Turkey Day 2016

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On the Friday after Thanksgiving, just like we have for the last thirteen years, instead of fighting the crowds at the stores, a group of us have gathered together to fight another battle…the Turkey! It is beyond me how this event became just that…an actual EVENT, one that everyone seems to look forward to each and every year. But somehow it has. When you have a group of like-minded movie lovers getting together to not just watch, but really experience some cinema, that at their best are third and fourth class citizens, and we just have a blast. At this year’s T-Day, our crew consisted of a bunch of the usual suspects, and one new victim! Of course, Aaron Christensen was there, never having missed one since he started coming in 2005. Joe Wallace, who started popping in and out around 2010, was here again, bringing his girlfriend Sharon Gissy alone for the ride. Jason Coffman first came in 2011 and has made everyone since then. Brian Fukala started coming in 2012, and I think only has missed one event since then. Mr. Martinez made his T-Day debut last May, doubting the whole point to this event, but was soon absorbed into the collective! Matt Harding makes his return for his second appearance and Tim Palace came for his very first experience. Will he survive?

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And of course, what would be Turkey Day without the amazing pizzas we have. Usually my wife Dawn is cranking these amazing pies out, but this time out my son Nick was pretty much in charge, working his butt off getting everything prepped and ready to go the night before. He also created a new Paneer Tiki Masala pizza for us hungry guinea pigs, which was just amazing. I think we ended up going through 17 pizzas, from the chili dog pizza, to crab Rangoon, a couple of breakfast pizzas, veggies, a Drunken Billy pizza (spaghetti & meatballs), meat lovers, apple pie dessert pizza, and of course the Nutella pizza. I can’t tell you how proud I am that my son is following in the footsteps of my wife in becoming an amazing chef. It makes me wonder if these pizzas they make aren’t the REAL draw for this event….

Okay…let’s get to the movies!

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The Brain from Planet Arous (1957) – As usual, we start with another sci-fi/horror classic from the ’50s. I have to say that I just love this decade because of countless fun flicks that came out then, and Brain is another that doesn’t disappoint.  It features two large craniums from another planet, one trying to take over the world and the other trying to stop him. The dialogue is just a hoot, with Agar going way overboard on several occasions with his over-the-top laugh. Not to mention the site of this massive brain floating around, spouting off some of the best maniacal plans of domination ever to grace the screen!

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Agar seems to be a regular face that we seen during these events, in films such as Hands of Death and Larry Buchanan’s Curse of the Swamp Creatures. His career choices may not have been the best at times, but I have to say that he is one of my favorite actors from that era. No matter how cheesy the film, even when he looks like he wishes he was dead than be in this picture, he is still fun to watch.

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The Mummy and the Curse of the Jackal (1969) – Now this film is a rare one that I’ve only seen on a big box VHS tape from Academy Home Entertainment. And even though the print is a bit dark at times, I knew it would be a nice treat for everyone, especially when we have an Egyptian queen, a mummy, AND a Jackal-man! How could it be bad? Oh yeah…it also stars Anthony Eisley and John Carradine!

So Eisley appears as a professor who acquires a couple of Egyptian sarcophagus’, one that has a mummy and the other what looks like a queen, though seemingly well preserved after 3000+ years. He is bound and determined to prove this theory to the world about who this queen really is, but in the process, is cursed to be the turn into the Jackal during the full moon. Soon the queen is revived, as well as her plans to take over the world, with the help of the goddess Isis. And there’s a very pudgy mummy staggering around strangling a few people here and there. There must be something about the mummy character since they all seem to move kind of slow, with a bad leg and all, but can still seemed to avoid anybody following them after they kill someone!

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John Carradine pops up near the end of the picture for really no reason other than to add another credit to his resume and one to the movie. But this is Eisley’s show right from the beginning. I’m assuming that really is him in the Jackal makeup which makes it even better. What a professional! It is a shame that the print is a bit dark and makes it pretty hard to see what is going on during some of the night sequences. But that aside, there were a lot of enjoyable moments here, especially when the rotund mummy comes busting on the scene.

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The Corpse Grinders (1971) – When Ted V. Mikels passed away last month, I knew right away that I wanted to add one of his features to Turkey Day. Granted, Mikels would never understand this since he always considered his films to be quality entertainment. Well, they are entertaining….just probably not in the way he thinks. It was a toss-up deciding between this one and Astro Zombies, but decided to go with that ever-loving, body-chewing machine!

Mikels has said the actual device cost about $38 to create, which wouldn’t pay for the coffee on most Hollywood movies for a day, and he’s right. But where Hollywood consistently creates movies that are easily forgotten a month after their gone, Mikels has created a picture that will live on forever, mainly because of people like us who love this kind of stuff. We have an evil guy who is just all about making money and using the little guy until he doesn’t have a use for them any longer. And when it gets to that point, into the Corpse Grinder you go! Such a fun cast to watch, with the ludicrous sign language technique, to the killer cats, and the wonderful editor who loves to put flashes of the grinding machine when we know someone is about to see the inside of it. Great stuff.

