Al and Crystal of the NOWFF staff,
introducing Night of the Lepus.
For the b-movie aficionado looking to combine a crap cinema event with some vacation time, there is no better event than the New Orleans Worst Film Festival. To be sure, Chicago's B-Fest hosts a longer set of movies and a more comfortable theater setting, but it combines that with weather that encourages one to stay indoors for twenty-four hours straight. NOWFF, on the other hand, is an event around which it makes sense to plan a long weekend trip. The twelve-hour running time and PG-rating limit on films also makes it more hospitable to significant others, who may either hang out at the festival or run along to see other parts of New Orleans without being deprived of company for a full 24 hours.

This is all a very long-winded way of saying that Chris' wife Christina and "Filmboy" Jeff's girlfriend Loren decided to come along to NOWFF this year and see what a b-movie festival was like. Should the experience prove too difficult to take, they had the convenient escape hatch of New Orleans and its tourist attractions to keep them occupied. Better yet, a number of other "B-Girls" (B-Gals? B-Chicks? Queen Bs? B-Widows?) had plans to attend, so there was the promise of commiseration with women who understood the plight of being in love with a man who loves bad movies.

The Stomp Tokyo gang, loose on the
streets of New Orleans!
In the end, just one other B-Girl attended: Lisa, the effervescent wife of Dr. Freex. Lisa earned her b-cred in 2000 by withstanding that year's NOWFF, along with Katie Borntreger (of badmovies.org) and Jo Hurst (of B-Notes). Andrew's Marine-duty-induced no-show at this year's NOWFF prevented Katie's appearance, and Apostic's unexpected quintuple-bypass heart surgery put the kibosh on the Hursts' travel plans as well. So the number of B-Girls this year was once again three. (Insert your own "Holy Hand Grenade" joke here.)

Although the presence of Andrew, Apostic, and their spouses was sorely missed, it did mean that the B-Master presence this year was overwhelmingly stacked in Stomp Tokyo's favor. With Joe "Opposable Thumb Films" Bannerman rounding out the ST group, Ken "Jabootu" Begg was the only representative from another site.

Also joining us was Jennie Burroughs. Jennie is an extraordinary woman by any measure, but most especially in our estimate because of her deep love for schlock cinema. We met Jennie in January at B-Fest and her appearance at NOWFF was a pleasant reminder that there are people who love b-movies without feeling the need to catalog them extensively on web sites. She indicated that the festival's location might have had some small part in her decision to attend, but we know the truth: she was drawn to the company of other b-movie fans like a moth to a flame. Just a little advice for Jennie and her plans to do a B-Movie website that may feature a "trophy husband of the month" - Trophy husbands are supposed to prove how successful you are. If you were married to Billy Drago, people would not think you were successful, but rather desperate and possibly vision impaired.

With the cast thus assembled, NOWFF 2001 was certain to be another good time.

June 8 - Friday

Freex asks Joe the inevitable:
"Is that a Cajun in your pocket,
or are you just glad to see me?
Aiiiiyeeeeeee!"
With our High Quality Plastic Promotional Items (cups) and extemely exciting door prizes packed into a box and checked as luggage on our flight, we arrive in New Orleans a few minutes late because of a certain tropical storm that is making its way through the area. We are greeted immediately by Jeff and Loren, who have also managed to hook up with Ken in the preceding hour.

Loren and Jeff are good friends who live a couple of hours away. We've known Jeff since college, and Loren more recently through Jeff. Loren has been perfect for Jeff's film education. An avowed lover of schlock horror flicks, she has guided her man of gentler film tastes head-on into such classics as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Exorcist.

Ken's eyes are glued to a nearby television as he tries to determine the scores of that night's Cubs-Sox game. Chris punches it up on his cell phone web browser (no technological solution is too complicated) and we are free to make our way to the hotel via rental car. Although renting a car makes certain aspects of NOWFF more convenient (getting to the festival itself, and to dinner during the fest), the relative expense of cars, gas, and parking ($19 a night!) was probably more than we should have spent for the time we actually used the vehicles. Live and learn.

Dr. Freex selects a winner for the
Stomp Tokyo coffee mug.
The hotel itself is the cause of some concern. Since we discovered it via the web (repository of much distorted knowledge), we had no basis on which to judge its quality. It wasn't until the day of our departure that Chris and Jennie independently discovered a New Orleans message board with horror stories about the accommodations. Fortunately, these tales of funky bed sheets and beer-soaked elevators turn out to be false, at least in the off-season. A little experimentation with the shower faucets yields actual hot water (an improvement from the previous year's hotel), and the rooms are reasonably clean.

After checking in, Chris, Christina, Jeff, and Loren escape to Pat O'Brien's for a hurricane or two before retiring to bed like the more sensible folks.

