Sunday, March 30, 2014

Che! (1969)

How bad is it? The dialogue is terrible, it's oddly cast and the story meanders.
Should you see it? If you're desperate. It has a few laughs.

Che Guevara was a cult figure and this film has a small cult following, probably just for that reason. Omar Sharif plays the lead and it seems that he briefly remembers facets of his character and then accentuates them (the asthmatic wheezing especially comes and goes). The worst acting, however, goes to woefully miscast Jack Palance as Fidel Castro; he seems to be doing an impersonation of Marlon Brando doing an impression of Castro and even his makeup is laughable. The film has Che saying things like "the revolution can't live without the people and the people can't live without the revolution" in a monotone, to no one or telling peasants that they're too stupid to live... and then asking them for their help. The Bay of Pigs invasion is covered in one sentence. There's a scene where I found myself thinking, "Is he getting naked? Is he dying? Why is this scene even here?" It's that confusing throughout.

Cheerleaders' Wild Weekend (1979)

aka The Great American Girl Rally

How bad is it? It's a porn film without sex.
Should you see it? Yes, if  you think "sophomoric" and "politically incorrect" are good things.

Three football players, the brother of one player and a school nurse abduct a busload of cheerleaders (consisting of teams that would never share a bus). The cheerleaders hold a topless talent show, the nurse has a lesbian scene with one girl and a bathtub, the girls concoct an escape involving tying their bras together and one of the abductors turns out to be a good guy who gets away after falling in love. It's truly mindless and implausible, cheesy and silly. The cast and crew all have porn film credentials, so this must've been an attempt to go "legit."

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Cocaine Fiends (1936)

aka The Pace That Kills

How bad is it? It's the pits.
Should you see it? Not really.

Another Dwayne Esper film, this time chronicling what (supposedly) happens when you take cocaine. The best thing in the film is the name of the Dead Rat Cafe. The worst thing is a prop window slamming shut by itself in the middle of a scene; the actors stop, stunned, then go on as nothing happened. They didn't bother to reshoot! I kept staring at the window, expecting something to happen there, but, of course, nothing does. This is one of the least interesting of Esper's many films from 1936-37.

The Clones of Bruce Lee (1981)

How bad is it? All martial arts films look the same to me; experts tell me this sucks.
Should you see it? Yes (said with mouth moving enough for five words).

When Bruce lee died, there was a rush to fill the void and someone decided to bring all the contenders together for one Bruceploitationpalooza. Bruce Le, Dragon Lee, and Bruce Lai are the clones - none of them looking like Bruce Lee, and usually wearing dark glasses to hide the fact - made by saved brain tissue by a mad doctor. They then go on to fight evil. And hang out at the beach with topless women, with everyone wondering what to do. The bad guys keep eating poisonous plants. The three stars have very different fighting styles and apparently some of the fight scenes are the only times these particular martial experts were filmed together. All in all, it just seems silly and one wonders how serious they were when they made it.

Carnosaur (1993)

How bad is it? It's a pretty good film, with bad special effects.
Should you see it? It's worth the time.

Roger Corman, knowing that Jurrasic Park was going to be released, made his own dinosaur movie and got it released before it, so every review that says they ripped it off is slightly wrong. They did however, steal the monster-bursting-from-stomach from "Alien" and not much of the film is original. The plot has a genetically engineered virus infecting chicken eggs, which causes women to give birth to dinosaur/human hybrids that will wipe out humanity as we know it. Everything else is by the numbers, but done fairly well, except the T. Rex is very cheap looking. The sequel is much higher budget and more competently done,  but even more derivative; the third film is dull.

Cannibal Terror (1980)

How bad is it? It's sometimes called the worst cannibal movie, which is saying something.
Should you see it? No. The one joke is the "savages," seen below. I just saved you a viewing.

This  film gets mixed up with a Jess Franco film with similar cast, title and storyline (and which also isn't good), but was made by the same people who made "Zombie Lake," which is among the worst zombie movies. The film starts out as a kidnapping story that has one funny scene when a guy gets baffled by whether a door is a "pull" or a "push." You wonder when the cannibals are coming. They take the kidnapped girl to the jungle (somewhere in a conservatory in Paris, from the looks of it), when they finally encounter the cannibals - the least convincing cannibals in film - caucasians, make-up that stops at their neck, side-burns, comb-overs, potbellies. They dance. They eat pig entrails. They dance again. They threaten. They dance again. Not much happens after that.

