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?

 

 

 

 

The Memorial Crapfest

It had been six months since the last Crapfest. There are many reasons for that. The holidays, certainly. There was also the fact that I was really tired of the cat-herding involved with setting a date that everyone was available. It was just much easier to find a day to meet with Rick, or Dave, or both, and just quietly watch some movies.

Life, though, has a way of forcing our hands.

A couple of weeks ago, in my semi-annual bitching about my life post, I mentioned that I skipped out on the memorial service of an acquaintance because that evening was the only chance I had to rest, recoup and heal in a physically grueling week. The deceased was Mark, who was responsible for such Crapfest entries as Skyscraper, The Black 6, and Evil Town. It wasn’t a memorial service, but a Celebration of Life (Mark would not have appreciated a moribund memorial service, not at all) and it was apparently crowded, which is to the good.

I’m a simple man, and I memorialized Mark the best way I knew: by inflicting terrible movies upon my fellow man, as he would.

The evening began with host Dave testing out his new AV setup with the first 20 minutes of Pacific Rim. Now, Pacific Rim is not crap. It is, however, quite loud. I sat and stewed that every time I tried to start things out nicely with some vintage Rolling Stones or Tom Jones, I get castigated for daring to put some “quality” into everybody’s precious crap. No one understands that this only makes the scalpel cut deeper. Yet here is Dave, receiving no such complaints while he projects giant robots punching kaiju.

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NOT. CRAP.

When you’re the host, you get to do stuff like this.

But you know when nobody complains about “quality” in a Crapfest? When that quality is in the form of cartoons. I curated another set of cartoons, if only because Mark had really enjoyed the Halloween set at the last Crapfest. We start off easy with Feed the Kitty, one of Chuck Jones’ best, followed by Tex Avery’s Bad Luck Blackie, which is its polar opposite: in the first, a bulldog adores a little kitten; in the other, a bulldog continually tries to kill a little kitten.

Tom & Jerry were actually the worst about this.

Tom & Jerry were actually the worst about this.

The next section grew out of a discussion that Dave, Rick and I had after watching Diplomaniacs, about what Dave termed “blackface dynamite” (a scholarly term, to be sure) in cartoons, where an explosion turns everyone onscreen into minstrel show participants. The one instance he could recall with certainty was in Droopy’s Good Deed, which I surprisingly had in its uncensored form… but I still started off with Chew Chew Baby, a 1958 Harveytoon that played semi-regularly in the weekday morning cartoon slot, alongside the Bugs Bunny and Sylvester the Cat cartoons. It terrified me, and in short screwed me up for some time. It was a horrible thing to show a 5 year-old, and once again it is temporarily on YouTube, so look quick:

Oh, all right, here’s the censored Droopy scene in Japanese, which doesn’t make it any better:

Surprisingly, there are some (pretty awful quality) examples of the Betty Boop cartoon I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead You Rascal You, featuring Bimbo and Koko being chased by the giant flying head of Louis Armstrong:

Again, I fully expect all of these to be purged from YouTube in the next week.

I laid out my usual four movies to be voted on. Dave was having none of this voting crap, however (the fascist), and snatched up the recently-released Sorceress DVD. I have gone into Sorceress in far too much detail elsewhere, so let me be brief, and you can visit me twenty years ago at your leisure.

Sorceress is yet another Roger Corman-produced New World Pictures attempt to cash in on the sword and sorcery fad. It was directed by Jack Hill, who has a bunch of good, influential cinema under his belt, like Coffy and Switchblade Sisters. He asked that his name be removed from the movie. It is an intriguing script, full of amazing effects that Corman was not willing to pay for, so what you’re actually watching is a cheap piece of junk. It does feature the Harris twins (Playboy Playmates) and their nudity, Frampton the Barbarian, and for some reason, a Viking and his traveling companion, a satyr. I’m usually pretty forgiving about the acting in these things, but in this one it gets pretty dire.

Viking

“And my axe! …except I don’t have one.”

The major heartbreak in all this: Jack Hill wanted Sid Haig to play Pando, the satyr, but Corman wouldn’t pay for that, either. I weep over the loss of this portrayal. And you know what else is not in Sorceress? A sorceress! None. Zip. Zero. Corman apparently took a list of possible titles to a local high school and asked them which movie they’d go see. “Why, the one that gives me a chance to see boobies,” they replied, and so it was.

After this, Alan had brought something. When Alan brings something, it is always horrific. This time, it was, at least, horrific and short. It was the premiere episode of the shortest-lived M*A*S*H* spin-off ever, W*A*L*T*E*R*. Yes, Gary Burghoff’s shot at a show featuring his Radar O’Reilly character.

