Just a quick check-in today. The stars aligned to give me a fairly great week of in-theater B-Movie and odd TV watching and thought you might have some fun with it.
Started off with the fantastic documentary That Guy Dick Miller (2014), currently available streaming on Amazon Prime. Miller was one of the most prolific and beloved B-actors of all time, a regular in Roger Corman and Joe Dante productions. He’s probably best known for playing Mr. Futterman in Gremlins, but he appeared in nearly 200 other films in his varied career. Mr. Miller passed in January of this year at the age of 90.
Thursday, I saw Rifftrax Live feature The Giant Spider Invasion (1975) – I don’t care how many times I’ve seen this one, that VW bug dressed up as the titular Giant Spider remains one of the most charming zero-budget monsters ever to grace the screen. Has a surprisingly veteran cast of Hollywood character actors doing the honors, for no better reason than that they all had family in Wisconsin and it was as good an excuse as any for a visit home. This one really doesn’t need help from the Rifftrax guys, it is so ridiculous on it’s face that nothing can make it any funnier than it already is.
On Saturday, I went to my local 1920’s movie palace for a showing of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) – This was the first time I’d seen it on the big screen since its original run, when the face-melting finale traumatized my nightmares for at least 6 months. Even knowing every beat of the story by heart, seeing it that way is an intense experience. In my opinion, this may be the best-paced movie ever made. Watch it again sometime, paying attention to how the character moments are just long enough to catch your breath between the action setpieces. But those setpieces never go on for too long either. For me, action scenes, especially fight scenes really drag after a certain point (I’m looking at you Avengers:Endgame) but these are always just right and, more importantly, always actually move the plot forward, rather than just acting as an excuse to show off the visuals.
They showed a Speedy Gonzales cartoon before the movie too!
Also on Saturday, I gave the latest stupid SyFy original a shot as Team Fantasmo was hosting a virtual Facebook Watch Party for Zombie Tidal Wave (2019), a spiritual successor to all those Sharknado flicks, also starring Ian Ziering. I have to say that it lacked the over-the-top charm that was sometimes to be found in its predecessors. Other than the zombies originally reaching shore during a tsunami, the titular Tidal Wave plays no real part in the proceedings and it mostly plays out as a run-of-the-mill zombie flick with shitty CGI and a remarkable lack of humor. The watch party aspect made it fun as we could kibitz across the miles, but the movie itself is skippable.
As far as the TV stuff goes, I found a super cheap box set of the full run of Charlie’s Angels (1976-1981) that worked out to under $0.25 an episode, so I have been watching those from the beginning. I’d never seen the pilot movie before, which was mostly interesting for the cast which features a very young Tommy Lee Jones, Diana Muldaur, and an oddly cast David Ogden Stiers as Charlie’s second liason, Woodville, who will never be seen again as his superfluous role is absorbed into Bosley’s.
It’s always fun watching how these 70s and 80s dramas would pick up on whatever trends were currently hot at the movies and try to shoehorn them in. Racecar movies are hot? Let’s make Kate Jackson go undercover as a stockcar driver. Women in Prison films making the grade on the Drive-in circuit? Let’s do a WIP episode and even cast Mary Woronov as the sadistic lesbian guard (all while keeping it clean enough for prime time).
The most interesting I’ve seen so far though is Night of the Strangler which is a flat-out, paint-by-numbers PG-rated giallo. Seriously. Psychosexually motivated killer? Check. Lots of shots of the killer’s black-gloved hands? Check. Supersaturated color pallette, with an especial focus on deep reds? Check. Murder of the red herring? Check. An overly complicated solution involving way too many people and ridiculous logistics? Check and mate. Interesting mainly because gialli were never exactly mainstream American fare, but someone in the writer’s pool clearly had a real interest and was doing everything they could to recreate it within the limitations of 1970s TV.
I also ran through Season 3 of GLOW on Netflix and it will probably be the last I bother with, I spent 10 episodes waiting to resolve everything left hanging at the end of season 2 without any real satisfaction. It was like someone had a bunch of Emmy Bait moments sitting around and then just strung them together without any effort at making the plot coherent. Every episode seemed to introduce some new storyline that was never brought up again (Debbie’s bulemia, Tammé moving to managing). The sex scenes have gone from realistic to pornographic (which I personally find distasteful, though YMMV). Ruth remains the most selfish, self-obsessed “sympathetic” protagonist I’ve ever seen, but she is still never ever called out on her bullshit. Seriously, in the real world, when you fail to show up for a two-woman show, leaving your less-experienced partner completely abandoned and hanging, you are not immediately forgiven and it never mentioned again. And we have completely lost focus on the story of the trials and tribulations of the production of a novelty wrestling show (the main reason I watched, having grown up watching the real promotion on TV) for wandering further and further afield into the peripheral drama. Eh, won’t be the last show I lose interest in.
Anyhoo, that was my week in lowbrow entertainment. How was yours?