January 22nd 2016, Norris Auditorium, Northwestern University – Once again I took my favorite seat, (second row, second seat from the left) curled up under my fuzzy blankie (to hide my personal Facebook updating during the event), and settled in for 24 more hours of the best of the worst. What I lacked in theme nails this year (not Espionage’s fault, I started biting my nails again at Christmas this year and haven’t been able to stop again to grow them out to where they look nice when done. No I don’t know why.) I made up for in enthusiasm about being warm and dry on the coast of a frozen Lake Michigan, far, far away from my Virginia home, where they were getting hammered by the biggest snowstorm in years. Round about 6 PM, the lights went down and B-Fest began anew…
The Adventures of Hercules (1985) – Actually the second (and far goofier) of the terrible, Italian-made Herc cheapies with The Incredible Hulk himself (Lou Ferrigno) as what passes for the leading man. This extraordinarily silly flick sees Hercules on a quest to retrieve the seven thunderbolts of Zeus, which have been stolen by a cabal of disgruntled lesser gods and hidden in the bodies of various monsters. So basically the plot of every AD&D campaign ever, minus any spendable treasure. Oh, and if he doesn’t get them back, the moon will crash into the Earth, because physics or something. For some reason, the disgruntled gods revive King Minos to oppose Hercules with the “power of science”, (which consists of the extremely scientific ability to shoot laser beams from his eyes). Fortunately, Athena provides the hero with a magic shield with which he is able to deflect the bolts and defeat the villain.
Man, is this movie ever cheap. The first five minutes are nothing but flashbacks to the first film, and even when the movie is running under its own steam, there are constant flashbacks to what characters were doing before they ran into Herc. This appears to be a result of the movie not originally being intended as a Hercules film at all, but just a generic sword-and-sandaler. A good bit of footage was complete before the decision to change it over was made and I suspect the flashbacks are an attempt to make that footage usable in the context of a story that suddenly has to revolve around the adventures of a character that wasn’t even in the movie when the earliest bits were filmed.
The special effects are even cheaper than the recycled footage. At best we get badly rotoscoped animations that almost rise to the level of Atari 2600 footage (ask your parents) of the son of Zeus battling King Minos before turning the crappy cartoon version of the climax of King Kong Versus Godzilla (no, I’m serious). At worst (and a new contender for worst effect I have ever seen) the movie is so obscenely cheap that when the inevitable Gorgon scene rolls around, no one could afford to buy or make statuary to fill her lair, so they dressed up extras in grey clothing and painted them grey. Not well, mind you, so much makeup has sweated off of them that they show more normal skin than the titular creatures of Zombie Lake (that’s right, I went there, this movie has worse makeup effects than Zombie freaking Lake, let that sink in for a minute). I would almost forgive them if this paid off in any way with the statues coming to life and attacking our hero, but it never does. They are literally just bored extras being paid to try (and fail) to stand still.
Overall, I thought it was an excellent choice for an opener. Bright, cheery, relentlessly goofy, and the sort of thing where the usual inability to hear any dialogue during the first movie (because the whole audience is just so gosh darned excited to be there that they won’t shut up) is irrelevant as none of the dialogue is comprehensible anyway. Oddly, this is the first year of my attendance that the organizers actually decided to do something about the drowned-out dialogue and stopped the movie about ten minutes in to turn up the sound system. Which just meant that the rest of the movie was really, really, LOUD. Definitely a crowdpleaser and one that went down pretty easily as a start.
My Facebook Thoughts™ –
Possibly the best choice I’ve seen as a B-Fest opener, since the badly-dubbed Italian dialogue you can’t hear is mostly completely incomprehensible anyway.”
“Apparently the organizers feel we should actually hear the dialogue. What fresh hell is this?”
“This entire movie is made of flashback.”
“These quests are actually getting lamer as they go. Not a good thing in a movie that falls firmly into the Italian, have-random-adventures-until-88-minutes-have-passed school of filmmaking.”
