I: The Incubus (1982)

Letterboxd ♠ Master List

You know, this was supposed to be my “I” entry last year, but I decided to watch I, Frankenstein instead, mainly so I could get it posted before everybody forgot that I, Frankenstein even existed.

By the time I finished finally watching The Incubus, I really wished I had just watched I, Frankenstein all over again.

John Cassavetes is Sam Cordell, a surgeon who has recently moved to Galen Village, a small New England town, with his teenage daughter Jenny (Erin Nobel). Seems he’s the only doctor, as he’s going to wind up being medical examiner and resident Quincy. Something is violently raping women and murdering men; the first victim, Mandy (Mitch Martin) will be the only survivor, and then only because Cordell performs an emergency hysterectomy to remove her ruptured uterus.

“We can’t close the town! It’s the 4th of July!”

The rapes and murders continue, as the local police, as represented by John Ireland, are useless. After Mandy, our rapist starts leaving a prodigious amount of semen behind – analysis can’t identify it except to say it is faster and more aggressive than normal sperm, and red. The County Investigator (Harry Drivas) feels the large quantity of sperm points to a gang of perps, though Cordell isn’t so sure. After all, his daughter’s boyfriend, Tim (Duncan MacIntosh) is having headaches and bad dreams that coincide with the incidents…

Oh, yeah, a similar series of rape/murders happened in the town thirty years ago, which is something you might think is pertinent to any investigation, but noooo, it has to be brought up by local crusading journalist Laura Kinkaid (Kerrie Keane), who, incidentally looks just like Cordell’s last girlfriend, who he may have killed accidentally and oh say also Tim’s creepy aunt Agatha (Helen Hughes) is from a long line of witch hunters and

This movie will give you a headache. It’s based on a novel by Ray Russell, which should be a pretty fair indicator of quality, but that is a hope that will be dashed (yeah, it’s tempting to say that hope will be insert terrible thing that happens in the movie but it doesn’t deserve that much effort). What it does feel like is one of those gaudily-covered horror novels chronicled in Paperbacks From Hell (for all I know, it is) that glutted the market after The Exorcist and The Omen made bank, except those authors, even at their hackiest, had a firmer hand on story and character. This script does nobody any favors (least of all the audience), and John Cassavetes seems genuinely pissed to be forced to say these lines.

The decision was also made to not show the title character until the closing scene of the movie, which is a classic approach (that’s a pretty good monster, though) – but that means we spend a lot of time concentrating of the agony of the victims during the rape. A lot of time. Too much time. Dario Argento would call it excessive.

I also expected a bit more from director John Hough, who had delivered a decent horror flick with The Legend of Hell House, but he can’t get a grip on a slippery, nigh incomprehensible story that loses brain cells the longer it goes on. I have tried to figure out the timeline that is set out in the closing quarter of the movie, and though I like puzzles, I am not adverse to throwing the damn things across the room when they’re missing pieces or just too shabbily constructed to fit together correctly.

In conclusion, the 1966 Esperanto movie Incubus, starring William Shatner, is much scarier and makes more sense.

Next, please.

H: The House with Laughing Windows (1976)

Letterboxd ♠ Master List

So back a couple of years ago I reviewed Pupi Avati’s Zeder to close out Hubrisween and I was impressed enough to track down more of his work (so it took me two years. So what).

House opens impressively enough, with a man, strung up with arms overhead, being stabbed to death in slow-motion while we hear some crazed loon babble about the colors in his veins and paint running down his arms, all during the opening credits.

Then we meet Stefano (Lino Cappolicchio) (Avati had a thing for naming his protagonists Stefano), a professional restorationist who has been hired by the mayor (Bob Tonelli) of a small village to restore a fresco in the church. It’s a painting of the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, done by a local artist, Buono Legnani, known as “The Painter of Agony” because of his preference for painting and drawing only subjects near death.

Stefano was hired on the recommendation of his old friend, Dr. Mazza (Giuilio Pizzarani), who was researching Legnani. Mazza is always on the cusp of telling Stefano something important about Legnani and the village, but the arrival of someone local will make him nervous and interrupt his tale, until he asks Stefano to meet him at his hotel. Of course, when Stefano arrives, it’s just in time to see Mazza thrown out a window to his death.

In proper giallo style, Stefano investigates the mystery of Legnani himself, despite creepy anonymous phone calls commanding him to leave. He finds an old wire recorder, containing the utterances we heard during the opening. Legnani was obviously more than a little off-kilter, and was aided and abetted in his off-kilterness by his two sisters, who Stefano comes to realize (as more and more of the fresco is revealed) are the models for the two women joyously murdering Saint Sebastian – and an actual murder may have taken place to act as a model for the painting. Legnani reportedly doused himself with kerosene and ran blazing into the woods, his body never found; and Stefano begins to fear that Legnani is not truly dead, and he and his sisters may still be up to no good – and they seem to have some sort of horrible control over the village at large.

The House With Laughing Windows is the most un-giallo giallo you will ever see. Most movies in this genre will keep you occupied with multiple murders, even more red herrings, sex (usually as perverse as possible), or heightened, intense visuals. House has none of these, but does have the doom-laden atmosphere and the independent investigator in way, way over his head. Leave it to Avati to not travel the well-worn road.

The movie is 110 minutes long, too long in my estimation. The final fifteen minutes, though, are suitably nightmarish and horrifying, but it can be a chore to get to them. If you’re, say, a fan of slow burn horror directors like Ty West, this is going to be right up your alley, and you should seek it out. For me, though, it’s more of a case of Okay, now I’ve seen it, and going on to my next horror movie, which will hopefully be more to my liking.

(Spoiler: it will not be.)

THE TIME HAS COME

If you’ve been with us for any length of time, You know that things get a little hectic this time of year. Several sites engage in the strange behavior called Hubrisween, and we are one of them.