Cannibal Campout (1988)

How bad is it? It gives new meaning to "amateur."
Should you see it? If you're not at all squeamish, there's some sick laughs to be had.

This shot-on-videotape p.o.s. proves that, in the 1980's, anyone could buy a camcorder and make their own gore movie. And anyone did. And this is the result. It follows every cliche' of horror films, so you can have fun predicting scenes: "that girl gets away, and she does it by..., and then she runs straight into..." and you'll be right every time. The acting is abysmal; the main cannibal turns his annoying crazy man dial to 11, while others just stand around. The gore effects are actually surprisingly good, given the few hundred dollars they must have spent; the axe to the face, the messed-up face of the "retard" who wears a helmet with dark visor and the coup de grace gross-out fetus eating, are better than I could do. But should that be the standard?! For the right viewer, in the right frame of mind, this can be entertaining.

Chained for Life (1951)

How bad is it? It's only slightly worse than average.
Should you see it? If you're curious.

Daisy and Violet Hilton were conjoined twins (Violet's on the left, above) who were in Tod Browning's classic film "Freaks" in 1932. This exploitation film is their only other film, done two decades later. They play a version of themselves in a vaudeville-style show. Much of the film is padded with acts from the show; there's a juggler, a bike act, an accordionist and then the sisters sing - and, if that's really them singing, they weren't bad! The plot has one sister getting married as a publicity stunt, but the other sister disapproves and ends up shooting the man. How you can punish the murderer without punishing the other is the legal question that's the crux of the film (and it's left to the audience to resolve). The sisters can't act and the manager overacts in a stagy way that sort of fits his character. Overall, it's just a minor entertainment curio.

Can't Stop the Music (1980)

How bad is it? It's ludicrous kitsch.
Should you see it? Sure.

Supposedly based on the true story of how "The Village People" rose to popularity, this looks like it might work on paper: reclusive (retired?) model has a friend who's writing great songs, but can't get noticed and signed to a contract, so they get the most over-the-top performers to sing them, all in an attempt to get financial backing from a staid lawyer. The thing is... they never mention that The Village People are gay! This makes it all the funnier when people talk about such things as putting two Sno-balls and a Ding Dong in their mouths. You expect musical numbers and there are (I think) only two, but they involve such visuals as Bruce Jenner in a half shirt and cut-offs; in one instant, Jenner went from "athlete" to "weirdo" and he's just continued that streak right into the Kardashian reality TV world.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Battlefield Earth (2000)

How bad is it? It's one of the worst big budget films ever.
Should you see it? No. It's too long and slow for the few laughs it provokes.

Apparently, John Travolta wanted to make a vanity picture to honor the founder of Scientology by filming one of his stories. The plot has mankind enslaved by aliens (in the year 3000), nearing extinction and then fighting back. Why everyone wears the giggle-inducing nosepieces, I forget, but they're what you'll remember. The film is underwritten, underlit, overacted by Travolta, messy, uninvolving and overlong. Even Forest Whitaker can't save this turkey. It swept the Golden Raspberry awards and deservedly so.

The Apple (1980)

How bad is it? It's camp. It's kitsch. It's symbolism up the wazoo.
Should you see it? If you're looking for a bad musical, there aren't many better choices.

Did you guess that this was the bad guy? How'd you know?!
The Golan-Globus production team were responsible for a ton of low-budget schlock. This is one of he few films that Golan directed himself. In it, a folk-singing duo is entered in the WorldVision music contest of the future (1994) and they have to fight the temptations of drugs, sex and rock and roll, before their savior arrives at the end in a white car. It has a dozen songs with dreadful lyrics and the religious symbolism is so heavy-handed as to be silly.

Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2010)

How bad is it? It's one of the all-time worst, though apparently intentionally so.
Should you see it? Yes. By all means.

This had developed a very rapid cult following before many people could see it. A few key scenes were getting national air time. People were comparing it to "Plan 9 From Outer Space." Then director Nguyen went to Sundance with a van advertising his film and the film's website, painted on the van, was misspelled. He over-reached. Even before I'd seen it, it was obvious that it was intentionally bad and he was pretending that it was legitimately the best he could do. I would not be surprised if people were hired to give this low ratings at IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes and similar sites. It's a pretty sophisticated scam.

That said, the movie's very funny. The special effects are the worst, just computer icons add in post with flapping wings that never fly, or even move out of formation. And people attack them with coat hangers! Then they explode, spraying green goop over the actors, who have priceless reaction shots. The plot is braindead, most of the "action" is static, the leads are forgettable. The audio cuts out, seemingly at random. It's terrible, but enjoyably terrible and the fact that it's intentional only slightly dilutes the fun.

