Crapfest: The Mutining

It’s a familiar story by now, so let’s skip it. Sudden loss of paying gig, instead embrace life by making each other suffer with a Crapfest. It just turns out that mission statement was a little too literal this time.

Prepping for the evening’s entertainment

In attendance: Myself, Host David, Rick, Paul, Alan and Erik. I also brought my son, Max, who as we know, is establishing his own bona fides in the world of Crap. The beginning of these things is always a fluid matter, as inevitably we wait for one person or another to show up. The filler for this period was episodes of Jason of Star Command, one of Filmation’s wholesomely boring Saturday morning sci-fi offerings after parent groups scoured the mornings of violently entertaining fare like The Herculoids and Space Ghost.

Jason occupies the sweet (?) spot between Star Wars and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Spun off from the previous year’s Space Academy, it thriftily used that series’ models; the most salient features are Jimmy Doohan as the Commander, and Sid Haig as the cyborg villain Dragos. Jason dresses like a Walmart Han Solo, and has a windup toy robot which has a handy deus ex machina function. There is really not enough Sid Haig, but each episode, sans commercials, was only about 10 minutes, so we kept going on until everybody got there, about four episodes worth.

Before we started in earnest, Dave demanded the flash drives of myself and Erik so he could examine the contents for (harrumph) quality. Of the several flicks on Erik’s drive, he singled out one, and I held that I had never seen it, so that is what we started with. And it would set the sad, horrible tone for the rest of the evening.

Because that movie was The Roller Blade Seven.

There are, in all, five – count them, five – Roller Blade movies. Six, if you count a making-of. They are all (except for the making-of) directed by Donald C. Jackson, likely best known for The Demon Lover or Hell Comes to Frogtown. The first two Roller Blade movies (I am told) are generally fun, cheap, sleazy trash full of gratuitous nudity. With this third one, though, Jackson began a long partnership with Hollywood martial artist Scott Shaw. This was an instance of “zen filmmaking”, which translates into “we make it up as we go along”. Also, gratuitous nudity does not seem to be very zen. In effect, I was somehow tricked into watching the Public Access Cable offering of some early 80s wannabe electro pop band.

In a vaguely post-apocalyptic world, Shaw is Hawk, a guy who roller blades around with a sword. He’s supposed to rescue, um… let’s check the Quotes section in IMDb:

Hawk: You have sent for me, Father Donaldo?

Reverend Donaldo: Hawk, sister Sparrow has been adapted (sic) and taken into our worst nightmare.

Hawk: You mean my sister that has become your sister?

Reverend Donaldo: Yes, our sister sister. You must go now to rescue her!

“Hey, I got this cool armor I made in shop class” “And I got this mail-order camo ninja outfit” “You’re BOTH in the picture!”

Donaldo, incidentally, is played by Jackson himself. Hawk’s rescue mission will somehow involve Frank Stallone, Joe Estevez, William Smith, and Don Stroud, each of whom will get a credit just before their entrance, no matter how far into the story. That’s something I’ve previously only seen in some Hong Kong movies, and it’s not the only strange appropriation, either.

Karen Black shows up as a character named Tarot, who keeps stuffing mushrooms in Hawk’s mouth until he begins tripping balls, and I guarantee that Ms. Black was having some Easy Rider flashbacks of her own while shooting this stuff. There are portions of Roller Blade Seven that feel like Jackson and Shaw had really wished they had made Easy Rider, Performance, Circle of Iron  or any given Jodorowsky flick, and those sections actually approach a sort of brilliance. Then again, that is probably the sheer amount of painkillers I was taking to get through this experience talking.

So now the rollerblade is on the other foot, eh, Rhonda?

Another of the celebrities somehow rooked into appearing in this is Rhonda Shear, late of USA weekend movies. “Ha!” I said. “I have a VHS somewhere of Rhonda dissing Forever Evil.” “And look what you’re doing now,” said Dave behind me. He leaned closer, pointing at my phone. “Do it. Find Rhonda Shear on Twitter and tell her what you’re doing. Do it now.”

Alas, I was already too inebriated to pursue such a complex series of actions for the cold comfort of revenge, and in the sober light of day, I’m probably better off for it. But it was sorely tempting. (As a slight digression, I experimented with a keyboard case for my Kindle Fire to livetweet the Crapfest, but it was too dark in the Mancave to type on an unfamilar device. I returned to the phone, but toward the end it was taking me what felt like five minutes to tap out a coherent message and I gave up)

Supposedly there were over 24 hours of footage shot for this and its direct sequel, Return of the Roller Blade Seven, but that doesn’t stop them from repeating every action shot and every shot leading up to an action shot three or four times.

Why weren’t five movies made about THIS guy?

My favorite character was a bizarre Nash the Slash lookalike who rollerbladed around playing the banjo. Everybody else hated him, which only made it better. Of course, he gets killed by a Utility Ninja (who gets his own credit). Dave uses the VLC Media Player to project most of our stuff, and would jostle the mouse every now and then to display the progress bar at the bottom. The official running time is 96 minutes, but the first time he did that – when we were pretty sure we’d sat through about an hour – it was less than 30 minutes in. Many and varied were the amounts of invective hurled toward Erik by Dave, who felt that Erik should have warned him better, louder, and more colorfully.

If there was one good thing about this, it allowed me to find the next night’s Episode 12 of the new Twin Peaks, which pissed everybody else off, hilarious. The one bad thing was it gave Dave the excuse he needed to throw in something he had been saving for ages.

First he had to go to his computer to set the movie up. “This is open matte!” he proclaimed, and then pointed to me. “Explain to them what open matte means!” he said, and departed. The surprising thing is, as out of it as I was, I actually managed a concise and clear explanation. Then the thing started.

It was Showgirls. Well, I thought, I still haven’t seen it, I guess this is the time, though I was puzzled by the corner super about “Celebrating 25 years of great American cinema” and the network bug in the corner, which at least explained the open matte, 4×3 picture. Then the pure horror of what Dave had perpetrated became obvious.

This was the basic cable TV version with superimposed digital underwear.

The digital underwear is certainly something to see. It looks like those lobby cards from the more salacious flicks of the 70s that have really obvious underthings painted on, except here the outlines of the fake bras are subtly writhing as the actresses move. Alan, who, like me, had never seen Showgirls, left the room and refused to return, not willing to see a literally bowdlerized version. Paul kept us informed as to what was cut out, until he, too, joined the general exodus from the room a half hour in, and the only occupants were myself, my son, and Dave. I decided it was time to take one for the team.

“Okay, I’m calling it.”

“What?”

“You’ve made your point. Let’s end this and move on.”

“Does this mean I’ve won?”

“Sure. You’ve won.”

“Mark this day down!”

“Okay.”

“I want the full details of this in your write-up!”

“Fine, fine.”

“Omit NOTHING!

This was also the point I stopped live-tweeting, an event Dave later likened to radio contact being cut off from the reporter at Grover’s Mill.

Yet things did actually get worse from there, and it was my fault. An earlier discussion of late night televangelists caused me to realize that I had Werner Herzog’s God’s Angry Man, a marvelous short documentary about the deranged Reverend Gene Scott, on my flash drive. In my impaired state, this seemed like kismet, guidance from above. It turns out Herzog is not a good antidote for denied boobie fans, however, and there was another general exodus. Severe misjudgment on my part. I relented and put on a classic cartoon about everybody’s favorite serial killer, The Pincushion Man.

And then Dave proceeded to soothe a whole lot of hurt feelings with Au Pair Girls (1972).

In the name of laziness, I will simply place the IMDb’s summary here:

Four sexy young foreign girls come to England as au pairs and quickly become quite intimate with their employers, host families, and just about everyone else they encounter.

Yep, that’s pretty much it. That is the very loose framework employed to get four very pretty young women to take their clothes off as often as possible. One of them is Me Me Lai, and it is pretty refreshing to see her get naked and then not get eaten by cannibals. Another of them is Gabrielle Drake, which means if, like me, you only watched the TV series UFO for the Moonbase girls, this is the luckiest day of your life. All these nude misadventures find them jobless and back at their agency, but fortunately our young faux Scandinavian has caught the eye of a rich Sheikh and apparently they all go off to Araby for a happy life of sex slavery.

The most remarkable thing is that it’s directed by Val Guest, just one more stop in a long and varied career. Here, enjoy the theme music that would haunt us for the rest of the evening:

I finally hit a better stride with Bloody Parrot, a completely bizarre Shaw Brothers movie from 1981. The Bloody Parrot is some sort of supernatural thingie that, if you see it, will grant you three wishes. The first guy who sees it is looking for 13 treasures that were stolen from his lord, and his first wish is to find them – they mysteriously appear, but in some Monkey’s Paw shit, his son is killed. Of course, he wishes for his son back, the coffin starts shaking, everybody panics and starts stabbing each other, and the 13 treasures disappear.

This is the first five minutes of the movie.

For the rest of the running time, our hero Yeh Tin-feng (Jason Paio Pai, looking a lot like Kuan Tai Chen) is looking for the treasures because everybody seems to think he has them for some reason. He keeps running across the Bloody Parrot, though no wishes are offered – people just die mysteriously. He follows the most tenuous of clues to the Parrot Brothel, where he falls in with the remarkable courtesan Xue Nu (Jenny Liang), who’s the movie’s major selling point, I’m sure, as evidenced by the opening credits:

Ms. Liang is certainly fetching, and is introduced in a costume that renders her literally half-naked. That she does the following lengthy scene – including a strenuous bit where she is apparently possessed by the devil – in that outfit is pretty amazing and much appreciated by the male audience. The plot goes fourteen different directions at once, involving witches, vampires, cannibals, strange conspiracies, hunchbacks, acid (the burning kind) and then we get introduced to this lady:

Who likes to use the skin of her victims to make clothes. Her weapon is embroidery needles. She is also on the side of the good guys, which surprised some, since you aren’t usually introduced to good guys with somebody’s face in an embroidery hoop..

This was the third time I had seen Bloody Parrot, and this was the time I almost understood the plot. (Maybe I should try that with Roller Blade Seven, but then again naaaaaah, fuck that noise.) Finally Yeh and Xue are separated in the villains’ hall of mirrors, and Xue hits upon the strategy of marking her trail with the only thing on her, her clothing. Which is either the stupidest plan ever or the most phenomenal stroke of genius, depending on your gender.

Villains are finally revealed, and the explanation for what’s going on is so blazingly simple, you wonder why it was necessary to swim through such murky chaos to get to it, but then Liang shows up in that half-dress again, and everything’s okay.

Nothing short on the Internets, you can’t buy it on Amazon, so here:

Mind you, that was me being nice. Then it was time to be not-nice, as I broke out the last of my Andy Milligan blu-rays, Torture Dungeon. Milligan had not yet appeared at Crapfest, which, if not a miscarriage of justice, is at least a bit of a surprise. We are no strangers to Milligan here at Yes, I Know, so let me see if I can be as succinct and informative as I was about open matte abominations.

Milligan is credited with 29 motion pictures, but is probably most famous for ten horror movies made between 1969 and 1973 for the grindhouse market, infamous for their gore. The gore would be considered pretty tame these days, but these flicks are (for me) most notable for the fact that parsimonious producer William Mishkin would give him only $10,000 to make each movie, and they are almost all period piecesTorture Dungeon, in fact is a medieval movie, and attempting to do such a thing on that budget without a renaissance festival nearby is insane.

And check out that authentic period set dressing!

Milligan is self-taught, and his background is largely theatrical; this is always made particularly obvious by his love for lengthy monologues with no cuts. There are at least five of them in Torture Dungeon, but there is damn little of the title character. Two scenes, enough to justify the expense of dressing the basement and larding the makeup on a couple of guys.

There is some sort of plot here about a villainous Duke (Gerald Jacuzzo) plotting to kill all the heirs in line for the crown of England, and for some brain-damaged reason this involves marrying the pretty peasant Heather (Susan Cassidy) to his half-wit brother (after killing her equally-peasant lover), and then immediately murdering the half-wit. There is a surprising amount of nudity from Ms. Cassidy, which was at least a welcome distraction. In fact, she body doubles for another actress (Patricia Garvey, I believe) whose nude scene we were actively rooting for. As Dave pointed out, “It’s the freckles that give it away.” Well, that and the ham-fisted editing.

There is so much more. The Milligan Spin, after every blood scene. That the storytelling is so haphazard that we didn’t even know the Duke only had one arm until halfway through the picture. Milligan did his own costumes, so the “Upholstery or Tablecloth?” game.  The cheap library music that is obviously, jarringly from 60s industrial films, which simply cut off at the end of a scene. I used to say I could watch only one Andy Milligan movie a year, and now I can’t get enough of him. He’s like crap movie crack. True outsider art.

