1. The Perfect Storm
As I watched, in the early morning light, the water creep across
my front yard and toward my front door - a small but implacable
lake - I sipped my coffee and thought to myself, The 11th Annual
NOWFF may be the most jinxed event in history. That's exaggeration,
of course, but when one is contemplating rousing one's family
from a remarkably sound sleep - one you did not get to share -
to tell them to prepare to evacuate their home... well, exaggeration
becomes a way of coping with the situation.
But consider: Andrew of Badmovies.org
had to teach Marines how to beat each other up (or something equally
important to national security) and was unable to attend, our
first sign of trouble. The weekend prior to the event, the Enigmatic
Apostic of B-Notes
entered the hospital for multiple bypass surgery, which naturally
meant not only his absence, but that of his irrepressible and
delightful wife Jo as well. A mere two or three days prior to
our trip to the Big Easy, Andrew With A Blazer, Ken
Begg's Bad Movie Buddy for several hundred years, injured
a hamstring during the exercises for whatever paramilitary ninja
group he hangs with, and had to bow out. And now, two days after
Tropical Storm Allison had first crossed the Houston area, The
Bitch Was Back, and as the depth of water in my street and yard
grew, so seemed to shrink my chances of attendance.
Allison decided to torment other people and moved on; the water
stopped halfway up my yard and began to actually recede. I finally
got some sleep. When I awoke some four hours later, the street
was clear, the skies yet cloudy. A mile to the north and a mile
to the south, there were homes knee-deep in water. There appears
to be something to this prayer thing after all (Apostic had weathered
his surgery and was doing well in ICU).
As the sole B-Master driving to the event that year, it was my
task to pick up the canned goods for our admission (the price
of a ticket at NOWFF is $7
and a sack of non-perishable food for the Second Harvester's Food
Bank, a worthy cause). The sort of The Day After scene
I had anticipated at the grocery store did not develop, and I
shopped in calm serenity. Picking up the rental car was a bit
trickier, due to the sheer number of people who attempted to drive
through standing water in the vicinity, and were needful of transportation
while their two-ton paperweights dried out. However, Enterprise,
knowing we had made our reservations a month prior to the emergency,
came through for us in good time. Bravo, guys, you will certainly
continue to have my business and endorsement.
The drive to New Orleans can be best described in one word: rainy.
Allison was still holding court over the Gulf coast, and parts
of Lousiana were flooding just like Texas. My wife Lisa and I
saw a lot of very high water on the roadside, bayous and rivers
swollen to just under the bridges that crossed them, but I-10
remained clear; we were eventually safely esconced, dry and tired,
in the official hotel of the B-Masters this year, The Crescent
on Canal Street. We popped the extra money for a suite, meaning
we got a sitting room with a fridge and microwave for a mere $10
more. Sweet, as Cartman would grunt as he raided Lisa's
other early arrivals were Joe Opposable
Thumb Films Bannerman and Jennie Burroughs, whom I knew only
report on B-Fest 2001. We trekked down Canal Street to find
something to eat, which was delightfully easier than the same
trek from last year's location. We settled on a small restaurant
whose name I cannot recollect, but will doubtless try to find
again next year - next to The Picadilly Lounge and Tandooried
Chicken, it featured jaw-breaking po-boys, a muffaletta that produced
ecstacy in the two womenfolk, and was also the place I discovered
my Beer Soul Mate. I had never found a domestic brew that completely
satisfied my many demands upon such a beverage, but Abita's
Turbo Dog, a dark ale with a coffee aftertaste and a totally
bitchen name, is now (as Patrick Swayze would say) "My new
Saturday Night Thing". Good thing it's available in Houston.
Joe and Jennie, being young'uns, heading to the quarter to find
Jazz in the misty night. Lisa and I, in anticipation of The Big
Day, ahead, returned to our room to rest up. Good choice.
