If you do not already know what B-Fest is, go
here - time is short, and the water is rising.
Getting There Is Half The Pain
Let us begin the morning of January 25, 2002, at 6:00am,
as I apply a cattle prod to myself to better get my carcass out
of bed. I think of the Smart Ones enviously, those who have already
gotten to Chicago and are sleeping blissfully, storing up all sorts
of restedness for the Iron Man of Movie Marathons. Kiss the wife,
kiss the child, off to Houston Hobby for the projected two hours
of increased security checks.
More like twenty minutes. If that much. And that's
counting when I am singled out from among the boarding line for
"secondary screening". (I am told that these are randomly
chosen by computer. I have flown three times in the last two weeks.
Each time I am chosen. Some bastard computer has it in for me).
Even the walk to the gate is negligible, since I am departing from
gate 1 - right next to the X-ray machine. While waiting, I read
almost the entire current issue of Video Watchdog I brought
along for just such an emergency.
The rest of the magazine is consumed during the flight
to Chicago; the remaining time is spent playing PocketBo on my Handspring
Visor (thoroughly addictive, highly recommended). I deplane at Midway,
note where Chris & Scott of Stomp
Tokyo and Chris Magyar of Dairy
of a Tuber will be arriving, and journey to the baggage claim
This is my mistake. In post- 9/11 climate, you cannot
pass checkpoint Alpha without photo ID and a valid ticket. I hesitate
slightly - this is only my second trip to Midway, and I am not too
familiar with its layout. I am, however, reasonably certain that
after crossing the Point of No Return, there will not be too much
in the way of eateries to be found (I was right) - but heck, there
was only a half-hour gap between arrivals, surely I could just wait
outside the checkpoint and spot them as they approached. (I also
did not want to think about what would happen to unclaimed baggage
The wait turned out to be somewhat longer than that,
by a couple of hours or so - thunderstorms in Florida had kept Chris
& Scott's plane on the ground. I stood in the last public area
of Midway. I could see the sandwich shops of the food court from
where I stood. Six a-m's breakfast was very far in the past. To
all my readers in the armed forces: give the terrorists an extra
kick in the nards from me.
Chris and Scott finally escaped Florida's apocalyptic
weather and we climbed aboard the Stomp Tokyo limo (only slightly
pricier than a taxi ride to Northwest U., and several powers of
ten more comfortable) and once more found ourselves climbing up
the hill to the Norris University Center.
I Had A Dream, And You Were
There, and You, And You...
It's always fun meeting up with people you haven't
seen in a while, and others you have only corresponded with, and
strangers that come out of the mist just to say hello. In the first
rank were Ken Begg, High Priest of Jabootu
and patron saint of B-Fest; Joe Bannerman and Skip Mitchell of Opposable
Thumbs Films, Skip's wife George and the effervescent Jennie
Burroughs; SSgt. Andrew Borntreger of Badmovies.org
celebrated the release of Pearl Harbor on DVD by japping
me in the lobby of Norris; and the enigmatic Apostic
was once more in de houze, making his first public appearance after
bypass surgery last summer.
In the second and third ranks were MegaLemur and Telstarman
from the B-Movie
Message Board (I hear Dekko was there, too, and wish he'd come
forward - it's always good to meet another Scott McCloud fan). Telstarman
(Some call him.... Tim) distributed CDs he had burned, making
sure that copies got into the hands of B-Masters before making them
available to the great unwashed. If you attended and didn't pick
up one of the freebie CDs, too bad - it's a mix of consistent quality
and all B-movie oriented. I also got to meet, for the first time,
Chad Plambeck of 3-B
Theater fame, who brought copies of a fake newspaper he and
his cohorts had cooked up because they were forced to work on Jan.
1, 2000. The headline reads:
"I TOLD YOU SO!" - ART BELL
This shall be framed and hung on my wall next to the
Memphis newspaper proclaiming DEATH CLAIMS THE KING OF ROCK AND
Also making the rounds were The
Brotherhood of Bad Movies. But there's never really enough time
to do all the visiting you want before the movies roll.
Something in the mist near the peak of the Trollenberg
mountain is tearing off people's heads and generally making a nuisance
of itself. Surprise! It's aliens! Gave rise to the first (and probably
only) memorable running joke: Whenever any movie thereafter showed
a picture of a mountain, the audience would scream in terror. We
did, however, find out that "Manslaughter? Accident?"
still packs a wallop.
Obviously, having reviewed it, I've seen this flick
a number of times. I like it, but decided I would be better served
by visiting the cafeteria in the basement and finally getting something
Really, it's quite useless in a post-MST3K world to yell one without
the other. Not that this stopped some hopeful fellow in the crowd.
