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Below are the 11 most recent journal entries recorded in Benjamin's LiveJournal:

Sunday, February 19th, 2017
6:14 pm
B-fest memories: 2004
So, I’ve been attending B-fest since 2004.  That’s a long time.  But I didn’t start writing up experiences and impressions until 2010.  For years I’ve been thinking to myself that I ought to commit some of these thoughts to memory, before they completely fade away.  So, mostly for my own benefit, I decided to make it happen.  The end.

My experience with B-fest actually is a little unusual.  I’ve never been a movie devotee or even a B-movie die-hard, but have always taken a passing interest in the interesting ways that projects can go wrong, or weird, or in some way interesting.   To this day, I’ll only occasionally sit down to watch a B-movie, but start salivating whenever the thought of January and my time in the auditorium emerges.  Using that copious amount of procrastinating internet time that undergrads have even when they feel busy, I used to pore over the reviews at Jabootu’s Bad Movie Dimension.  Occasionally I became vaguely aware that the B-movie people on the Internet gathered every year for some kind of film festival, which sounded fun, but I didn’t think much more of it.  The thing is, I was a Northwestern student.  B-fest was being held every January in the very same student center from which it was a rare treat to purchase food instead of going to the dining halls, and I vaguely remember seeing flyers for it, but they never registered.  One year I was idly poring over one of the festival recaps online, it made a reference to showing up “at Norris.”  Where it was cold as hell outside in Chicago.  Wait a minute.  That Norris?!  B-fest happens here?!  And it was last week?  Fuuuck…

So, by 2003 I know for a fact that I wanted to go, but I was on the fencing team in undergrad and we had an away meet that weekend… I don’t remember where, but statistically speaking I was probably in either South Bend or East Lansing, longing for an auditorium full of bad movies.  The same thing may have also happened the year before, I don’t remember.  In any event, it wasn’t until I graduated from Northwestern for the relative free time of med school (ha ha), still in Chicago, that I actually got a chance to make it happen.

In retrospect I probably should have tried to catch the first movie – The Brain From Planet Arous must have made for a great opener – but didn’t.  Instead, walked right into the middle of…

Robot Jox (1989) – So I entered the crowded McCromick Auditorium to find a bunch of people with their overnight camping equipment looking inhospitable.  I joined dozens of others and sat down in an aisle.  We were in the process of being assaulted by a loud bombastic film featuring giant robots fighting in lieu of actual wars.  The nations were clearly stand-ins for U.S. and Them (AKA USSR), and every fight scene was met with rousing cheers of “USA!  USA!”  There was an ineffectual “hero” with a guilty conscience, a hot chick who wants to take his place at the (equally ineffectual) hero for some reason (I missed the exposition about the whole cloning thing), and a poor man’s Ivan Drago as the villain.  They all had Greek mythology inspired names.  There was a subplot with a mole working from within CTU inside the command center.  I barely missed some nudity due to people walking in front of me at the exact relevant moment.  The ending in no way followed from anything that had led up to it.

I was in love with this event.  This was like nothing else.  This was incredible.

Again, these memories have grown fainter since it’s been over a decade.  I have no recollection of whether or not they threw up any random unannounced shorts during the time I attended B-fest 2004, but they probably did, right?  That was par for the course in those days.  I now vaguely remember a fire marshall stopping the festival and announcing that nothing could happen until everyone got the hell out of the aisles and found a seat, but only because I just now read it in someone else’s recap.  Anyway, we found seats that weren’t claimed, and moved on eventually to some B&W movies – this was kinda the tail end of the era when a good chunk of the Fest was movies from 1960 and earlier, a far cry from the I Love The ‘70s And ‘80s event it has since become. 


The Beatniks (1960) – There are no beatniks in the movie The Beatniks.  There are, however, juvenile delinquents up to no good.  One of them is seduced by the glamor of life in entertainment and romanced by a woman whose caked on makeup led us to scream in mock-horror as a group every time she got a close-up.  Meanwhile, the rest of the juvenile delinquents continue to be up to no good, with one of our alleged hero’s pals getting increasingly unhinged to the point where he starts stabbing people for no reason.  I seem to remember a climactic moment in which he yells “I KILLED THAT FAT BARKEEP!” and laughs maniacally, but maybe my brain is exaggerating it.  Our hero has to face him down at the end, armed with only a trash can lid at first, and then has to switch to a hand towel.  I tried to make a joke about only accepting fights involving garbage can lids, but it didn’t really work.  We all learned a valuable lesson about how selling out is way better than killing people.  If my memory can be trusted, this one was a lot of fun.


The Beast With Five Fingers (1946) – Featuring an unhinged performance by Peter Lorre as a pianist who dies early into the movie, and then people start getting almost strangled by what may or may not be his disembodied hand out for revenge.  Or something.  I can’t say I really remember anything about this movie, but there was a lot of “is it supernatural, or is it all in people’s heads?” stuff, and I think it ended up being one of a few movies from that era that sided with the rationalists.  Several different groups of people took to singing the Addams Family theme song during all the disembodied-hand moments, leading to some good natured joshing along the lines of “c’mon, we came up with that fifteen minutes ago!”  One bit of discussion emerged when people around me became convinced that a reel had been left out, and started screaming for the situation to be rectified, to no avail.  Me, I thought the plot such as it was seemed coherent and didn’t notice nay huge missing chunks, but perusing the archives of the Internet everyone seems to think there was a missing reel, so, uh, slow movie, I guess.

Since we’re all watching the same movies for hours at a time, the fine art of the B-fest callback is an easy but important way to get your seatmates to laugh.  Here, as one character sobbingly admitted to being the murderer, someone in the auditorium perfectly timed a chance to yell out “I killed that fat barkeep!”  And from what I understand, B-fest 2004 now had its big running joke for the rest of the Fest… one of many reasons to regret leaving early.

There was a raffle.  Then there was a legend I’d heard about, The Wizard Of Speed And Time, which wasn’t hard to figure out.  That short has been shown at every B-fest in recent memory, and the moment you first participate in “running” along with the Wizard is the moment you join the cult.   


Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) – The big annual ritual of B-fest.  The cult moment.  And, well, it just has to be seen to be believed.  I’d heard from various recaps, “oh, we have this thing where we throw paper plates when we see the flying saucers.”  That didn’t prepare me for the non-stop rain of paper plates – many with fun or random messages or drawings on them - during the large chunks of the movie when the cheap looking saucers are being shown.  I’d heard about the call and response stuff.  That didn’t prepare me for how much fun it was to participate.  Even if I didn’t understand everything (I didn’t understand the “Wicker!”  “Rattan!” thing, for instance – some ancient tradition of arguing about what kind of cheap-ass furniture everyone in the movie owns), other rituals were self explanatory – “Night!”/”Day!” during the many instances in which a “scene” blatantly splices together night and day shots, for instance.

The audience participation that year was a thing to behold.  (Of course, this got me spoiled expecting every year to be that way.)  One gal lay on the stage and attempted to match the movements of the frequently menaced wife as she stirs in her sleep, little knowing that a zombie lurks nearby – her timing was a bit off but we all applauded the thought and the effort.  And in the climax of the film, in which an alien explains the fake-science behind the deadly “solarmite” bomb that Earth is supposedly developing (sample – “Can you see or measure an atom?  Yet you can explode one!  A ray of sunlight is made up of many atoms!”), a Festie dressed as a prof with an easel full of visual aids to explain the science to us all.  Just… wow.

And as for Plan 9 itself, it’s everything you want in a B-movie; not too slow (although the middle drags a bit), full of cult actors who’d been in better things, an outlandish plot involving aliens resurrecting the dead as zombies for reasons to stupid to summarize, impossibly cheap sets like the “airplane” cockpit, and so on.  Every time I’ve introduced someone to B-fest, it’s a joy to see their first reaction to their first B -fest Plan 9.  I could only watch with wonder.  Plan 9 eventually becomes old hat to all of us who go to this event, but that can only happen after you’ve experienced it once.

And that was that.  They locked the doors to the student center at 0200 in those days (now it’s midnight), so the doors were going to get locked during the next movie.  Seemed like time to make an exit.  As a med student, you get locked into a headspace of every hour being potential study time, so I figure I didn’t want to too badly obliterate my sleep schedule.  Time to sleep in my own bed, not leave my then-fiancée alone without warning, and get back to regular stuff.  I’d seen what this weird festival was all about, seen a few movies, and had a good time.  The end…

…Except that my fascination with the Rocky Horror-esque antics during Plan 9 continued unabated and I way too frequently, from time to time, found thoughts of the questionable joys of Robot Jox passing through my mind over the next few months.  I’d only scratched the surface.  Movies like this existed, in great quantity.  Clearly, this required more immersion.

There wasn’t the slightest question in my mind that I’d be back.
Saturday, February 4th, 2017
11:51 am
B-fest 2017: One door closes, another opens
Is B-fest the baddest?  Sho’Nuff!

B-fest 2017 was one that had a few strikes against it going in.  It took forever to work out my schedule to get the necessary days off, so we had an abbreviated Chicago weekend with no tiki bars and such and fewer visits with friends.  Then I woke up that morning with a bad sore throat and knew a cold was oncoming – have gotten plenty of colds from B-fest but this was my first time sharing with others, so to speak.  Then discovered a rapidly flattening right front tire that could have been a thing limiting our ability to drive to Evanston, but got that taken care of.

And, sickness and all, made it to Evanston, made it to Norris in plenty of time, and made another 24 hours.  Twelfth consecutive year.  Last year my main reaction to the end of the B-fest was being drained.  This year, hopped up on caffeine to just the right amount, was actually doing pretty well by the end.  This wasn’t a year full of transcendent moments, but top to bottom, it was a good year of movies.  And picked a good group of people to sit near – plenty of discussion about lots of nuances of the films.  These are those films (I’m not going to rate them anymore; no point):


Hercules in New York (1969) – We start with a Hercules movie just like last year.  But different era and totally different crew.  It stars a young Austrian bodybuilder who’d been “Mr. Universe” who’d eventually go on to the acting thing full time and then get into California politics – here he’s credited, really, as “Arnold Strong.”  Ah-nuld plays the title character and appears to have learned his lines phonetically, who in a stilted way leaves Olympus to go to earth on the grounds that “I am bored,” repeated a few times.  Once arriving in NYC, his usual line becomes a mumbled “I am Hercules,” used whether he’s ineptly romancing a human, picking fights with random dock workers, refusing to pay cab fare, or whatever.  An early scene in which he uses a wooden plank as a weapon lead to a lively string of punning from us about his wooden performance, etc.  I amused some people (but honestly mostly myself) when a character named Mercury [the film freely mixes Greek and Roman names for its deities] floats upwards out of a scene and I made reference to “Mercury rising.”  The first ten minutes of this film are pure gold… afterwards it gets a little more pedestrian, but still has its kicks.  Obviously, the movie shoehorns in plenty of excuses for our hero to take off his shirt, and obviously it finds a way to incorporate a dead-lift scene.  Somewhat less obviously, the movie gives a significant amount of plot time to an annoying pretzel salesman nicknamed “Pretzie” who switches from his life of a pushcart on the docks - presumably sailors have a deep craving for dry salty food after a long time at sea.  In the end Herc kinda sorta learns a little bit about responsibility, Zeus throws some thunderbolts that distinctly lack lightning or thunder, and we move on to…


The Magic Sword (1962) – First of two Bert I. Gordon movies played pretty close together, I was not looking forward to this.  One, because we’d seen it at B-fest 2008 and I was bored to tears then.  Two, because I assumed my wife would hate it.  Well, it’s certainly not a good movie.  And it’s certainly crippled by the fact that the “hero” has everything just handed to him and only succeeds because he has tools like a magic sword which can open “any doors, windows, locks, and portcullises.”  But it felt a little different this time.  First of all, last time around we saw a black and white (black and red, really) print; this time it was in color.  Secondly, for some reason it was turned down really quiet, but we watched the movie with the sub-titles.  Thirdly, and very importantly, the crowd was wide awake to appreciate the easily killed ethnic stereotypes who accompany our “hero” and the way, say, no one can ever find Sir Dennis, or the way Irish caricature Sir Patrick saves the others by his faith.  And finally, I had no memory of how awesomely cheap looking the puppets that play the monsters are, but when we finally see the alleged dragon at the end… well, it’s not something one quickly forgets.  I remembered the “hero”’s mother (or “that foster mother,” as the villain calls her), but didn’t remember how thoroughly her magic spells (“of course!  A handful of graveyard dirt!”) drive the entire plot, including the villain’s ultimate death by cat mauling.  In short, a bit of a revelation seeing this one for the second time; great fun.


Bloodlust! (1961) – The ! in the title is meant to be shaped like a crossbow bolt.  So, E. and I had high hopes for this one based on its trailer.  I mean, look at this.  Don’t they make it look like one of those bad movies that needs to be seen immediately?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKaIfpn9-AE

Turns out Bloodlust! Is memorable for an entirely different reason.  Pretty much everything worth seeing is in the trailer.  The rest is almost fully devoid of anything of any kind happening.  Now, granted, the volume was turned pretty low so we couldn’t actually make out any of the dialogue, but still, it wasn’t hard to make out all the nothing happening.  As our host terrorizes our mostly passive heroes, they spend a large chunk of the movie, especially the first half, walking back and forth through the mansion in and out of doors, constantly opening and closing aforementioned doors.  And the B-fest audience grabbed that shit and ran with it.  Soon I started noticing that people around me would break into small rounds of applause for apparently no reason, and soon after that it became clear that what was prompting the cheers was a character opening, closing, or passing through a door.  It wasn’t long before we were all doing it.  And yelling “DOOR!” whenever a door came into view.  And getting disappointed whenever a door didn’t get opened.  Reacting to doors became the big running joke of the festival, still getting referenced at least once per movie all the way to the end.  I’ve never been so proud to be coming to this festival.  The movie gave us nothing to work with, and we managed to turn it into a bonding ritual.

But Bloodlust! wasn’t just about doors.  It also graduated to a window – kind of the culmination of the film, really – and a cabinet.  And a few people do get killed, but they’re few and far between.  Despite what the trailer may have you believe, our young heroes don’t do much screaming; even the two girls are pretty possessed for a movie of this vintage.  But they also don’t do much of anything, culminating in the ending in which multiple heroes have rifles trained on the villain before he can draw his gun and they still let him intimidate and disarm them.  We were proverbially screaming ourselves hoarse telling the alleged heroes to shoot the guy – for such a slow movie, audience participation was at an incredible high.  On the plus side, the movie did eventually end.  The title card even said “THE END Of Blooodlust!” as if even the movie itself was excited to see that happen.  On the minus side, the last chapter of the DVD was then shown again, for some reason.  We weren’t getting through this festival without a fight.


Empire Of The Ants (1977) – We were actually given a choice by the organizers about whether to watch this or its companion on the DVD, Jaws Of Satan.  The latter looked amazing too, but we came expecting ants, and we overwhelmingly went with the ants.  Overcompensating for the last movie, this one was cranked way too loud.  It started with a ridiculously serious voiceover letting us know that ants are amazing and scary because pheromones release signals that other ants obey without thinking.  “MIND CONTROL!”  The fact that ant pheromones only elicit irresistible commands in, you know, other ants was glossed over.  We were supposed to be terrified when a bunch of ants rolled around in dramatically labelled radioactive material which caused them to become huge, because, why not.
We then meet Joan Collins and a bunch of slimy and thoroughly ‘70s cast of time-share entrepreneurs and their guests, just in time to get menaced by the fakest looking giant ants green-screens can provide.  The sheer silliness of the whole thing can be summed up in that glorious moment when the movie attempts to convince us that giant ants are strolling along the docks.  That volume thing really became a problem because every time the ants are about to attack, they make an annoying high pitched tone – as every small child knows, ants make a distinctive sound which can’t be mistaken for anything else.  Since there are ants around every tree or turn, this of course set us up in a good position to yell “ANTS!” whenever any other movie for the rest of the festival had characters stumbling through a forest.  It proved to be a fairly versatile callback, actually.

Attempting to sum up Empire Of The Ants basically compels me to mention that our heroes are herded to a small town secretly run by ants, with drone-like humans (converted by forcibly spraying them with pheromones) serving the ants and building structures for them whilst impofting huge quantities of sugar.  Yes, this actually happens, and the movie, as best as I can tell, plays the whole thing totally straight.  There aren’t many other movies like it.


No shorts this year with the exception of that old standard, The Wizard Of Speed And Time.  Pounding our feet on the ground to keep up with the Wizard’s stop-motion running is the only real exercise I get for most of the festival.  Kind of a disappointingly small group who hit the stage for that particular ritual this time.  Normally I’m opposed to running that short more than twice in a row, but, well, this year the second showing was backwards but not upside down.  So when they started running it a third time, upside down (forwards), it seemed right.


Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)
Skipped most of this one.  I hear it’s pretty bad.  Maybe I'll give it another go next year; every three years seems about right once one is enough of a veteran.


Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon (1985)
Um, yeah, so… I don’t know quite how to describe this.  It’s some strange hybrid of about five different movies, which Wikipedia nicely sums up as a “martial arts fantasy film,” although that description doesn’t mention that it’s somehow also an attempted vehicle for Motown Records.  This movie, such that it is, involves a young man from Harlem named nicknamed “Bruce Lee-roy.”  Played by a guy called Taimak, our mixed-race hero is just really fundamentally likable and awkward (“helped” by the fact that the guy had apparently never acted before).  Leroy’s main desires in life seem to be awkwardly trying to dress and act as if he's from Hong Kong, learning the secret ways of martial arts that will enable his body to glow with supernatural energy, and watching Bruce Lee movies whilst eating his popcorn with chopsticks.  Fortunately for us, various morons are constantly forcing him into action sequences.  One group of villains is a group of unscrupulous record producers who frequently kidnap a popular DJ for refusing to play their mob-chosen videos or something.  She keeps running into Leroy and tries to get him on board as her bodyguard – and I get a surprising amount of laughs by simply proposing a reciprocal arrangement in which she in return acts as his long-last pal, and perhaps someone could get called “Al.”  Another group of villains is a martial arts clique led by a big guy called Sho’Nuff, the self-proclaimed “Shogun of Harlem” who has a posse who do an endless call-and-response thing with him.  Sho’Nuff will pick a fight with anyone claiming to know martial arts, probably scored to a Motown song like “Rhythm Of The Night,” frustrating our hero’s dream of being enough of a master to never actually need to use violence.  After those elements are in place, the movie takes a turn for the weird and people start glowing….

Look, I made a point of staying up for this one because I wanted batshit insane with some enjoyable fight scenes.  The Last Dragon provided the batshit insane, and the fight scenes.  Mission accomplished.