Blood Freak (1972)

How bad is it? It's astoundingly bad.
Should you see it? Yes. It's mostly dull, but you won't forget it.

The most memorable thing about this film is the on-screen narrator, who sits in a poorly panelled room, chain smoking, as he extols on the dangers of pollution. Then he has a coughing fit! It goes on for a while and they didn't re-shoot, so you start wondering if it's intentional.

A Bible-thumping girl and her partying friends get tied up with scientists (one with a comb-over for the ages) and a poultry ranch and marijuana that's been contaminated. It leads to one of them becoming a rampaging- get this - turkey monster! It's just a rooster head being worn by a guy, who then attacks. It's surprisingly bloody.

Added: There's currently some speculation that this film is intentionally bad. I think not.

Bloodsucking Freaks (1976)

aka The Incredible Torture Show

How bad is it? It's one of the most infamously awful grindhouse films of all time.
Should you see it? You'd have to be a sicko to enjoy it. So, if you're a sicko...

The Grand Guignol was a Parisian theater that staged plays where people had body parts removed (usually by madmen), done with magic tricks. This film has a modern theater of the same type, but the mutilations that the audience think are faked are real. Even worse things happen backstage, where the evil Sardu and his dwarf henchman torture women. The most memorable - and icky - scene has a woman's brain being sucked out through a straw; this scene must've inspired the same in the "Silence of the Lambs" sequel "Hannibal." I doubt anyone involved with that film would admit to having seen this, though.

Blood Feast (1963)

How bad is it? It's dreadful.
Should you see it? Yes, if only for historic reasons.

Herschel Gordon Lewis was making nudies, when he felt that that gene had run it's course and came up with the idea of gore films. This is the official first gory movie, and it has gore galore. It also has (pseudonymous) Fuad Ramses as an official of an ancient Egyptian cult that makes sacrifices. He's so terrible an actor that you can watch him read his lines, slowly and badly, from cue cards. And he's still better than star Connie Mason, a former Playboy playmate! She was so awful that Lewis claims he fantasized about killing her for real. The sets are minimal, the camerawork negligible, he plot nearly non-existent. If you're going to see one HG Lewis film, see "2,000 Maniacs."

The Beast with 1,000,000 Eyes

aka The Beast with a Million Eyes
How bad is it? Producer Roger Corman disowns it. And he was proud of "Carnosaur."
Should you see it? Not really.

This is one of those classic cases of coming up with a great title and then trying to figure out how to film it. After all, what budget will allow for a monster with a million eyes? The plot has a creature from space that is able to take over the minds of animals, seeing through their eyes. It has people attacked by birds (before Hitchcock) and by the family dog (before Stephen King), but the eventual payoff of seeing the monster is an oversized teapot, is disappointing. It's shoddiness is endearing, the acting not too bad.

The Bride and the Beast (1958)

How bad is it? It's deliriously stupid.
Should you see it? Sure.

Apparently penned by the immortal Ed Wood, Jr., the plot has a woman with a strong affiliation with animals, particularly apes, undergoing hypnosis. Under past-life regression, she's found to have once been a gorilla in a previous incarnation. She and her husband go to the jungle, where they encounter  a gorilla, and she leaves her husband for the gorilla! The stock footage and man in an ape suit antics are about bottom-of-the-barrel as you can find. It also involves some classic Wood-en dialogue.

The Barbaric Beast of Boggy Creek, Part II (1985)

aka Boggy Creek II: and the Legend Continues

How bad is it? One man and his family make a horror pic on the proceeds from the original film.
Should you see it? I'd have to say no.

Charles B. Pierce had an unlikely hit when he made the pseudo-documentary "The Legend of Boggy Creek," about a legendary Alabama swamp monster. A decade later, he decided to remake it, without the pretense of it's being a documentary. A professor and two students interview locals about witnessing the monster, then they see it, then they go back to interviewing for no particular reason. Nothing happens for an hour, as middling scenery takes the forefront. Finally, they meet "Crenshaw," a character that will set Alabama back a century in public relations, who appears to have captured and bred the beast. There's a flurry of action at the end, but by then you won't care.

Alien Intruder (1993)

How bad is it? It's schlock.
Should you see it? It's barely entertaining schlock.