2. March or Die
I had been initially pleased to find that the Crescent boasted
a "Complimentary Continental Breakfast" in their dining
room. When Lisa and I entered said dining room Saturday morning,
however, we found that the breakfast consisted of coffee and doughnuts
with a 2 doughnut limit. Anybody knowing what on which "continent"
that comprises breakfast, please drop me a line. Equally dismayed
at the nonselection were Jeff Filmboy
Stanford and Loren Filmgirl
Faust; the aforementioned Joe and Jennie; the Andrew With A Blazer-less
Ken Jabootu Begg; and, of
course, the two-headed creature that is Stomp
Tokyo, Chris Holland and Scott Hamilton, along with the lovely
wife of the Chris personality, Christina.
The solution to our breakfast woes, it was felt, was a quick
trip to Cafe du Monde. You know, when you look at it in white
and black like that, it doesn't make much sense. Here we were,
in a dry, air conditioned room, with free coffee and doughnuts,
planning to walk about a mile in the rain to a cafe to pay
for coffee and doughnuts. Damn. Wish I still had that time machine...
A charming sign outside Vidor,
Texas. Yep, I'm sure proud to be a Texan.
So the trek began. It was a mild drizzle, but the hour was late
and the pace was brisk, and though I started in the middle of
the herd, I gradually fell back, to where Scott, Joe and Ken were
arguing about Van Damme movies. This worried me - the rear of
the herd, not the van Damme movies - because in the back, that's
where the predators get you. And having seen a rat the
size of an opossum the day before, I was cautiously eyeing the
We arrived at Cafe du Monde, myself sweating profusely and huffing
badly... only to discover that we weren't the only idiots who
wouldn't come in out of the rain. There was a line of umbrellas
a half-block long, waiting for their chance to drink chicory coffee
and eat fried dough buried under powdered sugar. The jinx was
still in control of our fates. Devastated, we retired to
a slightly less crowded diner across the street (as black spots
were dancing before my eyes at this point, I did not note the
establishment's name; I believe Ken did, however), where, to my
delight, I was able to order actual food. We wolfed down our breakfasts
(except for Jeff - who must have ordered from the Twilight Zone
Take Out menu), hailed cabs, and hurriedly gathered our Festival
supplies and rental cars.
Thus was born the tale of the DuMonde Death March.
3. These Are The Damned
In essence, we arrived at NOWFF a half-hour late, a bit problematic
since Chris and Scott had the traditional Stomp Tokyo cups which
were meant to be handed out with the tickets. The lighter side
of our tardiness is that NOWFF likes to separate the poseurs
from the truly hardy bad movie afficianado with an opening feature
that is basically a metric ton of suffering. Last
year, it was the astoundingly stultifying Serpent Island.
This year it was Galaxy Invader, and rarely have I been
so happy to miss the opening exposition of a movie.
Secret BMRCam reveals Ken "Jabootu" Begg accepting graft from NOWFF president Alfred Richard
in exchange for a good review!
Film at eleven!
We headed immediately for the front row. I sat with Lisa on my
left and Ken to my right, with Chris on the other side of Ken,
Filmboy and Filmgirl immediately behind us. It was good to finally
go through a fest in Ken's presence - I seem to pick a different
B-Master at each event, with happy results. Though it was strange
to see Ken without Andrew With A Blazer, who seems (in my mind)
to be Chewbacca to Ken's Han Solo, except that I can generally
understand what Andrew is saying. Ken is the acknowledged Master
of Ass Stamina, sitting in the hardwood hell of Benjamin Franklin
High School's auditorium with hardly a break, earning him the
honorific "Iron Butt". Throughout the fest, I would
put on my best badly-dubbed chop socky film voice and entreat
him, "Sifu! Sifu! Teach me the secret of Iron Butt
kung fu!!!" to which he would sneer something about my not
being ready yet, and then he would eat another Nutty Buddy®.
But now it's time to talk about the movies.
