Friday, October 30, 2015

Story Slam: Scary

The story of one of the scariest things to happen to me on one of my previous jobs, and one of the moments that was supposed to scare me from my current job.

007. The Big Fight and 008. The Creeping Terror

Jump to The Creeping Terror (1964)

007. The Big Fight (1972) aka Blood on the Sun, Lei Tai
Directors: Shing Yuan Sun, Ting Mei Sung
Writer: Shing Yuan Sun
From: Cult Cinema

During the WWII Japanese occupation of China, two occupation officials fear that guerrilla forces will find common cause with the local martial arts school and the two will unite against the Japanese forces. The officials propose a tournament to flush out and kill the warriors, but of course the fights are rigged. Our hero and the guerrillas must decide when to fight and when it's best to bide their time.

More Kung-Fu so soon and one I enjoyed much more than Chase Step By Step. I think there are fewer fight scenes in this one, but they carry more weight. There's certainly more character and story here and some real question about how things will shake out. The movie also feels more fun.

We open in the martial arts school where a scrappy youth is beaten down by Brother Wu. Is this the nefarious Brother Wu I've heard so much about in the Kung-Fu parodies of my youth? He's a scoundrel, the movie's villain, and appropriately wormy. It's nice to have a villain to hate.

We cut to our hero traveling across Japanese-occupied China smuggling salt to his girlfriend. Is it just to make food or for use in developing gun powder to help the rebellion? The guards running the checkpoints along his path have the same question but are quickly dispatched by him and what had seemed to be a small band of travelers. Turns out they're part of the rebellion and they've heard of him. He invites them back to his town to lay low for a bit and plot the expulsion of the Japanese.

There are minor skirmishes with Brother Wu, political maneuvering by the school and Wu's father—the town leader, ultimately leading to Wu and his father proposing the tournament plan to their Japanese overlords. The tournament will pit the great Japanese masters of the various fighting styles—including sumo—against any willing challengers. Of course, the fights are fixed and all the challengers are killed by the Japanese masters.

Our hero and the head of the martial arts school see it for the trap that it is and forbid any of their students from participating, but eventually their honor and the safety of their friends is so threatened that they must test their styles against the Japanese.

The whole thing works. The fight scenes are fun, the villains are sufficiently mustache-twirling, and the story isn't too bad. Sure, there's the scrappy kid who is useless and annoying and forces the hero's hand later, and the hero's girlfriend whose role in the movie is to get killed to inspire him to fight back. That's doubly disappointing because the leader of the guerrillas is a woman and it would have been really easy to make the girlfriend involved with the underground in the town. Just give her a little something to be a character as opposed to a button to activate heroic action. Despite those two issues, it was fun.

The movie also works on a bad film/camp level. The dubbing is bad to the point where I wonder if the dubbers were being sarcastic, you can make jokes about what's going on without diminishing the film, and it has a literal “Your mother!” moment. +2 movie.

I came away from this with the sense of the old sword & sandal films, although that might just be because it's a dub from the 70's. My copy was formatted for television and it really should be in wide-screen. The choreography is pretty okay and, on top of that, the movie has sequences of Kung-Fu versus guns. I want to see all of that.

There is no copyright notice on this movie and it shows up in Film Chest's Public Domain film list, so I've uploaded an MPEG of this to archive.org here.


008. The Creeping Terror (1964)
Director: Vic Savage
Writer: Robert Silliphant
From: Cult Cinema & Sci-Fi Invasion

A newly married couple witnesses a flying saucer crash. As they alert the authorities, one of the monsters on board escapes. While the military is busy investigating the saucer and the creature chained up inside, its fellow traveler is moving ever-closer to the town, claiming victims as it goes.

I have seen this movie a ridiculous number of times, mostly due to The It's Alive Show. They played the episode featuring this movie a lot, or maybe I just feel like they did because of their affection for the admittedly strange “Bobby!” exclamation in the movie.

This movie is such a slow, goofy spectacle. When I tell my students about my bad movie hobby, I reference this film and describe it as “hallucinogenically dull.” My jaw was on the ground watching this because nothing is done right. Nothing.

The movie features a narrator describing what characters are saying in the movie including during scenes where you hear the characters speak. The filmmakers had the actors' voices reading the lines but still muted them in favor of another voice telling you what you were watching and what the characters were saying. This is not the most strangely incompetent part of the movie, though. This is the classic picture where the monster, the hulking alien beast roaming the landscape, is a bunch of carpet remnants quilted together and being shaken by a guy underneath. The monster lurches on to its victims, some of who have to drag themselves through the doggy-door-style flap on the front to be effectively consumed. The actors involved should be praised for not constantly giggling in the face of this “horror.”

It is glorious.

I know I'm not giving the standard detailed run-down of the plot, but there's none to give. The editing and content of the film is so strange, so ad-hoc, that I wonder if things didn't just fall apart half-way/three-quarters through and they decided to see what kind of film they could make just with the material they had. This movie is so strange, put together in such an odd fashion that it feels like a documentary made by aliens. The Wikipedia entry for the movie has a brief description of what happened during production, but I want more. I want the Ed Wood of the making of this movie.

