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Lunch With the Living Dead

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I think I saw the ultimate horror-science fiction movie the other day. It included vampirism, sadism, lesbianism, cannibalism, alcoholism and cruelty to monkeys. I feel good just thinking about it.

I don’t recall the movie’s name but I rented it at the Wherehouse in Santa Monica. I know it didn’t have “living dead” in the title because I have seen all the “living-dead” flicks, from “Night of the Living Dead” through “Lunch With the Living Dead.”

Whenever the world becomes too much for me, I space out on rented horror-sci fi films. Sometimes it is Tokyo being destroyed, other times teen-agers pursued by unspeakable horrors.

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It relaxes me when Godzilla stomps down the Ginza Strip or when a bratty 16-year-old girl is eaten alive by her own bedroom.

In one movie, the bed itself turned predatory, and then the chair and then a night stand. The whole room bopped around like a Mickey Mouse cartoon.

My favorite film is “The Incredible Melting Man,” not to be confused with “The Incredible Shrinking Man.” In one, the man melts, in the other he shrinks. You should have known that.

“Melting Man” is an atomic-themed ‘50s movie. The victim is contaminated by radiation and is melting. As he melts, bits of his body fall off. I don’t know why. That’s just the way it was in the ‘50s.

He races through the woods, pursued by his girl and his best friend, shedding toes and fingers like blossoms in the breeze. At one point, his girl stops in horror, pointing toward a branch.

“Oh, my God,” she says, “his ear!”

It is classic science fiction dialogue. Oh, my God, his ear! Then she faints. Women fainted more in the ‘50s.

The movie I rented the other day reached new heights of horror. The lead was a female vampire who had lived for 500 years by ingesting the blood of her lovers. Her lovers, on the other hand, rotted away slowly from premature aging.

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Some women can do that to you.

A young man with a pointed chin and pimples told me it symbolized the destructive forces of the feminist movement. He had a name on his denim jacket that identified him as Thor.

Thor is typical of the people who rent horror movies at the Wherehouse. They drift in from Hollywood and Topanga.

“Everything is a symbol,” Thor said, peering out from close-set eyes. “ ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ is nothing but sexual filth.”

He rented a movie called “Last House on the Left.” I don’t know if that was sexual filth too. Thor never said.

Back to my movie. Parallel to the vampire story was a subplot that involved a female scientist’s study of premature aging in monkeys, during which one monkey ate the other monkey.

I don’t mind cruelty to monkeys so much, but I do get tired of flat-out omophagia as a recurrent cinematic theme. A little imagination is called for here. Monkey eats man alive. Or man eats monkey alive. Anything for variety.

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The face of a screaming monkey was interspersed occasionally with scenes of human vampirism to indicate . . . well, I don’t know what was it intended to indicate. Sexual filth, I guess.

“You mean,” my wife said to me, “you watched the entire movie and don’t know what it was about?”

“I know what it was about,” I said defensively. “It was about vampirism and the burdens of old age.”

“So,” she said, “what about the screaming monkey!”

“I don’t know about the screaming monkey.”

“Gotcha!”

There is no mystery, however, to the other horror classic, “The Fly.”

A scientist invents a machine that scrambles living atoms and reassembles them on the other side of the room. He decides to try it on himself. A fly gets caught in the beam.

What emerges is a man with a fly’s head and an insatiable desire to land on your nose. It ends with a fly caught in a spider web. As the spider approaches we hear the fly screaming, “Help me, help me,” in a teeny-tiny voice.

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We zoom in on the fly to see it has the scientist’s head.

I love that movie. I have seen it so many times, my daughters used to call me Captain Fly.

Most children of their generation were raised on Bambi frolicking through the forest. My kids grew up watching a man with a fly’s head sucking straight sugar from a bowl on the floor.

Once I had a whole day with nothing to do so I rented four horror-sci fi movies from the Wherehouse. One of them was “The Incredible Melting Man.” The girl who waited on me looked at the titles.

“Do you actually watch this junk?” she asked. I explained that I was a UCLA human behavioral technician studying the impact of visual terror on people who write.

Then I went home and stretched out on the couch and watched seven hours of monsters, radiated scientists, giant ants and the always-popular living dead.

The best part was where the rotting dog came back from the grave and savaged the country editor.

That made me smile.

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