Saturday, March 17, 2018

259. Trip With the Teacher

259. Trip With the Teacher (1975)
Director: Earl Barton
Writer: Earl Barton
From: Cult Cinema

A group of young women on a road trip are held captive by a pair of sadistic bikers.

Tthe “teacher” (she’s not their teacher, more like a slightly older woman in the community that put together this “educational” summer trip) is taking four young women to interesting sites in the American Southwest. The bus they’ve rented passes a trio of bikers—two brothers and a hobbyest who looks like Micky from the Monkees that stopped fix their flat—who notice the girls and follow them to a gas station. After the bus leaves, the psycho brother, Al, kills the attendant for insulting him.

The bus breaks down, the bikers catch up, flirt with the girls, then tow the bus to an abandoned lot in the middle of nowhere. To make that sound less calculated, it was a farm the brothers had passed the year before where a guy had been working on a tractor and they thought they could find help. When they arrive, it’s no longer in use. The bus driver insults Al, Al kills him, and everyone realizes the situation has escalated. As Micky tells one of the girls, Al and his brother will either have to kill all of them or try to outrun the cops.

Can you guess what happens? Which blog are you reading? They sit in the abandoned shack and not a whole lot happens—both to the good and the bad. Micky noted that if one of them gets away, as far as the brothers are concerned, they may have all gotten away. They just need to wait for their moment.

In an order that I can’t remember, Al rapes the teacher, Micky escapes but is driven off the road by the brother, and one of the other girls escapes only to be caught and killed by Al. The next day, Micky returns and kills the brother. He faces off with Al, but the teacher runs Al through with a piece of pipe. After everyone gets cleaned up, Micky leaves on his bike promising to return with help to fix the bus. THE END.

Considering the kinds of movies on these sets, and that the film has sexual assault, it’s not as uncomfortable as what I initially thought it was going to be which was some ill-conceived sex comedy about a teacher hooking up with his students.

Hey, I didn’t say it was good, I said it wasn’t as bad as I feared it could be.

A lot of the movie is sitting around waiting and, it feels strange to say this, I wanted more violence. None of the women are tied up and there are periods where four of them are alone with Al when he’s unarmed and having some strange scenery-chewing episode. I kept thinking, just start beating him. It’s four-on-one; you’re going to fuck him up. Instead, they sit and wait. Enough happens to keep the movie from being excruciatingly dull, but not quite enough is going on to keep the tension running.

The sexual violence in the movie has to be mentioned as well. Again, it’s not as bad as it could be, but is bad enough. One of the girls tries to seduce Al to get him into the other room so that maybe the rest could overpower his brother. To make that less uncomfortable, she’s the girl who was flirting with him before everything went bad. Rather than go into the next room, though, Al tells her to strip in front of everyone. She does, but with her back to us. The audience doesn’t see her nudity, which is a good thing. Exploitation is always walking that thin line between titillation and horror, but you want to maintain that line. Nudity in the context of fun sexy times? Fantastic. Nudity in the context of someone’s suffering? No. So I was willing to give the movie credit for making that choice.

And then the scene of the teacher being sexually assaulted immediately follows and it’s the only nudity in the movie.

“Oh, hey! You got it… wrong. You got it completely wrong. You almost had it right, and then got it completely wrong.”

There’s another incident of forced sex later in the movie and, again, damning with faint praise, the way the film chooses to do it is not the terrible way I thought it was going to. Earlier in the movie, the girls get into a fight because it’s that kind of movie. They’re talking about sex and one reveals that she’s a virgin and calls another a “horny little bitch.” I was dreading a terrible Chekov’s Gun situation where, since this woman said she was a virgin, we were going to see her get sexually assaulted. And we don’t. It’s just a regularly uncomfortable scene of sexual assault.

