I hate to travel, but I love to fly.
Perhaps that explains why I was up at 4:30am Friday morning. Perhaps,
but not likely for whatever reason, I had been waking up at 4:30,
regardless of how late or how early I went to bed. I was starting to feel
like a character in a Stephen King story, and was waiting for the other
shoe to drop, the inevitable Horrible Reason for my cyclical insomnia.
But that way madness lies, so I simply sighed, turned on the coffee pot
an hour early, and made sure for the umpteenth time that there were no
weapons in my carry-on bag.
I was thankful that Texas was experiencing the same Arctic air blast
that had incapacitated much of the rest of the country. I was layered
for the weather in Chicago, which had, the night before, hit wind chills
in the negatives. I still made use of the Southwest check-in that was
located outside the terminal at Hobby Airport, enabling me to put
off sweating for a while I was only too aware of when my next chance
at a shower was going to take place. About the only onerous part of the
heightened security involved me taking off my boots and having to relace
them each time (for that alone, Richard Reid deserved life in prison.
I am a vengeful sumbitch). Ah, well. At least my unbroken stint
of being singled out for "secondary screening" was at last broken.
I spent much of my waiting time reading the current issue of Video
Watchdog this continued through the flight, until the seat
belt sign went off and I decided I was thoroughly sick of film
analysis and wanted to actually watch some movies. I broke out
my MP3 CD player, hit random, and let the music surprise me for the rest
of the trip. I had snagged a pillow on my way in, and though sleep was
out of the question, I conserved energy as much as possible.
As the descent began, I put away the player and looked out the window
again (the main reason I love to fly). The male flight attendant behind
me said, "Man, it looks cold down there." Indeed. Frost and ice
rendered the landscape the color of old concrete. White smoke billowing
from a chimney seemed to hang frozen in the air, like a snapshot of milk
injected into water. Descending lower, I could see swimming pools and
hot tubs jammed with ice floes but what seemed to be a singular
lack of snow. Jeez
can it be too cold to snow? Have to look that
I met up in Midway with Chris Holland of Stomp
Tokyo fame and minded the baggage while he claimed our rental car.
This is where the no-snow thing comes in handy. Chris is a longtime Southerner
like myself (he lived for a while in Hawaii, too, and you can't get much
more southern than that), and the chance to drive in snow doesn't come
often. Armed with Yahoo! Maps, we set out for Northwestern University,
pausing only to get lost once and to eat lunch at The Original Flukey's,
a restaurant graced with the bizarre statue of a suicidal hot dog adorning
itself with ketchup. Inspired by this icon, Chris committed the mortal
sin of asking for his dog with ketchup only, garnering a look from the
counterman that could only mean You want to do what to my mother?
I attempted to make up for my friend The Ugly American by asking for everything
on mine. It must have worked - we got out with our skins intact and necks
checking in with the Northwestern University Campus Police and obtaining
a temporary parking permit (we are nothing if not law-abiding) Chris and
I settled into the warmth of the Norris Student Center, to await the rest
of our herd, which took about three minutes. We were joined by BMMB regulars
Josh "Hen Grenade" Grabiec, Zack "Marlowe"
Handlen (a BMR contributor) and
Tim "TelstarMan" Lehnerer (also badmovies
dot net's Web
Fu Master), who was distributing his traditional free B-Fest CD. We
retired to the cafeteria, where the merry-making eventually encompassed
Ken Begg of Jabootu and his cadre
of hired goons, Hecubus and his horde of evil, Nathan Shumate of
Cold Fusion Video (let's see: younger than me, better looking than
me, smarter and more clever than me
yep. I hate him.) The redoubtable
MegaLemur showed up in a Wizard of Speed and Time costume (to my knowledge,
the first time a costume has shown up at B-Fest). Chris "Diary
of a Tuber"/IcryWolf Magyar (he of many names, lo), Jessica "Juniper"
Ritchey (yet another BMR contributor),
Skip Mitchell of Opposable Thumbs
Films, his lovely wife George and the ever-sparkling Jennie Burroughs
(aka Seraphim Jones). The Brotherhood
of Bad Movies. Tex Ritter
Tex Ritter?!? And then I woke up.
