Note: Disregard the Rev’s apology below; the reason these pieces are just going up now are two-fold. One, my lack of focus in finishing my own piece. Second, my eventual idea that I’d post them closer to the date of this summer’s T-Fest to spur interest in that event. T-Fest: It’s Not Just for Dinner. Coming to Dallas on Saturday, August 20th.
The Rev’s Typically Long-Winded Fest Reflections
T(ween)-Fest 2011: The Festering Quickening
Special Explanatory Note
I’m sure a lot of you are wondering about why this is just now being posted, nearly three months after T(ween)-Fest 2011 was actually held. It might occur to you that I was very busy, or very procrastinate-y, or perhaps both. You might wonder why I’m bothering after all this time to give this to Ken.
Well, these thoughts are all an IL-LUUUUUU-SION, though I do understand your CON-FUUUUUU-SION. This was actually posted in a timely fashion, and you enjoyed it immensely and hope to see more from me soon on this site. I control your thoughts and you must do as I will. I AM MON-TAAAA—er, THE REEEEEEEEEV., and you must obey!
Now that that’s settled, on to the recap!
Standard Unnecessary Intro
Once again, Ken has graciously allowed me to invade his province to bring you a report on our most recent get-together, T(ween)-Fest 2: the Quickening. To add a little spice, I had thought I’d open this particular piece in a slightly different manner than I usually do. Some of you may recall that, the last time I graced these hallowed pages, I made an off-the-cuff remark about the Tea Party. It went over very well, if I do say so myself. After the roaring approval of the Jabootu masses to that one little line, I had decided to open this intro with a whole paragraph of like jokes and comments, and then bask in the glow of your adulation. Sadly, this will not pass; Ken has indulged his dark, neofascocommienazisocialist desires and censored me. I urge you all to complain to Mr. Begg – or should that be Comrade Begg!? – regarding his iron-fistedness via email or this site, or even in person if you can. Do not let The Man win! Remember: jokes = awesome, no jokes = censorship by His Lordship Kenneth Richard Begg the RED.
Prelude to a Fest
As was the case last year, the gathering for T(ween)-Fest was a bit smaller than T-Fest usually draws. We had around 20 or so show up, with a few hardcore attendees once again making it out. To make sure I was absolutely clear on who was who, I wrote down a very comprehensive list, with graphs and everything. This way I hope to avoid any mistakes like last time.
The Fest was held in a new venue this year, out where Sandy works now. The sound system we had at hand made it a little hard to hear sometimes, but there were a couple of big couches and plenty of other seating, and the snack room was handily connected to it, so no need for intermissions. It’s also nice and close to my home, as I’m sure you’ll all be glad to know.
Naturally, Ken and Sandy were there to shepherd us through their “delightful” little bunch of movies. A couple of Sandy’s sons showed up; their names are, according to my notes, Spencer and Arthur. Kirk and Patty, along with daughter Samantha and her friend Rachel, were there as well. I was determined that one of the two young ladies was a Megan, and I could not tell you why that is. Angela once again indulged us with tasty treats, and her man Rich was there, too. His name is not Frank, as I said in my T-Fest 2010 write-up. Frank, however, was also there, and he’s the guy that’s been there for all of these things whose name I never remember. UNTIL NOW DAMMIT. He’s been described as looking like Captain Ahab or a leprechaun; I like the latter, since Frank does not have a peg leg. If this changes, so will my description of him. Mason returned to delight us with his shirt, and Chad was there as well. I think Reed also attended, but I seem to be unsure on this. Sorry, Reed! A long-haired young man I referred to in my first T(ween)-Fest write-up also returned, and I found out his name is Matthew. I was glad to see him return to our little freakshow. He is obviously ONE OF US, ONE OF US. Later in the day, two more guests would arrive, but we’ll get to them in due time…
Due to the seating arrangement, I had a few Fest buddies. Ken and Patti were ahead of me on one couch, Samantha and Rachel on the other, and Kirk next to me.
Let the good times roll!
We decided to hold off on these this time around. This made me sad; I’d brought something special to inflict on everyone in between movies. Maybe in August…
What a way to start a fest! I love this movie so damn much. It’s one of those wonderfully bonkers, never-slow-down, take-no-prisoners Hong Kong genre movies I can’t seem to get enough of. One of the Petersen brood actually thought this movie wouldn’t be wacky enough for the group. I can only assume his sense of perception is skewed, being raised by the man who created “Call of Cthulhu” and who owns a huge collection of super-insane movies. If you can, in all seriousness, refer to a movie that features a Muppet-y ghost being released from a holding bag of cow’s placenta to fight a wizened skeletal horror that just transformed into a winged Alien “homage” after slurping down the spinal cord of a feminine-voiced sorcerer with Freddy Krueger claws while Chow Yun Fat waits in the wings with an RPG as “not wacky enough,” then there really aren’t enough curse words I can say in an amazed tone of voice to express my shock and awe. Anyway, the crowd loved it, as well they should.
An author named Ai Hong is at a party where the booze is flowing freely, and he’s asked how he comes up with such great stories. He tells all assembled about his two friends, Dr. Yuan and Wisely, whose incredibly exciting lives provide him with plenty of fodder, and who also just happen to be standing nearby. The movie will reveal to us one such story. I don’t want to give up a lot of details, because you really should see this for yourself. Also, any kind of plotline I try to write out is either going to miss a lot of detail or become massive as I try and explain everything that is going on. I’ll do my best.
I can say that Dr. Yuan’s under a curse he was hit with thanks to interfering with a sorcerer’s plans, which is never a good idea, but when you see the woman he was trying to help you will totally understand because HOLY HELL she is gorgeous. (Obviously YMMV re: how much you are influenced by searingly-hot women.) Said woman also got slammed with a curse, and they’ve got to break them before it’s too late. They are assisted by a spunky reporter played by the adorable Maggie Cheung and the mostly-useless mercenaries she got with her daddy’s credit card (no, really), and Wisely, played by a pre-badass Chow Yun Fat. Seriously, you should see this guy’s collection of cardigans. He is rather dapper with his pipe, though. They have run-ins with armed natives; booby traps; Aquala the sorcerer and his minion the Blood Ghost (wait’ll you see how you make one!); Old Ancestor, the afore-mentioned spine-sucking transforming ghoul; some kung-fu monks; and a style of magic that is REALLY hard on the local wildlife.
I got to show off my B-movie knowledge when people asked about the guy playing Ai Hong, who is clearly not an actor. It’s actually the author of the stories this movie was based off of, and the filmmakers were giving him a nice little cameo to honor that. It also ends up being a bit meta, all things considered.
This movie is basically the Hong Kong equivalent of Evil Dead II, mixing horror with humor , tossing in some gore and nudity, a couple of crazy rubbery monsters, and then adding a whole heapin’ helpin’ of that special WTF-ery that marks the best of Asian cinema. We also have the bonus of some of the most hilarious dubbing I’ve ever seen. If you can refrain from shouting out, “She goes berserk and is Herculean!” or warning people that you’ll “spank them without pants!” after watching this, you have more willpower than anyone at T(w)F2011. This movie is utterly terrific and you owe it to yourself to see it immediately.
My understanding is that my mention of this movie led to Sandy thoughtfully including it in the line-up. I had no idea I had that much power in this community, but now that I do…TOTAL CORRUPTION, BABY!!!
Well…how long ya got?
An annoying, rude, and crazy woman wanders around talking to herself and pretty much ruining the lives of all she encounters.
NOW the pain begins. Immortalized on this very website, this is another Jabootu Special I can knock off the list. I have to tell you, this movie has a lot of problems. One of the biggest is our star. I know Cher can act when she wants to, but she hadn’t developed the ability at this point in her career…or was too high to care about making the effort. She could’ve been sharing with everyone else who made this movie, as well as her agent-husband Sonny. I can only imagine that copious amounts of quality drugs were being consumed by all involved, because I can’t see how any sober person could’ve thought this mess was a good idea.
You know, I’ve read the review, I’ve seen the movie…and I really can’t tell you what the point of the whole thing was. Maybe it was to make us hate the title character. They did manage to succeed at that, and in the opening scenes, too. That poor truck-driving schlub not only picks her up in the rain but lets her stay at his hotel room for free, even knowing he’s not going to convince her to sleep with him. He even lets her spew a continual stream of insults and sarcasm at him the whole while and barely bats an eye. I like to think of myself as a patient man, but she’d have never made it to the hotel with me before I tossed her on her bony ass back into the storm. Maybe this guy was Job reincarnated. Anyway, she continues in this charming vein for the rest of the movie, making sure we loathe her more and more.
