I suppose it’s about time for my much delayed review of
last month’s April’s Texas adventures. Things have been a bit weird in Chez Jane this month for ages now, but I really have no excuse for not putting this together sooner besides inertia.
Ah, the power of procrastination.
I’ve had this review 80% complete since mid-May (including pictures), and just could not bring myself to finish the damn thing. Why? I have no idea, things have been nutty with me being out of town and doing exam prep (for those thinking I must have passed since I’ve actually been writing, nope, it’s just that the damned results have been delayed for some impenetrable reason, so I might as well blog while I wait). But I started work on this well before any of that was a factor, so it was clearly pure cussedness on the part of my brain that craves the instant gratification of checking Facebook statuses 573 times per day, rather than the bigger (and still reasonably quick) gratification of actually finishing a big article. My brain is weird is what I’m saying.
Part the First: The Traveling
Took Delta in to Dallas, which would have been uneventful save for the fact that we were trying to land during a bad thunderstorm, so spent nearly an hour circling DFW and bouncing around the skies before they cleared us to land. Reminder to future self, meclizine is your friend.
What’s the deal with Delta and luggage handling anyway? They always have very nice, helpful cabin crew, but my bags always come off the plane looking like they’ve been through a mangle. This time one corner of my hardsider was completely stove in, which I suppose beats the six-inch rip they put in my soft luggage back in November.
We arrived a day early, so spent the evening hanging out with some other early arriving members of the Tween-Fest crew doing a little preemptive movie watching.
Viy (1967) – Said to be the only horror film to come out of the USSR during the Soviet Realist era. And this only because it could be marketed as being based on a “folk tale” (really on a 19th century Nicolai Gogol short story, but whatever made the state censors happy), making it acceptable under the exemption that allowed fantasy films if they were based in traditional folklore and fairy tales.
The story follows Khoma, one of a trio of student monks who, while staying overnight in the stable of an obvious wicked old witch, is assaulted by said witch and ridden (literally in this case, though the underlying connotation of sexual assault is not far beneath the surface) across the countryside all night. When dawn comes, the young monk beats the ancient witch to to point of death with a stick, whereby she transforms into a beautiful young woman.
Upon his return to the monastery, Khoma is called by the local lord to pray for three nights over the body of his beautiful daughter, who recently expired after returning home, beaten nearly to death, and who, before she passed, requested the young novice by name to come and pray for her…
The next three nights will reveal an evergrowing range of hellish terrors, beautifully realized by Soviet fantasist Aleksandr Ptushko. The film always maintains a dream-like, fairy tale sensibility even in the face of its mounting horrors and fits nicely alongside his more traditional folklore films (sadly, best known to American audiences through the MST3K drubbings of their recut, rewritten, and dubbed AIP releases). Ptushko’s films were always visually stunning and it would have been interesting to see what he would have accomplished had he not worked under the constraints of a political system that actively opposed the use of fantasy in film and used the power of the law and the threat of the gulag to enforce said constraints.
Part the Second: The Fest Itself
By 10 AM, most of the audience was settled in and the official movie watching began
The Inglorious Bastards (1978) – Italian rip-off of The Dirty Dozen, with Fred “The Hammer” Williamson in the Jim Brown role.
During WWII, five court-martialed US Soldiers on their way to prison escape into the German countryside and try to make their way to neutral Switzerland. Along the way, they accidentally kill a squad of US commandos in disguise, tasked with taking out an armored train containing the Nazi’s latest secret weapon. Three guesses who will be drafted to replace the dead Americans and destroy the train.
Along with plenty of over-the-top violence and enough explosions to make even Crazy Harry happy, this film does have one of the funniest T and A scenes I’ve run across in exploitation cinema. The Bastards come across a coterie of lovely German frauleins bathing naked in a river. Pretending to be German soldiers, they go in and begin frolicking with the young ladies. For some reason, despite the fact that not one of them speaks German, this is an entirely successful strategy until one of the women spots Fred Williamson and realizes (because he’s black, duh) these must be Americans. At which point they all pull out machine guns from nowhere and attempt to shoot down our protagonists. Good stuff.