Thus bludgeoned by the evening, we packed up and left, sadder but no wiser. And on the way home, my son asked if I could track down a copy of Roller Blade Seven for him. The horror. The horror.

I don’t want to leave you on such a hopeless note. Here is a Charley Bowers short I screened earlier in the evening, in happier times. Though it is predictably racist in its portrayal of superstitious butlers, it is even more racist against Scotsmen.

Though We Cannot Possibly Recommend It:

Buy The Roller Blade Seven on Amazon

Buy The Un-Bowdlerized Showgirls on Amazon

Buy Au Pair Girls on Amazon

Buy Torture Dungeon on Amazon

Crapfest: Flashbacks, Floyd, & Frankenheimer

Hi there. Long time, no see.

April was an especially intense month for me. It tried to sneak in one last blow by not letting me make any money in the last weekend, but I instead flipped Destiny the bird and managed to get everyone to agree to a Crapfest.

All the faithful were there: Host Dave, myself, Alan, Paul, Rick and Erik. Erik had honed his burrito bowl game down to a science, getting everything set up with the alacrity of an 80s action hero strapping weapons to himself. Just as good as last time, if not better; I grazed that buffet all evening and think I somehow still lost weight.

First for some backstory, a flashback, if you will (appropriate, given the “entertainment” on display that evening): in the weeks running up to the fest, a YouTube video gained sudden currency on Facebook:

Rick does not do Facebook, but I made sure this crossed his radar, as he is likely the biggest KISS fan I know. This video led to a lively discussion in our e-mail group, mainly about how much we loved Lynda Carter and yet found this excerpt from her second TV special largely disastrous. Rick found a site that had three of her specials on DVD, and he openly pondered purchasing it.

This led Dave to employ his Satan-spawned abilities to track down a copy of a Lynda Carter variety special and open Crapfest with it. Initially, there was joy and laughter at this development, while Dave and I giggled like the Riddler. Paul opined that even if the music was dreadful, he could get through this simply by looking at her.

Now, if you look up hubris in the dictionary, you will see this picture illustrating it:

Paul opined that even if the music was dreadful, he could get through this simply by looking at her.

This was proved demonstrably false by the special’s halfway mark, when cries of “No, not the blues! You leave the blues alone!!!” echoed through the mancave. As the entire special was sponsored by the Texise Corporation, the endlessly repeated commercials for various sprays and unguents only added to the misery. This was, incidentally, the last of Ms. Carter’s specials, 1984’s Body and Soul, and – the IMDb  informs me – the only one “made without the help of her ex-husband ‘Ron Samuels’.” Afterwards, I showed this clip from an earlier Carter special, where she sucks all the soul out of “Rubberband Man” and replaces it with sweet vanilla syrup:

This was judged to be “100% better” than Body and Soul, and I don’t think that was because of the song – it’s because she’s showing 100% more leg than she did in the entirety of the later special. We are a vulgar and base lot, after all. And we still love you, Ms. Carter, especially if you leave The Blues alone.

I had thought that our gathering could not be any more depressed after my statement that “If this were a Cheri Caffaro movie, this torch song would end with a strip tease,” but Dave would prove me wrong:

This was, once again, for the benefit of Facebook-less Rick – Dave had inflicted it on the world in the previous week. It is definitely the 12″ single version. But the pain of Disco Floyd is alleviated by the fact that at the three minute mark it somehow switches to Soul Train. Since this did not produce the expected agony – more like some bewildered groans – Dave pulled out a trump card, a trump card I had nixed several times before, but now it was time. Mainly, it had been enough years since I had last seen Mesa of Lost Women, and I could finally tolerate watching it again.

Mesa is so packed full of inept B-movie weirdness that for years it was suspected of being a lost Ed Wood movie, but it’s not – it’s an unfinished movie by a madman named Herbert Tevos, finished by Ron Ormond, who is himself no stranger to Crapfest (Please Don’t Touch Me! and If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do). Jackie Coogan is Dr. Aranya (“Aranya! That’s Spanish for spider!”), who is up on the titular Mesa creating indestructible spider women and leering dwarves. And you only wish that was what the movie was actually about.

It all starts with our two “stars” (Oh, all right, Richard Travis and Paula Hill) wandering in from the Muerto Desert (“Muerto! That’s Spanish for Death!”) while Lyle Talbot does his best Orson Welles in a confounding voiceover. Rescued and recovering, Travis will start his story, but then Lyle will inform us that instead we are going have a flashback courtesy of a background character, Pepe (“Pepe! That’s Spanish for Pepe!”). This confoundingly tortured story structure will continue for some time, leading to many debates as to exactly whose flashback we were witnessing at any given moment. AY!There were, in fact, many times throughout the evening that no matter which movie we were watching, we were pretty sure we were still stuck in Pepe’s flashback.

But the real reason Dave wanted to play it was the infernal, maddening guitar soundtrack (which was also employed in Ed Wood’s Jailbait, further inflaming that theory), which he knew would drive Rick insane. Which it did. He can visited most mornings from 9am-11am. Do not bring any sharp objects.

Dave was emboldened to inflict Tarantella and her phantom guitar upon us because Erik was currently involved in moving, and his movies were all packed up, so the entire program was up to us. So Dave pulls out fake Ed Wood, while I, on the other hand, pass out 3-D glasses and play The Three Stooges’ Spooks, because I am the Nice Guy. I can’t hand you some cheap Chinese cardboard glasses, so here, have the one good joke without the red and blue overlay:

It’s surprising how uncomfortable Moe’s slapstick abuse makes me these days. I had found something else for the audience, who, I remind you, is base and vulgar – something called Nude 66. Once again, red-blue anaglyph, a “Playboy digital pictorial” without any connection to that magazine (although Paul, our local Expert On Such Things, did identify one of the ladies as an actual Playmate). In fact all the credited personnel at the end seem to be Japanese, and I have not been able to find out any other information whatsoever about it. It’s 25 minutes of rock-n-roll cover tunes and somewhat artful nudity. That and the 15 minutes of Spooks were about all the 3-D my aged eyes could take, anyway.

Quick, boy! Where are those damned 3-D glasses?

So, having had enough of Being Nice, I slapped in Dangerous Men.

Man, Stan Lee is in EVERYTHING.

Ideally, all you need to know about Dangerous Men is it is produced and directed by John S. Rad. It is also written by John S. Rad, who also wrote the music, edited the movie, and did the sound design. Also, John S. Rad’s real name is Jahangir Salehi, if that matters at all. He started shooting this sometime in the 70s and didn’t finish it until the mid-90s. He finally rented four LA cinemas to play the movie for a week, resulting in total ticket sales of around $2000.

It’s hard to know where exactly to start with Dangerous Men. The first part of the movie is basically a distaff Death Wish, with Melody Wiggins playing a woman whose fiancé is murdered by a biker, causing her to launch a career as an avenger killing such DANGEROUS MEN. There is one attempted rapist she does not kill, but only takes all his clothes and leaves him in the middle of the desert, so we spend the next seven minutes or so with a naked Englishman wandering the desert, endlessly monologing about how humiliated he is. This tells me that during one of the lulls in filming when he ran out of money. John S. Rad saw a Jodorowsky film.

“Who the hell puts an enormous potted plant in a narrow hallway?”

Wiggins’ character suddenly gets arrested at about the halfway mark, and her dead fiancé’s cop brother takes up the reins of the story, tracking down the man responsible for the bikers’ reign of terror, the kingpin Black Pepper, who is about the crappiest Moriarty one could hope for. To accomplish this, he has to knock out a Biker on two separate occasions with the same attack. In the resulting raid on Black Pepper’s stronghold, Black Pepper nearly beats the cop brother to death (in a fight scene that uses the same sound effect over and over, no matter who’s getting hit) and it’s up to The Chief, a character introduced only a half hour before, to wind up the movie, quite suddenly, and at the 90 minute mark. The movie doesn’t end so much as stop.

“Why do I keep hearing men screaming ‘what the fuck’?”

There are all the usual technical bobbles of a one-man operation that either can’t afford or doesn’t want someone else to handle the technical aspects (thankfully, Rad had someone else shoot the movie, it’s at least in focus). The sudden departure of Wiggins’ character was due to her breaking a leg during the shoot and Rad refusing to pay her medical bills; further investigation by the guys at Drafthouse Films alleges that she was paid something like a dollar a day and some MacDonalds for her work. Exactly why the cop brother had to be written out is lost to the ages, but overall, Dangerous Men plays out like Robert Altman had decided to do a gritty crime drama but had also suffered a traumatic head injury.

Ergo, it is highly recommended.

(We almost had Samurai Cop and Dangerous Men back-to-back at the last Crapfest, which would have caused seizures and/or riots, I am sure)

So, back over to Dave, who trots out Claws, a 1977 killer bear movie that manages to rip off two other Jaws rip-offs, Grizzly and Orca. Some hunters shoot and wound a Grizzly, and when he runs off, proceed to kill the female who stayed behind. The wounded bear proceeds to terrorize the forest for the next several years, becoming known as “The Devil Bear” and finally causing some folks to track him seriously, with varying degrees of failure and death. Given that we referred to the beast as “The Stock Footage Bear” for most of the running time and the general tedium as the story unfolded, I was willing to bet that this was a TV movie, but apparently I was wrong (really, my first clue should have been that the damned thing runs an hour and forty minutes). Apparently it ran in some theaters under the rather desperate title Grizzly 2.

I would liked it much more had they gone with the whole Devil Bear concept, and we had found the betrayed bruin had struck up a deal with Old Clootie to get revenge for his murdered mate. Hollywood, call me, you bastards.

The ideal cap to the whole experience was when the movie was over, Dave blinked at the screen and wondered where the scene where the bear attacked the helicopter went. “That’s Grizzly,” I said.

So. Dave made us watch the wrong killer bear movie, and now you just know he is going to make us watch another fucking killer bear movie.

(Then, he might not, when he discovers that Grizzly features his archenemy, Richard Jaeckel)

There don’t seem to be any trailers online, so let’s all go Token noble Indian character, nooooooo!

Back to me, I guess, because the movie was one Rick and Alan had requested, Frankenheimer’s version of The Island of Dr. Moreau. This had happened mainly because Rick and I had watched the fascinating Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau, a documentary that pretty much lays it all out in it’s title. A movie with a modest budget suddenly signs on two major but difficult names – Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer – budget balloons, stars act up, director gets suddenly replaced.

John Frankenheimer is similarly no stranger to Crapfest, as we had earlier watched his killer bear movie, Prophecy. He took the job only as part of a multi-picture deal, so at least we got Ronin and Reindeer Games, two decent action flicks, out of it. Likely the only scene that remains from Stanley’s concept is when David Thewlis witnesses the birth of one of Moreau’s hybrids – that one still packs a punch. But the rest, bowing to the whims and eccentricities of Brando and Kilmer, settles into typical, bland, expected tropes. Moreau isn’t really a bad movie, it’s just a terribly unnecessary one. The only reason to watch it is Brando’s strange portrayal of Moreau, and once that character is killed – oh yeah, spoiler alert for a twenty year-old movie – there is simply no reason to watch anymore.

(Well, yes, there is the typically excellent makeup effects of Stan Winston, but…)

It was midnight at this point. We had lost Paul at the beginning of Moreau, and Alan left, but we, the hardcore, were not beaten. Into the magic lightning box went The Devil’s Express. 

Devil’s Express is a delicious gumbo of trash film tropes from the 70s. Good old bad old New York, Blaxploitation, stickin’ it to The Man, kung fu and monsters. I’m kind of surprised I hadn’t sneaked this in earlier.

As if all this were not enough, it stars Warhawk Tanzania (who knew that the breakout star of Force Four would be Warhawk Tanzania? My money was on Malachi Lee!) (Also, Crapfest attendees, you are really going to have to piss me off to make me show you Force Four) (Where was I? Are we still in Pepe’s flashback?).

ANYWAY. Warhawk and his student Rodan (Wilfredo Roldan, also in Force Four, but never mind that now) travel to Brooklyn Hong Kong to perfect Warhawk’s kung fu, but the shady Rodan steals an amulet he finds in a pit. Those of us who saw the prelude know that something evil was being kept in check by that amulet, and now it stows away on board a freighter to New York to find the amulet and destroy it.

