Thursday, October 1, 2009

Ad Mats for the Loving and Laughing Schoolboy

I was ten when this ad appeared in Melbourne's Herald-Sun newspaper. I stared at it over my dad's shoulder until he turned around and said: "What are you doing?" That meant: Quit looking over my shoulder or I'll hit you.

I slunk back to my cereal bowl and waited for him to head off to work. When he did, I grabbed the paper and rushed it to my room. I attacked the ad with my trusty scissors and pasted it immediately into my scrapbook.

It was 1972. Apollo 16 was launched. The Vietnam war was raging. Atari's Pong was released.

When I saw the film many years later, I was impressed. I even chopped a few friends in the shoulder to prove it.

Don Coscarelli's Phantasm was renamed The Never Dead in Australia because the late Richard Franklin's softcore Fantasm and Fantasm Comes Again films were well known entities.

"The Never Dead". A strange variation on "Living Dead". Meaning what? The dead who never were dead? In my sixth year of high school in 1980, I devoted precious hours to mulling over this title change.

Angus Scrimm visited Melbourne's great Mayfair Cinema and did various renditions of his famous "Boy!!!"

Years later, my brother and I tangled with him again at a Los Angeles Fangoria convention. Interestingly, the Phantasm LD and DVD contain footage of the convention we attended. While Angus is doing his "Boy!!!" thing for the fanboy audience, a photographer can be seen at the right bottom of the screen. That photographer is my brother. He likes knowing he's on the Phantasm DVD.

I saw The Never Dead five times. When you'd walk into the cinema during its two-month run, the film's great score (Fred Myrow and Malcolm Seagrave) was always playing. It was an eerie experience to see The Never Dead at the Mayfair, and I've never been able to avoid walking past the building which the cinema once occupied whenever I'm in downtown Melbourne. The arms of nostalgia are comforting.

The Mayfair was Melbourne's dedicated grindhouse and hosted runs of Tombs of the Blind Dead, The Hills Have Eyes, The Visitor, and Terror House. It was a grand movie palace with a huge upper balcony and a cavernous interior. It smelt of musk, mummified popcorn, and creeping age.

The best of the two feature films Marty Feldman directed (In God We Trust was the other). I have a vague, pleasant memory of seeing this '77 comedy and remember it being extremely clever. Ann-Margret is super sexy, too.

I recently shot and edited the special DVD editions of Fred Schepisi's The Devil's Playground and The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, two superb Australian productions from the 70's. I got to know Fred a bit more, and really enjoyed his inspiring approach to filmmaking.

Libido ('73) was Fred's first foray into filmmaking. A four-part anthology focusing on lust and desire, Fred's episode, "Priest", was written by Thomas Keneally (the author of Schindler's List). Three years later, Mr. Keneally would play a priest in The Devil's Playground.

This great vehicle for Robert Duvall has been trashed and praised in equal doses. I saw it on TV in the early 80's and liked it a lot. Although it's not the most gripping police thriller, its Archie Bunker-like hero (Duvall) has to be seen to be believed. Very dark, very nasty little gem.

I have a short, sorry tale to tell about this flick. I took a day off school in '72 (when this film hit Melbourne) so I could visit the eye doctor (Mr. Hugh Ryan) with my mum (at 100 Collins St.). Our appointment was at 11.30. As usual, I didn't see the doctor until 12.30. I was getting antsy because I'd seen this Loving and Laughing ad mat and was determined to sneak into the 1 pm session (the Dendy was at 233 Collins St.).

Yes, I know I was nine year's old and this was an R-rated movie. I didn't have a hope in hell of seeing it legally, but do you think common sense ever stood in my way? On top of that, I was with my mother, and she wasn't the type who'd sneak her nine year old son into a softcore porn romp on a school day.

I still don't know how I managed to do it, but I convinced her to walk past the Dendy with me (it was in an arcade off Collins St.), and I convinced her to look at dresses in a store next to the cinema. While inside, I suddenly announced that I had to go to the toilet. Instead of looking for the store's bathroom, I ran out the front door.

Ten seconds later, I ran into the Dendy, down the stairs, past the ticket seller, and into the cinema.

WHACK! In my pre-teen haste, I ran smack into the back of a chair and winded myself. It was so dark I didn't see the chair coming. I picked myself up and saw a pair of breasts on the screen. They were pointing at me. Unable to catch my breath, I just stared at them. I couldn't move. I couldn't breathe. It was a moment of breathless pleasure (literally).

Then the bastards crashed my party. I felt a shocking pain as something pincer-like grabbed my right ear and I was dragged like a convict out of the cinema. Backwards. Through the doors. Into the foyer.

"What the hell do you think you're doing, son?"

It was the man attached to the fingers gripping my ear who was speaking. I was too winded and too scared to respond. He was wearing my dad's suit and brandishing a flashlight.

Suddenly, my breath returned, and I caught it. "I'll tell my mother on you!" I yelled.

The man instantly released me.

The tables had turned without him knowing it.

I guess his first instinct was to surrender.

"See ya!"

I ran back upstairs. At that moment, my mother was exiting the dress shop.

"Where did you run off to?"

"The toilet."

She looked at the Loving and Laughing poster and shook her head with extreme disapproval. "What, down there?"


She looked at the poster once more, grabbed my hand, and led me away from encroaching sin. We never spoke of nature's unnatural call.

Before the Greater Union organization combined their city cinema interests into one, the Russell Cinemas, they owned a shitload of great movie palaces. Only the Forum still exists, although it is used infrequently for movie screenings.

I can't look at this ad mat without feeling deep loss for a culture.


  1. Marty Feldman is one goofy looking sonofabitch.

  2. 'Never Dead' is the first horror movie I can remember seeing. My stepfather watched it on HBO and they saw no reason to keep the seven year old from seeing it. It scared me shitless, especially the last scene with the mirror trickery. I was terrified of closing the bathroom door whenever I used the bathroom which disturbed my mother greatly.

    I finally worked up the courage to watch the movie this past year. My wife fell asleep partway through and I finished watching alone. The dreamlike quality of the film is amazing and when I tried to describe what happened to my wife, she thought I was dreaming.

    Truly a fantastic movie.

  3. d -- Feldman didn't need make-up.


    Shon -- Was your wife tired, bored, or confused? I still like the film a lot, even though some of the acting (Mike's brother Jody) is weak.