Badmoviefield Earth

It had been way, way too long since our last get-together. A little over a month ago Rick and I forced the issue and there was a small gathering, a mini-gathering as it were, Dave and Rick and myself; it could not truly be called a crapfest because the movies watched that night were Primer, The Loved One and The Kid With the Golden Arm. These break no one, and in some cases were quality entertainment.

But now host Dave was off his beneficent kick, during which we were watching other movies of a non-painful quality. Shogun Assassin, Marjoe, Master of the Flying Guillotine, Starcrash Okay, Starcrash is actually quite painful, but Caroline Munro soothes a lot of pain.

No, this time Dave was threatening us with “the nuclear option”. He wanted us to hurt, and hurt badly. I personally feel this was his lashing out after the finale of Lost, but there is no solid evidence for this. Except for those discussions in the kitchen where each sentence from Dave began with the words, “So you’re telling me that…”

During the arrival portion of the evening, he put on the 1994 version of Fantastic Four. You know, the version that Roger Corman produced so Fox could keep their hands on the FF movie license.  This movie is damn cheap, and damn stupid, but you cannot fault its intentions. Roger Corman probably got a lot of people to work on this dirt cheap, if not for free, simply because it was a Fantastic Four movie. And having watched the two big budget abominations that were eventually released, I now feel much more kindly toward this version. If nothing else, this one got Doctor Doom right, and if you get Doctor Doom right, half the battle is won.

Am I right? is that Battle Beyond the Stars music that I’m hearing? And only the finest Video Toaster graphics? Nice John Byrne era costumes, too.

After that, Dave put on the first few minutes of Dondi, because he is a complete and utter bastard. He was not satisfied until Paul burst into tears, and then he finally felt he could unleash his “nuclear option”: Battlefield Earth.

Well, sort of like Godzilla, I’ve seen the nuclear option up close a few times, and impressively though it may suck, it holds little terror for me. Luckily, I was in a room of Battlefield Earth virgins, so I got to feed off their exquisite agony like some Marvel villain. First, I amused myself by claiming I was going to spend the whole movie tilting my head one way or another, so the picture onscreen would actually appear level. This is, of course, a mug’s game and cannot be won. You will hurt yourself if you try.

So after a while, we just fell to playing my favorite Battlefield Earth game, Laugh With The Psychlos. The Psychlos really enjoy their work. Dave himself had not seen the abomination he had set out before us, but I like to think that if he had, it would have been much like what I saw in the living room: Dave standing in the middle of an empty theater, shaking both fists at the screen and bellowing as if the movie could hear him.. I understand he exhibited the same behavior during the Lost finale.

Laugh with John Travolta – won’t you?

Then Dave put on Dondi again, and went outside for a cigarette. “I brought you here to make you suffer!” I could have walked over to his media computer and turned it off, but it’s best not to show weakness in such circumstances.

My turn. First, the only episode of the Japanese TV series Spider-Man that I possess.  More appropriately perhaps, Supaidaman. At only about 25 minutes, quite painless, and though people bitched endlessly about the lack of subtitles, there was no need. Supaidaman helps some guy from Interpol fight a bunch of aliens (the faceless cannon fodder dog soldiers distinguished in this series by having duck-like beaks, unlike the faceless cannon fodder dog soldiers in a million other similar Japanese TV series) and their swordfish-headed monster, who spits torpedoes out his mouth.

Supaidaman is out of costume perhaps a minute in this episode, and spends most of rest of the time sticking to walls and kicking bad guys in the beak. Until the monster gets rambunctious (and large) around some fuel tanks and Supaidaman calls in his giant robot.

He’s the Japanese Spider-Man. Of course he has a giant robot.

It was held that the Parker Stevenson American TV version could learn much from the Japanese ratio of kicks to the beak versus talky civilian scenes. I personally like to think of what American comics could learn from this. “Now you will face the wrath of — DOCTOR OCTOPUS!!!” “Now you will face the foot of – my giant robot!” SPLAT!

Here is a clip with subtitles, so it is already apparent I like you more than my movie-watching mates:

Oh, didn’t I mention the subtitles are in French? Foolish man-animals! HAHAHAHAHA

I think it was about this time, during between-movie trips to the snack table, that I was informed Art Linkletter had died too far away from the Gary Coleman epicenter, and could not be considered one of “The Three”, so therefore there was another celebrity death on the way, hopefully one that would be more comfortable sharing a motorcycle with Gary Coleman and Dennis Hopper.

Then it was time to address a certain lacking in our evenings. One that had grown worse, tellingly enough, with the rise of the more *harrumph* quality entertainments, and that… was the lack of boobies.

Yes, these things started with a hideous marathon of movies like Beach Girls and Surf 2: The Movie, leading into Joysticks, H.O.T.S. and Evilspeak. All delights to the adolescent male just discovering cable TV, because of one thing – well, often, two things – boobies.

I was just getting ready to go to college when HBO came to our town.  This was the days of the set-top box with one button, the red one for HBO and the black one for regular cable.  The young punks I hang with had all sorts of flavors to choose from, Cinemax, Showtime. Punks. I had to make do with drive-ins.