To try and alleviate our rage, the rest of the characters are no more interesting or charming, so we occasionally turn our wrath on them. There’s that milquetoast schmuck who lets her shack up with him, even when she disparages, and later trashes, his home and he seems to think she’s just peachy-keen. The kid she torments in the brothel is even worse; he’s actually going to pay for that treatment!? I know some guys are into that, but I think he’s just a spineless puss. (Wait, I’m seeing a pattern…) There’s the madame of the brothel who’s scowly and treats everyone like trash. Seeing her treat Chastity that way is kind of nice for a bit, but she’s such a sleaze that we can’t really root for her. There are no sympathetic characters in this movie; any that aren’t foul of their own accord ruin any chance we have to like them by treating Chastity like the Queen of the Universe. How the hell are we supposed to enjoy a movie where everyone is a bastard?
Add to that some fairly blah cinematography, dialogue that is not at all gripping, and a ridiculous ending, and you’ve got all the makings of DEEP HURTING. If you combined this with The Harrad Experiment and Zabriskie Point (although I’ve not seen that one) you could probably start a riot. Dr. Forrester needed to try that; he might have finally succeeded in his mad quest.
Ken was thoughtful enough to buy some cheap dart guns on the way to the Fest, and several of us took this movie as an opportunity to relieve some of the anger and hurt by shooting at people and things. Due to this, I shall add a Gun Target count.
Gun targets: Just about everyone at some point, but most shots were targeted at Chastity, right in her smarmy face. Surely having soft rubber and foam darts bounce off her image is the just desserts for Chastity!
Queen of Outer Space
Some astronauts head off to Venus when some badly-animated rays shoot around a space station for five minutes before finally blowing it up. The astronauts find that Venus is completely hospitable to human and human-type life; who knew? It’s also inhabited by hot women in little skirts, but any amorous intentions our fearless heroes have are, at least temporarily, put aside when it turns out the women are very hostile. Their queen hates males and has apparently decided that these guys are there to scout out an Earthling invasion of their planet. However, not all the women on Venus hate men, and the *cough* rugged charms of our astronauts soon have some of them planning a mutiny…
Ahhh, that’s better. It’s another Jabootu Classic, although I’ve seen this one before. I suspect many of us have, since it used to get played on TNT’s Monstervision, and probably plenty of other horror host-type shows back in the day. This one’s a pretty good time, although it has its moments of Jabootuesque pain.
You have to feel for the queen. Poor girl, getting those horrible radiation burns only on her face, somehow (another interesting scienmatifical fact this movie provides). What dame wouldn’t get all worked up over something like that? You know how much effort they put into maintaining their faces and all. You’d think the queen’d be happy she can just do her hair, slap on a mask and go about her day, but not so much.
I also suspect that it takes the Venusian women so much time and so many shots to hit things with their death ray because they’re women. Yeah, it’s that kind of movie, where women may act like they’re all independent and tough but all they really need is a man to love her. Unless she’s crazy; then you should just sabotage her Beta Disintegrator and let her die a horrible burny death. This is undermined by said BD, since its design does not strike me as something men would build. I mean, the gold dots set off the eggshell finish quite nicely, but men don’t think about that kind of thing when they’re building world-threatening weapons.
Just trust me on this.
Come to think of it, these women can build death rays and what-not, but they don’t have plastic surgery? Wouldn’t they have come up with that first?
Sorry, ladies. Blame the movie for that last paragraph.
Anyway, Zsa Zsa Gabor’s in this, and looks pretty foxy. As Ken pointed out, someone looking like Terry Ferrell is among them, as are Space Betty Page and a tall redhead I rather liked. There’s a goofy-ass spider puppet that I love and want to have in my dream movie prop shed, where it can sit atop the head of one of the ants from Them! and square off with that two-headed dragon from The Magic Sword.
That’s about it for me on this one. I think Ken said more about this movie than I ever would have thought to, so feel free to reread his piece on it. Better yet, go watch it if you haven’t; it’s a pretty fun slab of space cheese.
Gun targets: The Queen got a couple, Zsa Zsa got a couple, and we all tried to help defeat the spider and save the heroes. I think it helped, oddly enough.
This year’s trivia contest them was no doubt inspired by the recently-finished The Whisperer in Darkness. It was about Lovecraft-inspired movies. Ken immediately started moaning and groaning and carrying on, but I think he did pretty well. The scoring suited me just fine: the few I didn’t know were only worth one point, whereas I had seen the more high-scoring selections. It was a little more informal than previous ones, so I don’t know who actually had the highest score. I have to assume it was one of Sandy’s sons. The winners (of which I was one) got a very nice mug featuring Sandy’s current place of employment on it. I have used it several times since, and it is a fine mug indeed.
I was very excited for dinner, because I had managed to convince two very important people in my life to come out, meet the gang, and watch a movie. I’ve mentioned the lady of the house and the stepdaughter before, and finally the group would meet them! Well, it didn’t work out quite as planned…
In a first, we returned to a location for dinner, that being Burger Island. Some wanted to go to a different burger joint called Twisted Root, but were voted down. Maybe next time, especially since the lady of the house says their food’s better. They were ready for us, and everyone who wanted the clam strips got them. I made sure to get some of those delicious Texas toothpicks to go with them.
We ended up going kind of early, around 4 p.m., and the girls didn’t really feel hungry then. They came out around five, and everyone had already gone back. Well, except for Ken, who in a generous display of camaraderie stayed with me and kept me company until they showed up, all of two minutes after everyone else had gone. The rest of the group was kind enough to wait until we got there, and as a bonus got to see some of The Whisperer in Darkness, which I’m sure no one complained about. The girls got to chat with Ken, whom they found charming. We headed on back, and the Fest could finally continue after my family decided to try and hold it up.
To start, go watch this clip:
Pretty great, huh? That was all I let myself watch of this movie, when it turned out there’s very little about it on the Internet. I was ready to savor this movie.
I should’ve watched more, so my disappointment wouldn’t have been so keen.
Two rival groups are trying to make movies about the Last Emperor of China. One of these groups is really cutthroat and turns to murder, mayhem, and the supernatural to stop the other group from completing their film. I have to say, that would’ve made that whole Deep Impact/Armageddon thing years ago a lot more interesting. The main vampire kills a couple of people but not a lot else. There are a couple of comic relief jiang shi that pop up, and as seen in the clip above, the legendary Hong Kong Smoking Footprint Frankenstein makes an appearance. The main hero is not only a ninja but a Robocop and likes slapping around monsters.
So how can this movie suck so badly??
The main problem is that the above fight scene, and the one where the guy turns into Robocop, takes up maybe eight minutes of the running time. Then you’ve got the occasional monster scene, or murder, and then the rest of it is talking, and boring plot, and bad actors acting badly. I was shocked that this movie was only 90 minutes, because I’d swear it was more like four hours. It just DRAGGED. In this, it reminded me of Big Man Japan, except with worse pacing. This movie should’ve been nonstop madness, and I know they could’ve done it because they gave us little bits of what I was craving, but then they’d pretend they were making a real movie or some such nonsense and go back to people nattering on about their movies and who killed who and blah blah BLAH. This movie just left me sad and empty and I don’t want to talk about it anymore.
I wish I’d known Seventh Curse was in the line-up, because I’d have had the girls come out for it instead of this thing, or perhaps put my newfound power into begging Ken and Sandy to play it in the post-dinner time slot. They tried to enjoy it, but it crushed them. It crushed us all. *sigh* I hope they’ll come out again some time, and we’ll get a more enjoyably bad movie for their viewing. I apologized to them a couple of times for it, and they said it was all right, but I can’t be sure they meant it.
Gun targets: A few shots were leveled at various monsters (particularly the comic relief jiang shi), but mostly we shot the boring humans.
I Bury the Living
This had been chosen, but time constraints and general consensus saw this one shelved for another time. I was a little disappointed; I’ve actually seen the first part, but not the ending, which I’ve been informed ruins the entire movie. I recall Stephen King saying the movie suddenly “turned into a giant pile of shit” in Danse Macabre, and I’ve been a little curious as to what happened. (Not enough to track the movie down, though, apparently.) Another day, then.
I forgot to label this photo, so it’s either Tommy Wiseau from The Room, or a climatic scene from The Manitou.
If you haven’t seen this, the next paragraph could be a spoiler, so be warned.