“Science. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Caltiki: The Immortal Monster (1959) – Black and white Italian Blob movie mostly notable for being an early Mario Bava directorial outing. Archeologists go diving for Mayan treasure in the bottom of a underground lake sacred to the goddess Caltiki (this, by the way, is the most plausible part of the film, such sinkhole pools, known as cenotes, were sacred to the Maya, although I sincerely doubt any of their deities had such a Polynesian-sounding name). While underwater, the diver is killed by a flesh-melting blob (played with considerable aplomb by a large burlap sack) which comes to the surface and begins dissolving other members of the expedition before being destroyed with fire. Only a small sample remains which, for reasons completely unknown (but presumably really, really stupid), the expedition leader stores in his home refrigerator for further study.
From here things play out pretty much exactly as you expect them to, goofy explanations involving periodic comets and the relation of their orbits to the date of the extinction of the Maya empire notwithstanding. The only real difference between this and hundreds of similar sci-fi/horror films made at the time is how surprisingly gruesome it is. We get a surprisingly large number of graphic shots of the effects of the monster on the tissues of its victims, including staring-eyed skulls with most (but not all, which is what makes it so effective) of the flesh missing. The black and white photography blunts the effect, but not nearly as much as you’d expect. I suspect that the makers of the really dumb, but gross 1980s The Blob remake watched this film and drew as much inspiration from it as from the better known (and titular) predecessor.
My Facebook Thoughts™ –
“Unofficial themes threatening to emerge this year include: giant stone heads, Science!, cave ‘statues’ played by live people in masks, volcanic eruptions, and cultural appropriation. Which one of those is my sarcastic contribution to affairs is left as an exercise for the reader.”
“Keeping the billion year old flesh eating critter in your home fridge, instead of at the lab so you can keep it ‘under observation’. Now there’s a plan that can’t possibly go wrong.”
“It just hit me that B-Fest is the grown-up version of every church lock-in I ever attended as a teenager.”
“So Caltiki is the good version of The Creeping Terror”
Americathon (1979) – A weirdly prescient satire about a then-future (1998) United States where the country is in debt up to its ears, reality TV is king, everyone bikes or jogs everywhere (because we ran out of oil), and the only way to save the country from foreclosure by NIKE (National Indian Knitting Enterprises) is to hold a 30 day worldwide broadcast telethon in order to raise the $400 Billion (and isn’t that a quaint number, given the current state of our national debt) necessary to pay everything off. John Ritter plays a hapless President of the United States, dedicated to EST and Scientology, half-assedly trying to save America while neglecting his much brighter and more patriotically dedicated wife (Nancy Morgan) in order to to woo a Vietnamese puke rock star (Zane Buzby, doing a yellowface shtick so incomprehensibly bad and screeching that it transcends offensiveness to become merely annoying as hell). Meanwhile his closest adviser (evil Fred Willard) is undercutting the telethon at every turn in order to let the United Hebrab Republic buy the country post-foreclosure at a knockdown price. Somehow most of this actually manages to make sense and is genuinely funny from time to time, neither of which I usually associate with the sorts of “comedies” that turn up at B-Fest.
I know this is a really dumb thing to be bothered by, particularly in an intentionally stupid comedy, but I kept being annoyed about the fact that everyone lived in cars now because of the economic collapse. The sort of collapse they described should have actually resulted in a housing glut, with low demand leading to low prices. While increased homelessness would be an issue amongst the growing numbers of unemployed, the otherwise middle-class, fully-employed characters we see here should not be having any difficulty acquiring housing, particularly as the population should shrinking due to poor economic opportunities leading to net emigration and what appears to be a low birth rate. Yes, I realize that it’s just supposed to be a good setup for some visual gags, but my poor brain likes my worlds to be logically consistent with their premises, and this isn’t. But hey, Meat Loaf going mano a mano with gas-guzzling 70’s land yacht on live television covers a lot of sins.
My Facebook Thoughts™ –
“Americathon. OK, we’ve gone pretty damned far afield when they show a (US) flick I’ve never even heard of.
“Made by a real studio and starring people I’ve even heard of, apparently.”
“Boy, this is a little too on the nose.”
