It’s strange how things turn out in life. In case you didn’t know, these Turkey Day marathons that I’ve been doing since 2003, were started in tribute to Mystery Science Theater 3000 back when they were on Comedy Central, and used to show 24-hours of their shows non-stop the day after Thanksgiving, which they would call their Turkey Day Marathons. I loved that show and had most of them on VHS at one point. I loved that they brought a new audience to some of the films that I loved as a kid. But then a few weeks ago, I picked up a copy of Frank Conniff’s (TV’s Frank) book on his years on MST3K, called Twenty Five Mystery Science Theater 3000 Films that Changed my Life in No Way Whatsoever. It’s a little book, barely 100 pages, but as I paged through it, reading his thoughts on some of the titles were my favorites, it was almost like my childhood crashing down.
For some strange reason, while MST3K were making jokes at the expense of these cheesy movies, I thought they actually liked the films. But according to Conniff, he pretty much hated and despised most of the titles they screened. So they weren’t goofing on these movies because they liked them, but pretty much were just making fun of them. Period. Now this opinion was just coming from Conniff, so I’m not sure if the others felt that way too, but it really had me wanting to explain to our readers that while we screen movies that are not high caliber, top-notch film titles during our Turkey Day events, and while we might even make a joke or two (or three) during the films, we actually enjoy them, and are entertained by them. So in reality, if you are entertained, then it is not a bad movie. We appreciate them for what they are, plain and simple. And to me, that’s what it really comes down to.
Okay, enough preaching. Let’s get to our recap.
We had a lot of the usual suspects this time out, Jason Coffman, Neil Calderone, Matt Harding, Brian Fukala, Andrew Grant, and Bryan Martinez coming along later. Aaron Christensen was there, but due to a work thing, he had to leave after the first two films. But he did bring a friend, Doug Lamoreux, along for short ride. I’ve known Doug, through Aaron, only through Facebook and such, so it was great to finally meet him in person. Plus, seeing his eyes light up when he walked into my office and he gazed upon my library, it always confirms again that I’m not crazy for what I do! Adam Rockoff also joined a little later and stayed for a few titles. Another new virgin T-Day attendee was our buddy Alan Tromp, who is another long time appreciator of these films that most would turn their noses at. He made the drive up from St. Louis, so we were thrilled to have him join us. My wife Dawn and son Nick were once again cranking out pizzas left and right throughout the day, with their new helper Bella Harding!
Now onto the movies!
The Slime People (1963) – While one would think this was another title from the ’50s, strangely enough it was a decade too late. But that doesn’t stop this low budget quickie from being a lot of fun. I’m not sure who designed and created the title creatures, but they came up with a great looking monster! Directed by Robert Hutton, who also was the main star here, this little low budget gem shows how filmmakers can write and produce a film with a minimum amount of actors, as long as you have a goat! It doesn’t hurt when you have Les Tremayne playing against type as a crazy local instead of the military or authority types. There’s lot of walking and running through fog covered screens, but if you can make it through that, I think you’ll find a lot of fun.
The title characters have somehow built a wall of fog around Los Angeles that has hardened into a dome, blocking off the city from the outside world. It causes the temperature to drop so the Slime People can rise from underground taking over the city. A professor and his two daughters, join forces with a stranded marine and a sports newscaster in trying to figure out how to defeat this new enemy, as well as break through the fog dome.
Slithis (1978) – Also known as The Spawn of Slithis (which is the title on the new Blu-ray release), this little gem features another amazing looking creature. And even though it kind of looks like a bloody and gooey Michelin Man, I always have to give a film props for having a good old fashion guy-in-a-rubber-suit! And there is plenty of blood and even some nice gore in here!
This film tries to have a ecological message here, but unfortunately the main character, who is a journalism teacher, has the personality of one of the microorganisms that he is investigating! But the film does have some fun characters, including the crazy police chief, played by character actor Hy Pyke, who always goes way overboard but still makes him highly memorable.
Spine (1986) – The reason this title came to my mind was that years ago when I used to buy and re-sell used VHS tapes, a year or two before DVDs started to flood the market, I remember passing up on a big box copy of this movie, thinking that there was no way in hell anybody would pay a dollar for this. My friend bought it instead and ended up selling it on ebay for around $75. So that is forever etched in my brain every time I think of this movie.