There are a few points of interest: using one of the best episodes of M*A*S*H* as a springboard – the one featuring a TV crew filming a documentary of the 4077th – a “Where are they now?” special catches us up on what happened to Radar – excuse me, Walter – in the intervening years. He lost the family farm and got abandoned on his wedding day, among other things. So now he is a beat cop in St. Louis.

walter2Now, Walter using his Radar O’Reilly powers to solve crimes is the series I would have tuned in to every week. Instead, what we have here is some gently uplifting comedy about how being a nice guy and having an affinity for animals makes Walter a good cop. Any warm feelings toward the show engendered by having Dick Miller crop up as the manager of a burlesque house besieged by warring strippers is wasted by the fact that Walter’s eventual love interest is played by Victoria Jackson. Possibly before she went insane, but still.

You know what? Screw you. Why should I be the only one to suffer?

There needed to be some filler while dinner was grilled (We were too wrapped up in W*A*L*T*E*R* to attend to such things, it seems), and this fell to me. I had two trailer compilations, labeled “Adventure” and “Satanism” “Satan!” chose Paul, enthusiastically. He would regret that.

There are a lot of movies with “Satan” and “The Devil” in their titles, and the most amazing thing about this is that most of these movies are boring. How is this even possible? They don’t even have enough good stuff in them to make a good trailer, and this is sad.

fitnessRick had prepared a ton of hamburger patties. Dave imperiously strode through the kitchen, proclaiming, “You will have double cheeseburgers! This is the LAW!!!” In a rare gesture of restraint, I only had two double cheeseburgers. I miss those double cheeseburgers. They were good double cheeseburgers.

(Why yes, I did just have my semi-annual visit to my doctor, during which we discussed my weight gain. I told her it was all Rick’s fault. She sighed and scribbled something in the TO BE KILLED column.)

lost planetThen Dave put on his choice. It was a choice that would make us miss boring old Satan. Like many of Dave’s choices, it had more names than a petition against closing a local community center. The name it had chosen for the evening was Galaxy Destroyer, but it is apparently better known as simply Galaxy or Battle for the Lost Planet (“uncensored TV version of Kampf um den verlorenen Planeten”) or “Do you even watch these fucking things before you show them?”

SO there’s this thief named Harry Trent (Matt Mitler) who has stolen a very valuable data tape, and hijacks a space shuttle to escape the security guards chasing him. First problem: he damaged the shuttle and can’t maneuver it, so he has to take a comet’s route back to Earth, which will take five years. Luckily (if not realistically) , there is sufficient fuel and food for this. Second problem: he passed a fleet of wannabe Vogons who reduce the Earth to a scorched black ball.

So after five years of komedy, like discovering he also broke the ship’s stove so that the food is crap and drawing a naked woman on a pillow to seduce, Trent returns to an Earth that has regrown into a bunch of B-movie communes, and discovers he has become a legend, because the data tape he stole will operate a mega-weapon that will destroy the pig-faced aliens. He picks up a feisty liberated woman (Denise Coward), runs into space crabs, has to deal with Mad Dog Kelly, the Maddest Mad Man on the Q Morning Zoo… no I’m sorry, he’s Joe Genitissi in a role that should have gone to Frank Stallone, a Mad Max wannabe who thinks all women should willingly be in his harem and Trent fights him to the death AND OH MY GOD WILL YOU JUST END I REALLY MISS BORING SATAN.

semistalloneSemi-Stallone gets Trent into the Mega-weapon complex and finds out it can kill anybody or anything just as long as the particulars can be programmed into it. Even with the data tape, the surviving scientist (Bill MacGlaughlin) can’t figure out how to program it to kill the aliens. Semi-Stallone says that’s because he’s “too cordial” and he just has to program in human beings and tell the machine to kill everything else. Congratulations, asshole, you just destroyed the biosphere, animals, insects, bacteria and all.

But no, this works, and the aliens dissolve like the demons at the end of the original Evil Dead, but this is deemed so cool that they show many, many instances of it until even that becomes boring. Gaaaah.

This is the work of Brett Piper, who some of you will know from A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell, and you are nodding sagely right now.  Some fair stop-motion animation, almost nudity (“MY movie had boobies,” I once again entoned from the back), komedy, and some tiresome social commentary.

Dave sneered that we had lost our “bad movie legs”. See for yourself, the three minutes where the movie almost got exciting:

And lest that make you think you might actually want to watch this, here’s the actual trailer:

The only comment on YouTube:

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 12.31.32 PM

And you know what else wasn’t in Galaxy Destroyer, besides entertainment value? A galaxy, being destroyed or not.

Sometime during this Paul scapered off into the night, claiming work the next morning (he was lying, he wanted to watch the Rockets game in peace. Incidentally, they lost that night.) and also Erik, claiming a hangover (the veracity of this is unknown). This left Dave, Rick, Alan and myself. “What else you got?” asked Dave. I presented two discs which I knew to be around an hour long. “What else you got?” he asked again, and I realized I was the only person in the room who had to get up for work the next day.

Short sleep rations are a fact of my life. You don’t scare me.

Can-que_e39fe8ffI presented two more movies. And with some sort of hell-spawned wisdom, Dave chose the movie that would be of a fit with the rest of the evening: The Return of the Five Deadly Venoms, which has nothing to do with the earlier movie, Five Deadly Venoms. It is, in fact, a re-titling of Crippled Avengers, because people are idiots.

Chan Kuan-Tai plays To, a famous kung fu hero, whose wife and child are hideously mangled by enemies (To then kills the scumbags with one tiger blow each). His son survives, though his arms have been cut off, and To raises him to be a great fighter with iron arms that have some proto-Tony Stark weaponry in them. They also become colossal jerks, ruling the local village with an iron (ha!) fist, and crippling most of the cast of Five Deadly Venoms for various minor infractions, like talking back or bumping into them on the street.

So, a newly blind man, a deaf-mute, a legless guy, and a brain-damaged hero who tried to help them (but still has excellent kung fu skills in his muscle memory), learn kung fu and come back to rid the world of To and his iron-fisted son. If you need more details, once again you can commune with my younger self.

Chang Cheh’s Venom movies (as they are known) tend to end in spectacular fight scenes that rely more on acrobatic skills than martial artistry, but the fights are so dizzying, like a gymnastic tournament gone ballistic, that it is damned near impossible not be sucked in. Another special shout out goes to Wang Lung Wei as To’s second-in-command, whose battle cry of “Let’s go!” whenever his men were losing, became the quote of the evening.

It washed away the Boring Satan and Boring-er Galaxy Destroyers and ended the night on an up-beat. Nyah nyah on Erik and Paul who have to nurse their delicate psyches through horrid memories of Galaxy Destroyer when they think of this night, and not the exhausting final fight of Crippled Avengers or the ta-tas of the Harris Twins (“My movie had boobies!”)

And rest assured that Mark is laughing at us all, and probably making a joke about an obscure Richard Burton movie.

Looks like I’m back to my cat-herding duties.

 

 

The Halloween Crapfest

furniture-fascinating-orange-rubber-halloween-pumpkin-carving-ideas-with-orange-rubber-teeth-and-orange-plastic-tongue-for-dinning-room-halloween-pumpkin-carving-ideas-decor-magnificent-halloween-pumpWhile all that Hubrisween stuff was going on, I suddenly felt the craving for a movie experience much less solitary. A need to inflict suffering on others. I felt the need for an all-horror Crapfest (well, Crapfests are sort of predicated on horror, but that’s a larger issue). By and large, the call was answered.

Except on the day, Paul and the Other David begged off, citing Ebola, because that will never not be hilarious. Alan had a matinee performance  -O, cursed work ethic! – which left it down to me, Dave, Rick, Erik and Mark. We brought enough food for the original horde, so there were plenty of leftovers.

We began with a collection of Halloween cartoons curated by yours truly. I’ll make a perfunctory pass through YouTube, but I don’t hold much hope for finding any of them (and if I did, they’d be taken down within a month), so here’s a list:

  1. Bimbo’s Initiation (1931) – a sort of proto-Betty Boop short
  2. Scaredy Cat (1948) – Porky & Sylvester vs murder mice, and not for the last time
  3. The Mad Doctor (1933) – Mickey Mouse. Disney was scarring young minds way before Snow White
  4. Water Water Every Hare (1952) – Mad doctors again, this time with Bugs Bunny
  5. Snow White (1933) – but this time with Betty Boop and Cab Calloway
  6. Have You Got Any Castles (1938) – Musical earworm involving books, included for an appearance by Mr. Hyde, Fu Manchu, the Phantom of the Opera, and Frankenstein’s Monster. And dammit, because I love this cartoon.
  7. The Haunted House (1929) – Mickey Mouse again, and some skeletons who just want to party.
  8. Broomstick Bunny (1956) – Bugs Bunny, obviously, and the debut of Witch Hazel.

Okay, color me corrected (and hopefully these won’t disappear in a few weeks):

(I think I really love Have You Got Any Castles because it assumes a certain amount of cultural awareness on the part of its audience.)