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The Witchmaker (1969) – Also known as The Legend of Witch Hallow as well as The Naked Witch (even though there is no nudity!), our second title this year to feature the acting prowess of Anthony Eisley! And at least here, he has a lot more to do (and that we can see) than in the previous Mummy movie. Eisley was a guy who worked in a lot of low budget films, most of them just perfect Turkey Day fodder. But here, we actually have a pretty decent story, with some good acting, but for some reason, it still falls into the category of what we are watching.

Produced by ’70s regular L.Q. Jones, we get a tale of modern day witchcraft, at least what it was thought to be in the late ’60s. Eisley is joined by frequent Jones collabortor, Alvy Moore. For some reason, I can’t help not remember him from his quirky character on the TV show Green Acres! But none the less, he does a fair job here.The rest of the cast do their best with what they got, as tough as that might be. While this is a low budget feature, I think they did a pretty decent job with their set design.

But this is a Turkey Day movie after all, and it doesn’t fail in that aspect. The dialog isn’t the greatest, as much as the actors really try with it. But the thing that holds it back the most is that it is just sort of slow and almost boring. It really needed something to spice it up a bit.

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On of the things that would have helped that would have been nudity. Not to sound sexist, but this was perfect for the drive-in market for that time. But there is really no nudity in here, even though there are plenty of scenes where it would have fit. Sure, it would have made it much more exploitative, but just look at the movie poster. Doesn’t that imply a little something? Not sure why their reasoning behind it, especially with several scenes where it almost looked like the fleshy bits were cut out. But it happens way too much to be accidently. Even the one sequence (which does catapult this into prime T-Day fodder) where the main actress is running topless, but has both hands covering her breasts! Nice.

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The Last Shark (1981) – Now if there ever was a shark movie that deserves its place for our celebration, it is Enzo G. Castellari’s Jaws rip-off. This was originally released here in the states under the title Great White, it was pulled from theaters after Universal sued the makers of it since it had a few similarities to their famous shark movies. Sure, it might be a little close to Spielberg’s movie and its sequel here and there, but that doesn’t stop it from being a whole lot of entertainment and laughs for the audience.

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While James Franciscus plays our main hero, it is Vic Morrow in the Quint character that steals the show. With lines of dialogue like “This was no floating chainsaw” in a dialect that seems to go in and out with the tide, his performance is just a hoot to watch. And if that wasn’t enough, the mechanical shark they created that seems just be able to make its head pop out of the water and stay there, is a real joy, especially when it does that same thing, over and over and over again. But there are so many more things that will make you burst out laughing, like seeing the expression of the helicopter pilots face right before his demise. Amazing stuff. Damn shame it will never get a legitimate release over here.

the-keeper1The Keeper (1976) – This was another rare title I wanted to screen for everyone, mainly because it starred the one and only Christopher Lee. According to Lee, this was made in Canada, apparently without the actor’s union knowing about it, so it never got released to theaters. But it did make its way to VHS, which is where I first saw it. It is a title that is pretty tough to even find in movie reference books, which I’m sure there is a reason for. Which makes it even better addition to our lineup. Let us just say it’s probably not one of Lee’s more finer moments. None the less, he does seem to be giving it his all.

The title refers to the moniker Lee has, given to him from the ones admitted to his private hospital that are in need of psychiatric care. But this is where he uses hypnosis and brainwashing to make them do his bidding in hopes to make him the most powerful man in the world. Meglo-maniac? Could be. There is a lot of comedy here, borderline slapstick style, which really keeps it from ever being even remotely scary. There are lots of psychodelic imagery Lee uses to entrance his paitences, which even those are laughable at times. But what makes it even funnier is what some of our main characters do, usually when it really comes out of nowhere and is completely unexpected, such as when our hero jumps out a window to escape being questioned by the police. We had a lot more laughs getting through this one than I originally expected. Then again, it was probably fifteen years ago the last time I watched it.

Shadowzone (1990) – For our last feature, I went with an early Full Moon title. This was still at a time when they were actually making some pretty decent flicks, before they moved into the ridiculous crap they are making now. Oscar winning actress Louise Fletcher stars in this film about some science experiments going on in a lab several hundred feet below ground, where a doorway to another dimension is accidently opened. Isn’t that always the case? The film also stars genre favorites James Hong and Miguel A. Núñez Jr., who always can deliver us an entertaining performance. It was directed by J.S. Cardone, who may have given us a great debut with The Slayer (1982), just didn’t seem to show us something else as good as his debut. He’s made a few okay titles over the years, and I would include Shadowzone as one worth watching.

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One of the great things about this film is the practical special effects by Mark Shostrom. Lots of blood and gooey stuff which are done quite well. The sets look great and are effective. But it is just something with the characters and the movie itself that makes it a Turkey. Yes, this is one of the better Full Moon features, but considering the rest of that resume, that ain’t saying much.

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So we end our 14th year of Turkey Day celebration. As always, it was a lot of fun and that has to do with not only the movies we watched the group of people we watched them with. These events wouldn’t be the same without them. I can’t recomend enough to follow in our footsteps and hold your own T-Day marathon. They are so much fun and is just a great time spending time with your friends and fellow demented cinephiles!

Until next May….

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