Ask for it by name!

What this means is we go through the alphabet, a movie and a review a day, until we wind everything up on Halloween with the letter Z, and probably lots and lots of zombies. There are other Halloween horror marathons, but this one is ours.

Here’s what you have to look forward to – or dread – tomorrow:

If you can’t wait that long, here’s what we did in 2014, 2015, 2016, and last year. That should tide you over until tomorrow morning, surely.

That is, if we survive until morning.

GOD I LOVE THIS SONG

Hail to the Bandit, Baby

So there I was, tooling around, stacking up my reviews in advance of Hubrisween… and then Burt Reynolds up and died.

Whenever a famous person goes to their reward, I don’t usually do the “Well, I guess I know what I’m watching tonight” thing. The one exception I can think of was watching Head the night Davy Jones passed away, but then I don’t need much of an excuse to watch Head again. For some reason the passing of Reynolds was different. Maybe it was because I was approaching horror movie overload:

Remember, most recently watched is at the left. This is the obstacle I hit.

I wasn’t a big Reynolds fan. I didn’t dislike him, it’s just that, by and large, he decided to make movies that didn’t much appeal to me. When I did watch one, I was okay with the time spent. He was immensely likable and smooth in delivery. He was very good at what he did. But I watched him more in Dan August than I did on the big screen. Nonetheless, that was a legend passing, and I did have this $5 DVD of Smokey and the Bandit sitting around in its original shrinkwrap against just such an emergency.

And no, I had never seen it before. I have this snob reaction to popular movies, and man, saying Smokey and the Bandit was popular in 1977 is like saying Star Wars might have been popular around the same time (Smokey was #2 at the box office that year. guess what was first).  Oddly, I had no problems watching Star Wars multiple times…

Anyway, now I can say I’ve seen it. It was, as I expected, largely harmless redneck fun.

  • In case you passed over watching it as much as I did, Burt is the Bandit of the title, a trucking legend who, along with his partner Snowman (Jerry Reed) agrees to a challenge made by rich douchebags Big and Little Enos (Pat McCormick and Paul Williams), to run 400 cases of Coors Beer from Texarkana to Georgia in 48 hours for their big party.
  • It was impossible to get Coors east of the Mississippi at this time, as it wasn’t pasteurized and had to refrigerated constantly. Therefore, this was considered bootlegging.
  • As a lifelong Texan, I am amazed at this mythic quality attributed to Coors. It was available in Texas by the time I hit drinking age -18 in 1976 – and it was worshiped like a heathen idol. Eh.
  • Anyway, the plan is for Snowman to drive the truck with the beer way over the speed limit, and Bandit in a Trans-Am to run interference.
  • It is safe to say that Pontiac had a very good year thanks to this movie. My friend Scott points out that my opinion of the ubiquitous Trans-Ams on campus was “I want to either own them or blow them up.” I replied that was my attitude on a lot of things.
  • For the record, it still is.
  • On the way, Bandit picks up a literal runaway bride (Sally Fields), who will be his love interest for the rest of the movie and its sequel (and several years in reality).
  • I’d like to say that this viewing made me fall in love with Sally Fields all over again, but that would be a lie. I never fell out of love with her. She is just so goshdang adorable.

  • This pickup will also put him in direct conflict with Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason), whose idiot son (Mike Henry) was the groom in the wedding Sally is running away from. Yes, this is the Smokey of the title.
  • They have adventures. There are many car crashes.
  • Besides Pontiac, makers of Citizen’s Band radios probably had a very good year.
  • God, remember CB radios? Never mind, you’re all children.
  • I wish Jackie Gleason had actually been given something funny to do. Richard Boone was up for the role, but Reynolds wanted someone who could actually be funny, and not quite such a drunk.
  • I have bad news for him about that. Gleason was a comedy genius, but whenever he asked his assistant to bring him a “hamburger”, he meant a glass of vodka.
  • This is director Hal Needham’s first movie – before this he had been a well-respected stunt guy (and this shows in his movies). This one of the least episodic of his flicks, but it’s still… pretty episodic.

Generally speaking, as mentioned above, I didn’t begrudge Smokey and the Bandit the time I spent on it. I probably resent the flood of truckers-as-modern-cowboys movies that followed more, like High-Ballin’ and Convoy. And The Villain. I will never stop resenting The Villain. Thank God Needham returned to car crash movies for most of his directing career (*cough* Megaforce *cough cough*).

Recovering from a Burt hangover

I’m more interested in how this derailed my planned movie watching for a while. As you can see below, I tried to jumpstart the Hubrisween train with Eaten Alive, which is a good documentary about Italian cannibal movies (Umberto Lenzi’s claiming to invent the genre is almost as entertaining as his claims in the similar documentary Yellow Fever that his giallo flicks are the best of all time), but obviously that didn’t take. Hence, Bikini Drive-in, which my Crapfest compatriots hardly suspect will be dropped on them at our next gathering (don’t tell them). That seemed to satisfy whatever beast had been awakened by the rural drive-in charms of Smokey, and I’ve got back into my questionable groove.

I hope whatever way you chose to give tribute to Reynolds’ career was as painless and somewhat nostalgic as mine.

Hubrisween is coming, so gird whatever version of loins you may possess.

Crapfest: The Milestone

Due to the arc of my life’s pursuits, I don’t have normal nightmares. In high school you usually get the didn’t-study-for-the-test nightmare. Instead mine were about missing the bus for a speech tournament. I aged into the actor’s nightmare of here’s-the-script-show-starts-in-twenty-minutes. What about the blocking? We’ll get it to you, plenty of time Oops, places!

