T-Fest was a small B-movie festival started by myself, Chris Holland of StompTokyo, Ken Begg of Jabootu, and Sandy Petersen of Call of Cthulhu (and a ton of other games); we did it because we wanted a reason to get together in the Summer, after the New Orleans Worst Film Festival ceased operations. The first, tiny iteration was in a hotel meeting room near me in Sugar Land; after that, Sandy was able to wrangle venues for us in the Dallas area, so my dream of minimal travel time was quashed, but big deal.
This year Chris couldn’t make it, and I did. Sandy and Ken have apparently been putting together something called “Tween Fest” in the Spring, but my getting-away time is limited, holding down two and a half jobs as I do. I try to make the big one in July/August as often as I can.
The other character in this tale, offstage through much of it, but always making its presence felt, is the frankly unrealistic heat of this Summer. We had been sweltering in 103 degree days here in Houston, so of course I drive up to Dallas where I can enjoy 108 degree days. I have done stupider things, but not recently. The air conditioner in our meeting room was not cutting it when we arrived in the morning, and lading in 30+ movie nerds didn’t do much to help. Sweat was never running into my eyes, but it wasn’t, shall we say, ideally pleasant.
Good God, the things I will do to watch bad movies with people of a similar bent.
Now, Ken had begged off (pun not intended, but…) of any movie choices, as he claimed to have been monopolizing the Tween Fests. This left Sandy and I with three choices apiece. I wound up supplying a bit more than that, but let’s not get ahead; I think I have a bit of reputation at T-Fest of being a nice guy. I rarely bring things that put a big hurt on the audience. Probably the worst thing I ever brought was Mystics in Bali, and even that was exotic enough to take some of the sting out. The year before when the copy of Mystics I had brought turned out to be Region 2 and unplayable, I whipped out Sugar Hill, which was warmly received. I brought Island of Lost Souls and Dinosaurus. I like entertaining people.
So, when the original schedule started being rearranged, I was a little nervous that one of mine was up first: The Deadly Mantis, which cannot truly be called lively. One of the things I want to do before I kick off is watch this movie with a stopwatch in my hand and finally determine how much of it is stock footage. I reckon it at 50%, as a rough guess.
This is pretty much classic late 50s Universal programmer claptrap: competently made and entertaining. It’s no Them!, but it is a nice enough Giant Bug movie, and at less than 80 minutes, a good warmup for the day’s anti-festivities.
I also had the next movie, which was to be the 1983 Sandahl Bergman version of She, which has absolute bupkiss to do with H. Rider Haggard’s novel. In a post-apocalyptic world, She guides a couple of guys to… something. And on the way they do… stuff. Hell, I’m not even sure the reels are in the right order on this custom DVD I have, taken from a VHS with a strong picture. The costumes were basically pulled from everybody’s closets and, seemingly, by raiding the costume departments of colleges or local theatres and using everything. Football helmets with swastikas painted on them, Italian Renaissance jester costumes, wetsuits, you name it. It’s like some half-assed comic book Jack Kirby came up with while he had the flu. Like I said, a good, stable picture, but not strong enough audio to continue watching. Which is too bad, as people were getting off on the WTF nature of all this, and they never got to see this guy: (whom I could only find en Espanol. Sorry.)
So we resorted to my backup movie: The Lost Empire. (Intriguingly, Ken had also brought a copy of that movie, just in case).
Yes, remarkable as that may seem, it is a Jim Wynorski movie with an actual budget, possibly in the tens of thousands of dollars. It is entertaining trash from roughly the same period as She – both were released in 1985 – and honestly, Empire is a lot more fun, if infinitely more disposable. And in case you were wondering, yes, that is Angelique Pettyjohn in that one fight scene.
Please note that the Youtube uploader added the fight music from Amok Time himself.
Here’s the thing: Lost Empire runs a lean (one might even say economical) 85 minutes, while She is a much more turgid 106. We were clipping along at a good pace, and had time to spare. Sandy slipped in an episode of Ultraman (the original TV series, which I think is Ultra Q, and if it isn’t, someone will tell me soon), concerning Blowhole Monster Gamakujira, who likes to eat pearls. This (of course) makes the sole female member of the Science Police very, very angry (“It is a woman’s wrath!”). Most notable for Ultraman not doing anything particularly useful, and for the Science Police literally ramming a rocket up Gamakujira’s ass and shooting him into space.
