Friday, July 31, 2009

FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE SPACEMONSTER (1965)

WHAT THE MONSTERS TAUGHT ME: Modern cinema has lost the thespian tradition of emoting through cheap skull caps.

THE CARD:

Jon Lovitz meets Uncle Fester; Zsa Zsa Gabor meets Capt. Janeway; Two-Face meets J.D. Cannon; Mary Tyler Moore meets Maebe Funke; James Karen meets Golden Age James Karen; Bigfoot meets his Kmart Halloween Costume Equivalent; Sexy Ladies meet Cosmic Doilies; and El Tremendo meets his Psychiatrist.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

Radiation, pollution, and the fact that all their men look like Bat Boy have turned all the women on Mars sterile. So in order to save their dying race, a Martian spaceship travels to Earth to pick up some rumored easy girls. Um yeah, good luck, pals. Leading the expedition are the icy Princess Marcuzan (Marylin Hanold) and the eerie Nosferatu-ish Dr. Nadir (Lou Cutell) who are clearly superior to humans as they have mastered the art of glancing and nodding in approval. Meanwhile, NASA is preparing its own trip to Mars to search for signs of intelligent life and not to get some hot tail. They hold a press conference which attracts all the world’s reporters (all four of them) and present astronaut Frank Saunders (Robert Reilly) who will make the journey solo. Unbeknownst to the world is the fact that Frank is actually a half human/half robot cyborg designed to survive the harsh conditions of space and Mars. He accidently malfunctions during the press conference (by freeze-framing) and is whisked away by his creator Dr. Steele (James Karen), his assistant Karen (Nancy Marshall), and tubby General Bowers (David Kerman). After a quick rebooting, Frank is launched into space, but things go horribly wrong. The Martians shoot Frank’s rocket down near Puerto Rico where the horny aliens have already started their hotty harvesting. Ok, things kind of get sketchy from here on out. Steel and Karen travel to P.R. and toodle around in a scooter getting comfy presumably searching for the severely facially burnt Frank who’s wandering the countryside in search of Noxzema.

The epic confrontation you've been waiting for?

On board the Martian ship, Marcuzan’s minions drape the kidnapped girls in frilly lace and send them down a conveyer belt for some arcane reason. Dr. Nadir glances and nods in approval. Frank is going nuts in the wilderness and starts offing Puerto Ricans like Saturday night in the Bronx. So eventually, Steele finds Frank and fixes him, but now Karen has been kidnapped by the aliens and jailed in their Pith-helmet saucer. Frank is sent on a suicide mission to save her and the other bikini babes and it is here where the arena is set for the cinematic icon confrontation since King Kong bounced Godzilla: Half-Charred Astro-Bot meets Randy Melty-Zombie in Ape Costume! Hence the title…

THE FINISHER:

If there was something lower than Grade-Z, Frankenstein Meets the Spacemonster would have to strive to reach it. But that fact, like most of the films I’ve watched on this blog, doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun. Well, fun if you like movie filled with mostly stock footage, bizarre non-verbal exchanges between characters, 60 Mod-rock scooter riding montages, and the vibrant storytelling of one of those comic books that Jehovah’s Witnesses like to hand out. In terms of badness and ineptitude, the movie is constantly mentioned in the same breath as Plan Nine from Outer Space, and its skimpy budget, meager production values, and weird atmosphere are reminiscent of MST3K gems like The Creeping Terror and Monster A-Go-Go. The creature design and makeup are pretty poor, and the Spacemonster himself appears to be a mixture of whatever they could find in the bargain bin at the costume shop, although it doesn’t matter because it’s only in the picture for less than ten minutes. The acting is stilted, creepy, and beyond unnatural, approaching avant-garde (hell, that’s pretty bad). But there seems to be something more than just a drive-in aesthetic going in this movie, something rivetingly absurd and perhaps charming. After watching it, I had a feeling like when child gives you a crayon drawing of a squiggly dragon racing over a disfigured moon with the words “2 Unca Tremedo” scratched beneath it. Or as if like my nine-year-old ADD nephew made a full-length feature with a Fisher Price Pixelvision camera, a few street people, and a discarded colander for a spaceship. Or as if Michael Bay made a movie worth a damn. You can’t help but feel proud for the effort given the extraordinary triumph over shortcomings. Keep in mind that Frankenstein Meets the Spacemonster is bloody awful, but it is also a spectacle of tacky magic, an unsettling vision of incompetence, and a bizarre experience from an era of gloriously bad cinema that the SyFy Network and Asylum has apparently inherited. But I for one will weep for the passing of the classic creature feature knowing full well that as long as I keep doing this dumb blog, nothing bad will ever die.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

INFRAMAN (1975)

WHAT THE MONSTERS TAUGHT ME: Baggy Monster Costumes + Sexy Evil Ladies + Dopey Kung Fu Robots x Lucky Charms = Saturday Morning Crack.

THE CARD:

PDMILF (Princess Dragon Mom-ILF); uniforms by Reynolds Wrap; a mutated Zoidberg; the most powerful thunderball fists outside a German porn; the George Jefferson monster walk; the Red vs. Yellow Special Effect Conundrum; and Inframan gives you wiiiiings!

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

Dormant for eons beneath the wretched terrain of wherever this takes place, the evil Princess Dragon Mom (Terry Liu) is awakened with renewed verve to destroy the Earth alongside her La Parka minions and some out of work rubber monsters including Horn Laser Guy, Squirmy King Fire Mouth, Boastful Atomic Crab, Monsturd’s Chinese Cousin, and the Mace-Fisted Slinky Bot Twins.

Hey, what about me, Ineffectual Plant Beast?

Meanwhile at Science Headquarters, Professor Chang (Wang Hsieh) answers Mom’s threat by altering the DNA of one of his soldiers, Rayma (a young Danny Lee), and transforming him into the monster-fighting warrior Inframan. He accomplishes this by enhancing Rayma’s body structure with radio parts and cheap video effects – (brilliant!) – and equipping him with lasers in his arms, mini-missiles on his chest, and an out-of-tune song on his lips. Several battles ensue and Inframan totally levels Boastful Atomic Crab, owns Monsturd’s Chinese Cousin, and explodes dozens of La Parka minion stomachs. But Princess Dragon Mom plays dirty and is not above going after the families of her enemies. So when Prof. Chang’s daughter is kidnapped, Inframan unleashes his full fury, power, and wire-fighting balance to take down Dragon Mom, make a monster and minion shitpile, and kill about 40 minutes with non-stop fighting until I go into an epilleptic fit.

THE FINISHER:

Inframan was the Shaw Brothers’, a highly prolific Hong Kong studio of the 70s and 80s, answer to Ultraman and many other tokusatsu action programs of the time. The movie is a bizarre mixture of cosplay kung-fu, outrageous monsters, goofy overacting, and some of the most colorful mishmash of sci-fi action, head-shaking confusion and hysterical cinematic incompetence. Inframan almost looks like it was meant to be TV series that was instead crafted hodgepodge-style into a ninety-minute movie, with hilariously illogical results. Now, the movie is available on DVD in which the original widescreen format is preserved, but I saw this movie on videotape from the Cursed Box of VHS Tapes, which was a horrible full screen pan-and-scan version, only without the scan. The frame is fully centered and never moves, hence there are many scenes were stuff is happening off-screen causing unintentional laughter. Seriously, I may have witnessed 75% of the movie and that may be a good thing because if it has made more sense, it would have not been so fun. Inframan is harmless fun and was part of the movement that spawned the popular behemoth Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, so love it or hate it, watch with someone with an equal appreciation for the quirky, wacky, and strange.

