Meet Flip, a 1960s Monster Kid That Would Have Been My Best Friend
The short film FLIP: a short film follows the exploits of a 1960s Monster Kid who, flush with birthday money from his grandmother, turns directly to the siren’s call of those wondrous novelty ads in the back of his (and our) favorite comic books. It’s a perfect way to kick off our series focused on vintage Monster Kid advertising and gets right to the heart of being a Monster Kid during the peak years of the 60s Monster Boom and why so many of us are collectors today.
Flip: a short film was written and directed by Kirk Desmarais, a comic book mail order historian who is perhaps best known for his wonderful book Mail-Order Mysteries (by the way, if you don’t have this book you need to click the link and order it from Amazon now; we won’t start the film without you so hurry back).
Welcome back! You’re really going to enjoy the book.
FLIP won the RONDO award for best independent film in 2004 and I absolutely adore it!
Without further commentary, enjoy the show:
Flip: a short film is jam-packed with some of the most memorable mail order ads from 60s Monster Kid era and is a perfect companion short to our feature focus on those wonderful vintage advertisements. In no particular order, Flip features:
Does this bring back memories for you? Did you have experiences similar to Flip? Share your memories of those wonderful ads, and not so wonderful products, with us in the comments section or on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CollectingClassicMonsters/
It’s a lesson I learned early in my journey to becoming a monster kid. How one responds to that fear is what separates monster kids from everybody else. Monster kids love the monsters that scare them.
This is the story of how I learned this lesson and how I responded.
My parents were naively trusting. Either that, or they cunningly knew I wouldn’t make it 5 minutes into the movie. Maybe it was a little of both. Whatever the reason, they agreed to let me stay up past my bedtime to watch WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS on the network Friday Night Movie. It was 1971 and I was 5 years old.
The previous summer, I had seem my first monster movie, King Kong, at the public library and I was hooked. I checked out every library book on movie monsters I could find over the course of that summer and did the same at the school library when summer ended. Books were good, but in the days before streaming and even VHS tapes, actually seeing a monster movie was a big deal. Especially when you were my age.
Each week, I scoured the new issue of TV Guide and circled the movies I wished I could see. I had an early bedtime, so my options were limited. Then I saw it– the ABC Friday Night at the Movies World Premiere Event — WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS.
I found this TV Guide Ad from 1974 on eBay — though not the channel or the year I discovered this movie, it is similar to the ad that captured my imagination in 1971:
I had never heard of this movie before seeing this ad, but I knew about Ringling Brothers’ Gargantua. So I figured, by name and appearance, this movie was going to be like a crazy version of KING KONG with two monsters. I knew had to see this movie, and I carefully prepared my campaign to convince my parents began. To my surprise, they agreed to let me stay up and watch it as soon as I asked. Naive, or wiley…always the question.
I spent the rest of the week in complete anticipation of that night. At last, Friday night arrived and I sat in front of the TV with baited breath.
Fans of this movie know it wastes absolutely no time in getting to the thrills or, in the case of my 5 year-old-self, the terror.
As the eerie sounds of the theremin played over the opening sequence, we see a ship at sea. With lightening crackling overhead, a lone captain mans the ship against the coming storm. Within seconds, an octopus tentacle snakes through an open door of the ship and wraps around the captain’s leg. He fights it off, only to be ensnared again by another tentacle. We then see the massive octopus, larger than the boat, as it begins to pull the helpless sailor toward it. Suddenly, the captain is free and the tentacles gone. The startled and relieved sailor looks out to see an epic battle raging between the giant octopus and something else– a humanoid of massive proportion. This gargantua kills the octopus, but it’s intent was not to save the captain and his ship. He then grabs the vessel and, like a child in the bath tub, rocks the boat violently, trying to get at the tasty human morsels inside.
That was enough for me. I turned off the TV and ran to find my parents. I hadn’t even made it to the opening title of the film.