There are a lot of films about people on a ship getting terrorized by a monster on the loose ("It! The Terror Beyond Space" was the first), but this one is different in that it's men being preyed upon by their own libidos. That suggest some sexual fireworks, but there isn't much (though one woman goes topless about as often as possible). Billy Dee Williams stars, but he's no Lando Calrissian here. Former TV stars Jeff Conaway and Tracy Scoggins are also on board (the latter as the siren who leads to doom). It does give a lesson in paint-by-the-numbers filmmaking and has a few bizarre and uninentionally funny scenes.

Alien Terminator (1995)

How bad is it? It rips off every horror and science fiction plot you can name.
Should you see it? It can be a passable waste of time, if you're desperate.

Decades after "Alien," pale imitations are still being churned out, this one from Roger Corman's crew. People are trapped far underground where a mutant pathogen causes a mutation of rats, which leads to cats, which leads to people. It's largely people getting chased by a giant rat - a seldom scene, heavily darkened, rubber suit. There's no "Terminator" in evidence. There are two memorable topless scenes, some memorably bad dialogue, some atrocious 1980's styles (a decade late).

Barn of the Blood Llama (1997)

How bad is it? It's as bad as films get, but intentionally so.
Should you see it? If you can find it, it might provide a laugh, but more likely cause a headache.

This is a film made by people who love bad films, who took he elements from them and made their own intentionally bad film. The plot's bad, the acting's bad, the special effects are bad and the whole thing was made for a few dollars. A car breakdown leads to inbred brothers and a mad doctor involved with mutant sex-crazed llamas. It's so bizarre that it sounds good on paper, but the actual film is hard to watch.

Avenging Disco Godfather (1977)

aka Disco Godfather

How bad is it? It's one of the tackiest blaxploitation films.
Should you see it? Only if you're a Rudy Ray Moore fan.

Rudy Ray Moore starred in a number of films where he played a sort of comic kung-fu pimp. The first one, "Dolemite," is spectacular in it's awfulness. To save his reputation - as a Redd Foxx party album copyist - he tried to pass that awfulness off as intentional. To this aim, he made a sequel, "The Human Tornado," which is merely okay, then this film, then "Petey Wheatstraw - The Devil's Brother-in-Law," which is a technically competent straight-up comedy. This film dives headlong into the excesses of the 1970's discotheque era, but manages only to be a pale imitation of "Dolemite."

Ben and Arthur (2002)

How bad is it? It's incoherent and inconsistent.
Should you see it? It's not essential.

This is a basic gay love story, but with an improbable plot (a man gets ostracized from his church because his bother's gay) and very poor acting and dialogue. There are so many technical errors, mostly of continuity, that this has it's following. For example, it's mentioned that it's Vermont, yet there are palm trees. One guy's shirt is off, then on, then off, then on again, then off yet again, all in one scene. Overall, I found it dull; it's remarkably similar to the straight love story "The Room," which I should get to eventually.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Aberration (1995)

How bad is it? It's a pretty good horror film with some bad special effects.
Should you see it? Yes. It's not so-bad-it's-good, though.

This is a difficult film to find; it's never been released on DVD (at least in the U.S.) and videotapes of it have become scarce.

A woman returns to her cabin in the woods home, only to find that mutant geckos have begun to attack people. Yes, geckos - those innocuous little lizards - in large numbers and ravenous for flesh. The critters themselves are obviously rubber and some of the scenes with them are laughable (there's one getting squished under foot that I remember especially). The hands of the guy throwing them at the actors are sometimes visible. That said, it's a pretty tightly constructed horror film with some decent acting and direction, despite some quibbles (like lizards being active in the cold of a snowstom).

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Blood Circus (1985)

How bad is it? Unknown.

Should you see it? Unknown.

This film was shown for one week in one theater. Because a print still exists, it might some day get put on video, so I'm including it. It involves wrestlers fighting aliens. There's a head landing in popcorn, fleas (?) and Santo Gold singing "Santo Gold." The bits of it used in infomercials suggests it's pretty bad.

Bigfoot (1970)

aka Big Foot

How bad is it? It's cheap and silly.
Should you see it? No (except the first 5 minutes). It's dull.

The monster's not why people watch this.

The film starts with a plane explosion and the woman parachuting out of it (the lovely Joi Lansing), when she lands, takes off her jumpsuit to revel that she's wearing a baby doll nightie. That's the best part of the film by far. This has bikers and hillbillies and a bigfoot that want's to mate with humans (and apparently has a type - only blondes - which might explain their scarcity). It has John Carradine and two of Robert Mitchum's brothers. Even with all these elements in it's favor, it doesn't hold one's attention.

