John Jos. Miller’s Creature Feature

In JohnJosMiller by JohnJosMiller4 Comments

Hello, world. Or at least the part of it that’s reading Cheese Magnet. My name is John Miller and I am a writer. I’ve published novels, short fiction, game books, comic book scripts, poems (1), non-fiction mainly concerned with baseball history, and other items that you probably would not be interested in (eg, technical archeology reports and papers). My current by-line is John Jos. Miller. I use this by-line because I know of at least three other John J. Millers who are currently writing. One, (John Jackson Miller) writes (or has written) a number of good scripts for Dark Horse in the Star Wars line (among other things). I got one of my jobs in the comics world at least partially under the publisher’s mistaken impression that he was hiring John Jackson Miller, so having a common name is not entirely a problem. At the other end of the spectrum, I was also once (at least) mistaken for the John J. Miller who writes for various right wing rags about how we should invade France because they’re our oldest enemy and crap like that. I have no idea if I’ve ever been mistaken for the other John J. Miller.

If you’re familiar with my work at all, it’s probably because of my long association with Wild Cards, the longest-running shared world universe in history. We are young as far as universes generally go, having been around for only about 25 years, but with a book coming out in November and another in the spring, we’ve not yet reached the point of complete entropy and heat death even if sometimes it feels like it. I will flog Wild Card and my solo efforts when the opportunity arises. Now, I’d like to say a few words about the raison d’etre for this blog.

I love books and baseball and my family (not necessarily in that order) but I also love movies. I like many kinds of movies, but not torture porn, those based on chick lit, or those made from Brett Easton Ellis novels. I especially like science fiction and fantasy movies, mysteries, martial arts movies in general and Japanese chambara in particular, and historicals. I like movies from all time periods. I grew up in the 1960s-early 1970s so I have a special fondness for movies of the 1950s and early 1960s, which I watched avidly on the smallish black and white tv set my family had when I was a child.

Believe it or not, in those days you actually had to depend on television programmers when it came to viewing movies unless you went to the theatre or something called the “drive-in” which has sadly disappeared from the American scene. (I can go into more detail about that exotic and much-missed phenomenon, if you kids would like, in future editions of this blog.) Of course, there was another alternative, which could be found in the back pages of FAMOUS MONSTERS and other such rags of the day. I’m referring to those tiny little films that contained like eight hundred feet from, say KING KONG, or DRACULA, or classics of that ilk. Alas, such luxuries as films and the projectors required to show them were wildly beyond the dreams of my youth. Besides, even then I suspected that 800 feet wouldn’t get you the whole movie. Scott (if you’re reading this) could probably confirm my suspicions.

So, we didn’t have DVDs or Blu-Ray, nor even VHS, Betamax, or laser discs (in fact, we no longer have some of these technologies today), but what we did have was weekly television shows devoted to sf and fantasy movies. During the week we had MILLION DOLLAR MOVIE. I believe it was broadcast by WOR, which was the closest thing we had to a superstation in those paleolithic times. It came out of northern New Jersey and reached the hinterlands of upstate New York where I lived as a youth. MDM wasn’t entirely devoted to sf/fan, but frequently ran samples of the genre. The best part of MILLION DOLLAR MOVIE was that it broadcast the same movie every day of the week, so, for example if (like me) you caught RODAN on Monday, then you could watch it (like me) FIVE TIMES IN A WEEK.

But Saturday night, ah, Saturday night. Before I had a driver’s license, before I discovered the evils of drink, billiards, and girls, my Saturday nights where spent glued to the tv screen in an movie addict’s dream as three shows devoted to science fiction, fantasy, and historical epics beamed their delightful product into my increasingly groggy brain.

First up was CREATURE FEATURE, which was broadcast on WPIX (WOR’s main rival in the superstation wars; they also broadcast the Yankee games while WOR broadcast my beloved Mets, so you know where my sympathies lay. Plus, WOR had the Bowery Boys generally before and/or after the Mets’ game, a bit of laginappe I heartily appreciated. In a horrible twist of affairs which I attribute to the degradation of modern day culture, WPIX now broadcasts the Mets games, which is surely a sign of the apocalypse to come.). Directly after CF came SCIENCE FICTION THEATER and ACTION THEATER on WOR.

I was thoroughly soaked in a heady Hollywood brew of films from the 1930’s to the early 1960’s, including but not limited to the Universal greats (Dracula, the Invisible Man, Frankenstein, the Wolfman, the Creature from the Black Lagoon and of course all of the inevitable sequels); the Big Bug flicks (THEM!, THE BEGINNING OF THE END, THE DEADLY MANTIS); the Ray Harryhausen stop-motion extravaganzas from JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS to ATTACK OF THE FLYING SAUCERS; the mutant and invasion flicks (MANSTER, IT CAME FROM OTHER SPACE, THE CREATURE THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD, FROM HELL IT CAME, ATTACK OF THE MUSHROOM PEOPLE); the giant monster extravaganzas (THE GIANT BEHEMOTH [is there, I wondered, another size of behemoth?], REPTILICUS, GORGO, and the greatest of them all, GODZILLA, king of the monsters); and finally historicals like GUNGA DIN, IVANHOE, ROBIN HOOD, and the (almost) always entertaining SONS OF HERCULES.

I’m borrowing the name CREATURE FEATURE in tribute to those times and movies for the name of this blog and I’ll focus on those movies with forays into other movies or other aspects of pop culture as it strikes me (as well as, of course, shameless self-promotion of my other projects). I’ve seen them all, or so it seems, and if my love for them is a little cross-eyed it’s not entirely blind. Working from fresh viewing and not fuzzy memory, I’ll tell you which ones are worth seeing and which are best avoided (in my humble opinion, of course), along with whatever fun facts and anecdotes concerning themI may unearth. The plan is to cover a couple at time, good and bad. I’m still feeling my way here (and feeling as well that maybe this initial post is running a little long), so we’ll see how it goes. Discussion and correction of any errors that may creep in are encouraged. Perhaps I’ll take a page from Marvel’s bag o’ tricks and award No-prizes. They’re pretty cheap.

Welcome to CREATURE FEATURE. I hope you’ll enjoy it and come back to visit often.

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