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My first visit to the Brentwood Twins was in the fall of â€™70, for the mind-frying double bill of â€œTrogâ€ (wacky missing link madness with Joan Crawford) and Hammer Filmsâ€™ â€œTaste the Blood of Dracula.â€ This was to be the first of many visits to this no-frills but family-friendly neighborhood twin, where if I recall correctly Screen I (to the left as you entered) was the smaller house. As was common in the early â€˜70s, local movie houses sometimes offered the same grindhouse fare found in urban markets, and the Brentwood was no exception. Over the next seven years or so the venue hosted such psychotronic classics as the British terror anthology â€œTales that Witness Madness,â€ the Stella Stevens horror-comedy â€œArnold,â€ the cult cannibal shocker â€œThe Folks at Red Wolf Inn,â€ Piper Laurie as â€œRuby,â€ Hammerâ€™s â€œCaptain Kronos: Vampire Hunterâ€ with â€œFrankenstein and the Monster from Hell,â€ William Castleâ€™s â€œBug,â€ the Borgnine/Shatner/Travolta glop-fest â€œThe Devilâ€™s Rainâ€ (paired with Hammerâ€™s â€œThe Devilâ€™s Brideâ€; give that booker a cigar!), â€œStraw Dogs,â€ â€œBreakheart Pass,â€ â€œDeath Wish,â€ â€œFreebie and the Bean,â€ Ron Leibman and Beau Bridges in the forgotten â€œYour Three Minutes Are Up,â€ the Burton/Taylor/Bridges oddity â€œHammersmith is Out,â€ Peter Sellarsâ€™ hospital laff-riot â€œWhere Does It Hurt?,â€ Omar Sharif in â€œThe Mysterious Island of Captain Nemo,â€ â€œBilly Jackâ€ and the unforgettable â€œMandingo.â€ Mainstream hits with repeat bookings included â€œThe Poseidon Adventure,â€ â€œThe Hot Rock,â€ â€œChinatown,â€ and â€œJeremiah Johnson.â€ I was spellbound by two great French thrillers when the theatre entered its art house/revival phase in â€™77 and showed Clouzotâ€™s â€œThe Wages of Fearâ€ with â€œDiabolique.â€ I believe the prints were 16mm, but I was terrified nonetheless. In either late â€™81 or early â€™82, it seemed that someone at the theatre was eager to support the areaâ€™s up and coming acting talent: when â€œTapsâ€ played, below the title the marquee read â€˜Sean Penn as Dwyerâ€™. What corporate multiplex these days would give that kind of shout-out? My last visit was in â€™88, for a near-empty screening of â€œThe Untouchables.â€ Before long the Brentwoodâ€™s doors shut for good, closing another chapter in friendly neighborhood moviegoingâ€¦
re: postings of rigoldst on 12/24/04 and mv on 2/6/05:
Even as pre-teens in the late ‘60s, we kids knew the Mayfair wasn’t up to par with the other local theatres like the Criterion, Wilshire and El Miro. For one, the screen seemed so much smaller, even smaller than an elementary school auditorium screen. Once, at intermission, we counted the rows of seats and I believe there were 15, maybe 20 at most. So of course films like “Marooned” and “The Battle of Britain” had much less impact than they would have at another, larger venue. (Unlike mv, I was too young to catch grindhouse fare like “Night of the Living Dead” and “The Corpse Grinders,” which probably would’ve made the Mayfair my favorite neighborhood theatre!) Other films, like Hitchcock’s “Topaz” and the Burt Reynolds missing link drama “Skullduggery” seemed duller than perhaps they really were. But the Mayfair definitely had a friendly, small-scale charm about it, especially for younger viewers. It was the first theatre I’d ever visited that had a restroom vending machine that sold magic tricks, rubber spiders and other novelty items…and where can you find that nowadays?
