The Bad Movie Report

B-FEST: 2003

The MegaLemur Version

It was a dark and dismal Chicago evening, the kind of day one wants to spend inside curled up with some snacks taking in a flick. A good thing, too, since after months of anticipation, B-Fest 2003 was finally upon me. In the previous weeks, I had been proselytizing far and wide, trying to convince my fellow college students to give 24 hours of cinematic pain a try. By 3:30 PM on January 24, however, the potentially interested parties had been narrowed down to two hardcore ninja droogs. The wheat had been separated from the chaff, now it was time to separate the boys from the men. Their dedication was demonstrated early on, as we hadn't been traveling for more than 5 minutes when we were nearly run over trying to catch a bus. I was fearful on the train north, because I had been up since the early morning conditioning, and my local grocer failed to provide the Jolt or Surge I was depending on to keep me awake the entire night. In both of my previous Fests, I had been unable to stay up for the whole time, falling prey to the soporific monochromaticity of War of the Colossal Beast in 2001 and Slime People in 2002. This year was going to be different, though - I had a crew to back me up, so I had something to prove. My initial fears were allayed the second I touched down in Evanston: breathe it in, there was cheese in the air. Soon, a fellow walking next to me noticed my arms laden with foodstuffs and pillows.

"B-Fest?" he said.

"B-Fest," I replied. "Merkin?"

[shudder] "Merkin," he winced. Ah, a fellow veteran. Finally, the massive form of Norris loomed on the lakeshore horizon, looking black and ominous in the twilight. Inside, however, all was right with the world: folks with Tor emblazoned on their shirts, overheard snippets of conversation comparing the merits of Octopus 2: River of Fear and Spiders 2: Breeding Ground. Following a brief haggle over seat spaces with a-then-unawares-of-my-identity Chris Magyar, I dropped off my junk and made a run for the rest room. I went in a lanky, bespectacled everyman, but emerged as none other than the Wizard of Speed and Time. Some mention must be made of the motivation behind this act: the kernel of the idea had been planted long ago (see my
B-Fest 2002 diary), but basically, I mentioned in a discussion with TelstarMan that it might be neat to dress as the Wizard, even if it would push into the realm of uber-geekdom. Saying this, I never really intended to go through with it - that would be downright nutty. But Telstar called my bluff, saying that if I went in the costume, he'd shave his head, and shave it he did, leaving me in the position of having to put up or shut up. Now, I had a Wizard costume in mind already for use in a student movie I'd been working on, so in the end I swallowed my pride, brought it up to Northwestern, and danced around in green and gold felt for a night. Happily, it seems people really liked the costume - I ended up being asked to pose for several pictures by random strangers and received a good amount of cheers when I ran up onstage during a strangely Wizard-esque segment of Cool as Ice. Improvised as they are, onstage skits (well, not really skits, we might call them "acts") tend to be incredibly hit-or-miss at B-Fest. But when they hit, it's pure joy (as Hecubus said, referencing his own very well-received antics in Mac and Me, "You like me! You really like me!")

Of course, one of the major things I was looking forward to this year was meeting and greeting the various online personalities that frequent the BMMB, and those rascals didn't disappoint. TelstarMan was present with CDs aplenty (and I must thank him again if only for providing the Wizard Theme Song), as was much of the Stomp Tokyo crew: Chris "icrywolf" Magyar, E. Mark "bbanzai" Mitchell and their respective ladies, Seraphim Jones, Chris Holland (unfortunately, no Scott) and of course, the wily Dr. Freex. From the depths of Iowa came the far-more-sleep-deprived-than-I 3Beerman and his own ninja crew. On hand for their first B-Fests were those BBoard darlings Marlowe and Hen Grenade (Does Hen really looks like a cartoon chick? No. Does Marlowe really look like Duckman? Um, with all due respect to the bronzed demigod from Maine, er, no comment.) Hecubus was also present - I spoke with him later on, but not long enough I'm afraid (I also spent far too little time conversing with Hen and Jen, the latter of whom I only met at the end of the Fest -something that will have to be remedied next year: I have some thoughts on The Brave Little Toaster as the consummate modern epic that I'd like to run by you.) I also encountered a few of the ragtag freedom fighters from beyond the reaches of the Stomp Tokyo empire: the titular Brothers of the Brotherhood of Bad Movies, Nathan Shumate, and some of the Minions of Jabootu, with both Lianna Skywalker and Juniper in attendance.

Peoples met, it was time for the movies to start rolling. In every B-Fest, it would seem that certain running gags develop, and the vast majority of these are established in the first two or three movies. (e.g. screaming at mountains thanks to The Crawling Eye in 2002, and yelling "Where the heck's the Blood of Dracula?!?" in 2001, a gag that Telstar felt compelled to continue this year.) B-Fest 2003 was no exception, as during and following Kingdom of the Spiders (1977), no place or object could be mentioned without being suffixed by "...OF THE SPIDERS!!!"

Kingdom of the Spiders is essentially any bug swarm on the rampage movie with William Shatner added. It's very similar in certain respects to Tarantula (although the tarantulas in Kingdom are normal-sized), and was clearly more than a little inspiration for Ticks. Shatner plays Dr. Robert "Rack" Hansen, who's called Rack because of an incident involving billiards and his older brother. Well, not really an incident as much as a boring anecdote that we're treated to as Shatner tries to spin his game with the ladies. Speaking of the (deceased) older brother and game-spinning, there's a whole love-triangle subplot concerning Shatner, his widowed sister-in-law Terry (Marcy Lafferty), and big city gal Diane Ashley (Tiffany Bolling). The sister wants Shatner, but he'll have none of it, preferring to be a surrogate father to little niece Linda (Natasha Ryan) in no legal capacity. Several audience members went a little too far in speculating on the exact relationship between Shatner and the little (~8 years old) niece, which somehow made accusations of child molestation the next big running gag. Admittedly, it did get a little weird, with the niece being shot from odd camera angles in far too short skirts (were this animated, one might even call it fan service.)