It does this by possessing some guy and making him wander around with eyes painted on his eyelids. It shouldn’t work as well as it does, but it does (mainly because the dude with the painted eyelids, Aki Aleong, really sells it) (Tim Lehnerer at Checkpoint Telstar informs me that Aleong also wrote “Shombalor“, so he’s ten times more awesome than I originally suspected). Said monster proceeds to chow down on unwary people on the subway, making this a weird New York underground version of Blood Beach. Meanwhile, Rodan’s drug dealing leads to a minor gang war with a Chinese gang, which allowed the distributors to re-title and re-release this under the title Gang War when The Warriors hit it big.

Your typical wise Chinese gentleman (who is wearing the worst fake Asian makeup ever applied or shot on film, squandering any goodwill from that painted eyelid job), tells Warhawk what’s up, so he can don his gold lame demon-fightin’ overalls and descend into the subway to kill the demon while Brother Theodore distracts the cops.

Oh yeah, that just one more reason to watch The Devil’s Express. Brother Theodore plays a priest who is there to deliver last rites to murder victims (I guess) and who is apparently driven mad by the horror he witnesses, as he starts shouting to the crowd outside a barricaded subway station about “Rrrrrrrrats! PESTILENTIAL rats!” Well, maybe he wasn’t driven mad, maybe he was driven to become Brother Theodore. Maybe this is all a complicated origin story.

ANYWAY. Good times, good times.

At this point, we decided, it was likely best to pack it up. It had been a long day, a day of multiple horrors attacking from all directions, and somehow we had managed to survive it, through dint of good companionship, good humor, and burrito bowls.

We’ve been doing this for ten years, and we’ve still barely scratched the surface.

Sleep well.

(Creaking door slams shut)

Buy Mesa of Lost Women on Amazon

Buy Spooks! on Amazon

Buy Dangerous Men on Amazon

Buy Claws on Amazon

Buy The Island of Dr. Moreau on Amazon

Buy The Devil’s Express on Amazon

Crapfest: Plot? Who Needs a Plot?

How long has it been since we had a Crapfest? I’ll tell you how got-dang long it was: it was last June. It was a different world back then.

So the chivvying and bullying began, and we finally lighted on the same Sunday as the Academy Awards. I can only speak personally, but I haven’t watched the Oscars this century anyway, and saw no reason to change that practice. So, Warren Beatty, your reputation is still spotless with me.

In attendance: myself, Host Dave, Erik, Rick and Paul. Alan was closing a show and arrive late, hoping that he would miss the worst. This, however, is an event known as Crapfest, so we can all sit in judgement of that strategy.

gizmo_Dave put on an old favorite of his, 1977’s Gizmo! for noise purposes, not intending it to be the first movie of the day, so of course – it became the first movie of the day. Gizmo! was a big favorite back in the early days of HBO, and for some reason only ever had a VHS release. I’m going to go out on a limb and say it might be because of music rights, because there’s a lot of songs tying together an hour and fifteen minutes worth of newsreel footage. Supposedly a documentary about invention and innovation, Gizmo! is better described, as one writer put it, as “steampunk Jackass“. All sorts of people climb into all sorts of newfangled flying and driving machines and proceed to get chewed up by same. This is mixed in with footage of people playing music by making fart sounds with their hands and folks blowing themselves up with dynamite. And squeezing themselves through tennis rackets. And…

…it’s interesting how much of this stuff wound up in Arise! The SubGenius Video.

Truly fascinating are the bits of prototype technology that are actually being used today, for instance: dye packs to mark money stolen in a robbery. The guys flapping around with leather wings attached to their arms are the precursors of daredevils in wing suits, after all – is it really their fault they are also prototypes for Wile E. Coyote? Also fascinating was the idea that you could improve anything by attaching a propeller to it, eventually resulting in a device that was nothing but propellers… which went nowhere.

help-meHoward Smith’s only other director credit is for the documentary Marjoe, which is a great movie, never mind that we showed it at an earlier Crapfest (Marjoe Gortner is, after all, the patron saint of Crapfest). And every now and then you will be reminded that Smith is rather gleefully fucking with you. The best example is right at the beginning of this YouTube post – watch it quick, who knows how long it will last. Just watch the first 30 seconds. Then try not to get sucked into the madness. It’s not the whole movie – it runs fifteen minutes short – so I’m willing to bet there are several songs missing.

And this is where things began going south. Erik had a plan – a good plan – for our dinner that night. Two words: burrito bowls. Which I guess is best defined as the stuff usually in a burrito, except in a bowl? He had a bunch of the fixins already prepped in baggies, but the other things – most notably the beef and chicken fajitas – took unexpectedly long to cook. This left myself and Paul in the Mancave to our own devices. I had brought some cartoons, which we watched, intermittently journeying into the kitchen to check on progress, which seemed glacial. Then we would go back. We watched a Swedish art film which was 17 minutes of naked women doing odd things in the woods with a variety of headdresses and masks. Don’t ask me why, it was art.  One of the standards of Crapfest is gratuitous nudity (which was, I believe, actually the event’s genesis), so I had been saving it for a treat, but I was bored.

When things drug on, I put on my copy of Harvey Sid Fisher’s Astrology Songs, which I had sneaked into an earlier ‘fest, and was a big hit with everyone but Dave. It did manage to get some of our Galloping Gourmet cosplayers into the Cave to relive a few minute of former celestial glory, but then they would return to making artisanal guacamole.

Harvey ran through the entire Zodiac, and still no Crapfest. I decided to play with fire.

I put on The Star Wars Holiday Special.

Now, Alan had occasionally requested this blight on the cherished memory of our youth, only to be gently told by Dave and myself, “Fuck you, no.” So this was the extremity to which I was driven.

It had the desired effect of getting people into the Cave to gaze in awe at the Forbidden Fruit. Who could resist meeting Chewbacca’s family?

His wife, Mala! His father, Itchy!

vlcsnap-2017-03-02-13h42m20s357His son, Lumpy!

vlcsnap-2017-03-02-13h42m40s687And TV funnyman Harvey Korman!

vlcsnap-2017-02-27-22h43m21s481We got as far as Harvey before Dave turned it off, commanding me to sit in the corner and “think about what you’ve done.” At least the chair in the corner was comfier than the folding chair I had been occupying.

Well, we finally had our burrito bowls – they were extraordinarily tasty, and moreover actually GOOD for us. I was still full the next morning, I pounded down so much goodness. And, with a vodka martini mixed by Dave (my bartender of choice), we finally settled down to the Crapfest proper, which was a mistake.

warriors-of-the-wastelandDave led off with The New Barbarians. So apparently I was still being punished.

Also known as Warriors of the Wasteland, it’s yet another Italian Road Warrior rip-off – any doubts you may have about that will be dispelled in the first five – no, make that three – minutes. It’s the far-flung future of 2019, nuclear war has devastated the Earth, and tiny pockets of survivors are trying to find the promised land. Unfortunately, a bunch known as the Templars are dedicated to finishing what the war started, and are killing everybody they can find.

Yep, there’s no scavenging for oil in this wasteland (often one of the greenest wastelands we have ever seen) because these guys are running around in their tricked-out dune buggies 24/7. In a holdover from Gizmo, one guy has added a side mounted propeller to his buggy, so he can chase people until they obligingly fall to their knees to be decapitated. Pretty near all the money went to their vehicles, one feels, because the Templars have to make do with armor made of pool flotation devices.

Enter into all this Scorpion (Giancarlo Prete), who is apparently a former Templar now dedicated to messing with them as much as possible. My occupying the Seat of Exile had its drawbacks: the soundtrack alternated between quiet dialogue and EXTREMELY LOUD MACHINE SOUNDS and back to possibly significant but quietly delivered details AND THEN THE ROARING OF A THOUSAND ENGINES and back, but I’m also pretty confident that it all boils down to some ancient conflict between Scorpion and the Templar Leader with the singular name of One (Italian standard George Eastman).

By the time the art department got around to tricking out Scorpion’s ride, they had run out of aluminum panels and propellers, and had to make do with some dryer hose, a plastic skull, and a huge plastic dome left over from the Star Wars rip-off craze of a few years earlier. I think they were going for a sort of Batmobile look, but it just reminds me of the Alert Squad car from Darktown Strutters:

dat-carvlcsnap-2017-03-02-00h09m04s927And that is likely the most obscure reference I will make all day. No promises, though.

There was, at least, wild applause when Fred Williamson finally showed up with the inappropriate name of Nadir, though who the hell is ever going to tell Fred Williamson that he has a lousy name? Nadir drives a much more badass-mobile than Scorpion (naturally) and takes an extraordinarily long and dramatic time to aim his explosive arrows.

"I make this blow-up shit look good."

“I make this blow-up shit look good.”

The New Barbarians‘ major claim to infamy occurs when Scorpion is inevitably captured by the Templars and it is announced that it is time to “finish his initiation”. What this involves is a long, fairly fetishistically-drawn out scene of Buggery on the High Seas, if you substituted the Wasteland for the High Seas. Dave – who I will remind you chose this movie – skittered out of the room faster than a Congressman at a town hall meeting at the very start of the scene, ignoring my shouts for him to get back here and take his medicine. Wuss.

Anyway, Nadir rescues him – eventually – and finally they both take on the Templars just in time to rescue the last survivors, and Scorpion gets his revenge in a wholly appropriate and mechanically improbable manner, the end.

Honestly, the most amazing thing about The New Barbarians is that director Enzo G. Castellari still cares enough to pull off the occasional impressively arty shot. This will not be the case with our next movie.

Paul exercised his wuss clause and left early – in all fairness, he had warned us he would – and I moved up to his seat in the big couch, also known as the Front Row. Now I could at least keep track of the plot, I thought.

Wrong, because the movie was Erik’s choice – Samurai Cop.

What a time to be alive.

What a time to be alive.

There’s an Asian gang called The Katanas trying to take over the drug trade in L.A., so a cop is imported from San Diego (what?): Joe Marshall, nicknamed “Samurai”, because he was trained in the martial arts in Asia and speaks fluent Japanese. Or so the IMDb entry tells me, because I wasn’t getting much of that from the movie itself. Star Mathew Karedas sort of looks like a Sylvester Stallone muppet from the right angle, with Mel Gibson’s Lethal Weapon hair. Mark Frazer is Frank Washington, sassy black cop who specializes in reaction shots, and who is not old enough to be too old for this shit, so he doesn’t say it, but we say it for him anyway. And Robert Z’Dar (with impressive beard on that impressive chin) is the enforcer for the Katanas… Yamashita. Yamashita.

I think it is important that I simply let the movie speak for itself at this point.

Samurai Cop is a movie that is magnificent in its incompetence. Director Amir Shervan has 30 credits on the IMDb, and you couldn’t prove it by what you see on the screen. It all takes place during the day, because lights were too expensive. No attempt is made to control the color temperature of the film, so a lot of scenes are either way too blue or way too yellow (lens filters also cost too much, I guess). And the best part is that six months after he thought filming was finished, Karedas cut his hair. Shervan wasn’t finished, though, and you can frequently see him switch between his natural hair and a remarkably fake woman’s wig in the same scene.

ACTIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNGGGGGrrrrr

ACTIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNGGGGGrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

The action is pretty plentiful and fairly decent for the price – really everything else in the movie just elevates those scenes – and I hope a lot of guys got their stunt card out of it. Dave spent most of the movie complaining that the Samurai Cop wasn’t doing any samurai stuff (he did cut off one guy’s arm with a sword, which I referred to as the movie’s tribute to LucasFilms), while the rest of us spent our time wondering, “Will the redhead get naked again?” She did, a point in the movie’s favor, but this movie also has way too many men in speedos. If you ever wanted to see Gerald Okamura in a speedo, Samurai Cop has you covered, as it were.

I do kind of admire that Shervan the writer tried to give every character a little scene of their own – not that I think this movie wound up on a whole lot of demo reels.

Yeah, this needs to be seen to be believed. As the bug in the trailer points out, it’s free on Amazon Prime. Good choice, Erik.