The Galaxy Invader
In Don Dohler's cinematic gift to the ages, an alien crashlands
in Deliverance territory and is promptly hunted down by
rednecks who figure to turn a profit off the misunderstood creature
(not to mention blow the hell out of everything with his fancy
sparkler gun). Our two Evil Capitalist wannabes are an Ernie Kovacs
imitator and some hillbilly whose wardrobe seems to consist of
of jeans and one ripped T-shirt, but whose refrigerator is stocked
with 18 different brands of beer. By our unscientific count, there
were at least 8-10 dead bodies littering the backwoods by movie's
end, and no one in the flick seemed very concerned about that...
As ever, an unconcious theme made itself known in this first
flick, and that theme was drooling,
as the faux Kovacs removed his cigar from his mouth, followed
by a stream of saliva. Universal Audience Response: "AAAAAAAAAAAAGH!"
And now, because Borntreger couldn't make it, I'm appropriating
one of his riffs I've always envied (which means he will likely
introduce me to the World of Hurt when next we meet)...
Four meddling kids find themselves in possession of The Necronomicon,
and we all know what that means: that's right, stop-motion monsters,
and lots of them. Not to mention a Park Ranger named Asmodeus, astride
a silent ninja horse. "I just remembered... Asmodeus! That's
another name for the Devil!"
developed when the tape of Equinox ended perhaps fifteen
seconds before the movie did. The NOWFF staff apologized profusely,
but fortunately the movie's script had already sent a telegraph
to each and every member of the audience detailing the "shock"
ending. Nonetheless, many people sought me out to confirm their
suspicions, knowing I had already reviewed the flick. Worst of all,
many were left uncertain that this actually was a Jack H. Harris
movie, as they were denied the confirming THE END?
Drooling: Asmodeus drips some
spittle on one of his victims.
To continue the jinx, we were supposed to thrill to the adventures
of Bert the Turtle as he learned to Duck and Cover! (there
was even a Civil Defense brochure included in our freebie Barf Bag).
But this short and the end of Equinox were apparently playing
poker in some houseboat off the coast, so instead we were treated
to a highway safety film. No Wheels of Tragedy or Last
Prom this, it mainly warned us against roping two cars together.
And that tailgating jerk in the convertible deserved to eat
Night of the Lepus
Whitman tampers in God's Domain and the American West is beset by
giant killer..... rabbits.
The most constant source of amazement is drawn from the knowledge
that, at some point, a movie executive must have seen the footage
of wabbits romping through a miniature set and thought, "Oh
yes, this is scary."
The murderous mopsies are eventually exterminated via a makeshift
giant electric fence (Hassenpfeffer and fur coats for everybody!)
But nobody was interested in my plan for getting rid of the
monsters, which involved breeding a similar strain of giant field
mice. While the bunnies were involved with pickin' up the field
mice and boppin' 'em onna head, they would have been easy targets.
And once more, as in I Drink Your
Blood, we find that children who are responsible for wholesale
carnage and slaughter are held blameless.
Drooling: One of the lethal
lapins foams at the mouth.
Rabbits are carnivorous.
- If two minutes of slow-motion bunnies running through
a miniature set is scary, then twenty minutes must be terrifying.
- It is impossible to say "There is a herd of giant
killer rabbits headed this way" and be taken seriously.
In the following short Mysteries of Getting Sick and Getting
Well (Hosted by William Shatner!), we discovered what happens
when you eat an apple without washing it: you get puppets in your
fairly hard-to-find film; I was excited that it was showing. Hans
Conreid plays a college professor whose absent wife buys one of
those new-fangled TV things, but it turns out it is actually an
ambulatory, intelligent device from the future employing protective
camouflage as a TV. Hilarity is supposed to ensue, but never quite
arrives. Like a lot of Arch Oboler's film work, talky and more than
a little overwrought; his radio work was far superior. As I recall,
Henry Kuttner's original story wasn't over a couple thousand words
long; stretching it out to feature length was deadly.
Drooling: It is 1953, and drooling
had not yet been invented.
