Matinee (1993 film)


Directed by Joe Dante
Produced by Michael Finnell
Screenplay by Charles S. Haas
Story by Jerico Stone
Charles S. Haas
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography John Hora
Edited by Marshall Harvey
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • January 29, 1993 (1993-01-29) (United States)
Running time
99 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $9,532,895

Matinee is a 1993 period comedy film directed by Joe Dante. It is a ensemble piece about a William Castle-type independent filmmaker, with the home front in the Cuban Missile Crisis as a backdrop. The film stars John Goodman, Cathy Moriarty, Simon Fenton, Omri Katz, Lisa Jakub, Robert Picardo and Kellie Martin. A then-unknown Naomi Watts has a small role as a character in a film within the film. It was written by Jerico Stone and Charlie Haas, the latter portraying Mr. Elroy, a schoolteacher.


In Key West, Florida in October 1962, boys Gene Loomis (Fenton) and his brother Dennis (Lee) live on a military base (N.A.S. Key West); their father is away on a nearby submarine. After hearing the announcement of an exclusive engagement of Lawrence Woolsey's (Goodman) new sensational horror film Mant! ("Half man! Half ant!" "in Atomo-Vision and Rumble-Rama!"), including Woolsey's appearance in-person, they arrive home to President Kennedy's television interruption, stating the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba. Woolsey finds this atmosphere of fear to be the perfect environment in which to open his atomic-radiation-themed film.

Woolsey brings along Herb Denning (Miller) and Bob (Sayles) to stir up the yokels by protesting the film, but Howard, the theatre manager (Picardo), assures him that "the people of Key West are not yokels." Indeed, the progressive Jack and Rhonda (Clennon and Butler) make a strong free speech argument for allowing the film to proceed.

New to the local high school, and not getting along with the similarly-aged Andy (Nick Bronson) on the base, Gene ends up associating with Stan (Katz), and becomes infatuated with Jack and Rhonda's daughter, Sandra (Jakub), after she takes a detention for protesting the uselessness of an air raid drill and yelling the truth of the false protection at the students in the hall. In attempting to get a date to the dance, Stan goes for Sherry (Martin), who was seeing a prison poet, Harvey Starkweather (Villemaire), who regularly bothers Stan about his interest in her (and hers in him).

The film is structured in halves: the first half leading up to the screening, and the second half depicting the screening and what goes on at and around it. The film also showed the differences in two young women who eventually become the girlfriends of the two boys. The girlfriend of Gene had progressive ideas of what a woman might become, whereas the eventual girlfriend of Stan was very much in line with what society at the time of the film's setting thought a young lady should be.



Joe Dante says the financing of the movie was difficult.

Matinee got made through a fluke. The company that was paying for us went out of business and didn't have any money. Universal, which was the distributor, had put in a little money, and we went to them and begged them to buy into the whole movie, and to their everlasting sorrow they went ahead and did it. [Laughs.][1]


The original score was composed by Jerry Goldsmith. Several cues from previous films were also used, arranged and conducted by Dick Jacobs, including "Main Title" from Son of Dracula (1943); "Visitors" from It Came from Outer Space (1953); "Main Title" from Tarantula (1955); "Winged Death" from The Deadly Mantis (1957); two cues from This Island Earth (1955), "Main Title" and "Shooting Stars"; and three cues from the Creature from the Black Lagoon trilogy: "Monster Attack" from Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954); "Main Title" from Revenge of the Creature (1955); and "Stalking the Creature" from The Creature Walks Among Us (1956).


Joe Dante has cast character actor Dick Miller in each of his movies to date, casting him here as one of the men protesting the monster movie's release, and as a soldier holding a sack of sugar. Also appearing in supporting roles are William Schallert and Robert O. Cornthwaite (who both appeared in scores of low-budget films of all genres); Kevin McCarthy (perhaps best remembered for his role in Invasion of the Body Snatchers) as well as Robert Picardo, both of whom appeared in several of Dante's movies. John Sayles, who collaborated with Dante on earlier movies, appears as one of the men protesting the monster movie's release.

Film within a film: Mant!