So it’s not a recommend on a whole host of levels. If the sexual assault isn’t a deal-breaker, it’s also just not that interesting. To the film’s credit, it never tries to portray the assaults as anything but unpleasant, as things that the audience is supposed to be horrified by instead of enjoying on some level. However, there’s just a paucity of imagination here. In many respects, it’s a less-ambitious version of The Sadist starring Arch Hall, Jr. And, let me tell you, it’s a rare day where I can say something’s a poor version of an Arch Hall, Jr. vehicle. Trip With the Teacher, though, felt like it only had the keywords for a story, the genre checklist without any of the additional material to make it a complete movie. Even the title feels like a half-assed attempt to suggest the content instead of actually reflecting the content of the movie. Doesn’t Trip With the Teacher sound like it’d be a racy exploitation film? Then there’s no need to make one, the title does it all. Give it a pass, it’s not worth your time.

Friday, March 16, 2018

258. Scorpion

258. Scorpion (1986)
Director: William Riead
Writer: William Riead
From: Cult Cinema

International anti-terrorism expert Scorpion is brought in to help protect an international terrorist planning to turn state's evidence.

Our film opens in Spain where a man drives a red Porsche to a small bar. Some rowdies try to make trouble, but he makes quick work of them before driving off. He checks in with a contact in Amsterdam and then the US and gets word that he needs to come home.

Cut to a board room where various suits and generals are discussing anti-terror policy. They note that the situation has gotten worse. Instead of attacking random groups of civilians, the terrorists are kidnapping and torturing people *gasp* like those gathered in the room! Something must be done! The first name off their lips is “Scorpion.” We do not return to this moment or these men again in the movie so there’s no reason for me to have mentioned it here. I just love how wrong-headed the scene is. “This terrorism situation has gotten out of control! They’re no longer killing plebes, they’re killing important people like us! Now we need to take it seriously.”

So the man we saw at the beginning is, in fact, Scorpion, aka Steve Woods. Because this is an 80’s actioner and the movie wants me to refer to him as "Scorpion," I’m going to refer to him as “Steve” throughout. Steve is such a great anti-terror operative for the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) that whatever case he was called back from Spain for, he’s instead dispatched to deal with terrorists who have taken over a plane. He goes on board, unarmed, and manages to disarm all the terrorists, only killing the female one. I think the only person he kills in the movie is that woman. It’s also strange that, considering they were all armed with automatic weapons, the terrorists don’t start lighting up the passengers as soon as Steve gets all kicky. And he was really lucky that they didn’t have any deadman switch or further accomplices hidden in the back.

I’m saying for being the greatest anti-terror agent ever, Steve’s not very good.

The papers love him, though, and give him a big write-up on the front page of the next morning’s edition, including his real name! That’s treated as a problem but never comes up again. Steve is razed by two other members of the agency, one of whom plays the recorder when he’s bored.

Fabulous. The agent’s quirk is he’s an annoying third-grader.

I’m getting bogged down in the minutiae of stupid. Steve’s next case is to guard Faued, a terrorist that’s turning state’s evidence. Steve clocks out of his first shift and hands Faued over to recorder agent, but Faued lets assassins in who kill the recorder kid. Thank Christ. Then they shoot up Faued.

The lawyer who organized Faued’s testimony is giving Steve lip over Faued getting shot, but Steve wants to know how his partner got killed. Turns out Steve and the recorder kid were friends since childhood and the recorder kid became an agent because a corrupt politician was pushing his dad around when he was a kid. This is communicated via flashback where the recorder kid as a kid tries to push over a statue and fails. Since that doesn’t communicate anything, Steve tells us again later.

Obviously Steve’s new search for the recorder kid’s killer is going to ultimately parallel recorder kid’s obsession with stopping crooked politicians and it’ll turn out the lawyer who’s riding Steve’s ass all throughout the movie is behind everything. Nope.

Yeah, just nope. That doesn’t happen. Layer’s just a dick. I think we’re supposed to dislike him because he’s a hot-shot rich guy obsessed with his public persona, not like Steve who lives on a house boat, is a hot-shot agent getting written up in the papers constantly, and has one Porsche in Europe and one Porsche the US (his American one is tan).