Even though it is dull, the movie is too weird not to recommend. Mystery Science Theater 3000 featured it as episode 606. It's available on MST3k Volume 1 or on YouTube. Unfortunately, the film itself is still under copyright and so I can't share my copy online.

Friday, October 23, 2015

005. Chase Step By Step and 006. Country Blue

Jump to Country Blue (1973)

005. Chase Step By Step aka Bu bu zhui zong (1982)
Director: Min-Hsiung Wu (as Yu Min Sheong)
Writer: Yang Hsiang
From: Cult Cinema

Two acrobatic fighters are dispatched from a circus troupe to escort a shipment of gold to a drought-stricken region. As word spreads of their travels, various bandits scheme to overwhelm them and steal the gold.

This movie has immediate strangeness to entertain. The characters' voices are all dubbed by British actors so while I'm watching people I expect to have the wrong voices, somehow they have the wrong wrong voices. On top of that, the dub itself feels sort of loose, like the voice actors were ad-libbing a little. It's not as extreme as the initial US dub of the anime Ghost Story, but it does explain why parodies of this genre had the vocal cadences they did.

As for the story, our two leads are a male and female team from a circus that's also a martial arts training ground. They set off together and, of course, there's immediate sexual tension. She doesn't want anything to do with him but gets very angry every time he flirts with another woman. His flirting inevitably lands them in a trap where he's been seduced by bandits. In her jealousy, the woman loses track of the gold, but, fear not, he thought ahead and had actually stored it away.

This dynamic is the bulk of the movie and it gets tired almost immediately. The film's a product of its time but it still feels like a tired trope. She's as good a fighter as he is—that's why she's on the trip—so the forced humor of their middle-school level interactions falls flat. The whole thing prevents them from being characters so the movie has to rely on its fight scenes for the entertainment.

Which is what this genre is supposed to do anyway, but generally the fights were boring. There's a nice one on stilts and an inventive tightrope walk sequence, but the movie's shot pretty poorly and, when it seems to get the angles right, the poor cropping and transfer does the rest of the work of killing the tension and excitement.

This is, by the way, a really poor transfer. Not only does the lazy pan & scan (featuring very little panning or scanning) kill this, the film periodically goes out of focus. True, there are a lot of close-up shots so you wouldn't see many hits land anyway, but there are also scenes with long-handled weapons, fights with people being flanked, and shots of people leaping through the air that suggest the original filmmakers did try to make full use of the entire screen.

From a camp perspective, there are two moments that are pretty entertaining: there is a nice long shot of a dummy being thrown from a cliff and, at 54 minutes the movie just cuts to a man with a sword through his body. No fight scene, no appearance of the man before, just—cut, dead, heroes moving on.

Despite a few peaks, the movie never really hits its stride, mostly because there's no internal clock. The heroes have to get to the region before the residents starve, but there's no sense of how long that would be, how long their trip is taking, or how the people are suffering due to the delays. On top of that, none of the villains ever rise to the level of being a big bad. Each one is just yet another in a series of pointless fights.

This isn't terrible by any stretch of the imagination, but is mostly meh throughout. Fine enough for throwing on during a Sunday afternoon or redubbing with friends, but I wouldn't recommend it too far beyond that. Unfortunately, the archive.org forums list this as being under copyright.


006. County Blue (1973)
Director: Jack Conrad
Writers: Jack Conrad, William F. Conrad
From: Cult Cinema & Drive-In

Bobby has just gotten out of jail, but is chaffing at small-town country life. He goes on a crime spree with his girlfriend Ruthie, but the law is starting to catch up with them.

From the start you know you're in for something. The film is written, directed, produced, edited by, and starring John Conrad. No wonder all these shots lasted so long. He did every bit of every one of them and each one was gold, Jerry, gold!

The opening shot is text telling it's a hot, humid day. Expository text superimposed on characters and giving us their background and relation to each other continues through the opening sequence because none of that can be communicated through story or acting.

Bobby, fresh out of jail, comes to the race track where J. J., the man who raised him, is hanging out doing spot repairs on various cars. Ruthie, Bobby's girlfriend and J. J.'s daughter is there as well. They chat a bit over the noise of race cars saying. . . something, when Bobby throws a beer at the sheriff. The sheriff comes over and knocks Bobby out. Cut to an aerial shot of the race track, the title sequence, and the titular theme song (+2 points for titular theme song)

Within two days of being out of jail, Bobby is tired of small-town Southern life. He decides to rob the bank in the next town over which has the most amiable hold-up victims ever. I mean they're downright sociable. They don't get as much money as they would like from the bank, but leave to celebrate anyway. While traveling, Bobby holds up a gas station they visit—just because—and picks up a newspaper with an article about the robbery and how the bank manager tricked them out of stealing more money. So they return, steal all the money, and are now on the run from the law in earnest.

