The Crap Is Coming From Inside The House

So look, there was an attempt to do a Crapfest in January, but it was postponed due to plague. That was really regrettable, especially since we had planned to mull apple cider and generously spike it with cheap brandy, a nice combination I re-discovered back in the cold of December (It being Texas, we were back to balmy fake Spring, and more regular, cooling cocktails). A new date was set, which was then postponed for business travel. Other dates were tossed out for various, and to my mind, worthless, reasons, ie., the Super Bowl and the Oscars. (Where are your priorities, people?)

So we finally settled on a Sunday that seemed to have the most people free. The Other Dave was at rehearsal, Alan had a matinee and a set strike, but uh uh, no way, we were doing this. Paul wrote that he had a killer sinus headache and a tough work day on Monday, and begged off. I, personally, think he used a Magic Genie wish and looked into the future at this column, and decided it was best to stay at home. The bastard.

Festivities got well and truly underway when Erik and I arrived at The Original Dave’s house, only to be greeted by a cursing host who informed us we were an hour early. Then Mark arrived, similarly early, just in time to join in on the being cursed-at. Rick arrived an hour later. We still didn’t start a movie until 4:00.

I have what I refer to as the Bag of Tricks. I add and remove movies as needed for Crapfests. My general process involves choosing 5 or 6 from the Bag, and letting people vote. I need to stop doing that.

Because the first movie was Robo Vampire.

robo vampire vhs front2Robo Vampire is a Thomas Tang/Godfrey Ho production, which means it is at least three movies stitched together, shot through with electricity, and forced to shamble around for an hour and a half. I covered one of these monsters back in the day and trying to follow the actual plot that supposedly exists in this patch job can cause a brain aneurysm. You’re better off trying to track the individual component movies and what happens in them.

There’s one movie, a Mr. Vampire knock-off, where a gang led by Edgar Allen Poe has hired a Daoist priest to help them ship heroin with hopping vampires. An “Anti-Drug Agent” is killed and then somehow turned into a “robot warrior”, by which we mean he wears silver clothes and armor made of inflatable flotation devices. I managed to get the Festers to shush up for a few seconds by  pointing out a female ghost (her boyfriend had been turned into one of the vampires) was wearing a costume made of very sheer material, and not much else.

robovamp002There is another movie where a female (and caucasian) “anti-drug agent” has been captured and must be rescued, which connects very loosely to a third movie that we just called “The A-Team Movie” that featured a squad of guys killing nogoodniks in the jungle, supposedly to help rescue the agent.

The most entertaining parts belong to the first movie, with our “robot warrior” (those quotes are so heavy with sarcasm they may fall off the page) fighting hopping vampires, and, at one point, getting blowed up REAL GOOD:

Which does not mean it is anywhere approaching a good movie. It is, in fact, crap. Here’s all you need to know:

We didn’t need those two other movies in the mix, anyway. Well, not much of them.

There was apparently some disappointment that there were no ninjas in the Tang/Ho offering, so the second pick was Ninja III: The Domination.

ninja_3_poster_01Now Ninja III has its fans; most of this is due to star Lucinda Dickey, who is trying to stretch her image beyond the same year’s Breakin’ and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. Some is due to featured Sho Kosugi, playing (surprise, surprise) a badass ninja. I’m probably the only guy there for James Hong.

Ninja III does start off with a bang, or more appropriately, a whoosh, as a super ninja assassinates a top scientist and his bodyguards on a golf course, then kills a bunch of cops. A bunch more cops proceed to play Wild Bunch with him, and still he manages to get away, to transfer his spirit into telephone line(wo)man Lucinda Dickey. His fiercely glowing sword and special effects then cause her to track down the last surviving cops who ventilated the super ninja and kill them. At least two of them deserve it, for thinking that cigars were part of their uniform.

NIII02Kosugi is a ninja who has a personal grudge against the super ninja, and who informs us that “Only a ninja can destroy a ninja”, so we know we’re eventually moving to a showdown there. The story wimps out on several intriguing possibilities, because that would have required audiences to, you know, think.