Battlefield Earth (2000)
Finally something made after 1989 for once, this one has had plenty of time to pick up legendary status.  This is a passion project from John Travolta adapting the not at all deeply stupid novel by the not at all shitty writer and shitty person L. Ron Hubbard, set in the ruins of Denver after, as the opening titles inform us several hundred times, man has become an endangered species.  The scene composition and directing are something else to behold, as the director uses a Star Wars style wipe to transition between pretty much every pair of scenes, all movie long, and steadfastly insists on all these arty off-center camera angles that make the thing look like a not particularly good film school project.  This one is well known enough as a legendary bomb that bad-movie nerds do use phrases like “you puny man-animal!” much the same way we’d use quotes from The Room.  Unfortunately, it’s well known enough that I’d recently seen it for the first time, so couldn’t let B-fest be my discovery of this, uh, classic.  Maybe for the best, because then I had a built-in break in the schedule to nap.  Most of the scenes worth re-watching (or, well, ever watching at all) involve John Travola and Forrest Whittaker hamming it up shamelessly as the Cyclos, who the movie doesn’t seem to recognize come across as the most incompetent and least convincing race of alien conquerers that cinema has ever known.  So, that’s why I’m glad I was awake long enough for the “limitless options for renewal” scene, and woke up in time for the “YOUR FRIENDLY BARTENDER” scene, both accompanied by the appropriate crowd chant-alongs.  (Look, just see the movie or YouTube up the key moments.  They can’t be explained, they just have to be seen.)

Fun fact – in 2017, show a scene in which a character accuses another of being a government puppet to a crowd full of riffing nerds, and half of the room will respond together with “no puppet.  You’re the puppet!,” not even appearing to think about it.  It was almost Pavlovian.



Action Jackson (1988)
So, Rocky favorite Carl Weathers got his brief time anchoring an action movie, and this is what resulted.  He plays a Cop On The Edge who refuses to play by the rules, but his bosses tolerate him because He Gets Results.  There are car crashes and wanton destruction of glass doors and windows.  Everything that gets shot explodes on contact.  Nudity abounds.   Characters trade one-liners like “it was a regular fuck-o-rama at my place last night.”  “Can the shit, Kornblauth; there ain't been any pussy at your pad since your mother helped you move in.”  A young Sharon Stone is in the movie, but I slept through most of her parts.  An actor named Vanity (that is how she’s credited), who played the frequently imperiled girlfriend in The Last Dragon, plays the frequently imperiled girlfriend in this one too.  The two movies seemed like opposite sides of a coin – both are action movies throroughly embued with the ‘80s;  neither one can be called “blaxploitation” per se but both come across specifically as attempts to do a popular genre with a majority-black cast.  But where one movie is full of youthful exuberance and fantasy scenes and all trying to be The Karate Kid, and one is full of drugs and hookers and trying to be Miami Vice or something.  I almost wonder whether Action Jackson would have been the better choice for the post-Plan 9 slot which traditionally goes to blaxpo – it’s noisier and it’s the one that has the production values and the gratuitous sex and violence.  Anyway, it did what it was supposed to do as a late night movie; I could nap through chunks of it and not have any trouble regaining track of the plot.  I honestly don’t know whether Action Jackson is actually a bad movie, or a good movie that succeeds perfectly at being deeply ‘80s-stupid, but either way, it felt about right at 5 AM.


Malibu Express (1985)
I have vague memories of the DVD title screen showing the same twenty second reel of near-nudity over and over for something like ten minutes.  Thanks to some kind folks providing free coffee, had some extra stimulants on board a little early this year.  But a splash of caffeine and a small amount of pseudoephedrine were not nearly enough to keep me up through this whole thing.  Despite being made in 1985, it’s an honorary ‘70s movie with a smug hero sporting an ugly ‘70s moustache going through the motions of a detective story which having a lot of sex.  The vast majority of this thing is samey softcore porn without plot, no serious attempt to make an actual movie at all.  The movie imagines it knows what its audience wants – a bunch of identical looking sex scenes featuring a bunch of identical looking Playboy models and the guy with the moustache.  Oh, and “clever” dialogue (actual line in this actual movie: “we hear you’re a private investigator, and we want you to investigate our privates”).  And then halfway through after the audience has given up any interest in caring about what’s happening,, the movie apparently believes that we care about this murder mystery and devotes endless scenes to explaining it.  A key plot point hinges on someone being left-handed.

So, I was not a fan of Malibu Express and despite sleeping through a chunk was one of the ones aggressively yelling for it to end.  Surprise pick for worst of Fest for me.  Well, maybe Bloodlust! was equally bad but we had an awake audience and the door thing going. Malibu Express was just thoroughly unappealing, and while I’ve seen many worse movies at B-fest, few of them have managed to be so boring whilst so copiously bombarding the audience with breasts.  Sadly, the utter shittiness of his stupid movie didn’t stop shitty filmmaker and presumed shitty person Andy Sidaris from making a whole series of movies in a similar vein, including B-fest 2010’s Hard Ticket To Hawaii (which wasn’t nearly this bad, but also wasn’t nearly as clever or fun as it imagined) and a bunch of others I have no desire to ever be subjected to.


The Gong Show Movie (1980)
Grabbing breakfast and more coffee, I had this one in line for worst-of-Fest, and… well, it sucked, but not as deeply as I’d expected (and not as bad as Malibu Express).  I had to quickly Google up some context since this was all before I was born, but I’m led to believe that The Gong Show was basically the late-70s equivalent of American Idol auditions, in which Chuck Barris and a panel of celebrities judged a televised talent show featuring average Americans of questionable talent.  Occasionally someone was actually good at singing or juggling or whatever, and became a minor celebrity, but most watched for the awful acts (the judges could hit a big gong to force a particularly painful performance to end).  Okay, so that was the show.  So then, Chuck Barris apparently decided to make a vanity project in which he’s the star, and thus was born The Gong Show Movie.  This one gets all meta; the basic premise is that poor Chuck Barris lives the hard life of being rich and famous, because he can’t even walk down the street or get a hot dog or whatever without fifteen morons accosting him and insisting on performing their stupid acts and trying to get themselves onto The Gong Show.  Also a few Gong mainstays like the Unknown Comic (a guy with a bag over his head who fires off a non-stop stream of corny insults, some of which are actually funny) do bits here and there.  The Gong Show Movie is… well, it exists and it didn’t make my eyes bleed, I guess.

“Hey,” you might say, “that sounds like the way whenever Hollywood makes movies about itself, they turn out stupid and indulgent.  Furthermore,” you might continue, “I can really only see two ways this could go.  One is that we waste our time with a scripted simulation of a reality show, and who wants that?  The other is that we make an ill advised attempt at a serious drama about our serous showbiz guy as a serious actor, and the film will be misguided in expecting us to care.  So I’m guessing,” you might conclude, “that it’ll be this unsatisfying hybrid of comedy and drama that amounts to a bunch of barely connected scenes and has no particular narrative reason to ever end, and will thus run about twenty minutes too long.”  You would then actually watch the thing, and then smugly say something like “I totally predicted how that movie would turn out.  It was inevitable.”  Well, hypothetical reader, if you’re so smart, why aren’t you rubbing shoulders with the bigwig creative geniuses in Hollywood, huh?


Gorgo (1961)
The original schedule had Yongary: Monster From The Deep on it.  Yeah, they showed it just two years ago in 2015.  I would have enjoyed seeing Yongary since I pretty much slept through it last time, and I now have a much deeper understanding of the culture that created it (i.e. I went to Korea for a week).  However, at the beginning of the Fest, two replacements were announced, and our Korean Godzilla rip-off was replaced by a British Godzilla rip-off.  I knew Gorgo from MST3K, and, well, it’s not the most exciting movie ever.  There are some fun scenes at sea and with some impossibly Irish accented islanders, and then a monster which gets sold to a circus (which is the way today’s governments always handle living things and scientific assets, right?), and then a bigger monster.  My belief is that kaiju movies have two different kinds of scenes – not even counting the parts with people talking because nobody watches for that.  The sequences with tanks ineffectively shooting at the monster are boring because the outcome is inevitable.  But the sequences with the guy in a rubber suit stomping through fake London and knocking down a model of Big Ben are one of the major reasons for the existence of cinema as an art form.  Like most monster movies, the good parts of Gorgo are pretty short.  Fun fact: during the film’s entire running time, I don’t think a single female character appears (no, the mama monster doesn’t count).  There were certainly no women anywhere in the credits.


Afterwards we had a long lunch, and I was fine with the fact that I missed most of this year’s raffle giveaway.  I think they blew through it, a bunch of bundles of stuff (one including a hardcover edition of the original Battlefield Earth novel, which prompted one of student presenters to say “holy shit!”).  And breaking with about a decade of tradition, I won some stuff!  Some of it was VHS tapes which I gave away because I couldn’t use.  Some of it was stuff like a Spanish edition of Hercules In New York.  Oh, and I have my very own DVD copy of The Last Dragon!!  Someone won big, beyotches.


Future Hunters (1986)
Future Hunters was sponsored by the only other people on the Internets even talking about B-fest, Eric and Megan from http://www.cinemasupercollider.com/ This one begins in the post-apocalyptic wasteland of 2025 according to the IMDB synopsis, but it never actually comes out and gives the year on screen, cruelly denying us the chance to bust out any snide “how much damage can the Trump years really do?” comments.  Once again, man-animal is an endangered species.  A guy gets his hands on a magical spear, transports back to the mid-80s, and then dies, somehow sticking a young couple – one of whom is played by future killer cyborg Richard Patrick - with a quest to go to remote parts of Asia.  At first this looked like exactly my kind of bad movie – nonsensical plotting which everyone takes totally seriously, random fight scenes breaking out everywhere, and random near-nudity; both heroes do fight scenes in their underwear, for instance.  Somewhat unfortunately, the movie falls apart big time after a pretty awesome start, and turns into a plotless ad almost dialogue-less mass of fight scenes.  Which isn’t bad if you’re entertained by how Richard Patrick suddenly knows how to kill men by the dozens with no training, or if you’re entertained by the movie finding ways for random characters to appear and do all of the actual work.  Our minimally active heroes are first aided and protected in Hong Kong (but not afterward) by a martial artsy friend played by an actor credited as – no joke – “Bruce Li.”  Then there’s a tribe of nomadic horsemen who randomly drift in and out of the movie.  Then a tribe of pygmies, half of whom give their lives for this stupid quest until the “plot” no longer requires them.  And then there’s a tribe that're basically Amazons, except for being on a different continent.  (The amazons were foreshadowed by a reference early on to “Amazon female-like warriors,” leading the smartasses to speculate on how to interpret the phrase “female-like.”)  Speaking of which, don’t really know how to react to the female lead, who spends the first half of the movie constantly criticizing her T-1000 boyfriend for not having a plan despite the fact that she’s allegedly the archeologist, and then travels through the jungles in a poofy dress and high fucking heels.  It’s not like they couldn’t have predicted that they’d get attacked by villains constantly and want practical footwear for it, because it happened in every location since L.A. too.  Yet, she ends up abruptly turning into a badass warrior type during the final half hour of the movie, like everyone else.  So, Future Hunters is an absolute mess of a movie, but it hit just enough sweet spots that I find myself kind of fond of it and would rank it as one of the minor highlights of the Fest.


Tarantula (1955)
Another repeater for me, this one was last shown in 2007.  But it made sense, because it was a replacement for yet another film on the original schedule that had aired in 2015, The Creature With The Atom Brain.  I was drifting in and out of one last nap, but basically caught the second half of this.  Last time they played it I basically caught the first half before wandering out in disgust, so between the two B-fests I think I can say I’ve seen Tarantula, over a ten-year period.  It’s got a giant spider, a misguided scientist doing misguided experiments (aren’t they all) to induce “acromegalia” to make ordinary animals huge (I’m guessing it was supposed to be “acromegaly,” which is an actual medical condition which makes certain biological structures huge), and ubiquitous ‘50s charisma vacuum John Agar, all together in small-town Arizona.  The second half of the movie is the better half because it has the spider.  The problem with certain movies of this structure is that you spend all movie knowing that it will involve a giant spider, but it doesn’t show up until an hour into the movie while our heroes very very gradually piece together that they’re in a giant spider movie.  We eventually get our spider, and some great moments with the heroes inside a house and a giant leg coming down right outside.  Unfortunately for arachnids, this one that displays a slavish devotion to only traveling along the path of paved roads, thus allowing the guys in airplanes to know where to hit it.


They Live (1988)
Less truly bad movie, more cult classic.   John Carpenter directed this one so it’s full of dystopian themes and incredibly repetitious synthesizer music.   Note currently dead pro-wrestler Roddy Piper makes a go at the acting thing, as he plays an average homeless schmoe who gets his hands on sunglasses that let him see the truth.  Cue creepy scenes of him putting the glasses on to reveal ordinary people as aliens, and subliminal messages in all corners telling the populace “DON’T QUESTION,” “STAY ASLEEP,” and messages of that ilk.  Legitimately memorable and creepy imagery, dulled slightly by the fact that he then spends about five hours putting the glasses on and taking them off over and over to drive home the basic premise.  This new knowledge inexplicably pretty much instantly turns our hero into a gun-toting action hero who can survive falls from high buildings with ease and spouts action-movie one-liners left and right.  Of course, B-fest provided an appropriately enthusiastic reaction for the movie’s most infamous line – “I’m here to chew bubble gum, and kick ass.  And I’m all out of bubble gum.”  Piper does have some difficulty getting allies in his crusade, since most other characters in the movie don’t respond well to armed strangers breaking into their homes and demanding that they try on sunglasses.    They Live matches the skeleton of a really great, if half baked premise, with intermittently great directing and otherwise a bunch of action scenes, and it went over quite well as a B-fest closer.  Props to the organizers for providing sunglasses at the auditorium door for everyone to wear during opportune moments (or to be misused to mimic Sho’Nuff’s constantly putting on and taking off his sunglasses during The Last Dragon).   There was also a box labelled “bubble gum” next to the sunglasses, but I guess they were all out…

General thoughts:
- DOOR!

 - Overall it was a good lineup.  Compared to the vicissitudes of past years, this one was a little more even-keel.  There weren’t too many absolute transcendent B-fest moments like we get some years, but there was also remarkably few of those minutes and hours in which one kind of hates being there and hates life.  I’ve concluded that this is as much personal mood as anything else – see the lack of agreement about which were the “best” years, or the fact that I’ve reacted totally differently to seeing a couple of the same films at different times of day/night at different Fests.  B-fest 2016 left me drained and needing a break.  2017 left me a little tired as expected, but still wanting more.

- Organizers this year came up with a good system in which some of the lights go up between the overnight movies, but not all of them, which makes for a compromise between the extremes of frequent lights on while people are sleeping and endless morass of darkness during that run from 12:00 AM through 8:00 AM.  I really, really wish they'd quit ctting off the credits, though.

- Special thanks to Jeremy for not only the attendance and brief transporation but as for lednign a pillow after I forgot mine, and to Dave and Laura for the excellent food and excellent company for post-Fest dinner.

- Best movies (actual quality):  They Live, Action Jackson
- Best movie (to watch with a B-fest crowd):  The Last Dragon
- Honorable mentions:  Hercules In New York, Empire Of The Ants, Battlefield Earth, Future Hunters
- Lowlight:  Malibu Express
- Potential lowlight that became a highlight solely because B-festies are amazing:  Bloodlust!

- This year’s Cherryh book:  Hammerfall

- It seems appropriate to close with the insightful words of the Unknown Comic -
“Hey, d’ya like sex?  D’ya like travel?  Well, why don’t you take a fucking hike?”
So say we all, B-fest.  So say we all.  If you were there, you’d know why it seemed way funnier than it was.
Saturday, February 6th, 2016
9:06 am
B-fest 2016: They deafened me with SCIENCE!
I’m still juggling the same mix of exhilaration and fatigue as when I finished B-fest 2016 every time I sit down to write about B-fest 2016.  Plusses abounded, starting with the increased presence of family and friends that allowed this to be a real weekend vacation, not just one movie marathon.  No coming in off a work day.  No consecutive sleepness nights in a row.  I got a few days off for Chicagoland and made them count.  And the Fest itself had some amazing chances to see people who make for great “single serving friends.”

But make no mistake about it, by the end of the festival itself – wiped.  Not so much of the pure exhilaration that accompanies the best of the B-fests.  There was something about this particular run of movies that was thoroughly draining (I know, who’d have thought force-feeding oneself bad cinema would do that)?  Will definitely be back for another round, but this is one of those years when I’m glad it won’t be happening again for awhile.  But as everyone is pointing out, when B-fest 2016 got memorable, it was… well, not one I’ll forget anytime soon.

I don’t want to dwell too much on the pre- or post-fest festivities just because I think although they’re more interesting to me than to anyone who might read about them on the Internets.  But quick shout outs to a few people and places:  First, Elissa, my awesome wife, who managed a personal record of nearly nine hours’ worth of B-fest in her third year of attendance.  Quite a lot of B-fest considering how Not One Of Us she is when it comes to SF/F.  Second, to Jeremy and Sarah for, respectively, Fest attendance and just being an awesome person who we hadn’t seen in way too long.  Third, to Tuscano’s, Orange, Pick Me Up, and Chicago Diner for the good eatings.  Fourth, to the staff and bartenders at the Hala Kahiki lounge for accommodating the large group from the B-movie Message Board who show up way too early (starting a night of drinking at 7 and leaving at 10?  C’mon, people…) and serving us Scorpions and such.

Also also special mentions to Mark for hanging out with us at the bar past the rest of the group’s bedtime and to him as a comrade in riffing, and to Becca, Tristian, and the rest in the Greater Lemur Zone.  And to Tim for another disc of some sort of quality.


Okay, so ostensibly the point of this thing was to watch some movies…

The Adventures of Hercules (1985)
The second Hercules movie to feature Lou Ferrigno, this got B-fest off to a potentially rather smashing start… except for the projector/film issues that have so defined this festival, even in the DVD/streaming era.    When the movie first started, the dialogue was basically inaudible – not that it mattered too much during the opening recap of the previous movie, complete with its rear-projected dragons that clearly had no contact with the actors and such.  But eventually the film stopped outright, and when it re-started, the problem was in the opposite direction; it was deafeningly loud.  This had the unfortunate effect of making the sound effects basically intolerable and more or less driving the wife screaming from the theater.  Unpleasant knock on the film, which is the kind of cheese I get a kick out of – nonsensical stuff involving Greek gods, pointless fight scenes every ten seconds, and chees/e/beefcake aplenty from Lou and the two hot chicks who alternately serve as his damsels in distress or his sidekicks.

We had fun with the beyond cheap special effects and the inept Italian cinematography and – especially – the nonsensical plot with its flying moons and gathering of McGuffins.  Fans of referencing other B-fest movies adored the unintentional ways in which it serves as a sequel to Metalstorm and/or a prequel to Xanadu.  Even better, and serving to justify the whole damn thing even for those who hated the rest, was the climactic final battle in which the hero and villain are represented by vector graphics and morph into an ape and a dinosaur to pay tribute to King Kong vs. Godzilla.  I swear that I was awake, and that this actually happens in Hercules.  But for audience participation, nothing could top the film’s reference to Menos (the villain’s) tools as representing “science” or “the science of Menos.”  Science apparently gave him things like magical flaming swords, lasers from his eyes, and nets made of lightning.  The film makes reference after reference to science, which apparently also embodies the forces of Chaos in the war against Order.  Soon, as a shorthand for this, everyone took to just yelling “SCIENCE!” whenever something magical happened.  And then in other movies whenever some actual science took place.  And then just at random.  This threatened to become a Fest-wide running gag, at least until it just kinda stopped around midnight.