Pointy kung fu bras not included.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

THE DARK (1979)

WHAT THE MONSTERS TAUGHT ME: No zombie walks in L.A.

THE CARD:

That's not-so incredible; a beau chapeau-ed Col. Bat Guano; a foot-grounded reaching for constellations Quincy; the last whore-humper Vernon Washington; pre-cokehead Tubbs; an attempted Santa-cide; a proto-Tammy Faye; A DWPBA - Driving While Possessed by Alien; and stumbling mumbling incoherent horror. No, not the monster – William Devane.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

A string of grisly murders is keeping L.A. police detective Mooney (Richard Jaeckel) busy with his captain and the mayor breathing down his neck. And residents are getting worried about their safety while gangs led by Corn Rows (Philip Michael Thomas) take to the street to protest. But it’s a career boom for TV reporter Zoe Owens (Cathy Lee Crosby) who’s assigned the story by boss Sherman Moss (Keenan Wynn) who wants to exploit the tragedy for all it’s worth. Meanwhile, reclusive author Roy Warner (William Devane) takes the terror personally when the murderer kills his only daughter, and he urges the police to move faster before he puts the law into his own hands. And lastly kooky psychic De Renzy (Jacqueline Hyde – Really, that’s her name? Who is this broad?) sees visions of an unearthly creature killing innocents and realizes she’s next. As the investigation unfolds, the city’s criminal pathologist (Casey Kasem) determines through careful and scientific analysis that the killer is a zombie AND an alien, a revelation both he and I react to with “Zoicks!” So the press dubs the killer the “Mangler”, the cops become increasingly frustrated as the body count piles up, and the characters stand around, say stuff, and pretty much non-chalantly accept the fact that a unstoppable demon is wiping out multiple Angelos. After forty to fifty minutes of confusing time-filling crap, Zoe and Warner team up to help the cops find the creature with psychical assistance from the goofy De Renzy. They corner the laser-eyed monster, who is indeed a zombie alien (thanks, CSI), in some warehouse and the rousing action of the final “showdown” is so exciting I’ll guarantee that afterward you’ll go soak in a tub with a gallon of gin and search for a couple of veins to slit. Just be sure to leave the lights on.

THE FINISHER:

Recently, I received several boxes of horror VHS tapes from a defunct video store thanks to a very generous and dear reader of Tremendo Time. The boxes contained mostly long-forgotten oddities from the 80s and 90s, most of which will be reviewed here at some point in time. So, to wrap up this month’s Monster Movie theme, I thought I’d dip my hand into this Cursed Box and select the first three monster movies as we head into the final stretch. The first one is today’s movie – The Dark. I'd never heard of it, and a quick internet research uncovered the following tidbits of information:

- The film was originally intended to be directed by Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre), but he either quit or was fired on the first day of shooting.

- The movie was supposed to be a straight zombie story but test audiences didn’t react positively (shocking!) so the film was retooled into a monster/alien angle.

- The monster was at first supposed to be a slow adult with murderous tendencies, later made a zombie, then an undead alien with laser eyes.

-The Dark is also known as The Mutilator, even though the creature was called The Mangler in the script.

- William Devane was completely fried out of his gourd in this thing, but looks smart in a polka dot bathrobe.

But I didn’t need to research to come to the conclusion that this movie is horrendously dull, often incoherent at times, and crawls at the pace of a slow-motion snail who’s really pooped. Devane is the hero of the flick, but I honestly don’t know what he was going after with his stilted and just plain weird performance as the intense author too hip to chase monsters. The supporting cast is rather stellar including Latitude Zero’s Richard Jaeckel is that-guy fine as is old coot Wynn. But Cathy Lee’s acting talents are like a private joke. In every scene, she looks like she's on the verge of cracking herself up. The effects are virtually non-existent and the action scenes are far and few in between. This is all appalling in a breathtaking way. And thanks to dying VHS stores everywhere, new horrors of soul-wrenching ineptitude can be discovered, quipped, and ripped allowing plenty of time to weep in The Dark later.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

ALIEN 3000 (2004)

WHAT THE MONSTERS TAUGHT ME: Confirmed - Lorenzo Lamas is both the savior and antichrist of bad cinema.

THE CARD:

God’s vengeance upon a Peeper; Agent Zabadoo Zap; a Pic ‘N Save Predator; the Legend of Curly’s Alien-possessed Gold; jerk Mercs; Marlee Matlin and Juliette Lewis’ love child; the world’s yummiest pencil; hot monster on chopper action; a script co-written by Sweet Mistress Cocaine; and the only thing worth watching about this thing – a Flick cameo!

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

Some stupid teens hiking around a mysterious cave are slaughtered by a mysterious shadow creature that isn’t Dennis Rodman when they stumble across golden treasure. We then cut to a mental hospital where Kate (Megan Molloy) is dreaming these occurrences, which may or may not be happening. This attracts the attention of the Office of Paranormal Investigations, a government agency headed by Sheila (Priscilla Barnes), enforced by military guy Biggs (Lorenzo Lamas), and comprised of about $40 worth of office furniture. Sheila dispatches agents Burke (Shilo May) and Lyle (David Kalamus) to investigate Kate’s dreams and discover that something may be actually be happening in that spooky cave. So they bust Kate out of the wacko house to join a rag-tag team of mercenaries to confront the horror. The team is comprised of psycho Burke (Matt Emery), natural born killers Straker (John Fava) and the hot, crazy, and oversexed Phoebe (Phoebe Dollar) under the command of goody two-shoes Sgt. McCool (um, yeah). McCool (Christopher Irwin) falls for nutty Kate, Burke and Lyle bicker over protocols, and Phoebe and Burke discover the gold and the invisible monster that protects it. Meanwhile, another alien monster awakens in OPI headquarters, possesses Sheila, and almost kills Biggs just before the toy building blows up. Biggs takes a chopper out to the woods to save the crew and utters nonsense like “Where there’s weapons, there’ll be water.” So the greedy inviso-monster starts eliminating cast members, the director starts pointing and shooting at things at random, and somehow this thing was completed resulting in my inevitable helicopter ride to the nuthouse where Lamas will mock me holding a bloody monster head and dangling a copy of Alien 4000 over my screaming head.