Youtube, alas, has failed me here.
Sandy next cued up Sh! The Octopus, which I believe he also mentioned was the movie his father singled out as “the scariest movie ever”. I was looking forward to this, as I had only heard about it before, and it did not disappoint, even though I was not sure what to expect. It is basically a spoof on “old dark house” movies, particularly those modeled on the play “The Gorilla”, which had been made into a movie umpteen times by 1937. It is also a spoof that feels like it is directed by David Lynch, as it has a dreamlike and frequently nightmarish quality throughout (appropriate, given its denouement), which I was not expecting in a comedy. It also stars Hugh Herbert, who is that comedian who keeps going “Woo hoo hoo!” in really old Looney Tunes.
Still running ahead of time? Well, says Sandy, here, have the very first episode of the 1966 Batman series, featuring Jill St. John and the Batusi.
And then it was finally deemed time for Sandy’s annual B-movie quiz. This year, the subject was Mad Scientists. The posters for 30 science-fiction/horror movies was shown. The goal: write down the name of the Mad Scientist for each one. This is harder than you might think, as none of the Mads was named Pretorious or Mabuse. In a gesture of munificence, the last poster actually was Frankenstein. I got 4 and one-half correct. High score was 6 out of 30. Brutal.
Dinner break at the nearby Twisted Root Burger Company. Delicious food. I was tempted by the idea of a deep-fried hot dog, but I’m also getting old enough that I don’t think pouring grease into my arteries is a good idea. Instead, I wrecked other parts of my body with a peanut butter shake.
I dropped my wife off at our cheapass hotel (truthfully, she did make it almost 30 minutes into Deadly Mantis…) and returned to find that the ungrateful wretches had started my third movie, The Super Inframan, without me. Though, as Scott Hamilton pointed out via Twitter, it wasn’t like I don’t have that memorized.
Inframan is Shaw Brothers’ sole entry into the Kamen Rider-style Japanese superhero market, which is a pity, because there is not a single frame of this movie that does not please. The monsters are creative, and… well, that’s really all we need, right? The monsters are cool and they all know kung fu. The fact that Inframan is played by Danny Lee, who 14 years later would play loose cannon cop Li opposite Chow Yun-Fat in John Woo’s The Killer, just makes it better.
They couldn’t have started the next movie without me, noooooo, because Sandy Petersen is a monster who decided to unleash H.G. Lewis’ children movie Jimmy the Boy Wonder upon us. To those who have not experienced the mental disconnect necessary for this event, allow me to explain. H.G. Lewis is the director who graced us with such fare as Blood Feast, 2000 Maniacs, and The Wizard of Gore. He made two children’s movies. This is one.
In Sandy’s defense, the other one is even worse.
The Jimmy of the title is a boy who wishes time would stand still so he wouldn’t have to go to his first day of school. Unfortunately, he does this at the exact time that such a thing can happen each year. So Jimmy has to take a giant Christmas tree ornament to the Clock At The End Of The World (which is located in Coral Gardens in Florida, for all you Nude on the Moon fans), all the while pursued by the evil Mr. Fig, who, um… well, we’ll let him explain it.
Look, I had to sit through four of these damned musical numbers, you can do one.
Jimmy is reportedly 69 minutes long, but because that little bastard stopped time, it seems to be six hours long. It is not helped by some strange padding; Lewis bought a then-unfinished French cartoon, reportedly The Curious Adventures of Mr. Wonderbird, re-dubbed it, and edited it into the middle of the movie as a “story” told to Jimmy by Aurora, his distaff Virgil in this guide to the Inferno. I am hoping that the sync on this print used in the Something Weird DVD is off, otherwise Lewis and crew (Lewis is apparently the voice of the Captain of the Cats) just didn’t freaking care that it looked like lines were coming out of the wrong mouths. Never mind attempting to lip sync.
