It’s a psychotronic world
This compilation tape presents a two hour collage of bits and pieces of things psychotronic, some of which feature the editor and publisher of Psychotronic Video magazine, Michael Weldon. It begins with a pretty snazzy opening sequence for a proposed British television series called “The Psychotronic Zone” which sets the tone nicely. Most of what follows are video clips – mostly relatively rare – ‘borrowed’ from various sources: an opening sequence from Captain Kangaroo, Dick Clark doing a telethon, Funkadelic on a teen dance show, a trailer for Dr. Strangelove, clips from movies like Phantasm,Astro Zombies, Sex Kittens Go To College…
Most of this material is very entertaining – my favorite parts were the Cramps video and the clip of Ghoulardi – but the real reason for this tape to exist (I’m guessing) is to collect the various TV appearances that Weldon has made over the years on cable access TV shows and such. It also helps explain what we’re asked so often: just what is “psychotronic”? You can find my explanation here. Weldon’s is that he wanted to put out a weekly fanzine that featured all the movies he liked, and borrowed the term from the ’70s (made in Chicago) movie The Psychotronic Man.
Unfortunately, it’s during these interview and promo pieces that the tape slows to a crawl. Weldon is no TV star, so it would be unfair to poke fun at him for these bits. Let’s just say that unless your a fan of monotones you should keep your finger near the ff button. Worst of all is a home movie shot at the opening of the Weldon’s late NYC store. He shows off an incredible collection of posters on sale, but the rest of the segment is for friends and family only. And what’s the deal with the scene of a mime in the subway?
All this stuff on the tape would be mighty confusing to the viewer, so Weldon provides about 8 pages of notes that attempt to explain it all and why he included it on the tape. Which is where we run into a problem.
Weldon includes a very brief and difficult to hear clip of PFS founder Mike Flores showing off our old print version of It’s Only A Movie! at one of our events. The notes say that IOAM was a “tiny, short-lived xerox fanzine”, which is mostly untrue. The print version of IOAM began in 1986, about three years before Psychotronic Video was published in 1989 as a magazine, and ran until we decided to make it web-only in 1997. There were a few larger offset issues for a while, but for the most part it was a 24-page xeroxed digest provided free to our members, and was supported by one page of advertising. It still exists on the web today, celebrating the 16th year of the PFS, while I recently congratulated Weldon on the 10th year of PV.
Also in the notes is a backhanded compliment to Flores for prompting Weldon to hire an attorney, after Flores was “the first person to threaten (Weldon) with a lawyer.” He doesn’t elaborate on what the dispute was about, but I believe it had something to do with the fact that early issues of PV contained some kind of “dis list” of advertisers that hadn’t paid for ads and such, and that list included Flores, despite the fact that Flores never took out an ad in PV. Flores claims he never sicced a lawyer on Weldon for defaming his character, but he certainly had a right to feel betrayed. Earlier in his notes, Weldon mentions presenting a film show in Chicago. He doesn’t mention that Flores flew him in from New York to appear at this early public PFS show, and that he was a guest in Flores’ home during his stay.
I see Weldon as being much like Forrest J Ackerman. FJA didn’t invent science fiction, monster movies, or even monster movie magazines, but he edited and wrote for by far the most popular and influential monster magazine of all (Famous Monsters of Filmland) and helped raise a generation of monster fans like a loving old uncle. He coined the term “sci-fi”. He was not a great writer, but he had a delightfully personal style that made his work a joy to read.
A lot of us horror and sci-fi fans had expanded our cinematic appreciation to all sorts of strange cult flicks and trash pics, but Weldon gave us a name we could hang our fixations on, and (though it was far from the first) a magazine to go along with it. Maybe he’s not a kindly old uncle – more like a weird cousin – but PV was always a magazine that Weldon made for himself to read more than anything.
I hope Mike Weldon gets over being cranky over TV shows ripping him off and gets back to having fun. As Flores pointed out in a recent rant: we all won. Psychotronic is now part of the mainstream (but not vice-versa), so let’s all stop acting like jealous fanboys whose favorite local band just “sold out and won a Grammy, man”. Let’s celebrate.