This was before the switch off Daylight Savings Time, so we were still waiting for the sun to go down that the true horror could begin. It was best to go with something short, I thought, so Dwain Esper’s 1934 Maniac got the nod. Here’s the clip everyone recognizes, quoted in It Came From Hollywood:

Now here is something about Crapfest that really, I get my nose rubbed in repeatedly: subtlety is wasted, and this is the first and last time you are going to hear Maniac accused of subtlety. But so much of its charm and outrageousness is dependent on declamatory acting better suited to an 1890 stage, florid dialogue ditto, and shocking 1934 nudity excused on the flimsiest educational intertitles possible – that gets lost in the raucous atmosphere. This always happens, except for Bugs Bunny, who gets reverent silence.

It was now dark enough for the true nastiness to begin, so I trotted out Night Train to TerrorWe’ve been here before, you and I,  and we know that this movie is a cheapjack Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors made of cut-up versions of two previously released movies and one that was unfinished, so the usual Crapfest cry of “What’s happening?” was totally justified. But outside of the double-casting of Richard Moll giving Rick purchase for a desperate attempt to show Evilspeak again as part of a “Richard Moll Film Festival”, the best part was… well, what I did find on YouTube was an edited version that incorporates all the parts of Night Train to Terror that had Rick shrieking like a little girl:

But God is All-Merciful, except toward haters, so He resurrects the band for one more round of “Dance With Me” for the closing credits. The screams of outrage  in the room were incredible.

Dave then put something up on the screen for “the break”. Speaking of lessons never learned during Crapfests, nobody ever takes a break during “the break”. The psychology of this is beyond me, except in this case: I was held spellbound by this; I had no previous idea it existed, and it is absolutely delightful. It’s Music Box With A Secret, a piece of Soviet animation heavily influenced by Yellow Submarine – itself a heavy influence on yours truly as a child – and…

…well, just hit full screen on this. You will not regret it.

Dave, you never get to look at one of my entries and sneer, “This is quality, it has no place here” again, because this is top-notch stuff.

He followed it up with Prisencolinensinainciusol, which I love. If you’ve been under a rock for the last few years (as were, apparently, many of our attendees) this was a song written by Italian performer Adriano Celentano, to demonstrate what a popular English song would sound like to a non-English speaker.

Didn’t get that? Fine. So we watched it again.

(I was nice and advanced it past the Italian introduction. I assure you Dave was not that merciful.) (Videos of this song keep being taken down and put back up. Maybe these two versions will survive more than five minutes)

Then, since no one took “the break”, Dave unspooled his entry, a movie which has as many names as Legion: Dark Eyes, Fury of the Succubus, Demon Rage, Demon Seed, but in this case, Satan’s Mistress, starring Natalie Wood’s sister, Lana Wood, and her Moonpie-sized areola.

smiss1 smiss2 smiss3

This was a case when I was one of the people yelling “What’s going on?”, and it wasn’t because of the vodka, either. It was mainly because there is no there there. Lana is at her beach house with her husband, who does… something for a living. She moves into her own bedroom because she “needs room” and “needs time”, mainly because a dark figure keeps visiting her in the night for salacious purposes. So you’ve got your Satan, and you’ve got a lot of mistress-ing going on, and some dime store divorce drama. And Britt Ekland as a concerned friend who Satan nearly roasts in a hot tub.

Did I mention the beach house has a basement, which for some reason, contains suits of armor and a guillotine? Do beach houses even have basements? In any case, Britt’s hubby winds up afoul of the guillotine, and at his funeral John Carradine jobs in for a day as a priest who urges Britt and Lana’s husband to fight the evil in the beach house but not to “fall prey to their illusions”. Britt falls prey to their illusions and burns for it, but hubby stands strong, and apparently making your saving roll to disbelieve is all it takes to conquer Old Scratch. That’s worth remembering, write it down.

There’s not much video to be found from this flick (which sort of tells the story, right there), but leave it to Mr. Skin to post a NSFW clip of Ms. Wood in the altogether. It did pretty much sum up the production, which is probably why, like Prisencolinensinainciusol, it did not hang around long. So here’s the opening two minutes, complete with public domain scream sound effects…

So I didn’t feel at all bad about concluding the evening with a movie that had been asked for ever since its trailer showed up in a compilation: The Super Inframan. Mark complained that I was really stretching the definition of horror here, but dammit, it’s wall-to-wall monsters. What’s more Halloween than that? The fact that the monsters know kung fu just illustrates why this is known as the finest movie ever made.

“Six million light years beyond believability!” also sort of tells the tale, there.

