Belated Valentine Crap

I knew one week was going to be hellish, but I had no idea it would effortlessly balloon into two and a half weeks. My endurance was severely tried and probably exceeded, as I’m still feeling the aftereffects. I’ve become acquainted with the cane again because my supposed “good” leg is tired of taking up the slack and is actively mutinying. A walker or forearm crutches is starting to look tempting.

overworkedThere was one thing that was helping me through all these tribulations, and that was the prospect of a Crapfest in the coming weekend, when I told myself I could relax, and, as we said in the day, “Blow off some steam”. Blow off, indeed, I was so successful in achieving a state of what we in the trade call “blitzed” that I’m probably lucky I can write about it at all.

I feel much better for that.

First we should note that I was beaten to the fest by Erik, the New Guy. I cannot fault his enthusiasm – he had been fomenting for a Crapfest since January. After cursing his youthful vigor I oohed and aahed at Dave’s reincarnation of the Fest Room, dubbed Den 2.0. Den 2.0 was an order of magnitude better than the old configuration, roomier and allowing the projector a slightly longer throw. Magnificent work. Dave had even called our tallest member, Paul, to get his height, so that he could mount the projector two inches above that. SCIENCE!!!!


“Loooook! Is that Dennis Roddddddman?”

People slowly drifted in while exploitation trailers played. Two people did not make it. Wald fell afoul of some traffic spawned by the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, gave up, and went home. Having dealt with the traffic in the Galleria area the weekend of the NBA All-Star Game (where tweets alluded various basketball players were shopping, and therefore the entire county descended on the area, and, in fact, the mall and surrounded streets were eventually shut down), and having wished I could have just given up and gone home, I couldn’t blame him. Dave asked me to text him where the sausages he was supposed to be bringing wound up. Wald replied he had been lobbing them at other drivers.

We tried to watch everything that featured exposed breasts before Alan arrived from his acting gig, and we almost succeeded, but then a trailer featured a breast or two (there was an astounding amount of stuff “based on the Marquis deSade” in the 70s). So it was down to the new version of the faithful: myself, Dave, Rick, Paul, Alan and Erik.

I apparently had the opener. I had been scheduled to present Sonny Chiba’s The Bodyguard (Paul had wanted to see it since witnessing the “Viva! Chiba!” trailer), but Dave had discovered a disc in my bag I had literally gotten just the week before, at the WB Shop’s $5 sale: Gymkata.

gymkataSome of you moaned when I said Gymkata. Well, screw you.

Gymkata was Robert Clouse’s 1985 attempt to re-capture Enter the Dragon lightning in a bottle (there were many more, and most are reasonably entertaining). This one stars Olympic Gold Medal Gymnast Kurt Thomas, as Olympic Gold Medal Gymnast Jonathan Cabot.  Cabot is recruited by the CIA to follow in his father’s footsteps. Pop Cabot went to Parmistan to participate in THE GAME, a sort of organized Most Dangerous Game where participants run through the country and numerous obstacles while pursued by Richard Norton. If they live, they get whatever they want. And what Pop Cabot wanted – or rather, what the CIA wanted – is to place a Star Wars Satellite Station (remember that? Thanks, Reagan!) in the country. Naturally, other countries want that, too. Their own satellite stations, I mean. Not a satellite station for the US.

gymkata1Yeah, you heard me drop the Richard Norton name. If you’ve watched any HK action flick from the 80s through the 90s, you recognized that name, and you realized he’s the villain. Especially since you saw him put an arrow in Pop Cabot while he was crossing a rope over a ravine. Norton’s the King’s right-hand man, wants to take over the country, marry the princess who Cabot the Younger is in love with, you know, the usual.

The Princess is one of the trainers who helps Cabot get into even better shape, and to, as the poster promises, “Combine the Skill of Gymnastics with the Kill of Karate!” And then we get to Pretendistan, and oh boy, does our story really get underway.

This is one of the beautiful things about Crapfest. Some people had said they had seen Gymkata before, but they hadn’t been paying attention, I guess because they were blindsided by Parmistan. Intensely traditional. Guns are outlawed in Parmistan. Now as to the costumes: wardrobe just called up every costume house and said, “What do you have that’s vaguely middle eastern? Yeah, give us all of it. Got some Asian stuff, too? Sure, send it over. Leftover barbarian crap? Throw that in the truck, too.” Parmistan is like no country that every existed, because it’s like all countries that ever existed. Especially in Movieland.

gymkata (1)Paul had thought that there would just be some fighting in a gym or something, but oh no, that’s not good enough for Gymkata. Fight in an alley? That waterpipe would make a swell high bar! Surrounded by homicidal lunatics in an abandoned city where Fakeistan tosses all its insane people (a hell of an obstacle)? Lucky that suspicious structure for tying up your goat in the town square resembles a pommel horse! I’m really sorry they never found a way to work in some parallel bars, but we do get some vaults and backflips in fight scenes. With, of course, the audience shouting, “GYMKATA!!!”