A rather hideous man named Johnny has a surprisingly hot fiancée named Lisa. For a reason that wasn’t deemed important enough to explain, Lisa suddenly doesn’t want to be with him anymore. I guess she’s bored? Well, these things happen, I suppose. However, what doesn’t happen is that she decides she has to justify her wanting to leave Johnny by lying to everyone about how abusive Johnny is. She also decides to initiate an affair with Johnny’s best friend, Mark, who seems pretty willing to go along with it, at least at first. Some friend. A little while later, Lisa changes her mind when she remembers Johnny’s a well-off banker who can provide quite well for her. Ah, true love! The wedding is planned, but then some stuff happens at the bank and Lisa starts waffling between staying and leaving. She still continues to lie about the abuse, even though no one seems to believe her, not even her mom. Her mom has cancer, by the way. This has nothing at all to do with the plot, but it comes up, so there. Lisa is also, apparently, not worried about what these lies will do to their relationship should she stay. Sometimes she defends Johnny against criticism, just to mix things up and make our heads hurt even more. Lisa decides to claim that she’s pregnant. As you probably guessed, “why” isn’t gone into. Noticing a pattern? At his birthday party, Johnny announces the pregnancy, even as Lisa tells her best friend and Mark that she is lying about it. I would love to tell you what she thought to accomplish by this, but – get this! – the movie doesn’t bother to tell us. Are you sterilized with surprise!? Lisa decides that this is the best time to finally reveal her infidelity. Johnny and Mark have a couple of lame scuffles, and when Johnny locks himself into the bathroom, the party kind of dies and most of the guests leave. Johnny retrieves a tape he secretly planted to record phone calls Lisa made, hears Lisa and Mark have an intimate conversation, trashes his place and gargles a bullet. Then Lisa, Mark, and Denny (I’ll get to him) all weep over his body, with Mark and Denny blaming Lisa, Mark saying he doesn’t love Lisa, and everyone huddling and sobbing over the loss of the great and mighty Johnny as sirens approach.
Well, I’ve finally seen the new midnight sensation that’s sweeping the nation. Movies like this usually don’t live up to the hype, but hot damn, this one does!
Tommy Wiseau…I don’t know what the hell’s up with his physical form, but as we got all too good a look at his contours during one of several love scenes, it was decided he’s actually an alien in an ill-fitting human disguise. Naturally, this led to lots of comments about how he doesn’t understand Earthling emotions and such, which was fun. Those love scenes are helped by Juliette Danielle, who I rather liked, but further hindered by the horrible, repetitive songs that play over each one. (Kudos to Sandy for putting up the subtitles; not only did it help us understand Johnny’s dialogue through Tommy’s weird-ass alien accent, but we all got to sing along with these wretched songs.) If you watch this, just plug your ears and stare intently at Ms. Danielle; it’s about the only way to survive. Yes, even if you don’t like girls that way.
Along with this convoluted relationship story, there are a couple of subplots. The only one that I remember is the one with Denny, a college student Johnny has, for whatever reason, all but adopted. He’s always hanging around, gets support from Johnny…hell, Denny even comes to Johnny when he gets in trouble with a local drug dealer. He ripped off said dealer, which means he deserves what he gets, but Johnny says he’ll help him, the bastard. The dealer ends up getting punked by Johnny and Mark, which means that he probably seppuku’d himself that night due to his overwhelming shame.
I hope you like people tossing around a football at all times and locations for no reason at all, ‘cause you’re getting it in this movie. I also hope you like the roof of the building Johnny lives in, ‘cause we go up there a bit as well. You should also like unrealistic dialogue, unbelievable motivations and actions, bad acting, and pretty much everything else that can suck in a movie.
OK, there’s one good thing: Tommy’s reading of the line, “You are tearing me apart!” Holy crap, that was great. It was shouted out the rest of the evening when appropriate.
This movie is pretty obviously a love letter from Tommy Wiseau to…Tommy Wiseau. Oh, sure, he’s called Johnny; however, this doesn’t cover up the stench of true bitterness and narcissism. Some lady hurt Tommy, and this is his revenge, because Lisa is only an underground lair and a robot army away from being a super-villain. Sure, Johnny dies, but it’s just because his life is so unfair and he deserves better! Plus, everyone acts like the Savior reborn just blew His Most Holy head off. I haven’t seen such blatant self-love since Under the Cherry Moon. Tommy Wiseau doesn’t even have the excuse of real talent to buoy his ego. It’s pretty amazing. I have to say, the hype for this one is accurate. You should definitely check this out. I’m hoping to hit one of the regular showings at the local midnight movie sometime.
Gun targets: EVERYONE. No one was spared. Johnny and Lisa got about equal shooting, although most of Johnny’s came during the repugnant love scenes (when we weren’t singing along, that is) whereas Lisa’s horribleness made her a regular target.
Ohhhhh, boy. This is that terrible zombie movie Sandy was threatening us with. I’ve already sat through it once, and really had no desire to do so again. I suppose it’s better than The Gore Gore Girls, but really it’s just a matter of degree. Brace for impact…
We open with an impressively-bearded man in a cavernous crypt, doing some sort of archaeological research on an ancient Etruscan tomb. He goes home to consult some books, then comes back and starts banging on the walls with a little hammer. Like you do. Then some imaginative, but VERY poorly rendered, zombies show up and eat his guts. So, really, it’s that guy’s fault this movie is happening. Well, him and the director. A pox on them both. A pox, I say!
Moving on, a bunch of people go to a secluded mansion to have a lot of sex. If they had any other reason to be there, I haven’t caught it in either viewing. This makes the fact that one of the couples brought their son with them very creepy and wrong, but believe me, we’ve seen nothing yet on that end. Conveniently enough, that crypt from the opening is close by, and soon the zombies are doin’ the ol’ NotLD siege on the mansion. Since this is a 1980s Euro-zom movie, you should be able to guess how many people make it out alive. The ending manages to piss me off in three different and interesting ways, which may be a record.
While the make-up is terrible, I do like that these zombies bleed all sorts of interesting greens and browns when hurt. I especially like that they are smart enough to plan, engage in problem solving, and set traps for the unwary. A couple of them might have been the Etruscan equivalent of ninjas, as well. Sadly, only this and the female leads doffing their tops (and sometimes more) can be counted as a positive. As you can tell, there’s barely any plot, even for a Euro-zom movie. The acting’s meh, the cinematography is acceptable, the effects tend to the bad (there is a decent decapitation at one point)…sounds like it’s bad, but you’ve seen worse, right? Well, there’s a subplot in this movie that is horrifying and terrible and is resolved in a definite “Oh godDAMNit movie” way. The following is a bit of a spoiler, but honestly, you’re probably better off knowing that it’s coming.
Remember I mentioned that kid the one couple brought along? Well, he’s played by a middle-aged midget in a bad wig. This alone is weird, but there’s a reason they didn’t use a real child. It turns out the kid has some severe Oedipal issues; he sneaks a peek at his mom and stepdad going at it early on, and later during a hug starts trying to feel her up and talking about how he wants to breastfeed again. The kid’s supposed to be, I don’t know, 11 or so. Hard to say since there’s a middle-aged midget in a bad wig playing him. Oh, by the way, it gets worse. The son gets munched on by a zombified victim. If you thought this would resolve the subplot, boy, do I envy your optimism and innocence. He comes back as a zombie, and yes, you can start screaming now. His mom, her son and husband both killed by zombies, is already losing it; upon encountering her risen son, she takes a sharp detour into Crazytown and pulls open her shirt, offering to suckle her zombie child, just like he wanted. We then get to watch him nurse. Sensing we’re not yet close enough to slitting our wrists or plunging headlong into the inescapable pit of madness, the movie plays its trump card. He bites off part of his mother’s breast, lets her scream and bleed for a bit, and only then is she finally killed. I want to hug the poor actress who let them do that to her, then find the person who decided this was a good idea and punch them in the face.
There are worse ‘80s Euro-zom movies out there, but not many. You’d be so much better off watching Zombi 2 or Let Sleeping Corpses Lie. Hell, I think I’d recommend you go with Zombi 3 first. Let this wretched thing stay buried.
Gun targets: A few zombies and characters took a couple of hits, but that creepy kid took more than everyone else combined. HE JUST WOULDN’T DIE! MAKE HIM STOP! FOR THE LOVE OF JABOOTU, MAKE HIM STOOOOOOOOP!!
Rock Baby Rock It!
The local kids haven’t paid the rent on their local dance hall, and someone else would like to buy it! It’s okay for them to thwart the buyer, though, since he’s lame and employs criminals! Time to put on a show, gang! Of course, it works, and the hall is saved thanks to those swingin’ teens and their rock music!