Well. the holidays beckon. Chances that we will get in another Crapfest this year are pretty slim (even if my venerable VHS of The Magic Christmas Tree keeps trying to claw its way out of the storage box), so this may just have to carry us into the New Year. So long, fellow voyagers on the good ship Crap. It’s been fun.

Next time I’ll bring more Bugs Bunny.

Future Freex Weighs In: Turns out it wasn’t in a storage box at all. It was hiding:

magic xmas tree

The Last Crap of Summer

It actually happens, every now and then, that I get a Saturday off. This is a mixed blessing; no work on Saturday means no pay, but it also means that it is possible to throw together a Crapfest WITH NO HOLDS BARRED! IT’S A SATURDAY! ALL BETS ARE OFF! WHAT YOU GOT TO DO ON A SUNDAY, ANYWAY?

(Well, I had to get up at 8am to read at Hippie Church, but why should I get more sleep on a Sunday than I do any other day?)

We had a fairly full roster, with only The Other David absent, as in a mirror image of my plight, he had a show that evening. Host Dave had rearranged the furniture in the Crapfest Room, and we lolled about in spacious luxury as Hell unspooled before our very eyes.

santo-titleDave started off with a movie that, like the devil, has many names: the one plastered on the screen as a subtitle was Sex and the Vampire. If you are looking for it on the IMDb, it is better known as Santo and Dracula’s Treasure or Santo en el tesoro de Drácula. In my peculiar little world, El Santo requires no introduction; I find in this world, however, such is not the case. So there was some discussion about lucha libre and pro wrestling, and everybody missed the plot set-up, which is Standard Operating Procedure for a Crapfest. (In lieu of such discussion, I will simply direct you to the Wikipedia page for El Santo)

El Santo, besides being a famous wrestler, crimefighter, and monster-killer, is also an accomplished scientist, it turns out, and has invented a time machine. But it is INCREDIBLY DANGEROUS and has not been tested yet, so the scientists he invited to ooh and ahh at it instead go “Poo-poo!” and march out. The machine will only send a person back to a past incarnation, and for some reason it is safest to send a woman with voluptuous curves into the past,  so Santo’s plucky girlfriend Luisa (Noelia Noel) puts on a high-collared silver suit and walks into a very short Time Tunnel.

timetvWouldn’t you know it, she appears in a household that is being bedeviled by a foreign gent who calls himself Alucard (Aldo Monti), and yes, our local brainiac Professor Van Roth (Fernando Mendoza) has to write that name down and hold it up to a mirror. This version of Dracula, it should be pointed out, has a propensity for taking off women’s clothing, and has a harem of brides who take “clothing optional” very seriously. This convinced Paul that Dracula was the true hero of the movie.

Now, about the time we start wondering “Didn’t this movie used to have El Santo in it?” We see El Santo watching the unfolding Dracula movie on a Time TV; and he’s getting increasingly worried when Luisa’s previous incarnation is vampirized and about to be staked by Van Roth right after he put paid to Dracula. Santo brings her back in the nick of time.

Dracula, Prince of Nudies

Dracula, Prince of Nudies

Now how, you may wonder, did I know about Santo’s time machine, and the shadowy black figure who is watching Santo watch Time TV? Well, much to my consternation, el tesoro de Dracula is in large part an uncredited remake of Attack of the Aztec Mummy, which I had watched a couple a months ago in preparation for an October roundtable (plug plug). Santo decides that finding Dracula’s resting place, and getting his medallion, which will lead to the titular treasure, will prove to all those scoffers that his time machine works.

There follows a shot-for-shot recreation of the tomb scene in Aztec Mummy, right down to the odious comic relief spotting the villainous Man In Black and mistaking him for a ghost. The only deviation is a fight between Santo and the MiB thugs, after which they find Dracula’s coffin, the stake still in his remarkably preserved body, and they take the medallion. But! Dracula’s ring has the key to decoding the medallion’s map, and the MiB steals the ring, then has his burly henchman Atlas wrestle Santo for it (I was wondering how they were going to work a wrestling ring in, and they promote the match for two weeks). Santo, of course, wins, and the MiB hands over the ring, which you have to admit is kind of classy.

AlucardBut he then has his thugs take the stake out of Dracula, figuring that the Count will track down his jewelry, and we’re back to Aztec Mummy territory again. Paul said, “Yay! Dracula’s back! Maybe we’ll have boobs again!” (speaking of titular treasure, har de har) Paul is remarkably psychic, as we did indeed, and then Drac goes ahead and revives all his clothing-challenged brides again, to boot. Santo still wins, which in Paul’s book, means that evil (and clothing) won the day.