Kingdom of the Spiders
trained Shakespearean actor William Shatner takes on all eight-legged
comers as a horde of fiendishly clever and unaccountably web-spinning
tarantulas declare war on a rural desert community. Toughest Man
(then) Alive Woody Strode is on the Multi-legged Menu, and his wife inexplicably
tries to take care of the spider problem with a revolver. When that
fails, she blows off three of her fingers. Guess that showed them
uppity tarantulas! (The woman with the bizarre escape plan also launched
the first Great Joke of the evening, courtesy TelstarMan: when someone
mentions that Woody Strode's wife should be told her man is now a king-sized
coccoon: "Yeah, she's a black widow!" Groan all you like; in context,
it was hilarious.)
Even more horrifying than the usual arachnophobic squirmings and constant
intimations of pedophilia is the fact that even though everybody seems
to die after four or five bites, many spiders dog-pile on our hero
and yet the Shatner will not die!!! They stab him with their steely
knives, but they just can't kill the beast!
- "(insert whatever is on screen)
of the SPIDERS!"
(run into the ground very quickly)
- "Watch out for spiders."
- "What a crock!" (Woody Strode's rather inappropriate
response to the news that his cow died).
- And a strange scary-monster-claw hand gesture the Shatner
makes toward his widowed sister-in-law that Skip and I appropriated
when we were tired of shouting.
Cool As Ice
not as bad as I'd feared. But still not good. Once-upon-a-time rap sensation
Vanilla Ice and his motorcycle-riding homeboys invade a small town and
terror ensues. Whoops, this was made in the 90s-wanting-to-be-the-80s
and not the 60s, so that's not what happens. When one of the bikes breaks
down, the posse camps with Ice's aunt and uncle, while Mr. Van Winkle
falls in love with a local girl. The first half is actually pretty weird
and fun (I kept demanding to know if David Lynch had directed it), then
a plot gets in the way, regarding love interest's dad and his criminal
pals who want "the money".
It was at this point that Marlowe asked me if it was always this loud
at B-Fest. I had to respond yes, it was, as B-Fest Darwinism dictated
that a rough pecking order of cleverness be established by bellowing witticisms
at the top of the lungs. Some will burn themselves out, I said, and there
will always be a mass exodus after Plan 9.
The reason for his asking was the complete loss of plot exposition in
a quiet scene between Michael Gross as Dad ("Please, Mr. Gummer! Blow
something up!") and the love interest. As near as I can reconstruct, dad
was a cop at one time and turned state's evidence against fellow bad cops,
and as a result is in the Witness Protection Program. Does it matter?
Kid brother who, being an idiot, idolizes Ice gets kidnapped,
Ice and crew save him. We find out Ice is a double major in chemistry
and modern dance. Wooda thunkit?
A tip of the hat to Magyar: "Word to your mother. Oh, you're
his mother? Well, then, word to you."
Also, as near as I can figure it, Vanilla Ice really really hates
Mark Wahlberg and Eminem.
- "Drop the zero and go with the hero".
- Skip and I find a new hand gesture that somehow, mysteriously
signifies "Modern Dance".
- And needless to say, opening, closing, and middle dance
numbers give us a chance to resurrect "BREAKIN'!"
star Flash Gordon, innocent but attractive bystander Dale Arden and brilliant
nutjob Dr. Alexi Zarkov fly in a homemade spaceship to the planet Mongo
to oppose the evil Emperor Ming, who is currently visiting natural disasters
on Earth to soften it up for inclusion in his Empire.
There are four reasons to watch this: 1) Max Von Sydow as Ming, one of
the best bits of casting ever; 2) Brian Blessed as Voltan,
prince of the Hawkmen, the second best bit of casting ever; 3)
incredible art direction; 4) a delirious soundtrack by the rock group
Queen. Past those, it's all pretty disposable, but fun. In '79, I saw
this movie and the Robert Altman Popeye in the same week; Popeye
almost made me swear off movies forever. Flash restored my
faith in crap cinema.