Gymnast Kurt Thomas is trained to become the perfect athlete to
compete in The Game, a bizarre competition in Fake-istan (a nonexistent
but nonetheless strategically important country) where you get a
headstart on an obstacle course and try to finish it before ninjas
hunt you down. Amazing how much these nonexistent but nonetheless
strategically important countries have so many building fixtures
which resemble gymnastic equipment...
Scott asked me if Robert Clouse had directed any decent
movies besides Enter the Dragon, then bitchslapped me when
I answered The Big Brawl. We agreed on Black
Belt Jones, but thereafter admitted ourselves stumped. Kurt
wins The Game, finds his father (who had vanished trying to win
The Game earlier), gets Princess Hottie, and the US gets its Star
Wars station in Fake-istan, causing us to chant "USA! USA!
Then disaster struck - next on the schedule was Battlefield
Earth, but it was revealed that the distributor had shipped
the film with the reels upside-down and backward, the reels unnumbered,
and likely dubbed into Estonian, for all we knew (okay, disaster,
in this case, is definitely in the eye of the beholder). Volunteers
from the audience who shamefacedly admitted that they had seen BE
more than five times were herded into the projection booth,
not to be euthanised (as we suspected), but to see if they could
get the reels into proper order.
In the meantime, they showed Hardware Wars,
one of the first - and best - of the Star Wars parodies.
Still a crowd pleaser, and longer than I remembered. Then the decision
was made to swap one sci-fi film for another, and it was time for
the B-Masters Cabal offering -
Message From Space
Remarkably, this is a movie none of us have yet reviewed.
Your typically oppressed, peaceful space types are being downtrodden
and stuff by evil anime villains, so they send out eight
glowing nuts to seek heroes who will help them. Vic Morrow and Sonny
Chiba then help them rip off The Seven Samurai one mo' time.
Placing the movie here was a bit problematic - a Star
Wars one-off, Message is basically a live-action anime,
and people seem to remember only the good parts of anime, to
think they are all naughty tentacles violating schoolgirls and giant
robot battles, all battle, sound and fury. Think again. Anime
also tends to be very talky (My Youth in Arcadia seems to
be little more than people weeping) and Message carries on
that tradition. Which was Not Good Enough for the rowdy crowd, who
proceeded to engage in conversation through most of the movie until
something actually happened, and then they would quiet down. They
weren't quiet often.
There was also much dismay among Joe and Skip. "Is
it over yet?" "Are you kidding? We haven't even gotten
to Sonny Chiba yet." "Oh."
Later: "Is that Sonny Chiba?" "No,
that's some other Japanese actor." "Is that Sonny Chiba?"
"No, that's the Odious Space Comic Relief." "That's
Sonny Chiba, right?" "No, that's a rock." Chris Magyar
was equally perplexed but silent - he was actually trying to make
sense of the picture, over the din.
Finally, I utter the unwanted information, "Look,
there are eight liabi nuts. They've only found five. You
have a ways to go." Short silence, then the stunned question,
"How many nuts are there?"
The audience was chanting " END! END! END! END!"
but audiences rarely win in struggles of that sort; uncaring, the
movie played on. Eventually, it did end, and there was great
rejoicing. Andrew exulted that we had already crushed the man-animals'
spirit. Tim kept shaking his head and moaning, "That movie
done kicked my ass!"
Oh, you poor, poor bastards, I thought. When 3:00
am comes, you are all going to be praying for death.
Okay, so it's a classic, and it's a tradition. It's
B-Fest's Rocky Horror Picture Show, an audience participation
extravaganza filled with its own ritual and dogma. Most of us Stomp
types retired to the lounge area of Norris (I hit a coffee shop
in the basement mere minutes before it closed - caffeine! Sweet
caffeine!) and played Hearts rather than go through Plan
9 yet again. A good call, apparently, since Andrew got a
cut on his nose from a flying paper plate and was bleeding somewhere
in the dark.
Grier and Jack Hill deliver the goods in a blaxploitation classic.
Grier is the title character, an incredibly resourceful surgical
nurse who goes Death Wish on drug dealers when her little sister
gets hooked on smack and her cop boyfriend is crippled. "Goods"
in this case means action, random gratuitous breast shots, and Grier
naked several times. I'm sending Hill a nice fruit basket, and Pam
a bushel of roses.
And then it was 3:00am, everyone was locked in the
building, and it was time for
Foolish man-animals! Who wants to see movies about
glowing space walnuts now?!
I remember being blindsided by the hideous Jungle
Hell of 2000's lineup, and now I found myself in a room that
was totally unprepared for this movie. Anthony Newley's manque
beds a lot of women, is surprised that he is unhappy, and sings
a lot of songs about it. Milton Berle is The Devil, Georgie Jessel
is either God or Death, and Joan Collins is Polyester Poontang.
can't make crap like this up.