Oh, and somehow I completely forgot until reading it in Bro-Rag’s recap just now that some prepared folks ran up to the stage at various times to hold up captions in Greek when Hercules hit or kicked anything.  The implication was that these were the equivalent of the “POW!”  “BAM!” etc. shit that the old Batman TV show did… don’t know how accurate they were, since it was Greek to me.
Movie quality: Weak
B-fest rating: Good


Caltiki, The Immortal Monster (1959)
Had high hopes for this one based on its breathless trailer about ancient Aztec goddesses and “scientists of both sexes!” (a lie, by the way – no female scientists in this movie).  It wasn’t quite as much fun as all that, as the Aztec stuff pretty much disappears after the first ten minutes and it turns into a monster-in-a-lab movie like many many others, with a monster resembling the cheap non-union equivalent of the Blob.  I don’t have much to add, but it was another chance to yell “SCIENCE!” a lot.  The increasingly unhinged guy who gets possessed by Caltiki was a fun scenery chewer, and all the explosions and fires at the end were fun too.
Movie quality: Decent
B-fest rating:  Decent


Americathon (1979)
And then this happened.  Americathon is a mess of a film about President Ted Ritter deciding to save a bankrupt America by throwing a massive telethon, and the efforts to sabotage it.  We finally ran out of oil, as the intro explains, and we see video of a country where cars are what the overpopulated populace lives in before getting into traffic jams whilst biking to work.  A then-sitting President (Carter) getting assassinated is used as a throwaway joke early on.  Those trying to buy up the country include rich Native Americans (who run a cabal called NIKE – National Indian Knitting Enterprise - that plasters its brand on everything), kleptomaniacal Chinese tourists, and an oil-rich Jewish-Arab alliance (the Hebrabs).  Um…. yeah.  I’d actually half expected a conservative-leaning political satire of some sort, but the movie doesn’t really have any teeth; it’s more something from the Zucker school of throwing as many possible random gags at the audience and seeing what sticks.  It’s too tame and corny to even be offensive - the racism and homophobia and such just blend into the film’s desperation to get a laugh by whatever scattered means it can think of.  As he does in every movie in which he has a cameo, Meat Loaf steals the whole movie in his brief role.  Another running gag came from the line that a Vietnamese exotic dancer (or something; played by a white actor in yellowface makeup) uses to reciprocate Ritter’s desire to get laid:  “soup’s on!”  This was one of those insane choices where the audience tends to spend the time reacting and wondering “how did this get made?” rather than actively riffing.  I remember almost none of the specifics about this movie, but the overall experience of watching it was certainly memorable.
Movie quality: Bad
B-fest rating: Good


Calling Dr. Death (1943)
You can tell B-fest is starting to get to you when you find yourself thinking that a movie like this isn’t really too bad.  Keep in mind that this is a movie in which hypnosis can easily be induced by swinging something shiny back and forth and is a reliable way to elicit the truth, and where it’s a basic skill that every good neurologist has.  Also, a major plot point involves setting fire to an office by leaving a bottle of “acid” near a phone and then calling long distance to make it ring.  Anyway, Lon Chaney Jr. gives an increasingly unhinged and tortured performance (well, of course he does) as a neurologist whose unloving wife ends up dead, and he very very slowly pieces his way through the fact that he can’t remember the last few days and thus suspects himself.  Hypnosis is involved.   We had fun with the worthless voiceovers, the fact that the character framed for the murder is named Robert Duval, and the dogged police investigator who won’t stop stalking Lon.  At one point one character or another goes to a nearby town whose name I can’t be bothered to remember but it’s something like Frost Lake, and the fact that items from that town’s pharmacy show up in Lon’s office is meant to be suspicious.  A few in the crowd with good comedic timing got a thing going where they’d yell in mock horror “Frost Lake has a pharmacy?!”  You probably had to be there.

During this whole thing, I kept being struck by the level of competence on display here.  Again, keep in mind we’d just watched Americathon, so a plot that (mostly) makes sense was a bit of a novelty.  But the print was crisp and the shot framing and cinematography were right on.  I just found it odd that this little cheapie from the ‘40s was far more appealing, visually speaking, than just about anything else we’d seen so far.  Plus, it’s pretty short, which is always a perk in a movie marathon.  Calling Dr. Death was, for whatever it’s worth, one of the most successful movies of B-fest when judged purely as a film.  Granted, it’s slow as hell.  Granted despite sucking at mysteries even I correctly pegged the killer about ten minutes into the movie.  But hey, you can’t have everything.
Movie quality: Decent
B-fest rating: Good


Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)
I don’t have anything new to say about this.  It’s Plan 9, same as always.  We do it every year.  The tall chiropractor still is not Bela.
Movie quality: Bad
B-fest rating: Excellent

I didn’t mention the annual short film, The Wizard Of Speed And Time yet, which is because the attempt at showing it pre-Plan 9 led to one sound-free version and then a bunch of failed attempts to get things to run.  We were sure this was the year we’d finally broken the reel.  But Post-P9FOS, the Wizard was shown in all his glory, forward and upside-down/backwards, and we did our little thing running with our feet on the stage.  We thanked the organizers profusely for making it happen for one more year.


The Human Tornado (1976)
Rudy Ray Moore makes his long (?) awaited return to B-fest, here in a movie which he basically wrote, directed, choreographed, etc. where he plays his signature (I guess) character, Dolemite.  Here’s where fatigue starts to set in, but did technically stay awake for the whole thing and what I remember can basically can be summed up pretty accurately by the [NSFW!] trailer - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekP8f4Nl3Xw - which my wife and I got into watching over and over leading up to the Fest and yelling “the HU-man tor-NAY-DAH!” at each other at random intervals.  So, yeah, that’s exactly the type of movie THT is.  It’s both every bit as fun and every bit as inept as it looks, it’s hard to say how seriously anyone was taking any of it, and it pretty much speaks for itself.
Although you can tell how tired I was that I got into the ending, which suddenly makes the suggestion that those drawn into this life of violence might see it all end in an instant, or something…
Movie quality: Weak
B-fest rating: Good


The Fucking Garbage Fucking Pail Fucking Kids Fucking Movie (1987)
Actual title may be slightly different.  I knew going in that this would be the big challenge of the night, and it lived down to that.  Did sleep for 20-30 min, but somehow didn’t have a hard time following the rest of the movie.  Okay, so for those not unfortunate enough to have grown up in the late ‘80s, the Garbage Pail Kids were a line of trading cards, a parody of Cabbage Patch Kids that was all about gross-out humor.  So I got to grow up while my classmates during lunch would be giggling at the kid taking a bath in urine or whatever.  (Was the wrong sort of kid to be entertained by the stuff.)  Someone without a soul decided that the property should be spun into a cash-in movie, and here you go.  I avoided reading anything about this thing in advance because I knew how much I’d hate it, and later learned that it became a bit of a rarity due to a successful effort by angry parents’ groups to limit its release.  We’ll pretend that they just didn’t want their children exposed to poorly made misconceived cinema.

Basically, a half dozen or so of the Kids (played by dwarf actors) wreak havoc on the world – one of them farts a lot and the film treats this is a deadly attack, one of them has a nose constantly running, one of them is an anthropomorphic alligator with a nearly-sexual desire to bite unwilling victims’ toes (??), etc.   The movie is apparently under the impression that they’re lovable scamps, even as they do things like harass random bystanders at a movie theater or start fights at bars.  Their antics are too crude for the kids and tweens that the movie was apparently aimed it; it’s not just the gross-out stuff, it’s that the Kids are also up for boozing and sexual come-ons.   (Oh, and apparently I slept through a rape joke – always a staple of the best kids’ movies.)  More to the point, the problem is that their behavior is consistently loathsome, but the movie seems to think that they’re the heroes.

So how do we know that this movie isn’t actually a parody of a little kids’ movie that’s actually aiming at an older, more irreverent audience?  Well, one, it wasn’t marketed that way.  But basically I just can’t imagine either the Garbage Pail Kids property nor their movie holding much appeal to teens.  It’s way too silly and over-the-top, and it’s full of jaunty group sing-alongs and trite lessons about the dangers of judging people for how they look.  A really high proportion of the alleged comedy is directed at the age group for whom boogers, vomit, and urine are inherently funny – i.e. the young’uns.  And that audience can’t really be expected to relate to the struggles of the main human character to impress his crush while she strings him along with undisguised cock-tease dialogue.

By the way, an aside about that.  This may actually be the grossest part of the whole movie, more so than Valerie Vomit or whoever.  Our audience surrogate human kid looks about ten, but the dialogue insists that he’s fifteen.  His crush is old enough to drive, and really looks at least six years older than him.  The age difference is far beyond jarring.  However, as I later learned, the two actors were apparently dating at the time.  Just typing that made me moderately nauseous.

Okay, anyway, the film moves towards its thrilling climax in which the Kids are exploited for their clothes-making talents (yeah, I don’t know either), and then imprisoned for being “too ugly.”  They break out, and unleash their vengeance by ruining a fashion show, farting on or vomiting on villains and bystanders alike, or throwing them through tables, and literally stripping the clothes they manufactured off of the models wearing them.  (The models have never personally wronged them – the Kids are just assholes.)  As the movie expected us to cheer, my hatred of the filmmakers expanded to include the entire 1980s, because this movie embodies everything that was wrong with that decade.  For the benefit of the human species, it might make sense to just eradicate everyone in any way involved with this movie or any other other ‘80s movie, and maybe also cripple anyone who ever bought a Garbage Pail Kids trading card.  Hell, we could also sponser to punch everyone in the face other than maybe Elissa and me who lived through the ‘80s, just to be safe.  I recognize that this may not seem like a rational response to someone who did not spend 100 minutes of their life watching this shit, but those who haven't have no basis to judge.

And yes, its B-fest rating will be “Good.”  A proper survey of bad movies includes the most loathsome and the memorable, and this horrific excuse for a movie fits both bills.
Movie quality:  ABOMINATION
B-fest rating: Good


Blood Mania (1970)
Time for more sleep!  Missed about an hour of this and just caught the end, which featured minor blood and minor mania.  I’d been led to believe that this was a softcore porn movie, but reports of those who were awake is that it was something far more sinister – an Art Movie.  Supposedly there were occasional boobs but mostly really long scenes of nothing as the filmmakers showed off their film-school chops without bothering to have anything happen, ever.  People around who stayed awake deeply hated this one.  And from talking to others from other parts of the auditorium during intermissions, Blood Mania was the clear consensus choice for worst-of-fest, with several folks explicitly yelling about it somehow, some way, being worse than The Garbage Pail Kids Movie.  Kinda sorry I missed most of it, just to see whether it’s even physically possible to have a movie worse than its predecessor.
Movie quality: [unable to rate]
B-fest rating: [unable to rate]


Moon Zero Two (1969)
Things immediately perked up with an amazing animated intro that concisely and entertainingly tells us of commerce leading to the end of the Cold War, and drilled the movie’s theme song deep into our heads.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9f-ULb1AvG0
Then we had to watch the rest of the movie in all its slow-paced glory.  I’ll admit that my seatmates and I spent the first half hour or so repeating the same two jokes.  One was randomly singing the theme song, which is self-explanatory.  The other, inspired by a reference to something costing “12,000 moon dollars,” was to take every opportunity to add “moon” or “space” to the beginning of every common noun.  And it wasn’t like the movie (or rather, moon movie) wasn’t helping us out – the bar that the characters hang out at is called “Moon Bar,” and there’s even a brief game of (really) Moonopoly.  I think my best riff was referring to a character’s stylish eyepiece as a “moonacle.”  This whole train of jokes was way more amusing than anyone who’s not acutely sleep deprived can understand.  MZT eventually develops a nonsensical story about murder, betrayal, love, and plots to crash asteroids made of gemstone or something, but it all happens so very slowly.  There’s clearly a lot of 2001 in MZT’s DNA, what with a lived-in future full of chain restaurants and commercial space-liners… it’s like 2001 with more interest in character development and more colorful fake-future fashion sense, but much much less overall ambition.  Quite appreciated what the movie was trying to accomplish, and it was fun overall, but definitely overstayed its welcome some.
Movie quality: Decent
B-fest rating: Good


Low Blow (1986)
A more sedate than it should have been piece of cheese featuring a bad Bruce Lee knockoff as an ex-cop who plays by his own rules but gets the job done.  Also there’s a lot of scenes set at a cult on a farm which seem like they come from a totally different movie about belief and betrayal and weighty shit.  Also there’s the loud yet lifeless soundtrack played almost entirely on synths, relentlessly infusing the movie with an extra sheen of ‘80s-ness.  I’m a bit of a minority among the B-fest crowd in that I get bored quickly with ‘80s action movies about bros hitting stuff, but this one had way less hitting than I’d been led to expect.  The inept fight sequences (featuring a martial arts/pit-fighting tournament, of course, and eventually an enemy group about as competent as the Miami Connection street gang, naturally) provided some entertainment value, as did the way our Asian hero and his black ally develop a friendship and understanding built on racial slurs.  This was one I didn’t really get into at all for whatver reason, although I admit that the ebb and flow of a sleepness night sometimes distorts one’s appreciation of the cinema.
Movie quality: Weak
B-fest rating:  Weak


The Fifth Musketeer (1979)
Featuring an all-star cast (well, Ian McShane, Lloyd Bridges, Alan Hale, and a few others of that ilk), TFM is purportedly based on The Man In The Iron Mask.  Haven’t read that one, so can’t say how faithful it was.  But with Starbucks finally open and coffee flowing freely for the rest of the festival, we sat down to enjoy some swashbuckling… and to a Festie, couldn’t quite understand what this movie was doing here.  Briefly, an older D’Artegan has a young ward who turns out to be the secret twin brother of the king of France, and identity-swapping hijinx ensue.  The original Three Musketeers are also in the movie, but don’t really do much.  And the main point of this all is that the plot of this movie makes sense, the actors are pretty good, and it looks like a reasonable budget went into making the costumes and the sets look respectible.  It’s way longer than it needs to be, but the fight scenes are just fine, and there are way worse ways to spend a couple hours than watching this thing.  In short, how is this either a bad movie or a B-movie?  Yes, believe it or not, a film can fall flat at B-fest for simply being too good.  The plus side was that watching a decent movie was a bit of a break in and of itself, given what had come before.

I got off another well received riff when King Louie’s concubine is passive-aggressively insulting the soon-to-be queen of France, and her trained hunting bird (a falcon or something) strategically sets up shop where it can glower and block escape.  I said “okay, there’s some serious trash-hawking going on.”  At the time, it was funny.  Really.
Movie quality: Decent
B-fest rating: Weak


Roar (1981)
Coming back from lunch break, we roll into… this.  I was expecting something pleasantly inept, like an Australian cat-focused version of Frogs.  What we got was something very very different.  Numerous captions let us know that the filmmakers worked with untrained wild animals and that none of them were harmed.  It makes no mention of whether the human actors were injured, maimed, or possibly killed without noticing.

Roar then gives us a movie set almost entirely in or around a large multi-level hut-style house in an African wildlife refuge.  Said house is utterly infested by lions, tigers, and the occasional jaguar.  Most of the people being menaced are a real-life family – overwhelmed patriarch, mother who always fights off hysteria, scared teenage daughter, and terrified pre-teen son; they move into this place, realize that the jungle cats have full run of the place, and spend the next hour and a half trying to leave.  Our heroes never antagonize the animals, and the animals only go for the kill during the more scripted parts (about 80% of the action seems unscripted, seriously), but these are clearly wild animals with no qualms about swatting or biting at each other, other species of cats, or humans.  Occasionally there will be a staged bit in which the dad will, say, try to escape and go for help, and his path will be blocked by a couple of angry charging elephants or aggressive giraffes (really), and then the action moves back to the house to get pawed at by lions some more.

There’s minimal acting required or on display – they look terrified of suffering major injuries the whole time they’re on camera, especially the kids.  No one’s that good an actor.  It legitimately looks as if basically someone threw some folks in a room with gigantic carnivores, hit “record,” and stepped back to see what would happen.  Now, I’ve always had a strong environmentalist streak in me, so I’m totally in favor of living in harmony with nature, but common sense dictates that harmony often entails stepping back and leaving lions and tigers the fuck alone to admire from a great distance (and not forcing lions and tigers to live in the same place, for that matter).  You can visibly see cast members suffer a few injuries here and there, and as a viewer, I was worried that there would be worse to come.  I’ve never seen a snuff film, but this must be what it’s like to watch one… one that goes on for 90 minutes.  Even the ending is weird and off base, as (spoiler!) our heroes never actually escape, they just get comfortable.  The final shot has the main family relaxing on the roof of the same damn house, coffee cups in their hands and sleeping jungle cats curled up around their feet, who presumably went right back to mauling as soon as the cameras stopped rolling.

As I learned later, apparently the backstory is almost exactly what it looks like.  The whackjob animal-loving couple orchestrating the whole thing over more than five years were the main actors, filming in their own (California) home with some of their own lions, and they subjected their own children, as well as numerous cameramen et al, to dozens of horrific real-life injuries.  Melanie Griffeth, who plays the daughter, almost lost an eye at one point, and that footage still made it into the movie.

At the time, I can’t say I enjoyed Roar, per se, because it’s so repetitious, and I was just so stunned and unable to entirely believe what I was watching.  Most of the riffing was replaced by just reacting in a daze, because what else can you do with a movie like this?  Even during the break between movies I was wandering around trying to engage people in conversation to try to process what exactly had just happened.  I can honestly say that no experience to date has never been anything quite like watching Roar, and this was the right crowd with whom to do it.
Movie quality: Bad
B-fest rating: Excellent


Kansas City Bomber (1972)
Elissa and Jeremy unexpectedly popped back up again after having left overnight to partake in more “fun.”  Star Raquel Welch  takes us inside the seamy underside of roller derby, which this movie apparently believes is like an unscripted version of pro wrestling, with people getting flipped on their heads thrown into the crowd, bombarded with trash while an overly enthusiastic announcer mimics the audience chants, etc.  As such, there’s lots of senseless violence on display.  And a bland plot involving a creepy love story involving the owner of the team, a fading diva who develops an instant dislike to the new girl in town (and brawls with her on the train tracks that the team bus is riding along, for some reason), and so on.  But mostly, roller derby.  Like most “good” sports movies, it actually pulled the camera back long enough to let the viewer follow the flow of the game (too many d the hyperkinetic editing thing that’s better for action movies than sports).