Steve manages to track down the assassins who killed recorder kid and put Faued in a coma, but that leads to a dead end. Plus Faued dies. Then he tracks down a woman Faued was trying to contact in Hawaii. He goes there, gets more clues, ultimately learns that the man they were guarding was paid to pretend to be Faued by the real Faued. They find the real guy, capture him, and the lawyer comes to kiss Steve’s ass. Steve walks away, sees the statue that recorder kid hated in the park, and finally shoves it over because that’s what the movie was about all along. THE END.

I’m gonna surprise you here and say this movie was kind of stupid. Fist of the B-List has a write-up of it that goes into more details about the players involved including the fact that the lead was an International Karate Tournament champion and, considering that, the movie has very few fight scenes. That is one of the film’s flaws: it has this mustachioed dimwit doing a lot of detective work, but how he gets from point-to-point doesn’t make sense and he tends to miss obvious things.

Generally speaking, the movie’s laughably bad and I suppose it’s a recommend on that level. I kept rolling my eyes and waiting for the movie to get to the obvious scenes that of course would be there, and then it didn’t have them. The recorder kid’s mission to out crooked politicians doesn’t get a payoff in the lawyer being crooked. The newspaper revealing Steve's real name doesn't become an issue at all. And, of course, the mindless action sequences that are going to be in a film called Scorpion aren't.

The movie is highly riffable, but otherwise a bit dull. Every scene that feels like it’s ramping up to a big action setpiece just turns into a calm and staid police procedural. Even the scene where Steve is chasing one of the killers across the rooftops doesn’t play out how you’d expect. Killer jumps, comes up a bit short, and is hanging from the edge by his hands. Steve walks up to the edge of the first building, leans over, and… basically hangs out while the killer’s grip loosens and he falls. Steve’s reaction is very, “Oh. Well. That’s um… Yeah. This is just going to be unfortunate. A-yup, there he goes.”

Gather your friends, shout things at this movie, just don’t bother suffering it alone.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

257. Mission Stardust

257. Mission Stardust aka … 4… 3… 2… 1… morte (1967)
Director: Primo Zeglio
Writers: Kurt Vogelmann, Sergio Donati, and Primo Zeglio, based on novels by Clark Dalton
From: Sci-Fi Invasion

A mission to the moon encounters alien life in need of assistance, but finds their efforts to help being stymied by a crimelord.

More Italian sci-fi. Ugh. At least this doesn’t feel like a rip-off of a rip-off of Star Wars the way Escape From Galaxy 3 did. However this movie, if possible, is even weirder.

The titular Mission Stardust is flying to the moon on some pretense. Its secret mission is to collect a heretofore undiscovered mineral that’s just beneath the moon’s surface. A villainous crimelord learns of the mission’s real goal and is making preparations to steal the minerals upon the ship’s return. However, something on the moon short circuits all the ship’s electronics. It turns out it’s an alien race genetically identical to humans, but far advanced in terms of society and technology (as they ceaselessly remind us).

The aliens’ ship is in need of repair and one of the two aliens on board is sick. Turns out he has leukemia. Fortunately one of the astronauts know of a doctor in Africa who can treat him. So the alien ship goes to Earth, but is spotted by the African military that tries to attack it. Also, a traitor among the astronauts alerts the crimelord to what’s going on. This, somehow, doesn’t interfere with his plan.

Two of the astronauts set out to find the doctor while the healthy alien keeps the army at bay. The astronauts find the doctor, but are pursued by the army and the crimelord on their way back to the ship. The astronaut the healthy alien is in love with jumps from the car to stop the army and is captured by the crimelord. Meanwhile, on the ship, it turns out the doctor and his nurses are plants sent by the crimelord. They give the sick alien a transfusion, then try to take over the ship. The healthy alien activates the robot guards though, and the doctor and nurses are killed. The astronaut traitor takes the healthy alien and meets up with the crimelord.