So it came to pass that I actually had a dream about showing up to a Crapfest, but forgetting my movies. That was understandable, since I had apparently spent most of the day driving hazardous cargo through some dangerous roads in a third world country (Sorcerer comes back to haunt you at the weirdest times). So I immediately left to get the movies, which is when the meteor struck a few blocks away.

I’m still kind of pissed that I didn’t go to investigate that meteorite, no, the movies were too important.

Me, trying to drum up excitement for our 200th movie

I have only myself to blame. I had noticed that on the Letterboxd page I use to keep track of Crapfest offerings, we were approaching our 200th flick, and started drumming up that event like Kroger Babb with a new movie showcasing the miracle of childbirth. In the interest of transparency: Dave does not like that I count short subjects. Letterboxd does not have a means of crediting us for viewing five out six episodes of Pink Lady & Jeff, the very first episode of Hee HawBattle of the Video Games or Movin’ With Nancy. Yes, a definite case can be made it was not our 200th movie, but screw it, I was having fun.

How much fun? The 200th movie was on a flash drive, and I had altered the file name to, simply “200th Movie” to keep its identity a secret. There is a bag of DVDs, full of lamentable movies, that I used to bring to every Crapfest before moving to the Flash Drive of Doom; I brought this once more to provide a Bag of Red Herrings. I had one of those clickers that are used to count crowds at sporting events and the like so there would never be any doubt what number movie we were on. That’s how much fun.

We had the band back together again: Myself, Host David, Rick, Erik, Alan, Paul, and my son Max. Dave’s friend Eric-with-a-C had been threatening promising to come for some time, was apparently going to actually make it this time, so the movie Dave had on for background noise while we arrived was allowed to play out, to give Eric-with-a-C time to arrive, and that is how The Great Gabbo became Movie #195.

The Wrong Eric arrived early.

This is a 1929 early talkie. Erich von Stroheim is the title character, a stage ventriloquist who “does the impossible” by drinking and smoking while his dummy, Otto, sings a song. (a version of “the impossible” which seems to be the standard of ventriloquism these days, eh?) Gabbo also has a serious problem in that the only way he can interact with other people is through the dummy. This severely messes up his relationship with his assistant Mary (Betty Compson), who eventually leaves Gabbo’s abuse to become a singer. She still works at the same theater with the increasingly famous Gabbo, until he finally manages to tell her of his love for her, but haha, in the intervening years she’s secretly married her dance partner, who was actually nice to her. Gabbo loses it and rants at his audience, gets fired, downer ending.

One of my many friends smarter than me, Mark Konecny, pointed out that the early movies’ relationship to Russian and Yiddish theater traditions was rarely stronger, and indeed, Gabbo seems more interested in presenting lavish musical production numbers than its tale of an insane ventriloquist. One of these production numbers, now lost to time, was done in a process called MultiColor. That still didn’t help its box office at the time, as the movie was not, shall we say, well-received.

Here, have a taste of what we did not realize was going to set the tone for the evening:

Eric-with-a-C had not yet arrived, so we started without him. Sort of.

As you may recall last time, we started out with Who Killed Captain Alex?, a $200 action flick from Uganda that utterly gripped the Crapfest audience. VJ Emmie, who kept up amazing commentary during its hour length, plugged the sequel, Bad Black, about 45 minutes in. I haven’t been able to find Bad Black anywhere, even on Wakaliwood’s YouTube page, but I did find its opening sequence, promising a premiere at the 2016 Fantasia Fest. Here is movie #196, and thankfully, VJ Emmie is there:

Also thankfully, there are no production numbers. There were, however, plentiful production numbers to be had in some Beatles cartoons. There was still no Eric-with-a-C, you see. I try to stock the Flash Drive of Doom with some filler, and this was from the third season – 1967 – after Revolver had been released. Suddenly Saturday morning TV had a half hour where children could be exposed to dime-store psychedelia:

STILL NO ERIC-WITH-A-C so we moved on to #197, the truly horrific and embarrassing 1944 short, Eliza on the Ice, which showed even Mighty Mouse was not exempt from not-so-casual racism: (you’ve been warned)

Had I known the bent the evening was going to take, I would have made a special effort to track down one of the operetta-style Mighty Mouse cartoons, which were much better made, and ten (if not a hundred) times less offensive. But Eric-with-a-C finally arrived in the middle of this, and we proceeded to make him regret it.

We nipped into Erik (with a K)’s dinner offering, a spicy pork dish called (concentrates extra hard to get the spelling right) puerco pibil, served over coconut rice, and daaaaamn. Possibly the last good memory we would have of that evening. We moved on to #198, a movie which Erik had tried to get on the agenda several times, and on this night of nights, he finally succeeded: Birdemic: Shock & Terror.

Featuring the SCREENSAVER OF DEATH

As you all know, I watched Birdemic years ago. In fact, I think at least half, if not more, of the attendees had also already seen it. But here is the miraculous democracy of Crapfest: it meant each of these people got to experience the usually solitary pleasure I often derive from the event. It’s an experience honed from years of going to film festivals for the Cinema of Diminished Expectations like B-Fest and the late, lamented New Orleans Worst Film Festival. (edit: holy shit, apparently it’s back?) The joy of knowing what’s coming, and hearing the lamentations of the uninitiated around you. Paul was especially vocal in his dismay, and that was appreciated.

What’s that you say? There are no musical numbers in Birdemic? Pfft! You have apparently forgotten the singer who croons an entire fucking song to our young lovers in an empty Irish bar. So empty his band isn’t even there. Maybe it’s a sparsely attended Karaoke Night? Anyway, here’s the most entertaining version of it I could find:

Speaking of movies that hadn’t quite made it to the screen over the years, there was one Dave had been toying with showing many times, and by thunder, if I was going to hog the #200 slot, then #199 was going to be 1978’s Rabbit Test.