There’s probably more plot in that description than there is in the actual movie. The story is just a flimsy excuse to showcase local musical acts. However, the acts are not too bad, so this is not a bad thing.
This was filmed in Dallas, so that’s now two Dallas movies at one of our get-togethers (along with the classic R.O.T.O.R.) It doesn’t have anything to do with anything; it’s just neat. You’ve probably never heard of any of the groups; I was surprised that I’d actually heard of one. Of course, I live here, so that’s why. I like that it features several black musical acts, and even one mixed-race group, which would’ve been a pretty big deal in the ‘50s. I also like that the acts are all talented, even if a couple of them aren’t my speed.
It’s not terribly long (maybe an hour?), and if you can get past the flimsy plot and untalented actors, you can get some nice musical performances. It’s not great, but I find it hard to bother disliking it much. Of course, I really like music, so your mileage may vary, as the kids say. Kind of a fun little snapshot into the past. It may not be worth seeking out unless you dig those crazy beats, but if you have a chance, go for it, daddy-o!
God, I’m lame.
Gun targets: The bad guys got it a couple of times, as well as a couple of the perkier kids.
So, another Fest comes to an end. Laughs were had, tears were shed, songs were sung, and people were shot in the face with foam and rubber darts. It was a great time, as usual.
I think the guns need to be a mandatory addition to all future Fests. It really helps to plug these people and their horrible movies a few rounds.
Speaking of horrible, we’ve got a few possible contenders for Worst of the Fest. Four, in fact, which I believe is a record. It seems my prediction last year came true: lull us into security with a fairly painless line-up, and this time around, WHAMMO!!
The contenders are:
Burial Ground: Pretty bad on its own; pushed over by the incest subplot
The Room: Bad in pretty much every way
Counter Destroyer: A definite misfire, with too few fun moments to make up for the tedium
Chastity: Dull, confusing, and features a protagonist even more annoying than Johnny
I have to drop Burial Ground because, without the incest subplot, it’d just be your average ‘80s Euro-zom flick. That subplot is a killer and makes your soul scream, but I have to admit, it isn’t dull.
The Room, while bad bad bad, is enjoyably so, which is what we’re looking for with these sorts of things. Thus, it’s out; but I have to say, it’s a very close thing.
I’m tempted to go with Counter Destroyer, but it was Big Man Japan all over again: sure, most of it is terrible, but there are moments that have you laughing your fool head off and shrieking with delight.
Compare that to Chastity, where the only enjoyable moment is where the horrible protagonist is treated like crap by a predatory lesbian pimp.
I have to give the nod to Chastity. Congratulations, Cher, and may I never see your fucking movie again. Your kid should hate you for naming her (well, now him) after this movie.
Thanks as always to Ken and Sandy, and to all my pals and acquaintances. I hope to see all you in August, as well as those who couldn’t make it out this time (Chris and Mary especially). I also hope my newfound powers of persuasion can convince Ken and/or Sandy to finally use Attack of the Supermonsters as the T-rex movie for this year’s T-Fest. GIVE IN TO MY POWER, AND FURTHER MY CORRUPTION! THIS, I COMMAND!!
P.S. I’ll make every effort to never go this long without turning in a Fest report again. My apologies, and I hope you enjoyed the read.
As I’ve noted in the past, I’ve got a pretty sweet set-up for these Texas trips. I fly into Houston to stay a few days with my friends Kirk and Patty Draut. Thursday night we get together with a few other Houstonians for dinner. On Friday I clamber into one Draut vehicle or other and we drive into Dallas, where we collectively stay at Sandy Petersen’s house. Saturday is the Fest, either T or T(ween). Sunday (sadly) the Drauts head back to Houston, while I continue to hang out at Casa Petersen for a couple of days, watching many more movies until I fly back home.
And so on the Wednesday before T(ween) Fest II, I arrived at IAH. The flight was late, but Kirk refrained from grousing and met me in the baggage area. We headed to his house and soon Patty came home. Dinner was homemade pizza (yum), then on to the movies.
Patty is a dear woman, but has an insane predilection for Twilight (admittedly, not a rare condition). She’s on Team Pasty Gay Guy, for those wondering, instead of Team Guy With No Shirts Who Will Be Playing Stretch Armstrong Soon. Anyway, I agreed to watch the final Twilight movie (so far, I guess), because at least it had werewolves fighting vampires, and looked to be at least better than Underworld by dint of a lack of shakycam.
Unsurprisingly, I did not prove a member of the Twilight Saga’s fan demographic. I’ve certainly seen worse, and the film did at least lack the oppressive blue filtering I’d noted in clips from the first film. I will say I found the idea of a century old dude, emo or not, macking on an 18 year old girl sort of disconcerting. Plus heroine Bella Swan (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) was a tad surly and sulky, to the point where you couldn’t really understand why the effeminate vampire and torso-bearing werewolf were so enraptured by her. She certainly didn’t come off as wise beyond her years or anything.
The endless scenes of the leads pouting for one reason or other didn’t do much for me, and I couldn’t quite get past the thing where the werewolves seemed to outmass the humans that turned into them by a factor of three or four. (Patty pointed out that vampires turn into bats, and yeah, I guess, but it just didn’t work for me. The werewolves were kind of cool, though.)
I did learn that vampires are made of plaster, though, and burn easier than charcoals steeped in gasoline. The weirdest element was that the villain of the piece, out to kack Bella, was seen creating this army of newborn vampires throughout the movie. We were told over and over again that newborns are super-super strong, as opposed to just super strong like older vampires, and so this represented an unstoppable force.
Then the big battle comes along and the new vampires just get punked in a laughable manner. Admittedly, they weren’t expecting the werewolves to join in, but even so, after hearing over and over how incredibly powerful these guys were, they just got easily massacred. Despite a roster of about 15 good guys, not a single one of them got killed as the dozens of SUPER INCREDIBLY AWESOMELY POWERFUL new vamps were wiped out. Eventually Shirtless Dude got hurt, but it really seemed purely for dramatic purposes, and by the end of the picture he was fine.
Anyway, now I can say I saw a Twilight movie.
Flesh Merchants (1956) This is what I call a “social menace” movie, those old exploitation films warning you (eventually) about the dire consequences of drugs, or sex, or whatever. Country girl Nancy comes to visit Paula, her older sister, in the big city. She craves excitement and the fur coat Paula has, but the latter tries to send her home for her own good. Nancy finds her way to an ‘art class,’ however, and pretty nonchalantly (for a girl in 1956) strips naked for the clientele. Soon she goes to what is clearly a brothel, and rooms with a “She’s a man, baby!” roommate. Nancy is exhorted to “cooperate” (a word that became a running gag this weekend) with the clients, who are, we’re told, the “richest men in the sector.” (Must not be much of a sector, if you know what I mean.) Despite this, Nancy freaks out when a guy tries to kiss her, because apparently that’s weird unlike stripping naked in front of a bunch of dudes. There’s a gruesome scene at the pool where Man-Lady comes out in a hideous bikini, and then she freaks out and speechifies and gets beaten up and then there’s a shootout with the cops and then Paula shows up and freaks out and speechifies and then the cops show up and save / arrest everyone.
So don’t do that.
The Room (2003) I tried to introduce the Drauts (although Kirk was zonked by this point) to Tommy Wiseau’s modernist classic, but it was getting late, and we got maybe 30 minutes into it before calling it a night. Patty’s quest to see the rest of the movie became her Ahab thing for the rest of the weekend.
Thursday is Houston Tourist Day during these trips, although sadly Patty generally has to work. Kirk knew of my addiction to What-a-Burger and took me there for breakfast. I really, really like their burgers (we need to get one of these places up where I live), but their hash brown sticks are like heroin.
We drove around some, hitting flea market-type stores although we didn’t find much to buy (even though that was OK). Then it was time for lunch and we stopped at Railroad Crossing BBQ, a place that featured (in part) a dining area set in a real life old decommissioned railroad car. So that was pretty cool. The portions were huge, and I didn’t end up quite finishing my burger. (You can never have too many burgers, that’s my philosophy.) By then I was pretty stuff, and didn’t know if I’d be hungry for our traditional Thursday night get-together dinner.
With time to kill before dinner, we went for the tour of Houston’s venerable Saint Arnold Brewery. I’m not a beer guy, but it’s a pretty sweet deal. For $7.00 you get an 8 oz. embossed glass, four chips to try several of their beers from the bar area, and then the short tour. There were clearly many regulars there just for the beer; some groups brought food and even board games.