Re the 1975 ad in ken mc’s above post:
When you called the theatre’s answering machine, the voice did indeed enthusiatically chime, “Thank you for calling Theeeeeee Movies of Tarzana!” With ample parking in back, this was a swell neighborhood multi to see drive-in-type stuff like “Tentacles,” “Damien-Omen II,” the giant rat epic “Deadly Eyes,” Morgan Fairchild in"The Seduction" and Walter Hill’s “The Driver,” not to mention “The Howling,” “The Terminator” and “Missing in Action.” Once I saw actor Henry Silva leaving a matinee. And does anyone remember the collage of one-sheets on the ceiling? In the good ol' days of neighborhood theatres, such an eye-catching touch of showmanship is part of what gave Movies of Tarzana its charm.
During the summers of ‘70 and '71 (and maybe before, but not after I’m pretty sure) the Toho La Brea ran a several-week-long series they called the “Monster Film Festival,” consisting of a headliner feature and some revolving second features. In 1970 the main feature was “King Kong vs. Godzilla” and one of the seconds was “Matango.” (I remember calling the theatre and the nice woman referred to the film as “Matango, Fungus of Terror.” Little did I know, it was the actual title of “Attack of the Mushroom People,” parts of which I’d already seen on Channel 9!) I never got to the festival that year, much to my regret. In '71, tho, I begged and pleaded with the folks to take me because the festival’s main feature was none other than “Destroy All Monsters.” Quite upset at having missed “Destroy” during its initial AIP release in '69 (with “The Terrornauts”) and one of its reissues (with “The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant”!), to a monster-crazy pre-teen this engagement seemed like a gift from movie heaven. The second feature that day was “Dagora, the Space Monster,” another picture I’d caught parts of on Channel 9’s “Strange Tales.” I learned two things at that memorable double feature: 1.)that creature features played better when they weren’t dubbed, and 2.) you could never have too many of those Carnation ice cream sandwiches with the red and silver foil…
Swell post, Michael. Fittingly, my first exposure to the Americana was in the summer of ‘75, while on a family drive up Van Nuys Blvd. Seeing the long lines of people waiting to catch “Jaws,” I had no idea that two years later this would become one of my favorite exploitation venues, well worth the commute from West L.A. The first double bill I saw here was the terrific pairing of Cronenberg’s “Rabid” and “They Came from Within.” (The beckoning one-sheets outside included “End of the World,” “Hollywood Meatcleaver Massacre” and “Mansion of the Doomed”!) Next came the Nazi-zombie classic, “Shock Waves.” That Christmas vacation I sat in one of the smaller screens with an enthusiastic crowd for “The Choirboys” and “Death Wish.” Holiday entertainment at its finest! In the years that followed my eyeballs were fried by fare like “The Evil” and “Piranha,” “Humanoids from the Deep” and “The Brood,” Laura Gemser in “Women’s Prison Massacre” with “Armed Response,” and Fulci’s “Zombie.” Non-grindhouse viewings included the Irwin Allen clunker “When Time Ran Out” with James Caan’s “Hide in Plain Sight,” and Eastwood’s “Honkytonk Man.” My last visit was in 1989, for William Lustig’s “Hit List.” By then the theatre had really devolved into a depressing state; that afternoon the lobby was dimly lit, the popcorn machine looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in days (weeks?) and there were very few folks in the complex. Sadly, the Americana’s days of packed houses and blockbusters were long gone, and it was a shame to see a favorite psychotronic screening room go out on a low note.
re: stateless post of 11/21/06:
The exploitation fare is exactly what drew me from West L.A. to this UA. This is where I caught a midnight show of “Dawn of the Dead” in 1980. Later pics included “Night of the Comet” and a twin-bill of “The Mutilator” (ad line: By pick… By axe… By sword… BYE-BYE!) and Linda Blair in “Savage Island.” But the best day at the movies in North Hollywood for this genre hound had to be the spring ‘81 triple feature of “Friday the 13th Part 2” with “Graduation Day,” plus a sneak preview of “Evilspeak.” Quite a dose of latex and Karo syrup. Those were the days, indeed.
Correction to the above post:
Not that it matters much, but I just remembered that “Andromeda Strain” played with “Silent Running” (both Universal releases) and “Hellstrom Chronicle” showed with “The Red Tent.” One more unforgettable ‘77 bill after the twinning was the graphic double feature of “Taxi Driver” and “The Farmer.” I recall an older couple—who obviously didn’t research the films they were going to see that evening—walking out quite early. I do miss the days when a neighborhood movie house could without warning become an unforgiving grindhouse.
