B-Fest 2015 – Crap Happens

On the evening of January 23rd, 2015, round about 6PM, I settled myself in for 24 butt-numbing hours of things man was not meant to wot of.  Yes my friend, can your heart stand the shocking facts of…B-FEST 2015?

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What is a B-Fest, one might (legitimately) ask? It’s an annual 24 hour celebration of all that is weird and wonderful (and frequently awful) about the world of low-budget cinema. Held on the campus of Northwestern University every January, it’s now been going on for over 20 years.  This was my 4th Fest and I was very much appreciative for the generosity of friends who once again once again acted as hosts, tour guides, and smart ass commentators during this Virginia girl’s annual pilgrimage to the land of ice and Democrats. Who intentionally travels to Chicago in January? Crazy people. (Hi, there!)

How does one prepare for such feats of endurance? It helps to have almost 30 years of crap movie experience, the ability to sleep sitting up, the intestinal fortitude of a brass elephant, and really fabulous theme nails.  Fortunately I had the last completely covered. IMAG1055 (2) Yes, those are Joel and the ‘Bots, and they are indeed fabulous.  I also suggest stocking up on calories before the Fest, as the food vendors on site are closed for about half the duration of the event.  Snacks and drinks are allowed in the auditorium, but it’s good to show up with a nice warm load of not-empty calories onboard before the event starts. I was well covered having consumed the rough equivalent of a weeks worth of calories beforehand, due to breakfast and lunch stops at L and L Snack Shop and Super Dawg respectively.

[Fair warning, I hadn’t really planned on a write-up of this at the time of the Fest, so I am doing this mostly by a combination of memory and the review of some cryptic Facebook statuses I posted while at the event.  I promise to do better next year.  I guarantee someone out there has already done better this year, go look up their recap instead. But only after you read this one, so you can come back and tell me how much better they did it. Heck, link to them in the comments, so I can learn from the wisdom of those who have come before me]

And so it begins…

First up: Creature With the Atom Brain (1955) – Nifty little black and white thriller about a mad scientist who assists a gangster in wreaking re-wen-ge on the men whose testimony put him behind bars (or, more precisely, got him deported, because that totally makes sense for an American gangster). How does he do that? By sending out a series of remote-controlled, super-strong, atomic zombies to murder them. As you do.

This was a good choice to open the Fest, the scrip is tight, running a reasonably lean 69 minutes, so it doesn’t have time to overstay it’s welcome.  It helps that this is one of those movies where you can get a good general idea of what’s going on without being able to hear the dialogue.  The first couple of movies at B-Fest tend to be drowned out entirely by the audience, who are all just so gosh-darned excited to be there that they can’t shut up. And it has enough moments of just plain weirdness to keep things interesting.creature-with-the-atom-brain-production-photo_6-1955 My personal favorite is the containment system for the collection of dangerously radioactive corpses that the baddies keep lying around. Every time our villains must enter the inner sanctum of their lair, we are treated to shots of them donning radiation suits, then crawling on their hands and knees through a plastic tunnel into the inner lab. And I do mean every single time, relatively lean or not, it wouldn’t be a 50’s monster flick without some padding. Personally I’d have opted for a lead lined door that you could actually, you know, open to let the zombies out, but that’s just me, always sacrificing style for efficiency.  Oh, didn’t I mention that crawling through the tunnel is also the only way for the walking dead to emerge from the lab? Um, yeah, good thing these are highly coordinated dead men.

The final set-pieces are nicely done, particularly the hand to hand contact between the army of zombies and the army of police and Soldiers that have surrounded the mad scientist’s evil lair, you see Night of the Living Dead nicely prefigured here. Fortunately for everyone, the lab is made of explodium, and blows up real good just as soon as our hero starts hitting things with a stick, thankfully drawing this adventure to a close.

My Facebook Thoughts –

“This movie is exclusively about men with pipes who can’t stop putting their feet on the furniture.”

“Atomic zombies are terrible drivers.”

Metalstorm- The Destruction of Jared-Syn (1983) – For some reason I was actually excited to finally see this one, as I’d missed it’s original 3D run in the theaters when I was a kid.  Remember the brief 3D craze of the early 80s? And the sudden glut of crappy SF quickies meant to capitalize on it? No? Lucky you. Also, does your mom know you’re on the Internet this late?

