Tuesday, January 31, 2012

B-Fest 2012: The Fest That Dropped Its Ice Cream On The Yeti And Put It's Weight On It Thought You'd Be Bigger

Well thanks to massive ecological devastation I can't start my b-fest recap with a remark about the blistering cold as it was downright tepid when I arrived. I can however talk about how good it was to see friends old and new, the BMMBers, the locals, the friends of friends, the lovers, the dreamers, and me. But I'm losing track of the thread here so onward.

After the traditional Thursday night tipping back of Tiki drinks at Hala Kahiki we retired to watch the horrifying, and not in a good way, Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf, and took a moment of silence for Sir Christopher Lee's dignity. We parted in good spirits and looked forward to tomorrow.

After a wonderful morning gawking at the wonders in the Field Museum we dutifully made our way to the Norris Auditorium on Northwestern's campus and settled in for cinematic wonders of another sort. The lights dimmed and first up was...

Best of the Best, 80s action nonsense is my anti-drug, and I'm particularly fond of the low rent entries that came late in the decade as the cycle coughed itself out.

Symptomatic of the off kilter feel that characterizes a b-fest flick the Commies have taken a hike so it's US vs. South Korea in a Tae Kwan Do match between a rag tag group of misfits and a team, or in the James Earl Jonsian, TEEEEAM, of seasoned professionals who should be able to kill them just by looking in their general direction.

Eric Roberts and his magnificent of head of hair are on hand to cry a lot, ice cream cones are ruined and redeemed, and James Earl Jones is able to get a nice new extension on his summer house. A terrific start to the evening.

The Astro Zombies, Ted V. Mikel's anti-classic clumsily attempts to combine the police procedural with the mad scientist flick. What the means is a lot, no a lot, still not there, more, yep, that many, shots of clocks, test tubes, and John Carradine attempting to install his stereo. Tura Satana slinks around in some groovy cocktail gowns and nothing happens very slowly. If you must brave this one, don't do it alone.

To Catch a Yeti, Terrible 90s kid flicks have yielded some dark horse favorites for the schedule and this is no exception. What could have been just a 10 years too late made for television riff on E.T. with a little girl and a hideous bug eyed puppet standing in for Elliot and an expensive hideous bug eyed puppet is something quite else thanks to some massively bizarre casting and script decisions.

Meat Loaf plays a tracker sent after the Yeti with all the gravitas called for as if he's auditioning for No Country For Old Men. He's after the creature to secure it for a rich brat. Only they've confused "brat" with "multiple murdering sociopath". Filmed in New York City's famed Little Toronto neighborhood it does not wear out its welcome while providing a more than fair portion of "did I just see that?" moments that b-fest requires.

The traditional midnight screening of Plan 9 Nine From Outer Space had the audience flinging paper plates during the UFO flying sequences with gusto and they were cleaned up just in time to see...

Avenging Disco Godfather, My favorite of the offerings and again the apples and Buicks of the tone is key. This a typical cheeky Rudy Ray Moore movie floating on top of a story about drugs destroying a community as bleak and hopeless as anything out of the more serious side of seventies cinema.

Rudy Ray Moore is the Godfather, former cop, current DJ, and soon to be one man take down squad against the angel dust dealer who is poisoning the locals with his product. Moore's wardrobe is a sight to behold and the drug induced hallucinations of the characters are something out of David Lynch directing an episode of Sanford and Sons. Put yo weight on it and watch it if you haven't.

My brain and body where bailing on me so alas I tripped off into slumber during the reportedly amazing two punch of Death Bed: The Bed That Eats and Tarkan vs. The Vikings, thankfully both are on disc. I awoke to be treated to sound of everyone else sleeping their way through...

Mutant Hunt, Most everyone who didn't sleep through this wished they had but I was oddly charmed by it's utter nullity. Someone attempted to do a reworking of The Terminator and Blade Runner, and the fact that they had only ten dollars and no discernible talent in front of or behind the camera did not stop them.

Set in a futuristic dystopia of empty warehouses and ripped leotards an elite squad of non actors most go after rogue, grossly melting cyborgs. Which they do by standing aside bemusedly while the cyborg kills its latest target. Not much else to stay, only that it comes that near future where there are off world colonies but phones still have cords on them.

Sleep and a walk on the beautiful shore of Lake Michigan claimed me during Guru the Mad Monk and the already seen at a previous fest The Brain From Planet Arous but I made sure to make it back in time to see...

Stunt Rock, A fascinating concoction highlighting the insane feats of Australian stunt man Grant Page. there's a bare handful of story about him traveling to the U.S. to be a stuntman on a TV show but the movie firmly avoids engaging much with it at all and instead had the actors talk about his most dangerous stuns and play set footage of them.

For no clear reason the film decides the best partner for this is a MOR rock group who distinguish themselves with an on stage act involving two magicians dressed as Merlin and the Prince of Darkness hurling fireballs at each other. And again, no plot ever touches these scenes either. It makes for something appealing and would be a good disc to spin in the back ground of a party.

