Vintage Cable Box: “It Came From Hollywood, 1982”

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“You see?  You see?  Your stupid minds!  Stupid!  Stupid!”


It Came From Hollywood, 1982 (Dan Aykroyd), Paramount Pictures

In a throwaway sketch straight out of Kentucky Fried Movie or Second City, Gilda Radner hears a report of an escaped Gorilla. She is instructed to lock her doors, shut her windows, extinguish all fires and above all, remain calm. She manages to destroy her house in the process of keeping herself safe. Gilda introduces and provides commentary for movies about lunatic gorillas, men from the jungle, giant monkeys, and robot-gorillas.

Dan Aykroyd is a soldier from another planet on a survey mission, scouting a destroyed Earth (actually it appears to be the Paramount back-lot) and providing insight into silly low-budget (and some big-budget) movies about alien invasions, ranging from Teenagers From Outer Space to the original War of the Worlds, as well as something Aykroyd identifies as “Attack of the Pipe-Welders”.

Cheech & Chong go to the movies. Chong purchases a garbage-can sized bucket of popcorn. They watch The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Amazing Colossal Man, and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. They also get away with some off-color humor and dirty puns. John Candy presents an affectionate (if snarky) tribute to the movies of Ed Wood. Gilda shows up again to show us some very cheap musicals, most of which I had never known about, which is astonishing to me. One clip of note is the enormously racist 1934 musical, Wonder Bar, complete with black-face minstrels and dancing slices of watermelon.

John Candy presents previews of coming attractions, where we get a taste of The Hypnotic Eye, The Incredibly Strange Creatures (Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies), House on Haunted Hill with Vincent Price, and I Married A Monster From Outer Space. We get a few exploitation movies as well, like Black Belt Jones (Right on!) and Mars Needs Women.


Dan Aykroyd’s Troubled Teenagers profiles movies like High School Hellcats, hilarious morality plays about venereal disease and teenage pregnancy, and drug movies, The Weird World of LSD, Reefer Madness, and Marihuana (I don’t know why it’s spelled like that either). Some of the material is repetitive, as in Cheech & Chong’s next segment, The Animal Kingdom Goes Berserk. Favorites of mine like Son of Godzilla and The Beginning of the End (with giant grasshoppers!) are featured. To complete the joke, Cheech & Chong smoke an enormous blunt.

It Came From Hollywood is in parts a tribute, a rebuke, an admonishment, and a document of bad movies, silly movies, terrible movies, as well as misguided filmmakers, atrocious performances, and crappy special effects. The headlining comedians offer zany commentary that serves as brilliant counterpoint to the often intentionally serious and unintentionally hilarious films featured in the movie. It Came From Hollywood was obviously an inspiration for Mystery Science Theater 3000, in which a human, stuck in space with his three loyal robots, is forced to “riff” on bad movies sent to him by a mad scientist and his henchman.

Though most of the humor is meant to pad out the running time, and is often, flat and cringe-worthy, I have a soft spot in my heart for It Came From Hollywood. I learned how to make movies (and more importantly, how not to make them) watching movies like this. There weren’t many compilation movies made in those times. The only other movie I can recall from that period was Terror In The Aisles featuring Universal Pictures horror movies like Frankenstein all the way up to The Thing.

Because of rights issues involving many of the films shown in It Came From Hollywood (over 100 titles!), the film was never released on DVD, so it is extremely hard to find, but it is (for now) available on YouTube. It was nice going back to this movie to be reminded of why I love movies. I don’t care how bad they are. I love movies. I miss Gilda and John.

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month.  Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties. 

NEW PODCAST: “The Johnny Carson Show”


Welcome to BlissVille, Misadventures in BlissVille, and tonight we’re discussing Johnny Carson, the “King of Late Night”. Andrew asked me to watch the American Masters documentary about Johnny Carson, produced by PBS for Channel 13, here in New York City. It’s a very well-made documentary narrated by the actor Kevin Spacey.

This was a different time, perhaps a stranger time that young people may not be able to understand, or grasp, where a performer had to work very hard to make money. I remember reading an article, I think it was an interview in Life Magazine with Johnny Carson, and the article made reference to Carson starting out as a magician, really quite a talented magician. The documentary makes great play at showing the first book he bought, which was about card tricks and magic. You ever see the magician who got on the train the City every now and then? He would whistle to get everybody’s attention. Most New Yorkers keep their heads down, try not to make an eye contact, but this guy would come in – he had a big, funny hat, he wore a little cape and a tuxedo, and he had a big suitcase, from which would emerge some pretty awesome tricks. He would conjure birds from inside his hat, from up his sleeve. People always want to know how you can accomplish those tricks, and that spoils the fun for me. I don’t want to know how they do what they do.

The article didn’t do much to shed light on Carson’s personal life, and this documentary takes a brave stab at it, but it essentially tells the same story – Carson’s mother appeared to be a dominating, judgmental presence in his life, and he did everything he could to please her, but she remained completely unimpressed throughout his life – even to becoming the King of Late Night. He married four times, had children. One item I was not familiar with was Carson’s drinking problem, and I think we all sort of figured that Ed McMahon was the drunkard of the two. Imagine my surprise when I find he was sober through most of the shows, for 30 years even!

This is the end of our “William Shatner Letter Exchange” series of BlissVille episodes, and it has been incredible fun!  In a little under two weeks, we go back to a Shatner-less version of BlissVille.  We’ll talk the Monkees with Denny Spangler and Bronwyn Knox, and KISS with Mark Jeacoma!  After that, a well-earned Winter’s break and “The Twilight Zone”!