There was one clever bit, right at the beginning, during the first iteration
of the famous "Flash! Ah-ahhhhhhhhhh!" song. During each "Flash!"
someone down a few rows pointed his camera toward the back of the room
and hit the flash. Unfortunately, it kept happening, and I'm what they
call "moon-eyed" I'm very sensitive to light. My eyes still
hurt. As it was, I was also the recipient of more careless flashlight
beams in the eyes than I care to remember, but that is a bitch for another
- Bad Brian Blessed imitations became the order of the
day. "First wing Dive!"
came the Eternal Raffle Drawing, the running of the B-Festers that is
The Wizard of Speed and Time, and my yearly trip down to Willie's
Too, the coffee shop in the basement, before it closes at midnight. They
closed early this year, which in my book includes them in the Axis of
Evil. Well, at least they don't lock down the whole floor anymore, and
I was able to buy the first of many bottles of Diet Pepsi from a vending
machine, as myself and a bunch of iconoclasts sat out the traditional
midnight showing of Plan 9 from Outer Space. I'm almost to the
point where I could watch that movie again without wincing, but I would
prefer to do it in an atmosphere uncluttered by paper plates.
The Happy Hooker
slow and un-smutty movie of Xaviera Hollander's biographical best seller.
Lynn Redgrave plays the title character, a Dutch émigré
who flees an unhappy marriage and joins the world of the demimondaine.
As I said to Skip many times, "Man, she's unhappy. She should like, become
a hooker or something."
The film broke at some point during Xaviera's journey of self-discovery,
and it apparently defied easy repair. Thus we went on to the next reel,
which begins with her first day at an upscale brothel. I find myself in
the ridiculous position of pondering whether to track down the movie just
so I can find out why Richard Lynch hated the Happy Hooker so. Besides
the fact that he's Richard Lynch, I mean.
- The first instance of Lianna Skywalker's sign: WE DEMAND
- After her lawyer bails out Xaviera's stable of prostitutes,
the shyster says, "Oh, and Xaviera
" In the pause, I chime in with
watch out for spiders!" I take my thrills where I can get them.
star Flesh Gordon, not-so-innocent but attractive bystander Dale Ardor
and brilliant nutjob Dr. Flexi Jerkov fly in a homemade spaceship to the
planet Porno to oppose the evil Emperor Wang, who is currently visiting
his sex ray on Earth to soften it up for inclusion in his Empire.
This is the hardcore sex spoof of the Flash Gordon series, which
was edited down to an R rating when it proved unexpectedly popular. This
means it gets really incoherent in the third act I recommend
Tooth Video, which still excises all the money shots but is a lot
more watchable. I had considered taking my nap during this film, but it
was going to be the only skin on display this Fest (see thrill-taking,
above), and since I've seen a lot of "Dr. Freex said this movie was funny,
but I thought it was lame" rejoinders after my review, it was nice to
see everybody enjoying the jokes.
- "Flesh! Ah-Ahhhhhh! He'll screw every one of us! Came
on every one of us!"
- Oddly, no need for the "We Demand Breasts" sign.
Warlords of Atlantis
some reason, I got it into my head that this was the Italian Raiders
of Atlantis. It wasn't. Is there any phrase sweeter to the sleep-deprived
than "Starring Doug McClure"? I don't think so. In with the earplugs,
off with the glasses, down with the eyelids. I wake up briefly to find
out what the roaring is about (pretty cool sea serpent type monster) and
unfortunately stick around for the jet-propelled trout.
- were all drowned out by my snoring.
