My companion, who is now long gone but shall remain nameless anyway, was itching to hit a zombie in the head with a baseball bat.
“If somebody comes at me, they’re gonna get it,” he said, showing me the baseball bat that was well-hidden under some blankets.
I don’t remember the year, but it must have been the late 1960s or early 1970s. The occasion was the re-release of “The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies.”
If you don’t remember this movie milestone, I’ll refresh your memory.
Ray Dennis Steckler was a maker of ultra-low-budget movies in the 1960s. He also acted in some of his movies, under the stage name Cash Flagg, probably because he could afford his salary.
In 1964, Steckler directed “Incredibly Strange Creatures,” which was released by Fairway International Pictures. Fairway released a handful of movies in the 1960s, including this and director Arch Hall’s “Eegah,” in which teenagers encountered a caveman. Of course. It was the 1960s and Hollywood had discovered what a potent box-office force teenagers could be. So teenagers were encountering everything from Frankenstein to giants to … well, you name it.
Fairway’s best-known movie was undoubtedly “Incredibly Strange Creatures,” in which teenagers encountered … not a caveman, but zombies at a carnival.
Stecker — er, Flagg — and other patrons of the carnival are hypnotized by a fortune teller and turned into crazed killers. For good measure, the fortune teller splashes acid on her unwilling slaves, giving them disfigured faces to match their murderous instincts.
By the end of the movie, the … well, sort of strange creatures had broken out of their cages and taken vengeance on their carnival captors.
That’s where my companion’s baseball bat came in.
At some point during the surprisingly durable theatrical lifespan of the movie, either during its original release or its subsequent re-release as “Teenage Psycho Meets Blood Mary,” Fairway or someone had the ingenious idea of selling the picture by offering something that TV couldn’t compete with.
Not 3-D. Not Smell-O-Vision.
Real life zombies, running loose in the theater (or more likely, considering the low-budget nature of the movie) the drive-in.
Or, as the ads put it:
“Not for sissies! Don’t come if you’re chicken!”
“Not 3-D but real FLESH and BLOOD monsters ALIVE! in the audience.”
“NO ONE WILL BE SAFE! THEY MIGHT GET YOU!”
“We dare you to remain seated when monsters invade audience!”
In theaters where the movie played, the management made its ushers wear cheap monster masks and, in the scene when the monsters rebelled and broke loose on screen, the hapless theater employees would run up and down the aisles, screaming and frightening moviegoers.
Except for my companion, who had made up his mind to brain one of the zombies if this outbreak occurred.
Really, he understood that “real zombies” — stop and think about that phrase for a moment — would not be rampaging through the aisles of the drive-in.
But just in case …
Anyway, my memory of the movie is fairly dim all these years later. But my memory of that baseball bat and the threat of violence in the aisles remains vivid.
No, nobody got hit with a baseball bat that night. Zombies — in this case undoubtedly the teenage employees of the drive-in — did rampage, but none got close enough to us to warrant a good beating.
Thank goodness. Beating up teenage zombies with a baseball bat during a movie that’s been acclaimed as one of the worst of all time isn’t something you want on your record.