The very first R-rated drive-in booby movie I saw was The Student Teachers, and I had been attempting to get it shown ever since I’d found a copy. Well, tonight was the night. A 1973 movie, I must have seen it in ‘74, and man does it take place in the early 70s. A new teacher at Valley High starts to have “rap sessions” with her kids about sex, which totally riles the squares in charge (Dick Miller included!), especially when some rapist wearing a clown mask starts plying his trade, which is obviously the fault of the sex-ed classes. (Talk about “ripped from today’s headlines”…)

Uh, there’s also some alternative school going on, that needs money, so they’re doing some sort of complicated scam to rip off the local drug ring. It was pointed out that Rube Goldberg would have found the scheme overly complicated, but that it was still more believable than any plan in Battlefield Earth. (“And it makes more sense than the finale of Lost!” Dave complained. “Hush,” said we, “there’s boobies.”)

Besides.  The “plot” is merely the mortar that fills the gaps in between topless scenes, and they are plentiful. The movie opens with one, even. There’s only one suspect for the rapist, they don’t even bother with any red herrings. (okay, okay, it’s Dick Miller. You knew that the minute I mentioned him, right?) Look fast in the karate class at the alternative school. That’s Chuck Norris instructing.

The next was mine, too: The Paul Lynde Halloween Special. Man-animals are so simple.  All I had to do was say. “KISS is in it.” Well, Alan helped, as he had forced his parents to watch it with him when it was first broadcast, and he assured us that at one point Gene Simmons spit blood or blew fire or balanced his checkbook or something equally awesome.

I didn’t see this the one and only time it aired, October of 1976. That would be my first semester as a Theater Major (Our motto: “Your ass is ours from 2pm until Midnight”). But. It is hard to imagine there was a time when Paul Lynde was a bona fide cultural treasure, doing variety specials every year… then I look at what passes for celebrity today, and suddenly, it’s not so hard.

The plot is almost as lucid as Student Teachers, something about Paul’s housekeeper (Margaret Hamilton) being a witch – fancy that – and witches want Paul to mastermind a way for people to realize that witches are fun people. She is helped in this by Billie Hayes in her Pufnstuf Witchiepoo character, causing the first of many Dave screams of horror.

The witches grant Lynde three wishes, which will result in comedy sketches and songs (yes, Lynde sings), and more screams from Dave, when folks like Betty White and Pinky Tuscadero show up. As Dave also points out, this special is a window to a very narrow period of time; Pinky shows up in Lynde’s first wish, which is to be a trucker with a CB radio and an Elvis jumpsuit. Yes, this is the period in 76-77 when truckers were heroes and people knew who the hell Pinky Tuscadero was.

I realize that’s not her real name, but I defy anyone to tell me her real name without using the Internet. Come on. I dare you. (Alright, it’s Roz “Pinky Tuscadero” Kelly. There.)

Tim Conway gets off the one line, obviously ad-libbed, that makes Dave laugh. Florence Henderson appears (hot as hell in a black sequin dress, I might add) and sings a disco version of “That Old Black Magic”, making Dave scream. And KISS actually do three songs (the last one being Lynde’s last wish). When song #2 appears, it is “Beth”, because it is 1976, and that makes all the KISS fans in the room scream. But I tell you what: you could have heard a pin drop during the other two KISS songs. The Florence Henderson song did not receive such reverence.

Okay, I realize that clip was 85% Pinky Tuscadero and 0% KISS. Here:

Our Paul (not Lynde, but the one sitting on the couch next to me) seemed to truly enjoy the Special just as much as Dave reacted to it like a bulldog chewing on a rabid wasp. I think Dave was more peeved that I had hurt him instead of vice versa, or as I said in my worst Sean Connery, “It’s the Chicago way! They Battlefield Earth one of  yours, you Paul Lynde Halloween Special them!” Dave was using words like “kill” “get you”and “you’ll pay for this”, so, yeah… mission accomplished.

The evening wound down with Shriek of the Mutilated, which is a perfect winding-down movie as it plods like a mammoth on its way to bed, enormous nightshirt and cap, with a candle held in its trunk. Where was I? Oh yes. Shriek.

Dave played his old version of it, the one with Hot Butter’s “Popcorn” on the soundtrack. Then he switched to the recent DVD release, with all the gore scenes restored (but the rights to “Popcorn” deemed too expensive). I hadn’t seen this version, I’d only seen the TV print, and their inclusion does aid the movie a bit, if only because their omission was really glaring before, edited out with a cub scout pocketknife and a dull spoon.

Still Shriek of the Mutilated is a movie where the story is advanced by people giving long, detailed speeches about things that have happened offscreen. This is bad enough, but by the time the movie is starting to shamble toward the finish line, people are giving long detailed speeches about stuff that we actually saw happen.

It was a wonderful, wonderful evening though. I hurt Dave more than he hurt me. He was muttering about the Star Wars Holiday Special when I left, which is one Alan always brings up, but that is only because they haven’t seen it. Like having a red-hot wire shoved up your ureter, there is no way to actually know until you have experienced it. Still, I admit that I am amused. I have seen it. It holds no terror for me. But the man-animals think that by showing it, they will hurt me.

This could be fun.

Incidentally, Alan and Paul left right after Shriek started. That might have opened up a couch seat for Rick, but they are total wusses, and that should go on the record.

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