Having seen this turkey several times before, I ducked
out of the room to log onto the message board and relate how the
same people who had been trashing Message From Space were
now trying to smother themselves with their own pillows. Andrew
- who for some reason blamed me for this whole affair - stopped
screaming obscenities at the screen and finally just gave vent to
screams, period. "This can't possibly get any worse!"
"I have three words for you. Anthony. Newley's. Ass."
And bingo, there it was. Some cried for mercy. Others cried for
God. And Newley sang another song.
To borrow a phrase from Ken Begg - I was enjoying
the pain of others like sweet, sweet candy.
Dr. Who villain-wannabes attack Los Angeles and seal
it in a dome of solidified fog. Reviewed it, saw it again at B-Fest
2000. This time around it looked a whole lot like the inside of
my eyelids. The earplugs helped.
Zadora sleeps her way to the bottom of Hollywood and winds up winning
"The Award". Her initial sexual encounter - Ray Liotta
rapes her with a provocatively-shaped water hose - pretty much sets
the tone for this Harold Robbins sleazefest. How she can be called
Lonely Lady when every three minutes she is coupling with somebody
is one of the great mysteries of literature. For some reason, I
can see Coffy and feel perfectly good about myself, but after
Lonely Lady I feel like one of the Slime People.
Test Tube Babies
A pleasant surprise - a piece of 1953 sleazery disguised
as an educational film. Cathy and George's marriage is on rocky
ground. Why? Because they don't have a child, of course. That and
Cathy tends to stand around in revealing sleepwear when some guy
named Frank drops by. But enough of that for the moment - let's
get involved in a party full of Cathy's friends that starts to go
terribly wrong. Well, not wrong, unless you count lascivious near-orgies
as wrong. Impromptu stripteases, topless cat fights, The Greatest
Card Trick In The World.... man, I moved to the wrong suburb!
Anyway, an incredibly young Timothy Farrell finds
that the procreation problem is all George's fault. (Tim: "Okay,
everybody in here who can father a child take one step forward...
not so fast, George.") Phooey on adopting children, too. The
answer is obviously artificial insemination, thereby producing
children that are free of "the taint of heredity". Huh?!
I want this movie.
The Corpse Grinders
of Ted V. Mikels' most famous hours. Two crooks pay a lowlife cemetery
custodian and his whacko wife to steal corpses so they can grind
them up for their catfood. Quite a sophisticated machine, too, as
it flawlessly extracts clothing and bone, only extruding a watery
paste. Cats eating the food start developing a taste for human flesh
and attack their masters. It seemed the film was edited a bit oddly,
as I really missed the terrifying closeup of the attacking Siamese's
crossed blue eyes. Of course, that could be due to the fact that
I decided that this was another really good time to have a nap.
Then it was the breakfast break, held an hour before
the cafeteria opens. The Hell...? Anyway, since 2000, a coffee
shop has opened in the basement and I snatch more coffee and a pastry
from the grasp of Chad. I then spend a pleasant half-hour or so
with him and his friend Paul, until we go back for...
Not a movie about the MacFarlane Toys, but a silent
short about a movie where all the actors are midgets. One alcoholic
actor dressed like Charlie Chaplain keeps screwing things up, but
that's not good enough for us. He is summarily dubbed Midget Drunken
Hitler, and we all wonder why he didn't make more movies. Eventually,
the cast and crew tire of Midget Drunken Hitler, and chase him down
the street. Given that this is a silent film, and the frame rate
on modern projectors is faster, all their little legs become blurs,
and others instantly decree him to be The Midget of Speed and Time,
after another B-Fest tradition, The Wizard of Speed and Time.
Midget enthusiast Andrew, in imitation of that short's ritual, leapt
onto the stage and ran along with Midget Drunken Hitler.
As usual, poor people have the Lifeforce and well-to-do
people do not. We've seen this story before, except this time it's
the breakdancers vs. the snooty jazz dancers. Skip and I entertain
ourselves immensely by shouting " BREAKIN'!" at appropriate
moments (Though our urgent whispers of "Dance-off! Dance-off!"
whenever the Lead Breakdancer faced off with the Evil Choreographer
went unfulfilled). Semi-love interest O-zone shows Lucinda Dickey
("Special K") a guy on forearm crutches breakdancing (Skip
and I, in a very un-PC moment: "Broken!") and asks her,
"Do you understand?" "Yes, I do," she answers
soulfully. Ms. Dickey, first of all, we miss you profoundly. Second
of all, please use the e-mail link at the bottom of this page to
explain it to me.
Earth played, and it was apparently in the right order.
But Chris, Joe and I decided that cheeseburgers were much more important
than seeing this travesty again. Probably to the best, since the
gag that developed was everytime John Travolta made with the bad
guy laugh, the whole auditorium joined in. If you've seen Battlefield
Earth, you know this happens a lot. There were many sore
throats by the time we got back.