But I digress...wasn't this movie about spiders? Yes, spiders. Farmer Walter Colby (Woody Strode!) and his wife Birch (Altovise Davis) are having trouble with his herd of cattle, seems they've been dying mysteriously. The cause? Hundreds of tarantulas! The aspects of tarantula biology presented here are questionable at best. The tarantulas live in giant hive-mounds, and are on a swarm-migration because DDT has killed off their predators and prey. Oh, humanity, when will you learn? Once the spiders start swarming, it's pretty much just a matter of killing remaining running time by killing off cast members. Strode is one of the first to bite it, being attacked by the spiders in his truck. His wife (the "black widow", as described by Telstar) is surrounded by the creepy crawlies back in house, and in one of the most ridiculous scenes in the movie, she shoots three of her fingers off in order to kill a spider on her arm (she even misses the thing!) Soon, the spiders overrun the town, and in a surprisingly gruesome and apocalyptic scene, hundreds are cocooned by the malicious little mygalomorphs. Shatner and friends hole up in a remote bed and breakfast, struggling to keep out waves after waves of tarantulas (this totally should have been an episode of Newhart.) There, they rapidly break all the major rules for surviving an attacking swarm of arthropods, worms, undead, etc.: they go in the basement (to replace fuses, because in every single movie of this type, a few critters manage to short out the power), they forget to board up the chimney, and of course, they open up the air conditioning vents.

The latter scene comes close to the "unhanding" of Mrs. Colby in terms of hilarity: for reasons that are still not entirely clear to me, Shatner decides to open up the mysteriously-clogged vent to see if it's infested with spiders. He gets some old lady to stand with her face right under the vent, for no reason other than to have spiders fall on her, which of course they do. Eventually, though, Our Heroes survive the night, only to find that the entire county is covered in a giant spider web in the morning. The End. Now, a few comments on the use of spiders in this movie. I'm hardly an animal rights zealot, but I felt the rampant disregard for spider life in this movie was sickening. I keep tarantulas, and though they aren't the most loving of pets, they're no more dangerous or human-hating than, say, a cat. Furthermore, they outlive just about any of the major mammalian pets, with female tarantulas living as long as 20 years. Thus, to see what must have been hundreds of spiders heartlessly crushed, shot, dropped, burned, and run over in this decidedly not-Humane-Society-approved movie was rather disturbing. People complain enough for the handful of vertebrates snuffed for the Italian Cannibal movies, yet a hundred spiders are killed and not a peep. What would people say if someone ran over dozens of puppies with a truck to make Kingdom of the Puppies? All I am saying...give spiders a chance. ::Arachno-rights rant off::

Now this is the stuff. It's everything I wanted in a Vanilla Ice movie and so much more. Bad rap, insane outfits, and Naomi Campbell in a guest spot! Ice, as "Johnny Van Owen", plays the leader of a band of hip-hop bikers (read that line again and tell me this isn't one of the greatest films ever) who get marooned in a whitebread suburb when one of their "hogs" breaks down. (Ice later had a major career, under his real name of Robert Van Winkle, as a motocross racer, so his association with motorcycles is not unexpected.) Here's where the film gets really weird: an insane old couple offers to fix the broken motorcycle and give the crew a place to crash in the meantime. Their house can only be described as Pee-Wee's Playhouse on even more acid, complete with glowing spinning globes and walls covered in quotes referencing Oscar Wilde (!!!)

Of course, a movie about a guy waiting around for his bike to be fixed would be pretty boring, so another plotline involving a love interest for Ice is thrown in. To woo her, Ice acts like a jerk and starts stalking her. Oh, Ice...he's a dreamboat. Seriously, allow me to summarize the history of their relationship:

  • 1. Ice jumps his bike in front of her while she's riding her horse, causing the horse to throw her. Oh, Ice...
  • 2. Ice finds out that she (Kathy Winslow, played by Kristin Minter) is a high school senior who's received many scholarships, and starts stalking her at her house. He then steals her black book containing all her forms for college. Oh, Ice...
  • 3. Kathy wakes up in the morning (dressed in a rather sheer nightie for a girl her age) as a pantsless Ice lying next to her drops ice cubes in her mouth. This scene in no way is supposed to suggest that Kathy and Ice had conscious sex, rather, it quite clearly tells us that an unclothed Ice broke into her room while she was sleeping and lied next to her all night. Dude, that's not right. Furthermore, Kathy's a high schooler, while Ice is what, late twenties? Come now, Ice.
  • 4. Ice infiltrates the "square" kids hanging out at the Sugar Shack, and then beats up Kathy's boyfriend and his team of goons. Oh, Ice...
  • 5. Ice takes Kathy out to a construction site, gets her all wet, and proceeds to get his mack on. Oh, Ice...

But alas, young love is never without its complications, in this case being that Kathy's parents (Candy Clark and Michael Gross!) are ex-mobsters who changed their identities to escape a sizable debt. Unfortunately, the gangsters recognize Gross on the news, and come to collect. Gross then mistakes Ice for one of the gangsters (I kept yelling out that Ice was "El Blanco", but I don't think anyone heard me), his son is kidnapped, and general mayhem ensues. Of course, it's nothing that can't be solved by a little ninja rap, and in the end we've learned a little about life, a little about ourselves, and a lot about being cool....AS ICE!!!