At this point Dave tried to rush in his mandatory Edwige Fenech movie, but I was having none of it. It was my turn, and first things first:

Now, I consider myself the Nice Guy. I mean, sure, I’ve inflicted Things and Raw Force on the Fest, but I’ve also brought The Raid: Redemption. I refuse to show bad kung fu movies. I almost always watch what I bring to insure its (harrumph) quality.

league-of-gods_poster_goldposter_com_2So what I brought was League of Gods, a Chinese CGI-infused comic book that I had fallen in love with, and that it was likely no attendee had ever heard of, or would see under normal circumstances. League of Gods has more plot in its first five minutes than in the entirety of the first two movies (or even if you add in the last movie of the evening, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves). I did my best to boil it down for everyone who had consumed too much liquor to get through the anal rape and blue-tinted men in speedos, so let me try to do the same here:

There are two warring cities. One, we’ll call it Eviltown, is ruled over by a King (Tony Leung) who has joined physically with the evil Black Dragon to rule the world, and his consort, the demoness Nine-Tailed Fox (Fan Bingbing). The other city, Niceville, is trying to stop him from totally incarnating and bringing 18,000 years of darkness upon the world, and for that they need the Sword of Light.

This tale is told through the filter of constant CGI madness and action; as Rick said afterwards, “Well, that certainly wasn’t boring.” Rick had, in fact, read my earlier write-up on the movie and was really looking forward to “the talking baby”. This scene in particular; his favorite move is “Divine Thunder”.

Of course I had the right crowd for this flick: they immediately glommed onto the video game nature of the unfolding story, and easily spotted, “Ah, this is the platforming level”

“Man, I hate those”

“Oh, not a puzzle level! I hate those!”

Great fun, and I got to see it projected big and loud.

Okay, one last time for the trailer:

Now it was time for Dave to play his Edwige Fenech movie, and it was also time for me to go. With all the time spent on that amazing dinner, it was now after 11:00pm, and like Paul, I was expected to be productive early the next day. So yes, I exercised my own personal wuss clause, which in a way was okay, because that movie was Strip Nude for Your Killer, and as I left I saw the credit that let me know I was making the right decision:

FFFFFFFffffffffffff-

FFFFFFFffffffffffff-

I also knew that it was a bad idea because it meant I was going to have to watch it by myself later, in order to write about it. My main experience with Bianchi is through two movies – Burial Ground (urp) and a not-very-good version of Treasure Island, starring Orson Welles as Long John Silver.  And I hate giallo anyway. Mike Vanderbilt at Daily Grindhouse tells me that gialli are meant to be social occasions, with everybody laughing talking and drinking during the lengthy exposition scenes and presumably shutting up during the murder scenes. So I had left the ideal circumstances for seeing Strip Nude for Your Killer to instead watch it where I could grumble endlessly to myself in private.

strip-nude-for-your-killer-posterDid you get tired of all that plot during League of Gods? That’s fine, because here a fashion model dies during an abortion, and then somebody starts killing all the people at the fashion agency where she worked. There. That’s the plot.

Where to start, where to start. Well, it’s a giallo, so everybody is a different shade of loathsome, except possibly Edwige Fenech, who plays Magda, a plucky photographer’s assistant whose only dubious quality is she’s in love with our supposed hero and uberjerk Carlo (Nino Castelnuovo).  Police are never allowed to be competent in gialli, and Strip Nude certainly doesn’t break the mold in that respect. Suspects just keep getting killed until only Magda, Carlo and the killer are left, and the killer’s identity provokes a “Hah? Who?” reaction. I refuse to watch it again to find what scene that background character showed up in. If they even do.

vlcsnap-2017-03-01-00h21m55s344

STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER, FATTY

Dave tells me that Erik turned to glare at him every time a male character acted like a total cad, which must mean he didn’t get to watch 3/4 of the movie. As I entered my viewing of Strip Nude for Your Killer into Letterboxd, I finally gave it one and half stars – that one star is due only to Ms. Fenech, at the height of her weapons-grade cuteness, and certainly not shy about displaying her beauty in toto.

Edwige, no, you're better than this

Edwige, no, you’re better than this

I suppose, if nothing else, Strip Nude for Your Killer, like The Dude’s rug, tied the evening together; not only does it start with far too many men in speedos (Carlo included), but it ends with the promise of anal rape. (“Still more tastefully done than Kingsman!” Dave offers)

And I totally forgot about the abuse of the musical saw until I saw this trailer:

Buy The New Barbarians on Amazon

Buy Samurai Cop on Amazon

Buy Strip Nude for Your Killer on Amazon, you perv

Crapfest: Into the Mancave

Whenever I attempt to do something even remotely handy around my house, I really feel like if I succeed, the Vatican should recognize it as a miracle. I am the least handy of primates; there is a reason I earn my living by pressing buttons.

This is the blueprint Dave was working from

This is the blueprint Dave was working from

So how amazing is it to me that Host Dave took it upon himself to create the ever-popular mancave in his garage, moving our questionable movie-watching activities out of his living room (and not incidentally, a house away from his long-suffering wife, Ann?). I’m lucky I can keep my toilet running. He air-conditions and re-purposes a damn recreation room.

There are still tweaks to be made, yes (probably until doomsday, knowing Dave), but it was fully functional for our Memorial Day weekend get-together (though our host was upset that the Disco Ball wasn’t working – yes- the disco ball.). He wasn’t content with lording that over us either, he was determined to make three pizzas from scratch, dough and all. While that process was ongoing, he had some youtube playlist of music videos going (in the mancave and the living room), and the major thing learned was Rick absolutely cannot stand Adam and the Ants, and especially not “Antmusic”. So here it is for him again:

From this you can assume I owned a lot of Adam Ant albums. Okay, two. But that was on one of them.

After seeming hours of pizza prep (I didn’t actually mind – I enjoy watching other people cook so I can steal any useful techniques for my own use), we were finally eating and settling down to watch some horrible, horrible stuff.

"CURSE THESE CHEAP CHINESE CARDBOARD GLASSES!"

“CURSE THESE CHEAP CHINESE CARDBOARD GLASSES!”

We started out with the 3-D sequences of The Mask, which were available in red-blue anaglyph as an extra on the recent Kino-Lorber blu-ray. I had ordered 3-D glasses from Amazon (shipped from far-away, exotic China) for pennies and distributed them. For those who missed me rhapsodizing about it before – The Mask is an ancient Aztec ritual mask that, when you put it on, produces bad acid trips, and eventually homicidal episodes. The gimmick was when the soundtrack started entoning “Put the mask on – NOW!!!!” the audience was supposed to put on their 3-D glasses and be wowed by the bad acid trip. Kino-Lorber is to be complimented for allowing our group to enjoy these bizarre segments without having to sit through the rest of the fairly static thriller.

The experience also pointed up the reason why 3-D was a flash in the pan in the 50s: red-blue (or in the 50s, red-green) anaglyph demands a lot of light when projected. Exhibitors weren’t inclined to shorten the life of their projector bulbs by cranking them up, resulting in dark images and headaches. We didn’t even have that option on Dave’s projector, but the results were still good enough to provoke good-natured screams and ducking of heads. It had to be admitted that was a first for Crapfest.

Conjoined-Poster-Small2This was followed by another first: local filmmaker Joe Grisaffi had offered one of his movies for viewing. I imagine the conversation involved Dave saying, “You do know this is called Crapfest, right?” and “You’re aware of how we treat these movies, right?” And yet, here we are, watching a movie called Conjoined.

This is the tale of the traditionally reclusive schlub Stanley (Tom Long), who has met the love of his life, Alina (Michelle Ellen Jones) on the Internet and plans to marry her. Stanley has only two other friends: Jerry (Jake Byrd), a co-worker at a slaughterhouse, and Courtney (Deidre Stephens), a cam girl whom Stanley pays just to have a conversation. On the eve of their wedding, Alina reveals a big secret: she has a sister, who will have to live with her and Stanley. As the title would suggest, the sister, Alisa (Keefer Barlow) is conjoined. Also, because this is Crapfest, the twins look nothing alike and we surmised that they were joined at the dress. (also, welcome to low-budget filmmaking)

Now the mood in the room was pretty tentative during the opening scenes. Would this be mere cringe comedy (not my favorite flavor to be sure)? I had sneaked a peek at the basic plot, but we were unsure what tone the movie was trying to set. Alisa starts fomenting for a boyfriend of her own, and when Jerry walks out on a suddenly abusive dinner, Stanley turns to the video dating service where he met Alisa, and the first date seems to be going pretty well – until the guy says something wrong, and Alisa smashes his head into the floor a couple hundred times until there’s blood and brains everywhere.

Yep. Those are twins, alright. Yessir.

Yep. Those are twins, alright. Yessir.

The mood in the mancave shifted appreciatively. This wasn’t splatstick on the level of Raimi or Jackson – not yet anyway – but it was something we could tune in to. Turns out this isn’t Alisa’s first kill, either, nor will it be the last, and as the body count rises, Stanley desperately turns to Jerry for help, with a plan to separate the two women in a plastic-sheet shrouded attic, using household appliances instead of surgical instruments. If this weren’t low-budget black comedy, both women would have bled to death, but as it is, several gallons of stage blood don’t mean much. The operation is a success, at least until Jerry, supposed to ditch Alisa’s body, makes a poor decision (bad in intent and taste) and suddenly there’s a homicidal twin more on the loose than ever.

The closest comparison I can make is to another semi-obscure regional flick, Blood Car, that I saw at another festival of questionable films. Extreme subject matter taken only semi-seriously enough to be engaging, and backed up by better acting than you’re used to seeing in such low-budget affairs. It’s not going to be for everybody, but good grief what is?!?! And never forget – This! IS! CRAPFEEEEEEEST! 

INTO THE PIT, MOVIE WITH A BUDGET!

INTO THE PIT, MOVIE WITH A BUDGET!

(Didn’t even mention how Joe came to the Fest about 20 minutes after we started the flick and was a tad uncomfortable, thinking we would have watched it by that time. He failed to reckon on pizza prep time. I think we were fairly kind. Fairly.)

19-DeathStalkerPoster

Note this scene does not occur anywhere in the vicinity of this movie.

Now, although I said I wasn’t going to do this anymore, I had presented a list of possible movies. To be plain, I’ve spent so long trying to catch up on the world of quality cinema, I kind of felt like I’d lost the thread of what constitutes a good crap cinema viewing experience. To be even more plain, I found out quickly why I had sworn I was going to stop being so democratic because that is how we wound up watching Deathstalker.

Deathstalker (Rick Hill) is a blonde pile of muscle indiscernible from other blonde pile of muscles like Ator, Blernbag, or Botox the Barbarian (he only needs a white horse and a forest of fake trees and Nazis would be stealing his footage for propaganda). He does not engage in any Death stalking throughout the movie, but he does engage in a lot of attempted rape. We were of the opinion that Deathstalker was a family name, like Baker or Cooper.

Has it been five minutes since the last attempted rape already?

Has it already been five minutes since the last attempted rape?

His quest (of course he has to have a friggin’ quest to link together all the instances of attempted rape) involves gathering a sword, a chalice and an amulet for Ultimate Magical Power. The villain Munkar (Bernard Erhard) already has the chalice and the amulet. The sword Deathstalker gets from a Muppet claiming to be a wizard (who then falls into a river and becomes an Odious Comic Relief person). Along the way he picks up the warrior Chachi (oh who bloody cares) and poor doomed Lana Clarkson as a female warrior who is on a quest to find the top of her costume.

You see Munkar is having a tournament of warriors that is completely unripped-off from Enter the Dragon. Barbi Benton is also there as a captured Princess because Lana Clarkson has a sword, so somebody has to be around for rape to be attempted upon. We are assured that Munkar is evil because he keeps feeding childrens’ eyeballs to Muppets and his facial tattoo keeps switching sides (we were rooting for a subplot involving twins, but no, it was just bad continuity).

(Also I need to stop calling bad special effects Muppets because the worst Muppet in the stable has more personality than any character in this flick.)

ds-2You may have noticed a certain reliance on attempted rape in this review; that is also a fair assessment of the plot of Deathstalker. While the photography is okay, the movie itself is ugly in imagery and tone. This was the flick that convinced me it was okay to not check out every sword-and-sorcery movie that came out after Conan the Barbarian. Being the forgiving sort,  I’d bought the disc cheap years later. Maybe I was in a bad mood the day I saw it? Turns out I wasn’t.

The lady in question. Not a scene from this movie, however.

The lady in question. Not a scene from this movie, however.

Next up, we were held hostage to Dave’s newfound love for Edwige Fenech, an almost transcendentally lovely lady who made a lot of Eurotrash epics in the 1970s. She’s known mostly for sex comedies and a handful of gialli. Pretty, a good actress, and not that particularly shy, shall we say – an ideal subject for Crapfest.

Dave, though, doesn’t like to watch movies over again, and so put on one he hadn’t seen – All the Colors of the Dark. Edwige is a young lady suffering from nightmares (“Put the Mask on—-NOW!!!!), stemming from a miscarriage she had after an automobile accident. Her sister and her shrink think she needs psychotherapy, her boyfriend (no, they’re not married) is a jerk and thinks she doesn’t. So is it any wonder Edwige joins a cult of devil worshippers (in between showers, of course)?