Hero astronaut has escaped the crimelord at this point and returns to the ship. They track the healthy alien, rescue her, and pick up the real doctor. During the rescue, the traitor gets killed and the crimelord escapes. However, once back on the ship, the healthy alien blows up the crimelord’s island. In a twist, the crimelord is already on the ship. He holds everyone at gunpoint, but they all advance on him and the healthy alien kicks him out an airlock and into space.

Back on the moon, both the aliens’ and the astronauts’ ships are repaired and preparing to leave. The now-no-longer-sick alien expresses his hope that our two species might someday interact more closely. An astronaut goes looking for hero astronaut and finds him making out with the healthy alien. He returns to the no-longer-sick alien and says he may get his wish. THE END.

It’s just confusing, you know? Right from Jump Street I had no idea what was going on. It’s a moon mission, but that’s a front for mineral extraction. However a crimelord has the details about that secret mission and is planning a heist around it. And once all that gets sidelined by the aliens, it still doesn’t derail the crimelord’s plans. This is one of those movies where I’m not 100% sure the people dubbing it had a script beforehand.

Despite all the craziness of the plot, it’s boring. The movie is really boring. Maybe that’s because of the complicated plot. None of the events matter so there’s never any throughline. The one plot that’s consistent almost throughout the movie is getting a doctor for the alien, and even that’s barely held to. That plot feels like an afterthought every time it comes up.

To the good, this is highly riffable. The movie’s really stupid with mustache-twirling villainy and a nonsensical plot. Add to that terrible effects and a print so bad that it looks like experimental collage making fun of films from this period and you have a real laugh riot. If you have enough people in the room, I guarantee at least one person will start shouting, “What?! What?!” at the screen. Beyond that, give it a pass. None of the characters stand out and it’s never particularly interesting.

Friday, March 09, 2018

256. The Raiders of Atlantis

256. The Raiders of Atlantis aka I predatori di Atlantide (1983)
Director: Ruggero Deodato
Writers: Tito Carpi and Vincenzo Mannino
From: Sci-Fi Invasion

A mission to raise a nuclear sub from the bottom of the ocean inadvertently brings forth Atlantis. Now roving gangs of Atlanteans are wantonly killing people while searching for one woman.

We open with our heroes, Mike and Washington (who insists on being called “Mohammed” through this opening sequence and then never again), breaking into a house, killing all the guards and killing the owner. He’s sealed in a body bag and delivered to their employer who refuses to show his face. He pays the pair and they announce their intention to travel to Trinidad.

Meanwhile, Dr. Cathy Rollins, an expert in pre-Columbian languages, is flown out to an ocean rig. The crew there is trying to surface a derelict Russian nuclear sub. In the process, somehow, they’ve found a tablet with runes they don’t recognize. While she examines that, the crew brings up the sub, but something goes wrong at the last minute. The ocean gets super choppy and everyone abandons the rig before it's destroyed. Mike and Washington are at sea at this point and rescue the crew.

The disturbance has been caused by Atlantis returning from the ocean floor. With its rise, gangs emerge from the cities—not from Atlantis—and start murdering everyone. Mike et al sail to the nearest shore and find themselves almost immediately under attack: first, by their friend on the boat who tries to kidnap Dr. Rollins, then by the Mad Max-esque gangs on land.

There isn’t much plot from this point. The gangs are after Rollins. Mike, Washington, and the ragtag group they assemble (and then lose, one by one) fight the gangs. We get several nice action set pieces including two separate instances of a man on fire. Then Rollins is captured and taken to the island. The group goes to find her and split up once they get to Atlantis: one team to find Rollins, the other to disable the sub and sink the island. Everyone dies except Mike, Rollins, and Washington.

Mike and Washington go to the heart of the island where they find Rollins turned into an Atlantean. The islanders wanted her because she figured out what the tablet said and believe she can restore them to their former glory. When she sees Mike, she changes her mind, and sinks the island instead. Mike and Washington rush back to their helicopter and find Rollins on board. They all escape and Rollins starts making out with Mike. THE END.

