Night Caller from Outer Space (1965)

Night Caller from Outer Space (1965) movie poster

director John Gilling
viewed: 09/21/2014

I just did something that I had literally never done before: watched a movie streaming on my computer.  Radical, huh?

I’m the first to admit that I’m a snob or elitist about how I like to watch movies.  First best scenario would be the big screen, in a cinema.  Second, settling at home with a reasonable screen, in my case an older, once top of the line old tube television.  If the film isn’t in letterbox format, without interruptions, I’ll only suffer it in a pinch.  I’ve disdained watching films on airplanes for decades now.

It so happens that Hulu Plus has a handful of films that (even with a paid account) you can only watch on a computer.  Sure, if I had a more modern television, I’m sure that I could still get the image to show up on a bigger screen, but I don’t.  So, for me, there is this small subset of movies that I want to see that I cannot see if I don’t watch them streaming on my computer.

And it took me this wild moment (quite the life I lead, eh?) that I decided to finally watch Night Caller from Outer Space, a British sci-fi thriller from 1965 on my laptop.

It’s another solid genre film from a country less associated with the genre than perhaps they should be.  British horror and science fiction, the non-Hammer films anyways, offer quite a broad gamut of thrills and adventure and a decidedly different approach than the Americans.

In Night Caller, which stars American John Saxon, an object falls from space, what seems like some massive asteroid or something but turns out to be this odd silicon-based orb that has unusual properties, like mucking with all radio waves and emitting potent forms of radiation.  Oh, yes, and transmitting to Earth a creature from a moon of Jupiter, here to abduct our women, especially women you subscribe to “Bikini Girl” magazine.

In Night Caller, it’s the little things that make the film so interesting.  A great scene with the mother and father of one of the abducted girls is played for comic humor in the dialog and odd mannerisms of the couple.   And then there’s Aubrey Morris as the sleazy and suggestive bookstore operator in a fantastic character role.

Okay, the ending is a little bit of a let-down, a little anti-climax, but in the meantime several characters that seem like they are the center of the movie are cut down in their primes.

Oh yeah, and that croony ballad, “The Night Caller” sung by Mark Richardson.  Weird, odd, cool.

The Goonies (1985)

The Goonies (1985) movie poster

director Richard Donner
viewed: 09/28/2012 at McCoppin Square, SF, CA

The Goonies.  An all-time favorite of yours?  Certainly, it seems, it’s an all-time favorite for any number of people who caught it in their childhood and connected with it like a home run.

It’s a curious thing, which I’ve noted over time, that I think I must have missed the age cut-off for that connection, though probably not by a whole lot.  As it’s a Steven Spielberg production (though directed by Richard Donner), I find myself on the Spielberg timeline realizing that I was totally into his films (directed or produced) from Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Poltergeist (1982), Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), Gremlins (1984), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), and Back to the Future (1985).  The kids and I had just watched Young Sherlock Holmes (1985), which I recalled liking, if not overly so.  I recall seeing his film The Color Purple (1985), though I kind of recall seeing that with a girlfriend.  By this point in time, I was 16.

And while I continued to enjoy a number of films he produced or directed before and since, I guess the cut-off line for me was The Goonies.  Over the years, I’ve probably lost sight of whatever it was that seemed lame about it to me.  Some of it was doubtlessly the commercialism of it at the time with Cyndi Lauper and all the MTV tie-ins, the re-use of Ke Huy Quan (Short Round from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) as Richard “Data” Wang, and just not connecting with any of the characters.  I’ve always been willing to chalk it up to my own having become a sourpuss.

But it was playing in the neighborhood park as the final film of a late summer series aimed at kids and kids-at-heart.  And it was Felix’s birthday, so we ventured out into the incredible Sunset neighborhood fog, behind the Parkside library, and watched it with a bunch of people in the chill of the night.

I really hadn’t seen it again since its original release.  The cast is actually pretty good with Corey Feldman, Martha Plimpton, Josh Brolin and Sean Astin, as well as Ke Huy Quan (he’s cute) and Jeff Cohen, who played Lawrence “Chunk” Cohen (the fat kid).  The villains, Anne Ramsey, Joe Pantoliano, and Robert Davi are good too.  It’s quite a credit to the casting that so many of those people are still known actors nearly 30 years later.

The story is like something that Scooby-Doo‘s creators would have rejected for its amazing implausibility.  And I never liked the mutant man-child “Sloth” with his folding ears and goofball voice.  And even though the kids are good, Cohen as “Chunk” is probably the best, there are likability issues.

Watching it now, I appreciate it more.  And I can even appreciate why some people like it more than I do.  I still absolutely cite having hit some random cut-off age as a teen as to why it didn’t seem like one of cinema’s greatest gifts to me, while so many other people think it’s such an enduring classic.  Even now, I can see why people like it, but it’s not a great movie.  Spielberg made and produced lots better before and since.

My kids enjoyed it pretty well.  They’d seen it before, with someone who had had more enthusiasm for it.  It got positives.  Okays.

Going to the outdoor movies, cold as it was, was still quite a success.  I hope the Parkside Neighborhood Group does it again next year.