SO a number of years ago I helped start a small film fest, more of an informal get-together, really, called T-Fest. Yes, the parody element, from “B-Fest“, is obvious, and it was held in Texas, but the T actually stands for “Tyrannosaurus”, the rationale being that we always close with a dinosaur flick. It grew out of my desire to have such a get-together with my fellow B-Masters in the Summer, especially once it became obvious that the New Orleans Worst Film Festival wasn’t coming back. It rapidly outgrew my dream of a few guys in my living room to a venue of its own at a local hotel, then another founding member, Sandy Peterson, realized he had access to a venue for free, and that was it: we moved to Dallas.
Plano, to be precise. At the SMU Guildhall, where Sandy teaches game design. There were a few problems this year: the Guildhall is undergoing renovation, and a new security regime was throwing around its weight, demanding we leave the premises by 10PM, whereas in previous years there was no problem in us staying until midnight or beyond. Well, never mind; we improvised, and all that. Lost a movie or two, but endeavored to persevere and all that rot.
Having missed the memo that we were starting at 10AM rather than 10:30, we missed the first few minutes of Gorilla At Large, a pretty well-produced 1954 thriller about some murders at a carnival that seem to be the work of the resident gorilla (back in the days when finding yourself in a room with a gorilla was a death warrant). But there’s also a gorilla suit floating around, too, so maybe somebody wearing the suit is committing the murders. And all the characters are too stupid to see the difference between the suit and the real gorilla ( alright, the better gorilla suit, but you know what I mean).
And what a cast! Raymond Burr, Lee J. Cobb, Cameron Mitchell, a young and exceptionally hot Anne Bancroft, and Lee Marvin playing a cop with a really bad Irish accent.
Somewhere in its production, the decision was made to turn it into a 3-D movie, though the moments when the 3-D process would have been worthwhile were few and far between (sound familiar?) The movie was good training wheels: an excellent way to start the fest.
Next up, you poor devils, was one of my picks: The Invisible Ray (1936) starring Boris Karloff (though here still billed as simply KARLOFF) and Bela Lugosi. If, in their previous team-up, 1935’s The Raven, Lugosi warped time and space with his over-acting, this is certainly Karloff’s turn. His maniacally focused scientist tracks down a meteor in Africa containing Radium X, an incredibly potent source of radioactive energy. He simply plugs it into a ray gun he brought for the purpose and melts a nearby boulder, convincing his superstitious native bearers to stay or get melted (and probably at a generous discount). Radium X is so powerful, though, that it poisons him, causing him to glow in the dark and to kill anything with the merest touch.
Lugosi, as the French (ha!) scientist running the expedition, devises a chemical that restores Karloff to normalcy, but has to be administered periodically, like insulin, or he will turn all incandescent and killy again. It is, of course, only a matter of time before the scientist, resentful to start with, is driven mad by the Radium X and starts leaving day-glo handprints on people’s throats.
Although Karloff really lets the ham rampage through the movie, it never reaches the heights of “Dude, dial it down” that Lugosi reached in The Raven. Lugosi plays a rare sympathetic role here, and he is really, really good, quite solid; it makes you wish he had been giving more opportunities to play straight roles, but that’s where his accent really worked against him.
Next up: because Sandy was dismayed that Ken Begg, the master of Jabootu, had never seen any H.G. Lewis movies: Blood Feast (1963). Chris Holland glances sidewise at me and says, “67 minutes. We can do this.” But 67 minutes in the Lewiusverse is 3 and a half hours in the real world, and it was slow going. Though playing “Yakity Sax” during the final chase scene really did help.
That trailer supposedly ran two minutes, 24 seconds, but it felt like 10 minutes, didn’t it? Consider this: apparently, the night before, Sandy had shown Ken The Wizard of Gore, causing Ken to comment how restrained and coherent Feast was by comparison. Fancy that.
After this was the traditional Sandy quiz, this time concerning in which movie various zombies appeared. I got 22 out of 30, which was pretty good, but not exceptional enough to win the prize, a paperback novel bought off eBay for for the lordly sum of one cent.
And then it was time for the lunch break, at 3:00 in the afternoon. One unfortunate burger stand, Burger Island #2, was ill prepared for 40+ movie nerds walking in their front door, at what would normally be a slow time in the afternoon. But credit where credit is due: while the single guy there was taking my order, he was on the phone, and additional folks were there within ten minutes. We were served and eating within a reasonable amount of time, given the circumstances.
I will leave you there, with myself and Chris playing catch-up with Ken at the loud Burger Island 2 (and my bored son wishing he had his laptop so he could be blowing the heads off total strangers in whichever deathmatch has his attention this week), and tell you that this will be continued tomorrow. Which will bring the Lapland Reindeer Ritual, and the hideous penanggalan, you poor bastards.
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