Ford Coppola's first legitimate feature is a rush job shot when Roger
Corman had an Irish manor and some actors for a few days. The convoluted
plot involves gold-digging blondes, a tragic death years earlier, and
some guy with an axe paring down the cast. I had marked this as my nap
movie, since I've seen it several times, but I was having too much fun
watching Magyar have trouble telling the two blonde ingenues apart, a
problem which has plagued me with every viewing.
- Patrick Magee as the family doctor has a speech about
"The mind is like a bird in the palm of your hand" which gets picked
up on for a while, but since everybody is asleep, it never catches fire.
No Holds Barred
perennial Hulk Hogan is Rip, a famous professional wrestler who, naturally,
lives in a palatial mansion, does scads of charity work, dines frequently
at upscale restaurants and speaks fluent French. So, you know, we can
have Komedy on Kommand. The movie takes a very sharp turn into darkness
when a TV executive creates a Tough Guy Fighting show, where a black juggernaut
named Zeus ("Tiny" Lister) takes on all comers in a (wait for it!) no
holds barred competition. Rip is above such things, at least until the
eeeeeevil TV exec has Zeus beat Rip's little brother so badly that he's
paralyzed. Rather than press assault charges, the Hulkster finally agrees
to take on Zeus, live, on national TV. Gee, who do you think wins?
The movie's change in tenor is a big problem, in
addition to the incredibly overt homoeroticism on display (the exec gazes
at Zeus with undiluted lust, Hulk appears too often - in his tiny
). Considering that a lot of the Hulkster's fans were
kids, this gets very puzzling very quickly. Although I have to say, Magyar's
spot-on imitation of an eight-year-old during the first half of the flick
was a high point of the Fest for me.
- Zeus has exactly two lines: "Zeus!" and "Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar!"
Hoarse as many of the audience members were, this became another standard.
("So, what kind of truck does Zeus drive?" "A Dodge Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar!")
break! Thanks to the treacherous reel of The Happy Hooker,
B-Fest had been running far ahead of schedule all night long, despite
many re-showings of The Wizard of Speed and Time and a Betty Boop
cartoon, A Language of My Own, upside-down, backwards, and in Swahili.
This resulted in a longer-than-usual breakfast break, which was good,
because whoever is in charge of Willie Too's has never figured out that,
at 9:00am on the Saturday morning of B-Fest, they are going to be inundated
by a hundred people descending on the one place open in the building to
buy food and coffee. Cane and all, I beat most of them to the line., though
I had graciously paused long enough to give Chad a head start.
I sat for a while with Hen and Jen, then excused myself to find a spot
next to a window that would allow me to call home and make goo-goo talk
to the wife away from the prying ears of my fellow Festers. Then sat with
Marlowe, MegaLemur, Chad and one-of-Chad's-friends-whose-name-I-of-course-forgot
(Since Chad has posted his diary befroe me, I can now report his name
was Mike. I can sleep better tonight). Then we troop back into the theater
with all the gusto of the Bataan Death March, as we realize it is time
Mac and Me
family of giant whistling sea monkeys get sucked into a NASA space probe
and brought to Earth. One of the child aliens gets separated from the
others, adopted by a young Earth boy (who's in a wheelchair) and they
search for its family by way of MacDonald's. Oh yeah, the aliens live
on Coke. And apparently, Skittles.
Yep, it's an E.T. rip-off with corporate sponsorship, in a world
where Fame-style dance numbers break out spontaneously at Mickey
D's and Ronald MacDonald makes personal appearances at birthday parties.
Product placements come hard, fast and often; if you ever thought the
Bond movies were ridiculous in this area, watch Mac and Me
if you survive the experience, you'll agree that the Bond movies are the
very image of restraint.
- apropos the spontaneous dance number: "BREAKIN'!"
The Last Dragon
Green, aka Bruce Leroy, searches for the ultimate martial arts master
in this kung fu spoof. His main opponents are Sho 'Nuff, the Shogun of
Harlem, who wants a showdown, and some minor-league mobster who wants
Vanity to show his talentless girlfriend's video on her TV show. (I really
miss the mobsters of yesteryear who had loftier goals, like money or power).
