You would think that after 10 years of holding these little marathons, putting movie viewers through some possibly horrendous films was not the nicest or smartest thing to be doing. Yeah…you would think. To those that think this just plain crazy, you are correct! But we do it anyway. The people that come out to help me celebrate my annual party are die-hard cinephiles that don’t mind getting on their hands and knees, drudging through the muck of cinematic garbage, or at least what some may call it. We try to find the higher points on these films, even though with some it is very tough to do that with, but we try anyway. It is our way to not only test our endurance, but also to highlight some of these hardworking filmmakers and their finished accomplishments. No matter how bad or good they might be, we feel they need to be remembered, even in the worse way.
We had no T-day virgins this year, but seasoned veterans that obviously are gluttons for punishment. While we thought for a while that Aaron Christensen wasn’t going to be able to make it due to an acting gig, he was able to work his way out for the first 4 movies before having to catch a train to meet up with his ride back to Milwaukee. That’s dedication. Honestly, I was thrilled that he did since it wouldn’t have been the same without him, since he has been here to every one of them since 2005. Also returning was Joe Wallace, Jennifer Kilzer, Craig Clark, Jason Coffman, Neil Calderone, and Brian Fukula. Brian also had to leave early, after the 3rd film, but we get him credit for making the trip out for what he could. My son Nick had to work this year, so he missed most of the movies, but did arrive in time to catch one of them. And of course, probably one of the real reasons these guys keep coming out for this event is all the amazing pizzas made by my wife Dawn, who was able to sit in the last few movies. We had the usual breakfast pizzas, Italian beef pizza, crab Rangoon pizza, but also some new ones like the chili rellenos pizza that was just incredible.
Once again, we got through 7 films, but managed to devour 12 pizzas this time. So with only 8-9 of us here for most of the day, we seemed to go through a lot more pizzas than last year. I’m sure the excitement of the movies just meant we were burning up more calories, making us hungrier. Yeah…sure…I buy that. But lets get to the movies.
The Atomic Brain (1963) – I had picked up a DVD collection called The Best of The Worse, which had 12 different titles in there. Most of them I already had in my collection, but there were a few that were missing that needed to be added. Since I always try to start our marathons off with something older and black and white, and with a title like that, I knew I could find one that we could use and THE ATOMIC BRAIN was it. Also known as Monstrosity, it was directed by Joseph Mascelli (though IMDB shows Jack Follexfen also as an un-credited director), who never directed anything else. He did work as a cinematographer on a few other pictures, most notably two films for Ray Dennis Steckler, Thrill Killers and Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-up Zombies. I’m sure if we didn’t have ‘high’ expectations for the movie before, that surely would have done it! The film lists 4 different writers, which is never a good sign when you’re hoping for a cohesive plot.
The movie is about a crazy old lady that doesn’t want to die so she is investing her money into a mad scientist who says he can transfer her brain into the body of a younger woman. After a few trials with him putting the brains of animals into various bodies, he thinks he can succeed now. I guess transferring the brain of a cat into a human, turning it into a human cat, with the ability to purr and meow just like a cat, as well as climb trees and run around the roof of the house, means success. One would think he would have tried transferring a human brain first, but what do I know…I’m not a scientist or a doctor. The old lady brings in three women from different countries, so they have no ties or anybody looking for them if they disappear, under the pretence of being a housekeeper, but in reality she is going to choose the one that has the best body. One off the three is from England has one of the worst accents I have ever heard. There were times you couldn’t even understand what she said because her accent was so thick, then other times it almost sounded like she was from the south!
Always in the mood for a crazy mad scientist movie, this one is a lot of fun. The film does have some outrageous moments and plenty of nonsensical happenings. Characters try to escape but can’t seem to do it, while some of the doc’s experiments seem to walk right out of the house without a problem, granted running into another experiment that runs freely on the grounds. Good think no one will see that one! Not a great movie by any means, but plenty of interesting characters and a good old fashion mad scientist movie. There is plenty of that science-talk when they explain of what they are going to do. Plus, there is a narrator that comes in and out of the movie explaining theories and philosophy that is pretty entertaining.