So basically you have a pretty standard Cannon 80’s B-flick very much in keeping with its forebears, Enter the Ninja and Revenge of the Ninja. I’m not a child of the 80s, not a fan. I don’t mind if a ninja is portrayed as an unstoppable killing machine, but I do draw the line at their possessing magical powers, and the super ninja was the ninjitsu version of Pazuzu.  I didn’t hate it, but I also didn’t care enough to correct my fellow Festers that singing “Flashdance” whenever Lucinda appeared onscreen was not entirely correct.

There had been a running Crapfest joke, going back years, of Rick requesting The Garbage Pail Kids Movie, and the rest of us going, “Hell no.” Now, Erik and Mark, our new members, were unaware of this running gag, and somehow Rick got to them. I’m not sure if it was money, or drugs or sex, but suddenly we had three people asking for The Garbage Pail Kids Movie.

Oh, God damn it.

new-garbage-pail-kids-movie-in-development-86623-470-75(I think Rick’s secret weapon – at least with Mark – was mentioning that Anthony Newley was the marquee value. This intrigued them, but only because they had never seen Can Heironymous Merkin Forget Mercy Hummpe and Find True Happiness? I have.)

Anthony Newley is a kindly eccentric who runs an antique/curiosity shop, in which there is a garbage pail full of horrid, inexpressive puppets with bad habits. There may be some sort of origin story there, but I missed it due to all the howls of dismay as the suckers in the audience began to realize just what Rick had talked them into. But there are these horrific kids, Newley is trying to find the way to get them back into the pail, the Kids are supposedly looking for their lost “friends”, who were apparently incarcerated in the “House of Ugly”. I honestly tried not to pay that much attention.

Since this is – God help us – a kid’s movie, there is a kid protagonist, a young man named … urk … Dodger. We’re never given a backstory or home scene with Dodger, so who knows? He hangs around Newley’s shop, and has eyes for the moll in a bizarre 80s gang who reaaaalllllly hate him. His crush’s name is Tangerine (urk), and she’s the girlfriend of the gang’s leader, Juice.

garbage-pail-kids-movie-3Tangerine makes her dough by selling clothes she makes at clubs (sometimes literally off her back). The Kids have been making clothes for Dodger, which Tangerine finds will sell very well, and so she begins leading Dodger around by his pubescent dick until she gets enough clothes to have a fashion show, which, of course, the Kids cannot attend, as they are too ugly. Dodger eventually learns a lesson, that all women are evil. No, I mean, that some people are ugly on the inside, and that is what matters. Os something. Jesus.

I managed to make it through because I had an ace up my sleeve: I knew that Tom Parker, an actor I work with every weekend at a murder mystery dinner theater, had a line in this. I held on to that, and waited for that moment, that one shining moment. It was toward the end. It is, in fact, the first thing in this clip:

Oh, yeah, they do sort of find out what happened to the Kids’ friends: they were apparently crushed to death in a garbage truck.

Did I mention this was a kid’s movie?

Paul? Alan? Dave and I took a bullet for you. You owe us, amigos.

Dave was so pissed off after this he carried through on his threat to show Batman and Robin.

Sweet Christmas, it was even worse than I remembered.

There are people who have already covered any ground I might:

The Original Dave has since pointed out that my attempt to avoid any further trauma by the complete avoidance of thinking about Batman and Robin would severely limit the possibility of any healing on my part (Actually, what he said was “You are the cheatingest cheater who ever cheated,” but I’m pretty sure that’s what he meant). Anyway, there are a couple of things gleaned on a personal level past the horrendous crimes exposed in those last two videos.

First, Rick stated that he knew it was bad when he first saw it, lo these many years ago, but not being a comics person, could only judge it on the level of comparative quality. Having since played the Arkham Asylum video games, he had a better grounding in the Batman mythos, and could now understand the righteous anger directed at the movie by the fanbase. How, he wondered, was Joel Schumacher allowed to still make movies, when Salman Rushdie was yet in hiding, fearful of his life? I’m lying about the Rushdie part, but you get my drift.

