(for photographic evidence, please enjoy
Stomp Tokyo's B-Fest
Who of us here, in the rarefied realm of the Bad Movie, has not
heard of this sacred event, this gathering of herds, this hot-cha-mighty
get down par-tay of the B-Movie World? Suffice to say, if
you have not, you must have recently de-planed from a UFO, in which
case we watched a movie about you, somewhere in there.
personal journey to the Magic Kingdom of Evanston began at 5AM the
morning of the Blessed Event. After giving several farmers their
requested wake-up calls, I briskly prepared for my trip (briskly
is perhaps an exaggeration - sluggishly would be more appropriate)
and hurtled toward Houston's Hobby Airport (free travel tip: of
Houston's two airports, Hobby is the one that is laid out in
a sane fashion) catching my plane with barely a half-hour to
was uneventful, save for the bickering between the flight crews,
who were based in either Houston or the flight's only stopover,
St. Louis. B-Fest, you see, was held on Superbowl weekend, and in
case that UFO you were on did not have ESPN, the combatants were
the Tennessee Titans and the St. Louis Rams. Although the Titans
were moved to Nashville from Houston several years ago by owner
Bud Adams (known hereafter as "The Great Satan"), the
Titans are still claimed as our own, at least when they do things
like actually win games. Hence, the jabs traded betwixt the various
flight attendants and pilots, and the universal groans of the passengers,
who just wanted their goddamned peanuts.
at Chicago's Midway airport at about 11:10AM and proceeded to wait
for the next wave of Stomp Tokyo to arrive. I waited for quite a
long time - longer than was necessary because I was at the wrong
gate. Eventually I realized my error but still stayed put, knowing
that the lads would eventually page me; they did, I hobbled to the
meeting place, and finally met Chris, Scott and Jeff "Filmboy" Stanford; we all
enjoyed popcorn, stale sandwiches and surly airport personnel while
waiting for Chris "Tuber"
Magyar to arrive from Denver by way of Hong Kong, thanks to Priceline.com.
into the spacious Stomp Tokyo limousine, we journeyed through the
depths of the Hog Butcher to the campus of Northwest University,
and the Norris Student Center, where we waited for B-Fest to gear
up. As my afternoons are usually a blur of Teletubbies tapes
or the playing of Monster Rancher 2 (Baby Freex: "Monstas!
Monstas now! Rar!"), I had the opportunity to catch
up on MTV on one of the many TV sets in the food court and to feel
dreadfully, dreadfully old.
not as old as when I first found out how many stairs are involved
in B-Fest. First up to the auditorium, and then down
to the seating areas. Fortunately, I left my hubris at home and
packed my cane instead. The cold of Chicago was already seeping
into my old wounds and making them ache fiercely; I can function
without the cane, but I would not have been as happy. And its heavy
rosewood and brass presence marked me as the Cranky Old Movie Coot
- there are worse things in life.
few minutes of B-Fest play out like the end of Wizard of Oz,
as you mill about and meet people in fleshspace that you had only
corresponded with before - "and you were there, and you, and
you and you!" Andrew Borntreger, of Badmovies.org,
with his dreaded Jar Jar Binks toy that proclaimed its love for
Ken Begg over and over ("I ain't takin' the damn thing away
from him - he's a frickin' Marine!'); Alan and Rob from Oh
the Humanity!, cursing the Gods that their newly redesigned
T-shirts hadn't made it from the manufacturers in time (and my wallet
sighed in relief); Apostic from B-Notes,
who, it turns out, was the other Cranky Old Movie Coot in
attendance; Joe Bannerman from Opposable
Thumb Films, who was in Chicago for -ahem- his grandfather's
70th birthday. Don't worry, Joe, if your boss calls, that's my story,
and I'm stickin' to it. For a 70 year-old, he really knows how to
party. And of course, in the center of the storm, Ken Begg, Patron
Saint of B-Fest, Agent of Jabootu
and our vote for Perfect Host of the New Millennium.
Would You Please Just Get To The Movies?
alright. Our introductions and back-slappings were interrupted by
the beginning of the movies, and we hunkered down to 24 hours of
bad cinema goodness.
off the proceedings was Daddy-O, familiar to longtime MST3K
fanatics as the movie about the hot-rodding rock-n-roll
singer with his pants hitched up to his nipples and the near-sighted
musclebound David Letterman clone. Daddy-O was a fine choice
as a kick-off, as it's an enjoyable, fast-paced and imminently mockable
little pic with some overwrought rock numbers. Though it didn't
spawn many jokes that ran through the night, it did introduce one
of the insidious threads that ran through the event, as the villainous
Bruno Vesota left his office sauna, his bulk clad only in a huge
towel, only the first of many portly men in undress scenes that
would bushwack us through the next 24 hours.
