The Bad Movie Report

(for photographic evidence, please enjoy Stomp Tokyo's B-Fest diary! )

The Quest

Ah, 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.

My own 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 spare.

The flight 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.

I arrived 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

Piling 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.

Though 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.

The first 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, 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, 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.

Starting off the proceedings was Daddy-O, familiar to longtime MST3K fanatics as the movie about the hot-rodding B-Fest 2000rock-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.

This was 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)

Our next feature, Beneath 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!"

Then came 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.

It was 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.

Afterwards, 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.

Director 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!"

Then... 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 Hell.

It was 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)

We returned 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. Rowr!

Many people 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! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Creature 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.

Relentlessly, 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.

It Came 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.

Ah, then 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!

The cry goes out from Bad Movie Sites everywhere: somebody release this movie on tape! NOW!

An abridged 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.

A brief 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.

The 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.

Teenage 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.

Then.... 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?

Perhaps 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.

It was 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.

Then, suddenly, 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.

Manslaughter? Accident?

B-Fest offers many extras, and I am not just referring to the free 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.

By which, 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!).

But it 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.

Btill, 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.

Well, we 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

Afterwards, 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.

Finally, 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.

B-Fest 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, 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.

Man, I miss those guys already. sniff. And stop laughing, or I'll whack you with my cane.