Welcome to our 13th Turkey Day Marathon, where a growing number of crazy cinephiles gather together to feast on what we like to call turkeys. These are the ones that while they tried hard to make a good film, just missed the mark. Of course, that doesn’t mean we’re not going to be entertained by them. We were…and then some.
Most of the regulars were here to celebrate, such as Aaron Christensen, Jason Coffman, Neil Calderone, Joe Wallace, Brian Fukula, and Bryan Martinez. Making his first appearance was our good friend Matt Harding, who is no stranger to these kind of films, so he fit right in. My son Nick was here as well, though he spent most of his time in the kitchen helping my wife Dawn create some of the amazing 18 pizzas that we devoured throughout the day, such as a chili dog pizza, eggplant parmesan pizza, the Drunken Billy (spaghetti & meatball pizza), jalapeno popper pizza, crab Rangoon, and a few others that I can’t remember. Little fuzzy, even now. So while the memory is still partially there, let’s get to the movies!
Hand of Death (1962) – Following tradition, we started with nice black and white flick, filled with a lot of science talk, over the top acting (especially in the reactions shots), with a monster that looks like a burnt marshmallow that has hardened in the sun! B-movie star John Agar stars in this rare title that finally got a DVD release. I’ve always loved seeing Agar but he just didn’t seem to get cast in much more than these low budget titles. But I’m perfectly fine with that since I usually enjoy the hell out of them. And everyone here did as well.
While working on another science experiment, Agar accidentally comes up with a chemical nerve gas that paralyzes its victims. While trying to perfect it, making it more attributable in the fields of war, he absorbs the gas into himself, making his touch deadly. Of course, since he’s been working with the stuff for a while, he seems normal at first. But the longer he’s infected, his body starts to change into this blackened bulbous creature. This one comes highly recommended.
The Navy vs the Night Monsters (1966) – This is another classic that has never gotten a decent release before. Of course, there might be a reason for that. It’s like the makers of this film couldn’t decide what kind of film they were going to make, such as a horror picture, a comedy, drama, but ends up being a very disjointed combination of them all. Of course, it wouldn’t be that bad if those elements actually worked. But unfortunately (especially for the viewers), the comedy isn’t funny, the plant creatures are not scary, and the film just seems to go on and on.
Of course, for us Turkey Day veterans, we had a lot of fun with it. Lots of silly dialogue, with some more crazy science theories, and not to mention some very dated ‘macho’ talk that was much funnier than any of the brutally attempted comedic bits. I’d say a must see, but those only well experienced in this kind of Turkey Day viewing!
The Lost Continent (1968) – Now this title I just happened to really love. Sure, it might be because it came from Hammer Films, or the fact that this movie is just bat-shit crazy! This is the kind of film that while you’re watching it, you think that you’ve seen it all, something else off the wall happens. You have killer weed, attacking octopus, giant mollusks, cultist, pirates, and much more.
Based on a Dennis Wheatley novel, Hammer was trying their hands at some big action/adventure pictures, and I think they knocked it out the park on this one. Sure, it might be more for kids, but I’ve always found it damn entertaining, if only how crazy it is. Give it a try and see what you think.
Headless Eyes (1971) – Now this one really hurt, as they say. If ever there was a movie that defines Turkey Day, it is this one. You would think that with such a great exploitation title like this, with plenty of eyes being scooped out, blood flowing freely, that it would be an awesome movie. But alas…it’s not. In fact, it is not a good movie at all. I might wager that some of our T-Day attendees would have opted to have their eyes removed with a spoon than to keep watching this movie. Way too many scenes where nothing happens as we follow our intrepid main character as he on his quest for more eyeballs. Sure, every now and then we get a wonderfully crazy little speech from him, but even those start to wear a bit thin.