Yes, this was Joan Rivers’ first (and only) movie in the director’s chair, also Billy Crystal’s film debut. After his very first sexual encounter, he finds out he is pregnant (because the woman was on top, duh), and the twists that puts in his life. At first a celebrity, then excoriated as a devil (because male pregnancy will result in overpopulation), there’s material for a thoughtful flick there. In other hands.

What you get is a fairly chaotic, often wacky, and even occasionally funny movie where the biggest draw is picking out all the TV personalities who are onscreen (crossovers like that were fairly rare at the time). Paul Lynde, Alice Ghostley, Imogene Coca, Alex Rocco, Norman Fell, George Gobel, Keene Curtis, Fanny Flagg, Richard Deacon (wearing a toupee!), Tom Poston, Peter Marshall (announcing The Hollywood Squares has gone bankrupt because Crystal’s pregnancy rendered a lot of wrong answers suddenly right), Michael Keaton in a tiny role, and I’m pretty sure I spotted Dick Sargent and William Smith as Secret Service agents. It’s the most amazing lineup of minor celebrities I’d seen since The Phynx.

Was there a production number? Why, of course! Crystal goes on a world tour, meets the Queen of England (Charles Pierce) and The Pope (Jack Fletcher). Try to hang on through this scene, as we meet “A. Touch of Darkness”:

Did you make it through Jimmy Walker’s parody of Willie Tyler and Lester, with Billy Barty in blackface?

Compare with Eliza on the Ice. In 34 years, we didn’t make it very far. If at all.

Anyway.

Is it time? Is it the 200th movie? It is? Does it have production numbers? Of course! Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring you…

Yes, The Apple. It had been repeatedly requested by Alan and Rick, and I thought it was time. Eric-with-a-C was unimpressed. Eric-with-a-C was however, impressed that when we named it Crapfest, we were serious about it. Too bad he hadn’t come all the times I had brought an actual good movie. Also, Eric-with-a-C was the one who recommended Teen Witch, so some payback might have been involved.

If you are unfamiliar with The Apple (I guess that’s possible), it is a notorious rock musical produced by Golan & Globus early in their career – the poor bastards thought this was actually going to be their ticket to Hollywood, not something like Enter the Ninja. In the far-flung future of 1994, the devilish Mr. Boogalow (Vladek Sheybal) actually controls the world through his Boogalow International Music (BIM). Everyone loves his acts, and everyone has to wear the BIM mark at all times, in the most naked Mark of the Beast metaphor outside a christian scare movie. Dudes, when I said devilish, I meant it. He is almost foiled by a folk-singing young duo from Moose Jaw, Alphie (George Gilmour) and Bibi (Catherine Mary Stewart), so of course he has to corrupt them and bring them to the Dark Side. However, on the signing day, Alphie can see what is really going on:

…and doesn’t sign with BIM. The rest of the movie is a musical struggle for Bibi’s soul, until, at the end, God flies down in a golden Rolls Royce and takes all the nice people away, the Disco Rapture. The end.

To say that The Apple bombed would be understatement worthy of a saint. It was hated and reviled, driving Menahem Golan to almost commit suicide. Check out the movie’s Wikipedia page – the story of its genesis as a too-expensive-to-produce stage show, about the musical business itself as a 1984 dystopia, until the Go-Go boys got their hands on it. It’s actually pretty interesting stuff. The entire opening number, “Paradise Day”, which cost $1 million to produce, was dropped, supposedly because Golan wanted to “not get too extreme with the religious overtones” (which is laughable when you see the movie as released), most certainly not because it was legendarily dreadful. I believe I first heard of The Apple through one of the Golden Turkey books, and saw the videotape once in the Sound Warehouse rental department. Was tempted, but probably rented Shogun Assassin again instead.

Then came B-Fest 2005, where a group of fans sponsored its showing. This was the ideal venue for my first viewing – in a reasonably packed house, with a bunch of people who loved movies (especially that kind), buzzed on caffeine and their own creativity. There was dancing in the aisles. Lyric sheets were handed out for singalongs. Everybody did the BIM. I bought the DVD on Amazon upon my return. That was the source for the Crapfest showing.

And this is where it gets weird, because honestly, I had never watched it again. And at Crapfest, it seemed kind of… streamlined. I recalled a Phantom of the Paradise-style subplot where one of Boogalow’s other clients sang a version of “Speed” and that song was BIM-ed up and given to Bibi (That’s right, we got to hear “Speed” twice). Those were missing. Sure enough, there at the bottom of the Wikipedia page, there was an original preview print floating around, with those scenes and longer cuts for other songs. It’s been played at places like Alamo Drafthouse. So hey there, all you cool cats from 13 years ago: we got to see something special.

And remember: all this is coming from a guy who hates musicals.

So there we had it. Our 200th movie. It was time to pack up and go home, right?

Oh, hell no. It was still relatively early.

As is traditional, every poster for this movie is ten times more awesome than the movie itself.

So Dave put on 1985’s Warriors of the Apocalypse, also known as Searchers of the Voodoo Mountain, because I swear to God he is on a mission to make us watch every Italian post-apocalyptic Road Warrior rip-off ever made. At least this time it was a Filipino post-apocalyptic Road Warrior rip-off, so that was theoretically refreshing.

This post-apocalypse couldn’t afford any dune buggies though, so our plucky band of warriors just walk around the rocky landscape in order to find other, supposedly less-savory bands of warriors to attack. In the skirmish that opens the film, a badass Filipino comes to their aid. They find out their new friend has fresh food to eat, and that he comes from the Valley of Life, just past Voodoo Mountain, and oh yeah, he’s 130 years old. Why, of course he’ll take them there!

Somehow these brainiacs had managed to miss that there were some mountains nearby with a jungle inside them, which has to be one of the nicest post-apocalyptic settings ever. There is the problem that they keep running into natives who want to run them through with spears, but fortunately our heroes have explosive bullets. Those don’t help them too much with the dwarves who keep coming back from the dead, though.