As we all now know, Leo G. Carroll was over a barrel
when Tarantula took to the hills. Carroll's experiments to grow
big stuff and end hunger (how much meat is there on a tarantula?)
takes a turn for the incredibly bad when the title creature walks
out a door and starts wolfing down cattle and people. The size of
the thing is quite elastic; there is also some editing apparent
as John Agar and Mara Corday start teleporting in the last reel.
Oh well, a good time is had by all - Thank God for Clint Eastwood
USA! USA! USA!
Ah, Hammer! Stately Gothic Horror!
Time for a lengthy trip to the bathroom.
the worst or the best Godzilla flick, but still enjoyable. Godzilla
fights the spaceship from Flight of the Navigator. Guess
who wins? Hint: there is at least one G movie after Godzilla
2000. Having saved the world yet again, G prepares to go
home, until some idiot says "There's a little Godzilla in all
of us," provoking the lizard into nuking Tokyo. Way to go,
And that was it. Cleanup went quickly, and we staggered,
bleary-eyed, to the apartment of Jabootuite Paul Smith and his wife
Holly, where we continued the spree by watching Brainiac
and some Weird Al videos. Joe provided a slice of Japanese cartoon
weirdness which can only be described as Godzilla Babies, and
an attempt was made to watch The Forbidden Zone. It proved
simply too weird.
Paul and Holly are the other saints of B-Fest, as
they bunked six of us that night. Paul tucked us in with
a video of Spinal Tap's "The Majesty of Rock", and we
slept the sleep of the dead. In my case, the sleep of the dead and
The folks who had slinked off to Ken's the night before
arrived the next morning (but not until after Joe demanded "The
Majesty of Rock" one more time) and we all went to breakfast
at some neo-Greek eatery where much merriment was had at Scott's
expense. Trust me, if you ever run into Scott Hamilton on the street,
simply put on a vaguely lower-European accent and say, "Ah!
You are the hungry one!" and hilarity will ensue.
it was off to Ken's and the post-post-B-fest activities. Ken subjected
us to The Sea Serpent ("I object!"), then God help
us, the Reindeer Festival short from Something Weird's Terror
in the Midnight Sun DVD. Yes, the one where the young maidens
castrate the reindeer with their teeth. Luckily, I already
had my legs crossed. We eventually gave up on this highbrow entertainment
and made the trek to Superdawg. It was indeed a superior hot dog.
Back to Casa Begg, minus Joe and Magyar (who had an
appointment to get lost on the el) and Chris' choice - Dr. Who
and The Daleks, starring Peter Cushing. We discovered that anything
is funny when said by a Dalek, but Chris' Seinfeld Dalek remains
my personal favorite. Then a bit of Kiss
Me Quick, cause it was time for some guy stuff.
Andrew and Ken left to return Andrew's rental truck.
Apostic scarred me for life with the first twenty minutes of Meet
the Hollowheads. I have not been so disturbed by a movie since
Eraserhead, and I think it possible that Hollowheads
is even more disturbing, since the Lynch film at least has moments
of dreadful beauty. Angels and ministers of grace defend me, I've
had a copy of Hollowheads for some time... but now it likes
to lurk in the shadowy corners of my office, occasionally skittering
out into the light to hiss at me.
I retaliated by showing Monsters Crash the Pajama
Party, a thoroughly awful piece of "entertainment"
specifically made to be shown at spook shows; at a one point, the
mad scientist orders his goons to get him a new victim, and through
the magic of jiggery-pokery, the goons appear in the theater and
carry an unwilling victim - actually part of the troupe - into the
movie. The others were not amused and I pulled the plug before
they could start chanting "End! End! End! End!"
Ken and Andrew returned and we settled down to the
last official movie of the evening - Master of the Flying Guillotine.
One armed boxers, a blind guy with the beheading title weapon, an
Indian fighter who can elongate his arms - man, that's kung fu entertainment.
As Tor would say, "Time for go to bed!"
Andrew and Apostic set out far too early in the morning
for their flights, and Ken dropped me at the El to make my own way
to Midway. On the El, this is not hard, if you know how to read
maps. I know how to read maps. Got there in good time, enough to
leisurely eat breakfast and enjoy some coffee before boarding. I
got home without incident, then received a panicked phone call from
a casting director that I was needed for a speaking role in a TV
pilot, and could I be available Friday? Thus began an odyssey which
would find me stranded in a border town for five days. But that
is a story for another time.
This was a great fest. I had gotten over the macho
"I'll stay awake the whole time" attitude and had a much
better time. The painful movie didn't hurt me. It was a ball watching
Chris Magyar trying to make sense of these movies. It's always good
to be with my herd.
So in closing, there is only one more thing I would