Bride of the Monster (1955)

aka Bride of the Atom

How bad is it? It's an Ed Wood film with Bela Lugosi and Tor Johnson, in other words, BAD.
Should you see it? Yes, though it's lesser Woods

The story behind this film is that it was going to be pitched to a studio and real actors were slated to appear in it, but Woods got an offer from a guy to pay for the film if his son could star. His son couldn't act. The plot's less formless than most Woods films and the dialog's not as strange. There's one very funny moment, as Lugosi wrestles with a very obviously fake octopus.

The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962)

How bad is it? It's a classic bad movie.

Should you see it? By all means.
A woman has an accident and her boyfriend saves her - well, just her head, which he keeps alive in his laboratory, along with the obligatory mutant in a closet. He goes looking for a sexy body to reattach her head to (never mind killing to do it) and goes on a rather seedy, but entertaining search. Meanwhile, the head's pretty ticked off at him and has plans of her own.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Abomination (1986)

How bad is it? It's one of the all-time worst.
Should you see it? Yes, though it's gonna hurt.
This is an unheralded piece of great garbage, shot on videotape. The three minutes before the credits roll show everything you're going to see, with a waking-up-from-a-nightmare shot repeated dozens of times, all with a terrible synthesizer soundtrack. If you survive this, you'll enjoy the film.

 A sick woman is watching a televangelist, then coughs up a tumor and is well. While sleeping, her son eats the tumor! It reproduces and grows and is soon filling the house, with the son finding new victims to feed the monster. Parts of the monster come up out of really unlikely places, which is most of the fun of the film, along with the H. R. Pufnstuf/Little Shop of Horrors monster.

Nothing really makes sense and the film doesn't appear to have a resolution until the final credits roll and all is revealed (or is it?), both improving and ruining the film at the same time.

The Brainiac (1962)

aka El Baron del Terror

How bad is it? It's surreal. I think it's a good film, though others disagree.
Should you see it? Yes, if you're a fan of the unusual.

A count has been living for centuries on an asteroid and returns, sucking out people's brains with his long forked tongue, which causes his inflatable head to expand. He's going after revenge upon the descendants of those who punished him during the Spanish Inquisition. If you buy that premise, it's a very watchable and even enjoyable film.

Bride of the Gorilla (1957)

How bad is it? It's slightly lurid trash.
Should you see it? If you have nothing better to do.
This is a film where Raymond Burr thinks he might be turning into a beast. He kills someone and gets cursed and his love of the jungle (potted plants) makes him more animalistic as the film progresses. Lon Chaney shows up long enough to get a paycheck.

It's a melodrama disguised as a horror film and it's a fair melodrama. It also is the only American film with Giselle Werbisek, whose real name was apparently Gisela Werbiserk-Piffl, a truly great name.

Blood Shack (1971)

How bad is it? It's cheap and very poorly acted.
Should you see it? No.
Having decided not to watch any more films by Ray Dennis Steckler, I still ended up seeing this one (there will be several reviews of his films to come). A woman moves into a house that is supposedly haunted by "The Chooper," who turns out to be a knife-wielding maniac, played by Steckler himself. In the climactic scene, while chasing people, he seems to skip at one point! The dialog is stilted, poorly executed and dull. Sometimes it's fun to see what outfits Steckler's wife, Carolyn Brandt (who stars), will wear, but even that's of no interest here. There's a lot of filler of Steckler's children playing.

Again: see "The Incredibly Strange Creatures..." and skip the rest of Steckler's films.

Bahian Cinderella (1998)

aka Cinderela Baiana

How bad is it? It's generally regarded as the worst film ever made in Brazil.
Should you see it? No.
This is so obscure that I was unable to obtain a print with English subtitles and had someone who spoke Portuguese translate for me. His most frequent comment was, "Why are you making me watch this?!"

This is a fictionalized biopic of Carla Perez's rise from poverty to stardom as a dancer, starring Perez herself, along with her then boyfriend and a few others who later became celebrities in Brazil. The actor who portrays her agent overacts to an almost impossible extent, while others underact. We see Perez's mother's death from tuberculosis and kids dancing in the streets. There are a lot of dance sequences, as one would expect, but they are all quite dull.

The film has apparently become a cult target for parody in Brazil, but it holds little of interest to people anywhere else.

The Brain Eaters (1958)

How bad is it? It's a good film with bad special effects.
Should you see it? If you like good 1950's science fiction.

The lurid title belies a film that's based on the same material as "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." A conical object, presumably a ship, appears and gets investigated. There are aliens that are able to take over the bodies of humans and acquire their intelligence (mind eating, rather than brain eating). It's then a case of not being able to trust anyone because they may be on the wrong side and a race to stop them before it's too late. The brains with tentacles slithering around are extremely shoddy and detract from the film, but they're not actually funny.

Actium Maximus: War of the Alien Dinosaurs (2005)

How bad is it? It's a bad children's show stretched to feature length.
Should you see it? No.
It doesn't even have dinosaurs.

I saw this, not knowing ahead of time that it was a Troma release. Troma comes up with a title and a marketing plan and then they film; sometimes they come up with a good film, most of the time they come up with wastes of time, but when they come up with a loser, it's truly awful.

The film has only a few human actors and they are not likeable. Most of the characters are piles of rocks or bean bags with tentacles that speak in gibberish that has to be subtitled. I think Troma overestimated their target audience: they think they can read.

I can't really tell you the plot, as the film gave me a headache and I started doing other things while it was on (got my taxes done), checking periodically to see if it was improving. It didn't.

Alone in the Dark (2005)

How bad is it? It has plot holes you can drive a truck through.
Should you see it? Meh. probably not.

This was the first film directed by Uwe Boll I'd seen; I'd heard him called this generation's Ed Wood (he's not). It's based - loosely - on a video game and Tara Reid gets second billing. I was prepared for something truly awful.

Contrary to every other reviewer, I didn't hate this movie. Reid's miscast and her acting's wooden, but others, such as Christian Slater, are okay. The special effects are also okay and the direction is... okay. The big problem is the script. The final scene goes against everything the rest of the film sets out as the reality of that film world and it leaves a bad taste. The action scenes are too long and fast enough to be hard to watch. A lot is left unexplained and a lot of things left dangling. There is exactly one unintended laugh: a guy shoots randomly into the ground and it struck me as silly.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Beast That Killed Women (1965)

How bad is it? It's about as stupid as movies get.

Should you see it? Everyone should see one nudist camp film. It's either this or "Nude on the Moon."

There was a brief time when mainstream films could show nudity if they were filmed in a nudist colony; there was a loophole that declared them as educational. Many directors took advantage of that, from H. G. Lewis to Doris Wishman, but no one made more films faster in the Florida camps than Barry Mahon.

The film's plot: an escaped gorilla kills naked women. That somehow seems to overstate the action; the gorilla (one of the worst costumes ever) doesn't show up much, so one is left with static shots of naked people conversing. This makes for some interesting blocking of shots, as full frontal was still taboo; one sees a lot of backsides, people partially obscured by signs, plants or water, or topless women wearing bottoms. A female police detective is sent to investigate and she, too, disrobes and gets chased by the "beast." Why the gorilla only attacks women isn't well addressed, nor are other plot "subtleties." There are some attractive people in the film, so actors replaced the actual colonists (I think Wishman used some locals), but the acting is more primitive than the gorilla costume.

"Rocket Attack U.S.A." is still the Mahon film to see, but I found this one mildly entertaining.

The horror films of Andy Milligan

How bad are they? In my opinion, they are the worst films ever made.

Should you see them? No. They have no redeeming values (which isn't a recommendation).

 Andy Milligan directed a number of soft-core porn films which were competently made and watchable (I've seen two). He also made a dozen gore films, usually for a couple of thousand dollars and completed in a couple of weeks; these are unwatchable. There are a few Milligan apologists, who point out that with his budget limitations, it's amazing he could make a film at all. The films are period pieces, done in costumes that are reused from film to film and which are supposed to give a timeless feel; a lot of shots are of wooded areas (on Staten Island) which keep anachronisms low. The films are extremely heavy in dialogue, which is cheaper to film than action shots. The gore effects are cheap (of course). The acting is wooden to nonexistent. The plots are minimal and similar from film to film.

"The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here!" gets special mention, as I've already reviewed  a number of films where the director changed his mind about what kind of film he was making. Milligan was making a Werewolf film, but "Willard" was a hit and "Ben was in the making, so movies about rats were hot and he decided to capitalize on that. There's one effective scene of a rat getting hit by a hammer, though one feels for the animal, making it pathetic. In all of Milligan's horror films (I've seen 6), there is but one cheap laugh; in "The Ghastly Ones," a severed leg is so obviously rubber that it actually bounces. The rest is tedium.