The guy in the center is Captain Hat, my & Max’s personal hero.

They are eventually led to a lost village of scantily-clad white women, but they have to wait until the full moon before the fertility gods will allow them to do what comes naturally. I’ll save you a lot of time and pain and reveal that there is still an atomic reactor under the village, which is why they have nice things like immortal dwarves and a queen with laser eye beams pew pew pew. Also, any men that our Filipino pal brings in from the outside world will get press-ganged into working the reactor (after they get the women pregnant to continue the tribe), resulting in a bunch of radiation-burned sorta mutants to rise up at the end. The Queen decides to raze the entire village and kill everybody with her eye blasts pew pew pew. Which seems only reasonable.

There was almost certainly a production number in there somewhere, as all lost civilizations made up of mostly women have to do one sometime. Frankly, this movie put certain parts of my brain to sleep, so that may have been wishful thinking or an hallucination.

But come on! Pew pew pew!

Surely that would be enough for everybody, you would think, Surely. Ha! You do not know this crowd! It was time for a movie with no production numbers whatsoever! It was time for… Gary Busey: Action Hero!

Bulletproof was made the year after Lethal Weapon, and the year before the motorcycle accident that arguably turned Busey into a non-superpowered Incredible Hulk. It’s produced by Fred Olen Ray, and directed by Steve Carver, who among other action flicks, gave us Big Bad Mama, two guys who are okay in my book.

As you noticed, Busey is the original McBain, a loose cannon cop who plays by his own rules (you probably also noticed a cleaned-up Danny Trejo in that clip). After the utterance of his catchphrase, above, he had our audience in the palm of his hand, by which I mean everybody finally shut up and actually stayed awake for the whole thing.

(The movie is called Bulletproof because that’s McBain’s nickname. Everytime he’s shot, he digs the bullets out himself and saves them in a mason jar)

I’m positive that is actually Busey.

Another thing we will find out is that McBain is ex-CIA. You see, there is a gathering of insurgents in Mexico, some of them Cuban and even (gasp!) Arab. And the magnificent plan cooked up by the spooks is to task Colonel L.Q. Jones to command a convoy delivering an experimental supertank code-named “Thunderblast” to “accidentally” stray into Mexico, and get captured. Since the Army captain in charge of the Thunderblast team is Darlanne Fluegel, McBain’s old flame (plus he also accidentally shot her husband in a dust-up with some mobsters), they will convince McBain to sneak into Mexico and, being McBain, kill everybody. Problem solved!

Yes, this is a remarkably stupid plan. I’m kind of pissed that it actually works. Eventually.

Good cast. Didn’t mention R.G. Armstrong, Henry Silva, Rene Enriquez, William Smith (again!) and Thalmus Rasulala as McBain’s cop partner who actually does not get killed! (Radical!) Yes, this movie is stupid as hell, but it’s also entertaining as hell.

Don’t get used to that, Eric-with-a-C.

Look, I know what you folks are here for:

Who the hell wears a fur hat in Mexico? EVIL SOVIET BASTARDS, THAT’S WHO!

So we are now officially at 202. Only 98 movies to go to 300!

Sleep well. Butthorns.

There Are No Metaphors in Halloween Hell

Oh, hai there.

I’m medicated again.

It’s a sad truth in modern America that sometimes you try to go without your meds in order to pay other bills. Blood pressure pills seem pretty necessary, but we can probably go without this statin that’s seemed to have no effect for five years, we can probably tough it out without the mood elevator.

Until a week ago when I realized that I temporarily had a little extra money and likely the best thing I could do was get the refill on the mood elevator I had put off for two or three months. And I have to say that waking up the next morning without thinking of suicide was quite refreshing. (My doctor says it takes two or three days for the pill to take effect, but I’ve not found that to be the case. Maybe my serotonin imbalance was minor enough that it only needed a nudge in the right direction. In any event, one less dragon to fight)

While my writing has been the most visible casualty of the crushing mantle of despair, I haven’t exactly been slacking. Still watching Prestige TV With A Capital P, though Real Life work has put a crimp on the time allowable for that. Having finished the current seasons of Legion and The Expanse, my sense of symmetry told me I needed to find two other series to accompany the second season of Westworld, so it was time to start Sense8 and the first season of Luke Cage. I’d been putting Cage off to watch the Netflix Marvel series in order, but hit my usual getting-sick-of-Netflix-series-around-episode-8 wall with the first season of Daredevil. Really enjoying these series so far, although I’m only two episodes in of each.

DON’T DO IT DON’T DO IT DON’T YOU DO IT

Noted Canadian war criminal Doug Tilley (he made me watch Science Crazed) asked me to guest on one of his podcasts, Eric Roberts is the Fucking ManHe then asked me to be a participant in my own damnation by having me select the Eric Roberts movie we would be discussing. That’s harder than you might think – Roberts’ IMDb page lists 513 actor credits, with probably 200-300 in the last few years. He’s like the modern-day John Carradine.

I discounted all the movies where he played “The Devil” – there are several – as that meant he was likely on set for twenty minutes or so. But there was one that drew my eye, and that was Halloween Hell, where he is listed as playing “Count Dracula”. And it was on Prime Video. You can listen to that episode of the podcast at the site above, but you’re already here, so I might as well use my notes and grumble about the stuff I never got to in the podcast. (ERITFM likes to clock in at an hour, which is something I appreciate in a podcast, my fanboy love for The Projection Booth notwithstanding)

We start with a bunch of kids wandering through a warehouse with a video camera (you are going to become very familiar with this warehouse). They find a misshapen black statuette with Sculpey fangs (ditto the statuette). These teens are three guys and two girls, basically the Scooby Gang without the budget for a Great Dane with a speech impediment. One girl freaks out and tries to run, resulting a door magically slamming shut and The Demon (I think it’s a Type IV) appearing from the statuette and offing the kids one by one.

