The Last Days of a President: Films of McKinley and the Pan-American Exposition, 1901
Overview | History | Critical Thinking | Arts & Humanities
This film collection focuses on pivotal events of 1901, a year that marked the start of a new millennium. Students can use the films as a springboard to compare aspects of American life and technology at the beginning and end of the twentieth century. They can examine these films for evidence of the significance of a shift to a new century, then speculate on what life will be like in the twenty-first century. Ask students to imagine the types of buildings, exhibits and simulations that would be featured at a world's fair held in 2001 and one hundred years later, in 2101. Students might also make a time line of world's fairs and illustrate their predications for the future.
Search on exhibitions and exhibition buildings to find examples of Pan-American Exposition elements and architecture.
Historical Analysis and Interpretation
The Pan-American Exposition is a cultural artifact that illustrates values and perspectives of the era. Students can study the films to view the past from the perspective of people living at a particular time in history. For example, students can discuss why shows such as the re-enactment of a Native American battle and exhibits such as the Eskimo village were so popular with Americans in 1901.
Search on Eskimos, Indians and Japanese to find films showcasing these different groups.
Some films follow President McKinley as he and his entourage toured the Exposition. These films provide a perspective of how Americans viewed their place in the world. In the film A Trip Around the Pan-American Exposition, the President takes a boat trip on Exposition waterways to exhibits of different cultures. These exhibits were American-built and provide visual evidence of racial stereotypes, imperialism, and perceptions of America's superiority over other nations. Students can analyze what it means to put people and cultures on display and if there are right and wrong ways to exhibit a people's culture. Ask students to share their views on cultural exhibits and village tableaus they have seen at museums and theme parks. Students might then be asked to make their own exhibit focusing on a people's culture.
Students can use the films to launch a study of cause and effect relationships and the issue of historical inevitability. Because McKinley was assassinated, Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt became President. How did the two presidents differ in personality and policies? How did McKinley's assassination change the course of American history?
Historical Research Capabilities
President McKinley was shot on September 6, 1901 and died two weeks later on September 14. In the collection, students can view films of McKinley as president and of McKinley's funeral. Who was in charge of the country during that interim period? Throughout American history, what other presidents were unable to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities? How has the U.S. government dealt with the problem of presidential disability? Students might also research the topic of presidential succession, including the Twenty-fifth Amendment ratified in 1967.
Search on speech to see films of President McKinley addressing the public and burial to see films of the rituals surrounding McKinley's death.
Historical Issue Analysis and Decision Making
The topic of assassination lends itself to an analysis of a wide range of controversial social and political issues. In the film, The Martyred Presidents, images of three assassinated presidents—Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, and William McKinley— fade in and out of what appears to be a tombstone. After students have viewed this film, have them analyze how Americans deal with political assassination and how they honor martyred presidents and other assassinated leaders.
One film in the collection recreates the execution of Leon F. Czolgosz, the 28-year-old unemployed millworker who shot President McKinley at point-blank range. A self-avowed anarchist, Czolgosz told witnesses to his electrocution: "I killed the president because he was the enemy of the people - the good working people. I am not sorry for my crime."
This film can be used to introduce a debate on current issues such as gun control, the death penalty, and media coverage of court trials and executions.
Search on assassination to find films related to the fatal shooting of President McKinley.
Matinee is a 1993 periodcomedy film directed by Joe Dante. It is a ensemble piece about a William Castle-type independent filmmaker, with the home front in the Cuban Missile Crisis as a backdrop. The film stars John Goodman, Cathy Moriarty, Simon Fenton, Omri Katz, Lisa Jakub, Robert Picardo and Kellie Martin. A then-unknown Naomi Watts has a small role as a character in a film within the film. It was written by Jerico Stone and Charlie Haas, the latter portraying Mr. Elroy, a schoolteacher.
In Key West, Florida in October 1962, boys Gene Loomis and his brother Dennis live on a military base (N.A.S. Key West); their father is away on a nearby submarine. After hearing the announcement of an exclusive engagement of Lawrence Woolsey's new sensational horror film Mant! ("Half man! Half ant!" "in Atomo-Vision and Rumble-Rama!"), including Woolsey's appearance in-person, they arrive home to President Kennedy's television interruption, stating the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba. Woolsey finds this atmosphere of fear to be the perfect environment in which to open his atomic-radiation-themed film.