In 3D!

So there’s a hero guy, specializing in the “dull surprise” school of thesping, who’s being chased through Bronson Canyon by a cyborg guy, and sometimes by a bunch of cyclops guys, except when they’re on the hero’s side instead. Also something about a crystal and a mask and a prophesy that hero-guy will destroy cyborg-guy’s father (the eponymous Jared-Syn). There’s a chick, but she adds nothing to the plot and is played by Kelly Preston, so who cares (and it’s still a better performance than she gave in Battlefield: Earth). There is a complete waste of Tim Thomerson. Bad hand puppet sand worm monsters (the absolute best part of the film!). The McGuffin breaks, but that doesn’t matter either. And futuristic car chases, lots and lots of car chases, all of which end with the bad guys’ cars running off the road and inexplicably exploding. Also things being thrust at the camera, so many things being thrust at the camera.

Yeah, the movie really is that much of an incoherent mess, it makes spiritual sibling Spacehunter- Adventures Across the Forbidden Zone, look like, if not art, at least an example of competent filmmaking. Still it went down pretty well with the crowd, it’s far too goofy to garner any real ill-will. And things blow up regularly, which never hurts. We also have another reasonably lean running time here at 84 minutes, which keeps the action moving, no matter how silly said action may be.

FYI: Jared-Syn escapes at the end, in order to set up he inevitable, but never filmed, sequel, thus making this film a contender for Most Misleading Title ever; no metal, no storm, and certainly no destruction.

My Facebook Thoughts –

“This movie is the reason Bull was bald on Night Court.”

“Yay! Tim Thomerson. Things should start looking up. Although fact he is a cheap Han Solo expy is a bit worrisome.”

“Attacked by craptacular hand puppets!”

“I love movies where all the cars are made of explodium!”

“I just want to say I was promised the destruction of Jared-Syn and not his mild inconveniencing. Dishonest.”

Frogs (1972) – I do sometimes wonder what exactly Ray Milland did to piss off the Hollywood gods by the 1970s. From winning an Oscar for his role in Lost Weekend to appearing in all kinds of disreputable low-budget films, including this AIP eco-thriller.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI distinctly remember as a teenager finding this one mildly creepy yet extraordinarily dumb when it turned up on Shocking Theater and I would still say that’s a pretty fair assessment. Ray Milland plays an evil (is there any other kind?) Southern patriarch who is damned well going to get his 4th of July/birthday party, no matter how many family members drop mysteriously dead around him. A wildlife photographer/ecologist (a young Sam Elliot) accidentally crashes the party to provide us with the requisite love interest for the least bitchy of Milland’s daughters and the leader of our designated survivors (Oops, hope I didn’t give away the super top secret ending, you have seen an eco-horror flick before, right?).

The plot, such as it is, consists almost entirely of Ray’s obnoxious relatives being picked off one by one by the local wildlife in a series of bizarre and outré set pieces. My personal favorites are probably the tarantulas who apparently kill a guy by, um, burying him in Spanish moss (no, I don’t see how that would work, either) and the anoles that poison another son by locking him in a greenhouse (even if they had opposable thumbs, wouldn’t they only be about 2 mm long?) then knocking bottles of curiously human-specific poison off the surrounding shelves. Because anoles are terrifying.

I’m pretty sure he just peed on that.

What do frogs have to do with any of this? Beats me. Mostly they sit around being all atmospheric and croaking constantly to give the unpleasant family one more thing to bitch about. I think we are supposed to believe that they are the ringleaders of this little swampland murder party, but I just don’t see it. The atmosphere is definitely helped by filming on an actual plantation in the Florida swamps (Eden State Park, according to one of my Facebook sources who lived nearby during filming) and the movie actually manages a few nicely moody moments amongst all the silliness.