According to Wikipedia, somewhere out there is a recut version of this movie known as GI Bro, which edited the action to make Williamson the star and take advantage of the then current Blaxploitation craze. Anyone know anything about this?
The Promise (1979) – God, I hate chick flicks.
Creepy real-life child molester Steven Collins plays Michael, uptight rich college student in love with Nancy (Kathleen Quinlan, looking like, well, Kathleen Quinlan in slightly odd makeup), poor free-spirited college student. They make a promise on some crappy carnival beads to always be there for one another and bury them under a rock, like the 5th grade girls they are in spirit and emotional maturity. This may be significant later.
Over the objections of Michael’s snooty mom (Beatrice Straight, today’s Wonder Woman connection, having essayed Lynda Carter’s mom in a couple of the modern-day episodes) they plan to elope, but have a car accident along the way which puts Michael in a coma and rips off Nancy’s face. Mom bribes Nancy with the promise of a brand new face (her exact same old one, without the stupid putty nose) if she will move away and never try to see Michael again. Meanwhile she tells Mike that his fiancée is dead. Eight hours of plot contrivances (and one inexplicable photo of a chimpanzee hanging in a bathroom) later (whaddaya mean this movie only runs 97 minutes?) we will finally end up back at the rock where we started. Will the star-crossed lovers finally be reunited? Who cares?
Boring, predictable, and oh so very, very, stupid, this was my personal Waterloo, only two movies in. Damn Ken Begg and his stupid girly movies! Between this and Crossroads I am going to resign my membership in femaledom and join the repressive patriarchy instead, at least their movies are fun.
Luther the Geek (1990) – Weird little comedy-horror about a kid who is traumatized by a carnival geek in childhood and grows up to be a chicken-obsessed serial killer with metal teeth, which he uses to bite the heads off people. Appears to have been filmed at the same farm as parts of R.O.T.O.R., but almost certainly wasn’t (the latter being a local Texas production, while this appears to have been filmed in Illinois). Distributed by Troma (though not a Troma production), which should tell you right there whether this is the sort of thing you’re likely to enjoy.
Annual Quiz: Weapons – I lose more badly than usual.
Time for Shorts:
Ultra Q – Balloonga (1966) – Ultra Q was the less well-known predecessor show of the famous Ultraman and its many many sequel series. While also following a monster-of-the week format, the Science Patrol is nowhere to be found, nor is Ultraman himself. This episode sees the Earth under siege by Balloonga, um, a giant, energy-eating balloon that threatens to block out the sun and eat all the power on the planet. Eventually vanquished, or the Ultra series would not still be running to this day.
Violent is the World for Curly (1938) – One of the few ways in which I am stereotypically girly is my utter disdain for the Three Stooges (sorry, guys). However this does have the distinction of introducing their famous Swinging the Alphabet number.
There were also a couple of nice black and white Popeye cartoons in here and a very interesting German newsreel from WWII. Let’s just say that the Normandy invasion looked very different from the other side.
Dinner Break: Wherein Jane Gets Fed by a TV BBQ Star
Real Texas-style chili, smoky sausages. Yum.
Back to Movies: Pain is Still to Come
THINGS (1989) – A mad scientist performs hideous experiments on his infertile wife, causing her to give birth to a multitude of hideous THINGS (um, giant bugs, more or less).
Two Canadian dumbasses show up at the scientist’s house to drink beer, they will spend the running time alternating between killing the titular things in cheaply disgusting fashion and drinking more beer while randomly discussing stuff entirely unrelated to the fact that they are under siege by giant killer bugs. From time to time, porn star Amber Lynn (in giant 80s shoulder pads) will randomly appear on a different set, reading cue cards badly, as a *cough* newscaster reporting on the case. I have no idea why mainstream movie success continued to elude her after her starmaking turn in this film. That’s, um, it really, the whole movie in a nutshell. I don’t actually remember who wins, as by that time I was far more entertained by the badly misspelled end credits.
This ultra-low-budget 8mm Canadian flick is clearly intended by host Sandy to be this years Agonizer™. Does it make the grade? In a word, nope. For me, to qualify as a true Agonizer™ something first has to qualify as a movie, and this fails to meet even that incredibly low bar. Sure, stuff happens for 83 minutes, but nothing ever rises to the level of bare competence required for me to actually get angry at the “filmmakers”, who clearly haven’t the foggiest notion of what they are supposed to be doing. THINGS may make you yearn for the minimal coherence of A Polish Vampire in Burbank, but you’ll never care enough about it to actually suffer pain while watching.
