Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Johnny California: The Pile

 by JB

“Hold off! Unhand me, grey-beard loon!
Eftsoons, his hand dropped he.”B
--"Rime of the Ancient Mariner”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

We all have a pile, whether real or metaphoric—a pile of unwatched movies, maybe on discs or tapes or on some streaming service somewhere in the cloud or maybe on a half-remembered list in our subconscious minds. The pile sits in its corner, whispering, “Watch me. Watch me. Waaaaaaaaaatch meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.” The pile will not be silenced. The pile will not be dismissed.

I am guessing that for many of my readers, the pile makes itself known, boisterously and frequently, in October more than any other month because we are all fans of Scary Movies and the pile contains more Scary Movies than Non-Scary Movies.

I am staring at my pile right now. The pile is asleep. It is blissfully unaware that I am sizing it up, preparing to do battle in the only way the pile understands: by watching a boatload of films and reducing its size or (shudder the thought) giving away, throwing away, or selling some of the pile’s innards.


Trying not to wake the pile, I size it up. I poke the pile. (Never poke the pile.) The pile stirs, but returns to its slumber. The pile snores. Dust is expelled from its hellish nostrils. I could return the pile to the storage closet down the hall. The pile hates that.
ANNOYING AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL PAUSE: The other night I was enjoying dinner and delicious Tiki cocktails with a younger friend, when I felt moved to give him a piece of advice: “Never Buy Anything.” I was being sincere. In recent months I have often looked back on my life and at the sheer tons of bullshittery I have purchased through the years. What if I had bought NONE of it?

Actually, that is not a rhetorical question. I know exactly what would have transpired if I had NEVER purchased a videotape, a laserdisc, a DVD, a vinyl record, a CD, an action figure, a movie-themed T-shirt, or any of the useless effluvium I could never pass up. I know because one of my beloved uncles (I had five of them) never bought an unnecessary thing in his life. He was frugal. The balance in his savings account was the only thing that brought him joy. He loved accumulating interest. Case in point: He and my lovely aunt married in the 1940s, but he only got around to buying her an electric dryer in 1987. She hung the laundry on a line in their backyard for OVER FORTY YEARS. He never attended any family holidays because his job paid time-and-half and sometimes double time on holidays; he always volunteered to work Easter, the Fourth of July, Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Years, Arbor Day… My uncle never bought anything. My uncle never had to worry about... the pile.

His reward? Before he passed away, he handed his only daughter a key to a safety deposit box. That safety deposit box contained five million dollars.

The pile gasps and snorts in contempt. The pile does not like me telling that story. The pile doesn’t like it one little bit.

My pile currently contains some 30 movies and three television series. The movies include William Castle’s original 13 Ghosts, Son of Kong, The Soul of a Monster, Kingdom of the Spiders, The Spirit of the Beehive, Monsters Crash the Pajama Party, Bubba Ho-Tep, Zombies of Mora Tau, The Werewolf, The Giant Claw, Creature with the Atomic Brain, The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, the Scream Factory Fly Boxset, the new Vinegar Syndrome 4K of The Amityville Horror, all eight of the original AIP Beach Party movies, and seven trailer compilations. Each of the 33 pile movies (Pileys? Filmees?) is approximately 90 minutes, so watching them all would take 49.5 hours, or about two days.

The television series sets include The Addams Family (The 64 episodes clock in at around 27 hours—a full day and change); Boris Karloff’s Thriller (57 hours total or about two and a half days); and the first two seasons of Scooby Doo, Where Are You? (549 minutes, which equals nine and half hours or about three dozen Scooby Snacks).

I need at least six days of uninterrupted viewing to vanquish the pile. Halloween is now 13 days away. I could break this pile-killing marathon into 12 days and actually have time to sleep and shower. Or... there’s the storage closet. The pile stirs. The pile is awake. “Watch me. Waaaaaaaaatch meeeeeeeeeeeee.” The pile begins to fling its discs at me, like Oddjob throwing his razor-brimmed bowler hat in Goldfinger. Ouch.

I sit immobile at my desk... content to wait. What am I waiting for?

Why, you! Where should I start attacking the pile? What pileys listed above peak your curiosity? What is in your pile… if you DARE TO LOOK? Let me know in the comments!


  1. The beach party movies are hard to find, start there. Maybe it'll start a movement to release them

    1. Only one of them, The Ghost In The Invisible Bikini, is relevant for this month. It happens to be the worst of that series. J.B. wrote about it. I think he could find some better things to watch.

  2. Yo JB...thanks bunches for this column and sharing the amazing story of your Uncle. You told it succinctly but perfectly. And the premise is something i ponder ALL the time. As a long time collector of physical media the pro's and con's are many.

    Take Care Dude!

  3. My problem is that my Pile (which takes the form of a txt document, the actual discs are alphabetized on my shelf with the watched movies) grows faster than I'm able to thin it. For a couple of Scary Movie Months, I've made a list of available movies and chosen half of my watches randomly from that list to avoid analysis paralysis.

  4. “Analysis Paralysis” I’m going to use that term…

  5. A fantastic column, JB, and very relatable!

    The only one of your Pileys I've seen is Spirit of the Beehive, and it is WONDERFUL. As someone who loves Universal horror as you do and has worked with children as you have, I insist you give that priority. I suspect you'll love it.

  6. What would life be without the pile? Trying to reduce it provides a purpose in life. Junesploitation is the time when the pile screams the loudest at me. There are so many titles I have not yet gotten to or need to re-watch.

    The bulk of my watches this month are coming from my horror pile. Even within the restrictions of following a horror film challenge, I am finding plenty of chances to reduce it. To my surprise, I am getting to many films that have sat on the DVR for years.

    This year I have been more cautious about adding to my pile, particularly the purchasing of discs. That still did not stop me from putting in small orders for Kino and Shout Factory this month. More titles to add to my pile.

  7. Between the annual KL sale, Shocktober savings at Shout Factory, and the recent Criterion Flash sale, I’m beginning to suspect these companies are in kahoots!

  8. Criterion 24 Hour Flash Sale… brought to you by… THE PILE!