…AND A SERIES WE’D REALLY LIKE TO SEE

Lassie_come_homeHEY! That’s our DOG! Roddy McDowall with the original Red Bank-bred ‘Lassie’ in 1943’s ‘Lassie Come Home.’

By TOM CHESEK

While redbankgreen applauds the slate of picture shows on display in the Count Basie Theatre’s “Take 9 at the Basie: 9 Decades of Film Classics” series, we couldn’t help but have some fun with our very own list of nine alternate choices — all of them drawn from the 80-year history of the place variously known as the Carlton, the Monmouth Arts Center and the Basie.

Each, as you’ll see, has its own special connection to Red Bank.

The Gold Rush (1925): Red Bank’s own Edmund Wilson, the leading literary critic of his era, penned an illuminating essay on this milestone Charlie Chaplin silent comedy that’s been reprinted several times and ought to be distributed with the program. For an alternate choice, try searching the vaults for the all but forgotten 1926 Richard Dix vehicle The Quarterback, the first film ever screened at the spanking-new Red Bank movie house.


Policy Man (1938):
Although his legacy rests squarely upon his recorded work and near-constant touring, famed kid from Red Bank William “Count” Basie and his various orchestras made numerous cameos and musical-number screen appearances in five different decades — beginning with this obscurity, an all-black gangster story made for the segregated “Negro market” of its day. Jazz greats Lester Young and Jo Jones were featured in Basie’s then-current lineup.

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Lassie Come Home (1943): Red Bank’s first major movie star passed himself off as a she, had a thing for bestiality and remains a franchise well into the 21st century. Bred right here at BellHaven Kennels, the male collie named Pal starred here alongside a young Roddy McDowall and an even younger Elizabeth Taylor in this enduring, no-nonsense family classic.

The Tingler (1959): A wild, nearly out of control thrill-ride (from schlockmeister William Castle) that MUST be seen in a theatre; preferably one wired with the electric-buzzer seats found at the film’s premiere and recent revivals. While conducting some pretty crazed experiments in the nature of fear (including the screen’s first-ever LSD trip), Vincent Price attempts to scare a deaf-mute woman to death in a special color sequence that takes place in her bathroom. A bloody hand rises from the tub, and the medicine cabinet pops open to reveal the victim’s death certificate taped to the door…place of birth, you guessed it, Red Bank, NJ. And while you’re haunting the drive-in, listen carefully for a crucial mention of Red Bank in the original INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956)!

That Touch of Mink (1962): About three-quarters of the way through this silly screwball comedy, Cary Grant pursues Doris Day and her spite-date John Astin down to Asbury Park; crossing the old Cooper’s Bridge and stopping at the Sunoco gas station (now Jimmy’s Raceway) at Bridge and Riverside. In the background can be seen the Colony House apartments and two old houses that were torn down to expand the VNA Building facility. Grant, of course, returned to Red Bank in 1987 for a memorable personal appearance on the stage of the Basie.

The Clone Master (1978): Made for TV and aired by NBC, this drab sci-fi tale of a scientist who clones himself starred the Canadian actor Art Hindle and the venerable Ralph Bellamy…and was based upon a story by the Nebula Award-winning author Frederik Pohl, then a Red Bank resident (now pushing 90, he’s since relocated to Illinois).

Between the Teeth (1994): David Byrne of Talking Heads fame shot this concert film of a solo project right here at the Count Basie Theatre.

Chasing Amy (1997): Just about any Kevin Smith opus would fit the bill here; we’re partial to this one as both Smith’s best, AND the film that makes the best use of Red Bank locations, from the real (an extended scene at Jack’s Music Shoppe, with Tim Cronin in the background) to the fanciful (The Galleria stands in as the spacious and specious RB train station, and a character attempts to hitch-hike to NYC by going the wrong way on Mechanic Street).

Torque (2004): A failed motorcycle-racing action flick and a sorta-sequel to THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS, this one features lifelong Red Bank native Dave Wyndorf and his band Monster Magnet performing “Master of Light” on-screen in one scene. Wyndorf also worked on the score, and his recordings with Monster Magnet have graced the soundtracks of several other features, including the climactic race scene of the 2006 Will Ferrell comedy TALLADEGA NIGHTS: THE BALLAD OF RICKY BOBBY.

We could go on, of course, citing films featuring such sort-of Red Bank natives as Alexander Woollcott , along with real Red Banker Natalie Schafer (the beloved Mrs. Howell of Gilligan’s Island). But we’ll leave it to you to suggest any further entries in our imaginary film festival.

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