In the history of movies, very few can be said to have had truly great theme songs. Part of this can be attributed to the fact that not many movies have theme songs…sure, they have their soundtracks, but not single songs that play over the credits. And of those that do have real theme songs, most of them are really bad. But there are the exceptions: Shaft, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud, and Flash Gordon. I don't care if you like Queen or not, if their opener to Flash doesn't get you singing out "AAAAA-AAAAAAHHHH!" every other line, there's something seriously wrong with you. (Rest assured that yelling "AAAAA-AAAAHH!" after random words in later movies became a running gag in its own right.)

Flash Gordon is, of course, the intentionally campy 1980 film version of the old comic/serial tale of the All-American man with the golden hair defending the Earth against extraterrestrial evils from the Planet Mongo. Intentional camp is a very touchy beast, always walking the razor's edge of enjoyable wit and pig-bladder awfulness, but I think that Flash managed to pull it off. Much of this can be attributed to the actors: Sam Jones made a suitably innocent and heroic Flash, Melody Anderson managed the not-to-difficult role of Dale "waiting around to be rescued" Arden, and Topol was a delight as the brilliant but dangerously insane Dr. Hans Zarkov (I had forgotten how homicidal he was at the beginning of the film.) The juiciest roles, though, went to the attacking Mongonians: Peter Wyngarde as the diabolical, quasi-robotic General Klytus, Timothy Dalton as Prince Barin of the Arboreans, Brian Blessed as Prince Vultan of the Hawkmen (perfectly playing a character essentially identical to Vulcan as played by Oliver Reed in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen), and the inimitable Max von Sydow, of all people, as Emperor Ming the Merciless. (Vultan's beak-mace rocked, by the way.)

Several people have commented on the showing of Flash as representing a major shift in B-Fest content, with 50s black and white monster and exploitation films giving way to consciously bad 80s shlock. I love the 50s stuff, to be sure, but I welcomed the change. Indeed, I found myself complaining about the paucity of bad recent works in past B-fests. Call me an upstart whippersnapper if you like, but the b-canon is an ever-evolving creature, and it's nice to see that B-Fest reflects this. Besides, you can only show the "classics" so many times before people start to get jaded, as witness the selective exodus during Plan 9. Also, in all likelihood, this Fest may have been somewhat of an aberration, and future years will probably feature a more even decadal balance.

"Pathetic Earthlings, hurling your bodies out into the void, without the slightest inkling of who or what is out here. If you had known anything about the true nature of the universe, anything at all, you would've hidden from it in terror." - Ming the Merciless

Alas, my luck of previous years was not with me this time around, but my friend Adam did win a nice DVD of The Wasp Woman.


I AM the Wizard of Speed and Time.


Shown every year at midnight. By this time, the Wizard suit was getting really darn hot, so I left the theater for a while to change, stopping along the way to join the little Stomp Tokyo refugee party whose members have seen Plan 9 far too many times to warrant another viewing. At the time, Telstar was particularly obsessed with the finger-shooting scene from Kingdom of the Spiders, speaking at length about how the answers to all the world's problems somehow involves blowing off three fingers. He's a card, that Telstar. Despite such scintillating topics, I eventually had to take my leave and return to the theater to catch the "stupid minds" and Solaronite scenes. I have only seen Plan 9 five times now, so it's still a while before I get sick of watching it. Besides, as my friends pointed out, it's not about watching the movie at all, it's about throwing paper plates around like a madman and letting the collective joy wash over you. (Especially when the plates aren't plastic or food-covered!)

Somewhat of a disappointment, actually, especially since I've gone through life hearing Adam West intoning "Remember me in The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood?" somewhere in the back of my head. This, the original Happy Hooker movie, is a pretty dull tale of famed Dutch immigrant/prostitute/bordello owner Xavier Hollander (herein played by Lynn Redgrave). Also, much to the displeasure of the assembled crowd, for a film titled The Happy Hooker, there wasn't really any, um, visible hookery to speak of, and any nudity was vanishingly scarce (prompting the "WE DEMAND BREASTS" sign.) Keep in mind that it was getting into the wee hours of the morning when this was shown, the sort of time when people expect Bee Girl-esque romps to air (their expectations may also have been built up a bit by the overwhelmingly nudity-packed lineup last year.) Furthermore, this film was really quite confusing chronologically, with the story being told in flashback from a police station. Only compounding this problem was the fact that a full reel of the film was missing, meaning that our protagonist goes from "jilted foreign wife on her own in New York" to "top hooker in the city" in a single scene cut. Really, the only thing to recommend about this one was seeing Richard Lynch playing a beat cop who really had it in for Xaviera. He wasn't even in the movie that long, I just enjoy Richard Lynch villains.

Did I just say that people were disappointed by the less than risque content of The Happy Hooker? It's as if the A&O folks knew this would occur, because they followed up Hooker with what was definitely the bluest film of the Fest, Flesh Gordon. Actually predating the film version of Flash Gordon by a good margin (Flesh is 1974, Flash is 1980), Flesh describes itself as a satirical hero story for the modern age. Whatever its lofty aims, it's really just a bunch of sex jokes set in a sci-fi setting. Not that there's necessarily something wrong with that. While I decidedly shy away from the raunchier side of humor, Flesh Gordon turned out to be surprisingly entertaining. The ramshackle plot concerns an attack on the Earth by the Planet Porno (you should already be able to discern the sort of ham-fisted humor at work here.) The evil ruler of Porno, Emperor Wang the Perverted, has bombarded the Earth with his "Sex Ray", a device which amplifies the libido of all it contacts to the point where they simply break into random orgies. Our Hero Flesh and his woman Dale Ardor are in an airplane when the ray hits, and only Flesh's immense self-control allows their successful escape from the doomed craft. Upon landing, they encounter crazed Scottish Dr. Flexi Jerkoff, and using Jerkoff's ridiculously phallic spaceship, they head to the Planet Porno. Along the way, they are hit several times by the Sex Ray, meaning that Dale is nekkid for pretty much the whole first quarter of the movie.

