Monsters Crash the Pajama Party (1965).
This 30-minute trifle comes to us from the golden age of ballyhoo. There was a time in the early 1960s when theaters could draw in customers (mostly teenagers) with traveling “spook show” spectaculars, featuring innocuous horror-themed films, a gimmick or two, actors in costume, some audience participation and plenty of “spine-tingling” hype.
“Monsters Crash the Pajama Party,” from writer/director David L. Hewitt, is a classic example. Five sorority girls decide to spend a night in the local spooky old house, only to be teased by their boyfriends, then chased around by a mad doctor, a guy in a gorilla suit and a couple of other ghouls. Although the material is presented with tongue planted firmly in cheek, the writing is clunky, the humor is forced and the acting is completely amateurish.
But all that’s beside the point. What matters is the film’s role in the spook show as a whole, which provided a fun and cheesy — even, dare I say, wholesome — evening of entertainment for a predominately young audience. This was especially true in the rural parts of the United States where entertainment options at that time were pretty limited. While the movies were part of the draw, there were also live acts by the costumed entertainers and opportunites — and encouragement — for the audience to talk back and interact. While the spook show trend didn’t last too long, its spirit was revived in a more risqué fashion by midnight movie audiences in the 1970s as they created the live performance cult that surrounds “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
But spook shows have disappeared from the cultural landscape, leaving us with a film that can no longer be seen in context. It’s kind of sad, really. “Monsters Crash the Pajama Party” can be fun to laugh at as just another bad movie, and although it is available on DVD now with a host of other shorts and extras so that you can create your own campy spook show evening at home, it just isn’t the same. Instead it has just become another postcard from a bygone era that we can’t properly experience — albeit one that does give a certain amount of fun of its own.
“Igor like red!”
Hewitt went on to a modest career in visual effects. His credits include “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” and “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.”
A “Rocky Horror” midnight show. But be sure to dress up!
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