Aye, aye, aye…

THE FINISHER:

With few exceptions (MST3K), nothing subtitled “3000” is worth a damn*. Cases in point include Dracula 3000 (putrid), Mr. 3000 (poor Bernie Mac), and the quite poopy early 90s post-apocalyptic headache Warlords 3000. So it should come as no surprise that Alien 3000 is an agonizing cheapo sci-fi torture session. Where to begin to describe the execrable badness of this turkey? Well firstly, you could train a film school of ten dozen dopey directors with the textbook ineptitude and low budget awfulness that is Alien 3000, and the movie often appears to be proud of this fact. Second, the acting is appalling. “Stars” Lamas is his usual ungodly self pulling prickitude to a full hilt and Barnes can barely stand up and looks embarrassed (really?) when she has to do the scary alien voice when the creature possesses her. The rest of the cast is forgettable, with the exception of the sexy and wild Dollar who injects a lightning rod of irritating, screechy, evil energy in her small role. I very much enjoyed seeing her die and in the unlikely event she is reading this, I hope she takes that as a compliment. Third, the non-rubber monster effects are kinda bloody, and while there’s a fair amount of gore, but it’s mostly silly and slapped-together, much like the story itself which often feels like several movies were partly made and then sewn together like a post alien autopsy. And lastly the sub-cheapo values of the film adversely affect its premise and there are stupid holes like: Why would the government hire mercenaries to do a simple field investigation? Why would aliens be interested in golden swords leftover from the Renaissance Festival? And why is Lorenzo Lamas allowed to pilot a toy helicopter? Careless dreamweaving. Alien 3000, probably the only movie where the title reflects its budget, is also known as Unseen Evil. Well, Christ, let’s hope so.

*Yes, I'm fully aware of the URL of this blog.

Monday, July 27, 2009

QUEEN KONG (1976)

WHAT THE MONSTERS TAUGHT ME: Giant monkey chain mail bras are soooo 1975.

THE CARD:

Un Film de Benny Hill; ironic umbrellas; the Isle of the Living Carmen Mirandas; revenge of the Cream of Wheat Dude; toy boat, boy toy, goy butt; some really weird gigantic cosplay; (INSERT GORILLA MY DREAMS JOKE APOLOGY HERE); Elton John and a gay salamander’s lovechild; a serious lack of muted trombone; Erica Von Stroheim; and an ape queen, a fake queen, and a fey queen.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

Obsessive film director Luce Habit (Rula Lenska) searches the streets of London for the next big movie star to feature in her latest jungle epic. After draining the bowery, slums, and flophouses dry, she stumbles across “adorable” Ray Fay (Robin Askwith).

The fate of (wo)mankind rests with this goofy bloke.

Ray is a wisecracking ragamuffin who runs cheapo street scams to feed his movie poster addiction (I can totally relate). After a long foot-chase with accompanying Benny Hill music (seriously), Luce catches up with Ray, convinces him he’s the next Shaun Cassidy and talks him into hitting the high seas to search for the perfect movie location. They hop aboard the subtly-named ship Liberated Lady and after a few irritating dance numbers, ten dozen stupid jokes, and thirty minutes of colorful cross-dressers chanting “Kong” repeatedly, they arrive at the island of Lazanga Where They Do the Conga. After several hours of roaming the rubber jungle, doing pratfalls, and spitting out more stupid jokes, they run into the local natives who greet them dressed in bikinis and Kmart jewelry worshipping a giant female ape named Queen Kong:

Is that a banana in your pocket or are you just glad to see me, little boy?

So the natives automatically take a shine on Ray and stuff him into a big birthday cake and offer him as a sacrifice to their furry queen. Following a few dozen then-current Jaws, Exorcist, and Airport references and Ray screaming like an impaled doof, Queen Kong uses her huge feminine wilds to woo her minuscule suitor. Ray eventually takes the bait and we are only left to assume that this tiny Englishman banged the banana peels out of Queenie. But the evil Luce has other plans for this huge hirsute harlot. She carpet-bombs Queen Kong with knock-out drugs, straps her to a barge, and ships her to London where’s she’s put on display.

This year’s Ren Fest was even weirder than usual.

Ray, meanwhile, experiences a revelation of sorts (monkey fever?) and transforms Queen’s exploitation into a protest for women’s rights. So gals from all over, from Al Capp’s wife, to a Playboy Bunny, to the human Queen herself (seriously) drop their ironing boards and march in protest while monkey Queen kidnaps Ray, rampages around toy London, and scales Big Ben (um, so to speak). The protest is so successful and awesome and energetic that the military withdraws from their attack on Queen Kong and she is then shipped back to her island where presumably she will now nearly earn the same as her male monkey boss and get six weeks for maternity leave. All’s well on the island of Lazanga Where They Do the Conga and everyone dances with flowers in their hair and float off into space.

And then I handed the bong off to the bad movie watcher next to me.

THE FINISHER:

I’m not sure there’s much else I can say about a movie whose title song features the line, “She’s a genie that pulls my weenie – QUEEN KONG!” (seriously). No, not much at all, I say. Well, I guess I can say that this British comedy really feels like an overly extended Benny Hill sketch, complete with silly music, aching jokes, and plenty of human and non-human cheesecake. It was just missing a fast-motion Fred Scuttle slapping the shit out of that bald old man. But the movie also has an interesting and storied history behind its making, and was almost lost to obscurity. Not sure if that’s a bad thing or not. Just before the release of the 1976 remake of King Kong, producer Dino de Laurentiis sued to block the release of Queen Kong, even though its clearly a spoof (and probably better than his remake) and in no way a remake of the classic monster movie. Therefore, the movie was never fully released in the U.S. and only in the last few years has it surfaced on DVD. Bawdy, lewd, and just plain goofy, the movie is often painful to watch, but not painful enough not to enjoy with its striving production values that you can’t quite pull off without a tongue-firmly-in-cheek. What I particularly enjoyed was the self-conscious attempt at political satire (Queen Kong as the ultimate feminist and women’s right enforcer) which at times made sitting through this wacky, cheeky, and yuk-yuk filled chucklefest bearable. And, sadly, we may never see the next in the series:

Saturday, July 25, 2009

LINK (1986)

WHAT THE MONSTERS TAUGHT ME: You can’t woo with poo-flinging.

THE CARD:

A simian Psycho; Adventures in Monkey-sitting; kneel before Terrence Stamp's phone bill; the originator of the hairy fist bump; the worst link since Icravehandlebarmustaches.com; Mr. Smith goes to Crystal Lake; the wild gone wild; microwavable telephones; the curious absence of Philo Beddoe, Harvey Keitel, and Dr. Zaius; and Conquest of the Cottage of the Apes.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

Jane Chase (Elizabeth Shue) is an American student studying zoology in the U.K. and she’s fascinated with Dr. Phillip (Terrence Stamp) and his work communicating with chimps, apes, and orangutans. She becomes doubly-fascinated when she takes a job cooking breakfast and shoveling monkey poop for the Doc at his costal cottage. Here, he conducts ground-breaking experiments with three precocious monkeys including:

The mischievous Imp

The surly Voodoo

And the deeply troubled orangutan servant hence-the-title Link.

Phillip obsesses with developing the ability to communicate with his monkey friends but realizes that working too closely with them may be more dangerous than it sounds. Especially since Link, a refugee from the circus who’s been completely domesticated and performs butler tasks around the house, is apparently sneaking out at night and killing birds, dogs, and what not. He decides it’s time to put ol’ Link down, a decision that doesn’t sit well with the sympathetic Jane. But Jane slowly realizes that Link may be sniffing too much of his own poop when she catches him peeping at her in the shower, overturning trucks, and laughing at inappropriate jokes at the dinner table. But it appears that Jane’s boobies took Link over the edge and suddenly Phillip disappears, Imp panics, and Voodoo is found dead in a closet. And despite these eerie occurrences, Jane stubbornly sticks around the creepy cottage, reads Imp stories, and hears Link creeping around the property outside.