  1. We start with a disembowelment, shot at floor level, behind the victim. Classic movie cheat.
  2. A throat slash. First appearance of CGI blood, notable for its neon color.
  3. The demon presses a face mask on a girl’s head, then pulls it away, revealing that the other side of the mask was coated with blood. Oh, wait, I think he was supposed to be pulling her actual face off.
  4. The last girl starts flailing around on the floor and screaming while hoses pump blood through her clothes. This will be our first example of death by overacting.
  5. The last guy almost gets away, but the Demon shows up and get our B-movie deal sealed by my old favorite: facial lacerations are fatal.

Blah. Blah.

Eric Roberts tells us those deaths were “years ago” and remained unsolved. He then informs us that he is Count Dracula, and he is hosting a once-in-a-lifetime Internet event: He has the statuette, carved by Haitian slaves “from lava from the depths of Hell”. It houses a demon, and there will be six contestants who will spend 24 hours in a camera-festooned room with it, those 24 hours being midnight-to-midnight on Halloween. Each will earn $100,000 for getting through the day. The cost for the pay-per-view is a mere $24, “One dollar for each hour.”

The contestants are basically what used to be defined in Dynaman as “six good-looking young friends from all walks of life”:

  1. Nerd Boy, who wants the money to open his own high tech company and become Bill Gates
  2. Gothia, a Russian import and stripper exotic dancer, needs $100,000 worth of clothes and make-up
  3. Jessie – “The All-Star’s sweetheart”, who is given no motivation for the money
  4. Toby – who wants the money to start his country music singing career
  5. Rose – an undocumented immigrant who wants the money to go to nursing school and help her brother open a car repair shop (no stereotypes here)
  6. Mr. Jones – our token black who intends to use the money for an independent film

It’s the tusks that get me.

The statuette is in a room in that damnable warehouse which has been tricked out with the entire contents of somebody’s storage locker where they stuffed their Halloween decorations each year for the past decade or so. This is, I guess, meant to be ironic, but god it is cheesy.

Toby the country boy was obviously instructed to go over the top and given no further direction. When you do something like that to an actor, they keep trying to find the top, and getting no further instruction, keep going further and further out. In short, Toby looks like he’s being prepped to be the first to die, just to give us some relief. However, as Mr. Jones points out, “The Brother Man is always the first to go.”

This brings us to another bizarre sidetrip: Dracula is also running a website where you can bet on who will die and in what order. The janitor for the building where Drac is hosting his part of the show logs on to bet that Mr. Jones will be the first to die, causing the Demon to manifest and kill him by making blood gush from his scalp. In a few scenes, a woman will come in looking for the janitor, find his body, and she will be our next Death by Overacting.

Neither of these scenes are long enough to actually qualify as the sort of padding you do when your picture is not an agreed-upon length for distribution. It asks the question, is this happening to everyone who bets on the site? If it is, it would certainly mean more money for Dracula, since he’ll never have to pay out, but that’s never explored. If the Demon can just manifest anywhere, why the hell is the statuette even necessary?

Back at the reality show: we’re basically trying to make what is known as a “submarine film” here, with all the action taking place in a single room. The thing about those are they’re cheap, but you need to have crackling dialogue, something interesting for the characters to do. We don’t get the former, and for the latter, we have Toby singing a song, and strip poker. At least Friday the 13th had the class to switch that up with strip Monopoly.

(At one point, one of his “brides”, either “The Dragon Lady” or “Nectar-feel-ya”, asks Dracula “Where did you get him?” about Toby. “Texas! Where else?” which led me to a hearty “Fuck you movie!” which had been building up for at least a half-hour. Then I realized I could pinpoint within 30 miles which town Toby came from)

“You’re getting CGI everywhere!”

Mr. Jones does indeed get his throat slashed, with a fair amount of CGI blood sweetening so they don’t get the couch he’s lying on messy. Rose demonstrates why she needs to go to nursing school by attempting CPR on a guy with a cut throat. Jessie stabs herself in the eye with some dagger that was obligingly stuck in the wall. Toby and Nerd Boy start yelling to be let out or an ambulance to be called, allowing Roberts to have the best line of the whole movie, “Children of the night! What music they make!”

Now luckily, as our cast keeps getting whittled down, Nerd Boy, before showing up, had gone to a “Voodoo Lady” to find out about demons. “Voodoo Lady” is never given a name, so I dubbed her “Mama Machina” (first name Deus, middle initial X). She gave him some “magnets” (which look more like those stick-on lights for your closet you see on late-night TV)  and a steel urn to capture the Demon.

Guh.

This was written and directed by Ed Hunt, who I was familiar with from Starship Invasions, which I admit I had only seen because it was shown at a Crapfest. He also did Bloody Birthday and The Brain, which are both better regarded (I’ve seen neither, though). This is his first movie since 1988, make of that what you will.

Roberts makes sure Hunt gets his day rate’s worth. Almost all the rest of the money went for that Demon makeup, which is pretty damned good – which is fortunate, because he gets more screen time than Roberts. Also thrifty is the design choice that from the waist down he’s CGI flames, a type III floating torso, as Ray Stantz would say. As for the rest… I’ve seen worse. The script does them no favors.

Really, the tagline of this blog should be, “I’ve Seen Worse”. That doesn’t mean you have to.

 

 

Let Us Remember Crapfest

These are mine and you cannot have them.