Calling Dr. Death (1943) – The earliest of Universal Pictures Inner Sanctum Mysteries series, this low-budget noir-y thriller involves a neurologist cum hypnotist (played by Lon Chaney Jr., who would go on to star in the entire Inner Sanctum series) who must solve his cheating wife’s murder before her innocent lover is executed. Using the power of hypnosis, of course.
Chaney is trim and much less dissolute that he often appears later in his career, J. Carrol Naish is spot on as the hard-nosed detective determined to do his job and find the real murderer, and Ramsay Ames is appropriately hateful as the cheating wife who has no interest in giving up the perks of being a respected doctor’s wife just because she despises her husband. It’s a solid B programmer and aspires to be no more than that. As such, it acquits itself perfectly well during its 63 minute running time.
My Facebook Thoughts™ –
“Calling Dr. Death with Lon Chaney Jr. and a metronome.”
“That is a shiny shiny knife. Also the slimmest Lon Chaney Jr. I’ve ever seen.”
Midnight and Two Traditions (eventually)
“Nearly a quarter of the way through. Which means it is nearly time for The Wizard of Speed and Time followed by the midnight showing of Plan 9. Which means it is nearly time for my first good nap.”
Musical SFX demo reel The Wizard of Speed and Time should be right here, while more energetic audience members than I (also better sports) lie on the stage stomping along to the wizard’s coast to coast run. Then doing it all over again as it is re-run through the projector upside down and backwards, which is where the whole thing falls apart because the current generation of geeks grew up on digital formats and can’t figure out how to unjigger the projector when it doesn’t want to cooperate with the all important (it’s tradition, damnit!) second half of the equation.
“Us middle-aged folk are making fun of the young ‘uns for not actually knowing how to work the film projector for WOSAT. Darn digital generation.”
The Wizard of Speed and Time (1979) Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) – Um, you have seen this, right? Otherwise why would you be hanging out here? At any rate I’ve seen it about a hundred times, so off to sleep for a bit, except for the times I wake up because some asshat has hit me in the head with a flying paper plate. Again.
Look, I get that Plan 9 is an annual event and that even the posters are designed around it, and I realize that, with only five years under my belt, I am one of the junior members of the audience to opine. But I just feel like it would be healthy to change things up a little, maybe a rotating schedule over four years or so so of similarly goofy no-budgeters. I understand from some of the more senior attendees (Ken Begg, *cough*), that The Creeping Terror used to be shown in that slot instead, and either Robot Monster or Maniac could work as well. Heck, if you want to stick just with Ed Wood, you could rotate between Plan 9, Glen or Glenda, and Bride of the Monster and still have something pleasingly goofy here without letting anything wear out its welcome. Just my thoughts and I am sure that there are plenty who would disagree, either because the believe in tradition or because they know they get an annual naptime here before the Blaxploitation slot, which is generally worth being awake for.
The Wizard of Speed and Time (1979) – One of the old farts from AV Club must have shown the kids how to fix the projector.
The Human Tornado (1976) – I cannot deny that this is a great crowd movie. Rudy Ray Moore flicks lean somewhat more into the realm of parody than true blaxploitation (they are loosely based on his stand-up routines, from whence the Dolemite character is drawn), but are always crazy enough to be entertaining. This one is a loosely-plotted affair regarding Dolemite being chased out of his *cough* Alabama home (the presence of the Hollywood sign in a background shot may serve as a teeny hint that their location shooting may have been fudged) and pursued to California by a racist hick sheriff who caught his wife in bed with our protagonist. When Dolemite gets there he discovers that his favorite madam’s nightclub has been taken over by a local small time mafioso who is keeping Queen Bee (Lady Reed) and her girls in line by holding two of her hookers-with-hearts-of-gold hostage in a genuine House of Horrors overseen by not only a honest-to-goodness wicked witch, but also by a guy in the worst greasepaint facial hair I’ve seen since Groucho Marx.
Needless to say, all will come right in the end, with Dolemite and his army of Kung-Fu women ass-kicking their way to victory in a series of increasingly ridiculous combat set-pieces, culminating in a big showdown between Dolemite and “Central America’s foremost nunchuck champion” during a big party in a house that appears to be the same one he fled from in “Alabama” at the beginning of the film.