All-the-Colors-of-the-Dark-1972All the Colors of the Dark goes into some pretty decent mindfuck territory, as Edwige is forced to sacrifice the friend who recruited her into the cult (it turns out that, like Amway, the only way you can leave a devil cult is get your own replacement), there’s a guy with weird contact lens following her with a knife, her jerk boyfriend is doing unhelpful things like bringing home books about witchcraft. Edwige’s grip on reality is getting really slippery, and she stopped taking showers at the halfway mark, meaning there was a lot of boredom and loud conversations in the room.

(If there is one failing of the mancave, it’s that these conversations used to take place in the kitchen, where they were more easily ignored. Note to self: next time ask Dave which remote controls the sound)

"But I don't WANT to put The Mask on NOW!!!!"

“But I don’t WANT to put The Mask on NOW!!!!”

Anyway, like Scooby-Doo, there is eventually a logical explanation for everything, except that it’s not that logical and it’s certainly not reasonable. (I had to track down a copy later to confirm that. The conversation-unfettered-by-boobies had gotten particularly loud, and possibly resentful) It does however, give Luciano Pigozzi, the Italian Peter Lorre, a chance to drop by and pick up a paycheck.

Too talky, and I’m not just talking about the audience. Dave promises us much better results next time, with the more provocatively-titled Strip Nude for Your Killer, also known as Why the Hell Weren’t We Watching A Movie With A Title Like That?

Erik then attempted to elevate the evening with Death Bed: The Bed That Eats. 

Death_Bed-_The_Bed_That_Eats_FilmPosterFirst, realize you are looking at the saddest beast in the D&D Monster Manual: a monster bed that sits in a room and hopes that someone lies down in it. Then realize you are watching one king-hell bizarre horror movie and sit back and enjoy.

There is a Narrator (Dave Marsh) who may or may not be Aubrey Beardsley, trapped behind a portrait he drew of the monstrous bed – the Bed tried to eat him, but “my disease” prevented his complete digestion and somehow bound him to the Bed. He offers at least two origin stories for the Bed, but the one that sticks has something to do with a demon-infested tree whose wood was used to build the Bed. Most of our menu will be provided by a young runaway, her friends, and her brother who’s pursuing them (William Russ, who went on to a pretty decent career). There are a couple of instances of oddball but effective horror – when an injured victim crawls tortuously toward the one door in the Death Bed room (which takes at least as long as the interminable fist fight in They Live), only to be drawn back by a tentacle-like bedsheet just as she crosses the threshold; and when the Brother tries to cut the Bed apart with a knife, only to have his hands reduced to skeletons by the hungry mattress meanie.

deathbedhuhAccording to the IMDb, Death Bed was filmed in 1972, an answer print struck in 1977, and then… nothing. Apparently bootlegs were circulating, and when writer/director George Barry found out he had – without trying – actually worked up a fair amount of word of mouth, finally released it in 2003. I think I would have really liked it even if it hadn’t been preceded by several hours of pretty stultifying material. When I get through my current fiscal crisis, I am picking up that blu-ray… this is a flick that deserves more than one look.

We had cleared out the wusses for the night, but as this was a rare Saturday night off for me, I slipped in one last movie at midnight for the hardcore. That other standard of the Crapfest, Kung Fu Treachery – this time, with Iron Monkey.

iron-monkey-movie-poster-1993-1020471362Now, quick and fast came the cries from Twitter (when doesn’t it?) that Iron Monkey is not a crap film – that it is, in fact, a pretty good one. This is true. My response then, is two-fold: 1) This was our reward for sitting through some lame-ass shit that night, and 2) There are some lines I will not cross, and showing bad kung fu flicks is one of those lines.

Iron Monkey is sort of a Chinese Robin Hood, stealing gold from the local corrupt governor and distributing it to the downtrodden poor, using his superior kung fu. The governor is getting pretty hot about it, too, arresting people who own monkeys, look like monkeys, or seem to possess more than the standard fighting prowess. Enter Donnie Yen as Wong Kei-Ying, in town to pick up herbs for his medical practice, with his young son, Wong Fei-Hung. Astute viewers will note this boy will grow into the character played by Jet Li in the Once Upon A Time In China movies and Jackie Chan in the Drunken Master flicks (and Kwan Tak-Hing in about a hundred movies, but that’s a digression for another time). (Also Wong Fei-Hung is being played by Tsang Sze-Man, a girl, but we need to get back to the plot)

ironmonkeyKei-Ying, in defending himself from some local hoodlums, is immediately suspect, but once the Iron Monkey himself shows up to disrupt the kangaroo court, Kei-Ying is blackmailed into capturing the outlaw, with Fei-Hung held as ransom. Iron Monkey is, naturally, the sympathetic Dr. Yang (Yu Rongguang). Then the new governor finally shows up, and who should it be but the Shaolin Traitor (Yen Shi-Kwan) and his two hard-hitting disciples, and then things start to get really kinetic.

Iron Monkey sadly has a little too much of the typical Donnie Yen undercranking the camera so he looks faster than he already is, but that’s in the service of some truly splendid Yuen Woo Ping choreography (he also directed). Quentin Tarantino promoted the movie in its first American release (doing us all a big favor), which also resulted in some very good English dubbing. I circumvented this by using my import all-region DVD, which had poorly translated English subtitles. It still has my favorite line to attempt to work into everyday conversation:

monks

Now all I need is the right situation. This may, I admit, take some time.

We awoke Rick (who later complained of sleeping through the best movie of the night) and headed wearily home. We will meet again, mancave. We will meet again.

 

 

 

Leaping Crap

Getting people together for anything not required by law is, as the cliché says, like herding cats. Ornery cats. Cats with agendas. Cats with agendas and thumbs. So it took a month of wrangling to get people together in order to punish them, and this all took place before that ultimate injustice, an extra Monday foisted upon us by Leap Year.

Artist's Representation

Artist’s Representation

In attendance: Rick, Paul, Alan (intermittently) Erik, Host Dave and myself. Rick had brought some pork tenderloins for dinner, and the grill was set up and flames climbed into the sky, while doubters predicted fiery disaster, burnt meat, horrible diseases and, for some reason, a sequel to Mortdecai. In an attempt to get things started, I put on Futuropolis, and it was roundly ignored in favor of fiery disaster, burnt meat, and etc.

futuropolis2Futuroplis is a short by Steve Segal (no relation) and Phil Trumbo (also no relation), started in the late 1970s and expanded to 30 minutes in 1984, when it was released on VHS by Expanded Entertainment, which is where I discovered it. I understand they expanded it once more in the 90s, but I’ve never seen that version. As far as I know, the only official release was that VHS, currently being sold on Amazon for as much as $150.  Both men went on to careers in animation and design.

vlcsnap-2016-03-09-20h12m22s192Futuropolis itself is a weird blend of traditional animation and what we used to call pixelation – stop-motion animation using real people. It features four Space Patrol members who eventually find themselves in conflict with the villainous Lord Egghead (Mike Cody) and his Mutation Ray. It all ends up in a Battle of the Minds between Egghead and ship’s Engineer Cosmo (Tom Campagnoli), which switches from locale to locale, time frame to time frame, eventually winding up as a Popeye cartoon. It’s silly and creative, and has the best starship-captain-playing-for-time-with-the-captain-of-an-alien-warship dialogue since “The Corbomite Maneuver”. The best because both captains are idiots.

As I said, roundly ignored by the attendees, usually dropping in to watch minute or two, then going back outside to insult Dave’s grill skills. I, at least, sat there and enjoyed it all over again.

Fucking kids.

After Futuropolis wrapped, Dave put on a 1983 oddity he had discovered, Battle of the Video Games. Because it involved Ms. Pac-Man, Burger Time and Frogger, naturally everybody sat down and gave it their undivided attention.

Fucking kids.

Title-Card-e1337350755935Around this time, prime time shows like Battle of the Network Stars were quite popular, so producing one of those involving the video game craze was logical, but only KTLA in Los Angeles was up to the challenge, it seems. The template’s the same: stars compete in feats of skill to earn money for their favorite charities, and plug their current shows. KTLA managed a mixed bag there: the biggest names are Lou Ferrigno and Lynn Redgrave, both probably wondering what the hell they’re doing there, Heather Locklear (shilling for both TJ Hooker and Dynasty) and Scott Baio (he says reluctantly). After that you’re dredging through the ranks of young actors in sitcoms, like Mindy Cohn and Philip McKeon. Each stultifying round of other people playing video games is broken up by interview segments with the stars.

Heather-Pacman-e1337350129288The most hilarious thing about the whole enterprise is the perceived necessity of “color commentary” by future game show host Marty Cohen trying to keep our interest up (also his breathless explanations of how each game is played, so parents and grandparents being forced to watch this won’t be totally lost). Actually, the most hilarious thing was the screams from our personal home audience trying to figure out the scoring methodology; it actually seemed that longevity was the key, the winner of each round being the one still playing on his or her quarter. And poor Lou, who really sucked at Burger Time. No, no, wait, the most hilarious thing was Rick recognizing the incidental music from an industrial film break about the manufacture of an arcade table as being from the “Pac-Man Fever” album, and his resultant shunning by the rest of us.

I will amend myself further that the truly most hilarious thing was that the final competition at a Pac-Man table chased us all out of the room. Every single one of us was in the kitchen, hiding from Battle of the Video Games, a situation which had not happened since Strange Beings.

Fucking kids.

cobraSo I was out for blood at this point, which made me feel better about my choice. Upon watching Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films, I had decided that Cobra was a prime candidate for Crapfest.

Stallone plays the Cobra (actually Marion Cobretti), a cop in the Loose Cannon Division of the LAPD (okay, he’s on something called “The Zombie Squad” but you get the picture).  There’s a serial killer called the Night Slasher terrorizing the city, but what the cops and media don’t know is the Slasher is actually a doomsday cult trying to bring about “The New Tomorrow”. When they’re not standing around in an abandoned factory banging axes together, that is.

Cobra’s the guy you call in on tough cases, like when one of the cultists takes to shooting up a supermarket with a shotgun, providing us with many product placement opportunities for Pepsi and Coors, not to mention giving Cobra a chance to say his catchphrases, “You’re a disease, and I’m the cure” and “Hey, dirtbag.” It’s an opening sequence virtually indistinguishable from many other Stallone flicks. Cobra does, however, put away his pearl-handled Colt .45 so he can throw a knife at the psycho, then pulls it again to shoot him several times. It’s not the multiple gun modes from Judge Dredd, but I guess it’s kinda unique. A little.

"Product placement? Don't know whatcha talkin' bout."

“Product placement? Don’t know whatcha talkin’ bout.”

Stallone’s then-current squeeze, Brigitte Nielsen, witnesses a Night Slasher murder and gets a good look at the face of the head cultist (Brian Thompson), and thanks to one of the cultists in the police department (Lee Garlington, and that ain’t no spoiler), they’re tracking her down. Cobra ain’t having none of that crap, resulting in a hospital murder spree, a highway chase, and a final showdown in a small California town whose population gets whittled down very damned quickly. As it must in all Cannon Films, the final showdown is in a factory, though not abandoned because there has to be a bunch of moving machinery and molten steel to kill off the bad guy.

"With this disguise, no one will ever suspect i am an evil cultist."

“With this disguise, no one will ever suspect I am an evil cultist.”

That chase scene does have one of the most remarkably insane and ridiculous bits: when Cobra gets tired of the cultists behind him taking potshots at his ’50 Mercury, he pulls a bootlegger turn and continues barrelling down the freeway in reverse, shooting the offending truck until it explodes. Then he bootlegs again and continues chasing the Head Cultist’s car (the cultist driving that car, who I assume to be an expert in such matters, says “He’s crazy!”)

Another bit which could be interpreted as groundbreaking, is the intercutting of Cobra, his partner and Nielsen holed up in a motel in the aforementioned small California town, intercut with cultists on motorcycles racing through the night, obviously moving toward a nighttime siege and gun battle. Then it’s morning and Stallone’s asking his partner “Howdya sleep?” What a violation of audience expectations! Actually, the mosquitoes were just so miserable at night, they decided to shoot the climactic battle during the day.

"Put out an APB on Mick Jagger."

“Put out an APB on Mick Jagger.”