On Porno, they encounter the decadent, orgiastic Pornoan society, get trapped underground, battle a clan of subterranean Amazons, and take on Wang himself. (Wang is referred to as "His Protuberance" by the members of his court, an inappropriate title considering that it is later revealed that the root of Wang's despotic rule is the fact that he had his member bitten off.) Although their foes are mighty, the heroes have dead princess Amora's "Pasties of Power" on their side. And believe me, the sight of a middle-aged Scotsman shooting enemies with energy blasts from his nipples is a funny thing indeed. As a last desperate measure, Wang calls upon the ancient god of evil to defend all that is wrong and perverted in the universe, and Flesh engages in a final battle with the enormous god-monster.

The god-monster is one of several stop-motion creatures presented in Flesh Gordon, and their inclusion makes the movie really, really weird. This is because the stop-motion scenes are really, really good. The whole movie has horrible acting, lame sets, and generally cheesy special effects, and then in the middle of it all are stop-motion monster fights that are easily the equal of Harryhausen. The god-monster drinks especially deep from the well of Harryhausen, looking exactly like a cross between his Trog, Cyclops, and Kraken. (The other creatures featured include a trio of vicious penisaurs that menace Flesh, Dale, and Flexi in the caves and a completely awesome metallic insect monster.) The god-monster was not only wonderfully animated, but was just a great character overall. Indeed, I think I can speak without hyperbole when I say that he was not only the best character in this movie, but the best character of all the movies that night (and I say that with full knowledge of No Holds Barred). He's just so cool - a jive-talking hipster that just wants to chill and have some fun. He isn't even really that evil, with his only misdeed being abducting Dale and ripping off her top to sneak a peek at her breasts. And while I certainly do not endorse monster sexual assault in any shape or form, you have to cut the guy a break - Dale was dropping her top at the drop of a hat for the whole movie, why should he miss out? He also provided one of my favorite lines, upon climbing to the summit of the castle, he quipped, "This is the Tower of Murder, it's where I hang out."

The requisite late night short. In past years, these have always involved either midgets, bizarre cartoon porn from the 1930s, or both. Imagine my shock upon seeing this tame Betty Boop cartoon. And that's tame even by Betty Boop standards: she just flies to Japan, sings for a while, and then leaves, as opposed to the psychotic, nightmarish Boop adventures like Minnie the Moocher. (My associates were quite incensed by this short, claiming that I promised "midget porn"! I make no promises.) Incidentally, I was really surprised by the portrayal of the Japanese in this short. I'm so used to seeing the yellow, bucktoothed subhumans shown in all the WWII-era cartoons that it was completely unexpected to see the Japanese depicted as actual human beings. Sure, there were jokes and sight gags based on Japanese lanterns, fan dances, kimonos, and the like, but the people weren't caricatured and there was nowhere near the level of harsh racial stereotyping that would be so prevalent in years to come. Rarely have I seen such a clear visual example of changing popular opinions on the international scene.


Noted marine biology historian and illustrator Richard Ellis has, in his book Monsters of the Sea, stated that "Warlords of Atlantis is the ultimate giant octopus movie." I'm tempted to defer to his authority on this one, as the competition is either unimaginably awful (e.g. Tentacles or Octopus) or not truly octopodal (e.g. the pentapus from It Came From Beneath the Sea, for which see below.) Warlords of Atlantis tells the story of an oceanic bathysphere expedition gone awry. Really, though, when does an bathysphere expedition ever not go awry in a movie? Anyway, after being menaced by what is erroneously referred to as "a living placoderm", (that monster was so completely not a placoderm, it looked like some sort of plesiosaur-eel hybrid) bathyspheric heroes Greg Collinson (Doug McClure!) and Charles Aitken (Peter Gilmore) manage to recover a golden statue from some lost civilization and bring it back to the ship. The lure of gold prompts the already shady crewmen to turn bad, shooting Charles' father, Professor Aitken, cutting the bathysphere line, and taking the treasure for themselves. It would seem that the statue was a beloved heirloom of the local benthic cephalopod community, however, because it isn't long before a giant octopus ("the all-time world's champion giant octopus," quoth Ellis) shows up. It grabs all the villainous crewman (including a young, thin John Ratzenberger!), and through means I am not at all clear on, drags them to the bottom of the sea with the bathysphere, drops them through an underwater vent, and lets them float up to the sunken kingdom of Atlantis (Interesting thing about giant octopodes, Norm, they don't kill their prey when golden statues are at stake.) How they managed to survive both lack of oxygen and the immense pressure difference between the surface and the ocean floor is beyond me, but hey, they've gotta get to Atlantis somehow!

Once they do get to Atlantis, things just get really nutty, with an army of fish-mutants, a race of marooned Martians, some plan to conquer the Earth, shapely princesses in skimpy Atlantean garb, and constant assaults by Gamera-ankylosaur monsters. Eventually, McClure and the gang escape, run away from a flock of flying piranha (predating both Piranha II: The Spawning and The Far Side in this regard), and make it back to the boat. Cue repeat octopus attack, in which it uses the gold statue as a club to smash the ship (this scene was actually really cool). The heroes, including a somehow-hanging-onto-life Professor Aitken, survive in a life raft, and two of the thuggish crewmen hang onto the raft to provide kicking propulsion back to land. It's funny because they'll be dead after a few miles.

