Double Feature

Double Feature by Cora Buhlert1956: Judy is the designated town slut of Stillwater Creek. After getting thrown out of a sock hop at the local high school, Judy winds up going to the movies with bad boy Hank instead, where a science fiction double feature is playing. However, before the first reel of the second movie is through, the night is interrupted by a very real invasion of flying saucers from outer space…

This is a novelette of 8500 words or approx. 30 print pages.



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More information:

  • Double Feature is a novelette of 8500 words. This story is a digital premiere and has never been published previously.
  • Double Feature was initially planned to be a story in a collection entitled The Day the Saucers Came. The collection was supposed to include various short stories narrated from a first person POV by eye witnesses to a massive alien invasion (via B-movie style flying saucers) back in 1956. So far, only three stories exist, Acacia Crescent, Lovers’ Lane and Double Feature
  • In many ways, Double Feature is a companion piece to Lovers’ Lane, because Judy, the narrator of Double Feature, is a supporting character in Lovers’ Lane, whose narrator Betty appears in Double Feature.
  • Blonde and perfect Betty was named both for Betty, the blonde good girl love interest in Archie, and for Betty Draper, Don Draper’s beautiful, but unpleasant first wife in Mad Men. Meanwhile, Judy was named for the bad girl rival in the Lesley Gore song “It’s my party”, since naming her Veronica would have been too obvious.
  • Miss Rottenmeyer, the geography teacher who throws Judy out of the sock hop, is named after the housekeeper in Johanna Spyri’s Heidi. The briefly mentioned Principal Snyder is of course a reference to the principal of Sunnydale High School in Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.
  • The two movies of the double feature at the Aztec, Forbidden Planet and Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, were both released in 1956. Though I cheated a bit, since Earth vs. the Flying Saucers was not released until July 1956, i.e. one month after the story is set. However, the title was simply too perfect a fit not to use it.
  • It’s also unlikely that these particular movies would have been shown back to back, since they were produced by different studios. What is more, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers would probably have been shown first, since it is the cheaper of the two movies, whereas Forbidden Planet was quite expensive for its time.
  • Coincidentally, Forbidden Planet is also the second half of the “Science Fiction Double Feature” from the eponymous opening song of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
  • Judy’s description of what happens on screen is an accurate retelling of the first approximately six minutes of Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. While writing this story, I rewatched the movie for the first time in 25 years or so and was stunned by how dull the opening was, in spite of some pretty good saucer effects, courtesy of the great Ray Harryhausen. There is a lot of flying saucer action, including a very impressive attack sequence, where the saucers attack Washington DC and trash various monuments, later on (which Judy never sees, since the saucer interrupts the movie prematurely), but the beginning is rather dull. And Mr. Portentous – actually a character named Dr. Russell A. Marvin, portrayed by actor Hugh Marlowe – really does sound very portentous in the movie.
  • Judy also mentions the other famous science fiction movie of 1956, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which would have been the second half of the double feature, if Earth vs. the Flying Saucers hadn’t been just so absolutely perfect.
  • Other classic 1950s movies mentioned by Judy include Rebel Without a Cause, James Dean’s final movie and a classic juvenile delinquent movie, which also includes a drag racing scene, and Blackboard Jungle, another classic juvenile delinquent movie, which stars among others Anne Francis, who also stars in Forbidden Planet.
  • Judy mentions that her mother listened to Orson Welles’ famous radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds and promptly went into labour because of panic. This would make Judy’s birth date October 30 or October 31 (depending on how long Judy’s mother was in labour), 1938, which means that she is not quite eighteen in the summer of 1956.
  • The fact that when a person is zapped by the saucer, all that remains are their smoking shoes, showed up before in both Acacia Crescent and Lovers’ Lane. By Double Feature, it has become something of a running gag with the entire town littered with the discarded shoes that are all that’s left of the saucer’s victims. Coincidentally, Double Feature also shows the destruction wrought by a single saucer in greater detail than either Acacia Crescent or Lovers’ Lane.
  • The cover image is stock art by Phil Cold, while the flying saucer is stock art by Kostyankin Pankin. The cover is not entirely accurate, since it shows a drive-in cinema, whereas the Aztec is a traditional movie theatre. However, it gets the idea behind the story across. The typography is supposed to evoke the posters for 1950s science fiction B-movies.
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