If there is one thing that doing Crapfests for mumblemumble years has taught us, they are best with a fighting chance at having the following day off. Therefore, the Sunday before Memorial Day was deemed excellent, and all participated except Paul, who was busy dealing with Real Life. Erik was back, with his burrito bowls, which meant that I ate better than I had all week, and that was a week in which I had made meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, and roast asparagus. In trying to support his efforts, I had made a bean salsa that was well received, and if nothing else, in the time while the chicken and other ingredients for the Bowls were cooking, I rediscovered the youthful joy making of my own nachos with this salsa and the chips and queso Rick had brought.

But, although I am sitting here with a smile of gustatory nostalgia on my face, you are saying Can the balloon juice, professor, what about the movies? You obviously do not care for the finer things in life, but then, neither do we, which is why we have Crapfests.

Max is home for the Summer, and this fest brought Max’s very first contribution, Who Killed Captain Alex? It is very difficult to describe Who Killed Captain Alex? with mere words. It is a Ugandan action movie, shot on a reported budget of under $200. Some of the guns are obvious toys, but most are carved wood and other odds and ends slapped together and painted black. One character, a mercenary from Russia (who is quite obviously not from Russia) has a bandolier of bullets which are patently sharpened sticks. The whole thing is very like when a bunch of friends get together and make a movie for a goof, and director Nabwana IGG treats it almost the same – he rendered it off to a DVD master and then wiped his computer clean so he could make another one, because it was obviously never going to be seen by anyone outside his village.

Enter the Internet.

About the hardest thing our little group of Wakaliwood virgins had to deal with was the Video Joker, VJ Lemmy, who keeps up a running commentary on the movie. As the Wikipedia entry on The Cinema of Uganda informs us (you can tell I was impressed by Who Killed Captain Alex? because I was moved to do research):

Audiences go to video halls where narrators called “video jokers” translate the dialogue and add their own commentary.

so Lemmy is basically a one-man MST3K. At one point he exclaims, “This is how we watch movies in Uganda!” and apparently it is. He also tells us what movie we are watching every ten minutes or so, which seems absurd on the surface but is likely for the benefit of folks who just walked into the video hall a few minutes before. Lemmy is subtitled in yellow, while the movie’s dialogue is in white.

You want a plot? Come on. Okay, the Tiger Mafia is in control of Kampala, so the government sends in their best soldier, Captain Alex, to take control of the commandos and stop the Tiger Mafia and their leader, Richard. Alex’s men arrest Richard’s brother after a pitched battle, and Richard – after learning about it from a special TV bulletin – declares war to get his brother back. Captain Alex is killed, but nobody knows who did it, so his brother – a Ugandan Shaolin Monk – takes on the case.

(Erik: “I wonder if his name is Bruce.” (five minutes later) “Holy crap, his name is Bruce.”)

That’s a great gun, dude.

It’s also only sixty minutes long.

The thing is, those action scenes are actually pretty good. The muzzle flashes and spurting blood may be introductory-level After Effects digital hoohah, but it’s all heartfelt, decently edited, and the CGI helicopter fights at the end… well, they have to be seen to be appreciated.

Have you been good? Do you truly deserve this? Okay, then.

Yeah, yeah, I know, you’re reading this at work (naughty!) and don’t have a hour. Fine. here:

For those of you did watch the full-length video – no, we have no idea who killed Captain Alex. Nobody does. That’s why it’s art.

The food was ready. We ate (not for the first or last time that evening), and Erik brought out his entry: The Man Who Saves the World, or as it is better known around these parts, Turkish Star Wars.

It is called that because, rather famously, it nakedly rips off space battle footage from Star Wars and waves it in your face. Herein lies the very first problem, and probably the reason my only other attempt to watch this movie, many years ago, resulted in failure. We have a lot of cultural baggage associated with that footage, of course – we know who’s flying those ships, what the histories are behind them. The Man Who Saves the World makes no attempt to tell us which of the many vessels whizzing about are being flown by our two heroes, Turkish superstar Cüneyt Arkin and Aytekin Akkaya. They get shot down despite being our heroes, wind up on a desert planet ruled by a spiky Darth Vader wannabe, and aaaaaah who cares. Visit the Wikipedia page for the plot, because that’s the only way I – and hundreds (if not thousands) of others, including the guy who translated it into English – could figure out what was going on. Arkin also has the screen-writing credit, so blame him. Blame him early and often.

Spike Vader has a bunch of Cylon knock-offs and some life-size muppets who are disturbingly easy to pull apart and beat with their own disembodied arms and legs. There’s a mute woman and a prophecy and the most impractical freaking design for a magic sword ever (that comes with its own brain) which Arkin winds up melting down for armored gloves so he can relive his Lion Man glory days, anyway.

This makes me long for the high-tech majesty of Police Robot L in Starcrash.

Turkish cinema of the period (obviously) had a very noncommital and abusive relationship with International Copyright Law, and when we saw the movie was not going to meet us halfway with any sort of actual plot, the survival game became identifying what movie the soundtrack was lifted from at any given moment, Raiders of the Lost Ark being the main victim, but it was joined by Flash Gordon (even ripping off Max von Sydow’s laugh at one point), The Black Hole, and Silent Running.

It also had the first appearance that evening of the character I only refer to as “The Hippie from Birdemic”, a character who appears to offer an info dump that may or may not contain anything pertinent to the story, but certainly fills out the running time. This time it’s a priest who babbles on and on about Islam and lost tribes. Then we’re back to a welter of stolen space warfare and I think the good guys won, maybe.

Now it was time for Dave’s entry, or as he put it, “You don’t get to go yet, because Max counts as you.” This might seem reasonable, but it was still no excuse to put on 1978’s Matilda. Dave has seemingly become the guy who brings up movies played ad infinitum in the afternoon on HBO and Cinemax back in the day (see his earlier selection, Teen Witch).

Clive Revill, Elliott Gould and Art Metrano try to figure out how to get out of this movie.