Second, I was kind of looking forward to that ridiculous motorcycle race segment, remembering some particularly sweet and non-realistic bits. Then i actually saw the race, and realized the moments I was anticipating were actually from one of the Charlie’s Angels movies… Full Throttle, I think… and realized that the movie had found yet another way to jam a stick into my movie watching experience.

So, is Joel Schumacher also responsible for the fact that movies are only shot in two colors these days? Teal and orange? Man, he has a lot to answer for. Almost as much as whoever it was that first asked for Batman and Robin many months ago. I don’t remember who it was. It was probably Rick.

(Rick and I have often stated that we need a cable access movie review show, but we also realize that it would always end in fistfights and screams of “No, you go to hell!!!”)

After this, battered and bruised, we limped out into the night. Later, communicating by e-mail. we commiserated that yes, for some reason, this one hurt. This one, perhaps because of all the delays and postponements, had all the pain of several normal Crapfests concentrated into one. When the high point of your evening was Ninja III…

But at least we don’t have to listen to any of Rick’s requests for another year or so.

Wakefield Poole’s Bible!

Wakefield Poole’s BIBLE on Amazon

Every now and then, you take a gamble on something that pays off. That is, actually, pretty much the mission statement of the crap cineaste, isn’t it? We keeping sifting through the silt, hoping for the occasional fleck of gold. It’s that rare strike that keeps us going, continuing through all the Italian zombie flicks, the hackwork rape revenge stories, the staid children’s films. That one true discovery. The movie that catches you unawares and reminds you why you even bother.

Surprisingly, I found Wakefield Poole’s Bible! to be such a movie.

I did go in with expectations fairly low. Vinegar Syndrome has been doing some truly astounding work on some of the most disposable movies of the last century: mainly adult movies like Vixens of Kung Fu, but also bizarre horror bottom dwellers like Dungeon of Harrow and Night Train to Terror. So I knew I was going to get a lovely image, at least.

What I didn’t expect was that Bible! would deserve it.

poole bibleWakefield Poole is a director primarily known for gay hardcore features. In 1973 or 74, he set out to do a “straight” feature, originally to be hardcore versions of Bible stories. He decided this was not a good thing to try in the death throes of the Nixon Administration (if, indeed, it could be said to be a good idea at any time), so he made a softcore movie, hoping for an “R” rating. As there is not MPAA rating on the film, box, or IMDb entry, I can only assume that the distributor never went to the expense of submitting it for a rating; therefore, it was assumed by the audience that it was another of Poole’s hardcore flicks, and thus was a miserable failure at the box office.

Poole has picked the saucier items from the Old Testament: Adam and Eve (of course), David and Bathsheba, and Samson and Delilah. Sex is an inextricable part of the last two, naked people the first. There are three things that set Bible! apart from other obvious analogs like oh, let’s say John Huston’s 1966 The Bible: In The Beginning, or other attempts to sexy-up existing literature like Alice in Wonderland. First the movie is silent (there is only one line of spoken dialogue) with a classical music soundtrack; second, Poole was determined to see if he could make “a beautiful movie”; and third, his varying approach to the stories.

Just to be different, Poole starts out Genesis with an atomic explosion, then footage of a fetus developing in a womb. Then Adam (Bo White) awakens in a cave, and climbs and swims his way out to a surprisingly beach-centric Eden. He is joined by Eve (Caprice Couselle), and they make love for the first time ever. In the Universe.

This is probably when the audiences starting walking out. Like I said, it’s softcore. There is no position changing, no money shot. The actors are young and pretty, the scenic photography is nice. So far, nothing truly special.

bible2bigThen we get to David and Bathsheba. Bathsheba (Georgina Spelvin) is presented as a neglected wife. Her husband Uriah (Robert Benes) is absorbed with military matters and the new slave girl (Nancy Wachter). The twist is Bathsheba realizes David (John Horn) is spying on her and decides to take her bath anyway – but the overriding twist is that Poole plays this all as a burlesque comedy sketch. Spelvin is a splendid comedian (she is also one of the few porn stars that could actually act, along with Jamie Gillis and Pia Snow/Michelle Bauer, so her skill at comedy shouldn’t be surprising). Spelvin also touchingly takes Bathsheba through a gamut of emotions before the frustrated wife finally decides to disrobe for her hidden admirer. A few more complications are tossed in before David suddenly barges in the front door and everything goes into fast-motion Keystone Kops chase territory (sadly, it is 1974, and Poole did not know to throw “Yakkity Sax” onto the soundtrack).