You know, I actually do like Stallone; but this was made at the height of his power in Hollywood, and also the height of his ego, apparently. Though it didn’t make the money that Rambo or Rocky IV did, possibly due to some last-minute misgivings on the part of Cannon. Violence was cut to avoid an X rating, and then the two-hour run time was cut down to 84 minutes. There is a reason I thought the movie was a tremendously stupid cliche-o-rama when I saw it back in the day; it doesn’t have time to be anything else.

Stallone had also decided the signature quirk for Cobra would be the matchstick permanently stuck in his mouth. This does his already murky diction absolutely no favors, and in every dialogue scene between him and Nielsen, we felt very sorry for the sound recording guy on this flick. No matter how good a job he managed to do, everybody was going to assume he sucked at his chosen profession. I have to admit, though, the Stallone impressions that filled those 84 minutes was one of the best things since the Burton impression marathon during Exorcist II: The Heretic.

phynxMy blood lust being sated, it was time for Dave to make people suffer. Still, in this, I will admit come complicity: Dave had found out about something from 1970 called The Phynx and was gung ho about showing it. I looked at a few screengrabs from his copy and realized it was taken from an old videotape. “You know, I have this on DVD, and I haven’t watched it yet,” I said. So, you know: conspiracy.

After numerous unsuccessful attempts to sneak into Albania (why they didn’t come up with an imaginary country, who knows), the Super Secret Agency desperately consults its supercomputer MOTHA (Mechanical Oracle That Helps Americans), whose solution is to form a successful rock group, because “Beatles don’t need passports” (I’m pretty sure they did, but never mind). The computer then picks four lads who are kidnapped and forced to become musicians in a rigorous three-month training session. Then they become mega-successful and are invited to play a concert in Albania.

MOTHAWhy the desperation to infiltrate Albania? It seems that someone has been abducting American “World Leaders”. The movie’s definition of “world leaders” runs to aging stars like Georgie Jessel, Xavier Cugat, Maureen O’Sullivan, Colonel Sanders and Johnnie Weismuller. Yes this bizarre rip-off of The Monkees’ main reason for existing is the numerous cameos of formerly beloved personalities. Good God, just take a look at the IMDb entry and be amazed. Most of the cameos are for one line, and they’re all playing themselves, or claim to be. Richard Pryor is there to teach them about “soul”. Trini Lopez demonstrates proper fingering on a guitar. James Brown makes an appearance as “The Ambassador of the Record Industry”.

So none of these people get to show much about what made them famous. Martha Raye does have a few lines that lets her shine a bit, but most of the movie’s “story” is fairly tedious. There is a major detour into a subplot about a map into the bad guy’s stronghold that is split into three pieces, each piece tattooed on the belly of one of Martha Raye’s daughters. The three photos that allow the Phynx to track them down have no faces, leading the group to perform concerts “For Redheads Only!” and the use of X-Ray Glasses (relax, horndogs, this is a family film and the specs stop at underwear). This helps the under-developed story reach feature-length.

colonel sanders noInformation about the making of this movie is deucedly hard to find, so we have to put on our deerstalker hats (like the head of the SSA when he’s in disguise in London) and start deducing. The fact that it’s an ironic attempt to cash-in on The Monkees is obvious. The main perps, director Lee Katzin, and producers/story writers Bob Booker and George Foster all have numerous TV credits (Booker and Foster, incidentally, were responsible for one of Dave’s favorite Crapfest entries, The Paul Lynde Halloween Special). Most of the larger roles are taken by TV actors – look at Lou Antonio, who gets billing just under The Phynx themselves, as the hapless SSA Agent Corrigan. Antonio’s mug shot on the IMDb is as Lokai in the classic Trek episode, Let That be Your Last Battlefield, but he has an even more impressive filmography as an episodic TV director.

So we can blame this all on TV.

But – and here’s the thing – it’s easy to dismiss this as a clueless attempt by Hollywood oldsters trying to cash in on the lucrative Youth Culture market, but The Phynx actually has some genuinely subversive elements. The SSA meeting at the beginning has its various departments in attendance, from fake guerillas in “Castro’s Counterfeits” to riot cops in the “Education Division”. The head of the SSA, “Number One” is introduced, and he is in disguise, a box over his head with a face drawn on it – but the voice is Richard Nixon’s (the film debut of Rich Little). (Number One will later visit the Phynx in disguise, a beard being drawn on the box) The Phynx are debuted on The Ed Sullivan Show, just like The Beatles, except with Ed at gunpoint, and the reason the Phynx get their gold record is agents of the SSA (led by Corrigan), wearing gangster outfits from the 30s, attack record stores and smash all the other albums. This is a nasty satire on how the record industry was/is run – now consider that this movie is the sole screenplay credit of one Stan Cornyn, an editor and director at Warner Brothers Records. He won two Grammys for Best Liner Notes.

the-phynx-leader-guy

“I am Number One… and I am not a crook.”

So there’s something under all the bumbling, latching onto youth trends and sad nostalgia. Not enough to save The Phynx from obscurity and derision, but enough to make it my favorite movie of the night. Rick was surprised early on when he recognized one scene: this was a movie that he had seen on TV in his youth in Hong Kong. He had wondered ever since what the hell that was he had watched, unable to get an answer… until Crapfest. “God, that I had to come here to find out,” he moaned. “And took the rest of us down with you,” was the reply.

The other sweetness was the opening animated credits lulling everyone into a sense of false security, especially when the music buffs saw the credit, “Songs by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller”. Now, Leiber and Stoller are in the Songwriter Hall of Fame for songs like “Hound Dog”, “Jailhouse Rock” and “Stand By Me”. Then the songs came out in the movie, one by one, and the music buffs moaned in disappointment. There is one thing I have found about my compatriots in Crap – they have no appreciation for psych-tinged pop from the late 60s- early 70s. The songs are actually okay, but not at all memorable.

Fucking kids.

That's Simon Yuen on the cover. Simon Yuen does not appear anywhere in this movie.

That’s Simon Yuen on the cover. Simon Yuen does not appear anywhere in this movie.

Erik had brought a copy of The World of Drunken Master, and it had been a while since we’d played a kung fu flick. This wouldn’t have been my choice, but as London Correspondent Dave Thomas put it, “It’s not the worst of the not-Drunken Master movies”.

Two scalawags have been stealing grapes from a vineyard to sell in the market, and this is a major mistake, as these are the grapes that go into making “sweet premium” wine, the favored brand of drunken masters everywhere. The two are apprehended by the Manager of the Vineyard, who forces them to work off their larcenous debt. They try to intercede when the usual villainous Tartars start grinding the faces of the poor in the marketplace, and get their butts handed to them, Eagle Claw style. The manager, seeing there is some righteousness in them, teaches them Drunken Boxing, which involves chaining bowling balls to your wrists. Eagle Claw steps up the grinding and eventually everybody fights everyone else, and most of them wind up dead.

Ah, but this is all a flashback, as the two students – now aged Drunken Boxing masters themselves – reminisce about old times. The movie’s still only 70 minutes long at this point, though, so a surprise adversary shows up, and when he doesn’t last long enough, another surprise adversary shows up – his motivation is “I’m gonna kill you!” “Wait, you’re not my enemy…” “I’m gonna kill you! LET’S FIGHT!” So they fight. Then the movie ends.

"Ow! My liver!"

“Ow! My liver!”

All the credits indicate that this is a Hong Kong production, but it’s directed by Joseph Kuo, so it feels Taiwanese. My basic problem with Taiwanese martial arts films is what should be a strength – they really are almost non-stop fighting, but there is a resulting lack in the story area. Shaw Brothers movies might be ridiculously rococo in the plotting department, but there is a story and usually a generous helping of different styles to give the fights an individual feel. We get a lot of Eagle Claw vs Drunken Style here, and as British Dave promised, some of it is pretty good. And then the story ends and the movie goes on for another twenty minutes.

But you know, it’s an okay way to breeze through 90 minutes.

Last call.

LOVE BUTCHER 1Dave started up The Love Butcher, which someone online had assured him was a terrible movie.

People online lie.

There have been a series of murders committed with “uncommon weapons”, and what the audience realizes much more quickly than the cops or even the crusading young reporter is that they’re all gardening implements, like the pitchfork that opens the movie. The audience is also cheating, as we have been watching the neighborhood gardener, the simple-minded and disabled Caleb (Erik Stern), who, in his hovel, has conversations with his brother Lester. Except Lester doesn’t really exist until Caleb takes off his glasses, puts on a wig, and straightens out his withered left arm. Then he becomes Lester, a handsome ladykiller in every sense of that word.

Lester...

Lester…

We watch Lester ply his murderous trade, and Stern employ a number of different wigs and foreign accents to get into homes, have his way with the women who don’t give him a second glance as Caleb, and kill them. If you’re rubbing your head and thinking this all sounds rather familiar, it’s essentially the plot of 1968’s No Way to Treat a Lady with Rod Steiger, except now it has more naked breasts, blood and bad 70s wallpaper.

...and Caleb

…and Caleb

Erik Stern had an okay career in TV, and he rarely embarrasses himself as Caleb/Lester. Really, the most fascinating thing about The Love Butcher is the evidence that the filmmakers (who between them have credits for movies like Sweater Girls, Schoolgirls in Chains, The Black 6 and The Forest on their resumés) were trying for a prestige product. The opening credits are done by the same house who did the titles for numerous TV movies. The script goes out of its way for character moments that would be expected in a much more serious movie. In fact, I would almost bet money that this is a TV movie that tossed in enough blood and nudity to get an R rating and theatrical release.

Not terrible, but not particularly good, either: just more evidence that most people who declare a movie “beyond bad” simply have not seen enough movies.

Fucking kids.

I’d had another surprise for the attendees, but it was close to Midnight, and high time to head home. Next time, suckers… next time.

And lest we suspect that these outings are harmless fun, and no damage is done to anybody, here is my Letterboxd “Recently Viewed” before Crapfest…

before

…and after:

After

Fucking kids.

 

 

 

 

The Traditional Back-to-School Crapfest

“Yeah, we’re goin’ to a Crapfest, la la la…”

I’ve been reading through my old stuff lately, and I discovered this actually is something of a tradition. Every year about this time, some of the people in the Show I do each weekend decide they need to have a life or something (Civilians! Bah!). I could mourn the loss of income for that weekend, or I could try to assemble a Crapfest on that Saturday. Thankfully, the response was good, and we gathered for the biggest convocation of self-flagellation since the Black Plague.

The good thing about a Saturday Crapfest is we don’t have that artificial curfew that comes with workaday Monday mornings, and we can get in more movies over a longer period. The bad thing about a Saturday Crapfest is we don’t have that artificial curfew that comes with workaday Monday mornings, and we can get in more movies over a longer period,

Dog_6It was Paul’s birthday, so I proclaimed that it being such, Paul should get to watch a Dogville short. These make Paul happy, but other Crapfest attendees don’t like them, because they have hateful, shriveled souls. Paul chose “The Big Dog House”, so off we went. (Dave even admitted he was interested in this one, as he was likely hoping for a Sid Haig dog to crop up and then possibly a Pam Grier dog so that oh my God I just creeped myself right the hell out)

In this epic, dogs drive cars, work in department stores, light cigarettes, commit cold blooded murder and frame other dogs for the crime, so they get sent to the hot seat in their stead. They break rocks and have prison riots. They even have machine guns to quell those riots. They also make deathbed confessions in the nick of time, so there can be a hairsbreadth rescue! Why do you monsters hate Dogville so?

Happy Birthday, Paul!

imagesThere was still some time needed to prep the dinner fixins, so I dropped Paul’s other birthday present: the 1967 NBC special, Movin’ With Nancy, starring Nancy Sinatra at the exact stage that would elicit throaty growls from her Crapfest audience.

There is no plot here, no comedy sketches, just Nancy in music video after music video, in a time before music videos. Obeying Rat Pack Law, Dean Martin sings a couple of songs and Sammy Davis Jr. comes in for a quickly-shot dance number that ends with an interracial kiss a full year before Star Trek‘s. Daddy eventually shows up and sings, and the Chairman of the Board is still in great voice, baby, lit cigarette in hand. This DVD was released in 2000, which means I’ve been sitting on it for 15 years.

Happy Birthday, Paul!

Whenever I break this out, I always find myself wondering what the hell happened to Lee Hazlewood. He wrote this song and several others on the special, not to mention Nancy’s big hit, Boots. (There was disappointment that Boots wasn’t in the special, but Nancy, in the commentary track,  said she had wanted to focus on her other songs. And break our hearts in 2015, also) Hazlewood decided to retire from the music biz in the 70s, came back in the 90s, and passed away just 8 years ago. Man, I loved his voice.