I have since seen this movie many times. I watched it earlier today as I prepared to write this and, out of curiosity, I timed the opening scene at 3:58. I had convinced my parents to let me stay up late to watch a monster movie and I made it all of 4 minutes.
Where KING KONG made me feel excited and sad, WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS scared me.
This movie taught me an important lesson about monster movies — they were SCARY!
Of course, becoming a monster kid meant facing your fears and watching the movie. For me, this happened incrementally.
PLANET of the APES was my next attempt.
I made it all the way to corn fields before giving in to the my fear. I didn’t even get to see the apes in my first effort. But I made it past the frightening scenes of death in the spaceship and the disturbing, anxiety-provoking music and Taylor’s trek across the Forbidden Zone. Progress.
But that’s a story for another time.
Attempting to watch GARGANTUAS was a critical step for me as a five-year-old. Perhaps more important, I didn’t let my fear stop me. I remained curious about monsters and I kept coming back for more. I was becoming a Monster Kid.
If you haven’t seen WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS in a long time or, Heaven forbid, you’ve never seen it, click on the image below to stream it on Amazon Instant Video. This is a fun 60’s monster movie and, in my opinion, one of the best non-Godzilla kaiju films ever:
My First Monster Movie Begins A Lifelong Love Affair
It was the summer of 1970. Or maybe it was 1971. I was 4, maybe 5, years old. My little brother had just been born and my mom, like all parents of newborns with school-age siblings, was looking for anything and everything to get me out of the house and out of her hair. Enter summer movies at the public library and my first exposure to monster movies. Not just any monster movie, mind you. That was the summer I first saw King Kong.
My Origin Story
Now for a pre-schooler with a mad love for dinosaurs, this movie had me hooked from the start — adventure on a lost island full of prehistoric beasts. Throw a giant ape into the mix and have him fight the dinos and I was a goner! I can’t recall the other movies I saw that summer, which leads me to believe they were not monster movies. I’m sure I enjoyed them, but King Kong sticks in my memory like it was last week. It was exciting, full of adventure- and dinosaurs. It was a bit scary at times but it was also sad. Like every other kid, I felt bad for Kong and knew from the start he wasn’t really the bad guy. he was scared and probably home-sick. The bad guys were the men who captured him and exploited him to get rich. As a kid, adults control your world–parent, teachers, babysitters…and you can relate to getting in trouble because you’re out of your comfort zone, for not fitting in, for being scared and feeling alone.
For me, Kong was personal. I understood the plight of the monster. It was the first, but certainly not the last, time that I found myself rooting for the ‘monster’ and being sad when he, inevitably, would lose.
From Dinosaurs to Classic Monsters
I don’t know if that was the same day I discovered that they wrote books about movie monsters, but it wasn’t long after seeing Kong on the tiny library television that I was scouring the library for any and everything I could find about the monsters of the movies. And the 1970s were a time when kids books about classic movie monsters were plentiful.
Meeting the Classic Monsters
By the time school started that fall, I was well versed in the classics of Frankenstein, Dracula, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Godzilla and the Wolf Man. In some cases, seeing these movies was still years away, but I checked those books out over and over again that summer–reading and re-reading the movie synopsis and memorizing every frightful picture. That was the summer I became a Monster Kid.
I’m sure my story isn’t unique for kids of the early ’70s or for generations before me. My wife remembers seeing King Kong at her local library as well. It must have been pretty common fare in those pre-Star Wars days of the early 1970s. For most kids it is a fond childhood memory. For monster kids, it changed everything and started us down the path of a lifelong love for fantastic creatures and worlds of the imagination. The public library was the gateway, but King Kong was the drug.
What is your Monster Kid origin story? How did King Kong effect you and when did you first see this iconic film?
The Digital Clubhouse for Monster Kids & Collectors of Classic Monster, Retro Science Fiction and Vintage Fantasy Memorabilia