I couldn't stop thinking about Bobby being Ricky from Trailer Park Boys. He's relentlessly stupid, always scheming about his next big score, and hooking up with his girlfriend who's married to a guy he doesn't like, which makes taking the movie seriously a little difficult. The movie starts out relatively light—Bobby's stupid, J. J. is ad-libbing throughout, and they work at a scrapyard with a pet monkey. Then it turns into this grim Bonney & Clyde thing that doesn't make sense, especially since Bobby keeps coming back to J. J.'s place after screwing up the various robberies.

Eventually Bobby and Ruthie get arrested and the movie enters its grindhouse portion with their friend Arneda showing up to break them out in a massive gun fight. The sheriff chases them but goes over a cliff and explodes (for no reason) and they're all driving off into the sunset to live happily ever after. Until Bobby takes a wrong turn and drives off a cliff into a lake where Ruthie and Arneda drown.

This still isn't the end though! He goes back to J. J., who is really sanguine about Bobby killing his daughter, and borrows yet another car to go off and start his life anew, except a police car starts following him into the final shot.

This movie is just exhausting. The characters aren't sympathetic, it's trying to be serious when it's drastically silly, and it has no pacing whatsoever. I don't recommend it mostly because there's nothing to grab on to—the character parts don't pan out and the action parts are entertaining mostly for how from out-of-nowhere they are. It's just that they're not worth the time it takes to get to them.

There's a copyright logo for 1973 on this movie and I have no reason to doubt its validity.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Story Slam: Evolution

My latest Story Slam piece, this time about being fat, forever fat. I tied for first and lost in a sudden-death one-minute story-off about broccoli. That almost seems like a story in and of itself.

Friday, October 16, 2015

003. Deathrow Gameshow and 004. My Mom's a Werewolf

Jump to My Mom's a Werewolf (1989)

003. Deathrow Gameshow (1987)
Director: Mark Pirro
Writers: Mark Pirro, Alan Gries (additional material)
From: Cult Cinema

Chuck Toedan is the host of Live or Die, a game show where death row inmates try to win prizes ranging from money for their families, a stay of execution, or even a gubernatorial pardon, but, if they lose, die on live TV. Despite the show's success, Chuck's facing a lot of problems—criticism from public morality groups about the quality of his show and death threats from the mafia after he executed on of their bosses. As a hitman closes in on him, he considers quitting entirely, that is, if he gets the chance.

This isn't the movie I wanted to watch. I was going to watch My Mom's a Werewolf and then roll as normal for the other movie, but the file was misnamed. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was about to embark upon a Mark Pirro double-feature.

The first thing we see is the logo for Pirro's production company, Pirromount. Get it? Like Paramount, but Mark Pirro. Also, the logo is like a neon version of the Paramount logo, but with the silhouette of a tit instead of the mountain. This is a good indication of the level of wit the film has to offer.

From there we move to the opening scene where the game is in progress and a man is in a guillotine. Chuck tells the man he has the option of walking free if he can name the movie they show a clip from. The clip has a mummy creeping up on a woman who escapes at the last minute leaving the mummy stomping and swearing. The man fails to guess, “Curses of the Mummy,” and so is going to die. Turns out his family is in the audience, very excited to see him on TV and they have a chance to win $10,000 if his head falls face-up in the basket. Chuck pulls the cord, the blade drops, and the judges decide the family wins the ten grand.

If the movie had been able to maintain that darkly satiric tone—the man about to die remains staunchly amiable, insisting upon that game show contestant politeness—this might have been a cult classic. Instead, it pretty quickly goes off the rails into a lazy comedy of broad stereotypes. Curiously, the whole thing is summed up in that production logo. That shows you what Pirro thinks passes for clever.

To it's credit, the movie has a titular theme song so +2 for that as well as commercials set in the world with this game show that are as dark and clever as that opening bit. In fact, the short pieces cut into the movie are pretty sharp. It's just a shame there's all the rest of the movie surrounding them.

Chuck faces off against Gloria Sternvirgin, head of WAAMA—Women Against Anything Men Appreciate (boy did 80's misogyny not age well)—who criticizes his show for being debased and violent, he goes to his office where he has an airhead secretary, and he gets death threats from a mob hitman over the death of one of the bosses. Sternvirgin barges in to yell at him some more when the hitman arrives to make a deal. He'll let Chuck live if Chuck gets the hitman's mother into the audience of another game show.

Of course the mother ends up on Chuck's show, he kills her, the hitman finds out, Chuck gets him on the show, fails to kill him, and is saved at the last minute by a guy who's been bugging Chuck the whole movie to be a contestant. Also, Chuck and Gloria fall in love and run off together at the end. Of course.

The tiredness of the movie is what grates. This feels like what Seth MacFarlane if he'd been around 30 years ago, something clever when pitched that has lost all novelty ten minutes later. It's not that there aren't occasional good jokes—like I said, the fake ads are clever and disturbed in the best way—it's just that the movie never settles on a tone.

