Flashbacks to selling the scares for horrorthons As Halloween approaches, NPR movie critic Bob Mondello remembers scares he had to conjure up in his first job.

Flashbacks to selling the scares for horrorthons

Flashbacks to selling the scares for horrorthons

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1050850673/1050850674" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

As Halloween approaches, NPR movie critic Bob Mondello remembers scares he had to conjure up in his first job.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Halloween is tomorrow, and NPR's movie critic Bob Mondello knows all about creating and critiquing scary make-believe worlds. But reviewing high-budget Hollywood films got him thinking about the simpler frights he helped scare up in his first job.

(SOUNDBITE OF THUNDER BOOMING)

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Yeah, yeah, it's a dark and stormy night. Road's washed out...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Hello?

MONDELLO: ...Phone's gone dead...

(SOUNDBITE OF OFF-HOOK TONE)

MONDELLO: ...The mystic's read her Ouija board...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) Can you show the sign?

MONDELLO: ...And zombies are popping through doorways left open by a demented kewpie doll. Been there, seen that, got the T-shirt. In fact, I practically designed a T-shirt for this stuff back in the 1970s before I was a movie critic.

My first gig out of college was doing publicity for a theater chain called Roth Theaters, working for Paul Roth, an old-school movie guy who'd probably forgotten more about showmanship by that time than I'll ever know. He had a couple of drive-in theaters. And for them, Halloween was both a challenge and an opportunity - the right place for scares, obviously, but hard to find new movies for when the weather got cold. So Paul dug deep in the B-movie horror vaults and showed me how to sell the sizzle, not the steak, something like this.

(SOUNDBITE OF DRIVE-IN ADVERTISEMENT)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Friday night at the Ranch Drive-In - our dusk-to-dawn Halloween Horrorthon.

(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAMING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: An all-night fright fest with five - count them - five full-length features.

(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAMING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Shuddering specters guaranteed to scare you shoutless, films so terrifying, we can't even reveal the title.

MONDELLO: Yeah, couldn't reveal the titles 'cause they were more terrible than terrifying.

(SOUNDBITE OF DRIVE-IN ADVERTISEMENT)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: We can say this - no one with a heart condition will be admitted. We'll have nurses in attendance and a hearse standing by.

MONDELLO: Man, I used to love writing copy like that. Years later, when John Goodman played a '60s horror guy in the movie "Matinee," wiring theater seats to deliver electric shocks at scary moments...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MATINEE")

JOHN GOODMAN: (As Lawrence Woolsey) The big studios - none of them have anything like it.

MONDELLO: ...I felt like I was watching my boss.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MATINEE")

GOODMAN: (As Lawrence Woolsey) I love this business.

MONDELLO: These days, you go to a scary movie, you see a scary movie. And no question, the scares are scarier now. It's all up there on-screen. But the old horrorthorns and terroramas, which were horrorthorns but sexy, had their charms, too. I still remember Paul showing me how a little red food coloring in the popcorn oil could turn a bucket of popcorn into a...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Bucket of blood.

MONDELLO: Kind of gross, right? But the point was to scare the yell out of you, and we mostly did.

I'm Bob Mondello.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MATINEE")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) A little question of taste?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (As character) No, no. But to younger patrons, you could have some seat wetness.

(SOUNDBITE OF DAVID JULYAN'S "THE DIARY OF PATIENCE BUCKNER")

Copyright © 2021 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.