I sometimes suspect that the real purpose behind these movies was to feature both Rudy Ray’s stand-up and to give some exposure to his supporting nightclub acts. While the action does outweigh the nightclub scenes, the movie regularly halts in its tracks to feature some musical or dance (or in one case, fire-juggling) act for a while before the plot wanders back in for a while. It’s clearly kindly meant, if not always well-placed. The performances tend to be weird enough (in a uniquely 1970’s way) to at least keep things interesting.
This is a fun flick, but I’d personally love to see some more straight blaxploitation in this slot. By 1976, the genre conventions were already set enough to be ripe for parody and that’s really Moore’s intention here and in his other movies. This is the second Rudy Ray Moore movie we’ve had in the last few years but not a single Fred Williamson or Jim Brown flick? That’s criminal. How about Three The Hard Way next year? We could knock out three birds with one stone (although we have had Jim Kelly already, in Black Belt Jones), particularly as while without Rudy Ray Moore we’d have never had Black Dynamite, without Three the Hard Way we’d have never had a plot for it.
My Facebook Thoughts™ –
“Not only have Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies shrunk, they now taste like they are made out of actual ingredients. I’m oddly disappointed.”
“I love that young, bald Ernie Hudson is in this movie.”
“Somehow shouting, ‘We’re going to California!’, while standing in the middle of Bronson Canyon, lacks verisimilitude. Also the fact that you could see the Hollywood sign in the background when running away from the house you are abandoning for ‘California’.”
“This film is 25% boobs and a further 25% truly appalling wallpaper. The other 75% is righteous ass-kicking by Dolemite and his racially progressive army of Kung Fu Women. Don’t argue with my math. There’s just too much Rudy Ray Moore to confine to your mere mortal numbers.”
“‘He’s Central America’s foremost nunchuck champion.’ That’s a strangely specific superlative.”
The Garbage Pail Kids Movie (1987) – No, just no. I hated the cards and I’ve seen just enough of this movie through the years to know that I hate it too.
My Facebook Thoughts™ -“Always nice of them to put a definite nap movie in the 3AM slot. Apparently this is how Mitch O’Connell repays us for our loyalty. Garbage Pail Kids: The Movie. Good night, folks.”
Blood Mania (1970) – Little blood and absolutely no mania, this is officially now the most static excuse for a motion picture I’ve ever seen. This makes Death Bed look like Grand Theft Auto. Seriously, this may be the only movie ever made starring tree sloths in people suits. The only entertainment to be gleaned (although that was a surprisingly large amount) was listening to the audience’s ever more desperate screams for the movie to get on with it already. No, the boobs are not entertaining. That’s how dull Blood Mania is.
My Facebook Thoughts™ –
“Hmm, a movie I’ve never heard of, starring people I’ve also never heard of. Blood Mania.”
“That is an extraordinarily diaphanous nightie.”
“Damn, this is a lot of boring to fit in the first 5 minutes of one movie.”
“Also the director’s house is grotty. Had he never heard of Comet? I keep wanting to tell folks to wear their shower shoes in that tub.”
“So far no blood and no mania. Just boredom and the occasional distraction of even worse decor than The Human Tornado.”
“Will somebody please kill somebody else. Barring that, could anything whatsofuckingever happen in this damned movie!”
“Well I napped a lot during that.”
Moon Zero Two (1969) – Lush technicolor Hammer science fiction flick released during the heady heyday of the Apollo program, showing a surprisingly hard sfnal look at life on the moon in the far-flung future of 2021. Unfortunately visually lush does not translate as particularly exciting and I had laid down and gone back to sleep by the end.
The opening credits are absolutely wonderful however, a three-minute cartoon setting up the background of the entire movie by showing how the US and the USSR were so distracted by their own Cold War posturing that it left an opening for Great Britain (and, well, just about everyone else) to take the lead in the space race. Animated by Stokes Cartoons, of Yellow Submarine fame and played over a wonderful funk-pop theme sung by Julie Driscoll, (probably best known these days for the version of This Wheel’s on Fire used on Absolutely Fabulous) I present them here in their entirety, because I can.
