When we get to November, here at the Krypt is all about Turkey Day. While most are planning ahead for Thanksgiving or even an early start on Christmas, we are planning Turkey Day. From picking the right titles for our bi-annual event, to my wife Dawn and son Nick coming up with some new ideas for pizzas, it really is a family event. And not just us, but our convention family that shows up to enjoy these movies and pizza with us! This is our 16th year holding our Turkey Day Marathon, and there is no stopping us now!
We had a smaller group this year, but we still had plenty of pizzas and plenty of entertainment! As always, Aaron Christensen was here, as he’s been since 2005. But also Jason Coffman, Neil Calderone, Brian Fukula, Tim Palace, Andrew Grant, Gregg Olheiser, and Chris Kuchta. I lost count on how many pizzas we went through, but I think we were close to 20 total. Maybe there’s a correlation between these movies and making the viewers hungry? So let’s get to this year’s lineup before I start getting hungry again!
Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster (1965) – The very first time I came across this film, or at least part of it, was in the compilation film It Came from Hollywood (1982), which had comedians poking fun at cheesy movies, years before MST3K hit the nationwide airways. Didn’t know what title the clips were from, but there were several from FMtSP and they were hard to forget. Jump forward 36 years from that first time and it’s our first title in this year’s marathon.
James Karen plays a scientist who has created a robot, appropriately enough named Frank, that will pilot a spaceship to Mars. Meanwhile, a different spaceship from another planet arrives to look for “breeding stock” because their race is dying out. So they need women. Simple enough plan. After crashing in Puerto Rico, our robot astronaut Frank becomes burnt and scared after being shot at by the aliens, even being referred to as “Frankenstein”. The other monster in the title refers to the caged beast the aliens have locked up on their spaceship.
Another highlight of the film is the character of Dr. Nadir, brought to wondrous life by actor Lou Cutell, in his first feature film appearance. Cutell would go on to a very successful career as a character actor appearing in countless shows and movies. But here, every second on screen is just hilarious, watching him trying not to look at the camera and giving new meaning to the term “over-acting”.
At some points in the movie, you’d almost think it was a travelogue for Puerto Rico, since James Karen and Karen Marshall are driving around the sites on a little motor scooter quite a bit of the time! Plus the fact that there must be a lot of tourists there because it seemed all the women captured by the aliens were American! If you’re a fan of those sci-fi films of the ’50s, then you’ll find this one pretty entertaining.
Corpse Eaters (1974) – I stumbled across this little gem earlier this year, when looking for a subject for a writing assignment. Not only was this one of those W-T-F movies, the more I looked into the background of the film, the more impressed I was with it.
This is a very low budget Canadian film made by an owner of a drive-in theater that wanted to make his own picture. He did and it was a slight success at his own theater, but pretty much was forgotten after that, mainly due to a bad business deal. But it still exists today, even with a low budget video release, and now I’m doing what I can to make more people aware of it!
Hard to explain the story because it is a little…let’s just say unconventional. But after an opening at a funeral home, we cut to two couples out having a good time, first out on a boat, then deciding to go hang out and get wasted at a cemetery. Part of the fun is reciting some ancient rite which actually makes the dead start to rise out of the graves and attacks them. Then we end up at a local hospital and then back to the funeral home. To go into further detail would ruin your viewing of the film, so I’ll leave it at that.
But for the budget, the zombie makeup is pretty effective. And the opening “warning” is just a hoot, and a nice throwback to the old fashion ballyhoo! Great stuff. Finding this on DVD might be a bit tough, but you can always head over to YouTube because it is available there.
Island Claws (1980) – I’ve always been a sucker for giant monster movies, ever since growing up on those ’50s sci-fi flicks, like The Deadly Mantis (1957) and Tarantula (1955). So even films that were made in the ’70s and ’80s that still followed those same parameters, I usually find them pretty entertaining. Even more so, way before CGI, when the creatures were actually manufactured and built in all their giant glory! While this film has a lot of padding, with shots of crabs scurrying across the beaches, down sandy roads, and everywhere else on this island, the fact that they build a huge giant crab makes up for all of that.
The film takes place on a coastal island, where there is research being done on growing crabs larger to help with food shortage. Of course, they are also near a nuclear plant that may or may not being dumping waste into the water. But I’m sure that has nothing to do with anything, right? And if the ecological terror wasn’t enough social commentary for you, we also have a bunch of Haitian immigrants landing on the beach in the dead of night, looking for refuge.
Robert Lansing plays the owner of the Half Shell, a bar/eatery in this small fishing village where everyone seems to go to get drunk…most of the day…and night. Lansing always gives viewers an interesting character, no matter what movie! He’s usually not the nicest guy, even when playing the hero, as he is here. Even better that his character’s name is Moody! But again, the fact that you get to see a giant crab attacking the village is well worth your time to get through the rest of the movie.
Oh yeah…this film was written by Ricou Browning, the man who played the creature in The Creature from the Black Lagoon films.
Attack of the Beast Creatures (1985) – Now I stumbled across this little gem years ago wandering through a video store going out of business, picking up this just on the title alone. But then to find out it is basically about an island filled with seemingly cousins of the Zuni Fetish doll from Trilogy of Terror (1975), it will simply blow your mind.
A group of survivors from a sunken cruise ship end up on a deserted island, seemingly in the “tropics” according to one of the surviving crew. As they wander the island looking for food and water, they discover they are not alone on the island. And even worse, they are not on the top of the food chain either!
