Turkey Day 2014

t-day2014 003For our 12th Annual Turkey Day Marathon, we had a record number of 13 crazy movie fans that came out this year to celebrate this crazy tradition that I started back in 2003. We had both regulars and a few T-day virgins this year, but I’m sure those will even be back next year. We got through another 7 movies this time, which I think is becoming the standard now. Plus, I think this event really showed what Turkey Day is all about. Yes, it is about watching and enjoying movies that your normal movie scholars would turn their nose up in disgust, but it is much more and this year really put the spotlight on those reasons. Besides the movies, it is about community. It is about a group of individuals of all ages, assembled together to watch some enjoyable ‘bad’ movies. The laughing going on throughout the day showed that we all had that same connection when it comes to these kind of movies and knew that it really is about having a good time with them with other like-minded film fans. Hearing the roars of laughter coming from everyone throughout the day reminded me of this each and every time, as well as the looks of “what did I just see?” that make these events so enjoyable.

This year our T-Day regulars that made it were Joe Wallace, Jason Coffman, Neil Calderone, Brian Fukula, Craig Clark, and Aaron Christensen, who was making this his 10th year coming. Putrid himself, Matt Carr made a glorious return after his last appearance back in 2009. Our T-Day Virgins were Sharon Gissy, and my son’s Nick’s friends Austin Robinson, Max Nolan & Charlie Morrison. Nick was there as well, when he wasn’t helping his mother in the kitchen creating one of the 17 pizzas we devoured throughout the day, which included breakfast pizzas, veggie pizzas, crab rangoon pizza, a spaghetti & meatball pizza (affectionately named the Drunken Billy) and a chili dog pizza, which was my favorite of the day. Major kudos as usual going out to my wife Dawn who created all of these (with Nick’s help) and always kept us wondering what was going to be next. It wouldn’t be a T-Day event without her and the glorious food that she creates for us. Okay…lets get to the movies!

atomic_submarine_xlgThe Atomic Submarine (1959) – As usual, I try to start off with an older film and grabbing one from the ’50s usually leads to a fun time, especially when the scientific jargon starts flying. I had came across this movie after reading Mark Thomas McGee’s book You Won’t Believe Your Eyes, which covered movies from the ’50s. This is a film I wouldn’t have not sought out otherwise since the title made it sound like some underwater adventure film. Which it is, but so much more.

Something is taking out ships in the Arctic Seas near the north pole, so the military sends the specially equipped Tiger Shark nuclear submarine to find what is causing it and to eliminate it. But once they discover what exactly it is, it is nothing they were expecting. On board the submarine are a couple of scientist, both foreign, that try to hypothesize what exactly they are up against, with all sorts of fun and interesting “science talk”, which is one of the things that make these ’50s films so enjoyable. Ton Conway plays one of the scientist, who might be familiar to those who watch a lot of these older movies, such as Bride of the Gorilla (1951), The She-Creature (1956), and Voodoo Woman (1957), and always give entertaining performance. Also on board is Brett Halsey who has helped designed a diving bell with his father, who was too sick to come himself. So Halsey has to come, who’s past exploits of a ‘peace-monger’ doesn’t bode well with some of the crew, which then means hilarity ensues for us viewers due to some of the dialog they have. Great stuff.

Once they find this creature responsible, I have to give the special effects guys credit because it is a memorable one, being well designed and very effective. Also when a couple of the crew meet a grisly end, those effects are also well done and had to be pretty scary to the youngsters in the theater upon its initial release. If you’re a fan of the 50s sci-fi stuff, then definitely add this to your To-Watch list. I guarantee you’ll have fun with it.

itsalive‘It’s Alive’ (1969) – Now I usually try to throw in a real doozy of a film to really put our viewers to the test. I mean, this is Turkey Day, right? The last few years, I’ve programmed at Larry Buchanan title in the lineup and did it again this year. Except this time, I don’t think it was too well received. Granted, I still am a huge fan of Buchanan and his work and still love this title. Sure, not a lot happens throughout the movie. Sure, there is a flashback sequence that last for 20 minutes (and you feel every minute of it too) that has NO DIALOGUE and with just a bit of narration in there. But you did get some amazing lines like “There is a legend in these hills that when it rains and the sun shines at the same time, the devil is kissing his wife.” How can you beat dialogue like that?