My Facebook Thoughts™ –
“The opening credits of this film contained significantly more action than the entirety of Blood Mania. Also Hammer is never entirely dull or lacking in redeeming value.”
“Why is the movie being projected behind the audience? By the far far future of 2021 will we forget how movies work?”
“I’m actually surprised how hard the underlying sf is in this.”
“Wow, the script girl was not doing her job on the facial hair continuity front.”
Low Blow (1986) – The 1980s produced a plethora of odd little action films from the founders of different schools of martial arts. This is a not entirely atypical entry into the sub-genre. Weird, but competently acted and directed (which, if you’ve seen enough of these things, you will know is not often the case), this Leo Fong effort involves a down-at-the-heels private detective’s attempt to rescue a young woman who has been indoctrinated into an agricultural cult headed by once famous cowboy actor (and then infamous drunk) Cameron Mitchell. Mitchell is called upon to do little but sit or lie around looking creepy (indeed I strongly suspect Mr. Mitchell was too ethanol-impaired during filming to do much else), while the actual day to day running of the cult is left to protegé-with-daddy-issues Karma (Akosua Busia), who reminded me of nothing so much as a Clueless-era Stacey Dash, were she an overly fashionable cult leader instead of an overly fashionable high school student.
After failing to in his attempt at a solo rescue mission, Leo realizes that he will never take out the entire cult alone, so he holds an illegal pit fight to audition his gang of cult-busting, low-rent, action heroes. This does result in one of the more entertaining montages of the Fest, with fat guys mud wrestling, and featuring a bodybuilding blonde amazon with 80s hair who genuinely looks as if she is fully capable of taking out the men she easily bests in the fights (I don’t wanna give away the surprise, but shockingly, she will make Leo’s team of toughs, despite being, you know, a girl). The rest of the movie is basically just Fong and his compatriots engaging in various martial arts antics while beating their way across the cult compound to carry out the rescue, although it does include a memorable sequence of the hero taking out a car full of baddies with a circular saw, which was well-received.
This was my favorite movie-I’d-never-heard-of in this year’s line up. Charmingly cheap, nutty, but never dull and full of generally competent professional actors, it’s a step above the usual for this sort of thing and certainly entertaining.
My Facebook Thoughts™ –
“Well, Low Blow is no Miami Connection.
“His shtick is that he never gets to eat a meal because people start a fight whenever he gets his order?”
“This movie is determined to perpetuate every possible cheap stereotype about Asian drivers. Which seems a really odd choice as a character trait for the nominal star of an action film.”
“So Cameron Mitchell is really only the figurehead for this cult, while Stacey Dash chick actually runs things and gets all the gold.”
“So that is our second gratuitous act of violence against a car today.”
The Fifth Musketeer (1979) – Slow-moving and rather bloodless retelling of The Man in the Iron Mask/Twenty Years After, that wastes a wonderful cast of elder statesman character actors as the aging Musketeers to focus on the tepid adventures of Beau Bridges in the dual roles of King Louis XIV and Phillippe, his secret twin brother.
Likely intended to capitalize on the success of the Lester Musketeer movies from a few years before, this film tries to hit the same notes, but never seems to find a real sense of fun in the proceedings. The movie comes alive briefly whenever the Musketeers themselves come to center stage (all too rarely, alas) played with great aplomb by the charming and always reliable José Ferrer (Athos), Lloyd Bridges (Aramis), Cornel Wilde (D’Artagnan) and Alan Hale Jr. (whose spot-on Porthos will make you forget all about The Skipper), but loses focus again whenever we get back to the larger story of court intrigue. I found myself far more interested in drooling over fabrics and analyzing costuming decisions than whatever plot may have been going on.
My Facebook Thoughts™ –
“Oddly, several layers of appropriate underpinnings appear to have teleported away before Ursula Andress started undressing.”
“This is perfectly acceptable as costume porn whenever it stops being an action adventure. The color sat is way off in this print though.”
“So Sylvia Kristel is going to be the most thoroughly dressed woman in this movie and keep her clothes on throughout? That’s unusual.”