followed by Invasion
of the Saucer Men, with some fairly famous big-headed aliens,
Frank Gorshin, and William H. Macy, or someone very like him. Portly
Army General appears in a towel. Coincidence? You decide. This spawned
the first of many lines that would linger throughout the night:
"Manslaughter? Accident?" (Actually, that did
start with Daddy-O; thanks to Chris and Scott for jogging
my sleep-deprived memory)
the Planet of the Apes, had the dubious honor of being the evening's
worst print, though it was in widescreen. James Franciscus will
be your Charlton Heston for the evening, and we began to have an
inkling of what horror was in store for us during the Ape Sauna
Scene. Second recurring riff, as James Franciscus wanders around
the destroyed subway station: "Subway station? We had subway
stations on Earth. Pay phone? We had pay phones on Earth! New York
City? We had New York Cities on Earth, too!"
House on Haunted Hill (sarcasm guns,
fire!) Joe Bannerman's favorite movie (direct hit, sir).
Vincent Price and William Castle got applause, which is nice. Since
my review was fairly recent, I slipped into alpha meditation several
times, resting up. Alas, no inflatable skeleton, no Emergo. Then
came the first break, a rush for restrooms and junk food (which
Ken had apparently filed in alphabetical order, which was brilliant),
quick conversations and "Meesa love Ken"s. Then, at roughly
11:30, it was back to work.
time to experience a couple of B-Fest rituals. First came "The
Wizard of Speed & Time", Matt Jittlov's pixelated short
that was a real crowd-pleaser back in my sci-fi convention days,
and still is, judging from the enthusiasm with which it was greeted.
Hordes of people rushed the generous stage area, lying on their
back and drumming the floor with their feet, keeping time as Jittlov's
green-robed wizard ran from coast to coast. I felt very National
Geographic while watching this native ritual. Then the short
was run upside-down and backwards, and I started to feel old again.
it is time for the Rocky Horror Picture Show of B-Fest, Plan
9 from Outer Space. The rituals associated with this rite of
passage are well-detailed elsewhere; suffice to say the air was
thick with paper plates during the wobbly saucer scenes, and I feared
that I might die in my seat from multiple paper cuts. Though the
stage wound up covered with plates, my row received a lot of them,
too - downdraft? Air vents? Conspiracy? God help us all in the future!
Apostic, incidentally, proved he probably wasn't as old as
me by sprightly passing out the plates at the beginning of the movie.
Alan Gibson drove several nails into Hammer's coffin with Dracula
1972 A.D. and its follow-up, Satanic Rites of Dracula;
A.D. 1972, seen here, at least gave us the rock group Stoneground
to hoot at and Caroline Munro to leer at; sadly, neither were around
after the first half-hour. At least there were no fat men in a state
of undress. Chris, however, did keep imploring the painfully gaunt
Peter Cushing to "eat something!"
oh my lord, then.... then there was Jungle
Hell. No other title could possibly do justice to this movie.
Ken, in his review, estimates that there is only twenty minutes
of new footage in Jungle Hell; the rest is stock footage.
Ken is being generous. Sabu and his legion of the damned walk through
the same jungle set over and over like some proto-Blair Witch
campers, and stop to look offscreen, our cue for five to seven minutes
of stock footage concerning elephants. Elephants, elephants, elephants!
Elephants swimming, elephants walking, elephants pushing over trees!
Elephants birthing, elephants biking, elephants if you please! Elephants!
Oh, there's a badly drawn UFO that keeps cropping up time and again,
resulting in some sullen throwing of paper plates. The break came
after, which is good - the mood in the auditorium had become desperate
and resentful. We were on the verge of attacking each other like
rats in an overcrowded cage. Such was the unholy power of Jungle
approximately 3:30AM. There is a practice known as "playing
stud B-Fest", by which we mean going through the evening not
knowing what will be tossed at you next. I had intended to do this,
but I am weak, and as soon as the links appeared, I clicked on them.
But starting at about Plan 9, my weary brain began a memory
dump, and I found I didn't remember what was next. At this point,
the schedule began to be jiggered with, so in a way I did go stud.
(End rationalization mode)
to find Gavotte, a French short concerning two midgets in
Reformation drag fighting over a pillow. When asked to explain it,
I can only say, "It was French." I feel no further explanation
is necessary. "Tomb It May Concern" was a burlesque short
that featured (if I'm recalling correctly) Little Jack Little, who
is not a midget, but close, and an aging belly dancer. Many were
the cries of dismay at what was perceived as the bloatedness of
the dancer, but I have always preferred women who are round
as opposed to angular (who the hell decided ribcages are
sexy?). That said, the tawny beauty who did not get to dance
and who was the butt of the short's closing racist joke would be
the first to whom I would lend my coat in the winter chill of Chicago.
