If you’ve been around me any length of time, you know that every July my Day Job tries to kill me. We cover the City’s Independence Day Festivities; the July 4th Concert, itself, is not so bad – it’s in an air-conditioned auditorium. Ah, but July 3rd, and the Parade – which takes place at 7pm, necessitating setting up equipment and running cable in the heat of a Texas Summer afternoon – that can be perilous. Because of my advanced age, I get reduced duty, but I feel every one of my infirmities at the end of day, and several days afterwards.
So I always celebrate my survival by watching terrible movies at a Crapfest.
I arrived on time, which meant I was practically the last one there. This was to be one of our most well-attended Crapfests, making seating tricky. I, however, had purchased a camp chair earlier in the day for the lordly sum of seven dollars, so I was set.
Host Dave started off with a vintage VHS of the classic days of Night Flight, including an episode of Dynaman, which thrilled me to no end. I followed up with some files culled from Everything is Terrible, with the biggest hit on everyone’s psyche being provided by Philip Michael Thomas’ music video. Hell, Don Johnson did it, why not?
Once again, I found myself leading off the movies. I had spent a goodly amount of time second-guessing myself here; this was soon after the passing of Hong Kong movie legend Lau Kar-leung and I wanted to show one of his movies. I had narrowed it down to Heroes of the East, my personal favorite, and Legendary Weapons of China. Legendary Weapons is more of a traditional kung fu movie, and ends with a king-hell fight between Lau and his younger brother, who were both accomplished martial artists. Heroes of the East gets my vote for best martial arts movie EVAR, but the first 40 minutes or so is character-developing comedy (punctuated by some minor fights), which could be the kiss of death for a rowdy bunch of Crapfestistas.
The deciding vote in my head was influenced by one thing: Dave had dug up a copy of Witch With Flying Head, a Taiwanese horror movie I had long wanted to see. Taiwanese movies are visually similar to Hong Kong movies, so I tossed out the Lau movies and went with Lady Terminator, which I wrote about recently, doncha know. I knew the mob would appreciate it. It has boobies.
The main subjects during the viewing were: this was not as good a movie as Terminator (“You’re complaining about the quality of a movie at Crapfest?” asks Dave), and the fact that my seven dollar chair folded under me, trapping me in a cheap steel talon of death. Yeah, thanks for helping me out of that, guys. I look forward to standing by while you sink in quicksand some day. Alan very kindly surrendered his seat to me, and Dave wheeled out his office chair for Alan.
Lady Terminator also brought the terms “Vagina snake” and “Wang shot” into our vocabularies, for better or worse.
Next up was another Alan discovery, The Humanoid, which was fortuitous, because I had recently stopped hating Alan for Road to Revenge. The Humanoid is another Italian science-fiction movie produced after the success of Star Wars, but what it has over the venerable Starcrash is that the filmmakers got to actually see the movie they were ripping off before making their version. The Humanoid often has the look down, from Death Star corridor look-a-likes to a villain with a black helmet modeled on Samurai and gladiator armor. This advanced civilization, like Star Wars’ has also advanced beyond the need for things like bras. Just like Starcrash, though,when we finally get a space dogfight, all the models still zoom around in a straight line.
Oh, the plot? Uh… Dark Helmet wants to do bad stuff. He is aided by Barbara Bach as Space Countess Bathory and her pet Mad Scientist, Poor Arthur Kennedy. Poor Arthur Kennedy has some sort of hate-on against Corinne Clery, because she gave him a bad review on Space Yelp or something, and once he uses some nook-you-ler popcorn mixed with an atomic missile to turn Richard Kiel into a “humanoid” with super strength and invulnerability (and give him a shave, to boot), he sends the monster to kill Clery, but she’s the tutor of The Golden Child who uses Zen mysticism to bring the Humanoid back to himself and also there are two albino space elves who crop up to save the Golden Child when necessary.
In other words, I had no damned idea what was going on.
I haven’t even mentioned the robot dog, which is a real 1979 robot – in other words, limited mobility and utility. Most of the time was spent with Dave and I convincing the others that Corinne Clery was O in The Story of O and the darkness punctuated by men desperately using their smartphones to access Google Image Search, and then, once more, cursing that we were not watching another movie.
