Wood Working: Whatever happened to the golden ages of movie previews?Whatever happened to the good old days when we looked forward to a feature called “previews of coming attractions”?
By: Dave Wood, columnist, River Falls Journal
Whatever happened to the good old days when we looked forward to a feature called “previews of coming attractions”?
When I was a kid we liked them just as much as we liked the feature length movies. Problem was at the Pix Theatre in Whitehall, we only got to see previews from the next week.
That meant a Technicolor Van Johnson/S.K. “Cuddles” Sakall extravaganza to be show on Sunday and Monday nights, a film noir movie with Humphrey Bogart and a thriller with Victor Mature on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights and, on Friday and Saturday something aimed at us kids, like a Hopalong Cassidy adventure and a comedy with Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride.
Oh, my, we loved those previews because they took the best scenes from the movies, showed close-ups of glamorous stars, like George Brent and his pencil thin mustache, the bug-eyed Joan Crawford, Johnny Mack Brown mounting his horse from the rear, and Maureen O’Sullivan as Jane, the sophisticated Englishwoman clad only in the skin of a leopard strangled by her boyfriend (husband?) Tarzan.
Too soon the “previews of coming attractions” ended and we segued to the weekly newsreel, or “The March of Time” or some ancient Leon Erroll comedy before we got to the feature at hand, like “Call Northside 777” with Jimmy Stewart and Richard Conte followed by a golden oldie, like “All Quiet on the Western Front,” the celluloid of which would break at mid-movie because it was more than 20 years old.
The only thing older is the Milk Duds they sell these days. You know the caramels so old the waxy chocolate coverings are oxidized.
Those days are long gone in the suburban megaplex theaters we attend. Where we’re faced with oxidized Milk Duds at $4 per box and stale popcorn at $8 per box.
But that’s not the worst. Even if the feature we’re attending turns out to be very good, the megaplexes never fail to disappoint with previews of coming attractions that are so bad it’s a wonder anyone goes to see the complete film.
We enter one of twenty screens. Four other people are already seated. Four more will come as we’re watching the credits roll.
That’s it. Not exactly Standing Room Only.
We put our $6 coke in a holder at seat side. I hold the $8 stale popcorn while my Beautiful Wife removes her outer garment.
The screen shows popcorn popping and Coke bubbling over ice cubes. Our Coke does not bubble. It’s flat as stale beer. And then…. And then
With the decibels ratcheted up so high you can hear the narrator as far away as Eau Claire out east and Maple Grove out west, the previews begin.
Explosion follows explosion, cars careen off broken bridges, skyscrapers tumble, beautiful women pant and so do beautiful men.
The names of these actors are never mentioned, which doesn’t bother me because they’re all named Bart anyway. When the last car blows up, the crawl at screen’s bottom tells us that this movie will open on Nov. 15.
But the previews are not over, one after another, they march across the screen puncturing our eardrums.
Hordes of people from outer space in silver masks assault the audience with Uzis and all manner of cannonry and flying saucers.
Once in a while there’ll be a quick close-up. — “Is that Brad Pitt?” I ask B.W. “No, dummy, that’s Tom Cruise, the famous Scientologist,” she answers. The crawl says, “Opening at Christmas.”
I long for George Brent’s pencil-thin mustache, for Ida Lupino, for Bogie and Bacall, for the stony face of “Wild Bill” Elliot, for Johnny Weismuller flying through the jungle to save Boy from the evil circus manager who wishes to kidnap him and take him in a silver bird to New York City.
But all those folks are long gone. After our last skirmish at the megaplex, I’ve resolved to support our local Falls Theatre, which concentrates on great new movies and where the popcorn isn’t stale and candy comes in boxes smaller than a freight car.
Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554.