Thirty years ago today, the sweet, under-heralded film Matinee was released. Don’t remember it? Haven’t heard of it? You’re probably not alone. Dumped in the January dumping ground of 1993 (a time when new releases are deemed disposable as the heavy hitters expand their releases to build Oscar momentum), no one involved with the film, including star John Goodman and director Joe Dante got the respect they deserved.
Some of the best younger actors working in film at the time were cast as the central characters. Gene Loomis (Simon Fenton) is a lonely military brat who has recently moved to Key West in the early 1960s (yes, right around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis). While his put-upon mother (the always great Lucinda Jenney) takes care of the home front, horror aficionado Gene and his circle – new friend Stan (Omri Katz), hippie Sandra (Lisa Jakub), and the more popular take to the local movie theater.
It’s there that Goodman’s Lawrence Woolsey, a P.T. Barnum-esque B-movie director, is trying to find a new concept to launch his latest creature feature, Mant. As a result, the film, scripted by Charlie Haas, has something for everyone: nostalgia, coming-of-age elements, even inside-baseball film references for the above-average film aficionado.
And Dante’s ensemble is killer: you’ll find regular members of his stable, including B-horror alumni Kevin McCarthy and Dick Miller as well as David Clennon, Cathy Moriarty, Robert Picardo, John Sayles, and William Schallert (also, briefly, a young Naomi Watts). You’ll also see another 1950s horror expat in the form of Robert Cornthwaite of The Thing from Another World as a scientist. Goodman, as always, is terrific. It’s one of his best hiatus films made during the original run of Roseanne.
Matinee is a movie about loving movies – how they allow people to come together and how they provide an escape. It is truly a movie that loves movies. Seek it out!