slept during The Quest, despite Scott's many exclamations
that was Jean-Claude Van Damme's best. It possibly is, in a Terry
and the Pirates/Street Fighter sort of way. Actually, The Quest
is the movie Street Fighter should have been. It had
been a while, but when the Sumo wrestler character rises in slow
motion from his hot tub, we knew we had once more been visited by
the Undressed Fat Man Thread. Then, just to poke at fresh bruises,
Van Damme and his entourage travel to the Forgotten City on... elephants!
from the Haunted Ocean is a grindingly poverty-stricken movie,
even for Roger Corman, and as I had no pleasant memories from it,
I retired to the restrooms to change into s fresh set of clothes
and brush my teeth. It was about 5:00AM, and I had hit my personal
24 hour mark. I returned to the auditorium to find that time had
indeed diminished the memory of the amount of pain Creature is
capable of causing. It has more characters than a John Sayles script
and is at least three hours long. Really.
I had somehow
managed to convince myself that the breakfast break was after Creature,
but I found I was wrong. This might have broken a lesser man; as
it was, I pounded futilely on the gray security gate that lay between
me and the vending machines, denying me the fizzy caffeine I so
desperately needed. But we had passed the halfway mark.
the projector started up again, with the short What is Communism?
A guy who looks like J. Edgar Hoover's ugly younger brother admits
that he was a Commie, and proceeds to tell us exactly What's What
where Communists are concerned. This is presented in a series of
key words which the B-Fest attendees dutifully chanted each time
they were presented, which was many; qualities such as lying,
shrewd, godless, murderous and of course, international criminal
conspiracy. We would argue later whether it is worse to be godless
or murderous, or for ape to kill ape. "Manslaughter? Accident?"
We waved our little plastic American flags and felt better. What
is Communism was the perfect cure for the doldrums visited upon
us by Jungle Hell and Creature from the Haunted Sea,
which were both godless and murderous.
From Outer Space was presented in 3-D, an oh-so-nice idea that
was torpedoed by the 3-D glasses from Deep Vision 3D of Hollywood,
who made the red lens too damned dark! I was able to watch
the movie for perhaps 10 minute stretches until forced to rest my
eyes, as the left eye tried to squint and the right to widen to
even out the two channels. I got some nice 3-D moments, true, but
also a lot of pain. Most just gave up and watched the scrambled
version, or grabbed some sleep.
Son of Blob, released as Beware the Blob!, which is
how I saw when it was first released. What a wonderful pedigree...
directed by Larry Hagman, with an amazing cast - Godfrey Cambridge,
Shelly Berman, Burgess Meredith, Dick Van Patten, Robert Horton
(as Chris pointed out, doing an excellent Marjoe Gortner impersonation),
Cindy Williams, Gerrit Graham, Carol Lynley, Bud Cort.... God, I
could go on forever. As God as my witness, I had forgotten the guy
the blob surprises in his bathtub, and who leaps naked into the
street to get away. Given the B-Fest's thread, the fellow of course
looked like a cross between Tor Johnson and George "The Animal"
Steele. I was immediately jollified by the fact that he's wearing
a fez while in the bathtub. Ha ha! Fez!
goes out from Bad Movie Sites everywhere: somebody release this
movie on tape! NOW!
good parts version of the 1935 Karloff/Lugosi The Raven rounded
out this block. It was certainly entertaining, though many of us
couldn't remember why Lugosi needed to avenge Poe. Then, finally....
BREAKFAST!!!! The Food Court..... LOCKED!!!!!! at 11:00AM!!!!!!!
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Oh, wait, it's opening up now. Never mind.
pause to praise the Food Court at Norris - the food was very good
and very reasonably priced. I dined upon pizza (again) and eggplant
parmagian! Grabbed a nice-sized bag of Sun Chips and headed
back to the auditorium for the home stretch.
Red Nightmare proves that Commies are indeed lying, godless
and murderous, and thank goodness Jack Webb is there to set things
straight for us all. Then came Five
Million Years to Earth, probably the most quality movie
to be shown at this B-Fest. It's a movie I truly love, which may
have been my downfall, as I should have used the time to get more
alpha rest - this would haunt me later.
Caveman. Uh huh. Stock dinosaur footage. Portly men in loincloths
made of bathroom rugs. The confluence of unexpected Threads continued.
I had intended to get more alpha sleep during The
Slime People, but it is just too fertile a ground for riffing.
the holy grail. What I had looked forward to ever since that first
first regretful clicking on the film list link. Faster, Pussycat!