Drags in places, but the martial arts segments are pretty good. When the
ultimate fight occurs at the end, and Sho 'Nuff and Leroy are swathed
in cartoon glows, Telstar and a friend jump on stage, festooned with glowsticks.
Sight gags! Gotta love 'em!
- Bellowing out "Sho Nuff!" along with his goons.
recently-late Kenneth Tobey once again saves the world from a rampaging
monsta, this time a mutant giant octopus with only five tentacles. Not
a very good movie, though this is neither Tobey's nor animator Ray Harryhausen's
fault. I've seen this movie so many times, I deem it a good opportunity
to get some actual lunch, since the cafeteria is now open. Protein! Sweet
A number of like-minded folk join me, including Skip and his stable,
Chris, and Chad. Maybe a few others. The sleep deprivation is starting
to incite psychotic hallucinations. For instance, I'm reasonably certain
that Patrick Magee was not at our table, informing me that the pizza was
like a bird in the palm of my hand. As ever, I could be wrong about that.
- "Christ, Doc, how much pizza you gonna eat?"
Dirty, lying, cheating, etc. Another B-Fest tradition. Should I nap now?
cousin Kara comes to Earth in search of the Omegahedron, which Peter O'Toole
manages to lose while drunk. Unfortunately, Faye Dunaway as a wannabe
witch has found it, and it's powerful and stuff, ultimately allowing her
to banish Supergirl to the Phantom Zone
though how Faye knows
about the Phantom Zone is way beyond me. The Phantom Zone is shown to
be a place of mud pits, harsh windstorms, and a generally gray environment.
When Supergirl moans, "What is this place?" a group of people hold
up a sign that reads, "Welcome to Gary". Hilarity ensues. Especially when
Peter O'Toole shows up again and demonstrates that there is scotch
in the Phantom Zone.
This movie is a mess, sure enough, but it's a pretty accurate reflection
of the terminally lame Supergirl stories from the 60s and 70s. You know,
before DC killed her.
- Nobody is capable at running at this point. "We Demand
Breasts" makes a comeback, though.
the best of the modern G flicks, but still a good one. It was a breath
of fresh air here in the States, as the whole "Godzilla: Savior of Mankind"
trope was dropped, along with the big brown puppy-dog eyes. Zilla is a
force of nature, pure and simple (and an incredible badass) and he of
course starts radical urban renovation in Tokyo. Superior Japanese technology
puts G down for the count, but those damned evil Soviets revive him, those
dirty, lying cheating, etc. Raymond Burr is back as the only gaijin
with Big G experience, though the American forces are pretty useless,
as they can't stop drinking Dr. Pepper long enough to do anything.
- The "
of the Spiders" dead horse is liquified.
- Old Ironsides fans amuse themselves by demanding
chili whenever Burr is on camera.
Clean-up goes nicely; it was a big crowd this year, and
the Norris was severely trashed, but danged if we didn't make short work
of it. I hobble my ancient bladder to the restroom, and miss saying goodbye
to some folk sorry about that, chiefs.
We retire to the apartment of Paul (web guru of Jabootu)
and his exceptionally tolerant wife Holly for post-Fest drinking, gassing
and pizza-ing. Good to talk to people as incoherent as myself. I inflict
portions of The Wonderful Land of Oz on them
(remember Marlowe You asked for it!), horrifying one and
The damage done, the two Chrises and I retire to Ken's trailer for sleep.
Well, not quite, we keep talking. After nodding off twice in my chair,
I make my apologies and head back to what will be my room. Well, not quite,
because the conversation gets interesting again and I wind up standing
for another ten minutes, leaning against a wall for support as we blah
blah blah. Finally a consensus is reached that dammit, we need to sleep,
and I retire to anteroom #1, where Ken will claim he made me sleep on
a rat-infested pile of ashes. He's joking, of course the rats had
long ago moved out in disgust.
