Monsters of Mystery

Sunn Classic Pictures was responsible for much of my young movie viewing.  Or at least a reasonable portion of it.  As I predicted, I ended up watching The Mysterious Monsters in the wake of Boggy Creek, and that got me curious about this unusual production company.  As a film distributor, the company began in 1971.  One of its early films was the aforesaid Mysterious Monsters.  Unlike other film distributors, their practice was to rent out a theater (this was before multiplexes) and take all the profits for the run of their film.  This was no risk to a theater owner and apparently it worked for Sunn.  They sponsored documentaries on unusual topics, likely because of the tastes of one of the founders, Charles Edward Sellier Jr.  

In addition to cryptids, the company also made films of the Bermuda Triangle and Noah’s Ark.  They even had a hand in a television version of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”  Ever since my college days, I’ve tried to figure out whether they had a religious motivation.  I suppose it was In Search of Noah’s Ark that made me wonder.  They even distributed work by Alan Landsburg, who would go on to initiate the series In Search of…, which claimed many of my childhood viewing hours.  Sunn lasted only a decade before being bought out by Taft International Pictures, but what a formative decade it was!  As I’ve noted in a couple of my books, the bestselling nonfiction book of the seventies was Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth.  That level of interest firmly fixed the Apocalypse in the American imagination.  I even saw the 1978 film (not Sunn Pictures)  in the same theater that’d housed Mysterious Monsters.

Come to think of it, the Drake Theater in Oil City had an outsized influence on my thinking.  The Drake is now gone.  It served the Oil City area for many years.  I saw Star Wars there for the first time, as well as Clash of the Titans.  We didn’t have much money, which may be why the escapism of movies was so important to my young self.  Now that I’ve finished my third book about movies it seems that perhaps I missed my calling.  Life is all about finding something someone will pay you to do.  The most fortunate find meaning in it as well.  The rest of us generally have to wait for the weekend to have the time to watch movies.  But like the Drake, Sunn Classic Pictures is gone, leaving memories of formative ideas behind.

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