Austin, Texas horror host Professor Griffin stepped up to accept
the highly coveted Golden Sludgie Award and introduced our next
movie (doing his usual boffo job):
Village of the Giants
After the fake Bert I. Gordon movie, Night of the Lepus,
here, at last, was a real Bert I. Gordon movie. Which meant
it was time for us to go to dinner, leaving Iron Butt behind. "Go
on with your seat cushions and your dinner breaks," he guffawed.
"I can take it!!!" And we left, thoroughly humiliated,
with Joe Bannerman protesting all the while, as he felt that the
slow motion footage of scantily clad women dancing during the credits
promised a really good movie.
jinx was still in full effect: the road to the traditional Chinese
restaurant (The China Rose) was closed for construction. Using geometry
and advanced calculus, we finally arrived (with Joe bitterly convinced
that he was missing out on ninety minutes of bikini-clad babes gyrating
Drooling: Well, I love me that
General Tso's Chicken somethin' fierce.
We returned just in time for more door prizes (no succor for me
yet again... curse you, Iron Butt! Curse yoooooooooou!!!!),
but having sadly missed last year's surprise hit short, Vandalism.
Then it was time to buckle down for
John Agar leads an expedition to Uranus, prompting a plethora of
"on your anus!" jokes which wore thin at two minutes,
but managed to continue for what seemed like twenty more - which
is, come to think of it, a fit metaphor for most of the movies on
display here. Carl Ottosen, the star of yet another Sid Pink sci-fi
epic, Reptilicus, is on
hand as the elder scientist. As Ottosen played the moronic American
General Graysen in that Danish daikaiju, I attempted to override
the anus jokes by finishing each of Ottosen's lines with "So
let's blow it up!", to little discernable effect.
astronauts find a breathable atmosphere and women from their past
(on your anus!), and the space brain that is creating all this;
as Ken pointed out, the brain is providing a livable environment
and willing sex slaves - what's the problem here? Why do the naughty
scientists keep trying to kill the brain? But there's an "and
conquer your pathetic world!" lurking in there somewhere, under
all those "on your anus!"es, so our badly dubbed heroes
match wits with Brainiac. I theorize that John Agar is by this time
licensed by the government to kill monsters with impunity. James
Bond has the earthly terrorists, Agar gets the space brains.
A major line of conversation concerned the obvious similarities
between this movie and a portion of Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles,
but it has to be admitted it would be very hard to market a movie
called Uranus is Heaven.
Drooling: A stop-motion "rat
thing" (conjured by the space brain to protect itself) drools
in noticibly motionless close-ups.
In case there was any joy left in your life, a short film on the
operation of a Kodak 16mm film projector was shown, an experience
not unlike an endless Sunday afternoon spent at your maiden aunt's
house, just without the pervasive smell of Gold Bond Medicated Powder.
But wait! Who's that urbane fellow, giving away free crap and attempting
to soothe the hurts of the world? Why, it's none other than yours
truly, Dr. Freex, holding forth at some length about the Stomp Tokyo-sponsored
festival closer -
Jimmy, a lonely little British expatriate (Jack Wild) has a psychotic
episode and hallucinates that he has journeyed to an island populated
by talking, cowboy boot-wearing dragons, a witch on a jet broom,
and a frog that dresses like Liza Minelli. And I'm not even touching
on the weird stuff.
of course, we're supposed to take this at face value, in which case
it is a tale of a boy and his talking flute trying to get back home
from Living Island, and failing. Being based on a TV series, of
course Jimmy could never get home. Sad, really.
The movie itself bears the teethmarks of 1970: sudden psychedelic
explosions, strange shock-edits, and the villainess Witchiepoo turning
herself into a go-go dancer (and Billie Hayes looked damned good,
too!). I felt right at home, but the audience, no doubt feeling
the lack of circulation to their behinds, soon became surly (a notable
exception being Iron Butt, who was actually beginning to nod off
occasionally. Feet of clay! Feet of clay!).