Elliott Gould would like to forget that he plays down-on-his-luck fight promoter Bernie Bonnelli, who lucks onto the title character, a boxing kangaroo that can take on and best all comers. This leads into a plot where Gould has to convince Boxing Commissioners to allow sanctioned matches, as portrayed by Roy Clark (was it Alan or Rick who observed “This is probably the type of movie that won’t let Roy anywhere near a guitar”? Whichever it was, he was far too right), avoid the bumbling henchmen of mobster Uncle No-No (Harry Guardino), and completely screw over the worldview of his love interest (Karen Carlson), who works for the ASPCA, but eventually admits that exploitation of animals is A-OK, especially if that animal is a man in a suit.

A boy and his demon.

The “Hippie in Birdemic” character was under our noses the entire time in the person of Matilda’s caretaker, Billy Baker (Clive Revill) who reveals that if a boxing kangaroo is ever actually hit, it will never box again just before the climactic match with the world heavyweight champion. Nice timing, Clive.

You might have noticed I have spoken little of our title character. As mentioned, Matilda is a man (Gary Morgan) in a costume. This is spectacularly obvious from the get-go, no effort is made to conceal this fact, although Morgan does bounce up and down in every scene in a nod to method acting. The costume doesn’t even have the decency to try to mask Morgan’s legs, which, being human, the knees bend in the wrong direction. The head is immobile, impassive. If Quint were describing it, he would mention that it has “dead eyes, a doll’s eyes” which doubtless roll up when the kangaroo gets its first taste of blood.

Max found it frankly terrifying.

“Fook ‘im oop, Matilda!”

The IMDb does cough up this bit of trivia:

Producer Albert S. Ruddy once said of this movie: “We debated over using both a real kangaroo and an actor in costume and opted for the latter as cross-cutting proved too jarring for the viewer. However the costume was a $30,000 investment that paid off as it not only allowed freedom of movement, but we were able to program it with transistors to allow us to direct the actor’s tiniest gesture”.

If by “tiniest gesture” you mean “absolutely none”, then that is not a totally delusional quote. Matilda does manage to get in a few ear twitches and blinks, but doesn’t manage a curl of the lip until after the final fight. Maybe it took that long for the operators to get the hang of those $30,000 transistors.

Here, try to ignore that Robert Mitchum is somehow involved in this, and that in that final shot Matilda is staring DIRECTLY INTO YOUR SOUL:

So now it was my turn, and after Turkish Star Wars and Matilda, I was not about to apologize for what I was going to do, and what I was going to do was R.I.P.D.

I could tell you the plot of R.I.P.D., but it would be easier to just say “take the plot of Men in Black, substitute dead people for aliens, Ryan Reynolds for Will Smith, Jeff Bridges for Tommy Lee Jones, Mary-Louise Parker for Rip Torn, and omit the talking pug.” It is fair to say that this movie was the point at which America was actively begging Hollywood to stop trying to make Ryan Reynolds happen. I guess that path eventually leads to the Deadpool movies, but man, that period was rough going.

This is also the year that Jeff Bridges decided he was going to use all his funny voices.

Here’s that mercenary from Russia to remind you of back when we were having fun.

R.I.P.D. was one of the few times I’ve brought a movie to Crapfest without viewing it first; Max knew I had a copy (bought used, and I scrawled “Please! We’ll pay YOU!” over the price tag. Great fun at parties!) and asked that I wait until his return to show it. It’s not a truly baaaaaad movie, just excessively predictable, and kinda pathetic in that way that you can’t even make fun of it. How the hell you manage to do that with a movie that stars Jeff Bridges and features James Hong and Kevin Bacon is beyond me (please, nobody bring up Seventh Son). And now Alan hates me because he paid money to see it in the theater.

Aaaah, he probably hated me anyway. Also, Erik has unfriended me on Facebook.

It was decided that we could cram in one more movie before we all turned into pumpkins, and Dave thoughtfully provided The Great Bikini Off-Road Adventure. A return to Crapfest basics, as it were (as I told you last time, the roots of ancient Crapfest can be found in huge marble tablets that read, simply, T&A) .

We’re in Utah, and Uncle Duke’s (Floyd Irons) jeep tour business is in trouble, and you can bet it’s all due to the company that wants to strip-mine the desert (boooo!) He asks his niece Lori (Lauren Hayes) for advice (since she just got her “lawyer license”), as he needs to come up with ten grand in a month to stave off Evil Capitalists Inc. Lori and her vacationing girl pals take over the jeep tours, then discover that they can charge twice as much when they conduct the tours in their bikinis ($8! The Community Center is saved!). Then each tour ends up basically being a Playboy video, so God knows how much they’re charging by that point. Maybe as much as ten bucks!

Blackface Dynamite! Ask for it by name!

There’s an Evil Capitalist henchman whose job it is to sabotage the jeep tours, but fortunately for our heroes, he’s taken Bill Murray’s character in Caddyshack for his role model. Fortunately for him, the dynamite he keeps slinging around and inevitably sitting on is not the lethal variety, but cartoon blackface dynamite.

Soooo there’s a lot of boobage, some largely inept villainy, and a last-minute plot injection to get us to the finish line, when the Hippie from Birdemic informs us that a rock about to be dynamited by two more inept and theoretically comedic Evil Capitalist henchmen is a protected cultural artifact! There has also been an Indian shaman who shows up every now and then to gather the cast-off bikini tops; his appearances are always announced by that dramatic twang that opens Peter Gabriel’s “The Rhythm of the Heat”. He does some questionable magic to save the rock. Everybody lives happily ever after, and that included us, who went home satisfied, well-fed, and still hating Ryan Reynolds.

(Not so) Amazingly, YouTube does not have a trailer for this, but here is the very same version Dave employed. Join us in saying “Hi-Fi!” everytime those words appear.

“Hi-Fi!”