The Gong Show Movie
You may not believe me, but this is akin to Stunt Rock. That movie had a fictionalized story about a journalist trying to interview a fake world-famous stuntman, portrayed by an actual world-famous stuntman, and spiced things up with actual stunt footage as well as concert footage from rock band Sorcery.
Here, we have a fictionalized, though possibly reality-inspired, account of a week in the life of the show’s creator, Chuck Barris, as played by the real Chuck Barris — in a film he himself directed, no less — with actual footage from “The Gong Show” interspersed throughout.
Unfortunately, the main, fictional story is…not very good. He deals with people complaining about the show’s content, people constantly coming up to him to show their lack of talent in the hopes of getting on the show, and the ups and downs of his relationship with his out-of-his-league girlfriend, Red. She’s played by a lovely lass named Robin Altman…who was actually his wife for 19 years, so shut my mouth and well done, sir.
None of this is particularly interesting, and the talentless people who audition for him, whether he wants them to or not, are rather irritating. It does go kind of bonkers at the end, with Barris flying out to the Sahara, apparently to wander around until he dies, and his boss showing up with a good hundred or more people to sing an uplifting song to convince him to come back, but too little too late. Oh, there’s also the big-screen debut of a painfully young Phil Hartman, who is more entertaining in 30 seconds than everyone else in this part of the movie combined.
God, I miss Phil Hartman.
And I hate that the whimsical yet touching “So Long, Farewell” bit from Hartman’s last episode of “Saturday Night Live” is now one of the most haunting things ever because it ends with him, his arm around Chris Farley, singing, “Goodbye…goodbye…goodbye.”
……………………………………….WHY DID I GO WATCH THAT AGAIN
All right, I’m going back to this movie before I decide I need to re-watch the video for Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt” or compilations of people returning from military service and being greeted by their dogs.
The other half of the movie also features people with no talent who actually got on the show, but there is at least the freakshow factor of actual schlubs doing these things instead of characters to make it slightly more interesting. Kind of how, after a couple of seasons, many people would only watch the first few episodes of “American Idol.” Or maybe that was just me.
Anyway, we do occasionally get a moment that’s surprising, like Jaye P. Morgan ripping open her shirt, or genuinely entertaining, like Gene Gene the Dancing Machine, or that one time some guys dressed up like nuns and sang “The Vatican Rag.” The big surprise, for a lot of people I think, was the Unknown Comic. I’d certainly heard of him, but that was about it.
Turns out he was pretty damn funny. I mean, part of his schtick was throwing out hoary old puns, but his delivery sold them better than you’d think. Or maybe Ken and Kirk have broken me at last. He also had some legit funny bits, which were usually crude and probably got hit by the censors most of the time. Sometimes, though, he’d slip a clever one through, usually of the “wait for it…” variety. I liked him enough that I’m sad there aren’t more show clips of him online.
When it’s all said and done, you find yourself wishing they’d just made a highlight reel from the actual show and not bothered with the other nonsense. There doesn’t seem to be an official series release, but the clips are not enough to make it worth fast-forwarding through, and don’t even think about slogging through the whole thing. Fun fact: This movie opened the same weekend as The Shining and The Empire Strikes Back. Not-so-fun fact: Even if it hadn’t, it still would’ve tanked because it’s a drag.
Yongary: Monster From the Deep
It had been reported earlier that there would be two changes to the line-up. Apparently someone had realized at the last minute that two of the scheduled movies had just been shown at the 2015 gathering. I know this, because I was there. This was the first one. This does have some fun stuff, but having seen it more than once before, I was okay with the change. It was replaced with…
…which I’ve also seen a few times before. Damn. Well, let’s face it: there are very few giant monster movies that I haven’t seen a few times before.
So, stop me if you’ve heard this one: Some people find and capture a large monster to cheerfully exploit for their own gain, only to find out the monster’s a pup, and soon the city they’re holding it in is under siege by its much-larger, and very angry, parent. Yeah, this is pretty much the British version of Gappa the Triphibian Monster*, although that had both parents show up to wreak havoc, and they also had a breath weapon because Japan.[*Editor Ken: To be technically correct, Gappa is the Japanese version of Gorgo, which came out six years earlier.]
This one ended up on Mystery Science Theater 3000 at one point, which is at least partly understandable. The characters really don’t make any impact, and we don’t give a whit about any of them, least of all the annoying kid who is sad about Gorgo being in captivity.