The story is about a married couple that are traveling through the Ozarks on their vacation, though the husband never lets a moment go by when he can’t blame his wife for all of their problems. They are low on gas and get lost, coming across Assistant Professor of Paleontology Tommy Kirk who is out doing whatever paleontologist do. Next thing you know, they all are being held captive by crazy Billy Thurman who has a sort of roadside animal attraction. But his greatest discover is some sort of prehistoric sea monster that lives down in the caves, that he feeds unwanted guests to. One of the reasons I really like this Buchanan title so much is that Thurman really gets to go over the top with this role, with his wild maniacal laughs, is just so much fun to watch.

This was the last made-for-TV movie that Buchanan made for AIP for their television outlet. The movie also features the exact same creature costume used in Buchanan’s remake of The She-Creature, which he titled Creature fo Destruction.

amoktrainAmok Train (1989) – I was honestly amazed that most of our audience this time out had not seen this title before. Boy were they in for a treat. Directed by Jeff Kwitny but produced by Ovidio G. Assonitis, who gave us some previous T-Day entries, like last year’s The Visitor, which he produced, or Tentacles, which he directed and we screened way back in 2006. He is also directed Beyond the Door. Which is exactly why the American title of Amok Train was called Beyond the Dorr III. It has NOTHING to do with either of those movies, but I’m sure it helped get some more video rentals. While Assonitis hasn’t made any films that I would consider actual well made classic films, I will say that the ones that he is involved in are generally entertaining, even if in a T-Day sort of way. I mean, he is the one that is more responsible for Piranha II: The Spawning, way more than James Cameron.

The film stars Bo Svenson as a professor who meets a class from the states who have come to Serbia to witness some ancient ritual. Little do they know that evil things are a foot! The rest of the cast is filled out with actors that have done very little work, for obvious reasons. Once they board the train from the title is when things really get crazy. But even before then, we’ve already witnessed some strange and interesting things from the locals that seem to wander around knocking rocks together, or some crazy old witch that really gives it all in her performance.

There really are two reasons to watch this movie. The plot is so crazy and stuff happens that will make you wonder if you just witnessed what you think you saw. Just when you thought you’ve seen just about everything in a movie, this something will come out of nowhere and blow your mind. Of all the movies we screened this Turkey Day, this one got the most reaction from the crowd. With loud bouts of roaring laugher, this is the kind of film that really epitomizes what Turkey Day is all about and why it is best to do these with other like minded film fans. Sitting watching this by yourself, while still entertaining, just won’t have that same effect as it does with a crowd. The second reason is the special make up effects. Even though this is being filmed in I believe Serbia, the effects are incredible. Plenty of blood and goo flying about here. Gorehounds will not be disappointed.

bloodstalkersBloodstalkers (1978) – It would be very hard to top that last film, so we went with something a little more slower…more suspenseful to calm down the crowd. This low budget horror film, shot in Florida, might not be a great film, but I think it is still a well made film and pretty effective in some parts. The main reason this title came to my mind is that a few months ago, interviewed Doug Hobart and he did the special effects on this, including the scene that they used for the box art. How’s that for getting the potential viewers attention?

Two couples travel down to Florida to spend some time in cabin that Mike has recently inherited. He hasn’t been there since he was a child but wants to go back for some laid back fun and relaxation. But even before they find the place, they are not met with the most friendliest of welcomes. In fact, they are told flat out to turn around and go back from where they came. They are also told of some kind of monster that lives in the area called Bloodstalkers, that have been known to kill people wandering around. Mike, an ex-vet, is not scared off by these warnings, and in fact is more determined to get to their original destination. But they later find out just what the cranky old hillbilly at the gas station was talking about.

It doesn’t take long for all of our T-Day attendees wish that the character Daniel, played by Kenny Miller, would die. Like…very soon…as in right now. He is annoying, whining, and just an pain in the ass. But the rest of the cast are fine. It does take quite a while for things to really start to happen, but I think the ending does have a good payoff. Shame that it just takes too long to get there.

But as a T-Day movie, there are plenty of scenes that have our viewers scratching their heads, including a very long sequence were Mike is trying to get help from some of the locals, including someone from a local church. During the whole conversation that we don’t hear, there is a church choir belting out a church song. Not sure if they just had some problems with their audio or what, but it is one of those sequences that makes you wonder.

rawforceRaw Force (1982) – Once everyone was calmed down a bit, we decided to go right back up with one of wackiest films I’ve seen. I had plans of screening this at T-Day after hearing some crazy things about it and picked up a DVD-R at a convention. But the quality was so bad it really was unwatchable. So it was scratched off the list. But thanks to the wonderful people at Vinegar Syndrome, who released this in an amazing looking blu-ray, it was back on the list. I mean, how could this not be the perfect movie for T-Day when it has martial arts, cannibal monks, zombie kung-fu fighters, and Cameron Mitchell and Vic Diaz!?!?! Throw in some gore and nudity and some terrible comedy, and you have Raw Force.

