Crapfest: The Milestone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Wrong Eric arrived early.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featuring the SCREENSAVER OF DEATH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, hell no. It was still relatively early.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But come on! Pew pew pew!

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

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

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

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

I’m positive that is actually Busey.

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

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

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

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

Look, I know what you folks are here for:

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

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

Sleep well. Butthorns.