While the first 20 minutes or so move along all right, we end up having a sodden lump of a second act, with only the revelation of how much bigger Mama Gorgo would be than the baby it turns out they’re holding providing any interest. Finally, Mama makes it ashore, and we get a very fun and well-done bit of city-stomping, with lots of destruction of landmarks and people buried under rubble and ineffective military attacks. You know, the way it should be.
The Gorgo costume is fun, being very rubbery, with glowing red eyes, unusually large hands compared to the rest of the body that are constantly held in a half-fist position, and those crowd-pleasing wiggling ear flaps. Then the kid fondly wishes the Gorgo family farewell as they return to the sea, where certainly no one will ever hunt for them or anything.
I recommend this because the first and third acts are pretty choice, but don’t feel bad if you decide to skip the section between Gorgo Jr.’s capture and Mama’s assault on London. Hell, I don’t even watch it all the way through every time.
Man, I don’t know how to approach this one. To describe the plot, I would have to reveal things that are best experienced cold, because this movie is in the “one damn thing after another” wheelhouse that Japan and Hong Kong do so well. Which makes sense, as it’s from the Philippines, who also know a thing or two about this kind of batshittery.
Further, the director was Cirio Santiago, who anyone familiar with ’80s exploitation movies should recognize, as he directed a few and produced quite a few more. His best-known ones are probably Vampire Hookers, one of many, many unworthy B-movies John Carradine graced with his talent (and which was a late ’70s entry); and Savage Dawn/Stryker, an all-too-rare starring vehicle for Lance Henriksen.
Returning to my main point, I don’t want to rob anyone of the experience I had of watching this movie while not knowing thing one about it and therefore being completely blindsided. It’s one I first saw late last year, and it struck me as the kind of thing that would be good at T-Fest, if that tells you anything. If you’re going to track this down, you may want to skip the next paragraph.
All right, I’m going to give you the starting premise, since it’s kind of inferred from the title. A Mad Max manqué has a fight with some crazies in dune buggies and such. He arrives at a rather impressive stone edifice (my guess is an actual temple of some sort) just in time for the leader of the crazies to arrives with a bunch more men with lots of guns and a functioning tank (!) and a demand to get out there or they’ll blow the place apart with him in it.
At stake is a relic the temple is holding, and which the crazies don’t want anyone else to have. He manages to grab said relic and transport himself to the 1980s in a bid to prevent this post-apocalyptic nightmare from coming about.
I’ll stop there. I suppose in the interest of full disclosure, I should say that there are points where this movie does plod along a bit, before something new crops up to distract you. The things they keep throwing in, though, have to be seen to be believed. If someone told me this was filmed on the fly, with no script and a mantra of “if it sounds cool, we’ll shoehorn it in,” I wouldn’t doubt them for a moment.
The acting is mostly pretty bad, although the main actors are decent. The future guy is played by Richard Norton, and if you recognize that name, good on ya! Robert Patrick, aka the T-1000, is also in it, and if you’ve ever wanted a good long gander at him in his tightie-whities, this is the movie for you! Linda Carol is the female lead, and she was also the lead in Reform School Girls, which came out the same year. Bruce Le and Hwang Jang Lee also show up, and good on ya again if you know them as well.
I recommend seeing it at least once, just for the “What the hell!?” factor. Watch with a few buddies and a few brews for maximum enjoyment.
Creature with the Atom Brain
Here was the second change. I was a little sad about this one, as 2015 was my first viewing of this, and it’s quite fun. I was quickly mollified when it turned out we were getting another giant monster movie, one I’d not seen in some time.
Once again, man tampers in God’s domain, trying to create growth hormones to make larger livestock to feed world hunger, ignoring the fact that said larger animals would need more food to keep them alive and pretty much ruin the whole enterprise. One of the test animals is, as you might have guessed, a tarantula, who gets loose when an angry human test subject seeks revenge on the scientist, gets really goddamn big, and eats a lot of people and livestock. Can mankind stop this crawling chaos?
This is one of the first giant critter movies I ever saw, and I think it holds up pretty well. The acting is fine, the story clicks along, and we get a nice escalation of plans to take out the tarantula. The effects for the spider are the same used in Bert I. Gordon’s stuff, but the spider being a dark color (perhaps enhanced in post) helps with the “see-through” problem that comes with this sort of thing.
