Saturday, August 25, 2007

B-Movies and Crazy Tigger

Last night I attended the American Cinematheque’s triple B-movie feature of The Werewolf, The Black Scorpion, and Monster on Campus at Hollywood’s legendary Egyptian Theater. But before I delve into the movies, let me describe the pre-screening happenings.

NOTE TO SELF: Don’t f*ck with Tigger.

A short preface to this story: not only is Hollywood Boulevard besieged by dorky teen ganstas, homeless doing shtick for change, and clueless tourists, it’s also home to a troupe of about a dozen people in costume whom I would loosely describe as “actors” who pose for pictures with the hicks. There’s a Homer Simpson, a tall Yoda, several Stormtroppers and Darths, and an occasional hot Supergirl and Catgirl. Most of them are nice to annoying to disturbingly aggressive. In fact, some of you may have heard of this story.

So anyway, my night started off with a cool evening walk down Hollywood Blvd. to the Egyptian, a mere 6 or 7 blocks from FGP HQ. I was waiting for the stoplight at the corner of Hollywood and Highland when I heard loud screaming on the opposite corner. Someone had beheaded Tigger and replaced his furry countenance with that of a lunatic. The Tigger guy was trading punches with a tourist, all the while ranting and raving. The tourist punched back and the costume guy almost took a swing at a kid. Tigger then bounced down Highland, huffing and puffing sweating like a cokehead. I don’t know if the law ever caught up with him, but I would pay top dollar for that mug shot.

So last night, being a Tigger was not a wonderful thing, and I’m hopeful for rehab in the Hundred Acre Wood.

Now, a quick rundown on the Sci-Fi flicks at the Egyptian.

Year: 1956
Directed by: Fred F. Sears
Written by: Robert E. Kent
Steven Ritch, Don Megowan, Joyce Holden

This film was director Sears’ follow-up to the fun sci-fi classic Earth vs. The Flying Saucers, and is a nice little horror piece that I’m surprised hasn’t gotten much viewing over the years. A terrified, amnesiac stranger finds himself stumbling around the streets of a northern California mountain town. After attacking a couple of the town drunks as a werewolf, he runs and takes refuge in the forest. Eventually we discover he’s a victim of experiments by two mad medical doctors who injected him with a serum that has a lycanthropic side effect. Eat that, Nexium! The townspeople round up a posse and go hunting for wolfie, guns a blazin'. The mad scientists eventually show up and decide to hunt down their mistake to cover their ass, while the sheriff (Megowan) and his fiancée (Holden) try to save the hairy stranger’s life.

Steven Ritch is impressive as the title character and brings a surprisingly emotional, physical, and sympathetic portrayal. The stark photography and film noir-ish lighting were an additional treat as we were presented with a brand new print of the film. The supporting cast was fine, and Sears maintains a serious tone to the film that didn’t slow the story or bog it down in allegory.

I was a little disappointed by the make-up effects, something the guy who talked before the film touted in high regard. Although my fellow film geeks in the audience “oohed” and “aaahed” at the make-up and transformation, I was relatively unimpressed. He looked like he slept facedown in a barber shop.

The main actress Joyce Holden was in attendance and gave a nice talk about the movie, her subsequent TV career, and how she was banged by a ski instructor during the filming of this movie. It's true!

The Werewolf is not currently available on DVD, but the film would not be a bad addition to any 50s horror collection.

In between movies, I had an awkward chat with a robotic-looking Asian woman (I think). She asked me questions about the Fifties, like if Eisenhower had died in office. That was my cue for me to go hit the can and grab a snack. When I came back, my seat was taken. I got a better seat, although the guy across the aisle from me scratched himself for like five minutes straight. Swear!

Year: 1957
Directed by: Edward Ludwig
Written by: Robert Blees and David Duncan

Starring: Richard Denning, Mara Corday, Carlos Rivas, Carlos Muzquiz, Mario Navarro

One of my favorite sub-genres is the giant insect/animal horror picture. Tarantula, Beginning of the End, Tremors, and even Eight Legged Freaks are all fun examples. This movie takes place in Central Mexico where an earthquake has awakened a nest of gigantic scorpions and they just happen to love Mexicans. And who doesn’t? (Chris Simcox, I’m looking at you!)

Racist micro-penised xenophobes aside, the pic is a total hoot with plenty of giant insect goodness, cornball acting, good ol’ sexual innuendo, and what the hell, a mildly irritating stereotype or two. Or five. It’s all in good fun.

The effects were supervised by Willis O’Brien of the original King Kong fame. The creature work was outstanding, effective, and totally creepy. Jesus, people were eaten! And then they died! Crap. Trust me, these scorpions do not want to rock you like a hurricane.

The third offering of the evening was 1958’s Monster on Campus, which I didn’t stick around for because my eyes were getting droopy and my mistress Sweet Sleep called out to me.

B-Movies, Junior Mints, and psychotic costumed characters. Who says there’s no culture in Los Angeles???

No comments: