Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Beast from 1985

Far below Penguin Hall, the walls of the catacombs lay lined with row upon row of shelving.  Beneath the dust of a decade, resided hundreds of hours of tape, painstakingly labeled in tiny script and devoted entirely to Mrs. Hall's compulsive penchant for recording the minutiae of her life, her diversions and delights.  They loomed as heavily over the other boxes in the basement as they did over Mr. Hall's thoughts.  He had on several occasions, stared helplessly at the amassed wealth of personal history and in moments of weakness, lingered uncomfortably long over thoughts of havoc and destruction perpetrated by the untimely placement of large, powerful magnets in close proximity to the collection.

The obsession began, as most obsessions do, innocently enough; in a moment of gift-giving desperation, Mrs. Hall had been presented a camera.  Twenty or so photo albums later, a dawning realization that there may be a problem crept over her family.  The scandalous amount of scratch spent on the developing and printing of her pictures began to be the subject of whispered concern.  The advent of VHS recorders in the early 80s only fueled her unholy desire to mark and preserve the tedium of her days; and following the introduction of light inexpensive models available to the public, she was never seen without camera and/or camcorder in tow. As a result, her collection multiplied unfettered.
As happens in so many of these cases, of course, the madness did not end there.  Not merely content to document her own history, she recorded ad nauseum local programming and frequently, (Mr. Hall shuddered) even commercials.  Having moved several times in her past, she explained, local commercials became a sort of time stamp to her, of when the recording was made.   It was one of those things, reflected Mr. H. wistfully, that upon looking back the symptoms seemed so clear one wonders why help wasn't sought sooner. 
All effort must be made to reduce this, he thought, before we have to move. Mrs. Hall had been agreeable to the disposal of a considerable amount of goods already, but Mr. H. was certain on these she would not budge.  Eyeing the ancient technology, it occurred to him at the very least, space could be salvaged with conversion.  Christmas week, he lovingly presented a perplexed Mrs. Hall with a VHS to DVD dubbing machine and suggested, in the kindest way possible, that they begin right away.  She regarded his motives darkly, but dug in.  
The work was proceeding nicely, when Mr. Hall unearthed an unfamiliar subject.  Wiping the dust off the label, he struggled with her printing.  "What is this?" he asked.  Mrs. Hall looked over and smiled.  "That is a true rarity.  And I think we'll dub that one next." They dimmed the lights, put on some popcorn and watched as the dubber hummed happily away, converting the fragile magnetic tape to digital stock.
"Back in 1985," Mrs. Hall explained, "I was living in Wichita, Kansas.  KSN television station aired 'The Beast from the Beginning of Time' as a Halloween special.  Apparently, the film had been made back in 1965, but was deemed so silly that it had never been released to the general public.  When I heard they were going to show it, I fired up the ole' VCR and taped it on the spot.  Since then, every once in a while you will see reference to it, but by and large, it's not available and very hard to locate on tape."  Mr. Hall winced as he watched the "acting".  "I'm not surprized- " he said, "the scariest thing about this is that they were able to convince anyone to record it in the first place.  Did anyone actually look through the viewfinder when they were filming it?  Some of the staging at the end of the film is, well, to put it politely, unfortunate."   "It was a different time, dear," snickered Mrs. Hall.
Later that day, as they cleared away the tapes and made room for a cup or two of something bracing, Mrs. Hall examined some of her handiwork.  She had to admit it was much neater and more compact to store them this way.  "Now don't you feel better?" asked Mr. Hall, as he handed her a glass.  "Yes.  I don't mind shrinking them," she added; "but don't ever ask me to give up my copy of 'The Beast from the Beginning of Time.' " He smiled. "Or that copy of 'Hardrock, Coco and Joe' I recorded from a Bozo the Clown Christmas special.  Do you know how hard it is to find that??" she began, but Mr. Hall just shook his head.

(Ed. note:  B-Movie Man, Richard Chamberlain- no, not the famous one- wrote a wonderful history of "The Beast from the Beginning of Time" on his blog, and the Gentle Reader can peruse that here.)

Story Update! Fire up the popcorn popper- the Gentle Reader can now watch "The Beast from the Beginning of Time" in its entirety here on Youtube.  Mrs. Hall was finally able to upload it, albeit in three parts, for everyone's cinematic enjoyment.  

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