In the home stretch
Roar (1981) – This is officially the most fucked up movie I have ever seen in my life (and apologies, things may get a bit swear-y here. More so than usual, I mean). I really have had no desire to see it given that I am familiar with the real-life story behind it, but not so enamored of my moral high ground that I wasn’t going to hang around and watch this abomination if someone else had already paid for it.
Tippi Hedren and husband Noel Marshall were very involved with animal activism in the 70s, particularly the protection of big cats. All well and good. They first showed this dedication by keeping an adult male lion as a house pet for several years, one they trusted to the point of letting it sleep in daughter Melanie Griffith’s bed. Now somewhat less well and good. But they reached a point of truly towering insanity when they decided to film a family adventure film, starring themselves and three of their children, on their very own big cat preserve in California with untrained wild animals in a semi-natural environment and no protections for the cast or crew. Over 70 people were injured making this movie, some near fatally. This included not only Hedren and Marshall, but also their children. Pre-teen Griffith required 58 stitches and nearly lost an eye when bitten in the face during the filming. A sane person would have stopped about then, or at least made sure that footage wasn’t in the final print, but there it is, in all its complete dumbfuckery, and worse the attack is presented as playfulness rather than a near catastrophic assault.
The plot, such as it is, involves the manager of a game preserve (played by Noel) who is so dedicated to his big cats that he allows them to roam freely around his house. This includes not only lions, but a number of others not native to this films supposed “African” setting, including tigers (Asian), jaguars (Central and South American) and cougars (North American). His estranged wife and children are on their way to join him, but Noel’s been called away to deal with hunters who feel that the area would perhaps be safer if there were slightly fewer large carnivores around (given how events play out, and the fact that one of the hunters is bitten in the face while visiting the preserve, I’m not entirely unsympathetic to this view). The family will arrive at the house before he returns and naturally hijinks ensue.
And by hijinks, I mean Tippi and children running frantically around the house while genuinely being chased up and down stairs (and sometimes mauled) by lions, hiding in cabinets, (and in one memorably stupid case a refrigerator) all while lighthearted comic adventure music plays in the background. It’s like a Scooby Doo chase scene that takes place in some demented animal-filled version of Hell. Eventually Dad returns home and peace and joyful coexistence are restored, though not until the hunters from earlier in the movie are killed by lions, which Dad never tells his family about because it might be upsetting. More upsetting than being bitten in the face by your pet lion, you mean?!?
Really, no description I could give can prepare you for how horrifying this movie is, and no matter how long it goes on it never gets any less fascinatingly awful. You really can’t look away, even though you hate yourself for continuing to watch.
What I can say is that no-one will ever induce me to watch Roar again. The complete lack of moral compass in the filmmakers made me incredibly angry. To carry out the abuse of your own children (not to mention your cast and crew, though at least they were legal adults with presumably some degree of agency) for no better reason than to push your absolutely fucktarded, lame, and not particularly deep political agenda about how animals and people can all just get along and live together in harmony makes you a sick person. Particularly when your own experiences on set prove the fallacy of your premise. To perpetuate this abuse over a full five years of filming because you are just so determined to get your vision on the screen, despite the fact that filming has been a disaster from beginning to end, indicates a degree of solipsism that crosses the line into true psychopathy. Fuck you, fuck your movie, and, in case you were wondering, it’s no wonder your daughter ran off to marry Don Johnson as a teenager if this is how much respect you had for her.
My Facebook Thoughts™ –
“Roar. Because Tippi Hedren’s family was fucking nuts. And stupid.”
“Giraffe beats motorcycle”
“This is officially the most fucked up movie I’ve ever seen ever, just because you know none of the animal stuff is scripted and you are just waiting for everyone to end up like the grizzly man. Which apparently came very close to happening multiple times on set.”
“This plays like a 70s animal attack eco-horror film except it’s supposed to be a family comedy. It’s never dull. But please don’t make me watch it again.”
“Watching this, I am starting to feel better about my own parenting choices.”
“I definitely remember an episode of Punky Brewster where we learned never to hide from lions in a fridge.”