I had a wheat beer; it was OK, but again, I’m not picking up the beer habit any time soon. The tour was nicely informative and short enough that your attention didn’t flag. The lady giving it was a bit frazzled though (she explained she had been assigned the duty at the last minute), especially with the one girl who kept interrupting her spiel. However, afterward the tour giver did hang around to chat with clients and presumably answer questions at that time.
I liked the Blue Bell Ice Cream factory tour last year better, but then that’s more my bag. Meanwhile, a friendly college-aged guy from Chicago who had previously moved down to Houston saw my Cubs cap and we yakked a bit; I ended up giving him two of my remaining beer chips since I wasn’t going to have any more brew. The last one I kept for a souvenir. Anyway, it was worth the money even if you don’t like beer. If you do, it’s a real bargain.
That done we headed to Stately Draut Manor and hooked up with Patty. We stopped at Wal*Mart to do a little shopping; and I found a pack of Nerf-like dart pistols, three for five bucks. These proved quite popular at the Fest, but I should have bought enough for everyone who wanted one, especially at that price. Of course, I didn’t know how many people were going to show up.
Then it was off to Hickory Hollow, the now regular home of the Thursday night dinners. There we met with one of the two Chads in our Texas group. (The other Chad is known to our site regulars as The Rev.) We decided to name this Chad “Black Chad” to differentiate him from the other, now “White Chad.” This might sound vaguely racist, but it isn’t, because Black Chad is white, too. We were also eventually joined by Lawyer Chris, who revealed (good for him; bad for us) that he had accepted a teaching gig in Lubbock.
I had thought my appetite was returning as dinnertime approached, but it completely died again by the time we hit the place. So now chop steak for me that night. I did go large and get the bigger soda, because that you drink out of a big old mason jar, which is a cool tactility thing. Actually, I can’t remember if I repaid Patty for that (she grabbed it since she was in the line ordering food anyway), so she might have paid the price for my profligacy.
As we have been, at least up to now, Kirk, Patty and I retired to Chris’ nearby abode to watch a movie. Patty had learned Chris had never seen Double Agent ’73. In case you wonder why I fell in so easily with the Drauts, well, I met them at the very first T-Fest way back in the day. One of the films I showed was Double Agent ’73. I remember being nervous that Patty was there, because she was a lady, and there’s a lot of nudity (of sorts) in that film, and I’m from a more circumspect generation and one that didn’t much expect women to show up at nerd events.
However, my fears were for naught, and Patty fell utterly in love with the movie and quickly acquired her own copy. In the years to come while staying at Casa de Draut, I would watch Patty ask each of her daughters at different points if she’d ever had them watch the film. Each in turn pretty must identically rolled their eyes and groaned, “You’ve made me watch that like five times!”
So Chris was properly impressed, I think, and then we ended the night with a chat session, including a dissertation on why I hate Pretty Woman so much. It was a grand evening, although Patty was frustrated in her attempts to see the rest of The Room. Chris, you will be missed from our Houston get-togethers. We hope you will be able to join us in Dallas for future events.
Travel day! We got up, packed, and headed off to Kroger’s grocery for a bit of snack shopping. Now, I knew that later in the day, halfway to Dallas, we were to meet up with Kirk and Patty’s daughter Sam, and her friend Rachel, two veteran Fest attendees. I also learned it was Sam’s birthday, so when I saw a huge, very soft and squeezable plush sheep (one of several such Easter animals; a large duckling got second place in my considerations) for a bargain price of $20, I grabbed it. I knew from past experience that Sam liked stuffed animals, and although in other regards I can suck at gifts, I fancy I know a good plush animal when I see one.
Once again, breakfast at Whataburger. Man, I’d eat there every day if I could. And one nice thing about Southern places, they tend to have both Coke products (increasingly rare up north here), and freshly brewed ice tea. So it’s win-win. Again I got a double order of hash brown sticks, and a burger. The burger meat is quite good, but I really like the bun, which is clearly fresh baked, isn’t overly thick and has a floury bite. Good eating.
For the last few years Kirk had mused on stopping at the Texas Prison Museum in Huntsville, and this proved the day. We also met up with Sam and Rachel, and Sam indeed seemed pleased with her gift, which she dubbed, aptly if a bit unimaginatively, Sheepie. (Sheepy?) This became her constant companion for the weekend, except when I briefly managed to steal it away from her. My instincts on the sheep were otherwise confirmed when two people at T(ween) Fest, seeing it the next day, inquired as to where I bought it. Fear not, they weren’t Japanese or Gene Wilder, they wanted to get one for their own respective daughters.
Following the museum, which again was pretty neat with displays of various guns and prisoner-made items and even the local prison’s old electric chair, although they don’t let you sit in it anymore. Patty also bought a T-shirt there because it had been featured in a Twilight movie. Have I mentioned that she likes Twilght?
Eventually we all arrived at Sandy’s. His wonderful wife Wendy was of course on hand, and eventually son Arthur, along with Arthur’s wife Debbie and darling little daughter Madelyn, also joined us. Pizza was ordered, a variety of half a dozen from a local gourmet pizza place. It was pretty sweet.
Before I came down, I had sent Sandy a few items. One was a Sinister Cinema dvd (the only one I know of) for the Japanese ’70 insect disaster flick War of the Insects. We started watching this, but about 20 or 30 minutes in, got distracted. Maybe we were just chatting, or maybe it was the pizzas arriving. In any case, we shelved the movie, although some of us returned to it a few days later.
Last year I’d given Sandy a copy of Rampage, aka Turkish Rambo. This proved tepid fare, until a pretty funny scene where a guy tries to cut Rampage with a K-Bar knife and has to really saw away at his arm because, you know, Rampage is so tough.
So that was pretty good, but again I found the movie sort of disappointing, until the end. This is fabulous beyond belief, but I’ll refrain from telling why, because we might show it as a short at T-Fest this summer. However, one classic moment did occur: Sandy mentioned that Rampage would be using a RPG launcher soon, and asked Kirk, a weapons buff, to identify the model if he could. Kirk began a wildly enthusiastic and learned running discourse on various models of RPGs and how they functioned, etc.
However, when he saw the weapon actually employed by Rampage, he lapsed into stunned silence. Eventually, with a note of quiet umbrage in his voice, he sniffed “I’m offended.” This will surely remain one of the most fabled moments of the weekend. Despite this controversy, Kirk, Patty and Black Chad (who arrived in the middle of a showing of this last scene, which we re-started for his edification) all agreed it was quite awesome. So another reason to come to T-Fest his summer.*[*Sandy has confirmed his intent to show this sequence. Saturday, August 20th, ladies and germs. Be there.]
Then perhaps the highlight of the trip: Sandy, as an investor (and credited executive producer), had an advance DVD of the final cut of Whisperer in Darkness, the new feature length follow up to the incredibly good Call of Cthulhu short movie of several years ago. I can’t wait to buy a copy after it’s released, because I need to watch it again. I was so amazed by how good it was from a sheer production standpoint that I couldn’t help dwelling on it just on that score. I can’t wait to watch it again to focus on the storytelling.
In any case, let me assure everyone that there is no sophomore slump evident here. This film is a level of magnitude higher in terms of scope and ambition, and they pull the damn thing off flawlessly. Especially notable (actually, pretty much every aspect of the film is notable) is the acting, which is uniformly really, really good. This is even true of a major role played by a young teen girl. All I could think of while watching this was how much of a gigantic, humiliating rebuke to all those woefully unambitious, horribly lame SyFy “original movies.” These guys blew out every single one of the hundreds of those they’ve made, all with significantly higher budgets. Indeed, if Syfy doesn’t buy the rights to show this movie on their network, they’re even bigger morons than I think they are (which would be saying something).
Monster X Strikes Back: Attack of the G8 Summit To Sandy’s regret, I had already seen this several years ago at the Pickwick theater during G-Fest. That bumped it from the Fest itself, but Sandy broke it out for the gang as our final feature of the evening. This is the film that brought by Guilala, goofiest of all dai kaiju. The film is by the guy who made Calamari Wrestler, and like that film, is broadly, very broadly, comic.
Guilala returns to Japan just as that nation is hosting the G8 Summit. The Japanese Prime Minister (clearly a caricature of some politician, although I don’t know who) orders the Summit closed, but the other leaders, some of them generic (like the U.S. president) and some of them parodies of figures like Angela Merkel of Germany, or Putin of Russia. All of them are broad stereotypes, especially the Italian guy who says things like “Mama mia!” a lot.