Challenge of the Lady Ninja (1982) – OK, this was the source of some of the aforementioned procrastination, as I wasn’t actually paying much attention during this one (sorry). I was going to research the movie and try to fake it, but I’m too lazy for that so I just kept putting it off. Here’s the truth, my mind was wandering 10 hours or so into things.
Um, there’s a lady ninja, she wears pink a lot and changes clothes at least once via the old Wonder Woman spin. She recruits some other ladies to be ninjas too and they fight some sort of bad guy who might have been a nightclub owner. Or a mafioso. Or both. I have no idea, but from what I saw the fight scenes were nice.
Monster On the Campus (1958) – The 1950’s only horror movie about a were-coelacanth (now, of course, a staple of horror cinema).
OK, not really. In actuality a college professor devolves into a primitive humanoid who menaces a screaming female or two after cutting his hand on the spines of an irradiated coelacanth. As you do. (My version of events was better) The weird thing is that I had never seen this before despite apparently having burned it to DVD when it appeared on Svengoolie. I found the disc yesterday cleaning out the TV cabinet.
Most of my amusement came from the fact that said professor is named Donald Blake, so I spent the running time making cheap jokes about when Thor was going to show up.
Silent Rage (1982) – Chuck Norris takes on a nigh-indestructible genetically engineered psychopath and kicks the ever-loving crap out of him (eventually). There is a significant and bloody body count along the way (it’s an ‘R’ rated Chuck Norris movie from the 80s, duh). Really what more do you need to know?
My husband is inordinately fond of this one for some unfathomable reason. Probably it’s a guy thing.
And this was where we called it a Tween-Fest, round about midnight. As usual, it was fabulous to see all the folks I only get to see once a year or so (in a good year) and we took our time with goodbyes to the ones that were not saying at the house. I miss everyone already.
Part the Third: The Afteringinging
This year we were able to stay until Monday morning, so we had the opportunity to catch a few more shows while hanging out on Sunday. Notable features would include a fabulously fun German adaptation of Edgar Wallace’s The Indian Scarf that I particularly enjoyed. Apparently Wallace developed such a following in Germany that the country produced a whole series of adaptations over a number of years. I am sorely tempted to start picking up the rest of the series as they are available subtitled on Amazon. I was pleased to find that my German hasn’t left me as much as I thought it had, and watching them would be a good way to retrain my ear while enjoying a good mystery or two.
I also finally got to see The Monster Club (1980), which had been on my list for a number of years as it includes Vincent Price’s only movie role as a vampire as well as a rare appearance alongside John Carradine. It’s a real odd duck of a film. Intended to follow directly in the footsteps of the Amicus horror anthology films (and made by many of the same people), the first vignette is strangely touching and the last distinctly horrifying (the second, as often was the case, is rather weak), but the linking story is quite frankly bizarre. The titular club in which these tales are theoretically being told is inhabited by the crappiest, most cheaply Halloween masked denizens of hell I’ve ever seen in a legitimate studio release. And the intervening musical numbers performed by second-tier British New Wave musical acts don’t fit with the rest of the film in any way. There is a pretty neat strip tease however, and Vincent’s final speech to the club’s patrons, about a human’s eligibility for membership is really great stuff, brilliantly delivered as only Price could. All in all, it’s one that I was glad to have finally marked off my list, but not likely to become a favorite.
Last but not least was the opportunity to playtest the upcoming boardgame version of Orcs Must Die! which I quite enjoyed. It was my first experience with cooperative game play, which made for a very different vibe than I am used to and helped curb my obnoxiously competitive streak.
And that was it. We headed back to the East Coast, rescued my parents from the children, and began to dream of future Fests. As always, thanks to Sandy for hosting, Wendy for putting up with a house full of weirdos, and to everyone else for the companionship and additional entertainment. Here’s to all coming together again in September for T-Fest 2015, when we will celebrate 10 years of crap cinema madness.
“God help us. In the future.”
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