Forsaking the natural vistas of the Eden story for a studio, Poole’s crew has done a remarkable job on the set on a shoestring budget. There is no mistaking this for anything more than what you might find on a variety show comedy sketch, but it’s all perfectly serviceable, and the bath even has running water.

vlcsnap-00287Which brings us to Samson and Delilah, which is presented as a revenge tragedy. A blue-painted midget steals Samson’s knife, and Samson (Brahm van Zetten) kills him with his bare hands. The midget is apparently a servant of Delilah’s, though, and Delilah (Gloria Grant, a waitress who Poole cast on the spot) seduces and drugs Samson, so the midget’s mate can cut his hair while Delilah is on her knees, um, distracting him.

For this segment, Poole’s sets are composed of cloth blowing in a non-existent wind and two-by-fours leaning against each other, forming abstract shapes. The results are eerily beautiful, and with the bright colors of the costuming, the whole thing takes on the air and grace of a Fellini spectacle. I was not expecting this.

Poole gets a lot of use out of his variable-speed 16mm camera, that’s for sure.

poolewcameraIn an effort to end on a kind of an up note, the movie ends with a brief, abstract representation of the Immaculate Conception, which is a bit of a time shift, but worth it, I suppose, for that final irreverent image of a neon sign for the Bethlehem Hotel with a flashing NO VACANCY. I would probably not like Wakefield Poole’s Bible! as much as I do if he had gone ahead with his original vision – I find porn mind-numbingly boring. But going the softcore route, with an actual eye toward composition and effect provides many dividends, not the least of which is that I find Spelvin’s and Grant’s unveilings truly erotic, that frequently misused word. There is genuine emotion and some artistry involved here – enough that I think this is a genuine find and bravos are due to Vinegar Syndrome for bringing this back to the light of day.

Science Crazed (1991)

I first “met” Doug Tilley when he contacted me for an e-mail interview about my own long-ago crap movie, Forever Evil. He’s a nice guy, talented writer. Does a couple of podcasts in addition to his No Budget Nightmares feature on Daily Grindhouse.

sciencecrazedI should have paid more attention to my story tropes, because guys like Doug are the ones who stab you in the back during climactic battles, or unknowingly cause the Apocalypse. This begins innocently enough with an entry on the aforementioned column, on a movie I had never heard of before: Science Crazed.

“You have never, ever seen anything like SCIENCE CRAZED. I promise you.”

Reading Doug’s review again, it is like the circular narrations I wrote about last week, where the first time you hear the narration, you have nothing to hang on the words, but when it’s repeated at the end, the narration becomes heavy with meaning. There have been other mentions of Science Crazed from Doug on Twitter and Facebook. Enough that I was finally curious enough to track down a copy. Like The Necronomicon, there are no copies available to the general public, and for a damned good reason. And like a doomed character in an H.P. Lovecraft story, I tracked it down anyway.

We will pause now while I stare emptily into space for a few moments, shuddering.

I have watched many, many bad movies in the course of my life. I had thought that I had hit the lowest with Sorority House Vampires From Hell, but I was proven wrong when Joe made me watch Things for my first Daily Grindhouse podcast. This, surely, was it – but the Universe keeps finding ways to prove me wrong.