Dracula: Prisoner of Frankenstein (1972) – A couple of years ago on a New Year’s Eve, I started watching a Jess Franco film called The Screaming Dead (probably not the best way to bring in the new year), which was a dupe from an old Wizard Video VHS tape. I was so confused that I figured I must have fallen asleep and promptly watched it again the next morning. Nope…wasn’t me…just the way the movie was. Then I discovered that it was released on DVD under this Dracula title, which I quickly picked up and re-watched it once again! Call me crazy, but I figured that it had to be an uncut version that made sense this time. Not only it is edited differently, had some extra narration, but it still didn’t make sense! With an all star mad monster party, Franco has some wonderful sets and a great cast, but amazingly does nothing with them? Lots of standing around, walking, shots of different buildings, and plenty of zooms and zooming pans. Almost like Franco had just purchased a new camera and was trying it out!
Howard Vernon plays Dracula but just stands (or lies) around with his teeth bared to show his fangs, never saying a word. After he feeds on a hapless victim, he looks like a reject from some drag queen party! Dr. Frankenstein is played by Dennis Price who is trying to gain control over the famous monsters so he could rule the world by having them all do his evil bidding. He has his monster there that was already assembled but just needed some electricity to revive him. The creatures top notch make up job consisted of green face paint and stitches painted on with something like a black magic marker. And all he does in the movie is stumble to the village to kidnap a burlesques dancer to be used to revive Dracula. I’m sure having that little bat in a jar that has red liquid pouring into was completely safe to the little creature, as Dr. Frankenstein is trying to revive Dracula. The wolf man shows up seemingly for no reason other than to fight the big green monster, which I got to say they really worked out really well. Trying to stop all of this is Dr. Seward, played by Edward Dalbes, another regular to Franco’s films. But though he stakes Dracula in the very beginning of the film, doesn’t really do much else other than show up at the end and take credit for saving the world!
But with all this said and done, for some reason this movie just stuck with me the first time I watched it and even now, after another viewing, I still find it so intriguing that Franco could make this movie with little or no plot, barely any dialog, almost like a bunch of scenes that were shot and then later spliced together with some other movie, trying to assemble some sort of a movie. And it would get released! Lots of head scratching going on with one. And the rest of our T-Day watchers were feeling the pain on this one.
The Loch Ness Horror (1981) – Now let me first preface this by saying that I am a huge fan of Texas low budget filmmaker Larry Buchanan. Sure, his movies are not the best quality, some of them are very hard to even get through, but I think they still have an enduring quality to them. At least to me they do. Maybe it’s due to the low budgets that he had to work with, or just not being able to find/afford good quality talent. But no matter what, I have always found his movies to be very memorable. And with all the movies out there in the cinematic world, if they have enough of an impact for you to remember them, for better or for worse, than that is a good thing. I had recently got a copy of this rare title in Larry’s filmography (as well as finding the one-sheet for it!) and knew that I much as I wanted to sit down and watch it, I had to save it for our yearly marathon. And to me, it didn’t disappoint.
The story deals with a few different plots going on at the same time, all around our favorite Scottish aquatic monster, Nessie. You have a young American scientist coming over to Scotland with some new technology to help find out if the old creature really exists. Then you also have some shifty characters that are trying to find something from Nessie to make a quick profit from. And of course, we also have a government cover up that nobody seems to know about except an old Scotsman, who not only rrrrrrrolls every R coming out of his mouth, but also has a telescope that can pretty much see anything plot related, from airplanes in the sky (though looking down on them somehow) to a close up a scuba diver about to hit the water, as if he was 5 feet away. Too funny.
While this might have been a low budget film, we got to give high props to Peter Chesney, the one responsible for creating the title beastie since it is a real beauty. With a working mouth (that even blows smoke for some reason), to being able to work in the water, under the water, and even on dry land (of course, just showing you the neck and head), they did an outstanding job here. With all the bad CGI out there, it is so cool to see something so old school as this, especially when it is done pretty well. This was one of Chesney’s first movies, who would go on to work on films like Nightmare on Elm Street 3, Serpent and the Rainbow, Lady in White, Pet Semetary, Men in Black, and quite a few more. So the man obviously had some talent.
So sure the characters are either over the top or just lame, but for me I think it is one of the better made Buchanan films. If you don’t agree, check out some of his from the ’60s and then get back to me.
Frankenstein Island (1981) – Like our last movie, I had not seen this one before either, but had heard and read enough about it well before hand to know what I was getting myself and fellow T-Day viewers in for, that it was going to be a rough ride. Sounds like a perfect title for the marathon, right? This was the last movie that filmmaker / hack Jerry Warren completed and seemed like to be his swan song. With an all star cast of John Carradine, Robert Clark, Cameron Mitchell, and a drunken Steve Brodie, you’d think there would be enough action going on to keep one entertained. Not really sure why (other than being in a Warren movie) but it just seemed like the actors really didn’t know what they were supposed to be doing most of the time. Brodie was unintentionally hilarious with his loud laughing every single time he came on and left the screen, though who knows if that was in the script or was alcohol induced like a lot of his performance were. Clark tries hard to play it completely straight but the script just isn’t helping. Carradine, who only shows in some sort of holographic projection a couple of times during the film, gives a performance that rates right up there with Lugosi in Wood’s Glen or Glenda. Mitchell, who I love no matter how bad the film might be, plays a delirious prisoner who sits in his jail cell quoting Edgar Allan Poe from time to time. Classic.
The basic plot has four guys get stranded on an island from a hot air balloon, where they find it is inhabited by tiger-bikini-clad girls that are apparently aliens. Then there is the wife of Dr. Frankenstein who is married to a Von Helsing (!?!?!?), a Howard Hughes looking character who just happens to be 200 years old! They are doing experiments on the locals, trying to keep Von Helsing alive even longer. There are some half-wit creatures, most likely failed experiments, roaming around, not to mention something to do with paralyzing limbs, and an epic fight scene that the end that is one of the highlights of the picture, where shortly before Frankenstein’s creature appears from the water to join in the fun. He must have recently watched Lugosi’s performance of the creature from Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man since he is thrashing his arms around like he’s blind, though we’re not really sure if he is or not. Of course, the epilogue totally looks like was added on just to pan out the running and makes no real sense the movie.
Now I’m all for a good cheesy and crazy monster movie. But this one….believe it or not just seemed too flat and like they really didn’t have a clue of what they were doing with a plot or story. Plus, the other non-speaking roles of the cast were probably not the most experienced actors around. Granted, I know this is a Jerry Warren film and am well aware of his cinematic talents, but I’m just not sure if I want to visit this island again.
Black Roses (1988) – This is another one that I had avoided over the years because of how bad it was supposed to be. I remember seeing the poster when it first came out and really thought it looked cool, but was told over and over that the poster was the best thing about the movie. So I never got to it. Until now. I figured screening here for the marathon would not only finally check it off my list, but it fit perfectly into the lineup. Back in 2009, we had screened Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare, from the same director, John Fasano, so I figured this would make a good entry in this year’s line up.
I have to say, which might have something to do with the last movie that we just finished, but this was one pretty entertaining, and no way near as bad as I had been hearing over the years. Sure, it’s cheesy and very dated, but at least there is some action and some interesting death scenes, not to mention some heavy metal music, also cheesy and dated, throughout the movie! But one of the highlights for me was the creatures in the movie. Great to see some good old fashion rubber monsters running about. They were created by a team of talented people, some that went on to work on some bigger budgeted films, like Richard Alonzo, who has worked on titles like Iron Man, Oz The Great and Powerful, Thor: The Dark World. And of course, John Dods also worked on the creature effects. He did go on to work on some bigger films like Ghostbusters 2 and Poltergeist III, but I’ll always remember him for his incredible work on The Deadly Spawn! Watching these monsters running about taking people, seeing the actors having to act against these rubber puppets and animatronic figures really brought back some good memories of years before CGI. nd I have to say…I kind of miss those days.
Black Roses is about an occult metal bad coming to a small town for their first ever live performance for a series of shows at the local high school. Of course some of the parents and social groups (lead by Julie Adams of Creature from the Black Lagoon fame) are all worried the band is going to lead their children to hell with their music. Ironically enough, that is exactly what the band’s plan is! With each show, they start to take control of the kids, with one of the high school teachers trying to stop it. They had real metal bands supplying some of the music, such as Bang Tango and Lizzy Borden, as well as the rest written by Carmen Appice, who also appears in the band Black Roses. Appice was/is a staple in the metal industry, playing with a huge number of different bands over the years. The music the band is playing didn’t really fit the evil image of the band, then again, back then it rarely ever did back in the ’80s hair-band days. At a time when the whole heavy metal wave was coming through and all the “Satanic Panic” in the news, it was a pretty topical idea for a movie, which was exploited nicely here. For me, it was interesting to see the crowd at this “evil” heavy metal show, since the way the kids were dressed here would have never made it at a real metal show in the ‘80s. Just saying.