I’d rate this one a solid party movie. Silly and gruesome enough to entertain the most jaded B-cinemaphile and since the ‘plot’ consists almost entirely of nothing but loosely connected nature-run-amuck scenes, it works well for folks wandering in and out of the room as they’ll always catch something good without ever having to worry about catching up with what is going on. The schadenfreude inherent in watching otherwise well-respected actors slumming it is purely a bonus. Just make sure that (unlike the folks running the projection booth this year) you hang out to the end of the credits, as that is the only place you’ll see the infamous frog-with-a-hand-hanging-out-of-its-mouth image from the poster art.

My Facebook Thoughts –

Frogs. Because sometimes Ray Milland just needed a paycheck.”

“So the tarantulas are going to kill John Snyder guy by covering him in Spanish Moss? WTF?”

“I hereby declare killer anoles to be even less scary than killer rabbits.”

Killdozer (1974) – In a remote mining camp, an alien intelligence from an meteorite possesses a bulldozer and proceeds to go on a rampage for no discernible reason. Um, no that is the entire plot. Based on a short story by Theodore Sturgeon, who really should have known better.

This magazine cover from 1944 is more exciting than anything that happens in this movie.

The biggest problem with this film is that there isn’t nearly enough killdozing in it. An ABC Suspense Movie of the Week, it only has a cast of 6, one of whom dies before the machine rampage begins, and two of whom make it to the closing credits, leaving very little opportunity for murderous mayhem in-between. What more can I say about this? There really isn’t enough material here for a single TV episode, much less a feature.  There is a nicely hammy death scene early on from a young Robert Urich. And watching Killdozer ‘sneak’ around the desert mining site as if it were 1) silent  2) small enough to hide in scrub brush and 3) never in need of fuel is mildly hilarious. Otherwise it is a pretty dull slog. Appropriately, it was during this film that I dozed off for the first time that evening. I fell asleep just after the second killing, and when I awakened 20 minutes later, all the same characters were still alive and well and being stalked, so I’d missed nothing of any importance.

I suppose I’d recommend it cautiously, for the truly curious or TV movie completists, and I was glad to finally mark it off my list, but I can’t really give it more than that. It’s 74 minutes seemed to run twice that and even the B-Fest audience couldn’t drum up to much enthusiasm during the second act.

My Facebook Thoughts –

Killdozer. I feel like I should be more excited about this than I actually am.”

“Well there went Robert Urich’s Emmy bait moment.”

“That was seriously lacking in actual killdozing. Just dozing.”

Midnight approaches…

He will help you find your dream.
He will help you find your dream.

Nearly six hours in and two B-Fest traditions will hit the screen next. First up The Wizard of Speed and Time (1979) makes its annual appearance. This short film was originally created as a special effects demonstration reel and features the titular wizard on his high-speed journey from the East coast to the West. He then crashes into a film studio and breaks into a stop motion song and dance number. Traditionally, B-Fest attendees storm the stage at this time to recreate the Wizard’s run by lying on their backs and stomping the stage, the same is done again as the film is re-run upside down and backwards. Look, it’s a tradition, OK? Traditions don’t have to make sense, otherwise they wouldn’t be traditions.

Next comes the annual midnight showing of Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959).  I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that if you’ve made it this far, you’re already familiar with Ed Wood’s magnum opus and don’t need me to rehash it here.

Plan-9-From-Outer-Space_w670_h372The only real difference here is that the whole thing takes on an audience participation aspect that’s generally missing when seen in other venues.  Cries of “Tor!” and “Bela!” “Not-Bela!” abound as well as the annual debate as to rather Gregory Walcott’s furniture is actually wicker or rattan. Thousands of paper plates, many inscribed with ‘humorous’ mottos will fly through the air in homage to the spaceships on screen.  All-in-all it’s a good time.  But, I’ve done it before and I’ve seen the movie about a hundred times, so, saving my energy for things I’ve never seen before, this is my cue to try for my first real nap of the Fest.

Black Mama, White Mama (1973) – The post-Plan 9 slot has been set aside for a Blaxploitation flick each year I’ve attended the Fest, and this time it’s no different, though we change up the formula slightly by offering one that is also a Women in Prison (WIP) flick. Personally, I love seeing Pam Grier show up in anything, action girls were thin on the ground in my childhood and she was right up there with Lynda Carter in my personal pantheon of chicks who kicked butt.