Called by some a cerebral "horror classic" by Francis "Not Yet Ford" Coppola, I really don't see what all the hoopla is about. On the contrary, I thought this was one of the worst movies that showed this year. It probably didn't help that I was mere hairs away from sleep at this point, but the film was incredibly boring and hard to follow. (One could claim that a philistine like myself simply "didn't get it", but considering that I've followed David Lynch movies with little trouble, I don't think that's the case.) The movie is about Louise Haloran (Luana Anders), whose husband John (Peter Read) dies of a heart attack right before a major will revision in the Haloran family. The thing is, if John is dead, Louise gets nothing out of the will, so she has to pretend that he is alive and merely absent as she visits the Haloran estate. There, she winds up in trouble with John's bitter mother, his brothers Richard and Billy, Richard's fiancee, Kane, a sketchy family doctor, groundskeepers, and the supposed hauntings by John's sister, who died mysteriously as a child.

There are several things about this movie that make a dull and confusing plot all the worse. For one thing, I realize this is extremely superficial, but Louise and Kane look exactly the same, so I never knew which one was which in any given scene. Furthermore, the way scenes are done, it seems like everything is either a flashback or a flashforward, even though almost the entire movie moves in chronological order. For example, a character might say "And I remember that fateful day..." and the picture will blur out, only to fade into the next day! I was really afraid that this was going to be the black-and-white borestorm that knocked me into sleep this, year, and it very likely would have been had not my friends been there to poke me from time to time. One more thing, what's up with that title? Does that make any sense whatsoever? Magyar postulated that that was you could break down the concept of "dementia" into units, with "13" being the total amount of dementia caused by watching this film. Hmmm, intriguing concept, but I'm still not where's my blood of Dracula?

A brief aside on sleeping folk in Norris: Few can maintain consciousness for the whole Fest, so most people bring sleep gear of some kind and find a spot to settle down, often in the aisles under their seats. This is expected, but some of the other "sleeper colonies" were rather creepy. The stage was completely colonized, and as others have commented, looked like any "war aftermath" scene. The freakiest, however, was the Norris lounge outside by the computer cluster, brightly lit with fluorescent lights, where people had combined chairs into what looked for all the world like giant cribs, resulting in what looked like a frightening, enormous neonatal wing (Hecubus was sitting by there, he can attest to the horrors.) One of my friends opted to occupy the darkened, otherwise empty "Big 10" boardrooms near the bathroom...I shudder to think what might have been inhabiting the pitch black windowless gallery in Norris' center.

With the more boring films of the night successfully sat through, now there was nothing that was going to keep me from staying up for all 24 hours. Especially since the next movie was like a shot of pure adrenaline into the collective hearts of those in attendance. Hulk Hogan movies are always fun, and though I maintain that none will ever surpass Santa With Muscles in terms of sheer entertainment value, No Holds Barred came close. This is one of those movies that exists in an alternate dimension is an actual sport, with real athleticism involved and real stakes on the line. The Hulkster plays Rip Thomas: wrestler, philanthropist, orphan and surrogate father for his little brother Randy, and all around perfect guy. Rip has three great powers on his side: the love of all that is good and pure, the ability to rip a tank top that already has three symbolic rips in the back, and the little hand symbol thingy. What is the little hand symbol thingy (LHST), you ask? It's like this: make a fist. Then, extend your thumb and pinky. Then extend your pointer, but only halfway, so that only the first knuckle can be seen if viewed from above. That, my friend, is the LHST, and it is a symbol of unfathomable potency. Twice in the film a seemingly defeated Rip is given the inspiration he needs to succeed by the LHST.

Rip's success in the fine art of wrestling catches the fancy of evil television producer Brell (Kurt Fuller), who wants to sign him for his own network. Ah, Kurt Fuller. I loves me some character actors, especially the many who always play the role of troublemaking "pencil-necked bureaucrat". Among these, Kurt Fuller is one of the kings, playing a full range of characters that covers a continuum from "annoying pencil-necked bureaucrat" (e.g. Wayne's World) to "evil pencil-necked bureaucrat" (e.g. Ghostbusters II, Porn 'n Chicken.) But I was unaware of just how far into the evil range that continuum went until I saw No Holds Barred. Please forgive my atypical use of harsh language, but Fuller's character of Brell is really, really damn evil. Easily the evilest character of any movie in all of B-Fest. I discussed with several people whether he was more evil than Ming the Merciless, and all agreed that the Tyrant of Mongo didn't have anything on Brell in the evil department. Don't feel bad about that one, Ming, even Satan could take some pointers from Brell. Have I made it clear enough that he's evil, because this movie certainly wouldn't seem to think so. The whole movie is pretty well established in the first five minutes, and everything that follows is fluff designed to reinforce what we've already seen. Brell is bad, so every scene will be him doing something worse. Rip is good, so every scene will be him stepping closer and closer to canonization by the Church. Similarly, Rip hooks up with the female lead in the movie, Samantha (Joan Severance) in about three minutes. This must surely be a record for the amount of time even a movie this bad took to get through the requisite "initial confrontation between hero and love interest, period of shaky coexistence, then love." (Actually, Samantha was originally hired by Brell to seduce and confound Rip, but the mere exposure to Rip cleansed her of her sins in no time flat.)

Brell offers Rip a ton of money to join his network, but Rip refuses, because he is too noble to breach his contract. (See? He's good.) Brell then traps Rip inside a limousine and sends a team of thugs to beat him up (See? He's bad.) Mere limos, even those with iron-plated, escape-proof doors, are no match for the Hulkster, of course, and he literally explodes through the roof and proceeds to knock out all the thugs. He then holds the evil limo driver up in the air, and, in one of the film's finest moments, comments, "What's that I smell?" The limo driver then whimpers out "Dookie!" much to the delight of everyone in the audience (or to the confusion of those who couldn't hear what word he said.) By the way, the driver was even listed in the credits as "Dukey." Cute.

Anyway, Brell sets up scheme after insidiously evil scheme, all of which fail miserably. Finally, he hits on the idea of establishing his own, "dirty" wrestling circuit, a sort of ultimate fighting dealy using the lowest, scuzziest toughmen in existence. Many a seedy bar later, Brell hits upon his evil champion: ZEEEEEEUUUUUUSSSSSSSSS!!!!