This intrepid 1983 sci-fi actioner is set in the far-off future of 1994 for no reason whatsoever. Why set your movie eleven years in the future? This reminds me that I’ve been thinking of doing a bad movie podcast called “It Was the Year” that focuses on movies set in a future that’s already past and how entertainingly wrong they got everything. This movie, though, announces that it’s set in the future and then doesn’t have anything to do with any sort of future whatsoever.

Anyway, I was primed for this because I’d already seen it reviewed on Best of the Worst. I’d forgotten most of what they said apart from this being a Mad Max rip-off and a few details about the conclusion. I didn’t remember any details about how fundamentally silly it all is.

And it is silly. I don’t know what the opening sequence with the murder is supposed to be about. It never comes up again and we never get any conflict in the movie arising from Mike and Washington being murderers for hire. Plus there’s the strange fact of the titular Raiders. They’re not from Atlantis. The way the movie’s cut, it’s very clear that when Atlantis rises, these people who are already on land get the signal and start raiding. Who are they and where did they come from? And how would they know anything about Rollins?

Who cares? Stuff sure does blow up good. And that’s the proper attitude to have going into this. The acting is over-the-top, the set-ups are downright silly, and the various set pieces are kind of inventive. An early scene of a hanging body bumping against a jukebox and causing the record to skip is well-conceived and pleasantly creepy. More often though, the movie descends into people shooting at other people.

I’d give it a recommend. It never trips over itself by entering super-uncomfortable spaces and it’s pretty relentlessly goofy. The flick’s only just over ninety minutes and it moves through that time well enough from its toy models in a bathtub to its hilariously-timed deaths. While it’d be best enjoyed with friends, I think it’s silly enough to entertain even if you’re alone.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

255. Welcome to Blood City

255. Welcome to Blood City (1977)
Director: Peter Sasdy
Writers: Stephen Schneck and Michael Winder
From: Sci-Fi Invasion

Five people with no memory awaken to find themselves in a wild west town where your place is determined by how many people you kill.

Open in a city where a voice over a loudspeaker is announcing a bombing and directing people to a rally point. A man is stopped in his car by officials.

Cut to a sandy landscape where Lewis, in blue coveralls, is just waking up. Martine and 3 men, dressed just like him, are also there asking what he can remember. He doesn’t remember anything and neither do they. All they know is what’s written on a little card in their pockets: their name, the number of people they killed, and how. Lewis looks at his card, tears it up, and throws it away.

They start walking and get ambushed by two rednecks with guns. The rednecks kill one of the group, steal everyone’s boots, and then rape Martine. Way to go, movie. You’ve lost me before the ten-minute mark. Can you win me back over?


Cause the movie never engages with the subject seriously; it’s just there to demonstrate how awful this setting is. The movie is so ambivalent about its own portrayal of sexual assault that it never mentions the event again even though one of the big motivating factors for the characters is escaping sex slavery.

Oh yeah, it goes there too.

So I’ll just speed through this. The now quartet is found by Jack Palance, sheriff in these parts (although he didn’t intervene in the rape), and he takes them to the titular Blood City. Everyone here is a citizen or a slave. Newcomers, like the quartet, are kept in arrivals and then sold off to citizens to work for one year before earning their freedom. One citizen has called dibs on Martine.

Lewis isn’t willing to accept the situation so strikes off into town on his own. He’s almost killed, but ends up killing a citizen instead after the mysterious citizen Katherine tosses him a shotgun. Having killed a citizen, Lewis is now a citizen and learns the rules of the place: kill twenty people and no one can touch you.

Meanwhile, we keep cutting to scientists in a lab monitoring what’s happening in Blood City. The whole situation is a game designed to find ideal recruits to work as part of the government’s elite killer corps. Katherine is one of the scientists and she’s taken a fancy to Lewis, both romantically and as her pet project in the experiment.