TOP OF THE WORLD, MA-NKEY!

So what was at first a dull remake of Going Ape, suddenly turns into Night of the Bloody Apes as Link emerges as a monkey Michael Myers and turns a lovely weekend in the countryside into a hellish nightmare in which Dunston won't be the only one checking out.

THE FINISHER:

Link, one of the most peculiar movies I’ve ever seen, was one of three very strange and quite bad monkey movies, along with King Kong Lives and Monkey Shines, I remember avoiding back in the late 80s. I never really liked movies about regular-sized killer monkeys. To me, they are very depressing and I almost always root for the homicidal apes whose human-killing sprees almost always prove fruitless. It’s kind of like rooting for the slow kid to win the county Spelling Bee – you wish he could do it, but despite all your training and bull-whipping, there ain’t no way it’s happening. And it’s probably a good decision that I didn’t watch this thing way back when, for I would not have enjoyed it as much in my usual ironic sense. The movie has a lot of old fashioned horror movie value – the demented scientist, the unstoppable creature, the spooky house in the middle of nowhere, the damsel in distress, and even the obligatory Hammer Films house burning at the end. But what it really lacks is any sense of impending doom or terror. These are cute monkeys for crying out loud! Link is like a killer Clyde, mugs for the camera, wears a charming butler outfit, and cracks me up every time he’s on screen with his kooky antics and decidedly non-scary behavior. Not a good recipe for a new horror icon. Shue and Stamp sleepwalk through the picture although they did seem to handle their animal costars with apparent ease. Unfortunately, Link, with its slow pace, terrible dialogue, really bad Jerry Goldsmith-doing-Danny Elfman score, and lack of frights can’t be recommended as a scary monkey movie, but can be recommended as another 80s oddity, a movie that can’t decide whether it wants to be a wacky send-up or a terrifying trip into the mind of a tortured ancestor of humanity, one banana short of a bunch.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

KING KONG ESCAPES (1968)

WHAT THE MONSTERS TAUGHT ME: King Kong came here to eat bananas and get some tail, and he’s all out of bananas.

THE CARD:

The Discount Stewart Granger; Island of My Mexican Car Mechanic; a Doctor Who degeneration and his RE-TARDIS; Herr Burgermeister Voiceer Acterr; submarine humping; a Maybelline cell phone; the Emancipation Kongification; the killing of a Chinese cookie; a way-too easily impressed Japanese general; the United Nations Monster Squad; and a totally baked Bong Kong with atomic jungle fever, dude.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

One of the most influential creations spawned by Hollywood, the creature that terrorized millions, scorched the box office, and was crafted into the greatest monster of all time is the all-mighty King Kong. And after decades away from our cinematic nightmares, he’s returned with a vengeance and new role that may mean the end of the world as we know it - as a ditch digger. After the evil Dr. Who’s (Eisei Amamoto) robot duplicate of King Kong…

Robo-Kong Power!

…short-circuits while searching for the elusive Element X deep in the icy canyons of the Arctic Circle, Kong is kidnapped from his island and is duped into digging for rare material that could be used to make a devastating bomb. Who's nefarious efforts are closely watched by evil representative Madame Piranha (Mie Hama) and her evil unnamed country *KOFF*-SO OBVIOUS IT’S CHINA-*KOFF* who desperately want their commie hands on Element X. Kong puts up a good fight but is unable to resist the evildoers as Robo-Kong hypnotizes him with pretty colors with some giant-sized ganja for good measure:

Banana trails. Beautiful banana trails.

Meanwhile, brick-chinned Nelson (Rhodes Reason), his buddy Nomura (Akira Takarada), and cute nurse Susan (Linda Miller) are tooling around in their atomic submarine conducting experiments when they stumble across Kong’s island and unravel Who’s plot. The fey and Tony The Tiger-voiced Who, who by the way may be the greatest Toho villain since scenery-chewing Dr. Malic or the Devo aliens from Monster Zero, will stop at nothing to get Element X, even it it means killing innocent villagers, destroying Tokyo in a fit of rage, or not getting a haircut.

This lord ain’t got time to breed.

But help is on the way. Just before he got shipped to Who’s sweatshop, Kong got the hots for the miniscule Susan who makes Bridget the Midget look like Uma Thurman. Susie's all-American spunk and leggy-ness helps our heroes persuade Kong to defeat Who’s forces, bring down the luchador-esque prowess and egotism of Robo-Kong, and fight for our freedom. But if Kong is going to fight for a word, his word’s poontang.

THE FINISHER:

Although a more detailed history of Kong after the original 1933 King Kong can be viewed here, I will try to sum up the events that led to the making of King Kong Escapes as best I can. Creator Willis O’Brien always wanted to continue Kong’s adventures following the original film and the sequel Son of Kong but studios scoffed at his ideas, in particular his King Kong vs. Frankenstein in which Kong would square-off against the equally legendary monster. Decades passed and O’Brien eventually licensed Kong to Japanese studio Toho who made 1962’s King Kong vs. Godzilla, a rework of O’Brien’s prior story. This Kong/Godzilla meeting is perhaps one of the worst of the Godzilla movies, stilted and exceedingly silly even for a 'Zilla flick. That movie’s success led to King Kong Escapes, where Kong goes it alone against his robot double, a cute chick, and toy tanks. The movie is like the proverbial shaggy dog: laughable, inept, and hard not to love. With colorful fighting sequences on the island, groovy late 60s fashions and horrendous acting, Paul Frees’ distinctive dubbing work, visible zippers, unrelenting sexism, and an unforgettable battle atop the Tokyo Tower, the movie has a nostalgic appeal like a forgotten childhood cartoon restored and rediscovered with wonders still as fresh as the day you first experienced them. And it was Toho’s monster movies in general that marked the better moments of my childhood where I faithfully watched monster and sci-fi fest World Beyond on KPHO every Saturday morning. Good sugary times. King Kong Escapes is an escape of its own, taking me far from the current crop of soulless summer fare, dimwitted robot porn, Nic Cage’s dead eyes and wrinkled forehead as reminders of my own mortality, and a serious lack of contemporary cinematic monkey-on-sexy-lady action.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

WINTERBEAST (1991)

WHAT THE MONSTERS TAUGHT ME: Sometimes an evil living totem pole is just an evil living totem pole.

THE CARD:

A Forest Ranger a little too proud of his crotch, scrawny 80s boobs, a demon-possessed Gumby, an evil Shakura without the sexy belly-shaking, the insidious return of One Take Bake (two, maybe three people in the world will get that reference), the Corey Hart of Forest Rangers, if William Sadler and Malcolm McDowell had a deformed kid, a slowed-down Disney Haunted Mansion LP for monster sound effects, and the Creature from Planet Hasbro (some assembly, no brains required).

More details here.

THE ANGLE:



THE FINISHER:

Monday, July 20, 2009

MONSTURD (2003)

WHAT THE MONSTER TAUGHT ME: We’re going to need bigger Depends.