But the bottom line is that this movie gets a bad rap and is not as terrible as you would be lead to believe. Cheesy? Yes. But it still a lot of fun and will definitely get a chuckle or two, especially if you’re an old metal head like myself.
The Visitor (1979) – I thought that I had seen this movie back in the day, but if I did, I have no recollection of it. And after watching it this time, I know if I had seen it, I would have remembered it. Not because it was great, but because it was truly one of the most W-T-F movies I have ever seen. Very surreal sequences, almost like you’d expect some Pink Floyd to kick in at any minute, but with very little explanation of what is going on. Of course, one of the best parts of the movie is this bit of theme music that pops on throughout the whole movie, sometimes at the strangest moments. It is a real heroes theme and is used so much that it becomes just damn funny.
With an all star cast featuring John Huston, Lance Henriksen, Glenn Ford, Shelly Winters, and even Sam Peckinpah, it has aliens trying to intervene with the human race, fighting a battle between good and evil. The evil, which has been spawned into an 8 year old girl, does some pretty outrageous stuff, including ‘accidently’ shooting her mom in the back at her birthday party. There’s strange sequences like the little girl ice skating, being chased for some reason by other older boys on the ice and making them fall and crash into the side of the rink. All the while John Huston is coming down a huge flight of stairs, over and over and over again. We have something going on with birds…a lot of birds. Not sure if they are suppose to be working of the sign of evil or good or both, but we see enough of them to confuse the hell out of me!
Directed and co-written by Michael J. Paradise (pronounced Giulio Paradisi), and co-written and produced by Ovidio G. Assonitis, the man responsible for Tentacles and Beyond the Door, not to mention Piranha II: The Spawning, they really give us a mind-fuck with this one. Filled with fancy lights, shots of outer space and stars, and lots of characters standing around looking as if they knew what was going on. But I have a feeling if if they read the complete script, they still wouldn’t know. It always amazed me how Assonitis could get the names that he did for his movies. The Visitor is just so strange and out there, with events happening that really don’t make sense, especially the trippy beginning with Franco Nero looking like Jesus, telling a story to a bunch of bald children about the eternal battle between good and evil.
So the bottom line for this one is that it really needs to be seen. It has been making the rounds at the art house theaters now with a brand new poster (the one to the left is the original one) that makes it seem that it really is trying to make it out to be something more artsy than it really is. Not sure if I’m really buying it or not myself. But no matter what, it is worth seeing, just to see if you might be able to figure out what they were really trying to do.
King Kong Escapes (1967) – Our last film of the marathon, was switched out at the last minute. Originally we planned to have The Creeping Terror playing last, but due to a possibly mutiny, it was decided for the betterment of us all, that we choose something else. So while this one doesn’t really qualify as a turkey by the IMDB standards, it would be one in my rating. But I have to say that out of all the movies screened today, this was a great one to end on since it is so cheesy but so damn fun and entertaining. Plus, nobody else besides me had seen it before, as Neil put it, “I’m always up for some Kaiju!” So it was settled.
Produced by Rankin and Bass, known for their kids stop animation shows, this has the mighty King Kong battling it out with Mecha-Kong, all because the notorious Dr. Who (no, not the time travelling one) is trying to dig out some ‘element X’ to sell to any foreign government willing to pay him for it, which they could then use to win the nuclear arms race. Of course, the guys from the UN won’t have any of that going on. When Dr. Who’s mechanical Kong fails to dig out the rare element, he decides to capture the original Kong and have him do it. Granted, Kong has to be able to hypnotize him to get him to do it, but how hard could that be? Dr. Who, played by Hideyo Amamoto, does a great job playing one of those mastermind criminals from that era. These guys are always so sure of themselves, but always set themselves up to fail! Damn funny.
While the costumes for Kong and Mecha-Kong are pretty laughable, I have always had a lot of admiration for the people that build all the miniatures and sets that these “giant” creatures are going to walk around in and destroy. Lot of details goes into some of the smallest pieces. From the giant submarines that is in the shots with Kong, to even the little hover-craft used to get to the shore is just great. So major kudos to them. Not to mention the actors for being able to keep a straight face while giving their all when acting to a guy in a cheesy gorilla suit.
So another Turkey Day marathon comes to an end. Thanks to everyone that came out for the event, as well as stayed as long as they could. I know some lesser fans would have jumped ship early in the lineup, so it shows how dedicated these guys are. And I commend them for that. But have no fear…since we will be starting to gather some different titles for next year.