It was time to start preparing the evening meal, and the folks doing the planning had outdone themselves: Erik had personally hand-wrapped and skewered a small army of shrimp in bacon, and Rick had an assortment of artisan sausages and pork tenderloin. Science and physics were employed to grill this meaty menagerie without making the Crapfest Room any hotter. All these efforts were highly successful, and damn Rick, but you work magic on a grill. In medieval times, you would have been burned at the stake as a sorcerer. I had a meat hangover the next day, and couldn’t look at anything but salad.

zapin1But it also fell to me to throw in some filler. We had already been through all my trailer compilations, but I had brought something else, something that could also be turned off at anytime with no loss of story: Miss Nymphet’s Zap-In, which had been offered by Vinegar Syndrome as a free download.

There is nudity in the first scene. There is nudity in every scene following. ‘Why are you being so nice to them?” Dave asked me, dismayed. “Because I know what is to come,” I replied. Zap-In is a blatantly obvious rip-off of Laugh-In. right down to go-go dancers (topless in this case) doing their thing while supposedly humorous text is displayed over their gyrating forms. Every now and then we see the cast walking in a circle as if they were playing musical chairs, until someone off camera throws the signal, they all freeze in different positions and say “ZAP!” One lady keeps falling over, which is the funniest thing in the entire movie.

False advertising, and overpriced, to boot.

False advertising, and overpriced, to boot.

You see, this is an H.G. Lewis movie, produced and directed under two of his numerous pseudonyms. And you haven’t lived until you see H.G. Lewis doing comedy. Wait, I should have said you have never experienced a slow, lingering death until you have seen H.G. Lewis doing comedy. So, in a 75 minute movie, at minute 40, I hear a haunted voice from the back of the room moaning, “I never thought I would be tired of seeing tits.” They made it to minute 50 before they begged to shut it off like George C. Scott in Hardcore. I felt like Victor Von Doom after one of his plots against the Cursed Richards had achieved fruition.

All right now, seriously, folks. It was time for a movie I had been trying to force into a Crapfest for months, if not years. The Stabilizer.

It's the Drunken Master's Grand Theft Auto! It says so right on the box!

It’s the Drunken Master’s Grand Theft Auto! It says so right on the box!

The Stabilizer is an Indonesian action movie from 1986 starring Peter O’Brian, a teacher who was vacationing in Indonesia when filmmakers noticed he looked sorta kinda like Frank Stallone and offered him lots of money to extend his vacation and make a couple of movies. He wound up making five more over the next six years, ending up with Angel of Fury, with Cynthia Rothrock.

O’Brian is Peter Goldson, a CIA guy called The Stabilizer because the CIA likes to nickname guys the opposite of what they do, I guess. He comes to Jakarta to help his old friend Captain Johnny (Harry Capri) find Professor Provost (Kaharudin Sayah) who has invented a “narcotics detector”, and who has been abducted by Goldson’s old enemy, the musically-named Greg Rainmaker, whose supervillain gimmick is big boots with golf cleats.

Both The Stabilizer's girlfriend and his archenemy have this photo of him. And that's all you really need to know about this movie.

Both The Stabilizer’s girlfriend and his archenemy have this photo of him. And that’s all you really need to know about this movie.

What follows is pretty much non-stop action with sweet 80’s fashion, all leopard print spandex and triangular pockets with zippers. The only way to respond to this movie is the line from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure: “Great movie, Pee-Wee! Action-packed!” Seriously: it is quite possible to see the seed of movies like The Raid in this, with a desire to create Raiders of the Lost Ark-style action setpieces without the real talent – or coherent story – to back it up.  Whatever else it may be, The Stabilizer is not boring, and is totally committed to insane action.  It presents a country where doors are never used when there is a motor vehicle to drive through a wall, and bad guys have maps on their person labeled “Location Map”, causing the heroes to say, “This could lead somewhere.”

ZAP!

pulgaposterWhen trying to come down from the mind-searing momentum of The Stabilizer (“Situation… stabilized!!!“) Dave determined that the very best way to go was with Pulgasari. Again, a short class was required.

In 1978, Kim Jong-il, then only the son of the ruling despot of North Korea, decided he wanted to make some movies and had one of his favorite directors, the South Korean Shin Sang-ok kidnapped (Shin’s actress ex-wife, Choi Eun-hee, was abducted first, possibly to lure Shin to Hong Kong) to direct his films.

Shin directed seven films for Kim Jong-il, until he and Choi managed to flee to an American Embassy while attending a film festival in Vienna – in 1986, eight years after their abduction. This story is probably better than any Shin was forced to make under orders; I may never know, because Pulgasari seems to be the only one generally available.

