Random Hiatus Thoughts – Or What Jane Did On Her Late Fall Vacation (Part 1)

So it wasn’t like the last two months of 2015 weren’t full of blog fodder I was just too full of myself for a while to share myself with the world. So without too much further ado, I present these tidbits for the edification (well, mild amusement, at least) of my half-dozen regular readers.

Halloween found us ensconced in front of the TV with 20 or so of our closest minions for HALLOWVERSARY 2015 (I believe, this is our 16th of these).  This year’s theme was “Remembering the Lost” and each stinker of a film featured an actor who passed away in the previous year. Possibly not how they would have wished to be remember (OK, pretty sure this is exactly how “Rowdy” Roddy Piper wished to be remembered), but this is the sort of stuff that ensured they would never be quite forgotten.

First on the block – The Killer Shrews featuring James Best. That’s Roscoe P. Coltrane himself as the heroic leader of a group of shipwrecked travelers forced to fight for their lives against the world’s cutest slavering hordes. Seriously, every damn time one of the films infamous Afghan-hound-in-a-mangy-wig-and-fake-fangs monsters popped up on screen the chorus of Awwwws from the ladies in the audience shook the ceiling fan.

Bad movie buffs will be particularly amused when they realize that the scientist-injected-with-venom (oh, didn’t I mention the shrews are venomous too? Oops!) who-spends-the-entire-time-he-is-succumbing -to-the-poison-dictating-all-his-symptoms-as-he-dies-in-hopes-it will-be-the-key-to-a-cure scene appears to have been lifted whole from this small-scale stinker and dropped whole into the middle of large-scale stinker The Swarm where it was handed over to no less a personage than Henry Fonda himself.  Good to know that Irwin Allen was stealing from the best.

The eventual escape plan is actually pretty damn ingenious in it’s simplicity and the movie actually is a decent little potboiler. Except for those puppies, no disguising the puppies.


Next was Airport ’77 with the inestimable Christopher Lee.  And a bunch of other folks my younger readers have never heard of, but were pretty hot stuff in the 70s (OK by this time in the disaster cycle, it’s more like B-List starlets and the once famous at the ends of their careers, but whatever). And, of course, George Kennedy as Joe Patroni, no longer a mere chief mechanic but Naval liaison for the Stevens company (who own the jet) .

Despite my absolute love for disaster flicks, I’d somehow never seen this particular entry in the cycle.  For the uninitiated, this is the one where art thieves use sleeping gas to knock out the passengers and crew of a 747. Shockingly, this plan does not end up netting them millions in valuable commodities, but instead results in the plane crashing into the ocean (in the Bermuda Triangle, natch) and it is up to the US Navy to rescue the passengers, who have somehow (mostly) survived the crash in a (mostly) intact plane. It is unabashedly silly yet the end credits assure us that though the events of the film are fictional, the Navy rescue methods featured are real.  I’m not 100% sure of that, but I am sure that if you want lots of nice footage of real Navy Search and Rescue teams and their equipment, than this is the movie for you!

The cast is worth the price of entry here, watching such luminaries as Lee, Jimmy Stewart, Jack Lemmon and Olivia DeHaviland valiantly give real performances while fully aware of the silliness of the proceedings is always fun.  And cult TV buffs will enjoy recognizing old Kolchack himself, Darren McGavin as well as a pre-Buck Rogers appearance by Gil Gerard. Kathleen Quinlan and her breasts are as utterly expressionless and uncharismatic as they were in The Promise, making me, as always wonder why she was a bit of a minor It Girl in the day. She has since gone on to have a perfectly respectable career, more in TV than movies and works steadily to this day, but I have never seen one of her films from the ’70s where she displayed the passion of wet concrete.

Interestingly, this was the hilarity hit of the night (bad dramas are always a bit hit-or-miss at these events).  I think it helped to watch it with three engineers and a Navy vet.


Last up was They Live, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper’s most successful foray into the realm of Action Star .

I assume if you’ve read this far, you’ve already seen this a number of times, but for the uninitiated, Piper plays a drifter who accidentally stumble upon a plot to free the world from the control of our secret alien overlords, who can be identified by their monstrous appearance when viewed through special sunglasses. Actually a pretty good little John Carpenter flick, it deals with some pretty heavy themes about the conformity and consumerism of our times (It’s firmly meant as a sort of “take that” to the Reagan years, but I can’t see that a damned thing has changed since then, in fact I’d say it’s more timely now). All that in  a movie where the entire plot once stops for over 5 minutes so we can showcase Piper’s wrestling skills (for you youngsters, he was a big WWF star at the time, not The Rock big, but still pretty well known) and that gave us the immortal line, “I came here to kick ass and chew bubblegum. And I’m all out of bubblegum.”

Eventually things blow up real good and (oddly) we get the sort of bittersweet ending more appropriate to the more dystopian SF films of the 1970’s than for what is otherwise a big, colorful, 1980s action/SF thriller.

Folks were wandering off by this time, mostly because, unlike the other features, we’d all seen this one a bunch of times.  Still it served as a satisfactory ending to a more than satisfactory evening of B-Movie Madness.


And with that we will take a break in my hiatus report, because that alone ended up way longer than anticipated.  There will be another hiatus report soon, but in the meantime, I am currently attending The Original MarsCon in Williamsburg, VA and will be working on a write up on that over the course of the weekend, which I hope will inspire more folks to attend one of the best little relax-a-cons going.

See y’all soon.


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