Anyway, Lewis faces off against the guy who wants to claim Martine, kills him, but finds Martine’s vanished. Katherine took her away and handed her off to the rednecks from the beginning. Lewis goes to save her, Katherine sends reenforcements to help, and then Katherine herself shoots Martine. Since Lewis is angry about it, Katherine sets up Palance to kill him, but Lewis ultimately wins. Katherine then gives the only other surviving member of Lewis’ initial group a gun and Lewis is shot. The supervisor of the project, though, likes Lewis’ performance and brings him out of the game.

When Lewis wakes up, he sees the monitors with the game as well as the room next to his own where everyone he’d seen die in-game is walking around lobotomized. He overhears the supervisor’s plans for him and injects himself back into the game, seemingly killing himself in the real world. THE END.

If the movie hadn’t been cavalier with the subject of rape, I’d like it a lot more. Granted, it feels a bit like Westworld meets The Prisoner, but it’s interesting for that very mash-up. The characters are dropped in a surreal space that doesn’t make sense to them as their memories of their past lives try to intrude. Palance tells Lewis, “I never killed anyone,” and then has a flash of himself as a minister. Lewis keeps having flashbacks to himself as a track-and-field coach. I kept expecting those parts of the story to expand, for the gaps in this fake world to be pried open as the characters realize what’s going on.

Instead Lewis just wakes up and hears it all told to him. A little less interesting and the central twist of the piece is given away by cutting back to the scientists all the time. Cabin In the Woods did this, and I think to good effect, but was more up front about both aspects. The kids in the cabin are both experiencing the genre story while also starting to question the set-up, and that’s a big part of why that movie works.

One thing holding the piece back is the quality of the print. A lot of these movies are the VHS edits (tracking errors and all) so there’s plenty of pan-and-scan. This movie feels cropped beyond that, though. Like they zoomed in on the widescreen print and then zoomed in one step further. Not only do you get the normal pan-and-scan artifacts of people clearly being cut out of the shot, it’s exacerbated with the tops of people’s heads being sliced off by the framing.

I’m going to be honest, I’m a little bummed to not be able to recommend this movie. The premise is interesting if not executed as well as it could be. The acting is pretty solid—Jack Palance is clearly enjoying himself and there’s a lot of talent on-screen. When you open with an act of violence like sexual assault, though, and the extent of your reaction is a shrugging, “sucks to be you,” you’ve lost me.

Yes, these are exploitation films and I’m not going to bag on them for having extreme content. When you have it, though, you have to acknowledge that it’s there, not just sprinkle it across your movie for a bit of spice. Once you add a pinch of rape, nothing else is going to come through.

Friday, March 02, 2018

254. Life Returns

254. Life Returns (1935)
Directors: Eugene Frenke and James P. Hogan
Writers: L. Wolfe Gilbert, John F. Goodrich, Arthur T. Horman, and Mary McCarthy, from a story by Eugene Frenke and James P. Hogan
From: Sci-Fi Invasion

A scientist intent on developing a formula to bring the dead back to life gradually loses sight of the important things in his own life.

Opening title cards inform us that this movie is based on True Events! The feature you’re about to see includes the Real Dr. Cornish who may have Conquered Death Itself! Of course it has Dr. Cornish present in the first few moments of the movie and then detours into its inane melodrama.

To be fair, the movie’s not blowing smoke when it says it’s based on the work of the real-life Robert Cornish. Wikipedia has more, but the basics are that Cornish was working on a way to resuscitate the recently dead and managed it successfully with two dogs. His process was using a “teeter board” to keep blood moving through the body and injecting it with a mixture of adrenaline and anti-coagulants. If that sounds familiar, it’s pretty similar to what John Travolta does to Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction after she OD’s.

Anyway, the point is Cornish wasn’t an obsessive nut pursuing some mad whim. He was a respected scientist who’d managed to demonstrate some of his theories. Narratively, this presents a problem. While Cornish’s story, 80-some years later, is interesting on its own, “scientist works hard, makes marginal progress on project” isn’t a compelling story for 1935. What audiences wanted, or what producers assumed audiences wanted, was a story of an obsessive nut pursuing some mad whim and the terrible consequences thereof.