So all the world leaders demand a chance to take care of Guilala, both to protect the larger world, but mostly to gain glory for the one whose plan succeeds. Some of the plans are themselves stereotypes; Merkel, the German, uses poison gas for instance. (Get it?) None of the plans work, however, and an earnest young female reporter must work with the suspiscious members of a small village to rouse a Daimajin-like protector. This fellow is played by the inevitable Beat Takashi; pointlessly so, really, since the character is masked and in full armor.
Yay, time for YeaYayT(ween) Fest II!
First, a trip to Kroger’s to buy last minute comestibles. These included a couple of boxes of Girl Scout cookies, because man, I love their peanut butter oatmeal sandwich cookies. (Plus they were .50 cheaper a box than back in Chicagoland.) Of course, I didn’t eat them that day. Instead, I ate up way too many of Angela’s peanut butter cookies. Not so many that others didn’t get a crack at them, but more than my share, I’m sure. On the other hand, after maybe an hour all’s fair in cookie eating.
In any case, done with our shopping, we moved on to our new venue, in this case the offices of Sandy’s new company, Barking Lizards. And it wasn’t just new to Sandy; they’d just moved into the building, and the place was a warren of empty offices full of discarded office chairs and various miscellaneous pieces of stuff. It looked like the set of a ‘after the zombie apocalypse’ movie.
Happily, save for the tragic absence of Mary, much of the old gang was pretty much there. Aside from me, Sandy and the Drauts (and Honorary Draut Rachel) there was Angela (She Who Bakes Cookies), Rich, Mason, Reed, White Chad, Black Chad (rocking a leather jacket and white scarf for a WWI pilot effect), Matthew, Arthur Son of Sandy, Guy Hoyle, etc. Call it around 20 people, and a better crowd you could not hope for. Yes, the absences of Mary, Freeman and Chris Holland were keenly felt, but all it all it was a worthy crowd.
Arrayed in our armada of office chairs and a few very battered old couches (one so deep I dared not sit in it much for fear it would suck me down into some furniture netherworld), we kicked things off. We were using a projector system to put the image up on the wall, and it worked pretty well, with a nice big presentation. The sound was a bit of a problem; with everything so newly set up, there weren’t yet proper cables at hand. As I understand it, we were running the sound directly through the projector system, so it wasn’t as loud as it could be. This highlighted the bizarre fact that DVDs are all over the map on their sound levels. Some were fine, some were very quiet. Luckily several of the DVDs offered subtitles, so we turned those on where applicable. (And it was suggested also that the sound issue would be sorted out by this summer’s T-Fest.)
The Morning Slate
7th Curse White Brad had suggested this. Sandy had a copy, because he has a copy of near every insanely over the top Asian movie, which is one of his passions. This opens with a tuxedoed guy sipping Champagne and surrounded by hot chicks. It turns out he’s the guy who wrote the book the movie was based on, making this sort of the Asian version of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace. A young Chow Yun-Fat is in this, but he’s just a subsidiary character. However, the annoyingly spunky female reporter who acts as this film’s Lois Lane, including a severe lack of any self-preservation instinct, is played by Maggie Cheung.
The ‘hero’ of the piece is a dude who out in the field is warned not to spy on the secret rites of the Worm Tribe. So he does, of course. Earlier he had seen a hot naked chick, and when he sees she’s going to be sacrificed, he intervenes. As a result, all his comrades die horrible, horrible deaths. This was the film’s recurring factor. Seriously, the so-called hero must lead a good hundred people to their deaths in this thing, in several incidents, but never seems to notice.
The film’s best element is an elaborate marionette with glowing eyes that represents the desiccated body of the Worm Tribe’s supernatural Ancient Ancestor. The hero himself gets caught, and is cursed with a dealio that causes the blood to spurt out of his body, generally so violently that the fluid blows through his clothes. The seventh such incident will be fatal, so he goes back and causes many, many more deaths, all to save his own skin. The movie never mentions this fact, so I guess we’re supposed to be OK with it.
Anyway, a fun start.
Chastity People groaned when this started to play, so my work there was already done. People asked why, and I mentioned how the last couple of times we did a Fest a number of people complained there was nothing really painful. Suddenly everyone disavowed this, but it was too late. (Plus, I mean, c’mon, not every movie can be a Wacky Asian Film or Wacky Italian Zombie Movie. You need a palette cleanser now and then.) I’ve already reviewed this film, so I won’t add anything here. People seemed a tad nonplussed at how Cher’s character NEVER SHUTS UP AT ANY POINT IN THE FRIGGIN’ PICTURE, and the scene where Chastity rampaged through the male lead’s house turning on lights and water taps and stoves and turned over salt and pepper shakers and opened drawers to demonstrate that everything there “worked” seemed a hit. In any case, Cher didn’t try the movie thing again for a long, long time after this, so it must have really bombed. Chastity: She’s a whole other thing!
Queen of Outer Space This was my second movie, because I wanted a grade-A, traditional bad movie. Again, I’ve reviewed this. Basically manly men astronauts in leftover Forbidden Planet uniforms (really) and an older scientist in a poofy brown shirt and cravat (it’s The Future, don’tcha know) find their rocket ship under attack. They land on Venus, and find (what else?) a tribe of women in high heels and Star Trek-esque mini-dresses. Basically, this is the movie Amazon Women on the Moon made fun of. One of the women was quickly dubbed Space Betty Page and remained a crowd favorite, and there was a (earlier) Space Terry Ferrell too. The heroine is Zsa Zsa Gabor as *cough!* a Space Scientist in a fancy red ball gown, who is possessor of the planet’s sole Hungarian accent. Needless to say, she wants some manly men around, as opposed to the titular tyrant who hates men because the Martian variety started a war that burned her face. So now she, like all ugly women, wants to destroy the universe. The film is so over the top sexist;
“The ray that destroyed the space station and knocked us off our course may have originated right here.”
“Oh, come off it! How could a bunch of women invent a gizmo like that?”
“Sure, and even if they invented it, how could they aim it? You know how women drivers are!”
…that is actually is quite possible that it’s a parody. It says something about the era, though, that this remains a matter of debate.
Oh, and there’s a really bad prop giant spider, so bonus points for that.
The Quiz Sandy’s quiz this year was on zombie movies. I didn’t expect to do well, so I was really not that embarrassed when I got trounced by half a dozen folks. The winner, needless to say, was perennial Quiz Champion, White Chad. Frankly, when he beat me on the giant monster quiz last year, I knew that pretty much was that. On the other hand, I did better on the current quiz than I would have done a few years ago. Sandy is zombie movie crazy, and I have seen more Euro and Asian zombie movies in the last few years under his tutelage than in my entire life previously.
With that, and oddly running ahead of schedule—the opposite of our historical trend—it was time to decamp to Burger Island. This is where we went the previous T-Fest, wherein I was infamously denied my order of fried clam strips when they “ran out,” i.e, after four other people in our group had already gotten their orders. So needless to say, it was time for recompense.
So thinking, I got closer to the front of the line this time (it’s not a huge place, so showing up there with like 20 people kind of crowded it). However, as I perused the specials board I was drawn to the fried shrimp dinner. Being a veteran lard ass, I was pretty sure I could handle both that and the fried clam basket. In this, I proved, tragically mistaken.
Well, OK, not tragically so much. Yet mistaken nonetheless. My first indication of peril occurred when my clam strip basket hit the table. It was, shall we say, Texas-sized. I passed around some, but without even finished the rest, I was approaching stuffatude when the shrimp dinner hit the table. Astoundingly, this proved not your typical fast food ‘frozen popcorn shrimp out of a plastic bag’ sort of deal. Instead, I got a nice, generous serving of some actually pretty delicious large butterfly shrimp, which clearly had been hand-breaded fresh on the premises. In the end, I couldn’t even finish those off, and I passed around those shrimp that remained. In any case, I can definitely give a thumbs up to the fried shrimp at Burger Island, although you may want to lay off the fried clams beforehand.
Since the theme of the day seemed to be “Faster than we anticipated,” everyone else wrapped up dinner comparatively quickly. (I think they had more kitchen help this time, and so everyone was served more quickly.) This left White Chad a bit nonplussed, as he had invited his wife Dara and their daughter Chelsea to join us for dinner, and they hadn’t arrived yet. I offered to hang out with him as he waited, and so informed Sandy. Being a gentlemen, Sandy offered to hold off on the next movie until we arrived.