I don’t usually feel this nice, but here’s Humanoid cut down to ten minutes, almost half of which is the opening credits. Prepare to have your heart broken, as were the hearts of many Crapfest attendees, by the credit, “Music by Ennio Morricone”. Take what comfort you can in the fact that the spoken language is Italian, which means you have to concentrate on the pretty pictures:
Now finally we had Witch With Flying Head, and it turned out my choice of Lady Terminator had given Dave a reverse case of the nerves, because technically the monster in Witch With Flying Head is a penanggalan, an Indonesian monster which is a woman’s head severed from her body, flying around with its guts dangling beneath, as detailed in Mystics in Bali, a movie shown at an earlier Crapfest. Dave was worried about two Indonesian flicks on the same bill – an inverse version of my earlier worries – but this movie was Taiwanese, as earlier stated.
Back in the 90s I watched an awful lot of Chinese laserdiscs with my pal Parker, and a lot of them had the same flaws as this copy: taken from a widescreen master with the telecine set to the absolute middle of the screen, causing the subtitles to drool off the edges of the screen. VHS tracking fuzz at the bottom of the screen, often obscuring the already-blurry subtitles. Those subtitles were often created on the fly, a bi-lingual translator dictating to a typist for whom English was a second language, resulting in very fractured results (which form my most cherished memories of those days). Then the operator shifting the image down to obscure the fuzz, and obliterating the subtitles. No image control on the print, meaning that nighttime scenes – and in a horror movie, there are a LOT of nighttime scenes – that would have alright with a projector bulb behind it, were pitch black.
In other words, welcome to how we had to watch obscure cult movies at the turn of the century, you spoiled brats. Let me tell you about the time I watched Jigoku without subtitles.
Oh God, now you want a plot, don’t you? Okay. So this nice lady gets cursed by a wandering sorcerer who wants to marry her (this actually happens quite a bit in HK horror movies) so that she becomes “the flying evil” – a penanggalan – at night, until she accedes to the wedding. She and her two ladies-in-waiting escape to the country, where she can’t hurt anyone while she’s the Flying Evil – yet she does, anyway, because, you know, movie. A wandering wise man manages to lessen the curse (and number of snakes in her body) so that she will only become the Flying Evil on the 15th of each month, and leaves her friends a spirit box that will trap the Flying Evil on those nights. Until he learns some better mojo and can come back to cure her completely.
But then a Snake Monster sets up shop in the vicinity, seducing men in the night and killing them. Our cursed lady uses the spirit box to trap the Snake Monster, and winds up falling in love with and marrying the man she saved. The women always make hubby leave on the 15th of each month – eventually, taking their child with him – and so it goes. Until the Snake Monster escapes, the original sorcerer shows up, still hot for marriage, and everything comes down to a low-budget monster magic showdown at the end.
Now, I can say I’ve seen it, but I really wish Mondo Macabro or someone would put out a decent print so I can say that I’ve seen it. There is a full-length (and likely illegal) version on YouTube that is un-subtitled, but at least you can see everything. I was pleased to discover that the penanggalan is actually pretty well done.
Can’t Stop The Music, as if you didn’t know, is the fictionalized story of how The Village People got together in the glory days of the late 70s. I had never gotten more than five minutes into it, because those first five minutes feature Steve Guttenberg, in short shorts, on roller skates. Past that, though, the movie’s a pretty harmless affair, a combination of old showbiz movie cliches and lets-put-on-a-show tropes. Mark kept entoning that shortly after this movie, Valerie Perrine turned into the Sea Hag or something, causing one to think that Perrine had burned Mark’s village to the ground when he was a child.
The other memorable thing is the acting debut of Olympic decathlete Bruce Jenner. Jenner seems to feel that as long as his face is moving, he is acting, and he acts a lot. This leads to many scenes where Steve Guttenberg and Bruce Jenner try to out-mug each other. There is also a scene, just prior to the “YMCA” production number, where Jenner’s costume manages to out-gay The Village People, which is sort of amazing. After the “YMCA” number, every man in the room had turned gay, except for David, who had become supergay. Such is the power of cinema.
Here, you can be gay, too:
So I crossed off a couple of wanna-sees that evening, which is all I ask of a Crapfest. Well, food and folks, of course, but there are few things we enjoy so much as being able to say, “My God, that was really horrible.”