Directed by Edward Murphy, who some cult fans might remembers as the boat captain in Mad Doctor of Blood Island, Raw Force is about a group of martial artists that want to travel to a famous island where famous fighters are buried. But the film also has some guy with a Hitler mustache that we think is operating a female slave trade with a bunch of strange monks on the island, lead by Diaz. But as we found out later, they tend to use these women not for a sex trade, but for food! Apparently by eating them is how they get the power to raise the dead!

Cult favorite Cameron Mitchell is the captain of the ship that where most of the action takes place that seems to be a real party love boat with a lot of shenanigans going on. Jewel Sheppard and Camille Keaton both have little cameos as well.

This film really is like nothing you’ve ever seen before with some outrageous dialogue, great cheesy martial arts action and cannibalistic monks! What more could you ask for? Major kudos to Vinegar Syndrome for not only putting out an amazing looking disc, but for taking a title that mainstream audiences wouldn’t even think twice about, but showing the care and love for this kind film for us deviant film fans. Keep up the great work!

The Brain (1988) – Here’s another title that is just screaming to be released on DVD but for some reason is becoming lost with the hundreds of other titles that have not been resurrected on DVD yet. Made in a time way before CGI, when rubber and gooey monsters ruled the video store shelves, and we horror fans just ate it up with big smiles on our faces.

A scientist running a local mental research clinic, who also just happens to have a TV show, is slowly brainwashing his audience. The signal that is getting sent out is causing people to come under his control. Of course, he is just a tool for the real monster here…a large brain that is growing larger and larger, every time it feeds on someone. In fact, as it starts to grow after one feeding, a large face pops out, with a huge mouth filled with teeth! You’ll be in ’80s rubber monster heaven with this one!

Starring David Gale, from Re-Animator fame, he once again just slides into this evil character and plays it with so much fun that it is a damn shame he wasn’t around to make more of these. We also have to give credit to George Buza, who plays one of Gale’s assistants. Buza is not a small man and not meaning he’s tall. But we were all amazed at the amount of running around this guy does throughout the movie. I’m talking going up and down stairs, full on sprints, chasing this delinquent teenager who is trying to get someone to believe that he’s not crazy. We were waiting for Buza to grab his chest and collapse at any moment, but then he would just take off running again!

Of course, the real highpoint of this movie is the title character. As I mentioned before, there is something really special about a big old rubber monster and this one is a beauty. With a flaying spinal cord, somehow moving through the air, looking for its next victim to eat, it is one monster that is hard to forget. It really is a damn shame we can’t go back to those days when people were creative and talented, even though working with low budgets, they could still turn out something that remains entertaining even today.

Now if we could just get it released in a nice and clean blu-ray….

itcamefromhollywoodIt Came from Hollywood (1982) – Our last film is really like a ‘best of’ for T-Day, and is the first place that I seen clips from some of these incredible movies, like The Giant Claw, From Hell It Came, and countless other classics that are perfect for any T-Day event. When I worked at the theater as a kid, we actually played this there. There were many times I was in the back of theater, either laughing out loud or just in awe at some of the things that were actually made and released  into the theaters. Great stuff. They cover everything from Ed Wood, invaders from space, giant monsters, juvenile delinquent movies and more.

Plus, this was years before MST3K, so the whole notion of making jokes over the movies was very fresh, and with the talents of Cheech & Chong, Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, and Gilda Radner, it made these even funnier. To this day, I still remember some of their comments about the movies they are showing, such as when Radner calls the monster from The First Man into Space the ‘burnt casserole man”. Great stuff.

Not only are these clips fun to watch with the comments they are making, it is also a great way to make your own checklist of movies to find for your own personal viewing. Thankfully, they list all the movies at the end during the credits, so it makes it a little easier to try and figure out the ones that you’re looking for. This is the kind of movie that is perfect for can find the enjoyment and entertainment is some of films that most critics would turn their noses at. But people like us, real fans of the obscure and the crazy, this is right up our alley.

So once again, another year, another 7 fine examples of why calling something “bad movie” doesn’t mean it isn’t going to be entertaining. With the amount of fun that was had at this year’s marathon, with all the loud screaming laughter, I think we proved to people that these kind of movies, no matter what their intent was when they were making them, that they can still be a lot of fun to watch. So to me, they may be Turkeys, but they are not bad movies.

See you next year.

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