Close enough to a vacation

It should come as no surprise to anyone who read that last blog entry: I needed a change of scene, and I needed it pretty quickly. Just like last January, when I was considering physical violence against one of our more overbearing patients, when the tonic proved to be B-Fest – it was time to go elsewhere entirely and watch some questionable movies with others of my ilk.

Time was, June was the time to visit the New Orleans Worst Film Festival. Besides being a little easier on the body than the Iron Man competition of B-Fest – NOWFF was 12 hours, as opposed to 24 – it was New Orleans, for God’s sake. Alcohol! Jazz music! So our spouses were usually more than willing to come along.

Well, NOWFF shut down shop a couple of years before Katrina burst the levees, and we were left without a midyear get-together. back in 2005, several of us organized one, dammit, and called it T-Fest. An obvious homage to B-Fest, the T seems to rather obviously stand for Texas, but actually stands for Tyrannosaurus. Yes, Tyrannosaurus Fest. Shut up.

No tickets, no T-shirts, nothin’ like that. Just a bunch of friends throwing movies at each other. It moved up to Dallas to more cost-effective and slightly more swank surroundings, and so I found myself motoring up I-45 with the music cranked too high.

Ken Begg, master of Jabootu’s Bad Movie Dimension, was in charge of the scheduling, and wisely enough placed the …well, boring… entries early in the day. One of his own choices, Curse of Bigfoot, started things off, and it was stultifying. An opening appearance by a monster (puzzlingly wearing an Edwardian button-down jacket) proves to be a monster movie a high school teacher is showing to his class. Then he tells a story about an encounter with Bigfoot that eats up another three hours, then his special guest shows up to tell his story. It has to be one of the clumsiest anthology movies EVAR, with the only interesting facet being that the third, and longest segment was actually filmed some years before, making it one of the better period flashbacks, if by default.

But a guy wearing a bathmat is still a guy wearing a bathmat, no matter what decade.

I could have sworn I had already mentioned to Ken that I really didn’t need a new reason to hate him, but he delivered, nonetheless. Especially by slipping in a story from another dismal anthology film, Encounters With the Unknown, which blew easily 90% of its budget hiring Rod Serling to do voiceovers.

Sandwiched between these two slices of ennuic hell was Passion in the Sun, aka The Girl and the Geek, chosen by our host, Sandy Peterson (of Call of Cthulhu RPG fame and some little thing called Doom). An early 60’s B&W nudie, this was supposedly “shot south of the border”, which is true if one means the Oklahoma border. Several of us were identifying local (to us) scenery. “That’s downtown Houston!” “Now they’re suddenly at the Seawall in Galveston?” “Waitaminnit – now they’re practically in Tomball.” There were some fairly intolerant remarks made about the women taking off their clothes, though I found them mostly attractive. Just remember: pretty kidnap victims will always pause in their breathless escape to make a leisurely skinny dip in a handy stream.

This is available on the Something Weird Godmonster of Indian Flats DVD, which I know each and every one of you has in their home libraries.

Next, Chris Holland presented Funky Forest, a Japanese omnibus of loosely interconnected short films. Clocking in at 150 minutes (with an intermission), this was… well, Funky Forest. Some parts were merely befuddlingly dull, some were funny, some were peopled with disturbing creatures that doubtless have David Cronenberg muttering, “Damn… why didn’t I think of that?” But I never had any idea what was coming next. Which, for me, was saying something.

That was generally chosen as the one that broke everyone. Wusses.

After a lengthy dinner break (and trip to Trader Vic’s), the fare turned to fairly more lively cause-and-effect. Cleopatra Jones starting the evening, followed by one of my choices, the 1932 Mask of Fu Manchu – which was short, though no one seemed to find the early 30’s jingoism as hilarious as I. Come on: Boris Karloff shouting “Kill the white man! And take his women!“…and people took this seriously?

Blood Car was found by Chris on the festival circuit, and it was a surprising, and very entertaining, independent flick. Set in the near future… “two weeks from now”… when gas hits $32 a gallon and no one drives, a vegan attempts to invent a car that will run on wheatgrass juice. But being a horror movie, he accidentally discovers it runs even better on human blood. It’s a pretty typical setup, but the path writer/director Alex Orr takes to tell the story is not. This really should get a general release, and I’m surprised I’ve not heard more cult film buzz on it.

Next up was my second choice, the Shaw Brothers king-fu flick Kid With the Golden Arm, one of my absolute favorites. Despite the fact there is very little plot to get in the way of the fighting, people were nodding off at the late hour, and when the climax of one of my favorite fight scenes garners the comment, “Well, that was just silly.” I pause to remind myself that it took me several years to “get” the heroic bloodshed genre, and leave it at that.

We were supposed to wrap up with King Dinosaur, but a certain DVD vendor dropped the ball on delivery and we settled for Yonggary, Monster from the Deep instead. Which I think was good, as King Dinosaur, as I recall, was more of a piece with Curse of Bigfoot (“Rock climbing, Joel… rock climbing.”).

Then came the sleep of exhaustion, a massive breakfast prepared by the lovely Mrs. Peterson, and a far too lengthy drive home. I stopped briefly in Huntsville to check out my alma mater, which I had not done in ten or fifteen years. That was a mistake, as it only made me feel older and instilled a strange yearning in my soul, one that I keep holding up to the light but still cannot discern its exact source or dimensions.

I shall simply chalk it up to misplaced or misremembered nostalgia, and get on with my life – after all, I have a despicable job to get back to, made a little more tolerable by my sojourn back to the valley of the B.