Enter Dr. Kendrick in Life Returns.

We open with a trio of med students: Kendrick, Stone, and the actual Dr. Cornish. They’re pursuing their goal of bringing back the dead and working through all the social events of college. This is communicated through a montage of college sports and dances intercut with the trio in the lab. I won’t mention it beyond this point, but this movie loves its montages. Everything in the first half is communicated through montage and it’s exhausting.

They graduate and Kendrick tells them they have an offer from Arnold Research. It’s a non-profit that develops goods for sale (so not a non-profit). Stone and Cornish don’t want to go because Arnold will want to monetize their work and take all the credit. Kendrick doesn’t care about the money or credit, he just wants to get the research done and Arnold’s equipment will make it easier. The trio split up and Kendrick goes to Arnold.

Time passes, Kendrick gets married, has a son, and has his project canceled by Arnold because it’s not producing any marketable results. He presents his findings to the scientific community and is laughed out of the room. Then he’s working on his experiments on his own in a barn while his precocious son Insufferable Child is there. Insufferable Child, of course, now becomes the focus of the film.

Kendrick’s wife dies, off-screen, of something, and that’s the final blow to Kendrick’s sanity. He becomes a shell of a man and the court rules, since he doesn’t have a job, that Insufferable Child will have to be sent to juvie. IC runs away with his dog and is taken in by a group of kids with their own clubhouse. IC’s dog gets taken by the pound, gets gassed, and IC confronts Kendrick about being a bad dad. Kendrick swallows his pride, gets the dog’s corpse, calls Cornish, and Cornish brings the dog back to life. IC’s happy, Kendrick is validated, and he gives all credit to Cornish. THE END

It’s pretty stupid. I mean, it’s a movie about a guy trying to develop a resurrection serum that gives very little time to developing a resurrection serum. Once IC is introduced it’s his movie and, golly, isn’t is sad that a boy like that don’t got no mom? Gee mister, how could you say anything negative about a movie like that?


The movie’s hilariously bad in terms of its own self-importance and in its constant digressions. We spend a good minute on several screens of text telling us about the amazing work of Dr. Cornish and then the movie runs as quickly as it can away from Cornish and anything to do with his work. Imagine watching the opening crawl to Star Wars and then cutting to a high school in suburban Newark. That’s what’s going on here. On top of that, the movie loses its nerve halfway through following Kendrick and telling the tale of a genius driven to destitution and turns instead into a low-rent version of Our Gang.

One great moment is the conclusion where the dog’s being brought back to life. IC runs into operating room and is held back by his dad so as not to interfere in the experiment. The looks on IC's face in both the wide and close-up shots are hilarious for how wrong they are. He looks like the guy from Un Chien Andalou rooting for the androgyne to get hit by a car. His face isn’t communicating hope that his dog will come back to life, it’s hope that he’s going to see some real blood. His demonic countenance is glorious.

One interesting note is that Insufferable Child is played by George P. Breakston who went on to become a director. One of the films he did was The Manster, a movie I featured here almost exactly a year ago. That movie isn’t great either, but I’d watch it a dozen times over rather than return to this.

Life Returns is in the public domain and I’ve added an MPEG-2 version to here. While I don’t think there’s a lot of fun to be had editing the film, except for the final sequence with the dog, it is highly riffable. Melodrama lends itself to easy mockery and this film is at once so self-serious and so saccharine that you can’t help but laugh. On that level, check it out. For watching on its own, stay away.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

253. Escape From Galaxy 3

253. Escape From Galaxy 3 aka Giochi erotici nella terza galassia (1981)
Director: Bitto Albertini
Writer: John Thomas
From: Sci-Fi Invasion

A princess and captain, fleeing a despotic intergalactic warlord, set off across the galaxy to rally forces to their side. They land on a primitive planet with strange customs, a planet called… Earth?