Pulgasari01Based (of course) on a North Korean fairy tale, Pulgasari starts with the usual despotic King (but it’s okay, because he’s an imperialist despot, not a beloved despot like Kim Il-sung) crushing the peasantry and confiscating all their cookware and farming implements to make weapons. A heroic blacksmith refuses and is tortured and imprisoned. He makes a little figure out of rice and mud before he dies; his daughter pricks her finger while sewing, and a drop of blood falls on the figure, bringing it to life as the metal-eating monster Pulgasari.

The more metal it eats, the bigger it gets, and it is soon helping the rebel army take on the evil forces of the King, despite all the kaiju size deathtraps the army prepares for it. (Kim Jong-Il was also a big Godzilla fan, so it’s really kind of interesting that his kaiju flick owes more to the Daimajin movies than the Big G). Eventually the King gets smished and the people triumph, except that Pulgasari is still hungry and starts eating all the cookware and farming implements (because Pulgy represents unchecked capitalism, you see) until the blacksmith’s daughter sacrifices herself to save the villagers.

Pulgasari.jpgPulgasari has a professional sheen but stolid pace; Jong-il hired technicians from Toho, including Kenpachiro Satsuma, the stunt performer who was operating the Godzilla suit in that period, to play Pulgasari. As I said, very professional, good-looking… and more than a little tedious. As Dave said after the movie was over, “I feel like I was kidnapped by North Korea.”

Something extremely insane was necessary to raise us from the Pulgasari doldrums. There was a small vocal minority that was fomenting for The Apple, to mark the passing of Menahem Golan, but it was noted that none of these people had actually seen that movie, and they were in large part the same people Rick had conned into demonstrating for The Garbage Pail Kids Movie, so they were roundly ignored. After tossing The Apple under the bus, we, for some outlandish reason (I personally blame lots and lots of vodka), went for another movie Rick had been pushing for ages: Skatetown USA.

Poster_of_the_movie_Skatetown,_USAWe must note that Skatetown has never had a legitimate video release, likely because its soundtrack has a lot of really recognizable songs from 1980, marking it as being from the same era as FM and Americathon, when movies were marketing tools for what were hoped to be hot-selling soundtrack albums. Rick’s copy was apparently one of a number of nefarious versions floating around struck from a 16mm print.

This is one of those movies that you can tell was based firmly on the Official Drug of Disco, Cocaine – and that is the only possible excuse for its existence. Roller Disco had come and gone in the time it took to make this movie, much less get it released. But let’s see what sense can be made out of what came from this cauldron of coke and something else beginning with a K sound.

skatetownbradford2

Here is everything wrong with the late 70s, in one picture.

There is this roller disco presided over by a Wizard in a white afro. It’s actually owned by Bill Barty and run by his son, Flip Wilson. Okay, I’ll wait a few minutes while you work the cramps out of your brain. Okay? Halfway through the movie, we’ll discover that Mrs. Barty is Flip Wilson as Geraldine, so that explains THAT.

skatetown_usa_pdpNOW. There is some sort of contest held every year at the roller disco (in this wizard-run fantasy realm, roller disco has been going great guns for two years), for the best roller disco dance number, and the prize is a thousand dollars and a moped. Scott Baio is training his friend Stan (Greg Bradford) to win the contest, making them the Rocky and Mickey of this movie (Bradford actually has less range and versatility than Stallone). BUT. The fix is on, and the leader of the local gang of disco hooligans, Ace (Patrick Swayze, in his film debut) is sure to win for the second year running.

I really do not miss the days of roving bands of roller disco hooligans.

ALSO. Some illegal drugs have been spilled in a grinder so every body is getting hooked on the Most Delicious Pizza Ever (made by professional fake Avery Schrieber Vic Dunlop), including Ruth Buzzi, who is there as part of a church group to shut down this Den of Iniquity. I’m also told Joe E. Ross is in there, too, going “Ooh, ooh!” but I missed him. Also Dorothy Stratten in a halter top and hot pants. Her I saw (mainly because Rick would scream “Dorothy Stratten!” every time she appeared).

love cocaineTHEN. The competition happens, with Ace’s treacherous band of hooligans sabotaging all the other solo acts, led by Ace’s right hand man, Ron Pallilo as Dark Horshack. One of the contestants is a guy who, for some reason only apparent to the cocainated, is dressed like a Mexican bandito, right down to floppy mustache. He became known to us as “I Love Cocaine Man”, especially after Dark Horshack douses him with itching powder just before his number. Knowing the rest of this movie, it was probably itching cocaine.

DARK. HORSHACK.

DARK. HORSHACK.