Zeus, played by Tom "Tiny" Lister, Jr., is the necessary piece to complete Brell's dominance over the realm of evil. You see, Brell is pure evil, but is physically weak, while his opponent, Rip, is strong. But Zeus is not only pure evil, he's also very strong. So it all works out. Zeus demonstrates his evil right off the bat, introducing himself by grabbing a waitress by the skull and ramming her through a barrel for no reason whatsoever. Zeus is not only evil, though, he's also really stupid. His vocabulary seems to be limited to two words: "ZEEEEEUSSSSS" and "AAAARRRRGGGGH." (Actually, this is not entirely true; he does grunt out a few more words during the "Randy gets beat up" scene.) This set in motion what was to become one of the most popular running gags for the rest of the Fest: screaming "ZEUS! AAAA-AAARRRGGGGH!!!" to the Flash theme. Try it, it's fun!

Back to the plot, the sheer level of atrocity committed by Brell and Zeus is almost too horrible for what should be a wacky, light-hearted romp about wrestlers. For example, Brell hires someone to abduct and rape Samantha (luckily, Rip stops him), and Zeus beats Randy so badly that the latter is paralyzed. That's some pretty stern stuff, but luckily I have so little respect for the characters in this movie that that didn't stop me from enjoying the goofy suplex antics. Up until this point, Rip had been unwilling to fight Zeus, but with his brother hospitalized, it's time for some serious payback. This is exactly what Brell had been waiting for, so he hypes the event, gets exclusive airing rights, and just to make sure Rip loses, kidnaps Samantha. (Cause he's eeeevil, you see.) Zeus whomps on Rip pretty darn hard, that is, until Samantha escapes and Randy manages to twitch the pinky on his otherwise-paralyzed hand in emulation of the LHST.

Overflowing with the power of good, Rip beats Zeus right out of the ring. Zeus' evil had not yet been quenched, however, as he proceeds to knock out Rip's elderly trainer, throw Randy out of his wheelchair, AND kick the boy's paralyzed body across the aisles, in a scene that manages to rip off all five Rocky movies. Brell looks on with diabolical glee, because it's all so ridiculously evil! Evil evil evil! Evil does not go unpunished however, as Rip and Zeus' battle migrates up to Brell's production booth, climaxing in Rip knocking Zeus off the ledge down into the ring. While Zeus is falling to his death, Brell had been pulling out all the electrical equipment in the booth (out of evil rage, apparently.) Thus, when Rip goes to confront Brell, the latter backs up into all the exposed wires, is electrocuted, and dies in a scene that I maintain bears a close resemblance to the death of Clayface in Batman: The Animated Series. It turns out that neither the elderly coach or Randy was killed, Rip gets back Samantha, and good reigns triumphant. USA! USA! USA!

Arghhhh...natural light! Get it off me! Get it off me! After roughly 21 hours of eating nothing but peanut butter cups and peppermint patties, it was time to grab some real eats. Okay, it was a muffin and a danish, but close enough. Following a quick gnosh, I found 3beerman and sat down to discuss the dynamics of morality presented in No Holds Barred. Before long, we were joined by Dr. Freex, TelstarMan, and Marlowe, all of whom claimed I was a "big geek" for complaining about the placoderm in Warlords of Atlantis not really being a placoderm. Coming from that group, that's pretty harsh.

Also known as Coca-Cola and McDonald's: The Motion Picture. If there's a way to work more product placement into a movie, I haven't seen it. I mean, the main character is named after McDonald's, for goodness sakes. And that's not all, let's run up the product placement tally!: Coca-Cola, Skittles, McDonald's, United Van Lines, Dos Equis (!!!), Otter Pops, Power Wheels, Sears, Volkswagen, Brawny, and the WGN. Mac and Me is the heartwarming story of a poor extraterrestrial separated from his family who befriends a young boy and must escape from pursuing hordes of government agents and...gee, sound a little familiar? Ah, yes, in addition to being a soulless corporate shell, Mac and Me is also the most blatant of E.T. ripoffs. But there are the little differences. For example, in Mac and Me, the little kid is in a wheelchair, because that, um, makes it all the more tragic (in one scene, when the chair goes careening off a cliff and falls into a lake, the entire crowd cheered.) Also, while E.T. had that one scene with Reese's Pieces, Mac and Me has that one scene with Skittles. Mac and Me's ripoff status is even reflecting in its television choices: the kids in Mac watch noted Smurfs-derivative The Snorks. And you know how E.T. can heal people? So can the Macs, but um, they're ALSO infinitely elastic and immune to fire.

Now, I saw this movie way back in the day, but I had forgotten how truly execrable it was. This was one of the few movies this year that made me shake my head and say, "What in God's name was that?" For example, there's one scene set inside a McDonald's (with Ronald in attendance!) that turns into an insane McDonald's dance party that turns into a McDonald's block party! Factor in a diminutive alien in a bear suit tap dancing on top of the counter, and you have some seriously messed-up stuff. The uses for Coca-Cola in this movie also boggle the mind. It is used to feed Mac, and the heroes deduce that it must have the same chemical composition as the water on Mac's home planet (which appeared to be a barren desert moon orbiting a blue gas giant.) Thus, when Mac's family is found dead in the desert later in the movie, they are literally brought back to life by giving them a drink of Coke. Or, as the audience was shouting out, "THE POWER OF COKE COMPELS YOU! THE POWER OF COKE COMPELS YOU!"