After the gleefully dark opening we get broad, Zucker Brothers style comedy done as throwaway filler which, like the dark commercials, is actually pretty good. If the movie had maintained that tone I'd have been happy too.

There's also the likely-unintentional racist imagery. The second victim executed on the show is killed by hanging and he's black. That's not the joke (the joke is, “What every man wants—to be well-hung”), but it's still awkward. Likewise later they have a shirtless black man in a cage who's been kept in solitary confinement for 15 years and is given the option between sexually assaulting a woman or eating a freshly-cooked turkey. He ends up screwing the turkey, which is fine as jokes go, it's just the unconscious evocation of slavery and something I don't want to be thinking about during a stupid comedy.

This plays like Videodrome without the philosophy or The Running Man without the dystopian considerations. It could have been better if it was even just a little more, well, anything, but is so smug about how clever its concept it that it never pushes itself into being consistently entertaining.

Recommend instead: Videodrome, UHF, The Running Man



004. My Mom's a Werewolf (1989)
Director: Michael Fischa
Writer: Mark Pirro
From: Cult Cinema and Pure Terror.

Leslie, a bored housewife who feels neglected by her husband, catches the attention of a werewolf who infects her with his curse. It's up to her daughter and her friend to figure out what's happening and stop the curse before it becomes permanent.

So this is the movie I was aiming to watch and I ended up with two pieces written by Mark Pirro. In fact, during this movie, when Leslie is channel surfing, she flips past the talk show segment from Deathrow Gameshow where Chuck and Gloria first meet. So either this is a shared universe where Live or Die is on the air or this is a world where you can flip through channels and find Deathrow Gameshow. Either way, a very strange moment for me. Later in the movie, there's a reference to Galaxina which is also on these box sets.

From the start, this looks more promising than Deathrow Gameshow. First, it's not directed by Pirro, so there's some hope there. Also, it's not a Pirromount production. Instead, it's a Hairy one. That is not my joke, that's actually the production company's name.

We open with a cover of the Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs classic “Lil' Red Riding Hood” by Midnight Ride who are doing their damnedest to sound exactly like Sam the Sham. The rights must have cost something because they use the song at least 3 times in the movie, but it's a good tune. Also, the movie has real actors: Susan Blakely, John Saxon, Ruth Buzzi, and Marcia “Mrs. Krabappel” Wallace. There's some real comedic and acting talent on the screen, but little if anything for them to work with.

Leslie encounters John Saxon, the werewolf, at a pet store where he enchants and then inflicts his curse upon her. It's never clear what powers the werewolf has. There's standard wolf stuff—sniffing, running, strength—but he also feels a bit like a vampire. It'd be a bigger issue if the movie seemed to care about there being a werewolf in it.

And the movie really doesn't. Leslie's gradual transformation is supposed to be fraught and horrific, coded as though it's going to be a big problem, but no one seems particularly bothered by it. In fact, everyone kind of likes it. There's a scene where Leslie, not yet realizing what's happening, is driving and singing along to the radio. A couple in the car next to her sees her, sees how much she's changing, and says, “Singing werewolf. Don't see much of that anymore.” That's the best gag in the movie and really what the movie should have been.

Everyone who encounters Leslie's transformation loves it—the dentist she visits to have her fangs filed down, the hairdresser who makes her up in a new “Wolverine Chic,” even the kids at the party think she's just wearing awesome make up. She's upset but everyone else is on board. Honestly, if you're going to come this close to Teen Wolf, just own it and make a movie that follows that plot.

Not content just to rip off Teen Wolf, the movie also has touches of Fright Night with the daughter and her friend turning to horror magazines for werewolf advice and finally contacting a fortune teller for instructions. They face off against John Saxon werewolf, a la Fright Night, but it takes so long for them to suspect the mom's a werewolf or that there's any threat that they need to deal with at all. The daughter spends most of the movie being pissy because she thinks her mom's having an affair.

In fact, everything in the movie takes so long. There's supposed to be werewolves, it's in the title, and it's clear we're in a goofy 80's comedy from jump street. Just get on with it!.

This isn't even direct-to-video, this is made-for-tv fare, designed for USA Up All Night to be broken up by commercial breaks. Maybe that would have made it more watchable, but, as a whole, it's just relentlessly bland made all the worse due to moments of real promise. My constant reaction while watching was, “There's the better movie that you can't be bothered to make.”

While it's better than Deathrow Gameshow—this is watchable with enough scenes that work well enough on their own that you could have it on while doing chores and idly paying attention to it—it's not, in any way, worth hunting down.

Recommend instead: Teen Wolf, Fright Night

Both of these movies are from the late 80's and distributed by Crown International. There is zero chance they are public domain.