The ladies in question arrived soon thereafter, and proved humorous and incisive dinner companions. Once they had wrapped up their meals, the four of us headed back to Barking Lizards. There we learned Sandy had entertained and edified everyone by showing them the first portion of Whisperer in the Darkness. I doubt anyone complained about this.
With everyone now on hand, we started our next movie, Sandy’s choice of Counter Destroyer. This sadly proved one of those Godfrey Ho epics. Ho was a mainstay of goofy direct to video rental schlock in the ‘80s. Basically, the ‘70s saw a big wave of enthusiasm for dubbed Chinese martial arts movies, especially the opulent Shaw Brothers stuff.
This forced up prices for such stuff, but Ho has a classic exploitation producer’s idea. He bought the rights to the sorts of Asian movies nobody was interested in, such as crime dramas or family dramas (which being Chinese, could be extraordinarily grim and melodramatic). Then he would film cheesy martial arts scenes on his own and just cut them into the action.
This generally involved ninjas, who were popular in the wake of the immensely popular TV mini-series Shogun. We knew they were ninjas, by the way, because they often wore headbands that said actually “Ninja” on them. So we’d be watching 20 minutes of some guy trying to deal with his retarded brother, and then the guy would say would say (the dub script would halfheartedly try to tie all this together), “Hey, my friend Bob is supposed to be coming to town.”
At this point we’d cut to Bob (inevitably played by Ho’s ‘star,’ blond Caucasian Richard Harrison), who would be the ninja in question. Some sort of truly goofy fight scene would follow, as Ho’s Ninjas were the sort with magical disappearing powers and such. The scene finished, we’d then cut back to the actual movie, which naturally had absolutely nothing to do with any of this. And yes, this generally proved exactly as disjointed as it sounds.
However, the results were usually amusingly insane (and only a few people at the time knew what Godfrey was up to), so the teenage boys who generally rented stuff like this gleaned enough entertainment value from them to keep on renting Ho’s wares. Ho churned out about ten such movies a year throughout the ‘80s, usually with crazy titles (often referencing some other big movie) meant to grab the interest of video store browsers:
My sense (Sandy can confirm or deny) was that Sandy picked this film for one crazy scene, where the Ninja hero fights two hopping vampires and what many called Chinese Frankenstein Monster, although I maintain that it’s quite clearly Chinese Solomon Grundy. Anyway, the scene is pretty hilarious, although it’s also sadly about 97% of what’s great in the film. Anyway, here it is:
The rest of the movie, as I can (barely) recall, involved two rivals films companies (!) planning movies about the first emperor of China, and one company curses the other (it’s China, remember) to eliminate their rival, and, uh, that’s about all I can tell you. It sounds better than it plays, though.
I was to kick off the evening shift with I Bury the Living, sort of a mock William Castle thriller, and a pretty good one. However, the sound levels on the disc were awful, so low we couldn’t hear a damn thing, and moreover the disc didn’t have subtitles. I gave this about five minutes and then threw in the towel. Fortune, it seemed had favored Patty, and sensing a vacuum she immediately demanded I substitute The Room, thus allowing her to see the rest of the movie.
For some reason, I wasn’t sure how it would play, but it went over big. White Chad (I think) especially had a running bit where he imitated Wiseau (although he actually sounded rather more Schwartzeneggerian), with the conceit that Wiseau wasn’t actually human, an idea that actually plays pretty well if you’ve seen the movie. Anyway, it worked out quite well. Patty got to see the rest of the movie, and everyone seemed pretty gobsmacked and entertained by it. Looking back, I have no idea what I was basing my trepidation on. That film is a genuine crowd-pleaser, as I’d known from previous experience.
Sandy next kept a dire promise and showed (surprise!) an awful Italian zombie movie called Burial Ground. He had inflicted this on me previously, so I knew when to turn away for the really distasteful material—and this contains some of the most distasteful ever, I assure you. On the other hand, I was able to thus enjoy the horrified moans and shrieks of my fellow Fest-goers while thus shielded. So that was pretty good.
Basically zombies rise out of an ancient Etruscan tomb about ten seconds into the movie, and things go from there. The film is notable for its comparatively intelligent and startlingly tool-using zombies, who are counterpointed by perhaps the least survival oriented humans in a zombie movie ever, which is saying something. I mean, this might be the biggest bunch of morons I’ve ever seen in a horror movie, from a genre legendary for such.
At one point the humans are assailed in a room festooned with a collection of old weapons, which they don’t bother to exploit for the longest time. Then, when they finally do employ them and thus kill the current set of zombies, they just drop the weapons and leave them behind instead of taking them with. And they barely ever seem to figure out the “kill the head” thing, despite ample evidence. And at one point when there are like only five zombies around, they could all easily get to their cars and drive away, but instead they barricade themselves in the house until dozens of more zombies arrive. And THEN they come up with this plan: “Maybe the zombies just want something in the house [this after several people have already been eaten], so let’s allow them inside and maybe they’ll ignore us.” Seriously, that’s their plan.
Sandy also ended things, with what might be our T(ween) Fest tradition, a movie actually shot in Texas. This one was filmed in Dallas, and its Rock Baby Rock IT, a rather typical ‘50s black and white cheesefest about some squares and crooks and crooked squares who want to shut down the hopping Rock ‘n’ Roll club all the kids are hanging out at. Like most films of this nature, this one is about 70% music performances (17 songs!). It was pretty fun, and although the DVD is now out of print, I think.
The Sunday after one of our Fests is always bittersweet. Sweet were the wonderful homemade waffles and sausages Wendy cooked up for breakfast. Bitter was the all too quick departure of the Drauts, who had to head back home to Houston. Even worse, we had unwittingly scheduled T(ween) Fest for the weekend in which clocks were turned forward for Daylight Savings Time. So we all lost an hour of precious vacation and hangout time. That sucked.
With the sands of time all the more apparent, Sandy and I returned to War of the Insects, left hanging from Friday night. This starts with Charley, an Air Force guy on a nuclear bomber—we can tell because the device is helpfully labeled “H-Bomb”—suffering a bout of PTSD after hearing a bee buzz. “Don’t send me back to the front line!” he moans as Viet Nam-era stock footage is superimposed over him. Because Viet Nam is well known for its ‘front line,’ particularly for Air Force personnel. Also, good job on those nuke run psych evals, guys.
Then a Swarm-like bunch of bees shows up and fouls the engine, forcing the plane down onto an island. This leads to false accusations of murder and a woman who worries that Man will destroy the small island they’re on, which I guess is the only place left on earth that is really hospitable to insects. Because, you know, Man has wiped out most insects and bugs or something, as you may recall. Also, she hates Man because as a kid she got sent to a concentration camp, as she proves by exposing her camp tattoo placed as usually directly over one of her breasts. Anyway, because Man is so murderous, she’s decided to murder all of us, which is very logical. Further stuff happens, much of which I don’t recall, but anyway.
Next I showed Sandy Wicked Wicked, the film that introduced DuoVision, which as we all know became the dominant format for feature films over the years. Of course, DuoVision means the entire film is in splitscreen, so we might we a murder simultaneously from both the killer and the victim’s perspectives, or a character in present tense and a flashback involving them occurring at the same time. Although there’s no mystery element, the film was CLEARLY inspired by Bava’s giallos, given the weird primary color lighting in some scenes and suchlike.
The film is about a bellboy who is murdering blondes who stay at the big resort he works at. The house detective is putting the pieces together, but the craven manager of the place pulls the Mayor Vaughn routine. The lead female is Tiffany Bolling, one of the rare Playboy Playmates who actually went on to become a bit of an actress, starring in stuff like this and Kingdom of the Spiders opposite William Shatner. Playing the hotel’s lounge singer, she assays the hilarious theme song. The lyrics are such that one suspect they forgot to write any and just told Ms. Bolling to make them up on the spot:
“Wicked, Wicked, that’s the ticket,
You just make me feel so wicked…”
Watch out, Burt Bacharach.
Sandy wanted to take a nap, I think, so he popped in a flick called Albino for my edification. This was a South African production with Sybil Danning and Christopher Lee, although the latter doesn’t get to do much. As you’d expect from a Danning performance, we get to see her nude. Sadly, although also as you’d expect for a film made in 1976, you see her nude in a scene where she’s being raped and then murdered. This is by a group of black militants lead by the titular melanin-deprived baddie.
