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.
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.
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.
This 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.
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!
(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.)
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.
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.)
You 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.
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 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)
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.
First, 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.
According 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.
Now, 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)
Kei-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:
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.