The 5.1 remix on the music is superb, and we really enjoyed ourselves. We even liked the commercials, which were included. Royal Crown Cola had bought the whole hour, and they were going to use it.

Yes, I am old enough to have seen this when it was first broadcast. Yes, I drank a lot of RC Cola, and that is all Nancy’s fault. Come on, it was the Mad, Mad, Mad Mad Cola.

“And now,” I said ominously, “Fun time’s over.”

I guess it depends on how you define fun, as we started with my entry for the evening, Roar. Which may not have been fun, but it was certainly not dull.

16830076469_b256969628_oRoar is currently making the rounds of the Alamo Drafthouse, who were at the forefront of resurrecting this cinematic freakshow. It is also possible to buy it on DVD from their website. But whichever method you take, you should make sure you see it with an audience. An audience that is not afraid to bellow “Holy shit!” and “What the actual fuck?!?!” at the events unspooling before them.

Do yourself a favor and after you finish reading this, go Google Roar 1981. You are going to find a lot of interesting reading. In the meantime, let’s see if I can boil this down: this is a passion project for Tippi Hedren and her then-husband, Noel Marshall. It comes from the best intentions – they were both animal activists, and had founded a preserve in Southern California (it’s still in operation, but right now I can’t get their website to work). The movie was shot there, though it supposedly takes place in Africa.

“Bad kitty! BAD KITTY!!! You love me TOO MUCH!”

Noel plays an insane man who lives with a bunch of lions, tigers, and other big cats. I think he’s supposed to be a zoologist or game warden, but you honestly lose track of such things while you’re watching a lion gnaw on his obviously bleeding hand while he tells his terrified friend that it’s just demonstrating its love for him. If this is not sufficient proof of his insanity, he regularly breaks up lion fights by throwing his body between them. It’s like somebody decided Grizzly Man didn’t go far enough and went back in time to solve that problem.

“Cut! CUUUUTTTTTTT!!!”

Some game officials or something motorboat up to his compound to complain that he’s exceeding the number of big cats for his deed restrictions, or – hell, for all I know they’re a bunch of Jehovah’s Witnesses, we were still drowning out the soundtrack with our screams of dismay. (A particular favorite was yelling “Cut!” whenever someone disappeared under a ball of fur and claws, because the director sure as hell wasn’t interested in doing it) While Noel is in the house bandaging his bleeding hand, some of the cats get frisky and start gnawing on the Witnesses’ heads, causing more screams from us.

The plot, such as it is, is that Noel’s family (and that really is his family, including Tippi and Melanie Griffith. It’s not like he could have convinced anyone else to be in this demented deathtrap) is coming to join him in this toothy paradise, but they got the arrival time wrong, meaning they hitch a ride to the compound while Dad is coming to get them, two ships passing in the night, as it were. And they come to a house full of animals wondering why these new arrivals are acting like prey, running around, screaming, hiding, that sort of thing.

I think the lion was a fan of The Haunting.

Perhaps the lion was a fan of the original The Haunting.

You see, this is supposed to be a family movie, and this section is supposed to be funny. This is like filming a slapstick comedy on a set made of razor wire and broken glass. The cats are rambunctious because there’s a rogue lion named Togar messing with them, so they’re acting out. In real life, the family knew some of these cats, but not all, and everybody wound up getting stitches at one point or another in its ten-year process. Melanie Griffith had to have facial reconstruction surgery. Jan de Bont, then merely a cameraman, had 120 stitches when a curious lion tore the scalp off the back of his head with one swipe.

Two of the vengeful Witnesses come back to shoot the lions, and supposedly manage to bag a few until Togar has enough of their shit and puts a massive hurt on them. I try not to think about how badly those guys were actually hurt. I’m sure at least some of that blood was fake, at least. Maybe. Hopefully. Anyway, it’s a pretty unnecessary addition to the movie, except that they needed to get some “Hunting is evil!” action in there. Animal activists, remember?

The family manages to survive their night of terror, and it turns out all everybody needed was a good night’s sleep! Even Togar is okay now that he’s had a Snickers and a hunter’s face! Yay, big cats! Yay, we no longer need cringe in terror for these poor fools getting mauled for a questionable idea of entertainment! Yay!

Happy Birthday, Paul!

So after this we were really through being nice, this time we meant it. Dave was being mysterious, as usual, as he put on something called Hell Squad. Judging from the Tweets I was getting back, I am the only person in the world who had never heard of Hell Squad. Well, and all the other people in the room with me. There is no information on this thing, anywhere.

Hell_Squad-960366835-largeThe first thing you have to realize is there is something called an Ultra Neutron Bomb.  Ay-rabs kidnap the son of an ambassador (after a chase scene that sets new levels for unexcitement) in order to force the ambassador to give them the formula for the Ultra Neutron Bomb!!! Should he call the cops? The Army? The CIA? No, his assistant has a better idea.

And hops on the next flight to Las Vegas.

There he meets with Jan (Bainbridge Scott), a showgirl who likes to beat the crap out of mashers. She calls a meeting of her bored showgirl troupe and they all board a bus to the desert, where a guy in a drill sergeant hat tells them, “We have ten days to turn you from Las Vegas showgirls to trained commandos.”

002e5f43_mediumThere is magic in that statement. Magic that will go largely unfulfilled, but welcome to the world of crap movies. After a training montage (while the ambassador’s son molders in the dungeon for ten days – these are remarkably patient terrorists) Hell Squad is ready to go, journeying to Fake-istan under the guise of a traveling troupe of showgirls.

Okay, that’s Act One. In Act Two, Hell Squad will check into their luxury hotel suite, discover a large bathtub, and because “I read there’s a water shortage,” will take group baths. There isn’t a bubble bath shortage, though. It seems only Bainbridge Scott got the extra nudity money. Their mysterious contact always calls with instructions right after Bainbridge gets in the tub. (I suspected Paul of being the contact.)

hqdefaultThe contact sends them on mission after mission in which they easily kill lots of Ay-rabs (why are we spending trillions on bombers when all we need is Las Vegas showgirls with ten day’s training?), and then return for a group bath. Literally: lather, rinse, repeat. Phone call, boobies. They commandeer a tank and drive it fifty feet. Mission accomplished! Bath time!

They finally run out of money for extras so two of the missions are just driving around in the desert. First at night, then during the day. I don’t think they got to take a bath between those two, because we were too busy bitching about the one-note-off-from-the-actual-A-Team-theme-song music that accompanied each. And every. Outing.

All of this doesn’t turn up the Ambassador’s son, and their extraction plane is going to leave with or without them. Luckily, they are captured by a Sheikh (Marvin Miller in his last screen appearance), who, in keeping with the evening’s festivities, gets chewed on by a tiger until he reveals where the son is being held. So it’s time to go take a bath.

CUE THAT A-TEAM MUSIC as the girls drive to a lake and swim thirty feet to the opposite shore where a castle from somebody’s aquarium awaits (thus rendering the bikinis they’re wearing totally justified). They rescue the son, kill some more guys (“Tee hee! Murder is fun!”), and somehow blow up the castle with a trail of gasoline. Lit by an ordinary book of matches that somehow stayed dry in her bathing suit (see below). Then they have to make it home to reveal there’s a mole in the organization.

Who’s the mole? I need to leave you something to find out for yourself. (PROTIP: it ain’t worth the effort) (However, it totally should have been the Boom Mike Operator. That boom mike appears in so many scenes it probably had to get a SAG card.)

Dave presented this in apology for the May Fest’s Galaxy Destroyer, which had neither galaxies or destruction or entertainment. Hell Squad was entertaining, give it that. Dave also provided the one piece of trivia related on the IMDb: Donald F. Glut wrote the script, but held off giving the director the final third until he was paid. So the director, Kenneth Hartford, came up with his own third act, and Glut never got paid anyway. Which explains the lack of dramatic tension and logic and stuff.

Did you know Kenneth Hartford directed three other movies?

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PAUL!

Erik spotted a great line in the end credits, “Special thanks to the PLO members who played themselves as terrorists.”  Uh….

Well spotted, dude.

And that, alas, is the last time I will be able to say anything nice about Erik.

Because he brought the next movie.

And without even a “You remember when we said we were through being nice? This time we absolutely mean it, hand to God.”

And we put in Roller Boogie.

MV5BMTgyMTI2NTc2N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzgyMTM4NA@@._V1_SX214_AL_

“It’s love on wheels” she said. “You’ve got to watch it” she said.

It was a year ago that, in a similar Crapfest, we partook of and enjoyed Skatetown USA. It was bizarre and madcap, and while most of the humor was, um, not that funny, if you didn’t like what was going on at any point, you could be sure it would switch to something else in a minute or so.

Roller Boogie does not do this.

Linda Blair is Terry Barkley, a rich kid we are told is a musical genius and about to go to Julliard. But since she is rich, she does not possess the Life Force, and must seek it among the poors of the local Roller Disco. Luckily, Jim Bray, winner of 275 roller skating trophies, is there to provide such for her.

Oh, but it’s not just a love story, you know. Some gangster types (led by Mark Goddard, who Dave pointed out is still pissed off about not getting to kill Dr. Smith) want to take over the Roller Disco, causing the owner to shut it down the night before the all-important Roller Boogie Competition, rather than endanger the kids. Thanks to roller skater “Phones” (Stoney Jackson), there is an accidental tape recording of the gangsters threatening the owner, and somehow the gangsters find out about it. I’m not really sure how, because I was being amused by Paul’s soul-rattling sighs from the back of the room, frequently punctuated by painful groans.

Roller-Boogie-2The closest analog I can come up with is when we finally decided to watch Can’t Stop the Music, and discovered that, rather than a non-stop parade of fabulousness, what we had was a fairly tepid update of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland putting on a show at the old barn. Roller Boogie is much the same thing, an old story dressed up in garish new clothes, hoping against hope that this new craze would last long enough for the movie to get out the door. It’s entertaining enough, it’s just not particularly interesting. Especially not after the madness of Skatetown USA, and it’s probably a very good thing that we put a year between those two movies, or Paul’s sighs might have been louder.

There are some good things about the movie. Uhhhhh… like the club’s DJ wasn’t Jeff Altman, as we had feared. The ending is sort of refreshingly downbeat, since Terry quits the Roller Life to go to Julliard, enjoy your 276th trophy, Jim Bray. And really, no one can deny that a certain Earth Wind & Fire song was very welcome.

Erik claimed the disc had been lent to him by someone named “Anita”, and that “Anita” was checking on our progress throughout the night via text. I’m not even sure there really was an “Anita”, that this wasn’t some sort of clever subterfuge. You see, Crapfest isn’t a democracy; you can’t even say it’s a benevolent dictatorship. We run it like a gulag, really, and somehow “Anita”, as Rick aptly put it, “acting as an external agent… managed to completely circumvent all council protocols and infiltrate the agenda with a highly weaponized Roller Disco device, leaving in its wake incomprehensible catatonic agony.”

This “Anita”, if she indeed exists, is highly dangerous. We should alert Matt Helm, Derek Flint, and see if that Bond dude is doing anything at the moment.

I could really go for a

I could really go for a “Bike Cop” movie, though.

As it stands, Erik was banned from suggesting movies for a year. This punishment has only been doled out once before, to Rick for the whole Garbage Pail Kids thing. Which happened after he got out of parole for Evilspeak, come to think of it. In any case, we shall mention Roller Boogie no more. If we must mention it, it shall be known instead as “Erik’s Shame“.

Which is complete bullshit because the next thing we put on was Supersoul Brother, a selection from both Rick and myself. I have written about this earlier, so I’ll be brief here: Rudy Ray Moore wannabe Wildman Steve (we are informed it is pronounced Wi-i-i-i-ldman Steve) is a wino who is cleaned up and injected with a formula that will give him super strength, so he can steal a cardboard safe. Trouble is, the formula will kill him in seven days. Hilarity ensues.

supersoul6bigNo, it doesn’t, this is a terrible, terrible movie, made for one one-thousandth, if not one-millionth, the budget of Erik’s Shame, and at least as entertaining, if not more. It is also almost a half-hour shorter. Just enough enough time to realize that no, that wasn’t surround sound, that was Paul’s moans and sighs echoing every one of the put-upon Wi-i-i-i-ldman Steve’s.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PAUL. WE HAVE SUCH SIGHTS TO SHOW YOU.

At this point, it was midnight. Paul, feeling his birthday was over, took his leave. Happy birthday, Paul, thanks for spending it with us. Your judgement is questionable.