So Danning’s fiancée starts tracking the guy to kill him, and his boss, police chief Christopher Lee, can’t do much about it. This is one of those films about both the futility and the inevitability of violence. When the protagonist finally corners the villain, the latter argues, “This won’t change anything.” Since nobody thinks that’s what this is about, it’s sort of a nonsensical observation. I’d also read some grousing in web reviews about how the main guy is joined by his black servant or friend or something, and how this is a white fantasy about how such a guy would help a white guy against one of “his own.” I don’t know, though. Maybe he thinks the ‘murdering bastard’ part is more defining than the ‘we’re both black’ part. You’d certainly hope so.
I mentioned to Sandy that the old show Thriller was finally on DVD. So he broke out not the show I was talking about, but episode of a similarly titled Brit anthology series from the ‘70s. The story he chose was entitled ‘The Eyes Have It’, which takes the ‘assassins take over an average family’s home’ element from the Frank Sinatra movie Suddenly (where Sinatra is the sniper baddie) and relocates it to a house for the blind.
The three man team (the arranger, the client and the actually sniper) kill the skeleton sighted staff and position themselves to kill some rather fantasy sounding Global Good Guy who will be riding a parade route past the place. Eventually the blind residents figure out what is going on—although only after the men have spent much of the show deriding the woman who first thinks something is amiss—and band together to stop the killing if they can. The original story was by Brian Clemens, creator of The Avengers and Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter. As one would expect from such a show from such a time, the production values are subpar by American standards (shot on a stage, filmed on video), while the script and acting are quite good.
Following on the TV idea, Sandy next broke out Here Comes Tobor, a failed pilot built around the idea of ‘hey, we have the robot suit we built for Tobor the Great, why don’t we do something with that?’ In other words, exactly what happened with the movie The Invisible Boy, a weird little kid’s film that featured Robbie the Robot from Forbidden Planet. Indeed, both Invisible Boy and Tobor the Great / Here Comes Tobor, feature the wish fantasy element of a young boy who had his own robot, and quite some time before Johnny Socko and His Giant Robot. Anyway, there are some villains of the Wick Wick Commies variety, who naturally are stymied by young Tommy and metallic pad Tobor. The series didn’t go anywhere, though.
Sandy’s son Arthur, a good chap, showed up at this point. We closed out the evening by popping in a copy of The Hypnotic Eye. I brought this because it reminded me of the flat out crazy Wizard of Gore, a Herschell Gordon Lewis flick Sandy had shown at the Fest the previous year. It’s not as close to WoG as I had (mis)remembered, but it was in the same ballpark. And while obviously not as blatantly gory as Lewis’ opus, it’s a markedly nasty little shocker about a stage hypnotist who compels young women to horribly mutilate themselves. The film also stars cult actress Alison Hayes.
Monday. Wendy left on a trip to Utah, leaving Sandy and I on our own. Sandy had to go to work at Barking Lizards, but I tagged along and was ensconced in the lounge area we used for the Fest. The projection equipment was still connected, so I whiled away the day watching videos. (I know, shocking.)
I started with Time Travelers, a film written and directed by sci-fi writer Ib Melchoir. A group of scientists and a blue collar working stiff (played by character actor Steve Franklin, and suggesting a much less annoying version of Bobby Van from films like Navy vs. the Night Monsters and Doom Machine) accidentally create a window into the far flung future Earth, which as been (big surprise) devastated by nuclear war. Sadly, they get trapped there, and ala World Without End, find themselves in a war between the Last Humans and the obligatory Mutants.
The humans are building a rocket to escape Earth, and allow our heroes to work on a return time machine as they go along. However, the Mutants seeks only to destroy, because, you know, Mutants. Although a cheapie little AIP feature, this is actually pretty decent. Melchoir, as noted, was a sci-fi novelist as well, and actually incorporates ideas into the script rather than just sci-fi trappings. The end of the picture is wildly ambitious for a film of this nature, and must have blown at least a few minds at the drive-ins. Also interesting is a scene in a robot-building facility, where Melchoir uses slight of hand and some magicians tricks to craft some really neat practical, onscreen effects work. While not likely to end up on many people’s Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Ever list, this is really worth a look if you haven’t seen it.
Dark Night of the Scarecrow was one of the classic made for TV horror films of the ‘70s that I’d never gotten around to seeing. Directed by Frank De Felitta, and starring Larry Drake (and no doubt helping him garner his signature role as the mentally challenged Benny on L.A. Law), the movie chronicles the doing and supernatural (?) comeuppance of some small town Southern bastards. Goaded into killing huge but innocent manchild (Drake) by the truly evil Otis (ably played by veteran character actor—and just veteran—Charles Durning), his gang, including the reliably great Lane Smith, find themselves acquitted by their fellow townsfolk but subject to justice from (maybe) beyond the grave.
Like the others of it’s breed—The Night Stalker, The Night Strangler, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, ‘The Prey’ segment from Trilogy of Terror—this holds up as well as nearly any theatrical film from the same period. Just great stuff, and served up in a very nice special edition DVD by the fine folks at VCI, who should have a much better reputation than they do. Really, when you watch stuff like this, you wonder just exactly what the hell the SyFy Network is doing vis a vis all the crap they churn out. WTF, man, seriously.
Sandy had suggested Bullet Train, which is sort of the original Speed, only from Japan and set on the titular conveyance. Criminals plant a bomb on the train, and it will explode if it slows down below 80 kilometers an hour. The race is on to find the thieves and either pay them off or capture them before the deadline. Bad luck intervenes several times, though. The film was perhaps a little long, as I think I watched the original Japanese cut, which comes in at just over two and a half hours. Sonny Chiba is the train driver trying to find the bomb, although he’s still basically a supporting actor in this. A little fat trimming would have helped (the American theatrical cut was still nearly two hours), but still a pretty good movie. This is one of those deals where the trick the cops use to trap one of the crooks makes them look like gigantic pricks, although really, you can only have so much sympathy for someone who risked 1,500 innocent lives.
I had watched the first Coffin Joe movie (of the original pair made in the ‘60s*; the actor / director brought back the character in 2008) at Sandy’s on a previous trip, and now broke out the second. Coffin Joe is a delirious character, who does REALLY over the top evil things, empowered by his Nietzschean rejection of both God and the Devil. Tender of a graveyard in a small town in Brazil, he terrorizes the locals as he continues his quest to bear a son who will be the Perfect Man, or something. You’d think I’d know exactly what his plans are, because he talks about this stuff A LOT.[*Coffin Joe actually appears in several other films, but not as the main character.]
To bear the perfect son, he needs a perfect woman, one who is like himself fearless due to her rejection of all conventional morality. Joe ends up with several utterly amoral supplicants in each film, which is sadly not too hard to believe, given the sorts of cults some people join. The films are rife with horrifying sadism, but at the same time are the corniest horror movies you’ve ever seen, with over the top acting, the main character being dressed in a black suit and top hat, and much of the ‘horror’ coming from such like tarantulas and snakes being unleashed all the time on girls in sheer nighties.
Joe is defeated in both the early films, but more because of the demands of the Brazilian censors than of the auteur’s personal inclinations. I’m not sure about the newest movie. In any case, both the movies are a trip, and well worth tracking down.
That wrapped up the work day, and Sandy, Arthur, Arthur’s wife Debbie and I headed out to dinner. Sandy had picked a steakhouse, but it had ruinously long lines. Happily, right next door was a rather less crowded Japanese steakhouse. I was naturally (and somewhat properly) again mocked / chided for my unwillingness to eat anything outside my extremely narrow list of acceptable foodstuffs, but I had no problem with the steak, which was quite good. And the show, with the chef preparing all the food in front of us on a grill, was very entertaining.
That night it was my turn to pick a movie, so I forwent the normal horror and action stuff and whipped out an old Jabootu favorite, The Oscar. Sandy seemed properly impressed by the incredibly bad dialogue and acting which simply must be seen to be believed. I think the bad dramas of this era get overlooked by bad movie enthusiasts of today, and hope to continue spreading the faith with these. In any case, The Oscar is a fairly lengthy movie, so when it wrapped up we all hit the hay.
Last morning! Joined Sandy at work again; his son Arthur was to pick me up and take me to the airport for my return flight. I had just time to watch Dark Power, a rather horrendous but ur-‘80s direct to video horror flick about some evil American Indian ghosts / zombies / undead shamans / something that kill a bunch of Disposable ‘Teens.’ The film’s claim to fame is that the aging hero was played by ‘Lash’ LaRue, the bullwhip-wielding star of scads of B westerns back in the ‘40s. This probably would have worked better with a crowd, actually.
After that, it was to DFW airport, and eventually back home. There to dream of a day when I’d be returning to the Lone Star State…
Well, next month, actually. See you in Dallas, folks, for our annual T-Fest on Saturday, August 20th.