That was an unexpectedly strong opening for Crapfest. During a break, Dave started a copy of The Fantastic Animation Festival playing; I had seen this in the theater back in ’77, and it melted my mind then. I still remembered French Windows, which kickstarted my tardy love for Pink Floyd, but I had forgotten how trippy the rest of the stuff was – though I did get confused where new music had seemingly been laid in for Cosmic Cartoon. The new music was good, but I remembered the Paul Winter Consort and Holst’s “The Planets” being used…

Maybe I had gotten my mind blown back then. But I distinctly finally hearing Paul winters’ “Icarus” album in the 80s and thinking, “Oh yeah! Naked dancer in the surf!” Well, at least Pink Floyd didn’t change… However, that is likely the reason French Windows isn’t on YouTube. So here, have the Cosmic Cartoon:

Dave plays his choice close to the edit, as it were. He picked out the middle position (“the rocking chair” in CB terms), and makes his final decision based on how much the opener hurt him. Since the Gymkata experience was positive, he decided to be what he calls “merciful”, and plugged in Mausoleum.

mausoleum_poster_01I’m okay with this. I’ve never seen Mausoleum. And if you want to peek into the heart of the Crapfest experience, you need look no further than the fact that when Marjoe Gortner’s credit rolled across the screen, he got a standing ovation.

This is also the period of the evening when I started getting seriously sloshed, so be aware that from here on I am using Vodka Filter #3, and adjust accordingly.

1983’s Mausoleum kicks off former Playboy Bunny Bobbie Bresee’s too-brief career as a Scream Queen. In the opener, the young version of Bobbie freaks out at her mother’s funeral, and runs into the title character, where she is possessed by the same demon who apparently possessed her mother. After she grows up into Bobbie Bresee and marries Marjoe Gortner, the demon starts cropping up again, killing people for whatever reason is convenient and making Bobbie’s eyes turn green.

susan 1This all seems rather similar to the last Crapfest’s Abby, but with a somewhat better budget and no William Marshall – and nudity! And the welcome addition of LaWanda Page as Elsie the maid, the only person with any sense in the movie, as she notices things are getting all demony and immediately skedaddles. (Exit line: “No more grievin’, I’m leavin’!”)

The horrific highpoint and Fangoria photo opp is when the nude Bresee is embracing Marjoe after a tough day of whatever job it is that doesn’t insist you wear a necktie, goes full demon, and her breasts transform into demon heads that chew their way through Marjoe’s ribcage and eat his heart.

mausoleum1983dvdvhsbycrI got told about this scene back when it was in theaters and thought it was a nice callback to medieval woodcuts that showed demons with faces on their pecs; finally seeing it was so astonishing we actually rewound the movie and watched it again. It’s all falling action after that, as the psychiatrist who’s been seeing Bobbie since she was a kid finally snaps to the demon thing, gets a wrought iron crown-of-thorns from the Mausoleum that will trap said demon back in said Mausoleum, and then, although the movie has ended, it goes on for ten more minutes as Bobbie and the Psych go to the Mausoleum to load the demon back in its sepulcher. We were hoping for LaWanda to come back with a machine gun or something, but those hopes were unfulfilled.

I mention that Bresee’s career was sadly short-lived because my main takeaway from this was that she was actually very, very good – hell, she went to Mercedes McCambridge for pointers on her demon voice – and she really deserved a lot more work than she got, though she apparently had a decent run on Santa Barbara, I hope so. Especially if the rumors about the producer setting up bleachers so people could watch her sex scene being filmed are true. That’s the sort of thing that requires a karmic balancing.

Dinner break! As we cooked and cut the pizza, I supplied a copy of The Ed Sullivan Show featuring the Rolling Stones. “Why must you always sully our Crapfest with quality?” came the moan. You’d think this is a lesson they would have learned by now: Quality makes the knife cut deeper. Then, there is my rejoinder, “You have no idea what you’re in for.” This was the complete show, with all the other acts, and commercials. And leading off tonight’s really big show: clog dancing.

rolling-stones-ed-sullivanI first found out about these discs at the Rupert Pupkin Speaks blog, where cinema omnivore @bobfreelander asks bloggers to submit their older movie discoveries over the last year. Within two days I had the Stones disc and a similar one featuring the four appearances of The Beatles. These are endlessly fascinating to me; I remember back in the day – and I would have been about 7 when the first Beatles episode hit – that Ed was what we looked forward to, it was what capped off the weekend. It was the best, the show everyone vied to get an appearance. There’s a reason there’s a song about it in Bye Bye Birdie.