Another low budget film with a small cast of nobody you’ve heard of before or since, but they took a simple concept and ran with it. Like Island Claws, there are a lot of shots of the cast wandering through the woods. A lot of shots. Like…a LOT. But when the title creatures show up, it is more than worth the wait. Good Lord, is it worth it. These actors give it their all, showing being attacked time and time again by these little devils.
I have to give high props to not only the ones responsible for creating the little creatures, but also the camera work that was done to make them seem alive and moving around the woods and trees. Usually I’ll make the comment that one of these movies is much more enjoyable with a group of people. This one definitely is, but is also good enough to watch on your own, and will still make you cheer out loud!
Blood Legacy (1971) – Okay…now this was really the low point in today’s lineup. With only a 2.7 rating on IMDB, this one really is a turkey. BUT…that being said, I, myself, still found it pretty entertaining, if only in a train wreck sort of way. Also known as Will to Die, this is about a family that comes home for the funeral of their demented father, played by John Carradine, and more importantly, the reading of his will. While this has been released on DVD, the quality of the print is not the greatest, both in picture and in sound. But sometimes, these kind of films play better this way.
While it might sound a little cruel, I’ve always enjoyed seeing a lower budgeted film that stars some actors that at one point in their career might have been a little higher in the popularity, but for whatever reason, have lost their sparkle and are now taking whatever jobs that become available to them. Usually cheap horror films. This one not only stars Carradine, who seemed to revel in these types of pictures, but also Jeff Morrow and Faith Domergue, who both appeared in the sci-fi classic This Island Earth (1955). Morrow, who has also appeared in more than a few Turkey Day films like Creature Walks Among Us (1956), Kronos (1957), and Octaman (1971), he also stars in the ultimate Turkey Day movie, The Giant Claw (1957). You can tell by his performance in this movie just how satisfied he is with where his career has gone. Domergue also had quite the career but in the early ’70s was making more than a couple cheap horror titles, such as this one and The House of Seven Corpses. Then again, that doesn’t mean they’re not entertaining, right?
But the real star of this picture is played by John Russell, who honestly looks like he stepped off the set of a ’70s porno film. He plays the chauffer here but has some dark history here, where we learn about with one of the best lines in the movie. When questioned about a certain lamp he has, he say “A kraut stuck a bayonet in me. I made him into a lamp.” Even better when we actually get to see the lamp! Russell was mostly known for playing in westerns, usually as the heavy, including a few with Clint Eastwood. But he pretty much steals each scene he is in.
Frostbiter (1995) – This film I came across earlier this year and wasn’t more than a few minutes into it before I knew it was going to get lined up for the next Turkey Day event. And it was. Another low budget film, but this one coming out of Michigan. We have some good old fashion gore right in the beginning, with a skeleton attacking a hunter. There’s plenty of makeup effects, blood and gore, and all sorts of creatures, including some stop-motion animation.
Being heavily influenced by some other Michigan filmmakers who make another movie about demons attacking some people in a cabin, I’m sure it is purely coincidental that this film has a similarities. At least this one takes place in the middle of winter, so that’s quite different! There is plenty of silly humor, most of it being pretty damn funny, even if it is unintentional and due to the less than stellar acting or just plain outrageous storyline. There is pretty much music going through the entire film, which can get a bit unnerving, but at times it really adds to the craziness of what is going on in the film.
But like in Island Claws, no matter how bad the movie might be, you have to give a low budget production like this a lot of credit to create all these different types of monsters. This thing is filled with old fashion style makeup effects, from burned skin, all sorts of rubber masks, monster puppets bursting through a pot of “bodacious” chili, and the aforementioned stop-motion Wendigo. For all of that, you have to give them a hand because that was a lot of work and makes sure this film is not boring.
Syngenor (1990) – The last title in our marathon was another great man-in-a-monster-suit, but a really well-crafted one too. The title creature is very similar to the one in William Malone’s Scared to Death (1980), mainly because the producers of Syngenor loved the look of it so much, they wanted another movie with it. Malone was set to direct but backed out. But he allowed the creature to be used, while the movie and background of it is completely different.
The Syngenor is a genetically created soldier designed to be so much better than a human one. But as we find out throughout the movie, they are pretty easy to kill, especially if you just get them wet! Aside from their possible flaws, the design is awesome and the film makes quite a bit of use out of them. That’s right…’them’, since these can reproduce every 24-hours, there is no stopping the number of these that can die off, only to be replaced almost immediately!
But the real star here is not the well-crafted monster on display. It is actor David Gale, who plays the man in charge of the company behind these creatures. To say his character is unhinged is a slight understatement. In fact, Gale looks to be having so much fun, you never know what he’s going to do next, and it is usually just as surprising and entertaining as the last thing he did. From dancing around to wearing bunny ears, he is totally off the way and just a sheer pleasure to watch on screen.
This was director George Elanjian Jr.’s only feature film, staying in the television the rest of his career. Shame too since he does give us a pretty entertaining film. The rest of the cast is okay, but let’s admit it…if you take away Gale and the title creatures…you wouldn’t have much a movie. But we do have those two things, so for those things alone, it is more than worth your time. Just watching Gale on screen is just a treat and reminds us of the great talent we lost when he passed away.
And so we end another Turkey Day with another 7 great titles. Well, maybe not all great, but a lot of fun. One of the reasons for the fun was due to the group of friends that came over to celebrate this event that started one day when I decide to spend the day watching “bad” movies. A decade and a half later, it has turned into something so much more than that! See you next May!