In his book Nightmare USA, Stephen Thrower calls it “the cinematic equivalent of a scary old bag lady”, and I don’t think I’d disagree with him, other than the scary part. But I will say that it does give us a great look at New York at that time, which is probably more scary than the movie. Loaded with bad acting, cheesy effects, you might need some cinematic enhancers to get through this one. For me, the highlight was in the very opening of the film, where after getting his eye poked out, our intrepid hero moans “my eye….my eye” which is then looped over and over….and over…and over again. Wow. For a bit of trivia, the director of this film, Kent Bateman is the father of Jason and Justine Bateman.
Night of the Demon (1980) – I’m honestly really surprised that as long as we’ve been doing the Turkey Day thing, we’ve never had a Bigfoot movie!Well, that changed this year with the inclusion of this little classic. A college professor takes some students up in the mountains to search for a bigfoot creature that is rumored to be lurking about there. A lot of the encounters are told in flashback sequences, or stories being told by one of the characters. But that doesn’t stop the film from not only being pretty damn entertaining, but bloody as hell! Especially the infamous scene with the biker stopping to take a piss. You’ll never forget this scene. Never.
Don’t get me wrong…the cheesy factor is quite high on this one, but it still has its charm and moves pretty well. Granted, after watching Headless Eyes, anything was going to be great! I do have to say that even though we are talking about a Bigfoot movie, there are some things here that I was impressed with, especially a very cool opening shot with this bloody footprint (shown above). Say what you will, but there was some creative shots here. But even if you don’t think so, this is still a perfect selection for this occasion. Lots of great dialogue, cheesy acting, and more than a few W-T-F moments, that will have any group of movie fans entertained and roaring with laughter.
Up from the Depths (1979) – This obvious Jaws inspired vehicle was directed by Charles B. Griffith, who was one of Roger Corman’s crew in the early days, writing several of his films, such as Little Shop of Horrors, It Conquered the World, Bucket of Blood, Not of this Earth, and many more. Rumors are this film was supposed to be a comedy but once producer Corman seen the final cut, he decided it should be a straight up horror flick, to ride the waves created from Spielberg’s film. So new things were shot and scenes were cut. Needless to say, Griffith wasn’t too happy with the end result.
Now as a Jaws-rip off, it’s pretty entertaining. We don’t really get to see much of the fish creature other than a lot of quick underwater shots and a lot of blood in the water. But when we do, we can tell they must have spent a lot of money on the creature. Okay…maybe not. But it does have an amazing looking poster! There are a lot of underwater monster view camera shots to build up the tension, but since we barely get a look at this thing, kind of hard to be scared of it. But really the best part of the film is the dialogue and the characters. After witnessing someone get taken by this creature, a young woman is obviously upset and shaken, only to be asked by her boss, “What’s the matter? Are you pregnant?” Classic stuff there. We also get to see a small role for R. Lee Ermey several years before his big break in Full Metal Jacket.
Blood Rage (1987) – This was a last minute replacement in our lineup, mainly because we had just received this from Arrow Video for review and figured it would be a great addition to the lineup. Although, I have to say, it probably doesn’t fit the real definition of a Turkey since it is a decent and fun little slasher from the 80s. Mark Soper stars as twin brothers, one of which is psychotic and murders a teenager at a drive-in and then quickly blames it on his brother, who is then locked up in a nuthouse for the next few years. Louise Lasser stars as the poor mother, who has no idea what is happening with her children, and gives a great performance as this sad character. While Soper does a decent job playing the two different twins, it is Lasser’s performance that viewers will get the most fun out of.
The film does have quite the high points with the amount of gore here and will go over well with any crowd of horror fans watching this. We get hands chopped off, stabbings, a brutal hatchet to the head, and much more. Director John Grissmer’s only other film he directed was Scalpel (aka False Face), which was made a decade earlier.
Another year down, another seven features, and a ton of amazing pizzas. But if I have to say, as enjoyable as the movies were, as tasty as the food was, it wouldn’t be the same without the group of people that come out to share this event with me each year. You guys make it a lot more pleasurable and just a lot of fun.
So….what’s from stopping you from hosting your own Turkey Day event? I know a couple other people have joined in my annual celebration in their own hometown, spreading this little tradition of mine and having their own little viewing party. Why don’t you join us?