B-Fest: Adventures in Cinematic Sleep Deprivation
is my habit, we must first cover background.
It was only a year and about two weeks ago that I first realized
that the infamous B-Fest was actually in Evanston, practically a stone’s
throw away, as distances go in Chicago.
It was about the same time that I realized Chris and Scott of Stomp
Tokyo, old college buddies of mine, had come on up to Chicago and not even
given me a call. Well, they
had a lot on their minds; they just didn’t remember I lived in this
town, is all. But I started reading all the B-Fest diaries, like many of
you, and I naturally got interested in attending.
As did my wife, and our friend Jennie.
Which is really convenient, as we all live in Chicago, and all.
so this was the year I got to actually go, the year I got to meet all
these people whose work I’d been reading for so long.
Well, not all the people. Actually,
the B-Masters had relatively poor representation, but the personalities
that were there were memorable. Naturally,
I knew Chris Holland from our youthful educational experiences at the same
college, but I finally got to meet the photogenic Chris J. Magyar of Diary
of a Tuber fame (and I got to see some of his real-life work, as well,
which is every bit as good as his online stuff), and the ever-erudite Joe
Bannerman, the gracious host for my cinematic ramblings (hey, I guess it
fills up space, at least). Sadly,
that was all we could summon up from Stomp Tokyo Industries, as Scott,
Jeff, the good Doctor, Chad, and all the other major contributors
couldn’t make it. Next
year, perhaps I’ll get to see more of my compadres.
Meaning more individuals, not more exposed skin.
Though Joe is a very fine looking young man….
then I met the other B-Masters, who might best be described in terms of
stereotypes from World War II movies.
Yeah, that’s it. There
was the hardened veteran, Ken Begg of the Dimension of Jabootu, who has
attended most of the B-Fests and thus has his tactics down to a science.
There was the skilled professional, Mark, whom I later realized was
Apostic of B-Notes. There was
the dangerous-crazy guy, like Telly Savalas in The
Dirty Dozen, embodied by Sgt. Andrew Borntreger, of Badmovies.org.
Actually, I liked Andrew a great deal, as he reminded me of my
college buddy Ken, and in fact, I would accidentally call him Ken, which,
naturally, Ken Begg responded to. Andrew
also had the voice with the most projection; must be that military angle
again, shouting orders and all that. Then there was The Weasely Guy.
The Tough Drill Sergeant. The
Doomed Southerner with the Girl Back Home.
The Guy Who’s Sick of Killing.
Private Ryan. And so
it was fantastic to meet these guys, and then when they recognized my
work, man, I was done. I
could have gone home right then with a warm feeling.
But my local friend Jennie was also there, and if I’d left, not
only would I be out the cost of a ticket, but I’d be leaving her
stranded in a sea of testosterone with no familiar faces.
Besides, my darling George was showing up later, after she got off
from work, so I had to stick around for that, at least, to show some of
these people that even a b-movie reviewer can marry well.
Actually, I’ve met some of the other guys’ wives, or at least
seen photos, and I have to say, I think that whole Billy Joel/Bruce
Willis/Lyle Lovett luck thing (i.e. homely men, gorgeous women) seems to
have settled around people like us. Yay!
Fest itself. Many people will
go over the list of movies; indeed, some of them deserve as much mention
as they can get. I, however,
was struck by the general feel of the place, of the event.
I won’t say there was an instant camaraderie between
participants, though there were a few cases of that.
But everybody did seem rather open toward everyone else, with a
shared purpose and a common enjoyment of crap cinema.
This is a good thing. The
feeling, that is, not the crappyness of the cinema.
to describe the average B-Fest movie?
To say it’s like an episode of Mystery
Science Theater 3000 is close, but not quite accurate. For one thing, the jokes aren’t usually planned out
(intensely accurate use of the slide whistle notwithstanding). For another, it’s a big theater, and people are shouting
things all the time, half of which you can’t really hear. It does have a kind of positive energy, though, and unlike
most theaters, you won’t get thrown out for shouting out jokes.
We just hope that we don’t step on each other’s funny lines.
had heard about the laser pointer problem, but I didn’t really get it
until I saw it in action. Sure,
you’ve got a red dot on the screen, but what do you do with it to make
it funny? It’s difficult to
get an accurate point, because you’re free-handing it, and so it’s all
jiggly, and then, what, you make someone’s eyes red?
You highlight the tip of the cigarette?
Those make sense, but they’re not really funny.