Woolsey brings along Herb Denning and Bob to stir up the yokels by protesting the film, but Howard, the theatre manager, assures him that "the people of Key West are not yokels." Indeed, the progressive Jack and Rhonda make a strong free speech argument for allowing the film to proceed.
New to the local high school, and not getting along with the similarly-aged Andy on the base, Gene ends up associating with Stan, and becomes infatuated with Jack and Rhonda's daughter, Sandra, after she takes a detention for protesting the uselessness of an air raiddrill and yelling the truth of the false protection at the students in the hall. In attempting to get a date to the dance, Stan goes for Sherry, who was seeing a prisonpoet, Harvey Starkweather, who regularly bothers Stan about his interest in her (and hers in him).
The film is structured in halves: the first half leading up to the screening, and the second half depicting the screening and what goes on at and around it. The film also showed the differences in two young women who eventually become the girlfriends of the two boys. The girlfriend of Gene had progressive ideas of what a woman might become, whereas the eventual girlfriend of Stan was very much in line with what society at the time of the film's setting thought a young lady should be.
Joe Dante says the financing of the movie was difficult.
Matinee got made through a fluke. The company that was paying for us went out of business and didn't have any money. Universal, which was the distributor, had put in a little money, and we went to them and begged them to buy into the whole movie, and to their everlasting sorrow they went ahead and did it. [Laughs.]
Principal photography began on April 13, 1992. Filming took place in and around Florida, including the towns of Cocoa, Florida and Key West, Florida Keys, Florida. The interior sequences in the school and the theatre was filmed on set at Universal Studios in Orlando. The street scenes were filmed at Oxnard, California. Production was completed on June 19, 1992.
The original score was composed by Jerry Goldsmith. Several cues from previous films were also used, arranged and conducted by Dick Jacobs, including "Main Title" from Son of Dracula (1943); "Visitors" from It Came from Outer Space (1953); "Main Title" from Tarantula (1955); "Winged Death" from The Deadly Mantis (1957); two cues from This Island Earth (1955), "Main Title" and "Shooting Stars"; and three cues from the Creature from the Black Lagoon trilogy: "Monster Attack" from Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954); "Main Title" from Revenge of the Creature (1955); and "Stalking the Creature" from The Creature Walks Among Us (1956).
Joe Dante has cast character actor Dick Miller in each of his movies to date, casting him here as one of the men protesting the monster movie's release, and as a soldier holding a sack of sugar. Also appearing in supporting roles are William Schallert and Robert O. Cornthwaite (who both appeared in scores of low-budget films of all genres); Kevin McCarthy (perhaps best remembered for his role in Invasion of the Body Snatchers) as well as Robert Picardo, both of whom appeared in several of Dante's movies. John Sayles, who collaborated with Dante on earlier movies, appears as one of the men protesting the monster movie's release.
Films within the film
Woolsey's low-budget Mant! is a parody morphing of several low-budget science-fiction horror films of the 1950s (many in black & white) that fused radioactivity with mad science and mutation: In particular Tarantula (1955), wherein a scientist is injected with an atomic isotope formula with disastrous results, and in general the films Them! (1954); The Beast with a Million Eyes (1955) The Deadly Mantis (1957); The Black Scorpion (1957); The Amazing Colossal Man (1957); Monster That Challenged the World (1957); Beginning of the End (1957); War of the Colossal Beast (1958); The Fly (1958) and The Alligator People (1959). The depiction of Mant!'s use of "Rumble-Rama" is a riff on William Castle's many in-theatre gimmicks ("Emergo", "Percepto", "Illusion-O", "Shock Sections" etc.), however, the only "monster movie" produced or directed by William Castle before 1970 was 1959's The Tingler, which did not use a radiation theme. "Rumble-Rama" is also a nod to Sensurround, Universal's sound process of the 1970's. Matinee also mentions some of Woolsey's earlier "films": Island of the Flesh Eaters, The Eyes of Doctor Diablo, and The Brain Leeches (not to be confused with the real-world 1977 film of the same name).