Friday, October 09, 2015

001. Carnival of Crime and 002. Absolution

Jump to Absolution (1978)


001: Carnival of Crime (1962) aka Sócio de Alcova
Director: George M. Cahan)
Writer: Bill Barret based on Winston Graham’s novel The Sleeping Partner
From: Cult Cinema

Mike, an architect from Rio de Janeiro, is in a tight spot. The government’s breathing down his neck about delays with his project in Brasília, his partner is an alcoholic more interested in hooking up with the secretary than getting anything done, and his wife is plotting something. When he returns from a trip to Brasília, he finds his wife has vanished and is asking for a divorce. As he tries to find her, he finds out about the hidden life she’s led and something much more dangerous.

A curious little flick. One of the oddest parts about it is the terrorism subplot. Early in the film, when Mike is down in Brasília and has missed his flight home, we cut to two American CIA agents discussing a revolutionary they’re waiting to ambush. The scene is indescribably incongruous—the film quality changes, the sound changes, and they’re speaking English while the rest of the movie is dubbed. I thought I had fallen asleep and woken up in this part, that’s how abrupt the shift is.

More than being an abrupt shift, though, these characters and what they discuss never come back. They talk to each other, constantly repeating themselves, for about seven minutes before the revolutionary shows up. They fail to catch him and then the revolutionary watches a plane explode. I guess we’re supposed to read that as the plane Mike was supposed to be on, but, as I said, it never comes up again. A plane explodes in a terrorist attack and no one in the movie mentions it.

Why is this here? To add drama to a movie that otherwise is a little flat? To give it some political relevance post-Bay of Pigs? To pad out the film so they could sell it as a different film? Did a reel from another movie accidentally get spliced in but seem similar enough that no one ever fixed it? This portion is the right mix of confusing and boring to invoke insanity.

The rest of the movie is pretty good by comparison, which says little because the film also invites comparisons to The Room. Lynn, Mike’s wife, is set up as a prima donna/manipulator/villainess early on, but then is barely in the movie. In fact, a la The Room, her first scene is her talking to her mother about how she’s going to do something to Mike and her mother protesting that Mike is such a good person.

Mike goes to Brasília, comes back to an empty house and a letter demanding a divorce, and starts trying to hunt Lynn down to ask her what’s going on. The movie is trying to fit into the noir tradition and that makes everything seem to carry more weight than it should. I felt like as Mike goes from friend to friend looking for Lynn, he’s going to uncover some massive plot or in fact some scheme being arranged against him, something like Lynn and his partner have embezzled all the money from the government job and have left him on the hook.

Instead he finds out that Lynn has slept with just about everybody—both before and after they got married—and he’s the only person in all of Rio who doesn’t know. Even her mother tells him Lynn had an insatiable sexual appetite—just like her—and it’s not his fault. By the way, if that doesn’t trip your Room sensors, then the flashback of Mike giving random people advice, saying “hi” to everyone, and people arriving at his place only to immediately leave could very well tear you apart.

None of this matters, though, because there’s a plot twist at the one-hour point: his wife hasn’t left him, she’s been murdered! Now he’s on the run from the law trying to find the real killer because he’s the obvious suspect. The movie stumbles through its final 20-30 minutes to a perfunctory ending with the killer explaining, unbidden, why they did it and then accidentally getting themselves killed while trying to escape Mike. Cut to Mike returning to the build site with his new wife—his secretary—beaming about how great the project is going.

I really thought the movie was going in a different direction and was more compelling than it has a right to be because of that misdirection. This is light film noir—very light on the noir it turns out—and unfairly benefits from the expectations of that genre. When Lynn disappears, I think all the problems facing Mike in the beginning—the job, the partner, Lynn plotting—are going to come back into play. Instead, it's just a search to find out how long Lynn has been cheating on Mike and who with.

That could be interesting as well: it’s character stuff and all about how characters react to each other’s choices and actions. I like those movies and would trade the faux noir for that. Only the movie drops that as well for a simpler, sloppier, pulpier ending that's neither earned nor satisfying.

If you want to spend an afternoon making fun of a movie with friends, this will serve your purposes well enough. It’s not great, not terrible, but it has some ridiculous situations and could provide some low-key fun. Outside of that, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you want to see some nice stock footage of late-50’s/early 60’s architecture in Brasília.

I've added a copy of this film to archive.org. I think it's PD: no copyright logo that I can see in the film and no listing at copyright.gov. You can download a copy here


002. Absolution (1978)
Director: Anthony Page
Writer: Anthony Shaffer
From: Drive-In and Cult Cinema


Blakely, an itinerant traveler, camps out in the woods owned by a Catholic school where he catches the attention of Benjamin Stanfield. Benjamin is the school’s golden boy and the favorite of Father Goddard, but chafes at the expectations put upon him and wants to be free like Blakely. Blakely, who has his own grudges against the Church and Goddard, suggests Benjamin start admitting to terrible things in confession to horrify Goddard. As a priest, Goddard can’t reveal what’s been confessed to him, but his reaction sends things escalating to a disastrous conclusion.

I can’t talk about this film without talking about the cast: Richard Burton and Billy Connolly in his first film role. Seeing such talented people in movies on these sets is always confusing. How could this happen? Billy Connolly makes sense because it’s his first movie. Every actor has a first movie or some oddball early work that is interesting purely as a curiosity. Richard Burton, though! How did he get here?

