Saturday, June 13, 2009

When They Are Bad, They Are So Very Awesome...

Ok, so I've been kind of busy this week and didn't really have a chance to post much, and with tomorrow's torrent picks post looming, I figured I should atleast post something else this week, so I decided for the fun of it, to just go through some old b-movies that I do love and share in both the beauty and the absurdity of them...

This is The Beast of Yucca Flats, which to many is considered to be the worst movie ever made, worse then Plan Nine From Outer Space, Robot Monster and that 1970s version of Sasquatch that was filmed in the woods near where I grew up in Lowell Mass. combined many believe, and let me tell you, if you haven't see those films, trust me, being worse then them combined, is a huge feat. From its opening scene that has NOTHING to do with the rest of the film, seriously, it has nothing to do with the film at all, its never mentioned, referenced, and couldn't even happen given the film's timeline, its just some random scene of a naked woman coming out of a shower and being strangled to death by a man in the same clothing as the movie's "monster", it has nothing to do with the film itself, which is about a russian scientist defecting to the united states, and accidentally stumbling into a nuclear testing site, where he's transformed into a mindless killing machine called "The Beast". This film is redeemable only in the fact it kind of influenced the creation of the marvel comics character The Incredible Hulk, and for complete camp related hilarity, like how you never see anyone's mouth moving when they're speaking, or how you never actually see guns go off, or anything like that.

This is Devil Girl From Mars, which, next to Day of The Triffids, is probably my favorite of all the non-Hammer Films British science fiction films, simply for the complete absurdity of its plot and its "lavish" production. The film is kind of an attempt to make b-grade science fiction "sexy" while still retaining its "serious scientific integrity", to do this they decided to take your basic American alien invasion movie plot, and "making it sexy" by means of the leader of the invading force is a sultry, sexy looking woman dressed in an all vinyl form fitting suit, complete with cape and high heels, but to make her powerful, as all leaders must be, she has a powerful raygun and your standard issue 1950s robot who looks like a refrigerator box with some piping and dials that apparently will kill you. This invasion though, isn't your normal randomly stupid reason invasion, this one, she's actually come looking for help in repopulating mars, because their men are dying off. Why she felt landing in a remote small Scottish village was the best place to find replacements, I will never know, but in true alien movie fair, the men of this Scottish village deny her request to come back to mars with her, because apparently scottish people are too stupid to see what kind of a sweet jig that would be, somewhere in Iowa James T. Kirk is weeping at their choice to not become studs to an alien race of mostly women.

Now, as hard as it might be for some to believe, the great Roger Corman made some pretty sexist films in his day. This film, is one of them. The Wasp Woman tells the story of a rather vain woman that owns a cosmetics company, and when it becomes evident to her buyers, that she is aging, she starts to seek out the next big thing in woman's cosmetics, so apparently, this means making some half cocked mixture out of the jelly of a queen wasp, because, you know, wasps apparently never actually age, or something, the film is kind of vague on that, so, in her womanly vanity, our lead woman decides to be the test subject for her company's new product, because, you know, apparently women are vain that way, which really was news to me, but I guess its not my place to question the great Roger Corman, after all, he is the man that made such woman's rights championing films as "Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill!" and "Supervixens" both highly regarded for their strong stance for woman's empowerment. Anyway, as I'm sure you can guess, the new formula goes wrong, as happens when movies like this are made, and it turns our lead into a giant wasp, as happens in cases of things like this, but instead of it being like the movie poster, it makes her a woman's body with a wasp head and arms, I'm assuming because Roger Corman likes to make films in the cheap, from there the film goes about telling you how she terrorizes people randomly, as happens cases like this, you know, taking their rage out on the world and such. As you can guess this film isn't nearly as great as you'd think a film about a woman becoming a murderous queen wasp would seem on paper, but its still good for a laugh... even if it wasn't ment that way.

Ok, see, in 1932, Joan Crawford was to movie goers, what, well, whoever the new "hot" actress is at this time to us, she was seen as beautiful and smart and graceful and could play any role, you get the idea, but also, in 1932, there was no hollywood ratings system and no real codes they had to go by, which ment that in 1932, Joan Crawford could play a pretty convincing prostitute, which she does in this film, "Rain" is the story of a boat that stops in Pago Pago with a possible sickness outbreak onboard, and what happens to those who aren't sick when they're sent a'shore to stay healthy. Joan plays Sadie, a prostitute from San Francisco who apparently is on the run for murdering a man who got alittle too rough with her. The others who get off the boat are a Missionary named Davidson and his wife, both rather uppity and kind of think they're better then everyone else. The film tells the story of Davidson trying to convince Sadie to give up her life as a prostitute and embrace god and live a better life, by the end, when Sadie finally decides to give it a try, Davidson rapes her, and he's found dead on the beach the next morning, apparently having killed himself. Yeah, thats, just, fine and uplifting cinema right there. I never could figure out why it was called "Rain" though, shame cuz its really a great movie title.

