Turkey Day 2021

I seem to say this with every Turkey Day report, but it never ceases to amaze me. This was the 19th year I’ve held my little annual marathon, which means next year will be two whole decades since I started this maddening excursion. Even more crazy is the amount of people that are anxious to join me on that quest. Granted, since 2019, we’ve had to hold them online, which has been fun, but I have to admit that it is just not the same. I’m really hoping that by next year, we can get back to the in-person marathons, but we’ll just have to see. I know that is going to disappoint some of the people that have been able to partake in the online version, but maybe that just means you should start your own Turkey Day event!

Nonetheless, my first official Turkey Day was in November of 2003, where I was by myself. That’s dedication for you. But that was the last year going solo since the following year the number started to increase until we were hitting close to 15 or more people before the pandemic started. Going online, I think we hit over 25 joining at some point. In May of 2015, we started holding Turkey Day in May, simply because there were just too many turkeys to only hold this even once a year! So, from 2003 when it all started, this was the 26th Turkey Day Marathon. That . . . is a lot of Turkeys. But it also was a lot of fun as well.

One of the things I posted earlier this month was about what I was thankful for. To have a group of friends, and even some I never have met, join together for these crazy viewing parties is something I am forever grateful for. To those that joined in, even if it was for only one or two films, thank you.

But let’s get the movies!

Bride of the Monster (1955) – While I am not the biggest fan of Mr. Ed Wood’s filmography, I can’t help admiring his passion for film. Sure, he may not have made the right choices in a lot of his decisions, but he got these films made, and out there into the world for people to see. That being said, this is probably my favorite of Wood’s work. It has a decent story, with Bela Lugosi in prime form actually giving a compelling performance, at least with what he’s got. Tor Johnson stumbles his way through, at times completely lost at what he’s supposed to do, but always has an amazing screen presence.

The local police can’t seem to figure out why there are all these disappearances, which happened to all be located by the old, deserted house by the marsh, but don’t see the need to go there to investigate the area! With tales of atomic energy, an angry octopus waiting for someone to wrestle with it, or any number of the hapless people that wander into this film, the one thing you will get is a lot of entertainment.

Horror House on Highway 5 (1985) – I had seen this earlier in the year and realized that it was just so bad, so poorly made, that I had to put my Turkey Day friends through the same misery that I was putting myself through. Misery loves company, as they say. Plus, it is Turkey Day after all, so it can’t be all fun and games, right? I try to screen films that are fun, no matter how bad they are. But this one pushed that boundary to the limit, of just being bad and not entertainingly bad.

Not even sure if a plot description would help or even worth it. A group of people somehow connected, wandering around different parts of the city and house(s), in near complete darkness, either being attacked, or running from an attacker (usually wearing a Nixon mask), which is not even explained at the end of the film! The acting is just terrible. Some might be meant to be funny while others are just not good. But the dialogue is even worse. I think if this would have been screened during a normal T-Day event, I would have been beaten severely for putting them through this. Maybe I’ll screen the 2014 sequel to this made by the same director in for the next T-Day event . . .

Brainiac (1961) – I have been a fan of the Mexican horror films made in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s ever since my buddy Monster Mark forced them upon me, and I have been forever thankful to him for doing that! They are always filled with great atmosphere and taking on classic monsters with their own style and feel to them. Brainiac is quite an exception because it is a completely new and very different than the monsters we know and love. But a long-tongue, sort-of bat-looking creature, with pulsating head and two fingered hands, was like nothing we had ever seen before. Or since, for that matter. This film is a little bit more tongue-in-cheek (pardon the pun) than the films from this era, with some slightly cheesy performances. But that doesn’t stop it from being a lot of fun, and very, very memorable.

Abel Salazar was one of the producers behind a lot of these films, acting in quite a few of them as well. In this title, he is the main character, a man sentenced to be burned alive for practicing witchcraft amongst a plethora of other fun topics! He somehow catches a ride on a passing comet, only to return 300 years to kill all the of the remaining descendants of the ones that sentenced him to die. Trust me, it is like no other film you’ve seen before.

Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks (1974) – This is quite the odd one but filled with a who’s who in Italian film, usually the ones playing little bit parts and side characters. Rossano Brazzi, who plays Count Frankenstein, had been working in film since the ‘30s, so it was definitely a curious thing why he decided to appear in this title. Then again, as an actor, maybe it was something challenging, or at least fun to do. Or just needed the money. Never know. But as he does his little brain experiments on a recently discovered Neanderthal man (who knew they were still alive?), not to mention also having a caveman still dwelling in some . . . uh . . . caves near the castle, along with a hunchback, a dwarf, and a couple of young ladies that are always taking their clothes off. What more could you ask for? It’s like they just started throwing different ideas around and instead of picking the best elements, they just threw them ALL IN!

Obviously made way before the #metoo movement, there’s a lot of fondling of women, rape, and all sorts of things that would be looked at unkindly in present time, and rightly so, but were apparently just fine to throw in these low budget pictures of that time. Being directed by Dick Randall, who was mainly known as a producer who made pretty low budget trashy movies, none of this is a big surprise. But you will get see some entertaining actors like Michael Dunn, Edmund Purdom, Gordon Mitchell, and Luciano Pigozzi.

Z.A.A.T. (1971) – When I first came across this film, I just couldn’t believe that it actually existed. Such a bizarre film, that had such an amazing monster (at least they thought so) that instead of hiding it in the shadows until a big reveal at the end, they decided to show it pretty much throughout the entire film! A majority of the people that worked on this film didn’t go on to become big stars. In fact, most of them never worked on another picture! The film starts off with a very long lecture from the mad doctor on how through his experiments, he was going to conquer the universe by turning himself into some kind of fish man. The film goes over 20 minutes before we actually see someone speak onscreen! Once he has transformed himself into this half man / half catfish, he sets about killing the scientists that laughed at him about his ideas, as well as anybody that gets in the way.

Now, this is not a well-made film, but if you are a fan of monster flicks, no matter how good or bad they are, you will love this one. There are so many things here that just don’t make sense or is just plain crazy. But you cannot watch this movie and not give credit to Wade Popwell, the poor bastard inside the creature suit. He had no acting experience at all but was hired because of his size and willingness to take on the role. The suit he wore weighed 120 lbs. and there are several scenes where he is underwater, or coming out of the water, looking like he is struggling to get some air. Lucky for us fans, the film print looks amazing, and you can see the wonderful colors of the suit, that apparently was in constant repair throughout the shoot.

Also look for when one of the actors is really bitten by a snake! See . . . acting can be dangerous.

Don’t Go in the Woods (1981) – Want a film that has an incredible high body count, with a plot line that is paper thin and makes even less sense? Then you’ve found your film! A group of young adults are hiking and camping in . . . well, the woods. Before they can find the cabin they are staying at, they run across a madman living in the woods that starts to brutally picking them off. And in between those murders, the nutcase is finding other random victims in the forest and butchering them. A lot of red stuff on screen, with some limbs being cut off and thrown about, or even a van being flipped over before exploding into fire. That’s right, it has it all!

Director James Bryan was no stranger to filmmaking, having his fingers in a lot of different films and different departments. Not to say that he was a talented craftsman when it comes to directing, but it sure seems like Bryan set out to make Don’t Go in the Woods with a simple plan: having a high body count with a killer on the loose in the woods. And in that respect, he checked all those boxes. Most of the actors never really went on to bigger careers, at least in the acting department. Some stayed in the business but behind the scenes, such as casting director.

It will also teach you that wandering out in the woods in a wheelchair is not the best thing to be doing. You’d think they would have learned after Texas Chain Saw . . .

Another year, another Turkey Day in the books. We’ll see what happens by next May, if we’ve all been good and the world opens up a bit to have an in-person Turkey Day, or if we’ll have to continue the online versions. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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