The movie itself isn’t too bad. The natural competency Burton and Connolly have is echoed throughout. The script is okay, the direction works well enough, the other actors, mostly children, do their job. As a whole, it’s a competently-constructed piece.

Which means there isn’t much to say about it. The movie feels very televisual, like a high-quality Lifetime Original Movie or something shown on Masterpiece Theatre in the early 80’s. Things play out at a bit of a slow-burn. Benjamin, the golden boy, meets Blakely and envies his freedom. Blakely, a general rouge, encourages him to take some risks. Meanwhile, there’s Arthur, a disabled student who’s eager for the approval of both Benjamin and Father Goddard. Goddard keeps picking on him and Benjamin alternately includes him in his plans to prank Goddard and kicks him away.

The film’s plot and conclusion rely a little too heavily on an absolutist understanding of Catholicism, a strict adherence to the rules that allow no wiggle-room. Kevin Smith’s Dogma played with that same idea, but I’d argue in a more interesting way. The conclusion features Father Goddard in a literal damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation that’s a little bit, “Well, no, not really, but I see what you’re aiming for.”

This isn’t some hidden gem, but rather a better-than-mediocre, touch above by-the-numbers production. It keeps questions unanswered for most of the film, allowing you to doubt what's really happening. A little hammy, a little over-the-top, and it mistakes ending with a cliff-hanger with being clever but, overall, a fine Sunday afternoon hangover movie as We Hate Movies would say.

Just one final note on how context changes everything: watching this post priest-abuse scandal makes everything fraught in unexpected ways. It opens the movie up to obvious jokes, but more often just makes moments and scenes that aren’t supposed to be anything really uncomfortable.

Movie has a seemingly valid copyright marker and is noted as under copyright on the Archive.org forums. My copy has a Mill Creek pop up periodically so I don’t have a copy that I can upload even if it were PD

What is the Misery Mill?

Well, the short version is I watch randomly-selected movies from the Mill Creek Chilling, Drive-In, Pure Terror, and Sci-Fi Invasion 50-movie packs as well as from the 200-movie Drive-In Cult Cinema Classic Pack and post short essays about 2 of them every Friday evening, uploading those that are in the public domain to the Internet Archive (or linking to them when already available).

The longer version is this comes out of my experience growing up watching Captain USA, USA Up All Night, and, while I lived in Cleveland, Big Chuck and Little John. There was a unique joy to bad film, to seeing it on TV, to stumbling across it, and I wanted to share that experience. Specifically, I wanted to put together my own horror host show.

To do that, I'd need movies to broadcast. I knew about the Internet Archive and that the Half-Price Books near me sold Mill Creek 50 Movie megapacks for next to nothing. So, when I got a 50% off coupon for the store, I'd buy one of the box sets and start combing through the discs to see what was PD and not currently on the archive.

That was the root of the PD Project—the desire to make my own horror host show and to make sure the raw materials I'd be working with were available to others. As I was gathering my materials and making my plans, though, The It's Alive Show, a horror host show, premiered on a local independent station in Pittsburgh--the city I was living in at the time. I thought, I don't need to do this anymore, it's covered.

I still had the movies, though, and the PD Project became a means for me to force myself to watch all these movies and to feel like I had something to work on while waiting to be accepted into, and then actually head off to, grad school. I managed to make it through the first two box sets—the Horror and Sci-Fi collections—and intended to continue through the Chilling and Drive-In sets. Two things happened to delay that process.

One is that life got in the way. I moved to Philly, started grad school, and then became a teacher. There wasn't really time to sit and watch these movies like there had been when I was unemployed and living in my dad's basement.

The other is that this was the PD Project, the Public Domain Project. Many, if not most, of the movies on those two sets weren't PD at all. The effort would produce very different results, so what was the purpose then?

I tried several times to sit down and start watching the movies, but they never quite grabbed me (I joked to my bad movie friends that “Chilling” was so-named because “Boring” wouldn't sell). I ended up buying the Pure Terror and Sci-Fi Invasion sets and receiving the massive 200-movie Drive-In Cult Cinema Classics set giving me a total of 400 movies that I hadn't watched just sitting on my bookshelf. I was also, once again, toying with the idea of doing a horror host show, this time in Philly where, at the time, there wasn't one. Part of that plan involved doing riffs of films from the box sets that weren't PD and either selling them on Rifftrax or posting them as a podcast. Also, I've been really enjoying the We Hate Movies and The Flophouse podcasts and wanted to do something similar. I decided it was finally time to settle in and start working through these movies.

The process: I've put all 500 movies (including the Sci-Fi and Horror which I won't be re-watching) into a spreadsheet sorted by title. Whenever I want to watch one, I roll a 100-sided die and watch the corresponding movie (watched movies are removed from the list). If I went through them systematically—movie 1 of disc 1 side 1 of the Chilling set, movie 2 of . . . —I would get beaten down by the weight of it. Each movie wouldn't be a step closer to having watched everything, let alone be able to stand alone, it'd just be a drop in the bucket of this task I'd set myself. I needed to hide my progress from myself. Also, if I didn't make it random in some way, I'd just stop watching the movies. There are a few that look neat, but once I'd shrugged my way through those there'd be little desire to watch the others, including the ones that turn out to be real gems.

While watching the movies, I'm also knitting. Because the movies are bad. No, really, they're pretty bad. There's real entertainment to be had from the hallucinogenicly bad The Creeping Terror, but that's a rare bird. More often are the perfunctory pieces like The Beach Girls or films that take a hard right into the realm of “how did you think this was okay?!” like Cavegirl. To stay awake and to feel like I'm getting something done, I knit while I watch. It helps alleviate the pain.

And the films are painful. They're inspirational in the amateur filmmaker sense—you can watch them and honestly say, “I can do better than this,” and then make something better—but most of them are just boring. Since most of them aren't PD, it seemed inappropriate or at least unduly hopeful to continue calling this the PD Project. Instead, since they all come from Mill Creek box sets, I give you the Misery Mill.

For this project, I'll only post about 2 movies once a week, generally with a short essay about each film as opposed to a summary blurb. I think there's something special about badfilm, or paracinema as Jeffrey Sconce would say, something of the cultural subconscious seeping out. Generally speaking, these films weren't made with the political/ideological determination of, say, a Billy Jack. Rather, they were done to either make a quick buck or for the sake of making a movie. In both cases, if the producers thought about it at all, their films reflect an ethos of “this is what people like and this is how people think” which is a sentiment that changes over time.

So that's the plan. Every Friday at 6 PM ET I'll post short pieces on two films including links to the archive.org pages of the movies when available. I will also still be adding to the archive when I can, but there are 400 movies here, it'll take some time. Plus I'll include status updates about my knitting because, hey, we all know that's what you really came here for.

With 400 movies and posting about 2 every week, this should all be done by . . . August 2019. Oh God, this is my life now.

Welcome to the Misery Mill!