The last act of the movie has a Witches' Convention being held
at Witchiepoo's castle, and shows some real creativity. Mama Cass
Elliot (!), playing Witch Hazel, sings
a song accompanied by Busby Berserkly dancing witches. Martha Raye
arrives as the Head Witch, with her major domo, a goose-stepping,
sieg heil-ing rat in an SS uniform, which seemed to appall
a goodly number of people. Raye would later become the villainess
in one of the Sid & Marty Krofft Pufnstuf clones called
The Bugaloos, and would still be assisted by the Nazi Rat.
I laughed, I cried, I couldn't feel my ass. Five stars.
Drooling: None on screen, despite
Pufnstuf being slow-roasted on a spit with a giant apple in his
mouth (Ken: "Is it possible to roast a dragon?").
After the traditional closing act - Duck Dodgers in the 24th
1/2 Century - we cleaned up our messes and gravitated back to
Iron Butt's original plan was to spend a night of debauchery with
the two hard-drinking Andrews in the French Quarter; denied his
two Platos, however, our Dante decided to simply taxi it to the
airport and spend the night there. Lisa would have none of it, and
She Who Must Be Obeyed commanded him to nap on our couch until it
was time to leave. Iron Butt threatened us with his dreaded Shaolin
Snore technique, but we had no fear in our hearts. I snore, my wife
snores, our son snores... hell, our cat snores. We were equipped
with the latest in earplug technology. And after staying up until
2:30, watching Jack the Giant Killer on WGN (how did they
know?) and chatting with a shrinking population of B-Masters (finally
just Ken, Scott and myself), I fell into bed.
Was the jinx over? Hardly. According to the news, Allison had been
storming over Houston all day. And that was where we had left our
"We're sorry, but due to the flooding, we are unable to
complete your call" is not what worried parents
want to hear on a rainy Sunday morning. Fortunately, we were able
to get through to folks like my mother and Lisa's sister, who were
able to verify that everything was wet but copacetic in our home.
Breathing a sigh of relief, we grabbed our bumbershoots and joined
the others in a trip to our brunch target of last year, The Court
of Two Sisters.
Only to be turned away. With the rain, the courtyard was closed,
and we couldn't get in until 2:30 that afternoon. Oh, that rascally
jinx! We retired to Poppy's Diner, across the street from Pat O'Brien's,
and got some sustenance, then proceeded to the French Market (noting
that the line of umbrellas was still waiting outside Cafe
du Monde) to buy cheap souvenirs to pass off on our relatives. Joe
in particular jumped through several hoops to buy a Pocket Cajun,
insuring that every bon mot thereafter would be followed
by a tinny Justin Wilson cry of "Aaaaaaaaay-eeeeeeee!"
I bought a skull.
we bid adieu to most of the others, leaving only ourselves, Jennie,
and the Filmboy duo. That evening, we sat in the courtyard of Pat
O'Brian's, where luckily the tables have enormous umbrellas.
Sat in the rain, sucking down rum mixed with fruit punch, and talked
endlessly. Well, except for Jennie, who just sat there, observing.
And in a zen-like moment, I realized what it was like to sit at
a table with me in similar circumstances.
Monday dawned, Timothy McVeigh received his orientation packet
at the Gates of Hell, and we packed to return home. As the last
zipper on the last bag was closed, the sun burst through the clouds,
and blue skies appeared. Ayyyyyyyyy-eeeeeeee!
If there was one thing we learned last year, it is possible to
snag a parking place in the Quarter on a Monday morning. So we all
piled into the rented Freex-mobile and finally had our damned coffee
and beignets at Cafe du Monde. Take that, you stinking jinx!
A final gout of shopping, and we were all off to our respective
homes, Lisa and myself passing through several flooded vistas and
outlying developments, the Filmboy and Stomp Tokyo contingents actually
flying through Allison to await her arrival at their doorsteps:
The jinx was once again on the move.