Black Mama, White Mama stars Grier and Margaret Markov as a hooker and a terrorist (excuse me, *cough* ‘freedom fighter’) thrown in the same prison. Naturally, they hate one another, but must work as a team after escaping, while handcuffed together,  during a prison transfer. Of course, they will grudgingly learn to respect one another by the time it’s all said and done.  So, yeah, it’s also a Defiant Ones ripoff, if Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier started their movie with a naked prison shower scene overseen by sadistic lesbians, then disguised themselves as nuns during their escape (how did they get those giant habits on while wearing handcuffs, anyway?).

It's OK, we're Episcopal nuns.
It’s OK, we’re Episcopal nuns.

The women have very different goals once out of prison, with Markov insisting she must meet with the revolutionaries to make sure a gun-running deal goes through and Grier with no desire to get involved with anything beyond grabbing the stash of cash she stole from her pimp and getting the heck out of this banana republic for good. Between the police, Grier’s pimp, a rival pimp (Sid Haig!), and the revolutionaries that are all after the women for their own reasons, they spend most of the flick on the run from about half the population of the Phillipines.

I really thought this was the best film of the festival, not the biggest crowdpleaser (many folks were sleeping when it appeared) but really an interesting little movie. While it has its dark moments, it is neither as grim nor nastily exploitative as many WIP flicks get. The humor is genuinely funny (a profane conversation between the two fugitives dressed as nuns, while two genuine nuns look on is a highlight) and the actors are clearly having a good time with their roles. Then again, seeing Pam Grier in anything just plain makes me happy.

My Facebook Thoughts-

Black Mama, White Mama. Pam Grier is always worth staying awake for”

“Well that’s the first time I’ve ever heard an entire audience erupt in cheers when the name Sid Haig popped up in the credits.”

“Because prison showers are all about about tickle fights and wacky hijinks.”

“Are hookers and terrorists generally kept under the same level of security?”

Yongary, Monster From the Deep (1967) – South Korean Gojira rip-off with the most annoying Kenny in the history of kaiju. Not a terrible movie, but one I’d seen before, so it was time for a nap.

Avalanche (1978) – I absolutely adore disaster flicks, hooked on the silly things, as you’ll see in the weeks and months to come. So when I tell you that this may be the dullest example of the sub-genre ever, you’ll know from whence I speak. Roger Corman produced this on one of his notoriously low budgets, and, at least in terms of overall casting, it shows.  On the other hand, the notorious Ken Begg points out that, according to Corman, he’d already turned a profit on the flick by selling the foreign rights before a single scene was filmed, so I suppose he can be excused for releasing a serviceable, if unspectacular, final product. Many producers wouldn’t have bothered with that much.

You know your box movie is cheap when you can only afford two boxes.
You know your box movie is cheap when you can only afford two boxes.

I’ve never found either Rock Hudson, nor Mia Farrow to be fonts of charisma and they have so little chemistry with one another as the inevitable troubled-couple-having-marital-problems at the center of our little melodrama, that one can be forgiven for not giving half a damn about whether or not each will survive to reconcile at the end.  Or whether Farrow will instead end up with the tree-cutting, avalanche-causing grounds manager of Hudson’s resort, with whom she is having an affair.

Of course there’s the secondary cast of characters, with their own little dramas playing  out in the face of the looming disaster, a ski champ, an ice skater, the requisite hard-drinking, sassy old woman, none of it matters, we’re just here for the destruction. Unfortunately, this was the point at which, despite my best efforts and a solid sleep during Yongary, I dropped off again. Yes, ladies and gentleman, here we have a disaster movie so dull I actually fell asleep during the big avalanche scene. Not before, not in the aftermath, actually as the sides of the mountain started coming down, I fell asleep. I did wake up in time to see the old lady die ridiculously and to see the only surprise on offer in the film, how they resolved the love triangle, but for the big honking climax, I was snoring.

Dull little film, interesting only for the fact that disaster footage from it was reused shortly thereafter for the much better budgeted, but only moderately less dull Meteor. You’d be better off searching out one of Irwin Allen’s cheapie TV movie of the week disaster flicks than this one.