Kill! Kill! Oh my lord. The first ten minutes of this movie
must rank among the sweetest of my moviegoing career. Drag racing,
go-go dancing, karate fighting, and a bikini babe bound and gagged...
can it get any better than this?
the projectionist was feeling the effects of the marathon, as a
bizarrely appropriate glitch developed: the frame was set too low,
and the composition of most of Meyer's shots was thrown alarmingly
off-kilter. The women were reduced to headless creatures, represented
only by their hips and boobs. Russ Meyer is probably somewhere giggling
at the thought.
eventually corrected, but then it was possibly too low; the audience
was fairly certain that at some points, Meyers would have been concentrating
more on the actress' breasts. Sadly, by this point, I was past 36
hours without any real sleep; I blacked out several times during
Faster Pussycat. Damn. Now I guess I have to buy the
tape. Drat and double drat.
it was over, and the weary movienauts gathered their belongings
and began to pick up the trash; pats on the back all 'round to the
B-Fest attendees - we cleaned up after ourselves pretty well. Only
vacuuming was necessary afterwards.
offers many extras, and I am not just referring to the free IGN.com
T-shirts and bright orange plastic cups Stomp Tokyo was passing
out like they were water; there are the B-Fest Players, who perform
interactive skits in front of the screen. There is the Phantom Slide
Whistle, who is a model of restraint, dropping in the dulcet tone
of the slide whistle perhaps once a movie. He should be used as
an example to others.
of course, I mean the inevitable laser pointers. I am told that
this year the laser pointers were far less bothersome than they
were last year, so I can only speculate why there was not grievous
bodily harm done then. I personally feel there is no reason in the
world to carry a laser pointer unless you are making a presentation;
their presence in a movie theater is an affront, amount to minor
vandalism, and are one more reason that when I own a movie theater,
there will be armed guards posted in the auditoriums. Come now:
how funny can one dot be? Their occasional use was humorous at certain
times, especially the fancier models that actually projected pictures
(though it took us hours to figure out that drawing was a mouse....
hey Longstreet! It's upside down!).
got ugly when in Faster Pussycat! the inevitable dot would
perch on a breast, and stay there.... and stay there. Cut to close-up
of face. Back to medium shot. Dot is back. Finally, Chris took to
shouting, "Alright, she has breasts! We get it!"
When it continued past two shoutings, Andrew joined in, glaring
back into the darkness, searching for the tell-tale red light. Perhaps
Andrew's hunter-killer vibes got the message across, at last. Perhaps
they had seen his Jar Jar Binks antics earlier in the evening, and
this frightened them even more; in any case, we settled down to
an unsullied Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, and it was good.
my sleep-deprived brain entertained a fantasy where Andrew charges
up the aisle, and as he passes me, I toss my cane up in the air:
it lands in his outstretched hand, smooth and solid like the Bowie
Knife flying into John Wayne's hand in Red River. From the
darkness above comes muffled thuds and cries of pain. Andrew silently
hands me the cane back as he passes, never breaking his stride.
We never make eye contact, as we are both watching the bikini-clad
Lolita go-go dance with the tall blonde with the low-slung jeans.
got the same result without violence or my having to pick teeth
out of my cane. That's laudable, but less satisfying. (No doubt
it is the lack of sleep and surfeit of b-movie imagery talking.
No, really. Neither Andrew nor I would hurt a fly. Unless it had
a laser pointer, the bastard.)
We Had Pizza, Too, Back On Earth
a number of us retired to stately Begg Manor and consumed pizza,
drank beer, and talked endlessly about movies. I see now the wisdom
of actually sleeping during the proceedings, as Paul, the Jabootu
Minister of Propaganda (and wily veteran of these things) drove
us there, and Paul had known when to sleep. He got us there quite
safely, in the gently falling snow. I kept blacking out in the front
seat, rousing myself only to toss in some pertinent fact in the
ongoing conversation, and hoping that the proper place for the fact
hadn't been before I nodded off.
before we left on Sunday, Ken once more showed the scene from Sextette
that had been the talk of the Fest (well, more like a fearfully-whispered
urban legend, actually. Think Candyman). We watched with
dismay as Timothy Dalton tried to sing and Mae West tried to move
her surgically-stretched face. Andrew tried to burrow under a coffee
table for protection. Grown men wept. Some tried to pull their own
heads off. I sat, amazed and delighted; after Jungle Hell,
this was less than nothing.
was really, really, really a lot of fun (really to the nth
power); I recommend it highly. But for me, this was the part of
the trip that was the most worthwhile; sitting and talking with
friends both new and old, exchanging ideas without typing them out
on a keyboard. There are many wishes I have for next year: One,
to actually be able to make it again; Two, to time our entrance
better so someone will actually see us get out of the damned
limo; Three, bring more free crap (according to IGN.com, free crap
is a powerful babe magnet); Four, develop the laser-pointer seeking
missile; and Five, manage to somehow get there a day early or stay
a day later to have more time to talk. We especially missed
having the opportunity to talk with Ken more than a few minutes
at a time, as he bustled about, playing host and taxi service.
miss those guys already. sniff. And stop laughing, or I'll
whack you with my cane.