A couple of years ago, when Sandy showed Nightmare City, a joke petition demanding that he never be allowed to choose another movie was circulated. This time, the petition was bypassed and we went into full-blown lynch mob. He quickly defused this by showing the infamous kung-fu sex scene from Chinese Torture Chamber Story. He then squandered that good will by following it up with Neil Sadaka’s “Do the Jellyfish” from Sting of Death.
This was followed by the final battlescene from the Turkish Rambo clone, Rampage (Did you know? Rocket launchers go “toont!” when you fire them? And spare rockets litter the ground, like in a video game?), a clip from the Mexican demon movie, Don’t Panic, with unfortunate subtitles (“Do you believe in Stan?”), and the remarkable dog vs cat kung-fu scene from 1000 Year Cat.
Once again, we were running ahead of time, so I was able to slip in an old favorite: Dark Intruder, a failed TV pilot from 1965. It starred Leslie Nielsen, still in his leading man days, as an occult detective in 1890 San Francisco. In this episode, he’s investigating a series of murders: each victims is savagely slashed, apparently by claws, and a carving is found at each murder scene. The movie has a brief mention of Lovecraftian gods, and flirts with them several times over this course of its brief hour run.
In the past, I’ve been pleased to show movies that have not yet had a DVD release, which, within a year or two, actually got one. Chamber of Horrors at the very first T-Fest, Island of Lost Souls (which is getting a Criterion release in October, for Pete’s sake.) I kinda hope this carries through on Dark Intruder. As Ken points out, a set of failed TV pilots for occult detective shows would be most welcome: Dark Intruder, Chamber of Horrors, the Louis Jourdan Fear No Evil and Ritual of Evil, Dan Curtis’ The Norliss Tapes, Gene Roddenberry’s Spectre…
But that’s enough fantasizing about good things, it’s time to face the hard, cold reality of bad things, like the last movie. We always try to finish out the festival with a movie featuring a T Rex, or at least a dinosaur. (The “T” in “T-Fest” stands not only for “Texas”, but also “Tyrannosaurus”). And this year, the movie was The Mighty Gorga. This was theoretically Sandy’s choice, but Ken supplied the disc. Monsters, the both of them.
Anthony Eisley plays a down-on-his-luck circus owner who journeys to Africa to meet up with a guy who is tracking down a giant gorilla. In this case, Africa is being played by California, a zoo, and parts of Bronson Canyon. There is a giant gorilla (with hideous expressionless doll-like eyes) on a rocky plateau, worshiped by curiously Caucasian natives.There are more words in this movie than in your average dictionary, the “Talk is cheap, action costs money” taken to an extreme. So many words that several times John Woo style gunfights with nerf darts broke out in the audience. One unfortunate lady caught a dart in the eye. Once she recovered, she returned, gamely, but was soon begging for someone to shoot her in the eye again. Both eyes, preferably.
Back when Hong Kong movies hit in the early 90s, there was a lot of talk about “The Scene”, that one segment of a Cat III movie, the one thing you sat through an hour and a half of dreck to see. Like when I was assured that you sat through 90 minutes of Evilspeak and Clint Howard’s naked ass just to see the Carrie rip-off ending. Well, Mighty Gorga is like that. You sit through static dialogue scenes and endless rock climbing (yes, there is rock climbing) just to see the T Rex, in a very bad process shot, shouting “RAR rar rar rar!” while someone shakes it to make the jaw move. I have no idea why Youtube will not satisfy me with the T Rex’s best scene, but here is the “fight scene” that follows betwixt Rex and Gorga:
That is apparently director David L. Hewitt in the Gorga suit. Later on, our heroes run into a stop-motion creature from Goliath and the Dragon; luckily for them, it stays on its side of the poor process shot.
And then, praise God, the sweetest words in the English language: THE END.
A fun time, a good time. Sandy, with his showing of Jimmy the Boy Wonder, has opened a very dangerous door, I must say. On the other side of that door lurks The Wonderful Land of Oz and The Magic Christmas Tree, If I were a meaner person. Or Mr. Fig.
See you next year. Sleep well.
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