"Once you let that atomic genie out of its bottle, there's no turning back, gentlemen!" "Grownups don't know what they're doing either, kid. That's the real hustle."Matinee
— Lawrence Woolsey
is a 1993 Dramedy
film directed by Joe Dante
. Set in Key West, Florida during the Cuban Missile Crisis
Gene and his little brother Dennis live on the military base with their mother while their father is deployed in the Navy. Amidst the growing paranoia of the impending nuclear destruction, movie producer Lawrence Woosley comes to town to premiere his latest creature feature "MANT!"
and uses his unique brand of showmanship to play off of people's fears.
The film received critical acclaim when it was first released but has fallen to the sands of time and currently lives on
as a Cult Classic
The movie provides examples of:
- 10 Minutes In The Bomb Shelter
- Abnormal Ammo: "Men, fire your DDT missiles."
- Adam and Eve Plot: Sandra thinks she and Gene are in one after they're locked in the fallout shelter.
"What if we're the last ones left on earth?" "That'd make us... Adam and Eve
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Sherry
- Apocalypse How: Howard the Theater Manager as well as Sandra, Gene and most the theater patrons think the apocalypse has already happened.
- And Then John Was a Zombie: The Dentist at the end of MANT.
- Art Initiates Life: During his speech comparing moviegoers to cave men, Woolsey draws an imaginary Woolly Mammoth on the side of a building. It comes to life.
- Atomic Hate: most folks in the '60s seem to realize that the Cold War is Jumping Off the Slippery Slope.
- Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: MANT!
- Author Appeal: Joe Dante doing a movie about a movie about monsters.
- Nostalgia: Much like Rob Reiner with Stand by Me (set in 1959), you can tell Dante grew up in the period the film is set, as the early '60s are lovingly depicted in one of the few communities in the US (Key West) that still retains a similar vibe.
- Ax-Crazy / Knife Nut: Harvey Starkweather.
- Baleful Polymorph: Bill.
- Beatnik: Sandra (who Gene has a crush on) and her parents even moreso.
- Blackmail: How Sherry's little brother plans on getting to the movies.
- B-Movie: the film is an homage to the William Castle B-Movies with Emergo, Percepto and the like. Goodman plays Woolsey, an expy of Castle whose previous work was The Tingler and involved shocking people in their seats. Actors are hired to work the crowd before and during the show.
- Casting Gag: Several B-Movie Alumni are cast such as William Schallert and Robert Cornthwaite.
- Actor Allusion: The actors who play Herb and Bob are forgotten veteran B-movie actors both in-story and out.
- Catapult Nightmare: Gene after dreaming that his father came home just as the bomb fell.
- Character Filibuster: Lawrence Woolsey delivers the film's message.
- Cold War: got hot.
- Complaining about Shows You Don't Watch: In-universe with Citizens For Decent Entertainment protesting against Mant. It is, of course, a stunt to drum up publicity.
- Delinquent: Harvey Starkweather of the big haired, leather jacket, wallet stealing variety.
- Dueling Movies: The Sandlot, another nostalgic film set in 1962 was released mere months after this one.
- Dull Surprise: The actors in "MANT!"
- Eccentric Townsfolk
- The End of the World as We Know It: Extensive (and oppressive) Reality Subtext for those who remember the Cold War and how close the world came to annihilation during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
- Eucatastrophe: Woolsey's expectation that the show will do well because people are seeking a release from fear of nuclear annihilation. Woolsey gives a speech about the phenomenon, comparing moviegoers to cave men seeking to confront their fear of the unknown.
- Excited Show Title!: "MANT!"
- Expy: Aside from Lawrence Woolsey being one to William Castle, Harvey Starkweather is one to the teenaged spree murderer Charles Starkweather, which makes sense when you think about it.
- Poor Bill. He is TWO in the Shout-Out section.
- Fluffy the Terrible
General: What in creation do you call that thing?
- The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You:
- When Harvey Starkweather goes on a rampage in his rubber suit, audience members mistake it for part of the show.
- The end of the film causes a riot when Woolsey switches to a reel showing an atomic bomb blowing up the screen and burning away the film stock.
- Friendless Background: Gene. With his Dad in the Navy, they move around a lot.
- Freerange Children: Justified as this was rather common in at the time. Plus, they live in Key West.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Dante regulars Robert Picardo and Dick Mill as the nervous theater manager and one of the actors hired to "protest" MANT!, respectively.
- Holding Hands: A big deal between Gene and Sandra.
- Honor Before Reason: Woolsey is willing to pay off Harvey for Sherry's safety when he needed the money for his bill collectors.
- Hurricane of Puns: Bill makes them to deal with his transformation.
You think this is a picnic for me?! Ha ha ha ha! Did you hear what I just said, get it? Ant, picnic?
What am I, alone here?
(scientist picks up bug spray)
- I Love Nuclear Power: Actually, people hate it, but the trope is about how "MANT!" is formed.
Scientist: "Young man. I'm afraid you've suffered some of the worst of what our... mighty little friend, the atom has to offer! It can power a city... or level it!"
- Jerkass: Andy.
- Layman's Terms: A Running Gag with the scientist, who constantly feels the need to explain mundane terms.