BTW, Lisa Weho and others: Did anyone happen to attend the midnight fright show hosted by TV horror host Seymour (actor Larry Vincent) in early ‘72? He showed Corman’s “Premature Burial.” I got to sit in the front row, a few seats away from Mr. Vincent, and it was a blast. My first midnight movie! During his opening remarks he said he’d invite selected attendees to come onstage (for what purpose, I can’t imagine) but it didn’t happen. At least he stayed to watch the film (quite raptly, as I recall) and signed autographs in the lobby after the screening. Fond memory: a few greedy kids kept cutting in line, wanting multiple signings, but Mr. Vincent was thoughtful enough to make sure every kid got one. And it was damn near 2 a.m. Now there’s a class act.
The Wilshire was a great place for young sci-fi/horror film fans in the early-‘70s. While it was still a large single screen, my pals and I caught such classics as “Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror” and “House of Wax” (both in 3-D), “Sssssss” and “The Boy Who Cried Werewolf,” “Ben” and “Tales from the Crypt,” “Silent Running” and “The Hellstrom Chronicle,” and “The Andromeda Strain” with “The Red Tent” among others. The most fun I had at the Wilshire was a packed house on a Saturday night in spring of '76 for a triple bill of “The Groove Tube,” “Flesh Gordon” and a sneak preview of “The First Nudie Musical.” (I believe we told our folks we were cramming for a midterm that night!) The best double bill I never saw there was “The Getaway” and “Magnum Force.” The conscientious ticket girl, alas, wouldn’t sell me a ticket because I was underage. I pointed out that the Peckinpah film was PG, to no avail. (However, the next year, while I was still under 17, I got into the “Dirty Harry”/“Magnum Force” double-bill over at the El Miro on 3rd St., no problem!) Other great single screen shows included “Jaws” (saw Bill Cosby and family trying to stay inconspicuous the back row), “The Eiger Sanction” and “The Front Page,” “Night Moves” and “The Wilby Conspiracy,” “Straw Dogs” and “A Clockwork Orange” and “Gator” with “The Enforcer.” After the twinning, the place was never the same…though I did spend the better part of a day there in '77 for a triple-header of “Orca,” “Play It Again, Sam” and a sneak of “The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training.” Kids today don’t know what they’re missing!
For horror/sci-fi fans in the early-‘70s, the Hollywood was a place to catch some great titles: “Dr. Phibes Rises Again” and “Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb,” “Twilight People” and “The Doberman Gang,” and “Dracula A.D. 1972” and “Crescendo” were among the memorable double-features I managed to get to. And it was at the Hollywood that I caught perhaps the greatest triple-bill a 13-year-old could wish for: Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead,” plus Hammer’s “Horror of Dracula” and “Curse of the Werewolf”! Now, that’s entertainment. (Unforgettable detail: in the one-sheet case out front they had an original poster for the Universal-International double-bill of “Horror” and “Curse of FRANKENSTEIN,” but for this engagement somone, via crayon or paint, actually changed Frankenstein’s monster into a werewolf!) The cost of this day of dark fantasy? A whopping sixty-five cents. Indeed, times have changed…
Back in the mid-‘70s, whoever booked films into the Bay came up with some great double bills, terrific mixes of old and new flicks. So with “Old Dracula” you got Corman’s “Pit and the Pendelum.” With “Rollerball” came “Barbarella.” Aldrich’s “Flight of the Phoenix” was shown too, tho I can’t remember with what. And two years after I missed its initial release, the Vincent Price chiller “Theatre of Blood” screened with “Young Frankenstein.” (The booker must’ve liked “Blood” because the previous summer it played with AIP’s reissue of “Born Losers”!) Other memorable bills before and after the twinning: a screaming kid-filled matinee of the nature opus “Toklat,” “Planet” and “Beneath the Planet of the Apes,” “Tales from the Crypt” and “The Ra Expeditions” (!), “Marathon Man” and “The Enforcer,” “King Kong” ('76) and “Two-Minute Warning” and, on my last visit, “The Driver” and “High Ballin’”. So, a much- belated hats-off to the programmer at this modest but very-missed neighborhood hardtop…