Added 2/10/2015

People were saying that "Blood" (1974) was the Milligan film to see, so I watched it. After discovering that I was actually seeing it for a second time and forgot it, I found that it is probably THE Milligan film to see, if you must see one. There's a vampire and a werewolf (with very laughable makeup) and it drags less than usual. 

The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961)

How bad is it? It's barely a collection of random images, much less a film.

Should you see it? Yes.

This mess was filmed silent, with hilariously bad narration added. There's some poorly-explained secret agent story at the beginning, which has Tor Johnson (the ex-wrestler made famous in "Plan 9 From Outer Space") being hit by a nuke in the desert. The others are killed, Tor gets a few burns and apparently goes mad. He wanders off to a cave, he chase kids with a stick, he throws a boulder in frustration - this last is quite funny and endearing - and he fights the authorities when they come. He ends up dying, cuddling with a bunny. Yes, you read that right.

The film was reportedly made for $3000, but if "Robot Monster" was truly made for $580.25, as was reported, at least $2900 of the budget must've gone to Tor. This film is very much like an Ed Wood, Jr. film, from the actors to the narration to the poor effects to the plotlessness.

The Beach Girls and the Monster (1965)

aka Monster from the Surf

How bad is it? It's terrible.

Should you see it? It's a good kind of terrible.

If possible, see the version called "Monster from the Surf," which differs only in that the surfing scenes are in color and the jarring juxtaposition of color and black and white within scenes are funny.

The girls who dance on the beach (to Frank Sinatra, Jr.) while their boyfriends surf are getting killed by what appears to be a monster. The local expert claims the claw marks are the sign of a certain kind of fish and he talks about radiation and growth, but he seems fishier than the monster. His diatribes about the wastrels on the beach "going to jail!" are a lot of fun. The monster for some reason is covered in seaweed, which is an interesting touch, though the face of the monster is laughable. In the end, there's a fight between the hero and the guy in the rubber suit (hey, that's ambiguous, I'm  not giving it away) and a chase that ends with a fiery crash. The movie looks like it took a week to make and is difficult for me to separate from "The Horror of Party Beach," which would make a good double feature. [Horror of Party Beach will be reviewed here eventually.]

Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966)

How bad is it? It's seriously flawed, but merely mediocre.

Should you see it? It's not necessary, though a decade-by-decade Carradine vampire festival might be fun.

I first saw this film at age 8 on an 8 mm. black and white print. I was not impressed. Better print and color and decades later, it's still not much. Like most of William Beaudine's films, it's not good, but not utter trash.

The film doesn't really work as a western, though there are some natives and some horses and a gunslinger. It also doesn't work as a vampire film (the name "Dracula" never gets said in the film), as the main tropes get messed with - the vampire appears in daylight, it's not a wooden stake that kills him, etc. The biggest problem, however, and the source of some cheap laughs, is that the cinematographer didn't know how to shoot day-for-night, so night scenes are clearly done in the day. There's also bats on wires. After being shot at 12 times, Dracula succumbs to a glancing blow from a thrown handgun.

The companion piece, "Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter," Beaudine's last film, is worse because it's duller. It's not even an accurate title, as it's Frankenstein's granddaughter.

The Astounding She-Monster (1957)

How bad is it? It's cheap and poorly acted.

Should you see it? Sure. It has its moments.

A girl is kidnapped just as a meteor arrives. A scientist is investigating the meteor as the kidnappers try to take his jeep. Then animals and people start dying when they get touched by an alien that came from what was thought to be a meteor. She has a shimmery metallic jumpsuit and painted eyebrows and is shot in double exposure to make her look eerie (and it actually works - score one for cheapo effects). The best part of the film is the very end, where the alien gets acid thrown at her and all that's left is an amulet that supposedly generated an electric field about her; inside the amulet is a message that makes for a plot twist.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (1952)

How bad is it? Though cheap, it works as a comedy.

Should you see it? Can you resist a film with that title?

Duke Mitchell (Dominic Miceli) and Sammy Petrillo play themselves, which means they're doing impersonations of Martin and Lewis. Petrillo's act is so good that Jerry Lewis sued him, keeping him from ever doing it again. The two, doing a USO tour, land on a jungle island (with stock footage and potted palms), where the local tribe first threatens them and then takes them in. They hear from the Dorothy Lamour-ish girl in a sarong that there's a doctor in a castle that might be able to help. She has an overweight sister who chases Sammy throughout the film. The doctor's doing experiments in evolution with apes, turning a chimp into a capuchin and he's got a gorilla in a cage, which he thinks might be a good place for a human brain. Duke's the one that gets the transfer and jokes ensue from Sammy mistaking one gorilla for another. In the end, it turns out to be a dream. There's a scene where Lugosi is drinking and it appears he might actually have been drunk; this is the last film he'd be in until he was in Ed Wood's fiascos.

