With the kind permission of Brian Bukantis (Arena Publishing) and the author Dr. Vollin (Freddie Poe), I'm happy to be able to reprint Dr. V's article, They Tore Down Paradise...And Put Up a Parking Lot, which originally appeared in the May issue of Movie Collector's World, No. 683, 2005.
Many of you have heard me speak or write about the glory days of movie-going in my home town of Worcester, Massachusetts. The idea for this article came from my frequenting a local Honey Dew Doughnut Shop. While sitting there at 8:00 in the morning one day, sipping my usual eye-opener, I noticed an elderly man doing likewise and I thought to myself "Where do I know this guy from, he looks awful familiar." I never forget a face--a name maybe--but not a face.
I continued seeing this man at the coffee shop for some time, until one day while sitting next to him, being the social butterfly that I am, I leaned toward him and said "Excuse me. I know you from somewhere but I can’t recall from where?” He replied “Well, my name is John DiBenedetto. I used to be the manager of the old Poli Palace in downtown Worcester.” “Oh wow!" I said, "now I remember you! I used to go to the Poli when I was a kid! You haven’t changed much at all. Sure. I remember you. You were always dressed up nice, with a suit and all. Wow, nice to meet you!”
My new found friend seemed thrilled that I had remembered him; after all, it was almost 40 years ago. I told John that I was a writer and wrote about collecting old movie paper, mainly from the horror genre. John, now a spunky 83, immediately started to reminisce about the bygone days of the movie theater industry in Worcester. We spoke briefly that day, but before we parted I told John that I would love to do a piece about him and the old movie theaters here in Worcester. And would he mind having his brain picked by the “Doctor”? John told me he stopped into Honey Dew everyday between 8:00 and 8:30 a.m. and that he would be glad to talk about his days as manager of the Poli Palace, Worcester’s premiere movie house of it’s era. Hence the birth of this article.
The screw started to turn in this half-century old cranium of mine. I started to think about how great it was going to the movies as a pre-teen in the early 1960s. Only movie fans my age or older can remember the old school movie theaters. If you missed the 1960s and started attending movies in the mid to late 1970s, I feel bad for you. If the megaplex movie theater, showing four or more films at once, is all you can recall, then you missed the true experience of movie-going as it was once known.
While this story may seem to be personalized, or only about my locale, it really is not: it is possibly and probably the story of almost every movie theater of my era. What happened here in Worcester, Massachusetts, once a movie theater hot-bed, happened in every town everywhere almost simultaneously, and across the U.S.A movie theaters closed, one after another.
I consider it a high point in my life to have stepped through the portals of the past into the lobbies of these grand old movie theaters, before they gave way to urban development and the wrecking ball, and the megaplex format (sorry, no lobby posters for you, you saw the previews on the boob tube anyway). Writing this article was going to be a different stroke of the pen for yours truly. Most of my research went on right here in my office at the House Of Poe, with the exception of my annual Chiller article, which I outlined while on locale in the swamps of New Jersey.
But this article involved legwork...
DC Comics doesn't send me books to review on a regular basis, but I do enjoy receiving them when I do. Of late, I've a mind to not review a comic series until it has made its run: issue to issue can be spotty, but taken as a whole reading experience, a series can play out rather well. So I tend to wait until I've gotten through all the issues, single or in a collection, before forming a critical appraisal. But when I receive unsolicited issues for review I, of course, try to review them as soon as possible. One of two things usually happens: DC's trying to ramp up support for a memorable endeavor or they're trying to shore up as much support as possible for an iffy one.
The first issue of Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy's The Wake (a 10 issue series) isn't iffy. The art is full of well-angled scenes and interesting characters, although Murphy does have a fondness for straight lines and sharp noses and chins that's a little excessive; but his lively faces and movie-scene storyboarding stands out even more.
The story ends on a high note with a surprise revelation that eggs you on to pick up issue 2, but the usual shadows of Homeland Security Departments dabbling in secret undertakings, and a Dr. Archer who, with her soured past history, is reluctant to get involved when they need her expertise, keeps this issue at the let's-see-where-Snyder-takes-it stage. She is urgently needed because she specializes in cetological vocalizations and there is a recorded whale song that sounds suspicious--and which also reminds her of a catastrophe she hasn't quite gotten over yet--sparking Homeland Security's interest in getting her involved.
Other people Homeland Security has brought onboard for the investigation include Dr. Marlin, who's written Legends of the Ocean--and what a coincidence, Dr. Archer has read it!--Meeks, the standard-plot-equipped anti-social type who has apparently crossed paths with Dr. Archer beforehand--not in a joyous way--and running the secret show, Agent Astor Cruz, who is, true to form, revealing those secrets only when needed.
Who do you think will die first?
The story proper starts 200 years earlier, our present time, give or take the Carnaby Street clothes and hairstyle of Dr. Marlin, and the first 4 pages tease us with the 200 years later aftermath. There's a 100,000 years ago teaser too, but that ties to the last page's thing revelation. Snyder has a lot going on so he has a lot of explaining to do. Hopefully he does it well in the next 9 issues.
Makes you wish you were there, doesn't it?
Here's David J. Skal's eBay listing notes:
"One of the rarest behind-the-scenes photos from DRACULA (1931): Bela Lugosi, Helen Chandler, and director Tod Browning on a shooting break. Lugosi holds a cigar and Chandler (kimono covering her recognizable costume for the climactic crypt sequence) holds a cigarette. Beautiful 8x10 archival-quality reproduction of a one-of-a-kind original in Motion Picture Academy's Scott Beal collection. Beal was Browning's assistant director on DRACULA, and this photo seems to be a personal memento never intended for publicity purposes (original is approximately 5x7 with no Universal identification of any kind. It is not part of the film's archival keybook). Image has been published only once, in seller's Tod Browning biography DARK CARNIVAL, and no copy has ever been offered for sale by a memorabilia dealer. Seller has not made a copy negative and will not offer digital versions. Photo is in excellent condition, with only minor signs of handling, but no tears, pinholes, markings or damage of any kind. Two AMPAS stamps on reverse including conditions of publication, and book printer's number tag. Sold collector to collector; no rights of publication are given or implied. Note: the AMPAS Library currently charges at least $50 for an identical research print. From the personal research collection of David J. Skal, author of HOLLYWOOD GOTHIC and THE MONSTER SHOW."
Note: Zombos' Closet of Horror is a commercial-free enterprise dedicated to sharing the history of horror cinema and its presence in popular culture, and as such, I'm posting this scan of the photograph for fellow collectors and enthusiasts of the horror genre to enjoy, free of charge. You can save this scan to your own storage device, but you cannot sell, copy for sale, publish in commercial print format, or produce this image in any way for commerce or monetary gain.