Monday, December 24, 2012

A Very Special Christmas Edition of Dr. Z!

As my faithful, undead minions readers know… I am a fan of visiting famous celluloid filming sites. I’ve done so several times… from the cemetery where George Romero filmed Night of the Living Dead, to the Monroeville mall where he filmed Dawn of the Dead, to the charnel slaughterhouse where Tobe Hooper filmed ihis infamous Texas Chainsaw Massacre, to the famed hotel that inspired Stephen King to write what would become Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining… I have an unhealthy penchant for horror film history.

(You can check out my travels on the link to the right entitled Dr. Z’s Horrific Road Trip.)

With it being December now, I thought I’d do another.

You see, as the winter solstice approaches, and the night stretches beyond the day with a bitter and bone-chilling cold, our minds turn from the gruesome festiveness of Halloween to its antithesis... the Yuletide.

Enshrouded in the crystalline hoarfrost and tentacles of the insidious northern Ohio frigidity, Christmas springs upon us like a demented elf surprising his prey in the moonlight. With a squeak of primal pain from the consumer as he’s whipped and thrown into a Crampus sack, and a triumphant ‘Ho Ho Ho’ from the evil, relentless spirit of retail… we are trapped in the swirling, curling chaos of the midwinter’s bloody ritual.

It is against this backdrop of unrelenting horror, driven by the repetitive spine-tingling twinkle of Christmas carols… that Dr. Z set out to visit one of the most horrific movie sites of all time. It was especially apropos as this is a uniquely Cleveland experience and I didn’t need to travel far.

You see, faithful reader, Cleveland is home to what may be one of the most recognizable movie filming sites of the last fifty years!!!

Yesterday, as we are wont to do at Christmas time, Mrs. Zombie and our ghoulish progeny – WolfGirl and Zombie Boy – made the trek to Cleveland’s near west side to visit the horrifying, the terrifying, the inexplicably merry filming site of one of my favorite films.

The house from A Christmas Story!

That’s right… Dr. Z likes Christmas. I like Christmas, cheer, eggnog, and Christmas movies.  I love It’s a Wonderful Life and it’s spiritually related A Christmas Story.

And it pleases me that it was filmed here in my own hometown, Cleveland.

So, please join us for a very special holiday episode of Dr. Z.’s Horrific Road Trips!

It snowed a few days ago and there was a crispness to the air that only those from northern climes can understand. We like to call it booger-freezing cold. It’s where it’s so cold the air freezes the moisture in your nostrils and causes a contracting, uncomfortable feeling. So, with the cold and the likelihood of a white Christmas, we made the pilgrimage to Cleveland’s Tremont district in the vicinity of East 14th and Clark Ave.

We don’t normally head to the West Side, as it’s reputed to be an evil place populated by cannibals. I’m fond of saying this, but also don’t usually mention that my family was originally from that very area. My great-grandmother use to own a funeral home on Clark and my father’s high school job was to drive the meat wagon to pick up stiffs. I have vague, early memories of playing in the funeral home, hiding in and around caskets. Maybe that explains how I am today? Anyway, I digress…

Ralphie’s Christmas Story house was chosen because it had the look of an urban industrial town, with the steel mills of The Flats in the background. It was also advantageous to shooting because it was adjacent to a t-intersection – which was conducive to shooting. Cleveland was chosen as a filming site because of the old Higbee’s department store, and the producers liked the look of Cleveland’s old neighborhoods.

The exterior shots were filmed here in Cleveland, but most of the interior shots were filmed on a soundstage in Toronto. However, in 2005, an enterprising fan of the film bought the house and remodeled it to match the interior of the film. It’s open year round and is actually really kind of neat.

As we approached, we saw that it was absolutely crazy. The tight, tiny side streets leading to the house were crammed with cars and people taking in the spectacle of this cherished holiday. And there was a line comparable to the line at Higbee’s to see Santa two days before Christmas.

Here’s a shot of the house from the film:

And how it looked as we approached it from our parking spot on Rowley Avenue:

We got into line and began the cold half hour or so wait to enter the house. This waiting was punctuated by significant whining, bitching, general carrying on by those members of my family who are blessed with lower body fat percentages and little to no tolerance for Cleveland cold. In other words, everybody but Doctor Zombie pissed and moaned that it was cold.

Here’s a picture from the back of the line:

As we neared the house, I snapped a few pictures from the only angle available.

Here’s a picture of the sign in front… and myself and the incomparable Mrs. Zombie.

And the inevitable Leg Lamp! 

Originals from the movie:

Exterior with the family:

And an interior shot:

It’s a major award! (and must be Italian – it says Fra-Gee-Lay!) 

Here’s another shot from the movie of the living room:

And a shot of Zombie Boy with the Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle with a compass in the stock! Apparently, he shot his eye out with it.

Here’s a shot of the Ralphie’s upstairs bedroom:

And a shot of WolfGirl with a pretty girl dressed in a bunny suit. You can tell all she’s thinking is how badly she wanted bunny suit girl to run so that she could chase her down like the small woodland she is. Werewolves, and WolfGirl in particular, love fresh bunny meat! Yum!

And of course, a screen grab of Ralphie in his bunny suit.

Next up in the tour was the bathroom where Ralphie ran to use his Little Orphan Annie decoder ring!

Drink more Ovaltine?!? WTF?!?

Next we moved downstairs to the kitchen.

Here’s a shot of Ralphie, Randy, Mom, and the Old Man at the table:

And a shot today (with a dumb woman stepping in front of my camera! I, of course, was tempted to kill her and eat her liver, but Mrs. Zombie reminded me it was Christmas time. So I just bit one of her ears off. Happy F'ing Christmas! )

Here’s a shot of ZombieBoy standing in as Ralphie’s little brother, hiding under the sink.

And – finally – the place where it all happened; the place where Ralphie almost shot his eye out - the backyard!

Here’s a shot from his fantasy about fighting Black Bart. You can see the corner of the shed.

And as it stands today:

Another angle:

And so, having explored the house, we moved on to downtown and – in the shadow of the former Higbee’s, had some dinner.

Hope you enjoyed this. I certainly did. And, from Doctor Zombie and his family, have a Creepy Christmas!