Speaking of the other aliens, part of what made this movie so bad is the appearance of the extraterrestrial cast members. Don't get me wrong, E.T. was a hideous, wrinkly little freak, but he looks like a frickin' supermodel compared to Mac's family. Mac himself is by far the cutest of the bunch, and he looks like a paunchy oversized sea monkey or a Cabbage Patch doll Gollum. As for the rest, they can only be described as butt-fugly. Seriously, it hurt me just to look at them. I feel the use of the communal "END! END!" chant was overused on this year's mild fare, but I was yelling right along with them at the close of this one. And, as a final affront to us all, Mac and Me ended with what is surely one of the most frightening phrases ever flashed on screen in the form of a giant bubble gum bubble: WE'LL BE BACK! Thank Almighty Coke that that never came to pass.

Clearly this year's answer to Breakin'! (there was talk of Electric Boogaloo finally being shown this year, but sadly it was not to be.) Like Breakin'!, this was a mid-eighties piece about people in the inner city taking on roles generally outside their racial circles. And while Breakin'! starred Boogaloo Shrimp and Shabadoo, The Last Dragon stars Taimak (don't call him Tarmac!) and Vanity. Taimak plays "Bruce" Leroy Green, a teenage African-American boy in Harlem who studies martial arts and dresses in Chinese fashion. Leroy is renowned for his fighting prowess, but he has yet to attain the final level of power: "The Glow." To learn of "The Glow", Leroy is sent looking for an elusive kung fu master who will tell him everything he needs to know. Getting in his way is Sho'nuff (Julius Carry), the self-proclaimed "Shogun of Harlem." Sho'nuff is a perpetual delight – he's obsessed with defeating Leroy and being recognized as the true master of martial arts. To this end, he's always screaming out "Who's the Master?!?" to which we the audience members would always shout back, "SHO'NUFF!" Leroy's a loser - no style, you see.

While Leroy is searching for the secret to "The Glow" on the streets, an entirely separate plotline is going on. Evil producer Eddie is trying to get his girlfriend Angela on Laura Charles' (Vanity) popular music show, and he'll stop at nothing to accomplish this. Eddie is actually a lot like Brell; both are bald, Machiavellian media moguls, although Eddie isn't quite as evil as Brell. To be sure, Eddie is very evil, but you'd have to be an archfiend to even come close to Brellian levels of maleficence. Angela, on the other hand, is an innocent pawn in the game. She has the exact same voice as Betty Boop in the body of Cyndi Lauper, making her a disturbing entity overall. Her music videos are frightening in their own right, especially "Test Drive" in which she is wearing a pair of headlights as a bra and a rump-mounted license plate. The two plotlines converge when Eddie sends a team of thugs to kidnap Laura and she is rescued by a passing-by Leroy. Confounded by the young fighter, Eddie hires a veritable army of eccentric warriors to kill Leroy. Sho'nuff, of course, is more than happy to finally get the chance to face Leroy. For the whole movie, he has been trying to get Leroy to fight: beating people up, breaking into Leroy's dojo, and destroying Leroy's father's pizza place in a scene oddly reminiscent of Do The Right Thing.

Aided by his Chinese Odious Comic Relief pupil, Leroy manages to take out all of Eddie's goons, but finds himself in a tough spot against Sho'nuff. It turns out that "The Glow" is obtained through perfect self-confidence, and Sho'nuff has it. Here's where the movie gets kind of weird. I thought "The Glow" was merely an expression, but that's not the case. People using "The Glow" actually glow with fighting energy, much like The Force in Star Wars. In Sho'nuff's case, the glow is red, because he's evil. It looks like Leroy is doomed, until at the last moment he develops his own glow (white, natch) and proceeds to own (it turned out that the "master" he was questing for had just been a computer, and the only knowledge he really needed was within himself and all that garbage.) Eddie and all the thugs are then arrested, and Leroy and Laura live together in happiness.

What did I learn from this movie? That violence is the answer to all of our problems. Throughout the film, Leroy preached non-violence, going on an on about how using the martial arts is almost always the wrong choice, and one must be calm and respectful in all situations. Based on everything else in the film, that's bull-honkey. Had Leroy simply fought Sho'nuff at the beginning of the movie, all the problems could have been avoided: his dojo wouldn't have been trashed, his family business wouldn't have been ruined, etc. And when things finally got so bad that he couldn't run away like a little girly-man any more, you know what saved the day? Violence, that's what, and lots of it! Thanks for your inspiring message, The Last Dragon, I think I'm going to go out and bust some heads right now.

One of the archetypal 1950s giant invertebrate on the rampage movies. Enormous beast loosed on mankind as a result of radiation? Check. Military officials unwilling to listen to the crackpot-yet-true theories of scientists? Check. Female lead with ambiguously gendered character name? Check. Incredibly long scenes of people standing around in labs and boardrooms interspersed with occasional shots of a monster attacking sailors and winos? Check. Despite its strict adherence to formula, this is one of the better movies of its type, boasting some very nice stop motion work by Harryhausen. Much has been made of the fact that the giant octopus in the film only has five arms (making pentapus the proper classical name for it), but this is only noticeable in a few scenes. Considering the cost and laborious nature of animating eight separate arms, I can certainly understand the choice. Other things to watch for: the strangely mutually accepted love triangle between the three lead characters and the 50s era views on "professional women."

Baby don't hurt me. Don't hurt me. No more.

Also known as Superman V: Superman Will Not Be Appearing in This Film. Helen Slater plays Supergirl, who, unsurprisingly, is Superman's girlish cousin. But she was not always Supergirl, oh no. At one time she was Kara, just one of the Kryptonian survivors living in Argo City. That is, until she was given the Omegahedron to play with by rascally elder Zaltar (Peter O¡¯Toole!) The Omegahedron is the magical power source of Argo City, and it can do just about anything. It's supposed to be kept secure at all times, but Zaltar "borrowed" it for a spot of fun, what with him being a rascal and such. Kara creates a dragonfly-like creature using some sort of matter-pen, then grants it life with the Omegahedron. It promptly flies through the paper-thin Argo City walls, and the Omegahedron goes with it, dooming the Argosians to a cold, inevitable death. (Say, isn't that how Lobo wiped out his home planet?) Zaltar gives Kara the means to escape to Earth, and resigns himself to banishment in the Phantom Zone.