My Facebook Thoughts –

Avalanche. A movie I really only know for all the footage reused in Meteor

“So the best strategy to evade an avalanche that is chasing you is to ski jump into the air and land in a tree. That was what I always thought.”

“Well. I already know which hypotenuse we will murder by the end of this flick. Cutting down trees! How dare you!”

“Baked Alaska, one of those deserts that always sounds good in theory and is always disappointing in actual execution.”

“By the way, I was very sad that Rock Hudson didn’t die in the last movie, but I was quite taken by how Grandma died when her ambulance skidded on the ice, went over side of a bridge, fell down a rocky ravine, landed in the icy river below, and then, exploded.”

At the halfway point…

Cloak and Dagger (1984) – A weird little 1980s spy actioner I’d never heard of starring Dabney Coleman and that kid from ET, trying to do for ATARI what the previous film had done for Reese’s Pieces. For me, its biggest redeeming feature is that it was filmed in and around my former home of San Antonio, so I amused myself by figuring out where Elliot was at any given moment and noting whenever he teleported between cuts.

Ladies and gentlemen, Product Placement!
Ladies and gentlemen, Product Placement!

The set-up involves ET kid accidentally witnessing a murder committed over secret plans hidden inside an ATARI cartridge (the “Cloak and Dagger” of the title). The rest of the movie is mostly chase and escape scenes as representatives of an unnamed foreign power try to get the cartridge (for some reason referred to as a “tape” throughout) back. This is complicated by Elliot’s relationship with his imaginary friend, an ultracool spy from the Cloak and Dagger game, who happens to look just like his dad (Coleman).

This is a movie that has no idea who its target audience is. It revolves mostly around child actors, has a 1970s Disney-style plot, with a little old lady villain, fantasy sequences and a resolution that is all about reconciliation with a parent. Yet it is also incredibly dark, with several deaths of innocent characters and a child tricked into a fairly graphic murder by his imaginary friend. I wouldn’t want to show it to my kids, yet can’t see why an adult would be interested in watching it.

My Facebook Thoughts –

“Next up, Cloak and Dagger, which I don’t think I’ve ever heard of, but probably isn’t based on the comic.”

“Ok, the movie gets points for taking place in San Antonio and in around the Emily Morgan.”

“Can someone explain why Dabney Coleman is like a 50 year old Senior Airman?”

“This movie is made of product placement.”

“Somehow the kid teleported from the museum to the Riverwalk.”

“Casa Rio!”

Andy Hardy’s Private Secretary (1941) – Ugh, whoever thought this was a good idea for a B-Fest needs to be taken out back and shot.  Or at least beaten with a wet noodle until their taste improves. It’s not laughably bad, or particularly weird, and by 1941 the Andy Hardy flicks weren’t even B-pictures in the technical sense, having been granted relatively big budgets and lead feature status as the series became popular.

It's OK Ann, none of the rest of us like him either.
It’s OK Ann, none of the rest of us like him either.

This one involves such things as Andy’s attempt to help out a poor fellow student by hiring her as his secretary, his embarrassing failure to pass his English finals, his screwing a buddy’s father out of a much needed job, his constant whinging about how he isn’t going to get a brand-new car from his father if he doesn’t graduate high school, something where he’s dressed as Apollo and hanging from the rafters, and a totally unnecessary and uncalled for  performance of the Lucia mad scene from Lucia de Lammermoor. I really, really hate the character of Andy, particularly as he never ever suffers any karmic consequences for any of his obnoxious and downright horrible behavior.

Worst of all, I was quickly bored and left for breakfast during this time, figuring the picture would only run about 63 minutes and that I’d come back about an hour in to catch the end. When I returned the movie dragged on for another interminable hour. And since the Andy Hardy films tend to be more a series of vignettes than a coherent story, there is absolutely no way to predict when one is going to end. You get hopeful that things are about to resolve, only for the movie to laugh at you and continue on with another ‘wacky’ adventure. Blech!

My Facebook Thoughts –

Andy Hardy’s Private Secretary. Shame I am now wide awake. No comment on this one as I have no intention of paying attention.”