My part of the theater focused a lot of riffing on the injuries that the characters would have suffered had it been real, especially the head trauma.  Lots of gags about the different attitude towards concussions in contact sports in the ‘70s.  The other most memorable moment was when I got a fairly extended sing-along (okay, more of a song lyric recite-along with no singing) started.  I started quoting the Cake song “The Distance” during a sequence in which the arena was empty except for one man, still driving and striving etc. etc., and others picked up on it.  For some reason nearly everyone else seemed to find this one dull, and I have no idea why.  I had a lot of fun with it as exactly the palate cleanser it should have been.
Movie quality: Decent
B-fest rating: Good


The Super Inframan (1975)
The Fest ended with a bookend to the Hercules movie which started it, as Planet Telstar brought us a personal favorite of its sponsor.  This is a Hong Kong children’s film which Tim warned us would be “a little slow for the first 15 seconds or so.”  I tried to push to watch in Mandarin with subtitles, but those who knew the film felt that the dubbed lines like “No matter how potent your weapons are, you'll be defeated because Infra-Man is invincible against them” were an essential part of the Infra-Man experience.   The SCIENCE! jokes came back in full force, as aliens from inside a volcano of something take over the planet, but thanks to the efforts of SCIENCE! we have a superhero who can fight them.  Infra-Man’s powers are vaguely defined but do involve “thunderball fists.”  Also, the villain is named “Princess Dragon Mom.”  And also, there are about a thousand differently absurdly cheap looking rubber-suit “monsters” in the movie, with a typical exemplar below:
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_47-OQWm3mQc/SL9Qw58yWwI/AAAAAAAAAN4/ZkxCCA0WXR8/s1600-h/spider+monster.jpg
And then after you’ve seen a representative sample of Intra-Man - like about 20 minutes - you pretty much get the point and endure the rest of the festival in hopes of one day leaving the auditorium.  It was worth it, though.  Enjoyment somewhat tempered by how bored Elissa got by the end, and by how draining this whole festival was.
Movie quality: Bad
B-fest rating: Decent


I’m tired of writing about B-fest 2016 now.  Good weekend, good and crazy festival; there’s nothing else that compares to B-fest.  A few more asides:
- This year's Cherryh book:  Downbelow Station
- Boo on the organizers for persistently cutting off the end credits.  If you’re going to wait ten minutes between movies anyway, sure, turn the lights up, but run the damn credits so we can hear the closing songs.  I'm still waiting for that cheese-rock singer to finish explaining how if I get sent to the principal's office, I can be a Garbage Pail Kid.  At least they stuck with Low Blow long enough to give us the post-credits stinger of that one.
- The Fest’s continually being stuck in the ‘70s and ‘80s just might be the thing that gets me to break down and try to sponsor something next year.

Same time, next year, everyone?  You know I’ll be there, despite the lifestyle and scheduling related to medical SCIENCE!!!…
Friday, January 30th, 2015
12:12 pm
B-FEST 2015: Fluent in nine cinematic languages (including The Portugese)

This particular year's edition of B-fest has a few particular quirks by which I'll remember it compared to the Fests before and after.  It was the "I love the '70s!" edition of B-fest.  It was the year without shorts.  It was the most involved I've ever gotten my wife into the proceedings - Elissa, not a SF/F type nerd at all, and our mutual friend Jeremy, lasted 7 hours this year after making their debut last year.  It was about the most sleep-deprived I've ever gotten - as I described at length to anyone who would listen, B-fest ended up a week earlier than usual this year.  As a result, I had to scramble to get the weekend off, which I managed to do, but I was actually post-call (i.e. coming off a 28-hour work day) and was operating on about 1.5 hours of sleep heading into another sleepless night on Friday afternoon.  But primarily, B-fest 2015 was a chance to sit around watching bad movies in an energetic setting with a bunch of film and other nerds.  Yeah, every B-fest is memorable that way.  Here are the movies we watched.

The Creature With The Atom Brain (1955) - I'm enough of a nerd to know that this was B-fest's first black-and-white opener since 2007.  This movie starts with a zombie of sorts (he moves stiffly and talks robotically, despite not looking very dead) saying over and over that he's "from Donovan" and breaking a guy in half (shown in silhouette).  The movie couldn't quite keep up that pace after that.  Donovan in question is a guy whose plan for revenge on some associates who double-crossed him involves hiring a Nazi scientist to build him an army of zombies, which is probably how I'd approach it too.  The technology involved is sometimes useful, like a big TV that lets him see what his creatures see, and sometimes hilarious, like the padded tunned the two have to crawl through, clad in hazmat-type suits, every time they want to wake up one of their creatures.  Meanwhile, the detectives quickly figure out what they're dealing with using the usual police fluency with weirdly shaped beakers and Geiger counters (it's Radiocative, basically, and involves Science).  A fair amount of the audience humor here involved one character's little daughter, the subject of some horrifically inappropriate upskirt shots and close touching, and whose toy doll bears the brunt of one zombie's aggresion, accompanied by melodramatic close ups.  I've seen higher-energy B-fest openers, but this one was reasonable, and unlike the other films, knew when to keep things short.
Movie quality:  Weak
B-fest rating:  Good

Metalstorm:  The Destruction Of Jared-Syn (1983) - Not shown in 3D, although it was released that way.  This movie set the tone with its opening credits consisting of about an hour of cloud footage ("today, expect cloudy skies with a 30% chance of metalstorm").  The film proceeds to have our hero (a "Seeker" in pursuit of the villaineously hypenated Jared-Syn) drive around a lot and win the respect of an army of cyclops types or something.  He teams up with a similar looking drunken ex-Seeker for most of it, and they drive and walk around a bunch more ("look, guys, you can't both be Han Solo at the same time."  "Yes we can!  We're Han Duo!")  I've seen a lot of bad movies at this festival and even among that group, Metalstorm is very much one of them.  It's boring-bad rather than fun-bad, although we among the crowd did our best to have those group moments we come to B-fest for.  For instance, we had a loud extended call-and-response thing going in response to a guy up front who kept loudly demanding that someone explain what the hell was happening in this movie ("Okay, so there's only two passes available to get out fo Casablanca..."  "And this guy gets framed after a one-armed man kills his wife...")  Late-film highlight comes when the villain isn't so much killed as just kinda gets written out of the movie - he flees into some metaphysical warp nonsense.  Our youngest attendee (Skip's daughter) became very fond of referencing the absence of a metal-storm and the lack of destruction of anyone at all.  Also notable for the fact that until we wiki'd it after the end of the movie, we were unaware that it was supposed to be set on another planet.
Movie quality:  Bad
B-fest rating:  Decent

Frogs (1972) - Now we get into the stuff my group was looking forward to.  The title image of a human hand protruding from the mouth of the giant frog who's swallowed its owner was obviously way too great looking ot be realized on screen.  And it isn't.  Instead, the film introduces about twenty-five ludicrously dressed characters that it can then kill off one by one, as Nature strikes back against its enemies with a coordinated attack.  It sort of centers around causing suffering to the family patriarch, a guy who refuses to face his impending mortality, responds to a single snake getting into the house by shooting it with a revolver, and insists that his private island birthday party plans remain unchanged even in the face of a growing body count.  There are a lot of shots (or the same one, over and over) of frogs hanging around and croaking loudly, leading us to scream in mock-terror every time the movie showed a frog, at least until we got bored with that.  But the frogs don't really do much of anything, letting the rest of Nature - inlcuding snakes, spiders, turtles (?!) etc. do the killing while they just kinda croak in the background.  The frogs themselves act more as middle management types, really.  Best deaths included the komodo dragons locking a guy in a closed garden and asphixiating him by pushing over numerous loudly labelled bottles of "POISON" one at a time (Elissa - "is this the 'greenhouse gas' that everyone's worried about?").  In the end, partriarch guy falls out of his wheelchair accompanied by Strangelove references as frogs hop over him, his taxidermy collection looks down accusingly, and the film's last shot shows his house lights going off.  Nice touch, that.
Movie quality:  Weak
B-fest rating:  Good

Killdozer (1974) - An ABC TV-movie of the week, Killdozer gives a co-writing credit and a "from a story by" credit to Theodore Sturgeon.  It's actually a much more successful movie than nearly any other on the schedule because it confines itself (TV budget, after all) to a very limited scope.  There's a cheap looking meteor that turns a bulldozer into a killing machine, there's a construction crew who have to try to stop it, we're in remote South Africa so there's no way to get outside help or any more characters into the movie.  Okay, go.  Unlike something like that Jared-Syn movie, there's a logical progression to the stuff that happens as our heroes have various encounters with the Killdozer and adapt their battle strategies accordingly.  The main cast are about as distinct as you'd imagine - this guy is black, that guy is the foreman, that guy drinks too much, and so on.    Unfortunately, I was starting to nod off for a few seconds at a time so couldn't appreciate this one 100%, but caught maybe 98% of it.  Enjoyed several of the awesomely B-movie setpieces, including how often a giant smoke-belching machine manages to sneak up on and jump out at people, and its strategy of throwing dozer-loads of rocks down a cliff at its would-be victims.  Eventually, thinking of ways of executing a killer leads our two surviving men to stumble upon the correct method for expelling an alien force.  I won't ruin the ending, but it's as stupid as you'd think.
Movie quality:  Decent
B-fest rating:  Excellent

Yeah, crammed in four movies before midnight (mostly by moving a scaled-down raffle to lunchtime once again this year).  There was still time to fire up the film projector for the traditional forward and backward showing of The Wizard Of Speed And Time, accompanied by our own on-stage cosplaying wizard, rocking the robe of green.

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) - So since Elissa and Jeremy stayed for most of this, I had to hang around and see the newbies' reactions to a B-fest style Plan 9.  We had fun with it.  It's always fun finding new faces to get stunned that someone would think a cloak over the face was an appropriate way to slip a towering not-Bela into his stupid movie.  The rote yelling actors' names without actually reacting to the movie that I used to complain about was much diminished this year, which I'm greatly in favor of.  However, this may be the year that the duellng-chant thing really takes off.  Besides the old wicker/rattan debate and its newer spinoff of "coffee!"/"tea!", this year we also got back-and-forth "Stunt!"/"Rock!" (just because), followed by "purse!"/"handbag!" in response to a guy's choice of hand luggage.  Went to brush my teeth for most of the end, but I can confidently say that Criwsell's terrifying true predication about future events that may have already happened remains as timely and sobering as ever.
Movie quality:  Bad
B-fest rating:  Excellent

Black Mama, White Mama (1973) - This movie tries to talk out of every side of its mouth.  It features one chick who's played by Pam Grier and one who isn't, in what starts as a ridiculously purile women-in-prison movie.  We're talking flat-out softcore porn stuff, naked women having tickle-fights while a lesbian voyeur guard watches and masturbates, that kind of thing.  (Best audience riff - "Yeah, I can see why this new season of Orange Is The New Black is getting such lukewarm reviews.")  Even after our two heroes escabe, handcuffed together, into the wilds of the Phillipenes, they initially mostly cat-fight in a manner designed to feature as much upskirt footage as possible (me: "they color-coordinated their underwear so we know who's the black mama and who's the white mama").  But as the running time proceeds, BMWM gradually abandons most (but not all) of the porn and makes a half-hearted attempt to be an actual movie about characters and violence or something, as the revolutionary mama reconnects with her comrades in arms and slowly inspires Pam Grier to be less apolitical and more engaged in the world.   Then most of the cast gets gunned down in the kind of ending that leaves a B-fest audience saying "well, that happened."
Movie quality:  Weak
B-fest rating:  Good

Yongary, Monster From The Deep (1967) - Okay, given the total lack of sleep situation referenced above, I knew I'd fall asleep in my chair a few times.  That just comes with the territory.  And I had this movie set as my potential emergency nap - not that I'd try to sleep, since I did want to see it, but that I'd let it happen if necessary.  And so I dozed.  The parts I did see looked pretty solid; a shameless Korean ripoff of Godzilla complete with a giant occassionally dancing monster, a military that has exactly as much success fighting kaiju as you'd think, SCIENCE! saving the day by dumping poison powder or something all over Yongary, and a pecocious boy who's in tune with the monster.  Said kid was kind of preternaturally calm, mourning the death of a unique creature despite being totally on board with the necessity of killing it.  A little sorry I missed so much of this one - I bet it was fun.
Movie quality:  [unable to rate]
B-fest rating:  [well, the parts I saw were quite good]

Avalanche (1978) - Roger Corman!  A cheaper version of a vintage '70s disaster movie (a sub genre that doesn't usually get much B-fest love), this movie has no money to work with, and therefore takes awhile to get to the point.  Like Frogs, an unhinged rich guy (Rock Hudson) pays for his disregard for nature, or at least his semi-coherent rants about environmentalists.  Hudson, Mia Farrow, and about twenty other one-note characters are s l o w l y introduced in a variety of often entertaining sequences, like one spurned wife who throws milk at her husband or a downhill skier who knows how to launch himself to land in a tree and wrap himself aroud it when the hillside collapses.  (I drew some laughter and some strong hostility for "he's a tree-hugger.")  Finally about five hours into the movie, a cheap looking avalanche happens and affects our characters one at a time.  Here there's a snuff element, as the movie loves throwing in ironic twists to the various deaths for no real reason (i.e. killing the suicidal chick who's just decided to live, having the plucky old woman who somehow survived the avalanche die in an ambulance crash, etc.).  The end of the movie is just non-stop mean-spirited carnage and it's pretty great - for my money the chef has the best death scene, but it's got plenty of competition.  This is a very fun movie if you're a terrible person, as most people were during the '70s.
Movie quality:  Decent
B-fest rating:  Excellent

Cloak & Dagger (1984) - Some folks sponsored some free Peet's coffee in the labby around this time, which was a nice new quirk for those who didn't want to wait until the traditional 9 AM Starbucks rush.  I abstained because I knew my body desperately needed at least a little more sleep before trying to replace it with coffee.  This film of '80s kitch (Atari games abounded) was the unfortunate victim of this, as I again missed more than I watched.  What I did gather from talking to people afterward: this is a wish-fulfillment thing in which an eleven-year-old gets enmeshed in an adventure.  Other than his even younger friend, his only help comes from an imaginary version of his favorite video game character, who coaches him in doing suicidally dangerous things, and ultimately learning to kill.  The ending has a bunch of running around the airport in which the kids have to convince the bumbling adults that there are terrorists around, and then a showdown in a plane in which the kid teams up with his father... who'd been the model for his hallucinatory hero.  Many had seen this as kids, and - to a Festie - those people invariably commented on how they viewed it totally differently through adult eyes, generally calling it unintentionally dark and something that couldn't get made today.
Movie quality: [unable to rate]
B-fest rating:  [kinda sorry to have missed so much of this one, too]

Andy Hardy's Private Secretary (1941) - This is one of about ten movies starring the Hardy Family - basically a celebration of growing up American and privileged - which were apparently a huge deal in their era.  Just for context, while this thing was doing huge box office numbers, other notable films released in 1941 included Casablanca.  Mickey Rooney is one of those kids who's president of every student group and has success basically fall into his lap.  But don't worry, his family and he are willing to reach out to the neighborhood poor kids and patronizingly buy them stuff... these kids, after all, are still white, and their dad's just fallen on hard times but is still a fundamentally white-collar guy who speaks "nine languages, including The Portugese."  Our hero has a variety of encounters featuring the kind of cringe comedy that never goes in style (he has to buy his "secretary" stockings without his gilfriend finding out about it, and navigate a women's clothing store to do it!).  Mickey's carelessness nearly completely fucks up his life and those around him, but there are always loopholes to remind him that he's rich and white, and therefore can go skipping off into the sunset.  I thought this was entertaining enough as a time capsule of white-bread entertainment of another era - one in which the girl students' academic and career pursuits is taken seriously without compromising the main character's ability to casually say things like "a woman belongs at home" and not be percieved as offensive.  It was interesting to see how many fellow Festies hated this one with a fiery passion, though.  The crowd as a whole definitely suffered.  Mickey Rooney didn't strike all of us as such a lovable scamp, what with the way he can tamper with government mail with no consequence, or the general lack of learning any lessons, ever.
Movie quality:  Weak
B-fest rating:  Decent

Can't Stop The Music (1980) - Aaargh.  CSTM is a musical bio-pic about the founding and marketing of the group Village People.  Mind you, I dind't say the movie is actually about the Village People.  Its protagonist, apparently an idealized version of the film's writer, is a struggling songwriter and music producer who puts together the group and tries to sell them through various palm-greasing.  Helping out is his ex-model roomate, who's willing to sleep her friends' way to the top.  Crises and triumphs come entirely from the business side of things, not based on the musical performances themselves.  This look at the boring side of the music biz makes up most the movie's two-hour running time.  Even when it's interrupted by admittedly high energy songs, well, I didn't really need a ten-minute version of the title track in the film's climactic celebration of Village People's first big gig.  Minuses include all the hijix involving cozying up to and/or kidnapping music producers, the self-congratulatory tone, the belief that audiences will give a shit about the marketing of a music group, and did I mention that this piece of shit is two hours long? A big, uh, plus I guess comes from an infamous mid-movie montage set to "YMCA" which... well, even the gratuitous side-boob shots fail to keep said montage from being the single gayest thing every committed to film.  That part alone is worth watching for its total excess.  Avoid the rest of the movie like the plague.  I sort of wish I could have, but, well, B-festers gonna fest.
Movie quality:  Bad
B-fest rating:  Decent

Alien From L.A. (1988) - Noted thespian clearly hired solely for her dramatic prowess Kathy Ireland stars in this story of an ordinary girl whose quest to find her father leads to the subterranean world of Atlantis, full of loudspeakers and TV screens.  You know she's ordinary because she starts the movie in comically baggy clothes and cartoonishly thick glasses.  Naturally, dedicated to playing out the "model in horn rims" cliche to the hilt, she breaks her glasses soon after entering Atlantis, seems to see just fine, and spends the rest of the movie without them.  The higher-ups are divided: some think they're under attack by an invasion from L.A., but a minority recognize that Kathy is indeed just a ditzy kid who landed there by accident.  I'll admit that I wanted to like Alien From L.A.; it's dated to a date during which I was actually alive, it has a fun premise and a few rudimentary hints of a sense of humor about itself.  Objectively, though, there's really not much movie there.  There's not much to Atlantis, and Kathy can company don't really see or do anything other than wander around the same few "underground" sets.  Still, I feel fonder of this movie than it has any right to expect.  Bitchin' left hook, movie.  We spent a fair amount of time doing more dueling chants; this time it was "Golan!"/"Globus!" in honor of the film's producers, whose body of fine work tends to show up a lot at B-fest.
Movie quality:  Weak
B-fest rating:  Good

Miami Connection (1987) - ...and, mind blown.  I'd never heard of Miami Connection, but apparently it's been making a resurgence.  There's this guy called Y.K. Kim who made this movie as a love letter to taekwondo, and its box office failure hasn't stopped him from building a small empire as an infomercial guy, motivational speaker, and taekwondo tycoon (probably the only person in the world who can be described as a taekwondo tycoon).  A few years back, some production folks fell in love with his little movie and gave it a big re-release and DVD, convinced that its exuberent DIY charms needed a bigger audience.  It's found an audience as a modern B-movie classic in the vein of Troll 2.  Bear in mind, I didn't know any of this backstory when the movie started playing, preceded by a baffling brief present-day infomercial about Kim.  I just knew that people were really looking forward to seeing this trendy (in the B-move world) motorcycle-ninja film.

