Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Memory Bank: The 4:30 Movie (WABC, Channel 7)
Was it at the drive-in double features (where I saw Death Race 2000  and Legend of Boggy Creek ) on different occasions?
Or was it at conventional movie theaters like the Clairidge, the Royale, Cinema 23, or the Wellmont (New Jersey venues where I first saw Logan’s Run , King Kong  and Star Wars )?
It might have been at none of the above.
Perhaps my love for film commenced in earnest instead in my basement family room at 7 Clinton Road in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. There, that love would be nurtured and renewed each weekday at 4:30 pm, circa 1975 to 1981.
At that time, my Zenith color TV station was invariably tuned to Channel 7, WABC, and The 4:30 Movie. I remember listening every day with great anticipation as “the Voice” (celebrated TV announcer Scott Vincent [1922 – 1979]) would usher in a new film or a new movie theme week in promos.
The anticipation would build as the daily 4:30 Movie intro began. It was a short montage: a combination of the tune “Moving Pictures” with the unforgettable imagery of a camera-man seated on a chair, spinning about and turning the lens upon us, the audience.
This was The 4:30 Movie as it was in the New York area in those long gone days.
The popular program ran from 1968 to 1981, until it was replaced by Judge Wapner and The People’s Court. But for that span of a dozen or so years – of which I suppose I participated in roughly five or six – it was a mainstay of my house, and mainstay of my early education in genre film.
The 4:30 Movie often featured “theme weeks,” for instance. There was Planet of the Apes Week, Matt Helm Week, Our Man Flint Week, Lassie Week, and even Gidget Week. Then there were weeks devoted to actors such as Elvis, Sidney Poitier, John Wayne, Jerry Lewis, and my personal favorite…Vincent Price.
Over the years, The 4:30 Movie also offered Harryhausen Week, Sci-Fi Week, Superhero Week, Monster Week, and Supernatural Week. Sometimes it aired genre TV movies (such as Night Slaves), and sometimes it also re-aired mini-series such as Roots and Rich Man, Poor Man.
It was via The 4:30 Movie that I first saw Irwin Allen’s The Lost World, The Green Slime, Mysterious Island, Monster from a Prehistoric Planet, The Fly, The Blob, Batman (1966), the Planet of the Apes films, Soylent Green, The Omega Man, Jason and the Argonauts, Yongary: Monster from the Deep, The Pit and the Pendulum, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and goodness knows how many others.
Now, these films were often split into two parts, over two days (like Planet of the Apes and Journey to the Center of the Earth), or edited heavily for violent content.
But it didn’t matter. I devoured every new film with ferocity, curiosity and excitement.
When a sci-fi themed week was due to air, my indulgent and loving parents would prepare dinner on trays and bring it downstairs to the family room so I could watch The 4:30 Movie and not miss a moment. I have lots of good memories of eating bean-and-bacon soup and sandwiches on weekdays, from 4:30 to 6:00, as a new cinematic universe was unveiled on the television.
I understand that The 4:30 Movie was exported and repeated in cities across America, so I’m certain that others of Generation X must possess similar memories of such programming. For me, the program was a constant rotation of new, intriguing and even bizarre fare.
Today we live in a universe of media availability and plenty. Yet there’s a part of me that would love to travel back in time to that family room basement in 1977, eat a bowl of soup with my folks, and enjoy Planet of the Apes Week one more time.
I understand the pure irrationality of this desire, believe me. I can screen all the Apes films right now, uninterrupted and in their original aspect ratios, should I desire to revisit them.
Yet as much as I adore those films, they never seem quite right without The 4:30 Movie preamble to start them off. Below, you'll find that opening montage and a promo with the voice of Scott Vincent: