Saturday, July 22, 2017

191. Terror Creatures From the Grave

191. Terror Creatures From the Grave (1965)
Director: Massimo Pupillo
Writers: Romano Migliorini and Roberto Natale, adapted by Ruth Carter and Cesare Mancini, based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe
From: Pure Terror

A lawyer arrives at a villa with a letter requesting that he update the owner’s will. Only the owner has been dead nearly a year and, as the lawyer investigates further, was involved in occult activities that maybe haven’t ended.

A Barbara Steele movie! Barbara Steele is 110% goth and has amazing presence. She’s great as a femme fatale, a witch, a vampire, anything. She was a real-life Morticia Addams and your movie could be about puppies and clowns, but you drop Barbara Steele in, it’s immediately a goth classic that you misremember as having Vincent Price in it as well.

This, unfortunately, doesn’t use her to her full potential and, to give you a preview of the movie’s quality, the director had his name removed from it and replaced with the producer’s. However, the movie is not as terrible as that would suggest, either, it just isn’t all that it could be.

We open with a man nervously drinking in a closed bar. Someone slaps their hand against the window and he runs to get his horse. Only the horse gets spooked as he’s untying it and knocks him down, trampling him to death.

With the tone established and the body count already running, we go to the villa where the lawyer arrives. He has a note from the villa’s owner requesting the attorney Morgan come out to update the will. Morgan is traveling, so his colleague has arrived instead. He’s met by the daughter of the man and her step-mother and is told the man has been dead nearly a year. The only reason they’re at the villa is that his will stipulated that he be exhumed a year after his death.

The lawyer stays the night, but finds that he can’t leave the next morning because an owl got into the engine of his car. I’m sure that’s a thing, but it still seemed hilarious. He meets the town doctor and, with the daughter, goes into town. In the interim we learn that the man had been doing occult research and was convinced he could speak to the dead that haunted the villa. It had been the place of trial and punishment for the “plague spreaders,” people who were infected with the plague and deliberately took it to other locations. Their hands were cut off and are on display in the villa and their bodies are buried there in unconsecrated ground.

Your typical gothic horror moments arise: a townsperson tells them to leave as “the night of revenge” is approaching, the daughter starts seeing her dead father, and the town’s pharmacist/mayor is found dead. The doctor’s assistant had the paperwork written up before the death because he’d heard “the corpse collectors” in the night and knew it would be the mayor. The mayor had been one of five people present at the death of the occultist. Two are still alive: the man who warned them to leave and an indecipherable name.

That night, the man who warned them, who uses a wheelchair, secures a sword in his dresser and impales himself upon it. Something comes into the house and, with a putrescence-covered hand pulls the chair back, drawing the sword from the body. The sword is covered with the material which is also seeping from the man’s wound.

The grave is opened the next day and, surprise, there’s no body. The lawyer figures out the last name must be Morgan who happens to be showing up at the villa. Morgan sees the occultist, but the body is gone before anyone gets back. Turns out Morgan and Barbara Steele had been having an affair and they know what really happened to the occultist. It turns out he’d set up his revenge before his death with the help of the gardener.

The hour of the occultist’s murder hits and a mirror reveals the moment of his death where the five plus Barbara Steele tell him to leave town. His meddling with the undead is bothering everyone, but he has the dirt on each person in the room, so they kill him. The plague spreaders rise from their graves, but you never see them, and kill everyone except the lawyer and the daughter who escape when it starts raining because, as a nursery rhyme the occultist taught his daughter, the cure is “pure water.” The two leave to live happily ever after. THE END.

The movie just misses its mark on a lot of levels. It has some nice sets, a good enough tone, but it never executes with the precision you’d want. I started by excitedly noting that Barbara Steele is in the movie, but she’s not in it a lot. She’s sidelined most of the time and really only has one solid scene where she tells her step-daughter that she didn’t love the girls’ father. He’d basically tricked her into quitting her acting career to join him. Since that element was there, I was kind of disappointed that they wrote her as having an affair with Morgan. The occultist becomes just that much more monstrous if he’s coming back for revenge and to exercise control over this woman he deceived.

It’s telling that I don’t give character names for anyone. It’s because I don’t know them, and I just watched this and took notes. I refer to the occultist as “the man” because even IMDB doesn’t list his name and I don’t know if it was Hieronimusch, Geronimusch, or if those are even close. The characters don’t stand out so neither do their actions.

One element of the movie I did like was watching the lawyer play recordings of the man’s notes. You hear his voice talking about his research and experiments and, as he’s talking, it seems to cause the ghosts in the house to manifest. It’s very Evil Dead and that’s always a plus in my book.

There are nice ideas here, but in the end the whole thing’s kind of boring and gets wrapped up too coincidentally. I mean, rain will save the day? Good thing it’s always cloudy in movies like this then. So it’s not a recommend, but I don’t discourage anyone from watching it either. It’s merely okay. I’ve seen some websites claiming this is in the public domain, but it appears to have a valid copyright notice on it. If I hear otherwise, I’ll upload it to the Internet Archive because this is 100% midnight movie fare and would be great on a public access show or being riffed. At the moment, it looks like it’s not.

Friday, July 21, 2017

190. Hustler Squad

190. Hustler Squad aka The Dirty Half Dozen (1976)
Director: Cesar Gallardo
From: Cult Cinema

A WWII major who plays by his own rules is tasked with assassinating key members of the Japanese military’s leadership while they’re visiting a pleasure island. His plan: train four female assassins to pose as prostitutes and infiltrate the island. Will the women be able to accomplish their mission and escape with their lives?

We open with a Filipino resistance force trying to storm the island, but everyone is killed except Paco, the leader. The US find out about the raid and pair Paco with the major to come up with a plan to infiltrate the island in sixty days when the military elite will be there. They drink, putter, hem and haw, and are about to give up when they get into a bar fight over a woman. That gives them the idea to try to send in assassins posing as prostitutes. Only they don’t have any assassins.

So they’re off to gather the team. The major is assisted by a female lieutenant that he’s constantly sexually harassing flirting with and she takes him to a women’s prison where they meet the first team member: a woman doing life for having murdered her husband. She’s willing to sign on because she’s horny and desperate to fuck.

The second member is a Swedish nurse with a terminal disease. She’s willing to go because it’ll save lives, even though the thought of sex scares her.

The third member is found by Paco. Her family was attacked and killed by the Japanese for sheltering an American soldier and the woman was raped. The movie emphasizes this point with the major referring to her twice within a minute as “a rape victim.” That’s the whole of her identity. Thanks movie. We were having fun up till this point.

The final member is a prostitute who’s on the run for having ripped off some people in the black market. The major has Paco pose as a gunman and convinces her that he can give her shelter and a new life once the mission’s over.

All this, by the way, is being played up as sort of campy fun and, except for the woman who was raped, the movie carries off that tone. It’s knowingly going through the tropes—sexpot, virgin, moll—and seems to be winking at its own use of them. And at this point, the movie still has my endorsement—gathering the team is getting us closer to the plot we were promised.

And then it goes off the rails with an extended training montage with a goofy jazz score underneath it. But there’s no jokes happening during the training and the training doesn’t look like what they’re being asked to do, so the reason for the sequence and the sense that it’s funny isn’t there at all. Then they throw in the twist of a weaselly assistant to the admiral doubting the mission because “women couldn’t possibly take down a group of men” and gets it called off. So the women, with the help of the lieutenant, infiltrate and subdue an entire barracks of men to prove their ability, which gets the mission back on track.

Only the movie’s so far off track at this point, who could care? They all end up at the island and get paired off with their targets—which is what we were promised: women seducing and killing men, sex and violence, A+. Unfortunately, because of all the baggage leading up to this point, there’s not much time for either.

The signal goes out, each of the women—except the Swede—kill their targets, and, one-by-one, each woman, except the Swede get killed. The Swede’s target is an admiral who takes her to his quarters because she’s clearly nervous about being in a brothel and lets her have the bed while he sleeps on the floor. He tells her about his family and how he’s reluctantly involved in the war, I guess so we feel a little bad when he ends up getting killed anyway, which he does.

As for the women, the movie falls into the Old Testament morality that I mentioned with The Sadist: those who have sinned—the murderer and the moll—get killed, as does “the other,” the Filipino rape victim. It’s your choice if the movie thinks she needs to die because she’s no longer a virgin or because she’s not white. I’m not going to lie, I was kind of bummed that any of them died. I wanted a freeze-frame final shot of them all on a beach, jumping in the air and high-fiving as the sun rises.

So the Swede, the virgin who kills no one, escapes with the help of Paco, who’s been falling in love with her. He gives her the charm he’s been wearing that he says has kept him alive during all these raids. He then gets shot and killed. She ends up at the rendezvous point with the major, weeping at being the only survivor and Paco’s death saying he was wrong to give her the charm since she still has a terminal disease. The major says maybe Paco was right about the charm, and they sail off. THE END.

It’s a bad movie, not because of any content or politics, but because it never gets around to what it’s actually about. The movie’s about women infiltrating a sex island to assassinate military leaders. If that’s what your movie is about, don’t limit that to fifteen minutes at the end of your movie. Give us fifteen-twenty minutes of setup then get us onto that island where we can have some tension, suspense, and action.

When the assistant got the mission called off I nearly shouted, “What are you doing?” at my screen. “Will they prove that women are as capable in war as men?” is not the question the movie’s posing. It’s all about the action on that island—that’s what the characters are invested in, that’s what the audience has shows up for, and, let’s be fair, it’s what whoever wrote this movie (there’s no credited writer) was writing it for.

The movie’s a disappointment because, until the training montage, it’s kind of cheeky and fun with a dash of violence. If it had kept that up, but kept its eye on the actual plot, it’d be a fun cheesy piece of exploitation. As it is, it’s watchable, but a touch interminable, and I wouldn’t recommend it without some very sarcastic friends.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

189. Malibu Beach

189. Malibu Beach (1978)
Director: Robert J. Rosenthal
Writers: Celia Susan Cotelo and Robert J. Rosenthal
From: Cult Cinema

It’s summer in Malibu and Bobby, Dina, and their friends are having fun on the beach.

Another Marimark Production. Collectively, they’re my most hated movies. Not because they’re so bad, but because there are parts that are actually good. The movies have good production values, competent execution, and sometimes real actors. Yet they’re so lazy, beyond even perfunctory. There is a tired cynicism here that rivals the mockbusters of the Asylum. This one, though, makes me both trepidatious and hopeful.

I should note that this is being written before I’ve watched the movie.

This movie is from the writer/director of Zapped!, a 1982 teen boob comedy starring Scott Baio and Willie Aames. Baio gets exposed to an experimental serum that gives him telekinetic powers. Pranks ensue along the lines of what you’d expect from an R-rated 80’s comedy: skirts being lifted, tops popping off, etc.

That’s not the issue I have with Zapped! What makes me hopeful for Malibu Beach is that Zapped! is actually pretty good on many levels. It has wit, energy, and charming characters, generally. The “generally” is where I get nervous. In the movie, Aames is Baio’s scumbag friend and the one pushing him to lift skirts and whatnot. There’s a scene where Aames hooks up with the snooty hot girl and has rigged a camera to take a picture of them while they’re having sex. If that’s not crossing a big enough line, he passes out copies of the picture at the prom. And he’s not coded as the villain. This is all played up as shrugging, “boys will be boys” fun. And it’s not. It’s a really uncomfortable violation of consent.

More than that, though, is a scene with Baio. The best part of the movie is Baio getting a girlfriend and the two of them relating. There’s a nice montage of them dating and getting snuggly and it has a moment where when they’re laying together, she touches his hand, and says “no.”

The look on his face is 100% “bitch, don’t make me force you.” Then she laughs cause she was just kidding anyway. The trope of “I said ‘no,’ but I was kidding,” isn’t my problem, it’s the clear rape-face on Baio, and it wasn’t just me: I watched this movie with my bad movie group. One of them had grown up watching it and remembered it as being fun, upbeat, and silly. He’s also a guy who complains about “feminists” and “SJW’s.”

He was uncomfortable about that scene and after the movie said he didn’t remember it being so rapey.

So that’s where I stand going into Malibu Beach: it’s from a studio I hate, made by a guy who can make something really entertaining that also crosses serious lines. How will this play out?

Malibu Beach:

A huge heaping helping of fuck this movie.

School’s out for summer and everyone’s headed to Malibu beach. Dina is working as a lifeguard, Dugan is a body-building beach rat, and Bobby and Paul are two scumbag pieces of shit. Also our heroes. How does the movie get this so wrong? Well, in their first scene on the beach, the blond and squinty Bobby and Paul are running along tossing a football back and forth (a la The Room) and end up throwing it in the face of their former teacher because they’re not paying attention. One scene earlier, Rocky and whoeverthefuck, blond and squinty, are throwing a football back and forth and knock someone over by unexpectedly throwing it at them. This latter pair are coded as assholes, but they’re not, in any way, different from Bobby and Paul who are coded as the heroes. In fact, Rocky et al take less shitty action. But that’s our starting point—our heroes are totally different from these assholes even though they’re doing the exact same thing.

I’d go through the plot, but there’s no plot. No goals, no struggles, no thwarted desires. No structure, no callbacks, no throughline. There’s just stuff that keeps happening without any weight or consequence.

The only thing you could call a throughline is Dugan bullying Bobby and Paul. He’s the muscle-headed beach jock and, narratively, in the beach movie format, is supposed to be picking on people so his eventual embarrassment at the end of the movie are his just desserts. Only the conflict between him and the boys starts when he’s successfully flirting with one of their teachers and the boys throw a football at them. He basically tells them to fuck off, and that’s supposed to make him the dick when they’re no different from the annoying kid who pops up immediately after, stomping on sand castles and kicking sand on sunbathing strangers.

Immediately, your coded bully is getting in the characters’ faces because the characters are fucking with people. You’ve marked him out as the good guy.

And this continues. That night, Dina and her friend are driving around, meet Bobby and Paul, and Bobby starts hooking up with the friend. Dina’s not interested in Paul, though, but he keeps trying to kiss her and feel her up. Dugan sees this and intervenes, and Bobby runs up to threaten him and protect Paul. But she’d said “no,” a lot, and Paul still wasn’t stopping. Dugan isn’t the bad guy here, but the movie acts like he is because, what, he’s cockblocking Paul?

Later, Dina and her friend find the women’s room is too gross to use so check the men’s room. Paul and Bobby are just walking out, but Paul tells Bobby to hide inside. Paul tells the girls that it’s empty and safe to go in, and Bobby jumps out to surprise them (and thank God that’s the only place that scene went). Dugan catches them coming out, gets in Bobby’s face again, and the two decide to drag race through the parking lot. Bobby steals a cop car for the race.

Bobby steals a cop car. To drag race someone. And flips the cop car by crashing through a brick wall, barely managing to crawl out of the wreckage.

Nothing comes of this: no consequences, no repercussions, it’s not even mentioned again in the movie. Jesus, you could call this White Privilege: The Motion Picture, but I’m sure that’ll be a biopic of 45.

In the end, Bobby and Dugan face off in a swimming competition. Dugan is winning, but Paul puts on a shark fin and swims nearby, scaring Dugan… making him swim faster and beat Bobby by even more. Bobby knows it’s Paul so is just mugging in the water when a real shark shows up and… doesn’t bite him or result in any consequences at all. Dugan walks away dejected, ruminating in voice-over how he won the race but still didn’t get the girl. Then the teacher, who he’d ultimately struck out with earlier, pulls up and invites him back to her place. He gets in the car with a look that says this may not be a win for him. Bobby and his shitty friends skip off to terrorize more people another day a la Devil Times Five. THE END.

The perfunctoriness of other Marimark productions were at least punctuated by occasional moments of joy, wit, or invention. This doesn’t even have those. Instead, it has a dog that runs along the beach stealing bikini tops off girls so you have lots of easy nudity—four topless scenes in the first ten minutes of the movie.

It’s not just that nothing happens in the movie or that there’s no plot—you can get away with that, especially in movies about a summer. It’s that I fucking hate these people. They’re not nice, they’re not fun, and they’re not clever. They bully people, assault women, and throw tantrums whenever someone calls them out. These people are the bad guys of your beach movie, but Rosenthal has made them his heroes.

Zapped!, it turned out, set my expectations too high. This is a boring movie where you have to watch shitty people trying to get their dick wet—but without any of the cleverness or invention of, say, American Pie. Or any of its sequels. While it’s not quite as enraging or aggressively awful as Cavegirl or Going Steady, it’s filled out the trifecta and is, hands down, the worst Marimark movie I’ve seen yet. Skip it.

Friday, July 14, 2017

188. Radio Ranch

188. Radio Ranch aka Men With Steel Faces(1940)
Directors: Otto Brower and B. Reeves Eason
Writers: Hy Freedman, Gerald Geraghty, Wallace MacDonald, John Rathmell, and Armand Schaefer
From: Cult Cinema
Watch: archive.org

Singing cowboy Gene Autry has to protect Radio Ranch from the machinations of evil claim jumpers as well as the Thunder Riders from the underground city of Mu.

Gene Autry stretching his acting talents to the very limit as Gene Autry, is the singing host of the daily Radio Ranch show which is largely a platform for his band and him to perform songs while the Baxter siblings pop in to tell stories of the Thunder Riders, their group of junior adventurekateers. They’re encouraging people to come to the ranch to join their group as a summer camp of some kind.

The show has become popular and is attracting people, including a scientist and his financiers. They believe the ranch is sitting on top of a huge deposit of radium and the lost city of Mu. They conspire to kill Autry in the mountains near the ranch because if he misses the daily 2:00 broadcast he’ll lose his contract and the ranch. This is the constant threat—will Autry make it to air on time? It’s really not big enough to hang an entire movie on.

To complicate matters, narratively, the ranch is situated over the lost city of Mu which doesn’t want any surface dwellers to know of their existence. So they start doing raids to try to kill or capture Autry and. . . make him miss his daily broadcast.

On top of that, there’s a rebellion developing within Mu that is looking to capture Autry to dissect him and figure out how to help the Murians breathe on the surface.

This is the re-edited feature version of The Phantom Empire serial and it fares a little better than some of these serial-to-movie adaptations. The Rocky Jones movies take, I think, the laziest tactic and just cut them episode to episode which makes for crushingly dull film. This manages to really condense the story. Unfortunately, the story’s a bit too busy for the 70 minute runtime.

As with all serial-based-films, it’s a relentless repetition of cliffhanger/salvation. Gene gets saved by the kids, their dad gets shot and killed during a broadcast and Gene is accused of the murder (and the kids are curiously comfortable with their dad’s death). The Murians capture Gene, attempt to execute him, he escapes. The financiers kidnap Gene while the Murians kidnap the kids, but Gene escapes and gets back into Mu. He reveals the plot to the Murian queen, the rebel faction gets locked in a room which pretty much foils their plan, but they set off their superweapon anyway which kills them and melts the entire city. Gene, the kids, and his crew (plus all the horses) escape at the last minute. Most of the villainous financiers are killed, but Gene catches one, gets him to confess to the murder, which is recorded by the boy’s new TV technology because, oh yeah, the boy is a scientific genius as well. All good people saved, all villains dead, Gene sings us into the credits. THE END.

I was joking to my friend just last night that there were a variety of movies in these sets, not just horror, and that I was expecting a sci-fi musical at any moment. This is a sci-fi musical. Kind of. It’s a musical in the sense of our modern musicals where it’s set in a place where people are singing, not that the songs communicate something special about the characters or move things forward. All the songs are just Gene Autry singing for the radio show and have nothing to do with Mu or cowboys or anything.

Overall, it’s okay. The first half has more energy than the second. They really whip through the plot points and you get to see the admittedly good horse-riding stunts and the nice matte work and visuals. The second half, though, gets bogged down in all the plot that was getting thrown into this thing—the financiers disappear for a good forty minutes after their initial attempt on Autry’s life, the Murians’ raids to the surface to try to capture Autry get real repetitive, and everything’s condensed so much that the rebellion plot never makes sense.

Still, it manages some interesting moments and has nice visuals throughout. It’s fine to watch as a curiosity, but I wouldn’t recommend it as a movie. I would recommend it if you’re looking for raw material to cut into other video projects. The Murian stuff has a great aesthetic that should be popping up in all sorts of public access/Bulldada video art pieces. Luckily the film is in the public domain. There’s an MPEG-2 copy on archive.org here that you can use however you’d like.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

187. Click: The Calendar Girl Killer

187. Click: The Calendar Girl Killer (1990)
Directors: Ross Hagen and John Stewart
Writers: David Reskin, Ross Hagen, David Chute, and Hoke Howell from a story by Carol Lynn and John Stewart
From: Cult Cinema

A calendar photographer who mixes extreme violence into his shoots gathers a group of models at his compound for work. However, someone’s been killing models and it seems they’re coming to the compound.

Remember how I said Devil Times Five took too long to get around to what it’s actually about? The same happens here. The story’s about a centerfold photographer and someone killing the models. So the point of the movie, as a product, is bikini babes getting cut up. Which, fine, whatever. And the movie promises to be pure Martin Skinemax fare from the opening titles which are just a series of bikini models on a cheap set posing with various weapons.

Oh, 1990, how could anyone miss you?

We cut from those titles to a crying child on a cheap set being yelled at by a fat nurse. That then cuts to a man applying lipstick in a mirror, dressing himself as the nurse, and then stabbing the mirror. This is trash, pure trash, and you know how I feel about trash.

Anyway, this is the story of “Jackhammering” Jack, an “edgy” photographer who incorporates violence into his fashion spreads. It’s the kind of stuff a teenager equates with being mature because it’s superficially shocking. The movie is playing it up as a sign of genius on Jack’s part. He goes around town handing out his card to people trying to recruit them to be models and meets a woman who’s willing to take him up on the offer. Her boyfriend, though, thinks the idea is super creepy and that she shouldn’t do it. Unfortunately, the boyfriend is an abusive, controlling creeper himself so it’s hard to read his warnings as sincere.

No, really, the boyfriend’s a creep. He’s stalking her throughout the movie, ends up at the compound with her where he tries to hook up with the other models, and constantly tears her down. Also, he’s our hero. Fabulous.

I’m getting ahead of myself, though, because nothing happens for the majority of the movie. The first kill doesn’t pop up until 50 minutes in and by that point it’s clear that there are only five characters worth noting: Jack, his assistant, the girl, her boyfriend, and a man creeping around the edges. One of these people is the killer!

So Jack has a special compound where he does big projects because he has space to set up all kinds of scenes. He invites the girl out there, but says no boyfriends. The boyfriend follows them anyway and confronts them on his shitty dirt bike while they’re driving. He’s having an argument with them while neither vehicle is slowing down when he hits a car and goes over a cliff, but doesn’t die. Imagine my disappointment.

Jack starts doing the shoots at the compound, is rude to his assistant, and keeps tearing up the pictures he’s taken because they’re not realistic enough. He photographs a caveman rape scene, a wedding in front of an exploding van, a war scene of people shooting live rounds at each other, but the energy’s never there. Meanwhile, creeper infiltrates the compound and finds Jack’s office where Jack has collaged pictures of historical violence with images of his models. No one’s dead yet and it feels like the movie is trying to spoon-feed you red herrings to convince you that Jack is the killer. My bet, at this point, was it was the assistant because he’d only been in two scenes and the logic of trash like this is the killer is the person you forgot was in the movie.

50 minutes in, the person dressed as the nurse reappears and kills a model. Then it’s on. A vanload of effects crew drive into the woods and explode, people starts noticing their fellow models are missing and end up getting killed themselves, and the girl and her boyfriend are in the woods making up and missing all of it. They finally meet the creeper who reveals he’s a PI investigating Jack because previous models of his have gone missing or turned up dead, and then Jack pops up in the nurse’s uniform and attacks.

Run run run, PI killed, boyfriend knocked out, girl tied to a cross on top of a giant bale of hay. She’s going to be burned alive a la Joan of Arc while Jack takes pictures. His reasons are jealousy/sexual repression/bad nurse yada yada, doesn’t matter. It doesn’t. It’s trash. Fill in your preferred clichéd reason, it’ll make as much sense. Boyfriend shows up, is pretty useless, but does ultimately knock Jack onto the hay, set it on fire, and save the girl. Jack burns to death and we cut to the opening credit sequence, this time with the closing credits. THE END.

This movie made me laugh more than most comedies. It is demonstrably awful and not nearly as fun as the deliciously-bad The Patriot, but there’s something delightful about how aspirationally trashy it is. This wants to be an edgy film—the photographer mixing sex and violence, a cross-dressing killer, a compound full of models getting into sexy situations, I just imagine a be-headgeared teenager thrusting this VHS at his friends and lisping, “Guys, here’s something that’s really hardcore!” And, on that level, I kind of recommend it.

Like I said, it’s not The Patriot, but I think it’d pair pretty nicely with Memorial Valley Massacre as a shitty slasher double-feature. They’re both genre cash-ins, but don’t feel quite as cynical or half-assed as anything from the Asylum. There is a touch of competence and investment which makes the viewing more palatable, but both films are gloriously, brutally stupid. It’s worth pulling up if you have the time and some friends to laugh along with.

Friday, July 07, 2017

186. Devil Times Five

186. Devil Times Five aka Peopletoys (1974)
Directors: Sean MacGregor and David Sheldon
Writers: Sandra Lee Blowitz and John Durren from a story by Dylan Jones
From: Chilling
Watch: archive.org

Five children escape from a mental hospital and start killing people in an isolated ski cabin.

This is one of those movies that forgets to do the work of getting around to what it’s actually about. The movie’s about killer kids. What do we get for the first thirty minutes? Kids walking through the snow while the various people in the house bicker with each other. Let’s get to it faster than the movie does, then, shall we?

During the ten-minute opening credit sequence, the van transporting the children crashes and they’re seemingly the only survivors. They start walking through the snow. Meanwhile, the main couple is heading to the lodge where the woman’s father, Papa Doc is waiting with his latest wife, Lovely, his assistant, Harvey, and Harvey’s wife, an alcoholic. Upon arrival, Papa Doc promises a big hospital job to his future son-in-law, a job that had been promised to Harvey, and chastises the son-in-law-to-be for not having a proper work ethic.

They all go to the house, pointless drama ensues with Lovely trying to seduce the mentally-impaired maintenance man, Ralph (who directly invokes Of Mice and Men by petting her hair, saying it’s soft like a rabbit, and then going to tend to his rabbits. Eye-rolling cultural references are my job movie, not yours). They’re interrupted by the daughter who then gets into a fight with Lovely when Lovely says she slept with the daughter’s boyfriend.

Further personal drama that doesn’t matter but allows nudity continues because, ultimately, this is an exploitation film that’s only promising two things: killer kids and tits. Since it only has those two things to offer, it drags out their appearances as long as possible.

The kids spot the house, but realize they’re being followed by someone from the van so set up an ambush for him. They beat him to death in an extended slow-motion scene where each frame of the film is visible for an extended period. They didn’t shoot it in slow-mo, they just slowed the film down. It doesn’t make the scene more shocking or brutal, it just makes it all last longer.

They go into the house, adults meet them and start to recognize their quirks. The five kids are, basically, the pyro, the baby, the soldier, the nun, and David played by Leif Garrett. David is the genius/transvestite because I guess the movie wanted both but couldn’t figure out how to make it work. The kids rig a trap on the diesel generator that hangs Ralph (forty-five minutes into the movie) and then proceed to start killing everyone else. It takes forever and they resort to slow-mo periodically to frustrate the audience even more.

I'd rather be watching Red Dwarf
The deaths aren’t really impressive or memorable so I won’t go through them except to mention the final one—everyone’s been killed by the kids except the son-in-law-to-be. While the kids are making a snowman out of Papa Doc’s body, the guy tries to sneak out the back door only to step in a hidden bear trap. He then falls into two more. Then the kids come over and beat him to death. The film wraps up with all the bodies being used like dolls in the attic of the building and the kids deciding they need to leave “to find new toys.” Closing title card comes up reading, “THE BEGINNING.”

Bite me movie. It’s boring which is sort of worse than any other sin a movie can commit. It’s formulaic in a dull way and none of the character—killers or victims—stand out. Plus it takes too long to get to the subject of the movie: a group of people trying to survive the attention of murderous children. I could talk about the politics of it a little bit, about the vilification of children to then permit harsher controls being inflicted upon them in schools and by police, which does come up in the culture. Whenever you see mention of “Super Predators,” that’s what’s ultimately being argued for. They’re trying to convince you to be afraid of your own kids so that you’ll allow more draconian state control over them. But that’s a deep rabbit hole that this movie doesn’t warrant. It’s just boring.

However, it is free. The movie is public domain and while my copy has a Mill Creek logo smeared across it preventing further re-use, a remastered and properly cropped version is available on archive.org here. Obviously I’m not recommending it, but it’s there if you’re curious or want to use it in some way.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

185. The Vampires' Night Orgy

185. The Vampires’ Night Orgy aka La orgía nocturna de los vampiros (1973)
Director: León Klimovsky
Writers: Gabriel Moreno Burgos and Antonio Fos
From: Pure Terror

A busload of workers on the way to their new jobs get diverted into a seemingly deserted town. The next morning, the townspeople show up, but strange things are afoot.

An unintentional vampire double feature. When this title came across my itinerary, I joked with my friends that I’d be surprised if the movie actually featured a night scene. There’s a tendency with these movies where the more salacious the title, the less interesting the film. This does at least have vampires and nights, but I’d say “orgy” is pushing it a bit. Also calling this “a film.” Or expecting any display of interest during the film.

Very little of consequence happens here. A bus of people who have all been hired on as servants at one castle are on their way there when the driver has a heart attack and dies. Frankly, I kind of want to see a modern group of people suddenly working in a gothic castle, wondering why they were all hired at the same time, but, hey, that’d make for an interesting movie so what do I know. They take a detour into a nearby town to sleep and see what they can do about the body. Curiously, the town isn’t listed on their map.

S P O O K Y

Wait, no, I meant “hackneyed.”

The town is abandoned when they arrive but the inn has a fire in the fireplace and all the rooms are made up. A tourist who’s already been there for an hour says he’s walked around but couldn’t find anyone. There isn’t even a church.

S P O O—actually, I like that as a set-up to a horror RPG session. That’s a nice seed, isn’t it? Characters arrive in a town that’s completely empty, but everything’s prepared for visitors. So many ways you could take that story. One you’d never choose is the one this movie does.

Anyway, everybody goes to sleep, the tourist finds a peephole in his room and peeps on his neighbor (our hero), and one of the group members investigates a sound at midnight and is attacked by a mob of vampires. The next morning, the townspeople are there serving the group, but there’s no meat. So the leader of the town sends a man with an ax, under orders from “the Countess,” to cut off the leg of one of the villagers which is then served to the group.

There are no consequences for the group eating human/vampire flesh, by the way. It’s just part of the movie.

One by one, the members of the group are killed by the vampires including a little girl who follows the man with the ax and sees him cut off someone’s arm. She’s not particularly impacted by it, though. Nothing in this movie is particularly impactful, even within the movie itself. The tourist figures out something is up, fixes his car, and helps the woman he’s been peeping on escape. They have some difficulty getting out of the town, but manage it only to have the Countess pop up in the back seat and attack them. She gets staked and immediately rots and decays once they hit sunlight.

They reach the next town, but the police don’t believe their story saying there’s no such town. They all drive out to the location and nothing’s there except the rusted remains of the bus that was driving the workers there originally. THE END.

It’s stupid. Skip it.

I want to say more, but nothing here matters. The people are tricked into being cannibals which comes to nothing. The little girl sees a grizzly attack which comes to nothing. She’s playing with a little ghost boy who tries to protect her from the vampires, but ends up smothering her instead, and even that comes to nothing. The movie’s only 80 minutes long but drags because none of the characters stand out—they have no desires and no one’s curious about anything. No one’s even trying to figure out what’s happening. Even the townspeople, where there’s some variety with the man the ax, the town’s leader, and the Countess, offer no story or mystery of their own.

It just feels like at every level of production and even every level of the story, everyone involved went, “Yeah, whatever.” That’s even the dominant emotion of the characters. Hell, if you’re not going to get excited about your own movie, I’m certainly not going to put the effort in.

Friday, June 30, 2017

184. Mama Dracula

184. Mama Dracula (1980)
Director: Boris Szulzinger
Writers: Pierre Sterckx, Boris Szulzinger, Marc-Henri Wajnberg, with English dialogue by Tony Hendra
From: Drive-In

Countess Dracula, a vampire who survives by bathing in the blood of virgins, becomes a patron of the scientist Professor Van Bloed in hopes of developing a synthetic blood that will protect her immortality.

We start with Van Bloed (pronounced “Blood” which indicates the caliber of comedy here) doing a mad scientist rant while petting a bunny. He’s trying to develop synthetic blood. His work must have caught someone’s attention because he’s been invited to the “Congress of Blood” to share his findings. He sets out immediately and we’re given a montage of boats coming into Ellis Island, punctuated by a shot of the Statue of Liberty growing fangs. That’s the only time we get animation like this so I don’t know why the moment is there.

Nor do I know why we’re being shown boats around New York when Van Bloed is going to Transylvania. That was my first point of confusion. The movie seemed to be set in modern day America, and then it’s in a seemingly medieval Eastern Europe. Turns out it was just sloppy editing. The movie takes place in modern Transylvania.

Van Bloed arrives at the castle of Countess Dracula where he’s immediately harried by twin vampires (the Wajnberg brothers who play it very broad and later do an extended Vaudeville-style mirror routine where they mimic each other’s actions) and is saved at the last minute by the Countess. She reveals that there is no Congress, but she wants to support his work to the tune of $1,000,000. He accepts.

And from here the movie should be him growing suspicious of what’s going on and who his patrons are, but it doesn’t. Instead we see the Countess and her two vampire servants running a high-fashion shop called Vamp from which they kidnap virgins. The virgins are kidnapped from the changing room which gives the movie many opportunities for cheap nudity, which it takes advantage of. They finally reveal to Van Bloed that they’re vampires and he’s completely on board, growing into more of a Renfield character. He gets frustrated in his work and demands ten virgins to complete the project. The twins get to work on gathering them.

Halfway through the movie, the Inspector shows up, but he’s a buffoon and it’s really his female assistant who’s doing all the work. These, I guess, are supposed to be our heroes, but it’s still not clear. Whose story are we following? Whose goals do we want to see fulfilled?

The assistant inspector catches the attention of the vampires and Van Bloed so they kidnap her. While she’s confined, the Countess visits her and seemingly convinces her to become a vampire. I think. This whole part is unclear.

The Inspector apologizes to the Countess for all the unrest and suspicion around her and she tells him to invite all the townspeople to the castle for the twin’s fashion show where they’ll be unveiling their new designs. The mob arrives and… is really impressed by the fashion. While the show’s going on, the assistant inspector starts chasing one of the twins because she’s been turned, I think (?), and Van Bloed perfects his synthetic blood formula. The assistant inspector chases one twin across the stage, Van Bloed comes forward to announce his success, and the vampires announce to everyone that they are vampires and now, thanks to the blood, everyone can be vampires and live forever. The townspeople erupt in applause.

The coda is the assistant inspector as the new Countess marries both the twins and they have a brood of baby vampires. The final shot is Van Bloed, gray and old, taking their picture while the original Countess says the picture is, as always with him, too red. THE END.

This is a strange film. It’s trying to be a farce, but it’s never clear what it’s a farce of. It also doesn’t have a traditional protagonist/antagonist situation. In fact, there’s never really a hero or main character. It’s just a muddle of stuff. It’s obviously trying to be a comedy on one level, but the kind of jokes it’s trying to tell is never clear. The movie ranges from being cartoonishly slapstick with the Inspector constantly falling over and shouting “Sabotage!” to weirdly bawdy with a woman who keeps trying to lose her virginity to be protected from the Countess. When she finally does, an orgy breaks out causing the building she’s in to literally explode. Then the investigation starts halfway through, but it’s not clear if that’s just supposed to be another opportunity for comedy or is part of a rising threat to Van Bloed’s work or the Countess.

It is, admittedly, kind of fun to see Van Bloed when he’s investigating or getting deep into his experiments. The actor looks like a cross between Buster Keaton and Annie Lennox, and the movie’s at its best when he’s being androgynous and New Wave-y. When he gets into his more slapsticky bits, including a scene where he’s essentially doing a silly walk, the Keaton resemblance is clearer and the movie’s weaker. That tends to be true for the movie as a whole: When it’s aiming for style, atmosphere, or strangeness, it’s approaching something interesting. It so often isn’t in that space, though, which diminishes the fun.

This movie is apparently in the public domain, but, unfortunately my copy has the Mill Creek logo graffitied onto it so I can’t upload it. Furthermore, there are no copies currently available on the Internet Archive, which is unusual for a movie like this. You can find copies with a simple Google search, though. I wouldn’t really recommend it, but it’s not offensive either. It just never rises to be much of anything.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

183. Escape From Hell Island

183. Escape From Hell Island (1963)
Director: Mark Stevens
Writers: T.L.P. Swicegood based on the novel by Robert Sheckley
From: Cult Cinema

A boat captain is contracted to smuggle rebels out of Cuba, but the job lands him in the middle of a love triangle.

Welcome people to a movie that has no idea what it’s actually about. We start with Captain James played by director Mark Stevens, the greatest, gutsiest sea captain to ever live and you get one guess as to the story arc awaiting this aged Brylcreem-and-shoe-polish-headed hero. A rich Cuban emigree hires James to do an unsanctioned run to Cuba to smuggle out revolutionaries including the man’s daughter. James agrees because the daughter is cute.

The Navy gives him proprietary information cause he’s just so awesome, and he goes to do the job. He successfully picks up the people, but attracts the attention of the Cuban Coast Guard who open fire on him. He, instead of fleeing, turns the boat around and single-handedly kills all the Cubans. His first mate dies, but he has successfully helped the refugees, including the beautiful daughter, escape from the titular “Hell Island.” THE END

of the first act. Because not only did James save the daughter, he saved the daughter’s husband, so now it’s a love triangle movie with the husband being jealous of the attention James is getting and the daughter telling James all about her husband’s cowardice and moments of sucking up to Che and Castro. The father who funded the rescue, by the way, who was played up as a gangster of some kind, is gone from the movie as the daughter will soon be once we get to

Act III where the husband charters James’ sailboat (James’ other boat being seized by the State Department as part of their investigation into an international incident that left two boatloads of Cubans dead) for no readily discernible purpose. It’s not clear if he’s trying to ingratiate himself to James or to rub his money and power in James’ face. Regardless, he gets the idea of killing James on the boat and stealing both the boat and the traveling business for himself. He kicks James overboard in the middle of the ocean, but can’t get the engine to start, so has to sit and wait for him to drown.

This is literally the last half of the movie. The husband on deck starting to go stir-crazy and hallucinate because of the sun while James treads water in a swimming pool, periodically trying to climb back on board. Inevitably he does, gets into a fight with James, who gets stabbed and then falls overboard where he’s eaten by sharks. THE END. For real this time. No return to the daughter, no resolution about the initial raid, no reaction to the husband’s death. Just the boat in the water and THE END. Fabulous.

To its credit, the movie does have some hilariously bad elements. The husband has a great terrible monologue in a bar where he claims he stood up to Che. Also, that same bar gets the phone call announcing the death of the first mate before the first mate’s wife. The bar is notified of his death before his wife! That said, those moments are too few and far between.

The movie sells you a false bill of goods. It’s supposed to be about a smuggling/rescue operation from Cuba potentially funded by gangsters or drug runners. Instead, it feels very piecemeal, like they were filming as they went and kept checking to see if they’d made a feature-length piece yet. “The refugees are safely ashore, is it 90 minutes yet? Get the love triangle in there. 90 yet? He rents the boat!” I kind of wanted every movie they promised instead of the one they gave me.

So it’s not a recommend. There’s not a lot that’s particularly special about it and the best part can be found by searching “Escape From Hell Island” on YouTube. The movie’s not in the public domain, so I can’t share a copy of it, but it’s not worth the effort of trying to find anyway.

Friday, June 23, 2017

182. The Dungeon of Harrow

182. The Dungeon of Harrow (1962)
Director: Pat Boyette
Writers: Pat Boyette and Henry Garcia
From: Pure Terror
Watch: archive.org

A man shipwrecked on an island has to endure the machinations of the mad Count living there.

The movie opens with a voice-over by an on-screen character who refuses to show us his face. That’s as good a clue as any as to what to expect both in terms of quality and story. The narrator is the last of the Fallon family relating the tale of woe that left his father dead and him the sole surviving member. We then flashback to that story for the entire movie.

So the first thing the movie tells you is that it’s going to flashback to a story of danger and woe that we know the narrator survived because they’re telling us the story. I have to wonder if Jonathan Franzen watched this while writing The Corrections. It would explain a lot.

We cut to the real start of the movie where the captain of the ship tells Fallon to leave his quarters immediately as a storm is threatening to sink them all. Fallon balks, then runs. The opening credits then play out over some of the funniest toy boat footage I’ve seen. This toy ship just rocks up on an outcropping and stays there, letting you drink in just how terrible the model is.

Finally we cut away to Fallon and the captain on an island, the sole survivors. A tarp with the Fallon family crest also washes up which they later use as a roof. The captain talks about how good a man Fallon’s father was and Fallon, in voice-over, realizes his social standing no longer means anything, but he keeps treating the captain like a servant. That night, they hear a woman screaming while getting attacked by animals.

Cut to the castle of Count de Sade (yup. The writers called him “de Sade.” Guess what happens) where his slave—not servant—informs him that the dogs got loose and killed a woman. The Count surmises that if one person washed ashore, there may be others, and he starts worrying about pirates. Then the Devil appears to him, says he’s a manifestation of the Count’s madness, and harries him with rubber spiders and bats. Then he vanishes from the movie entirely. Thanks for taking the time Satan.

Anyway, Fallon and the captain are attacked and taken to the castle, the captain seemingly mortally wounded. Fallon meets Cassandra, a young woman living with the Count, who initially is dictating the castle’s rules to Fallon. She tries to cover up the disappearance of the captain and keep Fallon in the dark about what’s going on, but he wakes up to see a woman getting whipped. He confronts Cassandra about the strange things going on and she’s tells the castle’s sad story:

The Countess came down with leprosy and was exiled to the island. The Count followed her, but she went mad and he sealed her in the cellar where she’s still alive, believing it to be her wedding day. The situation drove the Count mad and now he’s constantly paranoid about pirates trying to infiltrate the island and tortures Ann, the mute servant Fallon saw getting whipped, because he consistently believes she’s trying to poison him. Cassandra is the nurse. The only other resident is a black man who’s literally the Count’s slave and does all the torturing and killing for him despite his own wishes.

So, yeah, that’s where we stand.

The captain has been taken by the Count who suspects he’s a pirate and tortures him. Ann falls in love with Fallon and tries to save the captain, but he’s seemingly dead when she unties him from the rack and she gets caught. The Count puts her on the rack, leaves, and the captain wakes up and doesn’t untie her! What’s even going on? The captain faces off against the slave to save Fallon because. . . reasons(?) and dies. Fallon is locked in the cellar to face the mad leper, Cassandra comes down and kills the Countess, and the two try to escape. The Count immediately follows, the slave falls over (literally), and the Count kills him. Then Fallon wrestles with the Count, shoots him, and he and Cassandra wait for a ship to arrive so they can leave. It takes two years and that’s when Fallon realizes he’s contracted leprosy and can never leave the island. Cut back to the opening shot and we see him and Cassandra with oatmeal all over their faces. She’s gone mad so he’s locking her in the cellar just like the Count had done to his own wife. THE END.

What can I say? There’s narration throughout telling us what we’re literally seeing on screen plus we have a “hero” who’s not only does nothing, but who nearly every character sacrifices themselves for. Ann dies, off-screen, from the injuries she incurred trying to save the captain for Fallon. The captain dies trying to rescue Fallon. The slave, who’s one of the only sympathetic characters, gets killed for failing to capture Fallon as efficiently as the Count wants. Even the Countess gets killed because she’s too close to Fallon. And he doesn’t do anything! It’s a bit of a shock when he shoots the Count. I half expected the Count to go mad hunting Fallon through the woods and then fall off a cliff. Fallon’s a doorknob—why is everyone so eager to help him?

The movie is, and maybe this is already clear, hilariously bad, but it’s sort of immediately hilariously bad. Narration, characters telling the main character how good he is, a spectral Satan, rubber bats and spiders, but all that happens right at the beginning and doesn’t get built on as the movie persists. Those bats and spiders never return even though those are always good for a laugh. And Satan. Satan. Where is my Satan? Everything’s better with Satan and, once again, this is a campy Satan. It’s not James Coco as Satan campy, but it still promises a nice side of ham with this movie.

But, no, it all disappears pretty quick and we’re left with the flat, affectless acting of the cast. It’s kind of boring, but you can get some good mileage out of riffing it. Fortunately, the movie is in the public domain and I’ve added an MPEG-2 copy to archive.org here. You may enjoy it more than I did. Plus the gothic sets and shots may prove useful for some editing project.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Story Slam: My People

My latest Story Slam piece relating the tale of how I ended up leading a trip of the Society of Black Engineers to NASA and then finding my way into a bad movie group.



The picture in question:

Saturday, June 17, 2017

181. The Patriot

181. The Patriot (1986)
Director: Frank Harris
Writers: Andy Ruben and Katt Shea
From: Cult Cinema

Terrorists steal two nuclear warheads and the only person that can stop them is dishonorably-discharged Naval Lieutenant Ryder.

A trio of masked men break into a nuclear storage facility—one where the security doesn’t have alarms on the gates and doesn’t hear a literal explosion happen at one of the buildings—and steals two nuclear warheads. They put one warhead into the oil outflow that leads to an offshore oil platform where it’s picked up by some SCUBA divers. Maggie, an employee at the platform, sees lights underwater and goes to investigate. While diving, she finds a piece of paper—the label from the warhead, I think—and contacts Ryder, an ex-Navy almost SEAL to ask him about it.

We’re introduced to Ryder at a honky-tonk bar where he sharks some guy at pool and then beats up the guy’s entire gang before taking his money. He briefly offers the money to a woman who helped him in the fight, then pockets it all and leaves her behind.

Getting that heroic vibe yet? Cause that’s our man!

He meets Maggie at a bar where she shows him the paper. He tells her not to go diving the next day, but she refuses and gets all huffy about it. The interaction is weird because he tells her it’s from a nuclear warhead and that something serious is going on. She contacted him for that very reason. Then she gets mad that he’s not interested in hooking up and is instead concerned about a rogue warhead. This shift doesn’t happen between scenes or over the course of the film, it’s within a single shot.

That confusion is the leitmotif of the movie. Ryder goes to the platform claiming to be part of a demolitions crew to remove an eyesore. The film’s characters are as confused as I was. Turns out the trio that stole the warheads are working on the platform. Maggie goes to dive and Ryder blows his cover trying to stop her. She goes anyway, a charge she’s holding goes off early, and Ryder dives into the ocean to save her—wearing a t-shirt and jeans which are apparently just as good as full SCUBA gear. When he brings her up, he’s getting hit with the bends, but puts her in a decompression chamber. While it’s running a tube comes loose and she dies raising the question of why the writers and director didn’t just have the explosion kill her.

Ryder goes drinking to get over it and is shanghaied by Naval officers to be taken before Admiral Leslie Nielsen. This is when we find out that Ryder had been in the Navy, almost became a SEAL, and was dishonorably discharged. We also learn that he was the best that bested at besting ever and was called “The Patriot,” a revelation that means nothing for the rest of the movie. Nielsen reveals that warheads have been stolen, it’s being kept a secret, and he’ll reinstate Ryder if he can find them. His CO will be Mitchell. This is forty minutes in, by the way. In an 85 minute movie.

So Ryder meets Nielsen for dinner and Nielsen’s niece is there. She and Ryder have a history that they angrily hash out by shouting exposition on the boardwalk that, and I am not making this up, is suddenly about Vietnam and all the good men we lost over there. Then they fuck. While someone smoking a cigarette watches from the bushes.

Okay, just… just give me a second here. Whoooo.

Oh my gosh, this is the most awkward sex scene I’ve seen since Hard Ticket to Hawaii, and I’ve seen The Room. The final shot literally holds on the two of them cradling each other with looks on their faces that say, “Are you going to call ‘cut’? You can say ‘cut.’ Just… just say ‘cut.’” And then Ryder starts talking about Vietnam again.

Wait, wait, the scene’s not done yet. Cause remember when I said his CO will be Mitchell? Guess who was waiting in the bushes. Yup, Mitchell who is, I think, the niece’s boyfriend. Maybe her husband? Or just crushing on her? Clarify your relationships, movie! But he’s both very angry and totally cool with her hooking up with Ryder and tells her that he himself masterminded stealing the warheads and has set one to detonate. His logic is if both sides have one, no one will be willing to use it. Although it’s not clear who the sides are or how that justifies him arming one or why it’s…

via GIPHY


I GIF’d. This movie made me GIF. I don’t think I’ve GIF’d before on the Misery Mill. That’s how far this movie has pushed me. I can’t even use words anymore. I just…

Right, right, movie. So Ryder, niece, and helicopter pilot arm up and invade the platform, big shootout, go diving, harpoon gun fight between people all dressed in SCUBA gear so good luck guessing who’s who, and all the baddies are killed. Including Mitchell who was the only one that can disarm the nuke. Ryder opens it up with one minute left on the detonator. He doesn’t know which wire to cut. He picks one, cuts it as the timer reaches one, and the movie freezes on his face and solarizes.

Cut to a county road in the middle of nowhere and the girl from the honky-tonk at the beginning is hitchhiking in jerky slow motion. Ryder rolls up on his bike, picks her up, and they ride off into the distance as a song fades over the credits. THE END. And then the song fades back up as the credits continue.

This movie is awful, truly awful. I’ve only described the incomprehensible garbage plot. There’s also bad acting, a lead with a combover that’s barely trying at the best of times and actively failing at others, and terrible editing. The editor repeatedly takes two scenes that should run in sequence and intercut them with each other. So rather than have scene A play out followed by scene B, you get shot from scene A, shot from scene B, shot from scene A, and on and on. It’s to imply that both scenes are happening at the same time, but it only makes things confusing because there’s no narrative value to knowing that these two things are happening contemporaneously. Also, they’re not happening contemporaneously.

For example, the scene with Mitchell confronts the niece immediately after Ryder leaves is intercut with Ryder sneaking into the building where the second warhead is stored. These aren’t happening at the same time. Ryder isn’t immediately at the second location. So the effect is to make the viewer think, “Oh, that was a short scene, oh, I guess that one’s done too. Wait, is this still going on?” It extends the sense of time when watching the movie making it that much more interminable.

I think it’s clear what I’m going to say, right?

You have to see this movie. You have to. It is awful, but this is the first “seeing is believing” level of awful I’ve run into during the Misery Mill. There have been bad movies, there have been surprise good movies, and there have been so-bad-they’re-good movies, but this is the first one that I am literally asking you to watch to confirm that I haven’t lost my mind. Did I really see what I think I saw? I am downright giddy writing this up, that’s how excited and gob-smacked I am about this movie. Please, please, please find yourself a copy of The Patriot and watch it. Don’t make me have done this alone. It is definitely worth digging up to watch with friends and just shout at incredulously. I haven’t done it justice because so much of it defies description. Please, please, please go find and watch this movie.

Friday, June 16, 2017

180. The Sadist

180. The Sadist (1963)
Director: James Landis
Writer: James Landis
From: Pure Terror
Watch: archive.org

A trio of schoolteachers is menaced by a serial killer and his girlfriend at an isolated junkyard in the California desert.

There’s little to say plot-wise about this “edgy” Arch Hall Jr. vehicle. In his other films, he tends to play a gormless teenager despite being nearly 20 and looking older. And I don’t mean to bag on Hall Jr. here. He’s coming out of the age of elderly teens so it wasn’t uncommon to see people playing 15/16-year-olds after completing their Selective Service requirements or filing for their first mortgage. In this movie, though, he’s not playing the “aw shucks” goody-goody, he’s a sociopathic mass murderer. I guess his dad wanted to demonstrate Jr.’s range.

Oh yeah, if Arch Hall Jr. is in the film, Arch Hall Sr. is working as a producer if not also as co-writer and co-star. That may explain why, in a film like Wild Guitar, Sr. plays the villain, Jr. the childish Midwesterner come out to LA to make his fortune, and Jr. forgives Sr. for all his villainy at the end. I could complain about these movies being hacky and a hair’s breadth away from a vanity project, but Jr. isn’t terrible at it. He carries off the wide-eyed innocence pretty well and seems to convey real enthusiasm at the idea of being in a movie at all. I have a soft spot for movies where the overriding aesthetic is, “Golly! Movies are fun!” Miami Connection has that feeling and there’s a variation of it in 2011’s The Muppets.

So The Sadist. Arch Hall Jr., so good at playing wide-eyed innocents who are as excited as a puppy just brought home, is playing a sub-literate sociopath who delights in tormenting his victims. It’s a bit of an odd choice, but it also works. Jr. comes off as willfully immature in all his performances so playing a killer with the mental capacity of a child kind of works. He doesn’t come off as a calculating threat, he’s just a giggling idiot who’s found a gun and likes how it goes “boom.”

Anyway, the plot: a trio of teachers—the guy, the girl, and the elder—are driving to LA to catch a Dodgers game when their fuel pump goes out. They pull over at a junkyard/garage to get help, but no one seems to be there. As they try to get the part from a junked car, Jr. and his nigh-mute girlfriend appear with a gun, tell them to fix the car so the pair can get away, and harry the trio for the rest of the movie. In the end, everyone’s dead except the girl who has to walk back to the garage she’d just fled from to contact the police. THE END.

There’s certainly more incident than that, but that’s basically the film: Jr. has the gun, the guy is working on the car but keeps trying to think of a way to thwart Jr., and, towards the end, things start happening that may let them escape, but then don’t until the very end.

It’s an okay flick, but, then again, I don’t care much for so-called psychological thrillers where there isn’t any “psychology” at play. Jr. isn’t playing mind games with his victims, he’s just a sociopath. He has no sense of cause and effect or responsibility. He’s at the junkyard because his car broke down and, just for kicks, he killed the people who live there before they could fix his vehicle. He kills the elder teacher because the idea strikes him as funny at the moment.

The movie has curious narrative choices, though. The guy tries to challenge Jr. by accusing him of being the person who killed seven people in Arizona just a few days before, which, how does that help his situation? “Oh, you! You threatening me with that gun, saying you’re going to shoot me! I know who you are! You’re that person who has already killed seven people so you’ve demonstrated that you’re perfectly willing to follow through on your threat and now you know that I know this! So what are you gonna do? Huh? What are you gonna do?” Isn’t that supposed to work the other way around? The victims tell the killer they know who he is, but they tell him as though that gives them the upper hand. It’s another case of “stupid hero syndrome.” You can tell he’s the hero because his decisions are bad.

What strikes me as interesting about the movie is how horror movies are generally, in symbolic terms, supposed to work. The monster works as a manifestation of a cultural fear, but also serves as a cleansing force. The nightmare is made flesh, kill all who transgress or do not belong in the “us” of “them and us,” and then is destroyed by the symbol of righteousness, of purity, of order made manifest. So you have the trope of the final girl—virginal, white, and not quite hip to what’s going on—as a symbol of innocence triumphing over the threat, or the trope of the beaten-down cop—tired, hen-pecked, and constrained by Internal Affairs—tossing orders to the wind to “do what’s right” showing that unrestrained authority is what’s needed to save the day. In slasher movies, the audience is teenagers so the final girl is the dominant trope there. In serial killer movies, the audience is adults so you get the cop as synecdoche for authoritarianism.

There’s the other side of that, though, in the marking of victims. Scream articulated (but did not follow) the rules for who dies in a horror movie, but it’s a little bigger than that, more purging the culture of those who transgress. Of course there’s the sin element—drinking, screwing, committing a crime—that results in the monster operating as divine punishment. Slasher movies are curiously Old Testament for how violently they punish transgression, but “transgression” in these movies includes those who are “other,” those who are symbolically not part of the culture. So it’s easy to catalog the deadmeats in these movies—gay, black, disabled—anyone who has an identity in addition to or instead of straight white able-bodied American is going to get it. In fact, you can see the progression of acceptance within our culture by which groups stop being de facto deadmeats. In the 90’s, African-Americans started living through horror and sci-fi films when the trope had been the black guy gets it first. That happened both because filmmakers were aware of the trope and started trying to subvert it, but also because African-Americans, to a degree, became less othered, less cut out of the culture and less perceived as “Americans, but not quite.”

With that idea of purging in mind, the viewer’s supposed to take some pleasure in watching the victims die. Look at who dies in slasher movies—the cheerleader, the bully, the teacher, the cop—the popular kids who look down on the horror-fan burnouts and the authority figures who bully them. That the horror-fan stand-ins in these movies also die doesn’t matter because they usually transgress in some other way—being assholes, being stupid, being high—or you’re supposed to identify with them as victims, both of the bullying culture they’re in and of the monster.

In The Sadist, you have, ultimately, five potential victims of the killer (two cops show up and get killed). The teachers transgress in certain ways—the elder doesn’t recognize the threat and dies for it, the guy repeatedly demonstrates his cowardice so his death is deserved—but I think we’re supposed to initially be siding with Jr. and his partner. Jr. talks about how teachers always bullied his girlfriend, calling her stupid and sending her home crying. The teachers keep trying to assert their authority by leaning on their position as teachers even though they’re not in school, and that constantly backfires. The elder tries to talk Jr. out of murdering him by asking him to imagine someone doing this to his father which leads Jr. to note that both his and his girlfriend’s fathers were abusive drunks. The innocent is the “final girl” who is the only one to make any real effort to get away from Jr. and ultimately survives because he falls into a snake pit while chasing her.

I think the movie wants to tap into a latent resentment towards bad teachers so the audience gets a bit of a thrill watching them die, but we never see them as teachers and never really see them being jerks. The most we get is the very strange middle-class white entitlement at play. I mean, they show up at a garage that’s, as far as they can tell, closed for the weekend, and start demanding service. When no one appears to cater to them, they start wandering the grounds just stealing things. The elder actually walks into the house—into the home of the people who run the garage!—looking for someone to cater to them and walks through the whole place. Who are these people? The movie doesn’t want us to read that as problematic, though, it’s just my jaundiced perspective. Then again, as we all know, I’m of that entitled demo that’s eating too much avocado toast instead of acquiring equity.

So the movie falls a bit flat on that level. We don’t really sympathize with the victims, but we don’t get the vicarious thrill of seeing them laid low either. There’s also an alternative reading: that we’re supposed to side with the trio and the horror is people like Jr. and his girlfriend not knowing their place. In that sense, the movie becomes a justification of social class—you don’t want to fund schools and parks and libraries, you don’t want to give resources to the poors because they’re morally undeserving of it. Just look at this movie and see what happens when the wrong kind of person gains power.

This has been a long post and, frankly, little of it has been focused on the movie itself. Much of my take is likely informed by the currently on-going Trumpcare debate, but I’m not going to apologize for that. One of the reasons I’m going through the movies the way I am, one of the specific lens that I’m looking at them through, is that media reflects their moment, even when they seem to be ardently apolitical. So this is a review of a B-movie, but it’s being written at a specific time in a specific context, and that can’t be divorced from how the movie’s being understood.

Like I said, it’s an okay flick, it just lacks incident and makes some poor choices. I don’t mean that politically, despite all this verbiage. I mean, for example, after the trio has been told Jr. and his girlfriend are going to steal the car, Jr. tears up the trio’s baseball tickets. That’s played as a stunning act of cruelty, but they were never going to get to that game. Their car is being stolen right then. You could play it up as insult to injury, but it’s not the traumatic moment the movie seems to treat it as.

It’s all right. Check it out as a Saturday matinée or gather the beer and pretzels to watch with your riffing friends. It’s cheesy in the right ways and doesn’t offend, it just doesn’t do much else. To its credit, the movie is in the public domain. You can grab a copy from archive.org here.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

179. Morons From Outer Space

179. Morons From Outer Space (1985)
Director: Mike Hodges
Writers: Griff Rhys Jones, Mel Smith
From: Sci-Fi Invasion

A trio of interstellar idiots crash on Earth, causing chaos before becoming superstars, but the fourth member of their group, stranded in space, is trying to return to his friends.

A mid-80’s British sci-fi comedy written by the sketch comedy duo Smith and Jones which is maybe enough of a description to tell you everything about the movie. While there is nominally a plot and characters, they’re largely present to allow for a series of loosely-related sketches. Think of The Kids in the Hall’s Brain Candy or the films of Monty Python and you’ll have a sense of what to expect, but don’t expect greatness.

We open on a Star Wars-esque shot of the underside of a spaceship filling the screen followed by a long chain towing a small camper. And when I say “long,” I mean a shot that lasts the better part of a minute before we get the camper. That’s the payoff. Here’s this massive, screen-filling ship bringing along something behind it and that thing is… is… is… is still not on screen. Oh. It’s a camper.

The quartet of aliens are general idiots and their ship has blown a fuse preventing them from having any fun. Bernard, the “come on, cheer up” guy in the group, steps outside to play “space ball,” aka low-gravity soccer. The drunk idiot onboard uncouples their ship and flies to Earth where they crash, leaving Bernard stranded at the… base? Dock? Hotel? It wasn’t clear.

The government and military get involved immediately, but they’re either brutishly stupid or stupidly insane, which was refreshing. It reminded me how everything went downhill in the 90’s with cop dramas and Presidents punching terrorists off planes. Now people think figures of authority somehow deserve power instead of ridicule. In the 70’s and 80’s, in Britain more than the US, we recognized “leaders” were too stupid to be allowed access to meaningful work—that’s why you made them politicians.

Anyway, Graham, a put-upon newsroom assistant literally stumbles his way into the meeting with the aliens and then… not much. I mean, a lot happens, there are a lot of gags, but nothing of consequence. The aliens are basically mindless tourists so there’s no information to be gained from them. The American ambassador decides they’re hiding their true forms and decides to kill them, but Graham helps them escape. They become celebrities because of this and Graham becomes their manager, half chaffing at their stereotypical celebrity excess and idiocy, half trying to exploit them for his own gain.

Meanwhile, Bernard ends up getting rescued then immediately jettisoned, crashing in the US. He gets institutionalized, escapes, finds out the other three are in England and famous, and works on meeting them.

The reunion comes at the aliens’ New York show, their first in the US, where the trio perform, have an on-stage argument then leave. Bernard has snuck into their dressing room and asks to join them, but is rebuffed. Then an alien ship arrives, the trio address the man who walks out of it, and he turns out to be from the rental agency that they got their ship from. Since the ship has been wrecked, he says they’ll have to come with him. They leave, stranding Bernard once again. Graham knows who Bernard is, though, and the movie closes with him putting his arm around Bernard and discussing plans to make him a star.

The movie is competently done—written by the comedy duo Smith and Jones whose show Alas Smith and Jones seems clever enough and it’s directed by Mike Hodges who did Get Carter and Flash Gordon. It’s not a bad movie, it just never comes together to be what it could. It’s too focused on quick gags to let the characters develop—Graham barely has a line through the first half and then becomes the main character in the second. Suddenly he has an arc that moves from compassion to exploitation very quickly. However, the movie is also too scattered in its plots to let the gags build to something big. There’s the government response to the aliens, the aliens as celebrities, and Bernard trying to get back home after crashing on Earth. It’s too much.

Which is a shame because I laughed out loud several times during the movie and thought it had a real cleverness and wit. This isn’t like the Marimark films that have moments showing what they could be doing, but end up doing a Marimark film anyway, this is a case of lots of good ingredients just not working together. The movie’s fine if you’re looking for something to have running in the background or that you don’t want to give 100% of your attention to—you won’t miss any plot points—but it’s not quite cohesive enough for me to recommend you actively try to find it.

Friday, June 09, 2017

178. Man in the Attic

178. Man in the Attic (1953)
Director: Hugo Fregonese
Writers: Robert Pressnell Jr. and Barré Lyndon from the novel The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes
From: Chilling
Watch: archive.org

As Jack the Ripper stalks the streets of London, a strange Mr. Slade rents a room from Mr. and Mrs. Harley and becomes interested in their actress niece, much to Mrs. Harley’s concern.

Not to be confused with Hider in the House, this focuses on someone who may be Jack the Ripper moving into an attic in Victorian London. That the man is played by Jack Palance is what gives the movie the little edge it has.

The film opens with two cops walking the beat, talking about the hunt for Jack the Ripper. He’s killed twice and they’re trying to find him before he kills again, which immediately seems unlikely. Not that they’d try to find and stop him, but that they’d think they have a serial killer situation after only two deaths. There’s not yet enough to determine a pattern.

The cops walk a drunk woman home, but she slips back out and gets murdered by the Ripper. Immediately thereafter, Jack Palance, as Mr. Slade, comes to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Harley. They’re down-on-their luck bourgeoisie renting out some rooms for extra money. Slade takes the rooms and asks for access to the attic as well so he may conduct his “experiments.” Mrs. Harley is immediately suspicious of his behavior.

And this really should be the movie—the tension of Mrs. Harley suspecting Slade is the Ripper, finding evidence, having it challenged, and ultimately having a confrontation with horrible consequences for one of the two. Yes, it’s formulaic, but not without its pleasures and at least you can say what kind of film it is. This movie doesn’t do that.

Instead, it has that plot, to a degree, but also has a plot involving Mrs. Harley’s niece Lily, an actress who’s about to have her big break. Mr. Slade doesn’t like actresses which now suggests the other potential plot—that he’s the killer and coming ever closer to killing Lily. That doesn’t happen either, though, at least not completely, because there’s the third plot element.

The chief inspector in the Ripper case is Inspector Warwick. The Ripper’s fourth victim last spoke to Lily before she died so Warwick goes to talk to Lily and immediately becomes infatuated. Thus we get a bit of a love triangle between Warwick, Lily, and Slade, with Warwick and Slade having what’s supposed to be a psychological battle over whether Warwick will ever capture the Ripper.

So nothing really comes to anything because the movie never decides which plot it wants to follow. Since it tries to be all three, but never makes much of an effort to be any one of them, it just meanders without any urgency. It’s a Jack the Ripper movie without any tension, mystery, or doubt, so what’s the point?

Slade eventually reveals to Lily that he hates actresses because his mother was one, but was unfaithful to his father because she was beautiful enough to get away with it—she could have any man she wanted. This is similar to the line that MRAs take about women in general so it was interesting, in a way, to hear it coming out of Jack the Ripper (oh yeah, spoiler, he’s the Ripper, but the movie doesn’t put much effort into making you think he’s not). At the same time, it seems to be a moment where the movie wants you to sympathize with him—he didn’t want to commit these murders, he was forced by his slatternly mother. At the end, when he finally tries to kill Lily, it’s because he’s jealous of all the men leering at her from the audience at her show, so it seems to be criticizing his position while also endorsing it. Earlier it also has Mrs. Harley being shocked that Lily seems to be flirting with the Prince of Wales from the stage—shocked that she’s using her beauty and sexuality to try to improve her position precisely the way Slade criticized his mother for doing.

What I’m saying is the movie dips its toe into a weird space of seemingly justifying Jack the Ripper’s murders because of slutty-slut-sluts. Sympathy for the serial killer is always a difficult stance to take, but would be a badass title to a metal song.

As with a lot of these movies where I start to get sidelined by the politics, the movie itself doesn’t rise to the level of meriting a political or feminist analysis. That element sticks out as a bit of a, “Wait, what?” moment in an otherwise not-quite-meandering movie. While there’s no energy to the film, it doesn’t drag either, and literally sputters out at the end: Slade is finally revealed, chased by Warwick to a river where Slade simply walks in until he vanishes below the surface. Warwick and the police try to find Slade, but he never resurfaces. So that’s the big dramatic ending that lacks any sense of drama or ending.

I also want to note that the movie is only about 80 minutes long, but has three musical breaks. So it’s short, has nothing much happening, and still felt the need to pump the brakes three times during just to reduce all that tension.

So it’s not a recommend, although saying that implies more passion than the movie’s worth. There’s nice black-and-white cinematography and it’s kind of fun to see a simple studio flick from the 50’s, but there’s nothing compelling about it. On the other hand, it is in the public domain and there’s a copy on archive.org here. It’s riffable enough—I’m sure there are plenty of Jack Palance jokes folks could make—and could be used for a simple editing project, so that’s not nothing. It’s not, though, as a movie, much else.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

176-177. Alfonso Brescia's Italian Star Wars

Jump to 176. War of the Robots (1978)
Jump to 177. Star Odyssey (1979)

*. Cosmos: War of the Planets aka Anno zero - Guerra nello spazio (1977)
Director: Alfonso Brescia
Writers: Alfonso Brescia and Aldo Crudo
From: Science Fiction PD Project
Watch: archive.org

A spaceship makes an emergency landing on a planet after intercepting a mysterious signal only to find the planet ruled by a robotic monster.

An unnumbered entry with a link to the PD Project archive? What’s going on? Well, I saw that the next movie was Alfonso Brescia’s War of the Robots, the third in his series of four (some sources say five) Star Wars rip-offs. So I decided to do a master post with the entire series, going back to the first one which I originally watched nine years ago (how is this my life?). Here’s what I wrote then:

The movie is trying to be a high-tech John Henry tale. The hero, Capt. Hamilton, resents having his life and actions dictated by machines. He thinks humans are innately and eternally superior. However the world he lives in is governed by a supercomputer and every act, even sex, is performed via machine. Think Woody Allen's Sleeper but in earnest.

So naturally the planet they land on used to be home to a great civilization that eventually let robots do everything for them—including designing and building new robots. Robots revolted, destroyed the society and now have their eyes on Earth.

Overall not a bad idea—hell, it was great in 2001—but it's so poorly done. The movie drags along, beats you over the head with its at best muddy anti-technology ideology (how do we travel to space without it?) and, like the malevolent computer intelligence, refuses to die. The amazing thing is there are some remarkably rough jump cuts in the film. The original version may have been longer. Yikes.

Upon rewatching, I don’t have much to add except that it’s worse than my previous description implied. All these movies are exhaustingly dull. They’re an odd mix of Star Wars epic space opera and 2001 meditative sci-fi: they have stupid action and silly ideas done really slowly. The space battles are drawn out by orders being given to individual crew to prep this, adjust that, calibrate the other thing. I don’t need the mechanics of shooty-splodey and there are no ideas in these movies to meditate over. So it's just dull.

However, I will expand on the “rough jump cuts.” All the connective tissue in this movie is missing. The who and why of anything is never clear. I can’t name the characters, can’t describe their motivations, or explain what their mission was, and I’ve seen this twice now while taking notes.

This movie is followed by Battle of the Stars which I’ll say very little about because I haven’t seen it.

Not for lack of trying. All these movies are public domain and available all over the Internet, derisively referred to as “Italian Star Wars” (here included). However, this movie is particularly rare. Trash Film Guru’s post about it details both the confusions surrounding the film and the difficulty in finding it, but I’ll give just a quick summary here:

This was shot back-to-back with Cosmos using much of the same cast and sets. It was just random chance that Cosmos was released first. Because of their similarity, many people ignored Battle of the Stars because they thought they were the same movie which has made copies very scarce. It’s so rarely seen, in fact, that it’s the only one of these four movies without a Wikipedia page and its IMDB page is filled with reviews for Cosmos instead.

I’d love to get my hands on a copy to upload to archive.org. Plus, I think there’s a fun editing project that could be done with all these movies.

176. War of the Robots aka La guerra dei robot (1978)
Director: Alfonso Brescia
Writers: Alfonso Brescia and Aldo Crudo
From: Chilling; Sci-Fi Invasion
Watch: archive.org

A scientist working on artificial life and his assistant are kidnapped by an alien race intent on immortality. A rescue crew from Earth has 8 days to save them and return before the scientist's experiment explodes, leveling a city and killing thousands.

"Is it because I have cabbage for a head?"
This is when the movies get strange and the “Italian Star Wars” comments make sense. The Prof and his lovely assistant (I’m not looking up anyone’s names for this crap) get kidnapped by Prince-Valiant-looking robots and I had my one moment of real pleasure in imaging this was a Kids in the Hall bit directed by and starring Bruce McCulloch. Then there were three more hours of movies to watch.

Lovely assistant’s boyfriend leads a ship to track down the aliens since the Professor’s nuclear reactor will go critical in 8 ½ days and only the Professor can disable it. They stop to fix a satellite, basically repeating a sequence from Cosmos, fight the aliens, land on an asteroid, get captured, and find the Professor controlling the robots with the supercomputer that was destroyed at the end of Cosmos. He’s the villain now! And lovely assistant is the Empress of the aliens. Empress betrays the aliens, gets everyone out, but turns out she’s actually a traitor, big space battle, Earth wins, town saved, no one could possibly care.

During the movie, the robots start attacking the humans with really crappy lightsabers, and this is where the Star Wars comparisons become clearer. Honestly, the first movie felt a little more like it was ripping off Battlestar Galactica, but whatever. It’s so cheesy, so poorly done. There’s a love-triangle where one of the crew is in love with the Empress’ boyfriend and the joke is he’s literally the only person who doesn’t know. They even pick up an alien from a species that’s been oppressed by the robots and he comments on it. At the end, she’s the one who saves the day. In fact, the boyfriend who’s coded as the “hero” doesn’t do much at all. All the heroic actions are taken by the two women and the alien and I don’t really need to reiterate my lack of patience for films focusing on useless white guys, do I? My apartment has a mirror in the kitchen. I see a useless white guy in action every time I make breakfast. Focus on characters who do shit.

177. Star Odyssey aka Sette uomini d'oro nello spazio (1979)
Director: Alfonso Brescia
Writers: Alfonso Brescia, Massimo Lo Jacono, and Giacomo Mazzocchi
From: Cult Cinema
Watch: archive.org

An alien comes to Earth planning to enslave all humans. It’s up to a scientist and his band of ragtag thieves and scammers to develop the solution to save the planet.

The waffles have come for revenge!
David Hasselhoff wearing oatmeal is leading an army of the robots from War of the Robots to gather humans from Earth to sell as slaves. As his ship approaches, monitoring stations on Earth go crazy since this is their first contact with an alien species. That doesn’t matter for the movie, I just want to mention it for later.

The alien ship is made from an impenetrable substance so a genius scientist convinces his neice’s showboating space officer boyfriend to break a pair of his friends out of prison. This “convincing,” by the way, is done via hypnosis. Later, a scammer who’s going to help the officer uses his psychic powers to manipulate small objects and dominate someone’s mind. Yep, we’re into “use the Force” territory and 100% fake Star Wars.

A good three-quarters of this movie is “getting the band back together,” except we don’t know who the bad is, how they work together, or why each of them is being selected. So it’s basically an hour of a bunch of nobodies reaching out to yahoos for reasons, maybe.

The original Covfefe.
They also have a pair of suicidal robots that look like Howard the Cyberduck and his girlfriend. They agreed to a suicide pact, but forgot why. At the end of the movie, they remember they wanted to kill themselves because they couldn’t fuck. The scientist offers them a happy ending by promising to make them genitals so they can screw like anyone else.

Were these pornos? This feels like a porno. The acting gets worse from film to film until we arrive at this one that feels like it’s supposed to be a farce, that’s it’s supposed to be the goofy bits between people getting down to fucking, but all the fucking’s been cut. That math doesn’t work, though, because this movie is nearly 100 minutes long. What got cut?

And I’m not going into the plot in detail because it doesn’t make sense. All the shots are out of order. So the alien is approaching Earth, the scientist is getting his plan ready, the scammer is brought in to help in the prison break, and then it flashes back to the alien bidding for the Earth in an interplanetary auction, the scammer in the scene preceding the one where the niece recruited him for the job, both of these intercut with the niece at a wrestling match between a scrawny guy and a robot.

In the end, the escaped prisoners find the solution, big space battle where aliens are driven back, heroes who created awkward love triangles die to simplify the relationships afterwards, and the escaped prisoners follow Breakfasthoff back to the auction house where they sell Earth off again, the prisoners getting a 50% cut. Which is a big, “What?” to end the movie on.

As I mentioned, this uses the same robots as the previous movie. Hoff and oats with syrup’s ship is also the same as the ones used by the heroes in the previous films. I wanted to note that this movie features Earth’s first contact with aliens because it really feels like the movies go in reverse order, that you could watch them 4, 3, 2, 1 and see an epic about Earth’s space program developing over time to ultimately combat the evil supercomputer that’s been angling for galactic conquest the whole time. It’d make a hell of a lot more sense that any one of these movies do on their own.

In fact, because there’s so much overlap in sets and costumes, it’d be really easy to cut up all these films and make something new that makes sense and looks like one coherent thing. You could even redub it since the original dubbing is so bad.

These movies are trash. Watching them literally wore me out. They’re highly mockable because they’re so silly, but I’d say Star Odyssey might be so bad that even watching it to make fun of it would be a challenge. As I suggested, there are editing projects you could put together using these movies and, luckily, they're all public domain. I didn’t realize this when I set out to watch all of these, but I already uploaded Cosmos way back when. It’s the 2nd most downloaded movie I’ve posted after Bloody Pit of Horror and beats the 3rd most, The Phantom Planet, by just over 50,000 downloads. I’ve added an MPEG-2 of War of the Robots to archive.org here and would have added one of Star Odyssey, but Mill Creek decided to rub themselves all over the crusty deliciousness of Spam-and-eggs-and-Hoff by squirting their logo onto my copy. Fortunately, someone else posted one to archive.org here. If you're particularly masochistic, you can watch them all, but I'd recommend doing so only after several tall glasses of water.