Once she arrives on Earth, Kara discovers she has powers far beyond those of normal girls, including the ability to create clothes simply by walking behind a tree. In order to hide her powers, she creates the secret identity of "Linda Lee", who blows Superman's disguise out of the water based on hair color alone (Supergirl is blonde, but Linda Lee is brunette.) Presumably because she is a masochist, she then uses her powers to enroll in one of Metropolis' elite private schools. Her roommate turns out to be Lucy Lane (Maureen Teefy), Lois' little sister. Continuing the tangled web of relationships, Lucy has a crush on their schoolmate Jimmy Olsen (Marc McClure.) Unfortunately, the girls' third roommate, Lily Luthor, was not featured.

With super-powered people, it's always only a matter of time before some villain bent on world domination shows up, and Supergirl is no exception. But just as Supergirl is the lame cousin of Superman, so is her nemesis decidedly wanting in the villainy category. Superman dealt on a day-to-day basis with the likes of General Zod and Darkseid, beings of unfathomable evil power. The best Supergirl gets is a washed-up carnival psychic with serious self-confidence issues. Said villain is Selena (Faye "What the heck am I doing here" Dunaway), a dabbling black magician who lives in a haunted house ride. Her mentor in the dark arts is the diabolical Nigel (Peter Cook), who also happens to be Linda's math teacher (you know, I always had my suspicions about my calculus professor...) The apprentice outdoes her teacher, however, when she stumbles across the wayward Omegahedron. Suddenly, all the power of the universe is at her command. What does she use this power for? Picking up guys, mostly. No, I'm entirely serious here: she uses her spider spells to cause wandering hunk Ethan (Hart Bochner) to fall in love with the first woman he sees. Now, anyone who's seen that one episode of Captain N: The Game Master where Kid Icarus shoots Simon Belmont with the love arrow and he accidentally looks at Mother Brain and falls in love with her already knows what happens next. That is, he ends up looking at Supergirl and falls in love with her rather than Selena. Enraged by this, Selena vows to destroy Supergirl, yadda yadda yadda.

Things escalate until Selena takes over the town (first, an insignificant suburb of Metropolis, tomorrow the world!) and Supergirl gets magically whisked away to the Phantom Zone. There she meets Zaltar, talks him out of his depression, lets him get sucked into a vortex of doom, and escapes, fights a demonic shadow beast, and finally defeats Selena. By the way, it is explained early on that Superman is out "on a mission of peace to another galaxy." How convenient: had he been around he certainly wouldn't have put up with this two-bit attempt at evil. Finally, to answer a question I posed Hen and Marlowe at the end of the Fest, Linda Lee all the way. I don't care if Supergirl does have the suit.

The Big G returns to the big screen following the devolution into low-budget camp his series suffered in the 1970s. The need to toss off the onus of Godzilla having become a "friend of children" is very clear in this movie, which is essentially just a return visit to the 1954 original. The timeline of this movie places it as a direct sequel to the original (and the American cut of the original), even to the point of bringing back Raymond Burr as reporter Steve Martin. In this one, Godzilla starts out frozen in the polar seas, only to be reawakened by human meddling. This is said to be the same Godzilla as the original, but I distinctly remember a little thing called the oxygen destroyer skeletonizing him in 1954. And don't pull any of that Regenerator G-1 crap with me, as I'll have none of it. Anyway, ships start disappearing, and one Japanese fishing vessel shows up with all the crew (save one) dead and heavy traces of radioactivity in the area. It seems that they weren't directly killed by Godzilla, though, but rather by a swarm of insectoids (parasites on Godzilla?) that invade the ship, as we learn in a scene that bears more than a passing resemblance to the Alien movies. From here on in you know the drill: Godzilla starts attacking power plants in Japan, trashes Tokyo, and pretty well crushes any military that gets in his way. Both Japanese, U.S., and Russian armies try to stop the beast, all to no avail, so the bigwigs in Washington call in the one man who knows Godzilla firsthand: Raymond Burr. Now, in most movies, the interaction between a character we'll call The Learned Individual and The Military Brass goes like this:

The Learned Individual: I have such-and-such insight into the menace. I know this sounds crazy, but if we do A, B, and C we may just have a chance of stopping this monster.
The Military Brass: You're crazy. We're just going to nuke it to kingdom come.
(military action fails, but a few individuals eventually defeat the foe using the Learned Individual's sodium, MacIntosh computer, Puberty Love, etc.)

However, in Godzilla 1985, while the military doesn't listen to Burr, it's not because they're necessarily pompous fools, but because he has nothing to say. He pretty much just writes Godzilla off as an unstoppable force of nature and resigns himself to watching it destroy stuff. While this is certainly an interesting take on this sort of character in a movie, it's a waste of Burr, who comes off as being a tangential player at best. Plus, he's wrong, as Godzilla is defeated thanks to an active volcano, in what is one of the saddest closings to any Godzilla movie.

And on that note, so ended B-Fest 2003. I emerged from my wizardly cocoon, packed up my stuff, bade my farewells, and headed out to the train. (As it turned out, I didn't go home but ended up wandering around downtown in the snow until midnight, but that's another story.) My living in Chicago has made it extremely easy to attend B-Fest for the past few years, so I am somewhat worried at my prospects for return considering that I will likely be somewhere else at grad school next year. Nevertheless, I am sure that nature will find a way for me to watch for the Wizard in the robe of green...I will help you find your dream dream dream dream dream dreams!