This was actually one of the more normal Sullivans I now have. Petula Clark does two songs, there are long monologues by the very young Flip Wilson and Alan King, an early, trippy Muppets sketch (Jim Henson shakes hands with Ed) and it ends up with the censored version of Let’s Spend the Night Together”, “Let’s Spend Some Time Together”, with Mick rolling his eyes every time the changed words come up.

I don’t know if I’ll ever spring any of the others on future Crapfests, though there is something astounding in each episode. I now realize just how annoying Topo Gigio was, and that Senor Wences wasn’t all that great. But there is one episode where the warmup act for The Beatles is none other than Cab Calloway, and I’m surprised the studio didn’t collapse into a Cool Singularity.

Here, have an ad:

Now, for the third and final movie of the evening. My copy of Exorcist II: The Heretic was a favorite, but we were also burned out on demonic possession. I wanted to see one if the movies Erik had brought: School of the Holy Beast, a Japanese nunsploitation movie. I’d had no idea there was such a thing, until Erik mentioned it, and I said something like “Holy crap, there are Japanese nunsploitation movies?” So there you go. I had to see it.

school beastNow, as a non-believer brought up as a Protestant, I admit I am a hard sell for these things. And once you’ve seen Bruno Mattei’s Guardian of Hell/The Other Hell or Juan Lopez Monteczuma’s Alucarda, or Ken Russell’s The Devils, it’s hard to believe there’s anything in the subgenre you haven’t already experienced. Then, with the Japanese, you know you’re getting the tale from a unique angle. The movie is apparently based on a popular manga, surprise, surprise…

So Maya, an attractive young woman, becomes a nun at the very convent her mother’s death took place. We’re eventually going to find out that her mother was pregnant with Maya when the Abbess tortured her, probably trying to induce an abortion. Her mother hung herself and birthed Maya at the same time, and a sympathetic nun spirited the baby to the outside world, where she was adopted and grew up to be Maya.

There, I saved you a bunch of time. School of the Holy Beast can be very confusing to your typical gaijin (translation: us) when faced with a bunch of asian women of approximately the same age all dressed in the same uniform, which obscures everything the clueless occidental could use to differentiate characters: hair style, figure. We were pretty sure who Maya was, however, because she was the Worst Nun Ever, constantly winding up in the Persecution Room (yes, that’s what it’s called) where half-naked nuns are ordered to whip each other for punishment.

The probable lynchpin scene here – yeah, the one all you pervs are waiting for – is when the naked Maya is tied with briar vines and made to suffer “The 13th Punishment” which is being whipped by bouquets of roses in slow motion. It’s artistic, at least. I guess. I’m still trying to sober up at this point.

School of the Holy Beast-3Maya finds out the particulars of her mother’s death, but who was the father? The Holy Beast of the title, the priest who oversees the convent and drops by ever so often; a man who survived Nagasaki and mentions Auschwitz. He ‘s slept with the Abbess, too, and already raped Maya. He also brought in his new consort, a sort of Witchfinder General, to find the witch who’s been causing all these troubles in the rank.

Yeah, I forgot to mention that while tossing the nun’s rooms for contraband, the Vice Abbess – appropriately enough – finds some pornography in Maya’s belongings and confiscates them. Supposedly to burn, but she really sticks them in a desk and brings them out when she’s alone to… you know. Maya then obligingly sneaks out and smuggles two men in, disguised as nuns, to rape the Vice Abbess. This is played for laughs, just in case you weren’t offended enough.

switchblade nunThings get downright Shakespearean at the end, with Maya swinging on a rope to knock the murderous Witchfinder out a window and onto the spikes of a wrought iron fence(“The skill of gymnastics! The kill of karate!”); the Abbess falling into an acid pit that, for some reason, she has under her office; and the Holy Beast himself going nuts, declaring  Maya God, and then deciding to kill God.

That was a pretty nutty time.

We kept losing Alan through the second half of School and Dave was threatening to go to sleep, too. So we grumbled and pulled together our traps, swearing not to wait so long ’till the next time. Den 2.0 is awesome, and we never came near to testing its full potential. So until our next Crapfest, stay safe, stay sober, and avoid mausoleums, convents, and countries where everybody is dressed like a grade school production of The Arabian Nights. Dormez bien.