But we were not finished.

“No, children, it isn’t over yet.”

Hell Squad had not been Dave’s first choice for the evening. And now that we were heading into what we knew was going to be the last movie of the fest, he revived that choice. And although I had seen the American dub again around a year ago, I had never seen the original, Danish version of Reptilicus.

This version had no subtitles, causing Dave to run into his computer room while we provided Ingmar Bergmanesque translations of our own. The plucky oil prospectors at the beginning were plenty concerned about the silence of God in an uncaring universe, you bet you.

Dave returned with some fan subtitles and we got down to business. If you didn’t know, Denmark’s only daikaiju movie discovers the frozen tail of a previously unknown dinosaur while drilling for oil. Like an earthworm, the accidentally thawed tail starts growing a whole new dinosaur, which escapes and proceeds to spread puppet terror across the countryside.

Cgav0UyThere’s a bunch of stuff that got cut from this for the American dub, and it’s mainly character-driven romance stuff, but there are two really infamous cuts: the first concerns the Odious Comic Relief janitor, played by Dirch Passer, who was a incredibly successful Danish comedian. AIP, for some reason, felt the need to cut a song he sings with some children about Reptilicus:

The other concerns the monster’s bat wings, which in the American dub are never referenced. Not so in the Danish version. I tweeted, “You’ll believe a puppet can fly.”

You won’t, really. I was just being nice.

So all this was excised, most in the cause of getting to the monster scenes sooner. Counterintuitively, this resulted in the travelogue segment in the American version leading up to “Tivoli Nights” to make up for lost time, and the addition of the monster’s acid spit.

Also missing from the Danish cut, which makes me sad.

Also missing from the Danish cut, which makes me sad.

“Tivoli Nights” does bring up something else. The fan subtitles did a wonderful job of translating the Reptilicus Song, even making it rhyme in English, but had little patience with “Tivoli Nights”, interjecting pleas that someone shoot the translator to stop the pain. Then, when Reptilicus makes his first appearance, his roar is translated as “Rar! I’m a monsta!” which made me so happy.

It still ends the same, though.

At 2am, we wearily went back out into The World, satisfied that there was nothing out there that could possibly hurt us as much as what we had just done to ourselves. Five movies! Five movies and a TV special. Five movies, a TV special, and Dogville.

Can’t wait to do it again.

Crap of July: The 80s Strike Back

Once more, I survived working the City’s Independence Day festivities, with only slightly more than usual aches and pains afterwards. It was time for celebration, celebration that required little or no work from yours truly, ie., a Crapfest. (Click here for a visual representation of our gatherings, putting the “odd” back in “odyssey”)

Slightly lower attendance this go-round – Paul had a sibling’s party to attend, The Other Dave was recovering from what he described as “eating like Orson Welles for three days”, leaving us with host The Original Dave, Alan, Rick, Erik and myself. Mrs. Dave excused herself and got the hell out of Dodge. Like all of us, she had lived through the 80s, and unlike all of us, she had the sense to know that once was enough.

2278449962_89fbd266b3_oYou see, there was a motif that, unplanned, began to assert itself as the evening wore on, and past a point we stopped resisting and just went with it. And the 80s came, and had their way with us. Roughly.

Dave’s opening salvo was the motivational classic, Mr. T’s Be Somebody… or Be Somebody’s Fool, a direct-to-video outing from 1984 (the hot middle of the VHS boom, a time when something like this being successful in the video market was a real possibility). The intentions behind this are so good, it’s really kind of hard to be mean to it. If it has any weaknesses, it’s that it tries to cover 14 different topics like Peer Pressure, Shyness, Frustration and Styling (featuring “Zina and Zina from San Bernadina”), so it’s like every PBS morning and Disney kid’s show compressed into 52 minutes.

Oh, stop screaming.

T is very game in this whole enterprise, even if he looks very uncomfortable when visiting a street scene that is basically the Shaolin Temple of breakdancing (he does not make it past the first chamber). Guest stars like New Edition and a very young Fergie keep you watching for other possibly hidden details, and I have to say the rap Ice-T wrote for Mr. T is actually pretty good, delivering the message while playing to T’s vocal strengths. It was a fairly easy way to slide into the horrors of the evening.

Well, “fairly easy” gives way to “Necronomicon-level horror” when whatever file Dave has Mr. T residing in on his hard drive then flips over to the pilot episode of The Lost Saucer, a Sid and Marty Krofft monstrosity hailing from 1975 starring Jim Nabors and Ruth Buzzi as bumbling robots (Nabors is from “the Southern Cosmos”). As it was from 1975, it was purged somewhat speedily, but not before the theme song wormed its way into our brains:

Much easier for us to glom onto than T’s rapping, and it would pop up over and over for the next five hours.

We would need it.

A movie I had been trying to get on the agenda for over a year was The Miami Connection, a strange concoction concerning a group of five orphan tae kwan do black belts who are friends forever, as they will tell us in song. You see, they are also the rock group Dragon Sound, “a new dimension in rock and roll,” the bold new direction being that they dress in karate gis while pretending to play their instruments.

You can be sure that this number was the first time we used The Lost Saucer defensively. The scowling GI Joe with Kung-Fu Grip lookalike who’s so concerned about his sister is the leader of the improv street gang (all their dialogue is obviously – and poorly – improvised), who have some sort of affiliation with the Miami Ninjas, who are taking over the lucrative drug trade. The position of house band in this joint seems more than a paltry paycheck and unlimited well drinks, it must control trade routes from its lofty perch, or something, since the band replaced by Dragon Sound is willing to fight them for it, and when they get tired of having their asses handed to them by Dragon Sound, they employ GI Joe’s Improv Mob to get their asses kicked instead.

miamiconnection_poster-final__smallNone of that synopsis will help you with the horrible line delivery of star/co-director/writer Y.K. Kim, who is a good martial artist but a terrible actor (casting by Y.K. Kim). Two of the band members are similarly good at the kicking, not so hot on the emoting. The other two are the opposite, kind uhhhhhh adequate on the acting, not seen doing much on the fight scenes. They are: the black one (who actually does track down his father, with a shrill “Oh my Godddddd!”) and John Oates. As there is no girl on the band, John Oates is the de facto girl, getting kidnapped and held as bait.

We haven’t even gotten to the biker gang who shows up out of nowhere to provide us with our bare breasts for the R rating. And the final showdown with the Miami Ninjas, in a park that resembles the jungles of Da Nang (Orlando is truly a city of wonders). This movie got kicked around to various distributors, none of whom cared to even give it a video release, and mind you, this was in 1987, when anyfuckingthing could get released on VHS. One guy at Manson International (appropriately) finally agreed to pick it up if they changed the ending (the original, tragic ending required acting, and talk about trying to find water in the middle of a desert…).

Erik had been wanting to see this for a while, and he avowed that it was worth the wait. I was not prepared, however, for how much it hurt Dave, which was a lot. So much that he decided to forego his original planned entry, and also show something horrible and soul-shriveling from the 80s, locking in our course for the evening. And that something terrible was Where the Boys Are 84.

Where_the_Boys_Are_'84There is a fair amount of demented genius in this choice, mainly because I don’t think there was any way in Hell any of us had seen this movie, unless it was by accident while flipping through cable movie channels.

The premise is: you have four college co-eds (Lisa Hartman, Lorna Luft, Wendy Schaal and Lynn-Holly Johnson), who head to Fort Lauderdale for Spring Break, with no higher mission than to get drunk and laid. Lynn-Holly wants to screw “Conan the Barbarian” – whoever might fit that description – Lisa wants to make time with Camden (Daniel McDonald), the famous classical piano player cousin of the rich Wendy, and Lorna just needs a break from her jealous boyfriend, who will proceed to track her to Lauderdale. Got all that? It’s a sexy madcap romp! Or so we’re told.

It is! It's a sexy madcap romp!

It is! It’s a sexy madcap romp!

The movie itself is not too awful, though keeping track of all the subplots is sort of a full-time job (the tequila sunrises Dave kept bringing into the room didn’t help). A hitchhiker the girls pick up on the way is an itinerant musician named Scott (Russell Todd, leading to many unsaid Time Squad riffs), who is going to be Camden’s chief competition for Lisa’s attention. There’s a Stray Cats wannabe group that keeps cropping up – called, rather nakedly, The Rockats – ensuring that every five minutes I could ask, “Is that Brian Setzer?” no matter who walked across the screen.

The first night, when the girls go out to become, as they put it, “shitfaced” rapidly becomes very uncomfortable, especially when Wendy gets drunk and begins to do a striptease in the middle of the bar (to Rockats accompaniment). I swear to you, the scene was two camera setups away from becoming The Accused before Lisa intervenes.

Of course, if you really want uncomfortable, there’s always this scene:

This movie fails the Bechdel Test, fails it repeatedly and fails it hard. So hard there were probably smoking craters all over Lauderdale from repeated attempts. I will further postulate that its very title implies an impressive fail on that point.

Do I really need to tell you how the various plot threads play out? Lorna and her boyfriend will get back together. Conan the Barbarian turns out to be a tiny-dicked hustler. Wendy gets busted for DUI and starts dating the cop who busted her. (Spoiler: he’s married). Scott publicizes the snooty party Wendy’s mother is throwing for Camden’s big concert so he can crash Lisa’s alone time with Camden. The supposedly comic shenanigans that ensue also include the Rockats – of course – staging an impromptu concert of their own, and the string trio that was supposed to be entertaining the posh crowd start jamming with them. I really could have used more of that.

Camden is confessing that he is having trouble finishing his new suite because he can’t find “the proper phrase”. I suggested that the missing phrase might be “…THE LOST SAUCER!” but he ignored me. Scott bursts in and tells him what the phrase should be, saving his rival’s bacon. AS MOVIES TRY TO TELL US OVER AND OVER AGAIN, RICH PEOPLE SUCK AND ONLY POOR PEOPLE HAVE THE LIFE FORCE.

Oh, hey, was that Brian Setzer?

So how do we follow up that slice of drive-in fare (from an era with practically no drive-ins)? Is there any topping that, in a very real way finishing off the evening, like a blow to the head on the killing floor? Why, how about another movie from the 80s I had been trying to shoehorn into a Crapfest forever: Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare.

220px-RocknrollnightmareAs some of you may be aware, the movie’s original title was The Edge of Hell, which it retains on the Synapse Films disc I was using. This allowed me to pull the “Oh no! I brought the wrong movie!” bit for a while, never mind we had spent the last five minutes grooving to the 5.1 menu song of “Talkin’ ‘Bout Rock”.

So we have a rock group, The Tritonz, setting up shop in a remote (except you kept seeing car headlights on a nearby highway in the numerous night shots) farmhouse, where a family were mysteriously and supernaturally murdered years before. But this is the perfect place to finish our album! We built a state of the art recording studio in the barn! (The state of the art was apparently pretty sad in 1987, especially in Canada.) The Tritonz’ journey to the farmhouse in their non-custom van is pretty much accomplished in real time, the sure mark of a movie that came up short on running time. Interminable love scenes (and slow motion during same) is another clue.

(Speaking of love scenes, here’s some “fun” movie lore: the requisite breasts for an R rating were supposed to be provided by the groupies in one scene. Said breasts are even referenced in the dialogue. Their agent, however, told them to refuse on the day of shooting, and the ladies in the Tritonz were called upon to take up the slack. As it were.)

rocknrollnightmare2_05504ad066b68a611fbd6ab293425aa2The leader of the group, John Triton, is, as aficionados of crap cinema know, played by real-life rocker Jon Mikl Thor, who also wrote, produced, and provided the music. I actually like the music – very little LOST SAUCER needed, it provided its own riffs – but the story is plodding and pretty cliche. The drummer is even named Stig, for God’s sake. In any case, the forces of darkness -represented by rubbery cyclops puppets and the occasional decent makeup effect – pick off the band one by one, leading to a closing act that I still refuse to say anything about. It must simply be witnessed, with as little preparation as possible.

All online trailers seem to have gone bye-bye. Well, they all pretty much blew the surprise, anyway. Spoiler alert, and all that.

Another thing learned this evening: most 80s movie scores were written by rummaging through John Carpenter’s trash can.

The best part is I can now threaten Crapfest with the sequel to Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare, Intercessor: Another Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare. But you know what? That is below even me.

With this particular Crapfest, though, it felt like we had finally hit our stride again, after the long time off. Is that a good thing? Or a bad thing? Given the Crapfest experience, it is probably a bad thing. And that’s good.

Right?

Hey… was that Brian Setzer?