Friday, October 02, 2015

Misery Mill: Cult Cinema Masterpost

Absolution (1978) (I) African Safari (1968) (I)
Alien Contamination (1981) (I) Alien Species (1996) (I)
Alien Zone (1978) (I) All the Kind Strangers (1974) (I)
Almost Hollywood (1994) (I) The Alpha Incident (1977) (I)
Atomic Rulers of the World (1964) (I) The Babysitter (1969) (I)
The Beach Girls (1982) (I) Beast From Haunted Cave (1959) (I)
Best Friends (1975) (I) The Big Fight (1972) (I)
Black Cobra (1987) (I) Black Cobra 2 (1988) (I)
Black Cobra 3 (1990) (I) Black Fist (1975) (I)
The Black Godfather (1974) (I) Black Hooker (1974) (I)
Blood Mania (1970) (I) Blood of Dracula's Castle (1969) (I)
Bloodlust (1959) (I) Blue Money (1972) (I)
Brain Twisters (1991) (I) The Brave Lion (1978) (I)
Breakout From Oppression (1978) (I) Burnout (1979) (I)
Carnival of Crime (1962) (I) Cavegirl (1985) (I)
Chain Gang Women (1972) (I) Chase Step By Step (1974) (I)
Cindy & Donna (1971) (I) City Ninja (1986) (I)
Click: The Calendar Girl Killer (1990) (I) Coach (1978) (I)
Count Dracula and His Vampire Bride (AKA Dracula: The Satanic Rites) (1974) (I) Counterblast (AKA Devil's Plot) (1948) (I)
Country Blue (1973) (I) The Crater Lake Monster (1977) (I)
Craze (1974) (I) The Creeping Terror (1964) (I) (A)
Dangerous Charter (1962) (I) Day of the Panther (1988) (I)
The Day the Sky Exploded (1958) (I) Deadly Duo (1971) (I)
Death Machines (1976) (I) Death Rage (1976) (I)
Death Riders (1976) (I) Death Warmed Up (1984) (I)
Deathrow Gameshow (1987) (I) The Devil's Hand (1962) (I)
The Disappearance of Flight 412 (1974) (I) Don't Look in the Basement (1973) (I)(A)
Doomsday Machine (1972) (I) Embryo (1976) (I)
End of the World (1977) (I) Escape From Hell Island (1963) (I)
Eternal Evil (AKA The Blue Man) (1985) (I) Evil Brain From Outer Space (1956) (I) (A)
Fighting Mad (1978) (I) The Firing Line (1991) (I)
Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (AKA The Purple Death From Outer Space) (1940) (I) Fleshburn (1984) (I)
Four Robbers (1987) (I) The Four Shaolin Challengers (1977) (I)
French Quarter (1978) (I) The Fury of the Wolf Man (1972) (I)
Galaxina (1980) (I) Going Steady (1979) (I)
Good Against Evil (1977) (I) The Guy From Harlem (1977) (I)
The Guy With the Secret Kung Fu (1981) (I) Hands of Death (1987) (I)
The Headhunter (1983) (I) The Hearse (1980) (I)
Hell On Wheels (1967) (I) The Hellcats (1967) (I)
Horror High (1974) (I) Horror of the Zombies (1974) (I)
The Hostage (1967) (I) Hot Target (1985) (I)
House of the Living Dead (1973) (I) Hunk (1987) (I)
Hustler Squad (1976) (I) I Eat Your Skin (1964) (I)
I Wonder Who's Killing Her Now? (1976) (I) Idaho Transfer (1973) (I)
The Image of Bruce Lee (1978) (I) The Impossible Kid (1982) (I)
In Hot Pursuit (1977) (I) Indian Paint (1965) (I)
Infernal Street (1973) (I) Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973) (I)
Iron Angel (1964) (I) The Island Monster (1954) (I)
Jive Turkey (1974) (I) Jocks (1986) (I)
Karate Kids U.S.A. (1980) (I) Katie's Passion (1975) (I)
The Kidnapping of the President (1980) (I) Killpoint (1984) (I)
Kung Fu Arts (1978) (I) Kung Fu Kids Break Away (1980) (I)
Land of the Minotaur (1976) (I) Las Vegas Lady (1975) (I)
Lena's Holiday (1991) (I) Liar's Moon (1982) (I)
Little Laura & Big John (1973) (I) Low Blow (1986) (I)
Lurkers (1988) (I) Mad Dog (1977) (I)
The Madmen of Mandoras (1963) (I) Malibu Beach (1978) (I)
Manhunt in Space (1956) (I) The Manipulator (1971) (I)
Medusa (1973) (I) The Mistress of Atlantis (1932) (I)
Moon of the Wolf (1972) (I) The Murder Mansion (1972) (I)
My Chauffeur (1986) (I) My Mom's a Werewolf (1989) (I)
My Tutor (1983) (I) Nabonga (1944) (I)
Night Club (1989) (I) Night Fright (1968) (I) (A)
Nightmare in Wax (1969) (I) The Nightmare Never Ends (1980) (I)
Nine Deaths of the Ninja (1985) (I) Ninja Champion (1985) (I)
Ninja Death I (1987) (I) Ninja Death II (1987) (I)
Ninja Death III (1987) (I) Ninja Empire (1990) (I)
Ninja Heat (1988) (I) The Patriot (1986) (I)
Pick-Up (1975) (I) The Pink Angels (1971) (I)
Policewomen (1974) (I) The Pom Pom Girls (1976) (I)
Prehistoric Women (1950) (I) Prime Evil (1988) (I)
Prisoners of the Lost Universe (1984) (I) Radio Ranch (1940) (I)
Rattlers (1976) (I) The Real Bruce Lee (1973) (I)
Return of the Kung Fu Dragon (1976) (I) Road to Nashville (1967) (I)
Santee (1973) (I) Satan's Slave (1976) (I)
Savage Journey (1983) (I) Savage Weekend (1979) (I)
Scorpion (1986) (I) Secret File: Hollywood (1962) (I)
Separate Ways (1981) (I) The Severed Arm (1973) (I)
Sextette (1978) (I) Shadow Ninja (1983) (I)
Shadow of Chinatown (1936) (I) Shaolin Deadly Kicks (1977) (I)
Shaolin Temple (1976) (I) Shock (1946) (I)
The Sidehackers (1969) (I) The Silencer (1992) (I)
Single Room Furnished (1968) (I) The Sister-In-Law (1974) (I)
The Skydivers (1963) (I) The Snake, the Tiger, the Crane (1975) (I)
Snowbeast (1977) (I) Spare Parts (1979) (I)
The Specialist (1975) (I) Spirits of Bruce Lee (1980) (I)
Stanley (1972) (I) Star Odyssey (1979) (I)
The Stepmother (1972) (I) Superchick (1973) (I)
The Teacher (1974) (I) Terrified (1963) (I)
Terror (1978) (I) Terror at the Red Wolf Inn (1972) (I)
Terror in the Jungle (1968) (I) Throw Out the Anchor! (1974) (I)
Tiger Love (1977) (I) TNT Jackson (1974) (I)
Tomboy (1985) (I) Top Cop (1990) (I)
Trauma (1978) (I) Treasure of Tayopa (1974) (I)
Trip With the Teacher (1975) (I) Van Nuys Blvd. (1979) (I)
The Van (1977) (I) The Virgin Queen of St. Francis High (1987) (I)
Voodoo Black Exorcist (1973) (I) Weapons of Death (1981) (I)
Weekend Pass (1984) (I) Weekend With the Babysitter (1971) (I)
The Wild Rebels (1967) (I) Wild Riders (1971) (I)
The Wild Women of Wongo (1958) (I) Yellow Hair & the Fortress of Gold (1984) (I)
The Young Graduates (1971) (I)

(I) links to the film's IMDB page
(A) links to the film's Archive.org page