A group of ethnically diverse dudes from "Central Florida University" (leading us to chant "C-F-U!" instead of "U-S-A!" in response to violence) have formed a band called Dragon Sound.  They just want to do what friends do - train in taekwondo, give each other shirtless bro-hugs, hang out on the beach, help each other meet estranged fathers, and of course, perform their '80s cheese-rawk songs denigrating ninjas and the "stupid cocaine."  A lot of the crowd knew the songs word for word.  However, the world's most ineffectual street gang doesn't care for the songs' subject matter, or the fact that the nerdy kid from the band is dating gang-leader's sister (said sister even sings lead on Dragon Sound's biggest song, the catchy "Against The Ninja").  So the Dragon Sound guys keep getting ambushed by gang members after their shows.  No big deal, because this is one seriously crappy gang - the groups from Undefeatable could take them with their eyes closed.  In about five fight sequences against our heroes, in which the villains generally have them outnumbered, I don't think a bad guy lands a single blow, ever.  The acting - and there are a few attempts at serious drama here - has to be seen to be believed, and overall generated tremendous amusement (Y.K. Kim himself is in the movie, as the kids' mentor and leader, and appears to have learned his lines phonetically).  Finally in the last 15 minutes the villains call down to Souh Florida for some marginally more competent help in the form of the motorcycle-riding ninjas who run a Miami drug cartel.  Yes, really.  The movie then ends in a satisfying ten-mnute orgy of violence and gore, followed by a quote from Kim about the need to renounce violence and achieve world peace.  How else could a movie like this end?  MC is probably the most singular of this year's films, and proves that being made by someone who knew what the hell they were doing is not a prerequesite for a deliriously entertaining movie.
Movie quality:  Decent
B-fest rating:  Excellent

Viva Knievel! (1977) - An action film starring a tired-looking Gene Kelly, and Evel Knievel as "himself," alternately portrayed as a know-it-all douchebag and an ubermench superhero.  You might think that it'd be awkward and pointless to dress up Evel's stunts with a plot and characters.  You might think that adding in a token love story, a disgraced former mentor (one last alcoholic character - overwhelmingly negative protrayals of booze was a major theme of this year's set of movies), his estranged son, unscrupulous saboteurs, an unscrupulous protege, and a drug deal involving smuggling stuff from Mexico might just come off as silly distractions from watching Evel jump over things.  You might think that, but you're clearly not a Major Hollywood Filmmaker.  VK was successful at being borderline coherent and featuring some good motorcycle jumps and explosions, which is about all an audience cares about as hour 23 of a movie marathon comes and goes.  We chanted "stunt!"/"rock!" a bunch more.  I just don't really have anything else to say about this particular movie - in our depleted states, it spoke for itself.
Movie quality:  Weak
B-fest rating:  Good

And done for another year.  A few fewer mid-blowing films this year than some years, but still some memorable ones, and also less horrific pain than we sometimes get.  To repeat myself, it's been so exciting getting famiy and non-internet friends into the fun over these last few Fests.  Same time next year!  And there's a good chance that next time I'll be able to sleep beforehand.

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014
12:00 pm
B-FEST 2014: This was for me!
Another B-fest came and went all too soon this year.  What with the gainful employment (well, training program) and not living in Chicago, I couldn’t really justify doing much besides zipping in on the afternoon of the event and being gone the moment it ended.  This meant no big weekend; just B-fest itself, nothing social outside the friendly and familiar confines of Norris Center.  But it was a pretty good year for people inside.  Despite the diminished presence of the BMMB group, which hopefully isn’t a runaway trend, plenty of people still made it.  And as for the rest of the auditorium, well, even without names attached, there are many faces who keep coming here, year after year.  My designated new friends this time around were Megan and Tristian (add or remove vowels as necessary), both of whom I’d met casually over the years – and as the former pointed out, since we’re all in this together, we’re all friends for one day.  But found family of fellow geeks aside, did I mention I had my own company too?  My wife and a mutual friend dropped by for the Friday night portion, and that was a thrill.  Now, I had no illusions that Elissa would do anything like stay the whole time – her lack of appreciation for action movies and sci-fi in general would have to fight it out with her extreme sensitivity to unpleasant smells to determine what the biggest obstacle for her would be.  Nonetheless, she had a very good time overall and may well be back in years to come.


Robot Jox (1989) – We come kinda full circle here.  My first ever B-fest movie was Robot Jox back in 2004 – I walked in in the middle.  Ten years later, it’s opening the Fest, and my guests are walking in in the middle.  Good times.  The film is as batshit fun as I remember it, depicting a future in which either the USA or its thinly veiled replacement, “the Market,” settles its disputes with the Confederation (USSR, represented by a psychopath who starts bar fights and kills his defeated enemies) via giant robot battles.  The robots are prone to crushing spectators to death.  Character names include Achilles, Athena, Alexander, and... Tex.  There’s fun to be had throughout in a movie that’s not good or anything, but is never boring, what with the premise which never makes any sense, the preponderance of butts, and the silly espionage subplot.  But especially classic is the whole ludicrous ending sequence, which basically consists of both of our heroes more or less getting their asses kicked throughout the fight, briefly takes our giant robot battles into outer space with no buildup or reason, pays off the movie’s overriding theme of detachable robot hands, and degenerates into a weak fight between two dudes without robots at the end.  And then there’s that ending, apparently not the favorite choice of co-writer Joe Haldeman, which also in no way follows from anything that’s lead up to it.  It involves our mortal enemies exchanging a thumbs-up fist bump.  I mention this because thumbs would be a recurring motif of B-fest 2014 - we knew that not far away was Megaforce and its infamous thumb-kisses between the leads.

Whether it’s fair or not, I will take full credit for starting this year’s substitute “U-S-A!” chant; we sometimes replaced it with “A-la-ska!” in honor of the sovereign territory that everyone’s fighting over.

Movie quality:  Decent
B-fest rating: Excellent


Santa Claus Conquers The Martians (1964) – A last-minute substitute for The Amazing Colossal Man, this meant that everything non-short shown of Friday night I’d seen before (albeit either at B-fest or on MST3K).  This is a wretchedly lazy kids’ film that for some reason I’d remembered being in black and white – it's not.  Martians deciding that Earth has had Santa Claus for too long and that he’s somehow the key to making their own kids learn about fun, so they abduct him.  And a couple of random Earth kids, whose acting suggests that they learned their lines phonetically.  The good Martians are the pro-kidnapping ones, while the villains want nothing to do with Santa.  You figure it out.  This one drags a lot, but I was pleased that it did keep my guests’ attention, thanks to a mix of incompetent film-making and strong riffing from the crowd.  “Highlights” include the, um, “polar bear,” “let go of me, you Martian!,” and the fixation on hiding inside the “radar box” located next to the radar machine, the last of which became a Fest-wide running gag.

Movie quality:  Bad
B-fest rating:  Decent


At this point, for the first time in awhile, the organizers specifically slotted some time to show random shorts, on film – this used to be a central feature of B-fest but has died out with the transition to digital movies.  First up was an old silent short, called “The Gipsy’s Warning,” which involves a Gi(y)psy being handed the perfect setup to curse a dude, but basically just giving a warning.  It rivaled the shorts from B-fest 2008 for the title of oldest thing ever shown at B-fest.  I got a charge out of simply realizing that we were watching something that may well have been almost 100 years old, and probably predated the entire notion of a "feature film."  And, as someone tastefully pointed out, everyone who appeared in this short is now long dead.

A digression:  As we touch on ever year, there’s a sentiment – one I don’t really agree with – amongst the dwindling core of long-time veterans that B-fest has lost something irreplaceable in the transition from film to other forms of projection (mostly DVDs at the moment); that the medium of film is what originally made B-fest a unique event rather than a bunch of people watching movies.  I disagree because I’m a relative newbie compared to those people; to me, B-fest is about watching weird, quirky movies, some of which are much easier to find on DVD than on film.  Film devotees will reminisce fondly about times that films broke, colors were washed out, or reels were shown out of order; part of the experience.  Well, sure, but I contend that those were a side feature.  And we find new ancillary things to remember even in the digital age; computer update messages popping up during a movie, or volume being way off, or something else.  The reason for the digression is just to mention that the return of (also shown last year) the eight minute ǖber-compressed version of Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman was really only memorable for starting a trend, which didn’t settle down until after Megaforce, of stuff being WAY TOO FUCKING LOUD.  (“I remember that movie being longer.”  “I remember it being quieter.”)  Maybe it was an overcompensation for the way it took about half an hour to get the Santa Claus movie loud enough.


Megaforce (1982) -  I’ll get into it more if I ever get around to writing up older B-fest memories, but in large part due to mood, back at B-fest 2009, I never unabashedly loved Megaforce the way most of the crowd did.  This has always clearly been a minority view, though.  The group that sponsored this one, the Soylent Green Party, sent someone on stage to salute their deceased founder and formally retire the Soylent Green name; he said they specifically asked for a reprise of Megaforce because it was one of the most popular things they’d ever sponsored.

So, okay, this time I knew what I (and my guests) were getting into – lots of macho posturing, motorcycles, explosions, and the stench of 1982 over everything.  A heroic international super-secret super-force led by Barry Botswick (Brad from The Rocky Horror Picture Show) demonstrates its skills by doing things like leaving vistors in rattlesnake-infested areas and then shooting the snakes, or using baloons for rocket launcher target practice.  (Me:  “Megaforce – keeping the world safe from snakes and helium balloons, since 1983!”).  They’re called in for a surgical strike on a terrorist group in Gamibia; motorcycles, motorcycles that belch a rainbow of exhaust colors, and flying motorcycles all play a part.  Our group spent quite some time figuring out where the hell Gamibia was supposed to be located – presumably it shares a border with Madeupistan – given that it’s filled with Middle Eastern terrain, Russian style politics, and populated mostly by Hispanic characters.  But that’s not as important as the movie’s themes.  See, Brad gets constant close-ups of his crotch to an extend that I hadn’t always appreciated, as if to remind us that he is very manly and does not have a small package.  (As some astute attendees pointed out, during the infamous darkroom scene, his hand is hovering at groin level looking like a prehensile member; they provided a “censored” sign.)  His troops all unabashedly adore him, and Indian beauty queens (Star Trek’s Persis Khambatta) find him and his not at all small package irresistible.  His troops easily take out the supposedly badass terrorists, but Brad is just too much of a man for the governments of the world, who abandon Megaforce to its own devices.  But they’re Megaforce, and just too damn badass to die, and Brad has a not at all hilarious flying motorcycle and did I mention that he totally doesn’t have a small package and that he doesn’t look at all ridiculous wearing spandex?  No, we’re totally not constantly remembering that he’s most famous for being in Rocky Horror.

Yeah, so my point is that Megaforce makes a lot more sense once you realize that the entire movie is single-mindedly devoted to helping Barry Botswick feel like his penis is bigger.  Maybe I still don’t unabashedly adore Megaforce; sorry, folks.  But I think I appreciate it on a deeper level now than I did before.

In a fun bit of topical modification of the “U-S-A!” chant, we instead chanted “N-S-A!” whenever Megaforce was shown to have eerily advanced monitoring or communications equipment.

Movie quality:  Bad
B-fest rating:  Good


In B-fest tradition, we hit the stage to run along to a couple spins of “The Wizard Of Speed & Time,” once forward and once backwards and upside down.  I always forget how physically demanding it is.  The film shows more wear and tear every year, but it’s still ticking.


Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) - Traditional midnight showing; I mostly skipped it.  It was a good time for tooth brushing and futile attempts to rest up for the next run.  Also got to continue my bizarre arbitrary tradition of reading a few pages from a C.J. Cherryh book at some point during every B-fest (this year it’s Serpent’s Reach).


Thomasine & Bushrod (1974)  – As we hit the overnight the lack of sleep starts to kick in and all my memories get vaguer and blearier.  For the remainder of this whole post, please take it as a given that any memories I share lack precision because there were ongoing hypnogogic thoughts and flat-out hallucinations involved, overriding everything.  So, I was initially looking forward to this, never having seen a blaxploitation Western before.  But all the off-format blaxpo offerings I’ve seen have been on the disappointing side, and this one was no exception.  It was entertaining enough at first, with our titular lovers meeting up, having everyone in the known world try to double-cross them, and becoming folk heroes as they steal from rich white assholes.  But after about the fifth montage, the movie petered out big time.  If I remember right, the second half of the movie largely centers almost entirely around a third (and much duller) character, one who hadn’t even been mentioned prior to his appearance.  I felt I had permission to sleep for 15 minutes or so, which I did, and woke up in time to catch the denouement.  Meh.

Movie quality:  Weak
B-fest rating:  Weak


Lifeforce (1985) -  Caught a nap during this one too, but was able to watch most of it.  At nearly two hours, this was one of the more grueling movies for me, especially coming right after T&B.  The short version is, there’s a space vampire that comes to earth and drains people’s “life energy;” the filmmakers crudely convey the monster’s irresistibility by making it a woman who’s constantly naked with lots of gratuitous T&A shots.  The long version is... well, I don’t care, but Megan et al were oddly impressed by how thoroughly the movie fake-explains the “science” behind what’s happening.  Lifeforce may have been released in 1985, but it’s an honorary ‘70s movie as far as I’m concerned.  It falls into the realm of a sub-genre I refer to as “Pretentious Horseshit,” a would-be epic that stabs at being art.  Of note, the effects are actually pretty damn cool looking (especially when the dessicated corpses explode), and there’s some real acting talent... although why they had the worst actor in the film be the guy to deliver reams of expository dialogue and be the star of endless flashbacks is beyond me.  This unhinged character has some of the movie’s more bizarre sequences.  At one point, trying to get a possessed woman to admit that she’s a vampire, tries to attack and/or kiss her while convincing other characters that “she *wants* me to force her,” while a cop calmly looks on.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t hallucinate that part, and it’s not something I needed to see at  2:30 AM when my mind couldn’t process it properly... or ever, really.  This character also later kisses Patrick Stewart on the mouth (which got close to a standing ovation from those awake) when a disappointingly brief appearance for the future Picard ends with him being possessed by the vampire and screaming a lot.  (As he is wont to do, Stewart totally commits to his ridiculous role, and elevates every scene he’s in.)  So, I can basically tell you that Lifeforce has just enough crazy to make up for how dull it gets, and just enough film-making skill to make its badness palatable enough for this timeslot on this night.

Movie quality:  Weak
B-fest rating:  Decent


The War Of The Planets (1966) – There are several bits of Italian cheese cinema out there with that title.  This is reportedly one of the better ones, and sadly is *not* the one from the same geniuses behind B-fest 2010 "classic" War Of The Robots.  I kinda wanted some sadism.  But this fit the late night bill nicely.  We spend a very long opening at a space-Italian New Year’s party, where the wine flows freely; the sets look like what was considered “futuristic” while my parents were kids, and a few of my comrades in arms commented that they’re still mourning the fact that the 21st century doesn’t look anything like that.  For a long time, the major conflict is a vaguely anomalous reading (technically “negative readings” as in “negative readings?!  But that’s impossible!”) on some space instrument.  I got a few laughs for being part of a group of viewers endlessly having fun with the concept of “negative readings.”  Finally, a plot emerges as we learn that people are being possessed by monsters that only appear briefly as green lights – either it’s thematically demonstrating that Man is the real monster, or it saves the filmmakers any need to spend money on villains.  I also need to mention a brief moment towards the end of the movie, in which some of the good guys confront the cult of possessed guys in some sort of space cave lair and get offered food through Soylent Green driven food machines.  One character expresses his pleasure at the meal he’s been served by grinning and exclaiming “mmm, this is for me!”  For some reason this was hilarious, and I spent the rest of the film using “this is for me!” whenever anyone ate anything, or kissed anyone.  Anyway, spoiler alert – peaceful coexistence with aliens is impossible.  Or at least with these particular green-smoke aliens, because they’re all evil and stuff.  I don’t quite know what the fuck any of that was, but I think this was for me.

Movie quality:  Bad
B-fest rating:  Good


Kitten With A Whip (1964)  - The first full length B&W of the festival, other than Plan 9.  Okay, so this was a blast, made even more surreal by the aforementioned lack of sleep.  Apparently the Coen Brothers are big fans of this one, arguing that it’s more of a failed art film than a sleazy exploitation.  The basic premise is that Ann-Margret (okay, old people, what’s with the hypen?) plays a kid with textbook antisocial personality disorder, whose backstory changes depending on to whom she’s telling it.  She sneaks into a respectable would-be-senator’s home and starts gradually trying to take over his life through a mix of lies and seduction.  What the film tries to do with this is a gradual progression in which our straightman is inevitably drawn into the web of crime, in which each transgression is logical enough in isolation but leaves him a little more compromised and readier to take that next step.  In actual practice, of course, he basically just comes across as a moron; the mention early on that he has “a friend” on the police force in particular triggered a lot of incredulous yelling at the screen from my group over our hero’s repeated refusal to go to the authorities for help.  Then Ann-Margret introduces her gang of what the squares used to call “juvenile delinquents,” which includes this hilarious would-be beatnik prone to yelling at people to “coexist!”  I was way too tired to remember any of the dialogue, but the movie gets a few legitimately good one-liners in whenever senator guy makes fun of the ‘gang” members.  Then the movie takes us on a runaway to Tiujana, with the city being represented by a smallish soundstage where it’s hard to find a bottle of booze but easy for all the characters in the movie to be constantly running into each other.  I’m not describing it very well, but the whole thing has the effect of being a fascinatingly batshit portrayal of what someone, somewhere, imagined human behavior looks like.  Recommended.

Movie quality:  Decent
B-fest rating:  Excellent


Super Mario Brothers (1993) – Never saw this one back in the day, but always thought it was a stupid idea.  We had fun with the very brief rendition of the classic Mario theme before the opening credits; the only bit of actual Mario content in the movie!  Mario Mario and Luigi Mario are a couple of “brothers” separated by at least 30 years in age who work as plumbers in Brooklyn before stumbling into a schlocky dystopian parallel universe in which humanoids evolved from dinosaurs or something.  Dennis Hopper plays a human looking villain who happens to be named Koopa – as was pointed out, apparently he has to be kind of villain who kicks a dinosaur puppy (“Yoshi”) in case the audience didn’t gather from the rape threats that he’s evil.  His henchmen, the Goombas, are human size rather than little mushroom-owl-things.  Basically, it totally lack's the game's brightly colored environments,  no one goes through any pipes, no one bounces off anything’s head or throws fireballs, and the whole thing serves to piss off anyone who doesn’t like having generic action movies cash in on the name of their favorite childhood property.  But for me, that's not such a big deal.  SMB is really just an early ‘90s action movie that’s much like many others, and it was fast-paced enough to not be boring.  The references to the video games mostly take the form of little in-jokes or background details, and I was mostly able to smile at those.  I definitely heard some “SO MUCH PAIN” comments, as well as some people who found the movie to be a moral abomination because of their love for the games on which it is (very loosely) based.  But I also, as I was slipping down the isle to grab some coffee, heard people singing along to “Walk The Dinosaur;” it turns out that there are people of a certain slightly different age whose cherished childhood memories actually include this movie, and some of them came to B-fest too.  So, interesting mix.  I’m glad I saw this once, and probably will never feel the need to see it again.

This may have been the first time in history that Super Mario Brothers saw its end-of-credits stinger played to a mostly filled theater.