Swayze’s entry, partnered with his belt, is actually pretty good (Swayze was a competitive skater, after all). Stan’s entry is even better (we’re told), and goes un-sabotaged when Dark Horshack is ambushed by an over-acting Bill Kirchenbauer. Admittedly, at one point, Stan does ride a skateboard while still wearing roller skates, which is sort of the Platonic ideal for skating. The fix is still on, though, and Ace wins – and it’s time for SUDDEN DEATH OVERDISCO!!!

Marcia! Nooooo!

Marcia! Nooooo!

This is a couples event, so Swayze and his main squeeze – and of course, his belt – smoke up the dance floor while Dark Horshack takes Stan’s partner out parking with a drug pizza. Stan’s partner, incidentally, is Maureen McCormick, better known as Marcia Marcia Marcia Brady on The Brady Bunch, and here, sadly enough, lapsing back into cocaine addiction, given the work environment. She is so out of it, we can’t even call her Dark Marcia, it’s more like Trash Marcia, and I just came through this movie feeling badly for her. Especially since she’s now hooked up with Dark Horshack, thanks to the drug pizza.

Ace’s squeeze defects over to Stan (replacing Marcia Marcia Marcia) and Stan wins, leading to a roller race down a pier resulting in Stan’s saving Ace’s life when a bit of sabotage goes wrong. Everybody now likes and respects everybody else, and we all go back to the roller disco for happy dancing and lots of cocaaaaaaaaaaaaaine.

A Photo of everything ELSE wrong with the late 70s.

A Photo of everything ELSE wrong with the late 70s.

Scott Baio says he kept turning this movie down until they offered him a ridiculous amount of money, and he still wound up regretting it, saying “It was just a guy making a film who didn’t know how to make a film,” by which he means William A. Levey, whom we all know from (ack) Blackenstein. Case closed.

And, for all that, Skatetown USA was still accorded to be the highlight of the evening.

“The Greatest Story Ever Rolled” hahahahahaSHOOT ME

Surprisingly, this poster doesn't lie THAT much...

Surprisingly, this poster doesn’t lie THAT much…

The rest of the wusses headed out, leaving only Rick, myself and Dave, who then proceeded to tempt me with a movie with which I was unfamiliar. A Philippine flick featuring Vic Diaz and Sid Haig, Wonder Women. “Sold!”

Ross Hagen is Mike Harber, who is hired/blackmailed by Lloyds of London to find a missing jai alai star player, only to find that he has been kidnapped by Dr. Tsu (Nancy Kwan) for spare parts in her organ-legging operation. She offers youthful, strong body parts (and in some cases, total brain transplants) to rich old men to finance her other… stuff, I guess, including her army of mini-skirted murderesses. Harber isn’t shy about mowing them down with his sawed-off shotgun, either, when they shoot at him, which is often.

"Ba-OOGA! Ba-OOGA! Escaped mew-tant alert! Ba-OOGA!"

“Ba-OOGA! Ba-OOGA! Escaped mew-tant alert! Ba-OOGA!”

Vic Diaz, the patron saint of Philippine exploitation movies, plays Lapu Lapu, the driver of a fantastically pimped-out taxi who serves as Harber’s guide. Sid Haig, on the other hand, has a pretty uncommon role, as Dr. Tsu’s lawyer and organ broker, given to suits and shirts with enormous ruffles. Dr. Tsu has some failed experiments in cages (which I immediately dubbed “Mew-tants”), and if you think they’re going to eventually get loose and start roaming the compound, get yourself a cookie from the Crapfest jar (You can’t miss it, it looks like Vic Diaz). There is also a really good chase scene using those tricked out taxis through crowded streets – very Bondian.

Because Dave demanded (and supplied) it: a picture of Dr. Tsu’s operatory, including surgical scrubs by Glad®, all the better to continue showing off their kicky miniskirts and go-go boots:scrubs

Past that, though, there isn’t that much to remember. It seems an unnecessary remake of The Million Eyes of Su Muru, but what the hell, badass babes in miniskirts provides a good cooling down period. Oh yeah, Dr. Tsu has invented something called “Brain Sex” so you can also throw in ripping off Barbarella to the list. And the assassination at the cockfight from Man With the Golden Gun. And… oh, never mind, this piece is already too long.

So we woke up Rick (“I tried. I really tried.” “But what? It wasn’t bad enough?”) and went on our weary ways. It was a good Crapfest. You can tell a really good Crapfest by the way it eats holes in your memory, rendering you unable to be totally certain that you really saw what you think you saw. So we leave you with the two things that make the world go ’round:

ZAP!

and

TEI2ufq

 

(Dave worked hard on that. Feel free to praise him, or pity him.)