Outlining people, indicating some woman’s breasts, those are just
juvenile. There was one
person with some gobos, filters which threw the laser beam into a shape,
like a mouse or a heart. With
that, at least, the guy could make a joke.
Having just a dot really didn’t do much.
I guess the telling point is, if you can’t do something new and
funny with it, you shouldn’t bother with it.
Of course, the people who bring the things won’t bother reading
these B-Fest diaries, either, so it does little good to complain about it.
I just wish people would either show a little creativity with their
pointers, or at least get a steady platform.
Eventually, however, I was able to tune them out, more or less, and
deal with the films themselves.
are only a few movies I would like to single out for special mention.
The second in line was Greaser’s Palace, which, as Andrew constantly reminded the
theater, was an allegory of Christianity.
It was also confusing as heck, which didn’t lead to much in-movie
discussion (too busy gaping dumbfounded at the screen), but it was the
source of a lot of lines for later. “And
then I turned into a perfect smile.”
“I’m on my way to Jerusalem, to become a
it also verified our theme for the evening: “girls digging.”
I don’t know why, but most of the movies seemed to have a scene
in them with a person, usually female, digging a hole or a trench or a
grave or something. Whatever
the case, it was certainly more appreciated than the “fat men in
towels” theme of last year, from what I heard.
Jones and the Casino of Gold;
just from its title, we could tell it was going to be a joy to behold.
Whoever decided that a tall black woman would be the perfect choice
to go undercover in Hong Kong should probably be transferred out of the
CIA. However, you have to
give her credit; for a woman who arrived with no luggage, she still
managed to find a new outrageous outfit for just about every scene
(eliciting cries of surprise, and at least one scream of “My eyes! My
eyes!”). And the two guys
she was sent in to rescue, when they got dressed up, it was like Pimps on
Ice in your hometown! Or
maybe that’s juts me. Thankfully,
they burst through at least one door, allowing us to burst out with a
hearty “Big Jim Slade!"
short Wizard of Speed and Time
was… interesting. The song
itself was catchy and all, and the accelerated stop-motion kind of thing
they did to make the wizard so fast was also clever, but the thing that
was most interesting was everybody’s reaction to it.
Much of the theater came up on stage and pounded their feet really
fast for the running sequences, then stomped in time to the music for the
singing portion. It made for
a more martial feel right around midnight, and that suited me just fine at
First time I’d seen it, for probably good reason.
Don’t know if I could have stood it, if it hadn’t been for the
whole theater-full of people shouting “Day!” “Night!”
Bela!” and “Tor!” whenever the respective things came on-screen.
Of course, the paper plate throwing during the space saucer scenes
got a bit out of hand, in my opinion, but they were employed in movies for
the rest of the night, so I suppose we got our money’s worth out of
them. Also, George didn’t
care so much about the film, but when it came to winging those plates, she
was all into that. I think
she pulled a muscle doing that, actually, but heck, it was fun.
the last stretch of films, there were the gross (surgery footage used in a
slasher/cannibal film really showed me a line I didn’t realize I had),
the weird (drugged-out rock star establishes fascist age-ist regime), and
the merely dull. But one of
the more interesting ones was the original Mothra.
Near the end of the film, we had spotty sound (which plagued the
whole Fest, actually), but during the sections with model planes and tanks
and such, the heavy machinery sounds were what made them seem the tiniest
bit real. So when the sound
cut out, we gradually started filling in the sound ourselves, growling
like tanks, whooshing like planes, and jabbering like panicked Japanese
crowds, all in response to whatever came on the screen. It was things like that which brought us together as an
audience: making sound effects, buzzing whenever one of the bee women were
on screen in Invasion of the Bee
Girls, and singing the lilting Wicked Witch of the West theme whenever
some old biddy on a scooter came on screen.
this time through, I did the Fest without consciously napping. There were times when I nodded, but when I caught myself, I
went out to wake myself up, and I don’t think I slept for any
significant time. It was
grueling, but necessary, if only to test myself, and find that even at
this early point in my maturity, I’ve lost the stamina to do a real hard
all-nighter. Next year,
however, having both already done the full stretch and having seen some of
the old favorites, I’ll be better able to survive in a coherent state.
Maybe then my last shouted contribution to the movies won’t sound
like “Glarble mazfan, torgle nerr!”
maybe I need a nap.
-- Copyright © 2001 by E. Mark
Jabootu's Bad Movie Dimension