“Ok, who sat down in 1941 and decided that what the world really needed was a 100 minute Andy Hardy movie? That was actually brutal. It takes a hell of a flick to actually make you look forward to “Can’t Stop The Music” as a palate cleanser.”

Only 8 hours to go, I am sad…

Can’t Stop the Music (1980) – The Village People glitter-bomb the scene with this fantasy musical/semi-biopic.  This may have been the final stake driven through the heart of the disco generation, having come out about a year too late to capitalize on the dying trend.

Steve Guttenburg stars as a hapless composer/DJ who just knows he can be the next big thing if only he can get a group together to record his demo reel.  Fortunately, his roommate just happens to be an ex-supermodel who can round up a band in a single afternoon, just by wandering the streets of weird New York. Somehow, they just happen to turn out to be the Village People. She also just happens to have dated a producer at (a thinly-veiled) Casablanca Records who might just be able to get this mad project off the ground, if he can stop being telephone obsessed long enough to pay attention to what is going on in the same room. Somehow, square lawyer Bruce Jenner gets involved in the whole fabulous mess and Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s distaff counterpart declares herself the Village People’s first roadie, before a triumphant final concert in San Francisco that consists of the title track being sung over and over again for about 20 minutes under a rain of falling glitter.

Proof that the roots of Bruce Jenner's gender dysphoria really <i>do<?i> go back to childhood. (What? Too soon?)
Proof that the roots of Bruce Jenner’s gender dysphoria really do go back to childhood. (What? Too soon?)

Look, this is a very silly movie, and after the first 20 minutes or so, which set up the plot, it consists of nothing more than a series of musical vignettes. But oh, what vignettes! Highlights include Construction Worker Village Person daydreaming himself into a fantasy land of hot women during “I Love You to Death”, the inevitable “YMCA” number, which is a Busby Burkleyesque journey through the nightmare realm of a male-only gym full of hot guys doing synchronized split-screen aerobics and gymnastics (infamously, this scene contains what is said to be the only  instance of full-frontal male nudity in an MPAA-rated PG film), and the hilarious “Milkshake”, where the Kid Village People drink their milk so they can become the Grown-up Village People and proclaim the virtues of high lactose consumption for the American Dairy Council (no really, that’s an actual plot point).

This was definitely the crowd-pleaser of this year’s Fest, although the weight of its sheer fabulousness actually caused the projection system to break down briefly. I’d say that in the hierarchy of crappy too-late disco musicals it ranks well above Xanadu in the entertainment department. Just be aware that the first twenty minutes or so are a bit of a slog  as the film attempts to make us *cough* care about our characters, but the rest of the flick makes up for it with its sheer WTFery.

My Facebook Thoughts –

“Ok, that was odd. Apparently the Village People broke the theater”

“Pretty sure that much glitter on your uniform is a violation of AR 670-1.”

“Glitter credits!”

Alien from LA (1988) – I just couldn’t get excited about hanging around and sitting through this again. We are supposed to believe that squeaky-voiced, non-actress Kathy Ireland is really ugly until she falls into the center of the earth while looking for her lost daddy and gets chased by Atlantean mutants before finding her prince ‘Charmin’. Even on MST3K this one didn’t do much for me. Seemed like a good time to sneak in one last nap.

My Facebook Thoughts –

“The film that defined ‘dull surprise’ for a generation. Yes folks, it’s Alien From LA. Meh.”

“Oh darn, I slept through 90% of that. Oh wait, I mean, yay! I slept through 90% of that!”

Miami Connection (1987) – I was very excited to see this make its B-Fest debut.  I have a bit of a personal connection to the movie as my family belongs to one of director/star Y. K. Kim’s franchise dojangs. As for some reason there are more locations here in Richmond, VA than in Orlando, where the company is headquartered, we got one of the premieres locally after the movie was rediscovered a few years ago and just about every student in town showed up to see the film and its star. Grand Master Kim has no illusions about how the movie turned out, but he certainly seems to be enjoying its rediscovery.

Our hero!