THE CARD:

Loads of tuba on the soundtrack; the poopy zygote; uncalled for dummy beating; Sheriff McDrunky; Deputies Abutt and Crapstello; the curious absence of Mr. Whipple; an image of the screenwriter passing out after the 1,000th shit joke; an evil Stern without a lackey Robin; Marlon Brando-sized supply of chocolate pudding, the sound of Michael Bay kicking himself in the distance; and one cruel stool, a naughty potty, and the biggest talking shit since Rush Limbaugh.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

A creature made of feces is unleashed upon the Earth by the folly of man and his chronic stubbornness to wipe properly. The toilet terror begins when Butte County (yuk-yuk) is threatened by the escape of serial killer Jack Schmidt (yuk-yuk) from prison. The FBI and the local inept Sheriff chase Jack into the sewer where he is consumed by a chemical that dissolves him to peanuts and corn. But the substance has also reanimated his corpse, and voila - a shit monster is on the loose (bowels). But for once, the Del Taco can’t be blamed. Turns out that the evil chemist Dr. Stern dumped the experimental chemical into the water system to see what kind of shitstorm he could stir up. Unfortunately no one believes the Sheriff’s warning and soon the body count starts rising like the line to the crapper at Cinco de Mayo. Left to contend with the mucky menace is a sexy FBI agent, the very thirsty Sheriff, and his two mildly retarded deputies…

Just defecates, ma’am.

…to warn the populace before the county’s annual chili cook-off begins. And not even a police sketch of the creature is enough to drive the hungry citizens from their precious chili beans:

So it’ll have to be up to our heroes to gather the strength, courage, and stomach to flush this crappy creature into the hellish one-eyed craphole that spawned him.

Eww.

THE FINISHER:

Since starting this blog, I have st through some pretty horrendous homemade, low-budget, and independent movies like this one, and this one, and this one where the director himself took issue with my opinion of his magnum opus. But now I have to contend with a magnum o-P.U.-s in the form of a homemade, low-budget, and independent movie called Monsturd. My dearest family, closest friends and army of lovers would be the first to point out that a movie about a monster made of shit and script with more poop jokes than a 9-year-old’s birthday party was made especially for me and my immature affection for toilet humor. And for the most part they’re right. But my expectations were extraordinarily low when I first started this movie, expecting complete incompetence, insipid jokes, and cringe-worthy dialogue. I mean, the movie is called MONSTURD for Christ’s sake! But I laughed a whole lot and in all the right places – the juvenile poop jokes, the extremely low brow humor, and the guy in a shit costume. The guys who made the film star as the Deputies mentioned above and they are hysterical in a most lousy but lovable way, and my enjoyment was bolstered by the fact that everyone looked like they were having fun despite the poo-flinging. Monsturd was not made for your hoity-toity cinema-elitist friend or the cultural intelligentsia with a redwood stuck up their collective hoo-hah. It was made to sit around the TV with your shithead friends to howl and chuckle at as your life slowly swirls down the crapper. Not so much artsy, but a whole lot of fartsy.

But honestly, if they made a sequel, I couldn’t give a shit.
YUK-YUK!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

SPACE AMOEBA (1971)

WHAT THE MONSTERS TAUGHT ME: When selecting a human vessel to facilitate your plans to take over Earth, always possess the guy with the beard. He’s the evil one.

THE CARD:

Pee Wee Herman-san, Rev. Jim Jones-san, Larry Storch-san, Fred Sanford-san, Benecio Del Toro-san, Mary Tyler Moore-san, a cosmic STD, Dracula wept, Rost, Flipper saves the day, a gaseous entity not created by my enchilada combo, and a killer seafood platter from outer space, lemon and butter extra.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

Earth launches the space probe Helios 7 towards Jupiter and promptly signs its own death warrant. The probe is taken over by a mysterious space creature that takes control of it and returns to Earth. Photographer Taro (Akira Kubo) is on a plane over the Pacific and witnesses the probe fall into the ocean. When he returns to work, no one believes his outrageous story and he’s laughed out the building. But cutie secretary Ayako (Atsuko Takahashi) believes his story and urges him to join her and boss Dr. Mida (Yoshio Tsuchiya) on a venture to Selgie, a remote Pacific island where Mida hopes to study, scrutinize, and then open a resort. On the boat ride over, slimy anthropologist Obata (Kenji Sahara) bums a ride to the island with our heroes with a nefarious motivation in mind. Instead of golden beaches, cool breezes, and rivers of liquid sex, they discover the wreckage of the Helios 7 off the coast of the island where frightened natives live in terror over recent attacks by giant sea monsters that take people away to a watery dinner. Eventually and without a shred of logic or scientific evidence, Mida concludes that a parasitic space creature commandeered the probe and is taking over the indigenous life of the island.

First, it takes the form of a giant squid.

Then, a massive crab.

Followed by a huge unfriendly to children turtle. And finally…

Um, this guy.

The space amoeba takes over the evil Obata, grants him incredible strength, and announces plans to take over the world. Taro and Mida organize the locals to fight the creature and with the help of some leftover military weapons from the war, cute native girls hurling gasoline, and the gumption of the wacky Japanese, they set the table for the greatest Admiral’s Feast you’ll ever see in your pathetic life, Skippy.

THE FINISHER:

As I’ve stated here and here, director Ishiro Honda is the heart and soul of Japanese sci-fi and fantasy movies and TV – or tokusatsu for you nerds out there. Throughout the 50s and 60s, he gave rise to the kaiju eiga phenomenon through his crazed plots, mad monster making, and genuine love for the genre, and his influence on pop culture and film is still palpable to this day. By the beginning of the 70s, his career was starting to wane and Space Amoeba, a fun, goofy and action-packed little treat, marked his second to last film. It’s in this era that many of the Japanese monster movies moved from urban settings to the jungle (see Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster, Son of Godzilla, et al), where it’s cheaper to build grass hut models than modern skyscrapers to destroy. And the cost-saving measures don’t stop there. The giant squid is laughably spectacular with painted-on eyes, visible legs, and cartoonish movements. But I have to say that the crab and turtle were actually pretty good with more detail and fluid design in the actors’ movements, especially in the final no-holds-barred battle in the center of the island. Honda was a master of bringing real emotion in his giant monster epics (I dare you not to squirt a few at the end of Rodan – still gets me to this day), and there was an chance to bring in some genuine sentiment with the Obata character in the end, but for some reason that opportunity was squandered. As a result, Space Amoeba, although colorful and pleasurable with tongue firmly in cheek, is a by-the-numbers giant monster movie with some good creature design, unintentionally hysterical dubbing (always an extra delight), and a penultimate farewell to a master of fantasy cinema the likes we’ll never see again.

And yes, I’m looking at YOU, J.J. Abrams.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

MONSTROID (1979)

WHAT THE MONSTER TAUGHT ME: Don’t sit on the dock of the bay too long else you get serious monstroids.

THE CARD:

Whiteytown, Colombia; Chico Sans Man; The Bumble’s Roar; the Discount Faye Dunaway; Mayor My Name Jose Jimenez; more monster fishing with a chopper, good old fashioned racism, a Mitchum (no, not that one), a Carradine (no, not that one), and an Eisely brother (no, not those).

