The Bad Movie Report


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.

What... the... HELL??!!??

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 up…

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 unstretched.

Look, kiddies!  It's the Wizard of Speed and Time!After 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…of the Spiders!

Ooooh!  Good plan!Classically 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!

Running Gags:

  • "(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

Cool as... yeah.  Whatever.Surprisingly, 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.

Running Gags:

  • "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'!"

Flash Gordon

Flash!  AAAAAGH!  My Eyes!Football 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 time.

Running Gags:

  • Bad Brian Blessed imitations became the order of the day. "First wing – Dive!"

"Tor LOVE B-Fest!"Thereafter 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

More skin than you see in the movieRemarkably 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.

Running Gags:

  • The first instance of Lianna Skywalker's sign: WE DEMAND BREASTS.
  • 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.

Flesh Gordon

MY ASSSSSSSSSSS!Hockey 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 the Hen's 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.

Running Gags:

  • "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

Insert mandatory date caption here.For 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.

Running Gags:

  • were all drowned out by my snoring.

Dementia 13

Crap poster for a crap movie.Francis 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.

Running Gags:

  • 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

Hulk! Ah-ahhhhhhh!  Please Put your pants back on!Wrestling 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 pink briefs…). 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.

Running Gags:

  • 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!")

The horror!  The horror!Breakfast 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 for…

Mac and Me

Mac and that kid.  I refuse to say "me".A 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.

Running Gags:

  • apropos the spontaneous dance number: "BREAKIN'!"

The Last Dragon

This soundtrack album was given away as a door prize. Of course, I didn't get it.Leroy 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!

Running Gags:

  • Bellowing out "Sho Nuff!" along with his goons.

It Came From Beneath the Sea

Calamari, my ass!  Prepare to die, suckers!The 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 Protein!

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.

Running Gags:

  • "Christ, Doc, how much pizza you gonna eat?"

Tell me about it.  God, I need a shower.What is Communism?

Dirty, lying, cheating, etc. Another B-Fest tradition. Should I nap now?


Looks like a good movie, doesn't it?  PSYCHE!!!!Supes' 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.

Running Gags:

  • Nobody is capable at running at this point. "We Demand Breasts" makes a comeback, though.

Godzilla 1985

"Where's Zeus?  Bring on Zeus!  I wanna fight Zeus!"

Not 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.

Running Gags:

  • 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 all.

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 see… 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. The end.


Unrelated gibberings:

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 don’t 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.

Nathan does what many of us only dreamed about.

I usually journey down to the Jabootu section to spend a couple of movies basking in their wit. I didn’t 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.