...and now we come to one of, if not the benchmark itself, for completely wrong casting, yes, thats right its time for the unstoppable juggernaut that is "The Conqueror", the film that dared to make you believe that the one and only John Wayne, with his limp and horrible southernish accent, could play the great Genghis Khan. Yes, you read that correctly, the man that many argue was history's greatest ruler and greatest warlord, who happens to also be asian, was played by John Wayne, yes, the John Wayne that starred in all of those westerns and war movie no body likes, apparently thought he could convincingly play an asian warlord that just about took over the world. Now, when you take that into account sure the film is bad on its own, but, when you also add in the fact that this film in theory killed John Wayne, it makes it even stranger. See, they shot The Conqueror only afew miles from where years earlier the atomic bomb prototypes were tested, infact there are many pictures of Wayne on set with a Geiger counter that showed alarmingly high levels of radiation, at the time though, no one new radiation would give you cancer, so you can't really say it was intentional, but, it was stated years later when cast members started to show signs of cancer, that one of the top doctors in the united states called it an "epidemic" and claimed it was because of the film's shoot location they all died. Kind of morbid, kind of creepy, but if you just look at it as a horribly bad movie that swings back around to almost awesome, its enjoyable. Infact its the only John Wayne movie i can stomach.

We all knew we'd get here eventually, and here we are, one of the big guns in the pantheon of movies that are so bad they actually become hilariously good, thats right, its time to talk about the brilliantly bad Ed Wood film "Robot Monster", the film has a horribly confusing and just plain awful plot, a robot who has killed all but 8 humans living on the planet with his deathray searches out those final eight, and as you might expect, he falls in love with the hot teenage girl of the group, as was the style for robots, aliens and other creatures from other worlds at the time. The movie follows the eight as they try and get to their spaceship that will take them to a space station that houses a garrison of earth soldiers waiting for the order to come down and take out the robot, and it also follows the robot as he stalks and terrorizes the group, in the end claiming to his superior officer that they will have to kill the girl of the group themselves, for he is smitten with her. This movie is wrong on so many levels, the plot makes no sense at all, the whole film was shot in that same place right off the highway in Santa Barbra that they shot all the outdoor shots on the cult tv series Gilligan's Island years later, but this time, you can at times actually see cars pass by in the background of some shots, and most of all, this film leaves you wondering the eternal question that we all ponder atleast once in our lives, how in the bloody hell does a gorilla suit, a surplus space helmet from some space movie, and a set of old "rabbit ears" style television antenna make a robot? This question will plague us all through the end of time, I swear it will. Also, this film was called "the worst film ever made" by mustachioed american film critic Rex Reed, but honestly, no one gives a shit what Rex Reed says about movies, he was after all, in Myra Breckenridge, which means he's officially not allowed to comment on anything.

Now, I couldn't let this list go, with out atleast one movie from El Santo, possibly the greatest multi media star there has ever been. For those that aren't aware, in the 1950s all the way through to the early 1980s down in Mexico, there was for lack of a better term, a boom, in movies starring Lucha libre wrestlers, for those that aren't aware of what Lucha libre is, its that Mexican form of wrestling that combines the flash of American "professional" wrestling, with martial arts and the flair of Japanese kabuki theater, for whatever reason in Mexico, someone thought these performers would make great actors, and though this really wasn't the case, they did make alot of these films, still even are made today, but we can look back at them all now and have a nice laugh. Now, among those many many Luchadores as they're called, who made films, none stands bigger then El Santo, called "Sampson" in the english dubs of his movies, El Santo became the most famous of his kind, and went on to become a cultural icon in Mexico, he has a holiday and many statues, and people tell their stories of how he lived his life behind the mask doing good inside, and outside the ring, legend has it he was a sort of superhero, stopping crimes many times out on the streets and such. El Santo is an icon with out doubt, and his movies, as I said, though ridiculous by today's standards, are in the upper part of the so bad its good pantheon. My personal favorite of these films is "Santo vs. las Mujeres Vampiro" known in the english speaking world as "Samson vs. the Vampire Women", where in El Santo, as always in wrestling gear, mask and cape and all, fights off a horde of vampire women who are trying to raise an army of vampires to take over the world, or something, the plot is kind of vague, but it involves alot of El Santo's in ring moves being used in the scenes where he fights off the henchmen and vampires, because apparently if you're lucha, you're lucha 24 hours a day 7 days a week and can bust out your mad wrestling skills at will. There are days I wish I was as cool as El Santo, there really are. Anyway as always happens in these films, apparently no one seems phased by the fact that El Santo is either in his wrestling gear, or in a suit, but still wearing his mask and wrestling boots, they just go about like its everyday stuff, and ofcourse, in the end El Santo saves the day, with the power of Lucha Libre, a power I sometimes think is the only thing that will save the world from destroying itself in a nuclear holocaust of some sort. If you are interested and want a good laugh, there are literally dozens of movies El Santo made, alot with his long time friend/rival The Blue Demon, there are many starring others too, but the El Santo films are really the best for a good laugh.

and thats where I think i'm gonna end this, I hope you all enjoy this as much as I have, I might do more later, you never do know...



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