It had been more than a decade or so since I first watched this SOV slasher, which is probably the reason for me forgetting just how horrible it is. Usually the films I pick for the marathons are at least entertaining… at least to me. But this one was just brutal and was really hard to get through. There was a lot of blood but really no style here, or anything that could give some sort of entertainment, not even over-the-top bad acting. Just plain terrible. But on the same token, I knew that whatever movie played next would be cinematic gold after this one.
Dracula vs Frankenstein (1971) – So I just happen to be a pretty big fan of Al Adamson. Doesn’t mean I love all of his films, such as Blood of Ghastly Horror (Never want to watch that one again!), but my favorite of his has to be this epic monster battle. Not only do we have these two titans of terror battling it out, but we pretty much have an all star cast here! We’ve got Lon Chaney Jr., J. Carol Naish, Russ Tamblyn, Greydon Clark, Gary Clark, Anthony Eisley, Angelo Rossitto, and even Forrest J. Ackerman! Then you throw in Adamson regulars John Bloom, Roger Engel, and of course, Regina Carrol.
The story seems pretty chaotic, but that’s because production started filming and then stopped more than a few times before it was finally finished. But even with the patchwork storyline, it is still a lot of fun. Sure, it’s kind of sad to see some of these once great stars like Chaney and Naish working in uber-low budget films like this, but at least they were still able to work and bring a smile to some of their fans, even all these years later.
Zontar: The Thing from Venus (1966) – It had been a while since we screened a Larry Buchanan film, but I did have an alternative reason behind picking this title. Since our buddy Alan Tromp was making the trip all the way from St. Louis, and it was of this micro-budget filmmaker that we sort of first met, I figured it was a great opportunity. We have screened some of the more rough titles that Buchanan did so this one was a little easier on the palate. It is made-for-TV remake of Roger Corman’s It Conquered the World (1956), with about a third of the budget. We do have Turkey Day favorite John Agar in the starring role and this time he doesn’t look like he’s waiting to drop dead, but is actually acting! There’s a lot of the usual Buchanan regulars showing up, like Bill Thurman, Tony Huston, Neil Fletcher, and Warren Hammack.
For his budget, Buchanan does a decent job bringing the same story to the small screen, and even has some cool monsters, including the title terror. While its mainly kept in shadows, I must admit that it is a little scarier looking than invader from Venus in Corman’s version.
The Twilight People (1972) – Another sub-sub-genre of films that I’m a fan of are the horror films to come out of the Philippines, mainly from director Eddie Romero, that usually starred John Ashley. Ever since going over there in the ’60s for the Blood Island trilogy, Ashley stayed there for quite some time, appearing in quite a few productions. Most of those films were made for Hemisphere Pictures. But after Romero and Ashley parted ways with them, they started their own production company and this feature was one of them.
It’s basically their version of Island of Lost Souls, with a little nod to The Most Dangerous Game thrown in for good measure. Ashley stars as a soldier of fortune type that has been captured to be used in a mad scientist’s experiments, which is helping mankind move up the evolutional scale a little faster. The best parts of this movie are around the experiments, such as the Bat-Man, Antelope-Man, the Panther-Woman (played by Pam Grier), and more. These actors were giving it their all in their performances and it just makes the film even more entertaining. Just watching the Antelope-Man fighting is pure entertainment! So much fun.
Track of the Moon Beast (1976) – Our last feature for the day was another little monster flick that I remember first seeing on VHS back in the early ’80s. The box art featured an amazing looking monster that would get any young monster fan immediately grabbing it from the shelf. Unfortunately the creature in the movie doesn’t live up to the hype on the box (they rarely do), but I still believe you can’t go wrong with a guy-in-a-monster-suit movie, and I know most of the T-Day regulars agree with me.
A man is hit by a piece of a meteor from the moon, which then causes him to turn into a beast anytime the moon comes out. He goes on killing sprees each time, but has no recollection that he’s done anything. His friends try to help him, but we’re pretty sure this isn’t going to end well. But great dialogue and a fun suit makes this movie worth your time.
And so ends another day filled with some amazing pieces of cinema. That’s right, I said amazing. Sure, they might not be as flashy as the newer billion dollar movies coming out these days, but damn if I still don’t have a lot of fun watching them. And to enhance that pleasure even more so, is doing it with a bunch of like-minded cinephiles that I’m lucky to call my friends. Until next time….