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

Based on a true incident as told by a raconteur of mysterious tales, the events that follow supposedly happened in a Colombian village in the early ‘70s. Believe it, for Jericho Freedom Sanchez Burrito Von Funkenberg the Greasy Hobo told me so outside the Wendy’s. An evil corporation run by evil men in evil jumpsuits is pissed off at the recent drop in productivity by the locals they employ to produce evil cement. And the locals are pissed at the corporation for poisoning the nearby lake and breeding a chicken-fingered monster who ate Freddie Prinze Sr. and made a spooky witch out of his spindly girlfriend. So the company calls in a fixer, Travis (James Mitchum), to straighten things out with his 70s mustache and tiny ball-binding shorts. Meanwhile, the local Padre (John Carradine) is trying to calm the scared villagers by reading bible verse in between Wild Turkey shots, but he can’t seem to make them believe that Jesus would ever make such a crappy monster.

Duuuh...hi folks! Duuuuh!

Also meanwhile, a milquetoast middle manager Peter (Tony Eisley) is banging hotty chopper pilot Juanita while juggling an affair with a secretary who gets munched after he bangs her and then abandons her at the edge of the lake. Yes, this is our hero. And Pete also has a wife who disappears after one scene in which she makes racist comments and generally acts like a See You Next Tuesday. Unfortunately, she does not get eaten, just forgotten by the screenwriter. So once evidence of the monster’s existence is supplied by meddlin’ kids, Travis takes two hours to come up with a brilliant plan: Let’s blow the shit out of it! Yee haw. Copying last year’s Tremendo Thanksgiving, Travis and Peter stuff a goat with dynamite and drag it on the surface of the lake, baiting the creature for a snack blast. Unfortunately for all, the monstroid likes to "do it", and in the end the survivors are faced with the inevitability of Monstroid 2: The Spawnening. Or maybe not.

THE FINISHER:

Monstroid is the movie with a thousand titles, as it is also known as It Came From The Lake, The Toxic Horror, and the high-concept Monster. Well, OK maybe three. It also took nine years to produce. Nine freakin’ years! Hampered by financial problems, stars such as Keenan Wynn and Aldo Ray dropping out, and a complete lack of competence, production started and stopped several times during the 70s. Poorly paced with barely a story to tell, Monstroid feels like Manos The Hands of Fate, looks like a snuff film, and sounds like someone buried the microphones under a blanket of soiled tiny ball-binding shorts (probably Mitchum’s). Despite the apparent pollution angle and tales of a ancient curse, there is no explanation for the appearance of the creature, and for other obvious reasons, we never see the creature above its neck. I’ve seen scarier things at Chucky Cheese. No really, I have! Subplots such as Pete’s love quadrangle, Travis’ romance with a nosy reporter, the torment of a witchy survivor of the creature, and a terrorist stalking the cement plan are dropped inexplicably. The “acting” is pretty much phoned in, or about as phoned in as you can expect from Robert Mitchum’s son James (a vet of shitty movies) and a barely sober John Carradine (a legend of shitty movies). So, am I going to continue to sit here and tell you how bad it is? Will this make me feel better about myself for complaining about a movie called Monstroid? Will it make you feel better about yourself, thankful that you didn’t waste nine years of your life on a complete waste of whatever they shot this on? Yes, yes it will. Because this movie is glorious for all the right (or wrong) reasons – to mock, to rip, and to enjoy with other loser B-movie lovers. And if there is one thing that bad movies does is bring us together, sharing our suffering with laughter and too many buttery snacks. Long live James Mitchum’s package, goofy $.99 Store creatures, and Carradine’s delivery between hiccups.

Monday, July 13, 2009

RAZORBACK (1984)

WHAT THE MONSTERS TAUGHT ME: When in the Australian Outback, steer clear of the boar bangers.

THE CARD:

Trapper John’s Hunky Foil, the World’s Worst Babysitter-Grampa, the Town Too Tough to Gut, Crocodile Ahab, the Aussie Beavis and Butthead, Miss Boar Derek, a fitting end to Kanga but Piglet got bottled, There Can Be Only One Man-Eating Pig, and will no one think of the wallabies?

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

Jake Cullen (Bill Kerr) is a crusty old kangaroo hunter in the Australian Outback, and one evening his home is attacked by a giant wild boar – a razorback - that kills his Grandson and destroys his home. Branded a murderer by the residents of his town of Gamulla, Jake is alienated and chided for his story about the huge bloodthirsty pig. He then dedicates his life to hunting the pig that ate his family and ruined his life. Two years later, New York journalist Beth Winters (Judy Morris) arrives in the town to film a news story about the annual culling of wayward kangaroo and her approach is decidedly pro-animal, much to the chagrin of the local yokel blokes. After humiliating a couple of psycho slaughterhouse workers Benny (Chris Haywood) and Dicko (David Argue), Beth is run-off the road by the creeps, nearly raped, and left for dead for the razorback to dine on. Months later, Beth’s distraught husband Carl (Gregory Harrison) arrives to investigate the shady circumstances of his wife’s disappearance. He meets the obsessed Jake and his biologist friend Sarah (Arkie Whiteley) who hints that Benny and Dicko may be better help to help him track the land for clues. Suspecting that he is trying to link them to his wife’s death, the two psychos take Carl on a wild wallaby chase and abandon him in the middle of nowhere where he almost starves, hallucinates, and is pestered by pig farts. He is rescued by Sarah who nurtures him back to health, but Jake has been caught in a trap set by Benny and Dicko. As Sarah is close to discovering the location of the elusive and hungry Porky, Carl starts to puts the pieces of his wife’s murder together, but the ultimate solution will require a showdown of epic proportions – one man, one giant pig, and one big ass meat grinder. The late Oscar Mayer would be proud.

THE FINISHER:

Some say that Spielberg’s Jaws set the standards for the modern nature-goes-awry horror film, and I for one will not argue that assumption. But director Russell Mulcahy’s Razorback cannot be simply written off as a dry-land Jaws, although there are similarities in tone and narrative structure. For one thing, the movie is pictorially surreal, defying the realistic setting, look, and feel of Jaws and opting for an otherworldly and apocalyptic atmosphere of austere desolation, a landscape littered by blood, shit, bones, and the ever-present stench of death. The gorgeous cinematography captures both the overwhelming beauty of the Outback and the inherent danger that dwells therein, from its ravenous creatures, cruel heat and vicious thunderstorms, and the wickedness of humanity that struggles to coexist with the natural world. Hence, most of this movie feels like the prototypical Outback walkabout – wandering the bush to experience nature at its rawest, discover the hellish conflict between man and the animal world, and perhaps find something new about oneself. But hey, this is still a monster movie, and Razorback delivers the goods as a cinematic nightmare with images of an all-too real monster that must be confronted in a lawless land of untamed brutalization void of social restrictions Much like in his subsequent Hollywood films such as the Highlander series and the recent Resident Evil: Extinction, Mulcahy brings his highly stylized visual approach to the film which is reminiscent of Ridley Scott and fellow Aussie George Miller. Truly, the movie is visual feast and it’s unfortunate that it’s not yet available in the U.S. on DVD (as of this writing). A combination of Jaws, Moby Dick, and A Cry in the Dark, Razorback isn’t just a movie about a killer pig, it’s also an expression about how nature will always come to claim what’s due despite our best attempts to tame her, the crown standard theme of a good creature feature. It’s in this regard that it succeeds as both an excellent monster movie and a reminder that bigger monsters await us when we interfere with nature. They are invisible to our eyes, bide their time, and will be more destructive than anything we can conceive in our darkest imaginations, ready to make us all squeal like a pig.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

MONSTER DOG (1985)

WHAT THE MONSTERS TAUGHT ME: When your town’s stray dog problem turns residents into murderous rapists, it’s time to dump your suck-ass Humane Society.