June 9 - Saturday

The group convenes at 9:30 in the hotel's "restaurant," which is actually just a meeting room with some tables. Laid out along a wall are some tables with coffee and donuts, presumably the "continental breakfast" we were promised. Our plans to visit Cafe du Monde for breakfast are stymied by a huge line outside its covered seating area. It seems that no one wants to sit in the rain to eat beignets, so seating has been cut significantly. We end up across the street at The River's Edge Cafe, which serves up a mean pain perdu (French toast) and biscuits to match.

Another strike in favor of taking a cab to the Fest: none of us can read a map. Our Yahoo directions turn us the wrong direction from the outset, and thus we end up at the Fest fifteen minutes late, our cargo of precious plastic cups included. Still, our mood is unspoiled, and we deliver the goods before sitting down in front of the last half of the first film:

Galaxy Invader

A Stomp Tokyo t-shirt:
something to smile about.
The first movie of the night, Galaxy Invader is another fine film in the tradition of local genre films like Giant Spider Invasion, but set in Maryland instead of Wisconsin. An alien clashes with a bunch of rednecks. That's about it really. The head redneck captures the alien and steals the alien's gun and kills the local slutty woman. The good guys take revenge by wrestling him in to submission, but it's up to a old lady to smack him in the back on the head with a shotgun. We get to see this in slow motion three times from different angles, and they don't even bother to hide the fact that Ma stops just short of actually hitting him in any of them. In a classic moment of American Gothic, the non-existent blow turns him into a rag doll and throws him 50 feet off a cliff while Ma looks determinedly down at his corpse.

This movie is sponsored by beer. Several fine domestic brands are featured, planted firmly in the hands of the various actors. We're pretty sure they provided motivation as well as atmosphere.

This is followed by a stop-motion animated short involving toys and the alphabet. Someone at NOWFF has access to a school's library of leftover 16mm films from a few decades back.

Equinox

"It says here that Sam Raimi will
make this movie a lot better."
The most remarkable feature of this film is the starring role of Frank Bonner, aka "Herb Tarlek" from the TV series WKRP in Cincinatti. Bonner plays Jim, a sort of proto-Ash (Evil Dead) character who discovers the Necronomicon (Book of the Dead) and exploits its mystic abilities. There is much gnashing of teeth and mooshing of lips as the demons try to take over the small group of meddling kids. Unfortunately, the villain isn't Mr. Gribble in a monster mask -- it's actually the devil. Jinky!

The film cuts off within 30 seconds of its end, which was a bit disappointing, but completely understandable. In fact, it's much preferable to the reel of Wild in the Streets that was shown at B-Fest -- upside-down and backwards! The NOWFF staff goes to great lengths to assure us that they will have words with the distributor, and we believe them.

Sponsored by Bruce Campbell, who in some odd way owes his career to this film.

Equinox is followed up by one of the lamest 1960's shorts ever -- Freeway Driving Tactics. Thrill! to the accidents that occur when people drive too fast! Stomp! your feet on the floor as you test your braking reflexes! Snore! as the film goes on too long!

Night of the Lepus

"Dammit Jim, I'm a doctor, not
a veterinarian!"
This movie is a completely workable giant monster film, except that the giant monsters are rabbits. Giant, predatory rabbits. Lepus adheres to the mold of Them! very closely, except that giant ants are scary. Giant rabbits are not scary. Really, we never expected to see a serious horror film about bunnies. Ken is prepared with lines about receding hare lines and hare-raising experiences.

Lepus is also a surprisingly violent film, with plenty of shots of people having been mauled by <snicker> giant rabbits. And much like Food of the Gods, once the tables get turned and it's time for the rabbits to be on the receiving end of some hurting, the results involve gallons of blood. Still, you've got to love the police announcing to a drive-in full of people "Attention! Attention! Ladies and gentlemen, attention! There is a herd of killer rabbits headed this way and we desperately need your help!" Oh well, we guess that the fact that the rabbits are 12 feet long really isn't that important.

One of the germs. The films were a bit dark.
This movie is sponsored by bunnies. They'll kill you just as soon as look at ya!

The most entertaining short of the evening follows, as it is bookended by the appearance of William Shatner and a glowing orb. The Mysteries of Getting Sick and Getting Well depicts the war of germs vs white blood cells inside a young boy's body. Thankfully, it is also stop-motion animated and thus highly stylistic. Show this one late at night to your friends for some guaranteed nightmares.

The Twonky

This 1953 comedy is a pretty hard movie to find, so it was nice to see it. Too bad it isn't very interesting. Based on a short story by Henry Kuttner, The Twonky is about a college professor who receives a new-fangled TV from his fiancé. The TV, however, isn't actually a TV but a robot from the future that tries to serve the professor and keep him safe. It helps to keep in mind that this was the fifties... even though the Twonky won't let Professor West drink coffee, it will light any poisonous smoking material with which West chooses to fill his lungs. The Twonky even has the power to hypnotize people, which is accompanied by the catch-phrase "I have no complaints."

Twonky: better than Tivo?
Oddly, the Twonky's function as a TV is never explored, even superficially, therefore killing nearly any message about the effect TV has on people. This may have been so early in TV's history that the choice of appliances was just done out of novelty, not satire. The whole movie plays like highlights from a sitcom, with the same jokes trotted out again and again, until the befuddling conclusion in which we discover that the only thing that can kill an indestructible robot from the future is an old British woman in a car.

This move is sponsored by the British, who refuse to accept that we ever declared independence from their crumpet-eating butts.

Although we are all fairly hungry by this point, we are held to our seats by the presentation of some comedy skits by horror host Zomboo (pronounced "zomb-oh"). Most entertaining was the faux commercial for a sunblock with an extremely high SPF, but the rest of the material gives us the impression that Zomboo is the reanimated corpse of vaudeville. (Look it up, kids.)

Village of the Giants

Does this look like a rat to you?
From Journey to the 7th Planet.
Hunger overcomes our desire to see this Bert I. Gordon opus with Ron Howard. It had giant stuff in it, we're sure. Iron Butt remains behind with his faithful box of Nutty Buddies while the rest of us venture out to the Chinese restaurant we discovered last year. Stocking up on leftovers and other supplies from the market next door, we return to the auditorium just in time for...

Journey to the 7th Planet

The seventh planet of our solar system is, of course, Uranus. This simple fact leads to one and a half hours of absolutely immature and scatologically inclined jokes... much like these.

In the year 2001 (much laughter follows), a space ship with an international crew lands on Uranus. ("I'm ready to explore Uranus!") There's a surprising amount of life on Uranus, and the astronauts find a cold barrier in the middle of a forest. ("Don't eat strange berries you find on Uranus!") Deciding that they must probe the center of Uranus, the astronaut trick up their full size condom suits and find a giant glowing brain that can conjure up their greatest fears. ("Word has it that Uranus is dangerous!") Apparently one of the nauts is afraid of bad stop-motion, because that's what best describes the rat monster that attacks them in the underground caverns. ("There's a one-eyed monster in Uranus!") Ghostbusters so ripped this movie off. The astronauts somehow determine that the muffler from a 1956 Corvette with a couple of bits added on will kill the brain, and despite the fact that the muffler turns out be imaginary, they're right. Written and directed by Sid Pink, featuring a goofy monster, and inexplicably set in Denmark, this can't help but bring up memories of Pink's Reptilicus.

Sponsored by the planet between Saturn and Neptune.

A boy, a dragon, and a magic flute.
And a whole lotta pot.
The short that follows is an instructional short on the operation and care of the Kodak Pageant film projector. It was neat for the film buffs in the audience to see elegantly manicured hands manipulating vintage machinery, but it quickly grew old. As Ken put it, "it's kind of like porn -- sexy for the first three minutes, and then kind of tedious."

The illustrious Dr. Freex introduces our next film by giving away a truckload of door prizes, including a Stomp Tokyo t-shirt and mug. His research provides much insight on the movie at hand:

Pufnstuf

Finally we get to Pufnstuf, the prequel to the (ahem) well regarded TV series H.R. Pufnstuf. Set before the series, the movie seeks to explain how Jimmy came to live on the Living Island. The explanation turns out to be, he just did. Really, there isn't much here that wasn't in the opening of the TV series. Once on the island, Jimmy is subjected to a series of increasingly bizarre and surreal vignettes having to do with Mayor Pufnstuf's ongoing war with Witchiepoo.

They just don't make anti-Nazi
films the way they used to.
Mama Cass appears as Witch Hazel, and we're even treated to a musical number which teaches us the meaning of Christmas. No, wait. It teaches us that being different is good, so long as you find others like you. Of course by "different" she seems to mean evil (she is a witch, after all), so maybe the song is about devil worship. Come to think of it, we're not sure what we're supposed to learn from the song. Martha Raye appears as the Boss Witch, which is probably the most appropriate piece of casting we've seen in years. Equally appropriate in a Hogan's Heroes kind of way is Boss Witch's sidekick, a rat dressed up as a Nazi SS general.

Pufnstuf is sponsored by us, the guys at Stomp Tokyo. Think of us when you think of Nazi puppets.

The tradition at NOWFF is to close with a showing of Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2th Century, which is a pretty darn good tradition. It definitely ends things on an up note. We get pretty tickled when Porky Pig says "Happy b-b-birthday, you Thing From Another World, you."


There were some comments that this year's event was jinxed. If one were to judge solely by the incessant rain, constant plan changes, and missing friends, that sentiment might be accurate. But when sitting around a table at The Court of Two Sisters, sharing a lovely brunch with some of our favorite people, the only disappointment was that we couldn't stay longer.

Always a pleasure, ladies and gents. We hope to see you in 7 months at B-Fest 2002.

Chris Holland & Scott Hamilton

Other folks who have posted their memories of this event:

Dr. Freex

Ken Begg, High Priest of Jabootu