaker operating out of Chattanooga, TN. I am currently in production on a feature-length documentary, entitled “The Wonder World of K. Gordon Murray”, which follows the life of Kenneth Gordon Murray, from is youth in Bloomington, Illinois, to his young adult life as a promoter for various circuses. In 1951, following a chance meeting with Cecil B. Demille, his dreams transformed from a humble carnival owner… to a motion picture distributor and producer. But K. Gordon Murray never stopped being a showman. He used the same techniques employed by fellow exploiter, Kroger Babb, to release films into movie houses and drive-in’s across the U.S. from 1956 till his untimely death in 1979.
From 1960, through the mid-1970’s, K. Gordon Murray became famous for releasing his own re-dubbed versions of Mexican fairy tale films in theaters using the gimmick of a “weekends only/matinee only” show time. He gained most of his notoriety by releasing the 1959 Mexican import, “Santa Claus”, in theaters during the 1960 holiday season. Its success spawned the “kiddie” matinee phenomena that lasted into the 1980’s, when conflicts with the major Hollywood studios, along with the birth of the VHS market, muscled the independent producers out of business. But during its zenith, Murray toured these films with accompanying magic shows, costumed characters from the fairy tale films, and an impressive ad campaign. His efforts in the childrens film genre earned him the title, “King of the Kiddie Matinee”.
He also imported many notable Mexican horror films to release them in drive-ins and later, to television through American International pictures. Films like “The Brainiac”, “The Witch’s Mirror”, “Robot Vs. The Aztec Mummy”, “The Vampire (German Robles)”, “The Living Head”, and several Santo and Wrestling Women films. Murray even employed special effects artist and former spook show extraordinaire, Doug Hobart (“Death Curse of Tartu”, “Sting of Death”, etc.), of develop a series of gimmicks to accompany the films at their drive-in engagements. One such gimmick, lovingly titled “The 5th Dimension Show”, even required Hobart to dress up like a vampire and roam the drive-in parking area serving blood cocktails (tomato juice with red food coloring) while the patrons watched a “The Vampire/Curse of the Doll People” double feature.
This documentary is about a time in movie history that is now lost. A time of showman, a time of gimmicks… experiences relating to both movie houses and drive-ins across the nation. I wish to do what I can to preserve these experiences in the film. It is my hope to produce a documentary unlike any seen before. A lot of research and originality is going into the picture. My background is actually in narrative films, so I am discovering unique ways to fuse the two together.
I am looking for photographs of movie houses and drive-ins from the 1950’s and 1960’s that may relate to this subject. Any photos of a childrens matinee in the 1960’s and 1970’s would also be helpful. Stories and recollections regarding the 1960’s children matinee are also needed. I would be happy to credit this site in the film.
Feel free to contact me at any time if you have further questions. Thanks again.