THE CARD:

Welcome to My Bad Movie, I’m $18 Over Budget, Film School’s Out, Billion Peso Doggies, You and Me and a Papier Mache Werewolf, Horror Fan Lament ’85, and Alice Cooper Needs a Pooper Scooper.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

Vincent Raven (Alice Cooper) is a rock star who is being pressured by his producers to do something different in his “electronic videos”. This is due to the fact that his latest video “Identity Crisis” (or “Chrises” as the credits indicate) is basically just him dressing up like James Bond, Jack the Ripper, Billy the Kid, and Sherlock Holmes and mugging to the camera.

I have no clue why he did this movie. Heh.

So the gazillionaire singer does what any pop star does and throws money at the problem and loading a van up with three chicks and two dudes and heads back to his spooky hometown to search for inspiration. But back in said spooky hometown, Vincent and his long-dead clan are persona non grata. His father was rumored to be a werewolf who could control the children of the night into ripping up the townsfolk to death, devouring innocent children, and pooping in front yards. After the obligatory Fat Sheriff (Ricardo Palacios) warns him that someone let the dogs out (woof, woof, woof,…um, sorry), Vincent presses on despite the objection of girlfriend Sandra (Victoria Vera) and girly psychic Angela (Pepita James) who is seeing visions of zombie-like creatures attacking the group. He dismisses their concerns but when they arrive at his boyhood home, they find the caretaker missing, blood splattered on the walls, the sandwiches made with Miracle Whip and not mayo. Yuck! Eventually, he admits to the group that he may have a teeny-weeny werewolf curse and there’s just an itsy-bitsy chance that he will shred their innards before morning. Nonetheless, the intrepid crew shoots the creepy music video, a dark ditty called “See Me in the Mirror” that’s not too bad. It had the dogs howling. The non-goth fan locals break up the shoot and invade Vince’s home with vengeance on their mind and a few silver bullets for Vince’s pale heiny. So as Vince struggles with his canine curse, a bigger and badder beast is stalking the land, threatening his friends' lives and defiantly guffawing the leash law.

THE FINISHER:

Monster Dog was directed by Italian B-movie crapper Claudio Fragasso, who is probably better known for having made the legendary and allegedly awful Troll 2. I say allegedly because I haven't seen it - yet. But there is nothing alleged in the awfulness of Monster Dog, for it is all there for the world to see in its poopy glory. The only thing that can be defined as legendary in this movie is the presence of the rock Prince of Darkness Alice Cooper, who for some reason took the role to take a few days off in wherever dreary grey place they shot this turkey. Well, come to think of it, dreary and grey may be an ideal Cooper vacation. This movie is patently appalling, does nothing with the very thin werewolf plotline (a low budget is no excuse – they literally do NOTHING), and treats us to terrible effects that would make Rick Baker vomit in rage.

Precious?

For some reason, Cooper’s voice is dubbed and it sounds like that cheesy action-adventure voice heard in Italian action movies of the 70s and 80s. Actually, on second thought, this was a highlight for I could not stop chuckling every time Cooper spoke. Anyway, the movie is pretty bad and dull, but I should mention though in my monster movie research (stop laughing) I understood that Vincent Price was also in this thing, but he wasn’t. What the Hell? Oh, before I forget, another highlight are two cool Cooper songs that I guess he wrote just for this movie, but I assume only hardcore Cooper fans would appreciate them (I’m not a big fan but I still liked them). Other than that, Monster Dog offers nothing beyond a completely mock-able but boring eighty minutes and time better spent for Cooper fans would be to see his much better performance in Wrestlemania III where he escorted Jake “The Snake” Roberts, who is more of a Monster Mess.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

THE LAST SHARK (1981)

WHAT THE MONSTER TAUGHT ME: Wait At Least One Hour To Go Swimming After Eating Vic Morrow With Spicy Eye-Talian Accent.

THE CARD:

The Italian Howard-ah Stern-ah, the Corsican Harry Shearer, the Sicilian Billy Zabka, the Missourian James Franciscus, the 1980 Ferrari Squalo, Citizen Greaseball, the 100-Yard Flee The Fucking Shark Dash, Bernie: Chopper Fisherman, Peter Benchley kicking himself, and one inglorious bastard of a shark.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

Some town somewhere near some water somewhere has a beach, nosy teens, and a big problem. A great white shark has chosen this somewhere as his personal unlimited buffet table and starts chomping on the sloppily dressed locals, overly ambitious fishermen, and maybe a windsurfer or two. But it’s not until someone’s daughter gets her lovely gam bitten off does anyone do anything. That someone is Peter (James Franciscus), a marine biologist or cop or travel writer who takes this particular appendage-devouring personal. He and grizzled sea captain Hamer (Vic Morrow) take to the seas to hunt down this monster, but getting in their way are thrill-seeking teenagers, the local media hot for a shark-death story, and slimy politician Mayor Wells (Joshua Sinclair) who uses the tragedies to boost his approval rating. Meanwhile, the portly shark is enjoying his feast of fools and scaring the Bejesus out of everyone with his horrific shark roar. Yes, I guess sharks can roar. Wackiness ensues as the media attempts to dramatize the shark hunt by luring the beast to a pier with stringy pastrami, fishing it out of the water with a helicopter, and bringing in a legendary hunter who promptly gets swallowed quicker than M&M’s at my birthday party. After all efforts fail miserably, Hamer decides the only way to stop the shark is to bait him with dynamite and maybe a little mustard. So as the final showdown approaches, Peter ducks Dr. Zaius and Hamer prays that John Landis doesn’t show up and both men slowly realize that not only will they need a bigger boat, they’ll need a better movie.

THE FINISHER:

Bad movie lovers cannot ask for more than what The Last Shark certainly delivers. Bad dialogue and dubbing. Check. Stupid accents. Check. Gloriously awful cheapo effects with a helping of gore. Check-check. Enzo G. Castellari, Italian schlockmeister and director of the correctly-spelled Inglorious Bastards. CHECK! This complete and total Jaws rip-off almost feels like a modern remake complete with dim-witted motivations, idiotic twists on the original storyline, and a complete lack of depth, ocean or otherwise. But it doesn’t matter because the movie is a complete hoot, and it’s unfortunate that only a crappy bootleg copy of the movie is available. Due to the similarities between this and Jaws in which legal action was taken, the movie was never released officially in the U.S. (as of this writing, of course. We can always hope). But the poor rundown VHS-quality only adds charm, like watching a Sunday afternoon creature feature from a low-power UHF station. The movie chugs along at a breezy pace, has a few laugh-out loud death scenes, mismatched use of stock footage and fake shark, and Vic Morrow struggling between an Irish brogue and a Mario impersonation. But given that and the close to ninety minutes of chuckling I enjoyed during the viewing, I am very grateful that this will be The Last Shark movie I’ll be watching for a while.