A film that’s more interesting for its production choices rather than any narrative or creative element. It’s a post-Star Wars, post-Battlestar Italian sci-fi cheepy, and even that sets the bar too high. I’ve just watched it, but I’ve already forgotten the names of the characters. Apparently those names weren’t particularly important, though since even IMDB doesn’t list all the actors or give the characters’ full names.

Anyway, the story is this peaceful group of people is being threatened by an evil galactic overlord. He looks like George Clinton with a trimmed and glitter-bombed beard. While it’s easy to read racial overtones into the evil black villain attacking the peaceful white people, it comes across more as the Mothership delivering funk to a planet that keeps insisting on broadcasting Pat Boone.

As our funk overlord blows up the planet and all the people, a Princess and a Captain escape to contact the other kings of the galaxy to unite against the galactic overlord. Their ship gets damaged in the escape and they end up landing on a planet unlike any they’ve seen before. It’s all green and blue and… it’s Earth. This comes up later, but it’s Earth. When the funk overlord tracks them there, he says it’s Earth and that it destroyed itself centuries before in a nuclear war. [psst! Do you get the subtext? It’s the text]

So the pair land on Earth to repair their ship and return to their mission of uniting forces against the funk. Only they run into the primitive people of Earth, amaze and terrify them with alien technology, and get fascinated by water. Yeah. Water. The Princess had read about it, but never encountered it.

The pair get captured, sentenced to death, then forgiven when the Captain saves a child. They get introduced to sex by the people, cause apparently they don’t have that elsewhere in the universe, and spend the rest of the movie trying to figure that out. I mean, “erotici” is in the original title. What did you think the movie was going to be about? Sure, they’re on a mission to defeat intergalactic tyranny, but, hey, humpy-humpy.

Funklord returns, captures them, but is destroyed by the powers granted to them by sex. All the peoples trapped under his funky thumb are freed and the pair return to Earth to screw as many people as they possibly can. THE END.

I mean, if you want Star Wars but more fucky, fill your boots. Just do it, though. Don’t go through all the contortions of getting there. You have the funk overlord, the chase across the galaxy, crashing on a planet, and then it all grinds to a halt. Suddenly the characters aren’t concerned with saving their planet or people, finding the other kings, or even repairing their ship. Instead, they’re amazed by water and have to learn what kissing is. It’s real stupid.

On top of that, a lot of the movie looks familiar because all the model and spaceship shots were taken from Starcrash. You may be familiar with that movie from season 11 of Mystery Science Theater 3000. It’s not a great flick.

So you have a sci-fi movie that’s ripping off a sci-fi movie that itself is a rip-off of Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica. AND is trying to be a softcore porno.

How can I not recommend a trainwreck like this?

Well, part of the reason is that it’s pretty boring. Not only do the various plots get introduced and dropped, the movie keeps throwing in details for no apparent reason. We randomly learn in the middle of the movie that the Princess and Captain are immortal, but will lose their immortality once they taste the pleasures of living. You could say there’s an Adam and Eve allegory at play there, but nothing’s done with it, and “the pleasures of living” include eating and drinking. These interstellar immortals literally don’t know how food works and you can bet that's played for laughs!

It turns out, though, that it’s not sex or eating that will cost them their immortality—indeed, it’s the fucking that makes them truly super-powered—but living outside the confederation of galaxies that they were a part of. If they don’t go back to Earth, which is some mix of stone-age and ancient Greek culture, they can live forever. But they still go back. Because reasons?

By the way, the superpowers they get from sex come up at the very end. Lord Funk of the Funk Reich claims the Princess as his slave. She kisses him and the Captain, somehow, is able to shoot lasers from his eyes and the combination turns Emperor Funk into a pile of ash.

What even is this?

While it’d probably be great fun to riff and watch with others, solo, it’s a confusing sci-fi rip-off of a rip-off that decides to almost try to be a softcore movie in its final third. The insistence upon the lead pair’s innocence and ignorance is immediately tiring and just makes you wonder how easily distracted they’re supposed to be. This can be a lot of fun if you have the right people with you, otherwise give it a pass.