Woolsey's low-budget Mant! is a parody morphing of several low-budget science-fiction horror films of the 1950s (many in black & white) that fused radioactivity with mad science and mutation: In particular Tarantula (1955), wherein a scientist is injected with an atomic isotope formula with disastrous results, and in general the films Them! (1954); The Beast with a Million Eyes (1955) The Deadly Mantis (1957); The Black Scorpion (1957); The Amazing Colossal Man (1957); Monster That Challenged the World (1957); Beginning of the End (1957); War of the Colossal Beast (1958); The Fly (1958) and The Alligator People (1959). The depiction of Mant!'s use of "Rumble-Rama" is a riff on William Castle's many in-theatre gimmicks ("Emergo", "Percepto", "Illusion-O", "Shock Sections" etc.), however, the only "monster movie" produced or directed by William Castle before 1970 was 1959's The Tingler, which did not use a radiation theme. "Rumble-Rama" is also a nod to Sensurround, Universal's sound process of the 1970's. Matinee also mentions some of Woolsey's earlier "films": Island of the Flesh Eaters, The Eyes of Doctor Diablo, and The Brain Leeches (not to be confused with the real-world 1977 film of the same name).

Film within a film: The Shook-Up Shopping Cart

Although Matinee is set in October 1962, its other film within a film, the family-oriented gimmick comedy The Shook-Up Shopping Cart (featuring an anthropomorphic shopping cart), is a reference to some color Disney comedies that came later in the decade: The Love Bug (1969) in particular, and The Ugly Dachshund (1966); Monkeys, Go Home! (1967); Blackbeard's Ghost (1968); The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit (1968); The Million Dollar Duck (1971); Snowball Express (1972) and The Shaggy D.A. (1976) in general.[2][3] The film features a then-unknown Naomi Watts.


Matinee was well received by film critics and has a 93% rating at the film review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 27 reviews. Roger Ebert gave the film three and half out of four stars and wrote, "There are a lot of big laughs in Matinee, and not many moments when I didn't have a wide smile on my face".[4] In her review for The New York Times, Janet Maslin wrote, "Matinee, which devotes a lot of energy to the minor artifacts of American pop culture circa 1962, is funny and ingenious up to a point. Eventually, it becomes much too cluttered, with an oversupply of minor characters and a labored bomb-and-horror-film parallel that necessitates bringing down the movie house".[5] Entertainment Weekly gave the film a "B+" rating and Owen Gleiberman wrote, "In Matinee, Dante has captured the reason that Cold War trash like Mant struck such a nerve in American youth: The prospect of atomic disaster was so fanciful and abstract that it began to merge in people's imaginations with the very pop culture it had spawned. In effect, it all became one big movie. Matinee is a loving tribute to the schlock that fear created".[6]

In his review for the Los Angeles Times, Peter Rainer wrote of Dante's film: "He pulls out his bag of tricks and even puts in an animated doodle; he's reaching not only for the flagrant awfulness of movies like MANT but also for the zippy ardor of the classic Warner Bros. cartoons. He does everything but put a buzzer under your seat".[7] In his review for the Chicago Reader, Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote, "At the same time that Dante has a field day brutally satirizing our desire to scare ourselves and others, he also re-creates early-60s clichés with a relish and a feeling for detail that come very close to love".[8] In her review for The Washington Post, Rita Kempley wrote, "In this funny, philosophical salute to B-movies and the B-moguls who made them, Dante looks back fondly on growing up with the apocalypse always on your mind and atomic mutants lurking under your bed".[9] In his review for the USA Today, Mike Clark wrote, "Part spoof, part nostalgia trip and part primer in exploitation-pic ballyhoo, Matinee is a sweetly resonant little movie-lovers' movie".[10]

See also


  1. "Joe Dante" By Joshua Klein AV Club Nov 29, 2000 accessed 3 February 2014
  2. DVD Savant: Joe Dante interviewed on the DVD release of Matinee By Glenn Erickson May 11, 2010
  3. The Onion A.V. Club: Triple Feature - Movies about moviegoing (Sherlock Jr., Matinee, and Goodbye, Dragon Inn) by Keith Phipps October 12, 2010 "...sent away to watch a defanged, Disney-style comedy called The Shook Up Shopping Cart"
  4. Ebert, Roger (January 29, 1993). "Matinee". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2008-07-23.
  5. Maslin, Janet (January 29, 1993). "Eek! There's a Horror Movie in Here!". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-07-23.
  6. Gleiberman, Owen (February 5, 1994). "Matinee". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2008-07-23.
  7. Rainer, Peter (January 29, 1993). "Matinee an Affectionate Nod to Early '60s Schlock". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-03-25.
  8. Rosenbaum, Jonathan (February 5, 1993). "War Fever". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 2010-03-25.
  9. Kempley, Rita (January 29, 1993). "In the Glow of the Atomic Age". The Washington Post. pp. C1.
  10. Clark, Mike (January 29, 1993). "B-guiling tribute to gimmicky '60s fright films". USA Today. pp. 4D.

External links

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