Ha ha! I kid! I kid because I love! This, more than anything, will give
you an insight into Ken's nature: He had, the week before, bought two
futons for people to sleep on. Just for this occasion. And he apologized
profusely because the futon that was slated for my room turned out to
have a defective frame and I would have to make do with a mere folding
cot. And then he brought me an extra blanket, an extra pillow, and a chocolate
mint, and asked if he needed to turn up the heat for us fragile Southern
hothouse flowers. Ken, you could have told me to lie down on a swarm of
rabid, hyperactive weasels and I still would have gone to sleep instantly.
Well, until the leg cramps hit at 6am, but that's not Ken's fault.
Then up the next morning, a nice talk with Ken while I waited for the
hot water to replenish itself. (There is nothing nothing
like the first shower after B-Fest.) Then we retired to Ritzey's,
a local eatery where we now have our traditional breakfast gathering.
Paul, Apostic and Nathan discuss relativism over their hash browns. (Let's
Nathan - younger than me, better looking than me, smarter and
more clever than me, better read than me
God, how I hate him!).
Occasionally, I glance over to Chris, and above the learned discourse
drawl, "You know, I sure do like thet John Claude Van Damme!"
More insight to Ken: He was not at breakfast. We only saw him briefly
afterwards. He spent most of the day shuttling people to airports and
train stations. Ken should have been named Patron Saint of B-Fest a long
time ago, or at least Ambassador of Good Will. The man simply acts above
and beyond the call of whatever duty normal friendship would entail.
More sitting and gassing at Paul and Holly's. Nathan is feeling ill,
and lies down. Paul, Apostic and Chris hurl computer geekisms at each
other for a while, and finally Chris and I must begin our long journey
back to Midway, made longer by one last stop at the legendary Superdawg.
Lots of technical problems this year. Rarely did a reel change happen
without the usual leader running out and fade to black, accompanied by
applause and cries of "That wasn't so bad!" and groans when the next reel
started. We never got tired of that.
Surely the auditorium has a PA system? The A&O guys would make life
a lot easier on themselves if somebody would set up a mike on the stage
for stuff like announcements and the raffle.
There wasn't a soul crusher this year! No Jungle Hell, Greaser's Palace,
or Heironymus Merkin. The closest we came was Mac &
Me, and that was too goofy to truly injure. While that can be seen
as a good thing, the line-up seemed particularly weighted toward the 80s.
I didn't mind this too much, as it meant that the Fest was also
heavy with films I hadn't seen before (I cannot see myself consciously
seeking out Cool as Ice or Mac & Me). But this also
really cut down on the feeling of previous Fests as smorgasbords of B-entertainment,
from the 40s on through the 90s. That was missed.
Then again, Chad reported that a bunch of young'uns left the theater
to play Magic: The Gathering in the foyer during Dementia 13
because they weren't about to watch something shot in black and white.
Whatever. Go ahead. Deny yourself The Maltese Falcon,
Casablanca, Citizen Kane, Grand Illusion, Dr. Strangelove andThe
Seven Samurai. See if I care.
Good news: Only two instances of laser pointers, and those were wholly
appropriate. Yay! Bad news: this was replaced by shining flashlights directly
at the screen. Say what you will about lasers, they dont obliterate
half the picture when you use them, and that happened far too goddam often
. At one point, Skip bellowed at the ceiling, "All in favor of killing
the flashlights?" to be met with a series of bitter "Ayes" from the darkness.
It stopped. For a while.
I usually journey down to the Jabootu section to spend a couple of movies
basking in their wit. I didnt do that this year. I was too comfy
with the Skip Brigade and Chris, Marlowe and Hen. More fool I, as I later
found out The Warden of Prison
Flicks was down there. That's what I get for flying in the face of
tradition. Catch ya next year.
And that's as good a capper to this overly-lengthy screed as any, as
every year I realize that the movies are nice, but what I really look
forward to is hanging out with my herd. Expenses aside, I really need
to find a third yearly function at which to do this. Hope to see
you all at NOWFF. End transmission.
Are they gone yet? What a crock.