This was one of eight films directed by William Beaudine in 1952. Beaudine was known for his low shooting ratio (film shot/film used) and given the nickname "one-shot" for his lack of retakes. Because he always was under budget and on time, he was given less and less money and time for his films, but still managed to make competent films. Three other films of his will be reviewed on this blog.

Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes

aka Amityville: The Evil Escapes

How bad is it? It's one of the worst TV movies.

Should you see it? If you have nothing better to do. And you're drinking.

"The Amityville Horror" was a surprise hit, as it was not very good; it apparently had something to do with there being a real house that the film was based upon. Three sequels followed, all bad, the last one by far the worst, made for television. In the fourth film, the evil of the house is apparently contained in... a lamp! and it gets purchased by Jane Wyatt, who brings it to California, presumably for ease of filming. Here we get introduced to Patty Duke (who had starred with Wyatt in the TV show "Hotel") and a couple of kids. Norman Lloyd of "St. Elsewhere" make an appearance, to add to the television feel.

The film has a lot of the lamp turning on and off by itself. Not scary. There is some carnage; a plumber loses a hand, someone gets strangled with the lamp cord, the boy has a very funny scene with a possessed chainsaw in the basement. At the end, the cat appears possessed, which doesn't follow what logic the film might have.

There are people who actually like this film as a serious horror film. They must lead sheltered lives.

The Atomic Brain (1963)

aka Monstrosity

How bad is it? It's a ridiculous plot, done poorly.

Should you see it? It has a couple of laughs, but it's no classic.

That's an uncomfortable-looking bra.
An old woman has a doctor doing experiments that will put her brain into the body of a beautiful young woman. To that end, she's brought three girls to the house under false pretenses and she chooses between them. "Don't run up those stairs. Your legs will get all muscular and ugly," she tells one. There's a mutant from a failed experiment that guards the door of the lab (it's in chains and has two protruding lower incisors and a bit of hair, otherwise not much of a monster). In one experiment, one of the girls gets the brain of a cat (!) and this leads to the best scenes of the film, as she pretends to be a cat. Another girl gets injured in another experiment. The third, of course, gets away as the lab goes up in flames. She gets followed by a cat, that now speaks with the voice of the old lady.

Assassin of Youth (1937)

How bad is it? It's mediocre and dated.

Should you see it? Only if "Reefer Madness" and "Marihuana: Weed With Roots in Hell" are your favorite films.

The one interesting thing about this anti-drug film is the town gossip who rides around town on a motor scooter and who resembles Margaret Hamilton a little. A girl stands to inherit a fortune, but the will has a morality clause and the girl seems to be running with a crowd that's into marijuana and parties (which seem to consist of rolling around on the floor). There's a hearing before a judge and the truth is revealed to be that she's innocent. This film is too well acted and plotted to be so-bad-it's-good.

Astro-Zombies (1968) and other T.V. Mikels films

How bad is it? It has some of the worst dialogue ever (written by Wayne Rogers of "M*A*S*H" fame).

Should you see it? Yes.

This is probably Ted Mikel's most entertaining film (though I have a fondness for "The Doll Squad"). The plot involves a scientist (John Carradine) who is replacing human body parts with synthetic parts and transplants the brain of a psychopathic killer into his creation. Spies of a foreign nation (or three; it's hard to think of one place these people could all belong) have plans to take control of the zombie, while the US government is hot on the trail of all of them.

Carradine's assistant is not a hunchback, but stoops anyway and he squints one eye and goggles the other, he's mute and he's doing his own experiments, which consist of tying a girl in a bikini to a table. Tura Satana changes from one ridiculous outfit to another and tries to act tough; one sees the talent of Russ Meyers in getting such a great performance from her in "Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!" by comparison. The zombie has a battery that is solar powered; in the climactic scene, it has to hold a flashlight to its head to keep going and it's impossible to see it as threatening at that point!

The movie spawned three sequels decades later, which I haven't seen.

Mikels directed several films at the start of the alphabet:

Aftermath (1982): post-nuke biker film. Not bad.
Angel of Vengeance (aka WarCat) (1987?): Survivalists vs. bikers. Dull.
The Black Klansman (1966): a light-colored black man infiltrates the Klan. Fair.
Blood Orgy of the She-Devils (1973): good title, poor film about a witches coven.