Movie quality:  Weak
B-fest rating:  Good


Care Of The Secret Service (1939)  - A B-movie by the original definition of the term (i.e. a cheaply produced thing less than an hour long specifically designed to fill out an afternoon at the movies.  It would have been shown along with a higher profile “A-movie,” a newsreel, and some cartoons or something).  This is the second time we’ve had a B-fest movie starring Ronnie Reagan, here busting up a counterfeiting ring.  This comes from a time in which “does not wear a hat” was a useful term in describing a target.  This one pretty shamelessly “borrows” from other other films (apparently outright recycling actual bits of film of some cases); I noticed two separate motifs taken directly from Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps.  Highlights included the hilariously choreographed ‘30s fight scenes, with people flying across rooms, while lowlights included the odious designated comic relief character.  It helped that it was short, since by the time it ended, it was time.

Movie quality:  Weak
B-fest rating:  Decent


Doctor Goldfoot & The Bikini Machine (1965) – Figured I’d sit this one out after catching the claymation opening credits, since it looked like an honorary “beach party” movie despite not being set on a beach.  I detest beach party movies, and figure I already did my time (with last year’s loathsome Beach Blanket Bingo).  Turns out that Goldfoot has a secret weapon, though, in Vincent Price, playing an off-kilter version of his usual mad scientist routine as he tries to take over the world with seductive robots or something.  In his first few scenes, Price is a star, quietly hamming it up by ever so slightly exaggerating what a straight performance would look like; he has great comic timing and the writing for his character is snappy and fun.  The rest of the movie seems to be worthless slapstick, but the parts of the music I heard were much better than in the beach party movies.  So the fifteen minutes or so that I actually watched – not bad at all, actually.  That said, again, I already did the whole zany comedy thing last year, so took a break for food.  It ended up turning it into a longer break than planned when I got a phone call from an old friend with whom I literally hadn’t spoken since before last B-fest, which ate up the rest of the time.  Hey, life is full of choices.

Movie quality:  [unable to rate]
B-fest rating:  [N/A]


Later than in past years, a raffle for door prizes followed.  Had three tickets this time, still didn’t win anything.  That’s seven years of nothing in a row now... the odds be ever in my disfavor.


The Deadly Mantis (1957) – Like in a Godzilla movie, when you know there’s a giant insect coming, a movie feels like it has the liberty to very slowly take its time in setting it up, giving the audience nothing to latch on to.  We had fun riffing on the very slow pans across a map, but then faced with a choice between more caffeine and more sleep, I took the rare latter path; had it been a new movie to me would have played it differently, but I’ve seen TDM before, albeit in MST3K form.  I woke up in time for most of the mantis action, and it was more competent than the Giant Claws of the world, with a solid puppet for the monster not looking too out of place in the war against military planes.  But I was finding it impossible to stay focused on anything that was happening.  Just didn’t hold my attention at all.  Wrong monster for the occasion?

Movie quality:  Weak
B-fest rating:  Weak


Yor, The Hunter From The Future (1983) – As we exhaustedly headed into the final stretch, there were no more giant monsters to look forward to (breaking from tradition of, well, trying to end with a giant monster, preferably Godzilla).  As B-fest winds down, there are only two kinds of movies which make sense to program:  true backbreakers, or fun high energy films.  It helps if they’re weird.  Well, Yor was energetic.  Yor is a beefy barbarian hero, and he and his axe wander into action setpieces one after another where no one wears much, violence dominates, and everyone’s horny.  Although it’s not meant to be funny, I was kind of amused by the destruction Yor leaves in his wake; for awhile he has a perfect track record in that every tribe he encounters ends up getting exterminated within about twenty minutes.  But, just as the viewer is settling into the rhythms of this particular type of genre cheese, there’s a twist.  As the movie’s title hints at (and as Yor’s weird mystical necklace will lead to), this is actually THE FUTURE.  And that’s the basis for the rather abrupt transformation into a low-rent Star Wars riff featuring a villain who’s actually called Overlord (“And with a name like Overlord, I’m sure he’s a great guy!”).  This part is set in a dome filled with robot-soldiers that make the original Cylons look menacing (I and others got some laughs by comparing them to the Mario movie’s Goombas).  I’d totally watch this again.

Movie quality:  Decent
B-fest rating:  Excellent


Drunken Tai Chi (1984) – Okay, wow.  A kung fu comedy from Hong Kong had the potential to be a source of great pain or great joy.  Well, the cheers that starting flowing from the auditorium during the first jumpkick and wild pratfall answered that, as our hero beats up a bully in a sequence that upsets numerous fruit carts.  Those cheers got louder as our hero decides to have some fun at a fat woman’s expense, and she proceeds to teach him a thorough kung fu assisted lesson in humility.  Said cheers never really abated through fight after fight; very little time is ever allowed to elapse without the screen filling with senseless violence.  Eventually our hero’s family is rather abruptly killed and he joins up with the large woman and her perpetually drunk bucktoothed husband; he helps around the house and makes potions for erectile dysfunction with appropriately sproingy sound effects, whilst the drunk guy teaches him the ways of Tai Chi, a “soft” art which can conquer “hard” fighting techniques, the one piece of plot I understood.  If I had a complaint about Drunken Tai Chi – which I don’t – it would be that we couldn’t really riff much.  The film speaks for itself.  Half of the fights are comedic and involve things like using hand puppets as weapons, while half are deadly serious and involve characters getting killed.  Subtitles randomly appear for single lines of dialogue, generally not matching the spoken dialogue which has all been dubbed into English anyway.  This is one that I’m underselling because I can’t properly do justice to how grateful a sleep deprived audience can be for the existence of a movie.  And this was that movie.  As a B fest closer... glorious.

And speaking of coming full circle, DTC's last big fight has a fake-out in which the fighters toy with and reject the idea of calling it quits with the same thumbs-up first bump that ended Robot Jox.  Inter-movie synergy like this is amazing, when it happens.

Movie quality:  Good
B-fest rating:  Excellent


Work conflicts may again prevent soaking up B-fest 2015 as a complete weekend, but will make every effort to be there in some capacity.  And it is my long term intention to continue to be back, year after year.  Keep the movies coming.

As a final P.S., one of the later movies was sponsored by “H.E.L.P.I.N.G. C.H.I.L.D.R.E.N. T.H.R.O.U.G.H. R.E.S.E.A.R.C.H. A.N.D. D.E.V.E.L.O.P.M.E.N.T.”  Here’s the source for those to whom I spoke who didn’t know the reference:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6XnS1BncrYM
Wednesday, January 30th, 2013
11:41 pm
B-FEST 2013: No sleep till Tokyo!

After waxing melodramatic after B-fest 2012 about what it’d be like as an out-of-towner rather than a Chicagoan, I definitely took time to prepare to make sure everything was perfect for everyone’s favorite annual 24-hour bad movie festival, including specifically asking for and getting off not only that week but the week leading up to it.  I was there, as I’ve been for the last ten years, and was there from beginning to end as I’ve been for the last eight.

Of course it’s not just a collection of films and/or a state of mind.  B-fest is a collaborative effort on the part of an auditorium full of 174 other nerds – sold out this year, too, for the first time in quite some time.  “The company” includes both the faceless sea of voices in the dark and my particular crowd – the people with whom the Fest can be meaningfully discussed and who are the only ones likely to ever read this - the folks from the B-Movie Message Board.  Joined the group at the Hala Kahiki the night before, too, to drink ridiculously heavy ice cream drinks and escape from the thoroughly stocked gift shop.  (Maybe I need to be more socially assertive, though; was very conscious this year of being both a relative newbie to the BMMB community, and to being one person amidst a group of mostly pairs and trios who know each other from the Outside.  Unfortunately my friend, David, was only realistically able to make it to the Friday night block, although he had a blast, making his first appearance since 2007.)   We were definitely noticing of the people who were missing in action this year, although since a few who hadn’t made it for a few years were back, the B-movie gods giveth back too.  [Thanks to B. for the ride from the bar, and the company.]

The sum total of the work of We The Audience as a group along with film selection and projection by A&O Films – a great Fest.  I didn’t sleep at all during the whole thing, and stayed as full of life as one can while staring at a screen showing bad movies.  This will go down as one of the really good ones, joining ’08 and ’10 in the upper pantheon of my ten years as a part of this festival.

The films:


Breaker!  Breaker! (1976)

We let out a general gasp of dismay when this action film about heroic truckers gave us our first look at its hero, a young Chuck Norris, and he was conspicuously devoid of facial hair.  Chuck Norris without the bears is a worse missing piece than... well, anything you can possibly think of that’s not Chuck Norris without the beard.  This film further fails to live up to the mythos by having Norris put cream in his coffee at one point – I don’t think anyone can say for sure whether Chuck drinks coffee at all (he may get the same effect from beer), but I think we all know that if he did, he’d take it black.

In most other respects, though, Breaker!  Breaker! is what you want from a B-fest opener: simple, loud, and violent, all enthusiastically greeted by the audience.  When the institutionalized-outlaw town (or maybe even villiage, by census definitions.  Sure as hell ain’t a city) of Texas City, CA finds a flimsy reason to lock up Norris’s brother (who appears to be about twelve), ass-kicking ensues, and Chuck is in normal form in that regard.   Oh, there are a few attempts to dress it up - some running away in a minivan with a eagle stenciled on the side, a perfunctory love interest, and some strange sub-plots involving a retarded guy and his plush lion and a horse getting a mid-movie freeze-frame - but mostly straight-up violence against both guys who can fight back and elderly corrupt judges alike.  When Chuck started breaking down walls I commented that for a climax I would settle for nothing less than him destroying Texas City entirely.  And wouldn’t you know it – some trucker buddies have to join in, but that’s exactly how the movie ends.

B-fest 2013 had a few unintentional running themes, and one of them was random appearances of cats, starting with the evil judge holding a cat in one scene of B!B!, and one scene only.  Until about 7 AM, nearly every movie had an unnecessary glimpse of a cat or reference to cats, usually in only one brief scene.  That finally started disappearing from the festival about midway through, unfortunately.

Movie rating:  Weak
B-fest rating:  Good


The Wasp Woman (1959)

I like the rhythm of having the second film be one of the standard cheapies that used to define B-fest back before my time.  In this case, Roger Corman and company create a world where showing slight signs of age is death for professional women, and where wasp royal jelly is not only a thing that actually exists, but retards aging.  See, the problem with a movie like this is that anyone who’s ever seen a movie pretty much knows where it’s going.  The lead will commission the reckless scientist to create a youthening drug, she’ll self-medicate Against Medical Advice, and it’ll turn her into a monster.  We all know this will happen, so when we’re an hour into the movie and it hasn’t happened yet... well, the reason for the pacing becomes abundantly clear once the movie finally, and briefly, shows us the monster, with its hilarious cheap looking mask.   http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_5706aDjJlZM/S6NzkAExLGI/AAAAAAAAAH0/Iqy4cA8ImT0/s400/wasp-woman.jpg
Exactly like real wasps, the Wasp Woman kills her victims by grabbing their necks and drinking their blood, and can’t fly.

David and I adored the scientist’s “lab,” which is of course filled with bubbling beakers and all kinds of bizarre randomly shaped flasks with twists and turns in them, because, well, science.  Film was also livened up some by a hilarious bit of padding in which a search for a character who inexplicably got hit by a car leads to visits to various hospitals, depicted by showing a car slowly driving down various streets; the movie allows no detail about parking at each location unshown.  A bit of a running gag was born, as we took to making buzzing noises every time the main character had a headache or showed any signs of monster-ism; this was re-used in a few later films, too

Movie rating:  Bad
B-fest rating:  Good


Steel (1997)

Loosely based on a Superman spinoff, although the movie version doesn’t have any Superman content.  At times this approached being gloriously cheesy.  Shaquille O’Neal stars as the title character, John Henry Irons (yes, really), who’s built himself a big hammer and a bulletproof suit to go out fighting crime, and he delivers the kind of stilted performance you’d expect.  Sidekicks include a technology guru in a wheelchair named Sparks (yes, really) in the kind of role someone like Amy Acker could have killed, but instead played by a chick who makes everything sound nagging and disapproving.  Also his uncle, played by Richard Roundtree and prone to one-liners like “well, roll me in shit and cover me with bread crumbs!”  (Steel and Sparks often show their solidarity by touching fingers [convenient example near the very beginning of this clip], which I like even better than the thumb-kisses from Megaforce  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogftq7V91lI ) Shaq’s adventures are ineptly choreographed and filled with moments like his frustrated destruction of a perfectly good public pay phone.  Meanwhile, Judd Nelson plays a villain who wreaks all kinds of consequence-free violence on anyone who doesn’t play along with his ridiculously over-plotted scheme involving gangs and arms races and such.

As I hope the summarizing is conveying, Steel is a total mess of a film.  Yet I also found it likably goofy, and fast paced enough that I didn’t much care.  Ooh, pretty laser fights.  When people aren’t shooting at each other, the film also finds time for some painful “comic relief.”  It also winks at the camera quite a bit, making a running joke out of Shaq’s inability to make a basket and having Roundtree talk about his favorite part of Steel’s hammer being “the SHAFT!” making sure the reference is a loud and obvious as possible.

Biggest laugh of the entire festival came with a dumb joke timed perfectly – at one point Sparks, who’s still getting used to working whilst in a wheelchair, falls on the ground (her friends watch her pull herself back up from a distance without offering to help or anything, as a test of character or some such thing).  Someone a few rows back yelled “oh, get up, you dumb bitch!”  You probably had to be there, but trust me, it was all in the timing.  Some of us also took to yelling “BUUURKE!!” every time Burke (the villain) appeared.  This may have been pure fun or may have been some joke that I didn’t get, but either way, it was fun.

Movie rating:  Decent
B-fest rating:  Excellent


10:45 PM; interlude time!  We were running way early at this point.  With little explanation, some folks dressed for a wedding got on stage – were we about to see an actual B-fest wedding?  Turned out to be a full-costume re-enactment of a scene from Spaceballs: The Movie, a childhood favorite.  Then the raffle – of course I didn’t win anything.  Then some 16-mm shorts, including the legendary “Comics And Kids,” making its first appearance since 2009.  This is the one in which kids who summon each other to their treehouse with a clarinet and read war comics are driven to go crazy and attack other kids’ sand castles – the short thinks the comics are to blame, but for my money, if the narrator hadn’t felt the need to underscore the point by *constantly* whispering things like “kill kill destroy pow pow,” the whole things could have been averted.  The basic unintentional moral of the piece is that comics and violence are both awesome things.  Then, for some reason, we got a few scenes from Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman, as a short.  Then, as usual, the beating heart of B-fest, The Wizard Of Speed & Time.


Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)

I mostly skipped this one this year.  It appeared to be on DVD again, for those who care about such things,  I think every 3 years is about right for B-fest Plan 9.  Some hang-out time with the BMMB group, but honestly more lounging aimlessly than anything else, awaiting the next flick...

Movie rating:  Bad
B-fest rating:  Excellent


Black Belt Jones (1974)

1:30 AM; blaxpo time!  This one was sponsored in memory of a guy who I used to notice at every B-fest; apparently he died a few years ago.  His friends made a good choice.  This one is primarily about Jim Kelly using his mad martial arts skillz to destroy everyone in his path.  A few things make this movie unique, one of them being the karate school that’s loosely aligned with the good guys and whose initiates serve as frequent beat-up fodder for the villains.  Jones and others are constantly leading “hai!” intensive routines, including, memorably, during one minor character’s funeral.  Atypically for the genre, no breasts are on display, and in fact, the film’s most important female character is Jones’s equal in the field of kicking people.  In a classic scene, she responds to his request that she stay out of the way and “do the dishes or something” by shooting a stack of plates into smithereens (“they’re done.”).  Our heroes beat up and brutally murder a bunch of villains via trash compactor, and all is well.

Our biggest contribution that I can remember was our jocular “eeeey!”s and fake Italian voices every time the movie cut to a nothing-happening scene at the big spaghetti dinner.

Movie rating:  Decent
B-fest rating:  Good


Sorority House Massacre (1986)

A reminder that one shouldn’t schedule B-fest plans based on the movies because they could change at any time; this one got moved into the overnight block after originally being planned for Saturday morning.  Apparently it had a little nudity, so it ended up overnight.  Indeed, it had a tiny bit of inconsequential and not particularly interesting nudity.  Actually, the whole movie can pretty much be described as inconsequential and not particularly interesting – a bit of a shame given that we as a group had somewhat high hopes for what was apparently the first slasher film ever for B-fest, at least according to some of the vets.  Like The Wasp Woman, this one takes forever to get down to business, focusing on trippy flashbacks within flashbacks and about 5 million false scares, which led to much discussion in the seats about what exactly constitutes a “massacre” and how many deaths would be acceptable.  A killer finally emerges, and then I had fun flying into a mock-rage about figuring out where the fuck anyone was supposed to be in relation to anyone else – this is the kind of movie where two intended victims will be outside, running from the killer, and abruptly end up back inside the house talking about the need to get outside whilst running up the stairs away from the door.   Diverting enough, but a bit of a disappointment; it ended up being less slasher-y and more about the vague back-story with a slight supernatural tinge.

Movie rating:  Bad
B-fest rating:  Decent


The Mole People (1956)

I’ve seen this one MST3K’d, and even they couldn’t make it not one of the slowest things imaginable.  I had this one in mind as my designated time to take a nap, but somehow wasn’t tired, so I ended up watching the whole thing and then decided to try (successfully!) to do the whole festival sleep-free.  John Agar and a few other guys rappel down into a pit where there’s an underground civilization that practices human sacrifice, enslaves goofy looking mole creatures, and fears flashlights.  An early scene in which the scientists accept the Biblical flood as an established fact lead a brief series of riffs from the folks around me about the movie’s sense of geological time (“and then Jesus was born about twenty years ago, and he rode a dinosaur”).  As for my own riffing, got my personal loudest laugh of the night by repurposing an MST3K line (from a different episode) – “this [a very long series of rappelling scenes] works so well because we *care* about the characters!”  As someone else pointed out about this movie, it had a few interesting ideas in between all the cheap costumes and flashlight shining.  Like, for instance, the way Team Agar’s attempt to unilaterally change the entrenched superstition-and-slavery oriented culture of the underground society ends in complete failure and they end up basically just having to destroy everything in the name of escape.  And, uh, I can’t actually think of any other interesting ideas in TMP.

Movie rating:  Weak
B-fest rating:  Decent


Galaxina (1980)

I’ve since heard that this one is maybe unjustly legendary for the weird story surrounding its star, a Playboy model who’d never acted before (and who stays dressed and gets no lines for the first half), who was murdered soon afterward.  Anyway, I’d heard this was a campy sex-n-space-opera comedy, which is true inasmuch as it’s set in a Star Wars inspired setting.  Captain Cornelius Butt and a team of slimy losers which include the title character, some sort of sex robot, get sent on a vaguely defined mission to far away.  Nothing happens for awhile, and then they land on a planet and more nothing happens, and it’s jarring because half the time the movie doesn’t even seem to be trying to make any jokes – the few existing jokes are nearly uniformly terrible, but so much of the movie is as jokeless as it is plotless.  On the rare occasion that something is mildly amusing, it gets run into the ground until it’s not.  (Example:  In a failed attempt to do the Young Frankenstein thing, the film’s McGuffin is the Blue Star, which gets a choral fanfare every time its name is mentioned.  This is worth a smile exactly once, for a villain’s reaction [“what is this shit?!”].  The gag is repeated over and over and over and over, and somehow never commences to be entertaining.)

The degree of nothing is such an assault on the viewer that I really can’t understand why this movie was made.  We discussed it in the seats, but came to no conclusion.  It’s not softcore porn, because there’s only like two total (jarringly out of place) bits of unappealing porn.  It’s not a full-on satire of Star Wars et al because it doesn’t have a coherent message or commentary on anything.  I tried to view it as a series of loosely tied sketch comedy bits, but gave up on that due to the above lack of jokes, even bad ones.  And M’ris mused out loud that certain parts could be maybe a satire of third-wave feminism, but probably weren’t.  Suffice to say, Galaxina is a terrible, terrible film in every respect.  I can’t quite call it the worst movie I’ve ever seen, because, you know, it’s B-fest.  It wouldn’t be B-fest if it didn’t include a few doses of pure, unadulterated pain along with all the “fun” bad movies.  But ye gods, this one hurt.

Movie rating:  ABOMINATION
B-fest rating:  Decent (for its role as the designated abomination, but did I mention how much it hurt?


Rhinestone (1984)

In my years at the Fest, this was my first repeat film (other than Plan 9, obviously), also shown way back at B-fest 2006, when it broke some minds but helped save the festival for me.  This was the scariest looking part of the schedule; two bad comedies in a row.  But you know what?  The crowd was surprisingly lively for 7 AM, and the film was as benign as I remember it.  It’s about Dolly Parton teaching Sylvester Stallone to be a country star, and about 20-25% of the laughs it induced were intentional – not a bad average at all for a B-fest comedy.  Plus, as Jon Stewart once pointed out, it’s impossible to be an American – irrespective of race, creed, politics, etc. – and not at least kinda enjoy Dolly Parton.

This is not to suggest that Rhinestone is a good movie or anything.  In fact, it’s quite bad, between its excessive length, its ridiculous plot, the mostly cringeworthy jokes, and the even more cringeworthy singing from our friend Sly.  But it’s relatively benign in its badness, really; it’s no Galaxina.

I broke form here and actually got on stage here to do a minor “bit,” dancing along to Stallone’s horrific rendition of “Tutti Frutti.”  People seemed to like it okay.  FYI, with the obvious exception of the mock seizure, all funky dance moves came directly from Don’t Knock The Rock.

Movie rating:  Weak
B-fest rating:  Decent


Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958)

Did skip the very endless end of Rhinestone in the Starbucks line so I could catch the beginning of this.  Like some movies of its era, it’s about morally depraved folks getting killed; it stars a douchebag trying to get his wife institutionalized so he can steal her money.  He’s remarkably focused on carrying out his extramarital affairs, slipping out to dance with his new chick even after his wife is transformed by aliens into a giant who needs to be locked up.  Naturally, she escapes.  This one was pretty breezy for an old B&W, letting giants flip over cars and smash buildings with a minimum of speechmaking

But even in 1958, AOT50FW must have met the same howls of derision that it did at B-fest for the sub-Corman special effects.  The two “giants” are not in camera-phase with the stuff they’re supposedly destroying; initially I legitimately thought that the alien giant was supposed to be some kind of holographic projection because he was so faint.  It’s all just a laughable effect.  So you get stuff like a rampaging giant woman whose head is actually fading in and out of view as she pulls down power lines or whatever

My wife, who’s not into this particular type of geekery enough to actually attend but likes hearing about it was very fixated on whether the woman was, in fact, exactly fifty feet tall.  I was sure to let her know that the titular woman’s height is not actually specified during the film.

Movie rating:  Weak
B-fest rating:  Good


Lunch break here, then we moved on to...


Beach Blanket Bingo (1965)

Aaargh.  For some reason I felt obligated to stick this one out in its entirety, even though it was really fucking long and I knew I’d hate it.  Proving once and for all that previous generations were assholes, this is one of a series of like seven apparently very popular “Beach Blanket” movies starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello.   I’m sure there are people who enjoy seeing rich “teens” spend their lives lounging on the beach and singing bland pop tunes.  Of very minor note are the surprisingly positive depictions of a dimwitted diva and her promoter, who’s one of those people looking to exploit “youth culture” for the benefit of the music industry.  And of course, as in any beach party movie, there are the “comic relief” adult figures who are not even remotely amusing, including one villain who was so annoying that we started yelling “shut up!” every time he said anything at all; even so, the relentless (but “comedic!”) physical violence that the movie puts him through gets a little unpleasant.  Oh, and Buster Keaton shows up and dances with some of the kids.

I’d pre-called BBB as my personal worst-of-Fest.  As it turned out, Galaxina earned that distinction, hands down.  But I really despised “Bingo” too, and desperately hope the Beach Blanket series never gets played at B-fest again.

Movie rating:  Bad
B-fest rating:  Bad


Steele Justice (1987)

Our hero, John Steele (AKA That One Bully Guy From The Karate Kid), is a Viet Nam vet whom we follow into the 1980s to single-handedly take on an entire Vietnamese mafia who’re breaking into people’s houses and killing them.  I honestly didn’t pay much attention to this one except to confirm that, yep, we were still in an elaborate action setpiece.  Steele seemed a little more vulnerable than the Chuck Norrises of the world, often getting beaten up rather than seeming invincible, and throwing himself into danger in a way that wouldn’t have worked in any other movie.  But hey, he holds his own pretty well considering that he’s killing a small army effectively alone.  I don’t have much else to say about SJ; fun enough, and a nice palate-cleanser after Frankie and Annette.

Movie rating:  Decent
B-fest rating:  Decent


The Barbarians (1987)

Italian swords-and-sorcery!  This one stars a pair of identical bodybuilder twins billed as “The Barbarian Brothers.”  It actually had the elements to be an amazingly fun movie – lots of scantily clad dudes and ladies killing things and a self-serious fantasy plot offset by a very relaxed, casual line delivery from both the Brothers and the chick who plays their sidekick.  Unfortunately, I guess, the plot doesn’t actually make much sense (for instance, the villain has sworn not to kill the brothers, so his master plan is to wait twenty years before moving forward with any of his other plans, let them grow into huge gladiators, and kill each other).  We were promised copious nudity by the vague recollections of a few folks who’d seen it, but that turned out not to be the case, although everyone’s easy on the eyes.  The numerous fight scenes are universally cheap and clunky.  So The Barbarians is both inept and surprisingly slow moving for a movie of its ingredients.  Still, it has a lack of pretension that makes it very easy to like, and as a fan of cheesy fantasy, I quite liked it for what it was.

Those of us tired folks who’d made it this long had grown easily amused, so we spent the majority of the movie imitating the Barbarians’ battle cry, which sounded like a Sand People yell crossed with an ape.  [For those who need to remember what it sounded like, the end of this clip is a decent exemplar, although nothing like having a whole auditorium imitating it.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfhttsiomVM]

Movie rating:  Weak
B-fest rating:  Good


Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah (1991)

Hell yeah!  For the first time in awhile B-fest got a legitimate Godzilla movie to close with.  And although I’m no expert, I’m still going to say that this is the best Godzilla movie ever made, including the ones I haven’t seen.  I know some people are attached to the wrestling-heavy cheapies of the ‘60s and ‘70s, but sometimes you want monsters shooting lasers at each other that actually looks cool.  Sure, you can complain that GVKG is way overplotted for a monster movie, involving time travel between three different eras and requiring every character to pretty much be a total moron.  And you can complain that the movie is like 50% longer than it has any right to be.  You’d be right on both counts, but I really don’t care.

GVKG builds perfectly.  First of all, the stuff with the humans actually has a point rather than being a throwaway, and has its own set of cheesy chase scenes to break up the monster action and provide some tone-deaf anti-American sentiment.  And I like the fatalism, where no amount of time travel can change the inevitability of Godzilla attacking and killing the people he once saved.  (BTW, extra cheese credit for the US military commander telling one of his men something like – “aliens from outer space!  Maybe you can tell your son about it, Major Spielberg.”)  But enough of that, it’s all about the monster fights, and that’s where things shine – it’s all about gradual escalation.  First the movie builds up Godzilla through reputation, and by having a pre-Godzilla dinosaur trample some stuff.  Then it introduces King Ghidorah and the first set of laser shooting.  Only then does Godzilla himself emerge, and the movie saves busting out the famous laser breath until the heat of the moment.  It’s clear that Ghidorah is pretty badass, but Godzilla is unstoppable, as he finally moves on to Tokyo (the early action was set in places like Sapporo).  Finally the good guys up the ante by leveling up King Ghidorah with future technology (including a rainbow colored laser) and a little human ingenuity (the movie’s hero a Japanese woman from the future who eventually pilots the monster Robot Jox style), setting up the final, biggest battle.  The incredibly geeky video game geek in me couldn’t be happier.  Ah, I unabashedly love Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah.

Despite the film’s length, we as a group ate it up, with much cheering and more Barbarian imitations aplenty.  A great way to end a great B-fest.

Movie rating:  Good
B-fest rating:  Excellent


And that’s it!  Well, thanks one more time to all in attendance for making my tenth B-fest one for the ages.  Right now the plan is to try for another ten, at least.  ‘Till next year...

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012
8:54 pm
B-fest 2012: The annual annual!

"I don't want to go..." - The Doctor (v. 10.0)

For the past nine years, I've been a Chicagoan.  I've been going to B-fest all that time (although only for the full 24 since 2006).  It was easy to make it out there, just an ‘L’ ride away.

Next year I likely won't be a Chicagoan.  I may be near-ish, or far away.  I'll be a physician in my intern year - that's not a year traditionally known for giving people much time off (although in today's age, programs allow more flexibility in scheduling than they used to).  Pretty much everything was coated this year with a layer of wistfulness, because, well, I'm conscious of the fact that this might be my last B-fest for awhile.  Maybe my last ever.

But I really hope not, and I'll do everything in my power to keep that from happening.  I don't want to not go.

I used to argue that B-fest,at least for me, wasn't about the people but about the marathon itself.  Maybe that's still the case.  I do have to say, though, the experience has been greatly enhanced in recent years by increasing association with the community at the BMBB.  This year I finally took the bus trek out to River Grove, IL (thanks again to Drip and Kelsey for the ride back) to fulfill the traditional night before experience of the Hala Kahiki Tiki Bar and South Seas Lounge.  There, the group - including me, at least this year - samples various huge drinks containing ice cream and/or five different kinds of rum whilst yelling about Star Wars and such.  It's even more fun than it sounds.  This will make it more painful to miss any future B-fests that may affect our lives in the future, and I hope that doesn't happen.

The other big memory of B-fest this year for me will be fatigue.  Psychological pain and fatigue.  It was a tough ride, and I wish I'd had the stamina to soak it up a little more thoroughly.  Just thinking about it exhausts me.

Well… we saw a bunch of films.  These are they:

-

Best Of The Best (1989):  Wow.  The best opener I've ever seen at a B-fest,

it had the crowd on fire.  Incredibly dumb martial arts flick featuring a karate competition between the only two teams in the world who have any interest, the U.S. and Korea.  Various people, including Julia Roberts's brother and a slumming Kai Winn are in it, but the show is stolen by James Earl Jones as the hardass coach who demands that his fighters "eat, breathe, and shit this competition" and berates those who'd, say, take a day off to visit their comatose brothers.  Jones's repeated mentions of "the teeeam" prompted this festival's most obvious running joke: yelling "TEEEEEAM!" whenever it seemed even remotely appropriate, and at random other times over the next 24 hours.

Crowd-screen interaction was at an all time high, and we had great fun with, well, everything.  I have never seen such energy at a B-fest.  Other highlights included (partial list):

- Some sharp-eyed viewers notice that the team-selection letters offer "congradulations" to the chosen fighters.

- The movie shows the Korean team being selected.  We riff on our usual "U-S-A!" chant, instead chanting "Ko-re-a!"  We think we're being all clever and such.  The characters then begin to chant their country's name.  Great minds and all...

- A training montage features an inspirational song that desperately wishes it were "Eye Of The Tiger."  I'm one of a few people who start what turns into an massive group rendition of a full chorus of "Eye Of The Tiger."

- One character's traumatic memories feature a slow motion shot of an ice cream cone shattering on the ground.  We immediately start incorporating ice cream into our riffing, only to be amazed when the movie itself actually has the lack of self-awareness to include another deeply symbolic ice cream scene later.

- There’s a Robot Jox style ending in which our heroes lose, and everyone hugs and trades medals.  I got some laughs by doing the "if I can change..." bit from the end of Rocky IV.

Movie quality:  Weak

B-fest rating:  SUPERLATIVE

-

Astro Zombies (1969):  We were warned that this one would hurt.  And it did.  How can a movie called "Astro Zombies" featuring John Carradine not be worth seeing, you may ask?  Well, how about if *nothing happens, ever*?  AZ features a minimum of zombie action (and no explanation of why the zombies are "asto") and instead devotes itself to things like an incomprehensible spy plot and long shots of things.  5 minutes of a driving montage.  Seemingly hours of John C. and his hunchback repeatedly opening panels, screwing and/or unscrewing things, and then closing those panels.  Minutes of people slowly reading things out loud.  And, the climax of the badness is a false "scare" in which we see a sequence of close ups of the following things: a movie character, a clock, a skeleton, and a closed door.  And then those four things again.  And again.  And again.  I have never been filled with more suspense about whether a movie would ever end.  I'm glad I saw this.  I never want to do so again.

Movie quality:  Bad

B-fest rating:  Good

-

To Catch A Yeti (1995):  Spool up the VHS for B-fest's first TV movie ever!  And especially coming after Astro Zombies - oh, the agony.  This one is an allegedly family friendly "action"-"comedy" featuring Meat Loaf.  As was remarked upon multiple times, when Meat Loaf is the best actor in your movie, your movie is in trouble.  Also, your monster puppet is too limited if it's impossible to tell the difference between whether it's doing "happy" or "terrified."  The titular yeti is, in this case, envisioned as a Troll 2 goblin with really big feet, who forms an allegedly heart-warming bond with a little girl.  We get lots of revolting close-ups of the feet.  (Fetishist caliber shots of feet were a recurring theme of B-fest 2012, actually.)

Meanwhile, Meat Loaf plays a bumbling hunter hired by a rich family to kidnap the yeti for their kid, Wesley (whose name appears to be chosen so the script could throw around the phrase "shut up, Wesley!" as often as possible).  At one point, said obnoxious kid is shown murdering a woman.  The family-friendly movie then gets many of its laugh from having the kid get beaten up in various ways, usually by Meat Loaf.  His character quickly became the audience sympathy character, prompting "Meat Loaf!" chants after Wesley says one thing too many to him and Loaf responds accordingly. 

Movie quality:  Bad

B-fest rating:  Decent

-

Wow, those last couple hurt.  We recovered with the raffle (managed to offload some junk, didn't "win" any more) and the annual calorie-burning showing of The Wizard Of Speed And Time.  Move your feet with the Wizard!

-

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) – B-fest is partially a student-run thing given that Northwestern’s A&O Films is the organizer.  As a veteran, I occasionally wonder whether each new crop of kids will really “get” B-fest.  Which is silly given that, well, how could you not find people at a place like NU who would appreciate the joy of watching bad movies with a group for 24 hours?  Anyway, one of this year’s organizers got on stage to profusely apologize.  What was the tragedy?  Turns out they had a last-minute inability to get a 60-mm print of Plan 9, so we’d have to watch it on DVD instead.  Even though I’m indifferent to the format in which movies are shown, it was kinda heart-warming when she promised that “the top priority for B-fest 2013” would be showing Plan 9 on film again.

It's hard to find new things to say about P9FOS; we watch it every year, we make a lot of the same jokes every year.  But I soaked it up this time.  It's a classic, and if I'm not back next year, I'll miss the mass of flying plates.

Movie quality:  Weak

B-fest rating:  Excellent

-

Avenging Disco Godfather (1979):  Real blaxploitation again at last, in its proper post-Plan 9 spot.  This clusterfuck is heavy on fairly graphic violence, and has extended musical numbers, but no nudity.  This was my first exposure to Rudy Ray Moore and his bizarre enunciations, so spent most of my time trying to imitate his indescribable delivery of lines like “tell them what happened to Bucky, and WHAT he has HAD.”   The titular character (he’s the Disco Godfather, his name’s Tucker, and you’ll find out he’s one bad motherfucker) declares war on PCP, and raising a group of concerned citizens to “attack the wack.”  Strangely, his avenging only goes partway before he’s forcibly given some wack himself, and is driven insane.  No, really, that’s the ending.

Move quality:  Weak

B-fest rating:  Good

-

Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977) – Amazing.  I’d been warned that this one would be tough too, but it really wasn’t.  DB can’t decide if it wants to be an arty film or a sleazy slasher movie, but it is indeed about a killer bed.  That eats.  It lures people into its house, then “digests” them by sucking them into a pool of “acid.”  Numerous people get killed in increasingly graphic ways, whilst barely struggling.  Meanwhile, on the rare occasions that characters talk to each other, they behave in stilted, unnatural zombie-like ways.  A douchey spirit trapped in a portrait who serves as the film’s narrator will not shut up, ever.  I’d be as cranky as the Death Bed if I had to listen to that smug asshole all day. 

As slow and repetitious as Death Bed can be, I loved it as a late night B-fest film.  It was a blast to watch with those still awake.  Audience participation moments were fast and furious.  During the slow parts, we stayed amused by coming up with titles of other killer-furniture films (i.e. “Death Fridge: The Fridge That Maims”) or potential sequels (my suggestion was “Bride of Death Bed”).  When Douchey Portrait Guy introduced a flashback by asking “shall we go all the way back to the beginning, and tell how this all started?” we yelled “NO!” with one voice.   Most tasteless (ha?) joke that I laughed at came upon seeing that the latest group of victims included a black chick; someone called out “I guess the Bed has a taste for dark meat.”  Best line of the film, though, goes to Mud Puppy, though: in response to a dead character’s unsuspecting friends wondering if she’ll be hungry:  “No, she’s already ate.”

Did I mention that the sections of this film are titled “Breakfast,” “Lunch,” “Dinner,” and “The Just Dessert?”  That is how amazing this movie is.  Afterwards I commented that I had a perfect B-fest buzz going, and hoped it would last, but sadly, it only carried me through one more movie.

Movie quality:  Bad

B-fest rating:  Excellent

-

Tarkan vs. the Vikings (1971) – Excitingly, Tarkan is the first foreign-language film in B-fest history, as far as I know (Turkish with English subtitles).  This was a wonderfully terrible swords-and-sea-monsters flick in which the titular Tarkan and his dog/wolf Kurt, vow revenge against Vikings in general because one of them killed Kurt’s father (also named Kurt).  Besides Vikings, there are also “Hun Turks” (?), a group of Chinese villains randomly fighting everyone else, and a band of wannabe-valkyries who eventually form an alliance with our heroes.  While Tarkan and his ally Ursula each gets captured multiple times, Kurt the dog/wolf emerges as the clear hero of the story, and was easily the audience’s favorite character.

