The heroine’s milky-white ankle dangled just a second too long in the murky Black Lagoon.
Behind red and blue 3-D glasses, the Garland Theater audience reared back like 700 people ready to blow out birthday candles.
Swampy, scaly hand!
Wondering what to give a theater celebrating its 50th birthday?
Weekend crowds gave good-natured enthusiasm to the Garland Theater’s special showing of the once-creepy, now-campy “Creature from the Black Lagoon.”
The Garland - the North Side dollar theater - kicked off more than a month of birthday celebrations with the 3-D extravaganza, which continues this week.
The audience loved it.
It was “Jurassic Park” meets “Waterworld.” It was “Die Hard in a Swamp.” It was only two bucks - one for the movie, one for the specially ordered plastic-and-cardboard glasses.
“I don’t remember it being so stupid,” said Andy Gale, one of the few people at the Garland Friday night who was as old as the creature. “I don’t remember it being so funny either.”
Theater owner Don Clifton and manager Paul Quam watched happily as the young crowd screamed in all the right places and giggled at the circa-1953 dialogue.
“Don’t forget our catfish,” the salty 3-D riverboat captain advised on-screen. “Nine feet long. And killers. Everything in this jungle is killers.”
Businesses turn 50 every day.
But there’s something special about a theater, especially one that anchors a neighborhood the way the Garland has since the end of World War II.
It opened Nov. 22, 1945, as the most sophisticated, technologically advanced theater in Spokane, with European-style seating. Five minutes from downtown, it was billed as Spokane’s first “suburban theater.”
But by 1961, drive-ins and cineplexes were bleeding away the Garland’s fans and the owner closed the theater, saying it “had everything but customers.”
It reopened later that year and has weathered first-run, second-run and X-rated periods.
Like theatrical guerrillas, Quam and Clifton have been battling the $6 cineplexes since buying and reopening the Garland in 1987 as a second-run theater.
“It’s really one of just a few old, single-screen theaters left in the country,” said Clifton, who owned shares of about 30 other theaters across the country before selling them to concentrate on running the Garland.
One of his first moves was to hire longtime movie buff Quam, who stands in front of the audience each night, talks them into behaving and introduces the film they’ll be seeing.
On Friday, Quam announced the birthdays in the audience, (Sara, 14; Sierra, 13) then tried to lower expectations to a roomful of people who already had their 3-D glasses on.
“This print was released in 1953 and has been on the road ever since. It’s the only print.”
Quam warned of hitches and clicks, the muddy quality of the movie and cheesy 3-D effects that wouldn’t pass muster on any home video game. “The acting is pretty square,” he cautioned.
They laughed at the 1960 Coca-Cola commercial with the dancing hot dog and yelped as soon as the webbed hand made its first appearance.
The movie’s plot was simple, but brilliant: Hot, young babe in revealing 1950s swimsuit goes upriver with competitive scientists. The moral? Don’t go in the water, hot science babe!
“There’s just one thing,” said one of the scientists, staring stage left, “We can’t go into uncharted territory with a woman.”
Quam and Clifton are planning other movie events leading up to the actual birthday, Nov. 22.
“I can’t say, but it’ll be great,” Quam hinted.
Perhaps a reshowing of “It’s a Pleasure,” the Sonja Henie movie that opened the Garland in 1945?
“I wouldn’t wish that on anyone,” Quam said. “I would never do such a horrible thing.”
He could do worse than bringing back a 3-D movie like “The Creature from the Black Lagoon.” It even got rave reviews from the kids skipping it: one playing the ESWAT Cyber Police video game in the men’s room and another standing outside smoking.
“It was cool,” said the boy outside, in an Orlando Magic jacket, who apparently couldn’t take the un-imaginable, jump-right-out-of-the-screen horror.
“Scared?” he laughed, pulled out his 3-D glasses and turned to go back in. “Ooh, I’m shaking.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Color Photos
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: FROM THE ARCHIVES: A ‘GALA OPENING’ From The Spokesman-Review, Nov. 23, 1945: Spotlights playing on the skies drew attention last night to the gala opening of the city’s newest theater, the Garland. … When the doors finally were opened, the line extended a block, while others crowded around to catch a glimpse of the interior. One chubby boy, as he entered the lobby, exclaimed, “Oh boy! Look at the layout.” The lobby was lined with baskets of chrysanthemums, pompons and red roses sent by well-wishers, and displayed on bulletin boards were congratulatory telegrams from Bing Crosby, Cary Grant, Dorothy Lamour, Bob Hope, Ginger Rogers, Eddie Cantor and many others. One of the most popular features of the theater was the snack bar which the girls and boys crowded around to get soft drinks and candy bars. … Drawing particular comment from the men was the “continental” seating, with extra large spacing between rows. The auditorium has indirect lighting shining on the ramps and the steps so that the customers can see their way. On the walls are germicidal lamps to keep the air purified. Jess Walter