Kansas City Bomber (1972) – This should have been a lot more fun than it was. Raquel Welch plays a Roller Derby queen who is run out of Kansas City after being defeated in a “loser leaves town” match against a rival. She has to move back home to Oregon to rebuild her life (and Roller Derby career) with the children her mother has been raising for her (I think. I was so bored, I couldn’t actually focus on the screen). Somewhere along the way she inexplicably develops a romantic relationship with a woefully miscast Kevin McCarthy.
Dull, dull, dull. I really wanted to like this one and if it had focused more on skating and wrestling-style grudge matches and less on interpersonal drama, I might have. It also might have helped had it starred anyone other than Ms. Welch, who is a lovely woman and always comes across as funny, sweet, and engaging in interviews, but has negative charisma whenever she actually appears on screen in anything whatsoever. I have no idea how the movie ended as I spent half the running time wandering in and out of the theater, and about a third dozing. The only thing I can say about it is that it reminded me that there was a time when men played Roller Derby too, and not just women. Oh, and it was less boring than Blood Mania. Not exactly high praise I’m afraid.
My Facebook Thoughts™ –
“That was an intensely uncomfortable experience. Looking forward to Kansas City Bomber as a palate cleanser. That would be the Roller Derby movie with Raquel Welch.”
“Them there’s some high stakes.”
“I have been weirdly unable to get into this movie.”
The Super Inframan (1975) – A hyperkinetic Hong Kong ripoff of Japan’s Ultraman, directed by the Shaw Brothers? Why yes, there is such a thing, and it remains glorious!
I love this movie and have since it turned up on DC 20 back in the heady days of UHF. Every time I watch it I am immediately six years old again, joyfully transported in my head to a time when all I wanted out of life was to watch a good guy transform into a superpowered robot to fight a seemingly infinite army of technicolor monsters to a standstill in order to save the world from the depredations of Princess Dragon Mom (which remains, in my humble opinion, the best super villain name in all history).
That’s it, by the way, the entire plot, and in this case that’s a good thing. The Shaw Brothers always understood what the audience for their action movies really wanted; colorful characters, a fast-moving story, and lots of well-choreographed kung-fu set pieces. Complicated plots don’t really have much place in the formula, but when that formula works, it works really well. In The Super Inframan they grasped that what local audiences really liked about the Ultraman TV series was the fight sequences, all that stuff about the Science Patrol was really just filler until you could get to an excuse to bring out the monsters and robots. At a lean 84 minutes and with no need to introduce an overarching plot to carry a whole TV season, Inframan actually improves on its source material by giving us all the good stuff front and center.
This was a perfect closer and I was beyond myself with excitement about finally seeing this on a big screen in its proper aspect ratio with an audience of like-minded movie buffs. This was a B-Fest highlight for me. Thanks again to Tim, AKA Captain Telstar for sponsoring this and giving me the opportunity. Also, this year’s B-Movie mix disc was awesome and saved my butt during the unplanned drive back to Virginia, when it turned out that all the airports had been shut down due to the blizzard that had been quietly taking place back home while I spent 24 hours watching bad movies. Oops.
My Facebook Thoughts™ –
“Closing with an old favorite. The Super Inframan! I still think Princess Dragon Mom is the best villain name ever.”
This years line up was well structured, with a good mix of movies from the 1940s on. There was enough change of pace from one movie to another to keep the audience engaged throughout and enough different genres represented that everyone got to see something that fell into their own particular specialized interests. I got to see some new stuff that I really liked, a couple of real obscurities, and some old favorites in a great venue, which is really about all I can ask.
Favorite Movie: Low Blow, which inched out The Super Inframan mostly by dint of being something I hadn’t seen before, though I know the latter will continue to hold up better over the long term.
Least Favorite: In any normal year, Blood Mania would have had this slot hands-down, but few things have ever made me hate certain subsets of humanity more that the morally reprehensible Roar, which may now have finally taken the official title of Movie That Made Me Angriest away from Starship Troopers.
Thanks once again to Ken, Holly, Paul, Jeff, and all of the rest of the B-Fest crew for your patience, generosity, hospitality, bourbon, and willingness to put me up for an extra 3-4 days until the East Coast airports got their acts together, even if I didn’t take you up on it in the end. Can’t wait to see everyone again next year!
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