Friday, July 10, 2009

RED WATER (2003)

WHAT THE MONSTER TAUGHT ME: Rappers go down nice with Cajun spice.

THE CARD:

La Bomba, Culo-io, Buffy Prime, Cajun Man the Backwater Philosopher, a serious lack of subtitles during stupid accent scenes, hideous acts of Grampa-cide, the Schofield Skid Mark, Southern-drawled sodomy jokes, a whole lot of bayou bull shark, a fishy trip to the dentist, and Shark: 1, Has-been Rapper: 0.

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

Down in the Mississippi Delta, an elderly man goes missing while fishing with his Grandson. The cops do nothing. Another person disappears after fishing off the shores of the mighty Mississip. The cops do nothing. A hot chick gets gobbled off a resort pier by a giant fresh water bull shark. Call in the Coast Guard! Meanwhile, John Sanders’ (Lou Diamond Phillips) diving business is tanking and the bank is threatening to repossess his boat unless he comes up with some quick cash. His ex-wife Kelli (Kristy Swanson) suddenly shows up and offers him a business proposition. A former environmentalist, she works for a mega-corporation that wants to drill for natural gas in the bayou – but, you know – safely. Uh huh. And since John is the best natural-gas finding-guy in the world ever, she has turned to him to make sure things are done right. He begrudgingly takes the job to save his business, to keep his Cajun hired hand Emery (Rob Boltin) happy, and maybe to get another shot at the Boff Buffy title. On the other side of town, hotshot Aussie diver Brett (Langley Kirkwood) is hired by a Rasta-drug dealer to accompany his cousin “Ice” (Coolio) on a trek up the river to search for a guy named Jerry (Jaimz Woolvett) who knows the location of a cache of submerged drug money. Eventually, these worlds collide and John and his crew are taken hostage by the murderous baddies and forced to go diving for the loot or suffer the wrath of listening to Ice’s last CD. But the sinister force that gobbled up those Cajun yokels earlier is still hungry, and this fresh water bull shark’s got a hankering for some jerky jambalaya – human-style!

Sigh.
THE FINISHER:

Red Water is a made-for-TV movie (most likely the Syfy channel) and … get this … isn’t half bad. It’s not half good either, but the one half that is watchable makes for a decent viewing. Yet another shark movie that’s actually more of a treasure-hunting adventure thriller, the movie features some pretty good action sequences, a very well-done practical effect for the shark, and a few (intentional) laughs here and there. Wisely avoiding the pitfalls of a creature feature hunt-that-beast story, the movie focuses more on the dangerous trip up river with a dash of character development (a very small dash, that is) and a crime caper subplot to kill time until our toothy friend shows up and blows the roof off the joint with his gleeful voracity. I’ll also give points to the movie for coming up with a pretty cool way to do away with the creature. Let’s say that just like humans, dentists may be the shark’s natural enemy. I do have one thing I have to mention, though, and it’s something that came up while watching yesterday’s movie too. What is it with B-movie makers and their love of characters with ridiculous accents? There are at least three different stupid accents in this movie – the Rasta drug dealer guy, the fake Aussie diver, and the Cajuns. Each of them are incomprehensible and really don’t add anything to the characters beyond an opportunity for ridicule. Why do they have these characters? To enrich the tapestry of human interaction that swells into a brilliant expression of humanity that’s tragically quelled by Bruce the Urpy Shark? I don’t get it. Anyway, Red Water certainly isn't atrocious, has some fairly likable characters, and a cool shark. Plus you get to see Coolio get swallowed whole for the sake of his overdue phone bill.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

SHARKS IN VENICE (2008)

WHAT THE MONSTERS TAUGHT ME: Where’s your shark messiah now, Stephen Baldwin? Meaaah!

THE CARD:

Stephen the B-Movie Actor (the ‘B’ is for Born Again), Geico Caveman: Mafia Villain, thatsa spicy grease-a-ball henchmen, one silly accent short of a Peter Sellers fan convention, all the Italian authenticity of the Olive Garden, locations by the Vegas Venetian, and a scrumptious sharky abondanza!

More details here.

THE ANGLE:

David Franks (Stephen Baldwin) is some kind of professor/smart guy/dude in a lab coat whose father has vanished in Venice while treasure hunting for sketchy scuzzball Don Clemenza (Giacomo Gonnella). Upon receiving the news, he rushes to Italy to search for him with his amply bosomed fiancĂ©e Laura (Vanessa Johansson) in tow. He uncovers a web of lies surrounding his father’s disappearance as the police appear to be covering something up. Turns out Dad was killed by a shark that is prowling the canals of this ancient city and if news about his death made the papers, there would be a panic, economic damage, and a plunge in demand for gondolier hats. Franks learns that his father was seeking the gold, jewelry, and riches of the Medici family that has been lost for centuries. Cue historical flashback with silly narration and overblown choir orchestration. He is then strong-armed into helping mobster Clemenza locate the treasure that supposedly lies somewhere beneath the canals. His minions kidnap Laura and hold her ransom until he complies and Clemenza reveals that the sharks were bred by him to use as “watchdogs” against people trying to seek the fortune. Meanwhile, the sharks are enjoying an unlimited Italian buffet to the tune of fake Dean Martin songs against poorly rendered matte paintings. With little assistance from the calzone-crunching cops, Franks has to take on Clemenza, the stinky dangers of the Venetian sewers, and a very hungry CGI shark ready to form his own man-eating cosa nostra.

THE FINISHER:

May the Film Lord forgive me, but man do I love bad movies, and after all, monster movies are a constant revelation. The truly bad ones are the cinema version of WYSIWYG – What You Read Is What You Get. Read, as in the title. Sounding like either like an international quantum leap for shark movies or a 90s Roger Avary caper film, Sharks in Venice delivers what the title promises, albeit briefly. Yes, there are sharks. And yes, they are in Venice. The Italy one. I think. It’s also a gloriously appalling sorta/kinda monster movie meets fortune-seeking adventure. Part National Treasure, part Megashark, all baaaad. And they don’t come any more dreadful than this example of typical terribleness from the fine folks at Nu Image that probably pumps out more poopy turkeys a week than Butterball at Thanksgiving. Baldwin turns in his typical workman-like effort, borders on ridiculous, and is able to contain his facial hair for ninety minutes. Johansson’s assets prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that she is related to sister Scarlett. But it’s homicidal goon Gonnella who steals the show as the disastrously-accented bad guy whose performance approaches Roman Moroni territory. I prayed for dialogue like, “Immonna killa dose fargin sharks bastages! Son-a-ma-batches!”. With a bigger role for Gonnella, this movie may have been called Mob Goofballs in Venice. Despite the lack of sharks swallowing gondoliers (an opportunity for cinema gold wasted), Sharks in Venice is barely a monster movie, barely a caper movie, but a complete stinker for bad movie lovers who can’t get enough Goddamn shark silliness.