The spider just wanders around eating whatever it encounters, as such a creature wouldn’t really have a plan. Which makes its determined assault on the scientist’s house a bit perplexing. Oh, wait. Mara Corday *sigh* is getting ready for bed at that point, and the spider looks in a window and right at her, so this could be a Kong thing, and who could blame it? Well, that and the scientist, despite having been injected with his own formula and therefore suffering the acromegaly that it causes in people, still needs to pay the ultimate price for the afore-mentioned domain-tampering.
I know Ken will fight me on this, but I honestly think this is preferable to Earth vs. the Spider. [Editor Ken: Nah, I realize my preference for Earth is a minority opinion. I’ll stick with it, though.] This spider doesn’t screech like a drunken banshee, which alone gives it the edge in my book. I really dislike that sound. There is an odd sound that seems to emanate from this spider, but I don’t find it nearly so troubling. This movie also has a fantastically-fun prop spider leg and face that never fail to delight me. June Kenney has got nothing on *sigh* Mara Corday, either. I will say “terrible rock and roll brings the spider back to life” is one of the best plot twists I’ve ever seen, though.
Roddy Piper vs. aliens. What else is there to say? You’ve probably all seen it. Well, confession time: I’d never seen this in its entirety, having only caught snippets here and there.
And, yes, I should have seen it a lot sooner, because what a ride! That amazingly drawn-out fight scene that I hadn’t realized South Park had reenacted scene-for-scene until I saw this. Roddy being Roddy. The hideous aliens, and the sunglasses to see them (of which we got replicas from the sponsors). The satire that is sometimes laid on too thick, but still manages to seem oddly prescient in some ways. The blatantly obvious “Whoops, how do we get out of this?” nature of how Nada’s kidnapping is resolved and the wonderful tumble down a hill that results. The surprisingly bittersweet climax. Just some damn enjoyable stuff all around.
If you have yet to watch this, don’t wait any longer. You’re really missing out.
And with that, B-Fest 2017 came to a close. We packed up all our stuff, tossed our trash, and headed over to Paul and Holly’s for the traditional post-Fest get-together with alcohol and pizza. Yay! Love that Chicago-style pizza. I don’t get the weird giant sausage disks, but that’s a very minor quibble. We ate and drank and chatted, and then finally we went back to Ken’s to crash.
Day Five: In Which I Make a Delectable Discovery and Sally Almost Destroys Us All
After we finally all woke up, we met the whole gang for breakfast at Elly’s Pancake House. Oh, sure, it wasn’t as good as L&L, but that’s a damn high bar to set. They’d have never had room for all of us, anyway. And this place was perfectly good. I had some crepes with berries and sausage on the side, and there wasn’t a thing wrong with it. The crepe filling wasn’t as sweet as some I’ve experienced, which is good because aching teeth are not a good way to start a day; the berries were big and juicy; and the sausage was succulent as could be. It’s definitely not a bad place; I’d be happy to go there again sometime.
Some of the gang had to go their separate ways at that point, but the rest of us headed to Paul and Holly’s to spend a chunk of the day after saying our goodbyes. Those of us who’d finally seen the entirety of Ship of Monsters talked it up sufficiently to make everyone who hadn’t want to view it immediately, which we were only too happy to help with, and soon more happy converts were made. I’m telling you, see this movie!
I also found out that Mike’s makes a hard margarita beverage. I thought it would just kind of taste like their hard limeade, but it actually tastes like a margarita. It even has a salty tinge to it, which I would not have thought possible. It really added to the whole thing. I’d be a bit chagrined that I can’t locate it here if it wasn’t for the fact that I live in the birthplace of the frozen margarita. Still, if someone could tell Paul and Holly to have this stuff on standby every B-Fest weekend, I’d be grateful.
Oh, we almost witnessed the end of all things, too.
I suppose I should explain. At some point, Sally found a trio of stuffed raccoons that Paul and Holly had wisely hidden. The resultant cuddle-pile of cuteness threatened to tear a hole in the space-time continuum, condemning us all to utter annihilation. Thankfully the barriers of reality held, because that would have put a major damper on my plans. At least we all would have been obliterated with dopey grins on our faces.
That night, as we pondered dinner options, Paul suggested Los Compadres Taqueria. I did not want to be a pain in the ass, so I went along with it, but I have to admit that I was worried. Along with barbecue and chicken-fried steak, Texas knows its Mexican/Tex-Mex cuisine, so I knew my expectations would be high.
You never know when you’ll be surprised, though; the part of northwestern Iowa I grew up in had/has a couple of really top-notch Mexican restaurants. However, this makes sense considering the large Mexican population that lives there. I’m sure there are many living in Chicago, but when I think Chicago, I think pizzas that can feed armies and various central European sausages, not rellenos and charro beans.
Luckily, I had nothing to worry about, because LCT is quality stuff. As is my wont with a new Mexican joint, I got a combination platter. I was relieved as soon as I tried the rice, because unlike too many places, it was not dry at all. I don’t know what it is about the process for making Spanish rice, but even the best places often have rice that’s not moist.
The beans, the taco, the enchilada…all quite good. The tamale was the highlight, a pretty much flawless example of the dish, with savory pork and hearty but non-crumbly masa. A future visit here is going to be just dandy with me, and I’ll be sure to trust Paul next time he recommends a place. [Editor Ken: Yeah, Paul knows his Mexican food.]
And with that, Ken and I headed to his place for the night.
Day Six: In Which My Adventure Finally Comes to a Close
Ken and I rose and loafed for the morning, because why wouldn’t we? It’s a vacation. We hit Culver’s for lunch because I had been lamenting a lack of butterscotch to be found in Texas. It’s the damnedest thing, but outside of those hard, neon yellow candies, butterscotch isn’t a flavor they seem to favor here. So, of course I had to move to this place. To my delight, the Starbucks at the B-Fest Hall had been offering a butterscotch coffee; and this was a nice capper, as after my yummy buffalo chicken strips and fries I got some chocolate custard with butterscotch sauce and nuts. Oh so good!
We went over to spend some time with Holly; and Ken, good people that he is, brought along The Bermuda Depths because I hadn’t seen it yet, and as a result had not been able to read his review of it. Well, now I have. It’s a pretty cool movie, but man, Ken wasn’t kidding about it being all over the place plot-wise. Also some pretty weird things going on. Connie Sellecca is just a stunner. Those eyes…wow. Oh, yeah, and of course I was utterly delighted with the giant turtle. Naturally I wanted about twice as much of it as we got, but that’s just me, I’m sure. Definitely worth a watch just to take it all in.
All too soon, I had to get to the airport and head back home. Alas, another B-Fest weekend had ended, but at least this one was longer than usual, at least for me.
Well, I know I’ve been to only three of these, but this was by far the easiest roster I’ve sat through. No soul killers here. Hell, I’m having trouble deciding the worst movie. I have to disqualify Battlefield Earth because, while it’s truly awful, it’s uproariously so; and this is the perfect setting to see it.
Malibu Express isn’t good, but it doesn’t feel like torture to sit through it; and again, Sidaris did much worse. Empire of the Ants and Bloodlust! are both pretty bad until their last thirds, but at least they do pick up.
I find myself torn between Hercules in New York and The Gong Show Movie. The former is definitely worse as a movie overall, but it’s kind of a breeze to get through despite that. The latter does have entertaining bits from the show, but they’re few and far between; and the main part, as I said, is not compelling at all.
I’m going to have to base this decision on which I’d be less willing to sit through again; and on that basis, I’d give it to The Gong Show Movie. I’d be happy to just watch some Unknown Comic clips and be done with it.
Best movie is a pretty easy choice. Action Jackson is fun, and I like Tarantula, but They Live definitely deserves the cult reputation it has. I’d recommend all three if you’ve not seen any of them, but definitely go with They Live first.[Editor Ken: Yes, this year was marked by there being no really painful entries, or anything that will particularly stick with me either. They Live is great, but it’s not my favorite John Carpenter. Also, I’ve seen it in theaters several times. A few years ago B-Fest featured Big Trouble in Little China; that was a little bit more my speed.
I’ll go with Action Jackson, I guess, which is a perfect example of a dumb, overblown studio action flick without being so big that it becomes obnoxious. Meanwhile, the ‘worst’ films were basically just forgettable. Now, back to the Rev….]
Although, before even that, go watch Ship of Monsters. I cannot stress enough how magical this movie is. It’s on YouTube. Do it! One hundred percent satisfaction guaranteed. And if you somehow aren’t satisfied by the experience…well, you’re just wrong and stupid and wrong, and I don’t want to hear about it from your wrong, stupid self. It’s your fault for having no taste, you fucking Philistine.
And on that note, I think it’s time to wrap this up. Thanks to Ken for putting up my stuff; I hope you enjoy this. Thanks to Lyz for inspiring this; I hope you, too, enjoy this. And thanks to any of you out there that read this; my hopes for enjoyment extend to you, as well. This is the Rev., signing off.