The film revolves around the adventures a idealistic young group of college students who also make up an inspirational Tae Kwon Do-themed pop band called Dragon Sound. Because what the world needs is more Tae Kwon Do music. They become embroiled in a gang war with a rival group of drug-dealing, motorcycle riding practitioners of the evil art of Ninjitsu. All of this is set in motion, by the way, simply because the band they were hired to replace is angry they lost their gig and therefor somehow sic the cocaine ninjas on the clean cut TKDers. Don’t expect coherence from the script, but the fight choreography  ranges from competent to quite good and the violence escalates through each encounter between the rivals, before finally culminating in a hilariously over-the-top and gory beatdown of the baddies. In case you were wondering, none of this actually takes place in Miami, the film is set in Orlando.  I guess Orlando Connection just didn’t conjure up the same cocaine-drenched image the filmmakers wanted to project.

Instead of actors, nearly the entire cast is made up of Grand Master Kim’s then-students, and oh boy does it ever show.  The fun part, 25 years later, is to recognize that a number of them are still around as senior instructors and can be seen in the most current set of Martial Arts World training DVDs. Also Y. K. Kim still likes writing his own cheesy inspirational pop songs to include on said DVDs.  I wonder if they’re recorded by Dragon Sound?

I’d say this rivaled Can’t Stop the Music for biggest crowd-pleaser this year.  It’s a great movie to watch with a group and has enough sense not to drag out the proceedings too long. Fair warning, the two musical numbers are absolute ear worms, particularly the strangely prescient “Against the Ninja”.

My Facebook Thoughts-

“WOOHOO! Miami Connection up next at Chicago’s B-Fest! Wish y’all were here!”

“The Rev is making fun of my rendition of “Against the Ninja”.”

“Uh oh. Ninjas.”

Viva Knievel (1977) – The final film of the evening managed to be the second fake biopic of the Fest. Boiled down to far more basic terms than the movie ever manages, a pre-comedy Leslie Nielsen plays a drug lord, whose way overly-complicated plot requires him to offer a large sum of money to Evel Knievel, luring him to Mexico to perform a motorcycle jump, get his recovering alcoholic mechanic (Gene Kelly, no!) out of the way by having him committed to an asylum by Dabney Coleman, arrange an ‘accident’ during the stunt jump that will result in Evel’s death, and finally transport a large shipment of drugs back into the US by putting said drugs into a coffin, then driving it over the border in a perfect replica of Evel Knievel’s tour bus. I have absolutely no idea how this will result in a profit given the seeming expenses involved, but Leslie seems to think it’s a pretty good plot and who am I to argue with Frank Drebin? There are minor side plots involving an estranged son and a strident feminist reporter (were there any other kind during the 70’s?) played by then It-girl Lauren Hutton, but they mainly just serve to pad the running time and give Evel more people who adore him because he’s such a magnificent human being.

"Oh Gene, how could you? At least in Xanadu they gave you the dignity of a dance number!
“Oh Gene, how could you? At least in Xanadu they gave you the dignity of a dance number!

I did (and do) have one question that bugged me throughout and as neither the credits nor all the fabulous resources of the internet were able to provide the answer, I suppose I’ll remain in ignorance. At the beginning, Evel is preparing for a jump over a gigantic cage of lions.  One long shot shows what appears to be a trainer down by the cage with a rather magnificent blonde coiffure. Does anyone happen to know if that is famed lion-tamer Gunther Gebel-Williams doing some animal wrangling?

If you stripped out the all-star cast, and cut the running time down to 60 minutes, you could  exchange this plot for that of any random episode of Wonder Woman and get the identical result. It even looks more like a 70s TV effort than a theatrical release. I spent a good chunk of the running time re-imagining the movie with Lynda Carter as Evel Knievel and Lyle Waggoner as Gene Kelly and giggling maniacally. Sleep deprivation may have begun to take its toll by that point.

My Facebook Thoughts-

“So, other than the ridiculously overpowered cast, this could be either the perfect TV movie of week or a random episode of Wonder Woman”

And so it ends…

Mountains of paper plates were collected, all the trash cleared away, and we left to eat Chigago-style pizza and dream of the days when we will come together again to celebrate B-Fest 2016.

Much thanks, as always, to the Chicago crew who take me in and make me part of the family each year. You know who you are and I hope you know how much it’s appreciated!


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5 thoughts on “B-Fest 2015 – Crap Happens

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