"Are you mad! You exposed him the electricity! Now he'll grow at an accelerated (or speeded-up) rate!"
- Meaningful Name: Harvey Starkweather.
- Mister Sandman Sequence: Pretty similar to Back to the Future in this regard, but with more social commentary.
- Mr. Exposition: The Professor in MANT. Also, the Dentist:
X-rays, Carol. A form of radiation. An ant must have bitten Bill when he was getting his teeth x-rayed... Anyway, the ant's saliva must've gotten into Bill's bloodstream and gone straight to his brain — just as the radiation, which is measured in units called Röentgens
, was released!!
Carol: Do you really think these atomic weapons could change Bill back?
General: You like to talk, Doc. You tell her!
- Mix-and-Match Critters: Bill aka MANT!
- Movie Within A Movie: MANT! Is a completely recreated 50s-style B-Movie. Exerpts of it exist online.
- Also "The Shook Up Shopping Cart".
- Moral Guardians: Woolsey commissions actors to pose as these and picket his movies to generate publicity.
- My Eyes Are Up Here
- Mythology Gag: Roger Corman and Joe Dante regular Dick Miller was one of the staples of the B-movie of the 50's.
- Mugging the Monster: Harvey vs. Herb and Bob, the "decency" committeemen who turn out to be tough-guy second-string actors on the run from the Hollywood Blacklist.
- Naughty Tentacles: Well, more like Naughty Pincers... as the trailer shows.
- Naughty Nurse Outfit: Ruth wears a nurse's uniform at the premiere.
- Nothing But Hits
- Nuclear Nightmare: Gene has 'em. It is during the Cuban Missile Crisis time period, so it's pretty understandable.
- Nuke 'em: the Generals want to do this to Bill. "Once you let that atomic genie out of its bottle... there's no turning back, gentlemen!"
- One Million BC: Woolsey's speech comparing moviegoers to cavemen seeking enlightenment.
- The Professor: The Scientist in MANT! is a classic embodiment of the trope. He's also the Only Sane Man.
- Real-Life Relative: In-Universe. Woolsey's girlfriend Ruth is Carol in the movie.
- Reality Subtext: The film-within-a-film is all about the horrors created by nuclear testing. Meanwhile, nuclear war seems imminent.
- Red Scare: Key West is (shudder) only 50 miles from Cuba!
- Seemingly Wholesome Sixties Girl: Sherry. Though she makes it clear on she's eager to get racy.
- Shining City: Key West.
- Shout-Out: The movie is a practically one long list of Shout Outs.
- The Movie Within A Movie, "MANT!" is filled with references to The Fly and Them!
- MANT!'s Tagline "Half Man, Half Ant, All Terror!" is a parody of the Tagline from RoboCop (1987).
- Lawerence Woolsey is a Shout-Out to the Funhouse Horror stylings of William Castle. His personal introduction trailers which feature his cigar and silhouette are a nod to Alfred Hitchcock, who is he is mistaken for earlier.
- Gene's room is littered with vintage monster magazines and B Movie Posters including The Crawling Eye and Killers From Outer Space.
- Jerry Goldsmith's awesome score includes themes from Son of Dracula, It Came from Outer Space, Tarantula, Winged Death, The Deadly Mantis, This Island Earth, and Creature from the Black Lagoon.
- The Key West Strand Theater has several vintage posters including Confessions of an Opium Eater with Vincent Price and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?.
- "The Shook Up Shopping Cart" is a parody of the Disney Family Comedies of the time in the vein of The Shaggy Dog. Gene refers to it as "One of those Flying Rubber Professor Movies".
- The Sixties: The Cuban Missile Crisis plus cheesy Saturday matinee movies.
- Spectacle: Lawrence Woolsey's films.
- Stupid Evil: Harvey Starkweather, The Greaser, who also turns out to be a kidnapper.
- Standard Female Grab Area: Both in MANT! and during Harvey's kidnapping of Ruth and Sherry.
- Standard Snippet: "The Lion Sleeps Tonight"
- The Stinger: "Oh Bill!"
- Stylistic Suck: MANT!, also Harvey's poems and "Shook Up Shopping Cart" (what mercifully little we see of it).
- Take My Hand: Dennis in the climax.
- Think of the Children!: Herb and Bob pretend to be part of the League of Decent Entertainment in order to stir up ticket sales for "MANT!"
- Those Two (Bad?) Guys: Herb and Bob, who give Harvey a lesson in not assuming.
- Torches and Pitchforks: The people in "MANT!"
- Touch of the Monster: The poster for "MANT!"
- Trash the Set: The interior of the Strand Theater at the end of the film.
- Trickster Mentor: Woolsey. He comes off as dishonest at first with his risky plans for promoting his movie, but shows great passion for showmanship and is very direct with Gene.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The Scientist lectures Bill about how atomic energy is turning him into an ant.
Scientist: "And that's not all. You'll grow... (tsk tsk) get bigger!"
Dentist: "I'm sorry, Bill!
- Wise Beyond Their Years: Sandra recognizes the futility of nuclear drills and paints a grim picture of the effects of radiation. She is also a crusader for social justice, familiar with Gandhi and the plight of Negroes in the United States.
- This is probably thanks to her parents, who seem just a little out of place.