Road House, This had become a cult favorite in recent years and with good reason. Lean mean bouncer machine Patrick Swayze rolls into Jasper, Missouri and sets his sights on cleaning up the Double Deuce, the roughest dive in town. He brings zen koans and shattered knee caps to the people oppressed under the thumb of evil town owner Ben Gazzara. Before long the Deuce is oozing neon tubing, he's bedded the comely town doctor, and Sam Elliot has wandered in needing a paycheck like any of us poor mortals. Remember pain don't hurt, and laughter is the best medicine anyway, so belly up to the bar for a glassful.

And with that the audience fought back against the leaden Werewolf in Girls' Dormitory, the inept The Galaxy Invader, and closed things out with the solid It Came From Beneath the Sea.

And then the lights came up and we blinked in that mixture of sadness and relief that it was over. And as we cleaned up the place we started to formulate our plans as to how we'll all find our way back in here in 2013. Because sure as Rudy Ray Moore hates Aunt Betty, we will.

Monday, January 09, 2012

A Quote From Czeslaw Milosz

“The purpose of poetry is to remind us
how difficult it is to remain just one person,
for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors,
and invisible guests come in and out at will.”

Music in the Air, "Forever Young" Audra Mae

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Monsters, Mystics, and South of the Border Satanism

Some notes on some of things I watched over the New Year's break...

Creature of Destruction, AIP's TV wing shipped out some its catalog to Texan auteur Larry Buchanan to remake in color for broadcast. He applied his Naugahyde touch to some of AIP's more stolid fare, turning them into lumbering, garrishly colored monstrosities with hilarious attempts at creature suits on two dollars and change.

The source for this particular entry was the leaden The She Creature, so it's only expected the Buchanan version turns out like a community theater production of the material. By a community theater whose members seem to hate each other no less.

The original's only selling point was the the monster suit which suggested the heroine's primoridial self was a busty, bewigged, walking lobster. The remake's attempt is a sad wet suit kitbash that looks nothing so much as what would have happened had Kermit the Frog's lily pad been next to Chernobyl.

Island of Lost Souls, Paramount's 1932 take on The Island of Doctor Moreau. A terrific film, and all the more to regret the Hayes Code pushing the studio out of the horror game, feeling that if they couldn't make horror films that were actually horrifying they weren't going to bother at all.

The film feels shockingly modern now due in no small part to Charles Laughton's performance as Moreau. From the openly sadistic pleasure he gets in torturing his creations to not being coy in the least about starting a breeding program, either by mating the hapless hero to his comely panther woman or pawing off the hero's fiance on his "half men". Nasty, brutal, and gorgeous in shimmering black and white.

Dracula A.D. 1972, The cultural zeitgest explodes in the late sixties and the gothic horror market collapses, and Hammer reacts and adapts with all the adroitness of your Grandparents trying to talk to you about Hip Hop.

Set in a "swinging London" that already feels five years out of date a certain "Johnny Alucard" ressurects the Tall One and the latest version of Peter Cushing Van Helsing must stop them both. More sad than hilariously bad, Sir Christopher Lee lacks even the energy to look bored and the actor playing Alucard is just awful enough to be tiresome instead of entertaining.

Caroline Munro appears briefly, dancing in fringed hot pants to distract, and the incredibly misguided party scene is one for the Oh Honey No hall of shame. But watching a studio flounder at an attempt to be groovy and with it isn't a a stone cold gas at all, can you dig?

Mystics in Bali, now this is one of the main reasons I'm attracted to that amorphous concept called "b-movies", following it down that rabbit hole leads to watching films you wouldn't think even could exist, let alone ones you've heard of.

From Indonesia's turn of the eighties film boom comes a story of a an unwary westerner trying to learn the ways of the local black magic practitioners. That's just enough plot for some amazingly gross home made effects and some jaw dropping sequences out of Balinese folklore. Such as the Penanggalan, a sort of vampire that consists if a woman's head floating through the air, dangling her entrails underneath no less.

The wonderful Mondo Macabro put this out in a very nice edition with a terrific documentary about the Indonesian exploitation industry attached.

The Brainiac, Delightfully delirious Mexican madness. A baron executed for witchcraft swears vengeance at the stake and returns 300 years later to destroy the last descendants of his original inquisitors.

All of this could be a standard riff on Black Sunday but it's the Baron's monstrous form that earns it a place among the great bad movie monsters like The Giant Claw. When the Baron is about the strike he assumes a form that looks remarkably like Sesame Street's Count Von Count having gone to seed as a homeless, heroin addicted Vietnam vet. With lobster claws for hands.

Then, not content to settle for just that, his method of attack is to flick his long, flexible tongue at the back of victim's head and suck their brains out. Much recommended, now who is going to finally do a subtitled copy of Ship of Monsters?