Okay, the first thing you are going to notice about Science Crazed is that it’s shot on video. I’m okay with this. The second thing you are going to notice is that everybody is dubbed. Okay, I can handle that. They are dubbed poorly, which is a little harder to take. And even though they are dubbed, the room tone still changes from shot to shot. Here, allow me to demonstrate, with the movie’s opening:

You will notice something else, here. Although the intention was to overdub everyone, writer/director/super auteur Ron Switzer apparently told everyone to pause for a few seconds before saying their lines so the echo of his voice calling “ACTION!” could die away. But, in order to pad his movie out to the required 80 minutes for a feature, he left these pauses in. I could reduce the running time by about fifteen minutes just by cutting out those pauses. More on padding in a moment. First we should address what plot can actually be found:

Dr. Frank straps a woman to a chair and gives her an injection that he promises will cause her to give birth to a baby in 24 hours. Strangely, she is okay with this. She writhes in the chair while screams are dubbed in. The next morning, Frank and his assistants come in (science is not something that needs to be observed, I guess), to find her corpse and a baby on the floor. Frank instructs his assistants to wrap the baby’s head in gauze, which makes as much sense as anything else so far.

crazed4In the matter of a few hours, the baby has grown into a strapping adult gauze-faced Fiend, who kills Frank and proceeds to wander the endless halls of the Shelley Institute, looking for victims. The Shelley Institute has an pretty unusual variety of facilities, and a bunch of people doing a variety of things in these facilities, most of them unexplained. None of them know a Fiend is coming, although the thing sounds like a lion with a sinus infection snoring in a cardboard box.

Let’s look at the first major segment, which is going to bring us back to the truly diseased amount of padding in this movie: There are two women exercising in one of the Institute’s many odd rooms. The Fiend stalks the halls, drawing closer. We think he’s drawing closer. He could be moving away from them, for all the clues the camerawork and editing give us. The women continue to exercise. No, wait, it’s not so much that they continue to exercise as the same damned footage is repeated over and over again until the segment is ten goddamn minutes long. Switzer took his tape recorder to a gym to record a real workout session, which means there are far more people on the soundtrack than there are in the exercise room.

Doug Tilley, possibly in an attempt to warn the world, possibly in an act of contrition, posted this entire sequence to YouTube. Go ahead, I dare you:

Some build-up, huh? Some monster attack, huh?

Now consider the excruciating volcanic hell of nearly an hour and a half of this.

There is a blonde in a room doing something with a microphone, maybe? Switzer is quite proud of the swirling camerawork he did around her because he repeats it five or six times while someone bangs on a Casio keyboard. Interspersed with hallway shots, of course.

vlcsnap-2012-12-18-19h36m22s36The two assistants do call in a cop (he’s browsing in a local video store) who looks like a high school senior giving his impression of what a loose cannon cop must be like – I haven’t seen a prop gun so misused since Plan 9 From Outer Space. Apparently all the other cops have the weekend off, so he and the two assistants split up to look for the Fiend.

The Shelley Institute also has an indoor swimming pool which has some sort of party going on in the middle of the night. Science Crazed has its educational aspects, as we discover that ladies in Canada wear high heels and sunglasses to indoor pools. The Fiend takes exception to this, drowns one woman who obligingly swims up to him, and shuffles off.

One of the last of the people in the Shelley Institute to fall to the Fiend’s strolling rampage is a woman making a list of countries in which to test nerve gas, That she composes her list so slowly is a droll bit of self-parody in this movie, so I assume it’s in there by mistake.

This is a movie shot in slow motion that has absolutely no slow motion in it. Unless you count the scene where the worthless cop dies, and I think he’s supposed to be crumpling to the ground in slow motion, but is really only moving very slowly.

scicra3I’ve also seen movies that get confused between daytime and nighttime, but I’ve never seen that in a movie happening indoors. There are plenty of times that the Fiend walks into a fully-lit room, only to have the next scene happen in a spotlight in a dark room. I’d say it’s an artistic conceit, but the rest of the movie argues against any artistry whatsoever.

Incidentally, the Fiend can dodge bullets, but it can’t dodge a machete. Go figure.

The movie ends with the supposedly dead Fiend’s eye opening and a promise of a sequel, which results in my traditional send-off to really bad movies: “Oh, fuck you!”

Science Crazed is apparently on YouTube in its entirety. You can find it yourself, if you’re so inclined. I refuse to have that stain on my karma.

Doug Tilley, why you hate me so?