The Shook-Up Shopping Cart
Although Matinee is set in October 1962, its other film within a film, the family-oriented gimmick comedy The Shook-Up Shopping Cart (featuring an anthropomorphicshopping cart), is a reference to some color Disney comedies that came later in the decade: The Love Bug (1969) in particular, and The Ugly Dachshund (1966); Monkeys, Go Home! (1967); Blackbeard's Ghost (1968); The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit (1968); The Million Dollar Duck (1971); Snowball Express (1972) and The Shaggy D.A. (1976) in general. The film features a then-unknown Naomi Watts.
Matinee was released on January 29, 1993 in 1,143 theatres. It ranked at #6 at the box office, grossing $3,601,015 in its opening weekend. The film went on to gross $9,532,895 in its theatrical run.
Matinee was well received by film critics and has a 94% approval rating at the film review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 32 reviews with an average rating of 7.7/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Smart, funny, and disarmingly sweet, Matinee is a film that film buffs will love -- and might even convert some non-believers."Roger Ebert gave the film three and half out of four stars and wrote, "There are a lot of big laughs in Matinee, and not many moments when I didn't have a wide smile on my face". In her review for The New York Times, Janet Maslin wrote, "Matinee, which devotes a lot of energy to the minor artifacts of American pop culture circa 1962, is funny and ingenious up to a point. Eventually, it becomes much too cluttered, with an oversupply of minor characters and a labored bomb-and-horror-film parallel that necessitates bringing down the movie house".Entertainment Weekly gave the film a "B+" rating and Owen Gleiberman wrote, "In Matinee, Dante has captured the reason that Cold War trash like Mant struck such a nerve in American youth: The prospect of atomic disaster was so fanciful and abstract that it began to merge in people's imaginations with the very pop culture it had spawned. In effect, it all became one big movie. Matinee is a loving tribute to the schlock that fear created".
In his review for the Los Angeles Times, Peter Rainer wrote of Dante's film: "He pulls out his bag of tricks and even puts in an animated doodle; he's reaching not only for the flagrant awfulness of movies like MANT but also for the zippy ardor of the classic Warner Bros. cartoons. He does everything but put a buzzer under your seat". In his review for the Chicago Reader, Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote, "At the same time that Dante has a field day brutally satirizing our desire to scare ourselves and others, he also re-creates early-60s clichés with a relish and a feeling for detail that come very close to love". In her review for The Washington Post, Rita Kempley wrote, "In this funny, philosophical salute to B-movies and the B-moguls who made them, Dante looks back fondly on growing up with the apocalypse always on your mind and atomic mutants lurking under your bed". In his review for the USA Today, Mike Clark wrote, "Part spoof, part nostalgia trip and part primer in exploitation-pic ballyhoo, Matinee is a sweetly resonant little movie-lovers' movie".
- ^Stone, Jerico (12 July 1998). "Same Old, Same Old". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 19 May 2017.
- ^"Joe Dante" By Joshua Klein AV Club Nov 29, 2000 accessed 3 February 2014
- ^DVD Savant: Joe Dante interviewed on the DVD release of Matinee By Glenn Erickson May 11, 2010
- ^The Onion A.V. Club: Triple Feature - Movies about moviegoing (Sherlock Jr., Matinee, and Goodbye, Dragon Inn) by Keith Phipps October 12, 2010 "...sent away to watch a defanged, Disney-style comedy called The Shook Up Shopping Cart"
- ^"Matinee (1992)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
- ^Ebert, Roger (January 29, 1993). "Matinee". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2008-07-23.
- ^Maslin, Janet (January 29, 1993). "Eek! There's a Horror Movie in Here!". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-07-23.
- ^Gleiberman, Owen (February 5, 1994). "Matinee". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2008-07-23.
- ^Rainer, Peter (January 29, 1993). "Matinee an Affectionate Nod to Early '60s Schlock". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-03-25.
- ^Rosenbaum, Jonathan (February 5, 1993). "War Fever". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 2010-03-25.
- ^Kempley, Rita (January 29, 1993). "In the Glow of the Atomic Age". The Washington Post. pp. C1.
- ^Clark, Mike (January 29, 1993). "B-guiling tribute to gimmicky '60s fright films". USA Today. pp. 4D.