A few particularly memorable features of Tarkan deserve a mention.  At one point, the Vikings hold an “orgy” with their unfortunate female captives, but the weird thing is that there’s no actual rape – mostly girls getting their clothes torn off and then stabbed or immolated, or, in the case of one bikini-clad woman, “tortured” by being bounced on a trampoline that the Vikings hold like a parachute.   No, I didn’t just dream that part, and other people have mentioned it too.  The other thing I want to note is the sea monster, the first of two giant octopi we’d see during the festival.  It has big googly eyes.  It’s not quite “adorable,” but it’s sort of cute, and is not even the tiniest bit menacing; I was sorry to see it die.  After Tarkan “struck” the final killing blow by diving off a tower and clearly missing an enemy, we moved on to the next film.

Movie quality:  Bad

B-fest rating:  Good

-

Mutant Hunt (1987):  Now, here’s where the problem with trying to have it all comes in.  I was excited to see this project given that apparently the director used to do gay porn and then made a few legendarily weird horror movies, or something.  But you have to sleep sometime.  This was the “5 AM Death Slot,” where the room goes eerily quiet if a movie is at all repetitious or unexciting.  Now, I refused to willingly go to sleep, but that just meant that I ended up napping, on and off, throughout the next four movies (the Norris Starbucks opens at 9 AM, but for some reason I decided to go until after lunch before caffeine).  Mutant Hunt suffered the biggest hits in terms of my missing huge chunks of movie, and then being frustrated and cranky during my wakeful periods.  I was angry at myself for napping, and angry at the movie for not holding my attention despite its incredibly fake fight scenes and near-nudity (for instance, for the main hero’s first five minutes of screen time, he’s wearing only a pair of white briefs.  The main female fighter has an outfit that’s constantly falling off.  It’s that kind of movie).  I cursed out the director for being a “sorry collection of worthless filaments” (actual line of dialogue from the movie), and sought reassurances from others that no, Mutant Hunt didn’t make any sense even if you stayed awake.

Something about Mutant Hunt kept calling to me, though, and I ended up watching it again a few days later.  It’s actually a charming, if repetitious, monument to total ineptitude.  It combines high concept and high ambitions with a budget of about $10, no one with an ability to tell a story or write a script, no one with discernable acting ability, the worst fight choreography in movie history, and perhaps the worst soundtrack I’ve ever heard (well, the most repetitious, anyway.  Every fight scene – and there are a lot of them – seems to get the same battle theme.  The whole movie is like the most tedious Super NES RPG ever.  I mean that in a good way.)

My point is that I was too tired to get the most out of Mutant Hunt, and it seems everyone else was too.  But it’s well worth watching at a time that’s not 5 AM, if you have just enough of a masochistic streak.

Movie quality:  Bad

B-fest rating:  Decent

-

Guru the Mad Monk (1970):  This on is a period piece with intrusions by visible power lines, light switches, etc.   But it’s mostly about Father Guru (if he’s only a monk, why is his title “Father?”) roping people into his web of crime and talking.  As a few people started yelling every time he opened his mouth, “WORDS!”  I had some fun screaming in terror every time a scene seemed like it was about to end, and then Guru started talking again.  Even when he’s alone with his reflection in the mirror, he’s prattling on at it.  Slept through big parts of this one too, but didn’t mind doing so as much.

Movie quality:  [unable to rate, but probably Bad]

B-fest rating:  Weak

-

The Brain from Planet Arous (1957):  To rehash a boring story I’ve told a few times, this was the first movie shown at my first ever B-fest (2004), but I wasn’t there for the whole Fest that year and didn’t show up for the beginning.  So now I finally got to see this one, and it was kind of nice to watch a cheesy B&W movie that was dumb in exactly the familiar way one would expect from a John Agar movie about a silly looking floating brain possessing people’s bodies.  (From Dripdry: “So, I guess this is the ‘Occupy John Agar’ movement.”) The best thing about this is that the movie found the perfect way to channel Agar’s usual smug douchecanoe persona – since he spends most of the movie under the evil brain’s spell, he’s *supposed* to come off as a smug douchecanoe.  I approve of this bit of casting.

The main crowd interaction, though, came from the fact that a rival non-evil floating brain takes on the family dog as its vessel.  The dog looked enough like Kurt from the Tarkan movie that we decided it was him, or at least a descendent of a long line of dogs all named Kurt.  “Kurt!  Kurt!” chants were frequent whenever a movie had canine content, but it was most pronounced during this film.

Movie quality:  Weak

B-fest rating:  Decent

-

Stunt Rock (1980):  Talk about living up to its title.  Stunt Rock has a bunch of stunts, and a bunch of performances by a cheese-metal band called Sorcery.  (By the way, if you’re pushing 40 and have a physique like the singer for Sorcery, wearing a vest without a shirt is ill-advised.  Also, if a poodle sleeps on your soundboard throughout the show, you probably don’t rock.)  There’s a halfhearted attempt at a storyline involving the lead romancing a skeptical reporter into discovering the joys of stuntwork, but mostly, there are stunts, and there’s rock.  The crowd loved this one, and we broke into many call-and-response chants of “stunt!”  “Rock!”  I was firmly on the ”rock” side of things; I frequently dozed off during the stunts (except for the historical clips, which were way more badass than any of the present-day bits), but didn’t miss a note of Sorcery rocking the stage.  Their music is a mix of pretentiousness and mindless bombast and *awesome* if you like that kind of thing, which I do.  Sorcery further endeared itself to me by featuring a stage show during its performances featuring “The Great Wizard” and “The Prince Of Darkness.”  I’m glad someone made the requisite Spin̈al Tap joke, but I think the guys from Tap would’ve found the whole thing a bit excessive.  I had my favorite line of the festival, though, once they started shooting off indoor pyro: “these guys should be called ‘Great Really White.’”  Well, I still think it’s funny.

So, this got repetitious, but hey, stunts and rock, coming together at the end with man-on-fire stunts during a Sorcery show.  The film ends with a character predicting that this mix will catch on, that this is something with which people will really connect.  Indeed, as we know, Sorcery went on to be the #1 band in the world well into the ‘90s, and retain a massive following to this very day.

Movie quality:  Decent

B-fest rating:  Good

-

Then came lunch.  For some stupid reason, the food court isn’t open on Saturdays anymore, so we have to make do with the overcrowded crepe stand.  Lunch break is a good time to decompress, though.  At the BMMB tables, discussion topics included, among other things, an involved analysis of Meat Loaf’s performance in the yeti movie, which it was called everything from “extended mugging” to “understated,” a dissection of the scoring system used by the Best Of The Best competition, and everyone attempting to envision how Rudy Ray Moore would have delivered Tommy Wiseau’s lines from The Room.

-

Road House (1989) – Full of coffee and renewed energy, I re-entered the auditorium about 15 minutes into perhaps the highlight of the festival.  Patrick Swayze plays a legend in his small town where cops apparently don’t exist, who returns to “clean up” a bar that’s been overrun by creeps and organized crime.  No, I’d never seen it before.  Well, no time like the present to watch the weird alchemy by which Patrick Swayze can be both a ridiculous choice for an action hero and kinda cool.  Suffice to say, it’s a thoroughly stupid movie, and I think I legitimately love it.  

Much has already been written about the cult appeal of Road House, so instead of summarizing the movie, I’ll focus on the B-fest specific moments: in addition to the expected “Swayze!” and “U-S-A!” chants, we also reacted as a group when the festival’s computer got a software update notification popping up over the movie.  As one, the arena of nerds broke into a deafening chant of “up-date!  Up-date!” and booed when an organizer instead just closed the window.  What can I say, lack of sleep makes people do strange things.  Perhaps the heigh of riffing and tastelessness came a little later, when a minor villain threatened Swayze by saying “you’re a dead man,” and someone in the crowd yelled “too soon!”  That’s the only time I’ve ever heard Slide-Whistle Guy salute an audience riff.

Movie quality:  Dare I say Good?

B-fest rating:  Excellent

-

Werewolf in a Girls' Dormitory (1961) – Now the theater empties out except for the true die-hards.  But that’s most of us.  Despite the awesome title, this was a slog.  Set in the German part of California, it features a girls’ school that’s apparently some kind of School Of Continuing Studies, based on the actors’ ages.  This movie, oddly, tries to do too much.  It features a werewolf (who never enters the dormitory), a regular human killer, and a blackmailer, who may be three different people.  We’re expected to care about all three mysteries.  We don’t.

Movie quality:  Weak

B-fest rating:  Weak

-

The Galaxy Invader (1985) – Perhaps best known as “the source of those clips from that play over the opening credits of Pod People.”  This one is about stereotypical rednecks capturing an alien.  Only one of the rednecks is actually truly loathsome, but he’s what you’d expect – booze, smacking women around, and wearing the same torn white shirt throughout the length of the movie (we had a running discussion going about whether he’d maybe put on a flannel over it when hunting at night.  He did.  Then he took it back off).  After numerous tracking shots of the woods and repeated captures and escapes, the other characters gradually become just sympathetic enough to realize that they should try to avert any more needless violence.  They fail, and the alien dies.  The movie then completely won over the crowd in fifteen glorious seconds of film: an old woman hits the evil redneck in the head with a shovel, her wind-up and swing being replayed about ten times, and then he morphs into a blatant dummy and falls off a cliff.  It was a moment of pure B-fest ambrosia to liven up the slog to the finish.

Movie quality:  Weak

B-fest rating:  Decent

-

It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955) – As always, the finale was a giant monster movie.  I’ve seen some people marvel at “the casual sexism” on display, but ICFBTS is borderline feminist by the standards of 1955 monster movies.  As long as she knows her role as a romantic conquest for one of the military types, the female scientist can spout bland expository dialogue on an equal footing with everyone else.  Anyway, the thing about this movie is that it takes itself seriously.  That means lots of shots of people sitting around in a serious manner and making serious strategic plans.  I started complaining about the lack of screen time for the actual monster, especially in the first hour.  The monster in question is a giant octopus/squid seeking edible food such as, uh, metal ships and bridges.  Its locomotion is described like that of squid, but it looks like an octopus… only with five tentacles because that’s all the film can afford.  The stop-motion attacks on San Francisco are nice, but too short, doing exactly as much damage as the film can afford to show.  The monster stuff was worth waiting for, but just barely.

As usual, I was unable to rope my wife into Festing with us, but when the list of film titles was first announced, she pointed out that “beneath the sea” is a bit redundant and inaccurate when describing a sea monster.  Sometimes it takes a non-SF/F geek to notice things that are in plain sight.

Movie quality:  Decent

B-fest rating:  Decent

-

And that’s all.  A final slide with a picture of that fucking yeti bore the caption “see you at B-fest 2013… if you dare!” 

This recap has gone on and on like Guru, but I think I’m finally out of things to reminisce about.  I wish I’d had more fun, especially during the exhausted late-overnight/early morning period.  I’m grateful for all the fun I did have.  I don’t want to stop going to B-fest.  I hope to Cthulhu I don’t have to.

Heartfelt congradulations to the TEEEEEEEEEEAM for surviving - nay, *thriving* - in the face of this ordeal.

Saturday, January 29th, 2011
9:49 pm
B-fest 2011! A recap.
Another gauntlet of pain; 24 hours of mostly awful movies, with a boisterous crowd watching along.  Here's my thoughts on this year's films, along with arbitrary ratings.

The Pumaman (1980) -  A fun opener at 6 PM Friday - okay, more like 6:20.  TPM was the first of 3 movies that have been on Mystery Science Theater 3000.  Even without, it's deliriously goofy, telling the story of a hero chosen by the Aztec gods to use the kinds of superpowers pumas are known for, such as flight and walking through walls.  This one just is inept on every level, from acting that rarely gets past "a nice try" to downright embarrassing special effects (we were properly mocking of the floating baloon "gods," Pumaman's green-screen flying, and on and on).  Nice clap-alongs to the Pumaman theme song too.  The first film is always an issue because one can rarely hear much of anything, either from the screen or in the way of riffing; people are arriving, all yelling en masse, or, in my case, eating.
Movie quality:  Bad
B-fest rating:  Good

Top Dog (1995) - Once again we get Chuck Norris (in this case, as written and directed by brother[?] Aaron)!  Unlike the usual case, though, we get him playing second fiddle to a dog sidekick.  "Reno" is treated as an established and respcted police officer who engages in wacky hijinx while Norris occasionally shows up (much to the crowd's relief) to attempt to play comedic straight-man and provide roundhouse kicks as needed.  TD has a strange relationship with violence.  The villains are Nazis (and occasional Nazi clowns for some reason:  I got some laughs with "whiteface power!"  And Norris himself got a movie a rare intentional laugh with "you're under arrest, bozo.") who murder cops and others both on and off screen, and try to kill the Pope and others at a unity summit of some sort.  Yet most of the violence is more "comic mischief," like Reno burying a Nazi in Styrofoam packing peanuts.  Norris never kills anyone, for instance.  A poorly conceived family-leaning "comedy" that went down smooth and easy.
Movie quality:  Weak
B-fest rating:  Good

Mama Dracula (1980) - We were told this had to be seen to be believed, and it was true.  After the false sense of security engendered by the first two movies, we get this completely batshit insane... thing.  I don't even know if it was meant as a comedy precisely, but it centers around the heavily accented Mama Dracula (DS9's Louise Fletcher) who's trying to collect blood from "wirgins" to stay alive whilst hiring a scientist to synthesize blood.  Entertainingly, she pronounces every letter in words like "gnarled" and "castle."  Meanwhile, her twin sons mug and vamp up a storm doing oddly timed and staged routines that must've taken a lot of time and practice to work out given that they're not even remotely funny or entertaining.  Add in the fact that 80% of the movie's characters are annoying single-jokes.  Also throw in some lunatic scenes that exist apropos of nothing (young potential wampire victim who flashes her cross/magen David underwear; tour bus passing up a pitchfork-and-torches mob, barely explicable orgy ending in a building exploding for absolutely no reason that anyone can tell).  Anyway, nothing that happens in MD follows logically from anything else.  The viewer just sits back and lets it memorably blow his or her mind, which it did for me.
Movie quality:  ABOMINATION
B-fest rating:  Good 

Raffle as usual.  I didn't win anything as usual, but got a sense of how few winners there were this year.  The Wizard Of Speed And Time followed.  That's the five minute short that prompts the audience to get hot and nerd-stinky by lying down and percussing our feet along with the Wizard's stop-motion.  This was repeated backwards and upside-down.  That was it for the Wizard; sometimes he's also made unexpected mid-Fest reappearances, but not since '07 or 08. 

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) - The third part of the trilogy of annual rituals.  This year the sound was off or near-muted for the first 20 minutes.  Audience members tried to re-enact key lines ("GRAVE ROBBERS FROM OUTER SPACE!") as best we could, while an alert Fester provided a bit of soundtrack on his harmonica, but I soon left to hang out with others in the lobby.  P9FOS is a classic and all, but it was time to take a year off.  This year's highlight in audience participation was from a couple of gents who rolled out huge (not accurate) captions to go along with Tor Johnson's few lines of incomprehensible dialogue.
Film quality:  Weak
B-fest rating:  Excellent

Blackenstein (1973) -  AKA "The Black Frankenstein."  Bit of a misleading title given that, despite  the mostly-black cast, "Dr. Stein" himself is white.  Anyway, the post Plan 9 spot is usually blaxploitation.  Here, a doctor of some kind (who recently "won the Nobel Peace Prize for solving the DNA code."  Sort through that one) is helping fix a parapelegic, until the experiment is sabotaged by one lab assistant's frustration with the other's lack of romantic interest in him.  (This bit of betrayal is never noticed by the other characters.)  The creature rips off people's arms (me: "He's armed and dangerous!") and generally kills.  Film is slow and dishwater dull except for some gore after the (off-screen) killings.  Now, I know the Frankenstein name sells, and the creature's lumbering arms-out gait is clearly inspired by Frankenstein movies.  But, as I explained to anyone who'd put up with me talking about it, I feel that at its core, Blackenstein is more a generic monster movie than a Frankenstein movie, since it doesn't include any exploration/pathos re: the creator's relationship with his creation, or re: the creature's relationship with an uncaring world.  Suffice to say, the movie sucked.  As much as the idea of blaxploitation-horror sounds awesome, if the movies are all like this (or like Scream, Blacula, Scream from Fest 2009), maybe we should stick with standard blaxpo rather than these unsatisfying mixed-genre things.
Film quality:  Weak
B-fest rating:  Weak

Manos: The Hands Of Fate (1966) - Another favorite from MST3K and a canonical candidate for "worst movie ever," I stuck around for this one despite knowing it pretty well already.  It never got easier to re-watch at home the way most MST3Ks do, but here, my familiarity with the film definitely proved a blessing as far as surviving it without much effort.  Made on a shoestring budget by a fertilizer salesman from El Paso, Manos (note the amusing redundancy in the full title) ineptly tells the simple story of a moronic family who get trapped when they wander across a house run by a robed "Master" in a ridiculous robe and his swollen-knee stammering caretaker Torgo.  Long scenes of absolutely nothing ensue, followed by more or them, and evil triumphs in the end, but Torgo himself is a memorable creation.  One gal close to the screen had the inspiration of leading us in a theater-wide game of "Marco, Torgo."  Another running joke involves a couple (El Paso locals; the woman was supposed to be one of the leads before an injury made that impossible) making out in a car and the police who are hot on their trail while ignoring the real dangers nearby.  Other than a few people who kept regurgitating MST3K lines, this was fun to see with a crowd of mixed veterans and newbies to the strange cult of this film.
Movie quality:  ABOMINATION
B-fest rating:  Good

After seeing "justice meted out by a burning hand!" (in Manos), the crowd was seeming unusually muted (presumably because of Manos).  The organizers surprised us by firing up the film projector again for a short film also involving fire.  I don't recall the title, but this was a strange little cartoon thing from the Canadian government.  The first part told a story about how the gods gave Man (and Iggy the snake) the gift of fire with appropriate warnings.  The second part of the story featured Modern Man proving that he could destroy himself, Solarmite style, by not treating fire with proper caution and respect.  I know this lesson encouraged us to joke a lot more about fire safety, also pertinent in...

The Manitou (1978) -  A legendarily terrible premise here, as a woman has a fetus - containing the spirit of an ancient Amerindian shaman - growing as a tumerous mass in her neck.  Like many 70s movies, this one is half an hour longer than necessary, working in the likes of Burgess Meredith to basically not contribute.  The team of heroes slowly pieces together the mystery, then joins forces with a shaman type to engage in mystical warfare with the manitou.  This includes a ring of containment, a summoned lizard, throwing a typewriter, gratuitous toplessness, and a laser fight, in roughly that order.  If I'm making it sound like it makes sense... well, it's more one of those movies that makes up the rules on the fly more and more often as the conflict escalates.  An interesting one not only to watch and see what gradually more ridiculous place it'll go next, but also to sit with a group and talk about where the filmmakers went right and (more often) wrong.
Movie quality:  Weak
B-fest rating:  Good

Undefeatable (1993) - Now, I was worried about the fact that I hadn't slept at all yet, since I really wanted to stay awake for this one based on the description.  Well, it kept me wide awake.  Cynthia Rathrock stars in a revenge movie with lots of street fighting.  Undefeatable offers big, brutal fisticuffs in a very satisfying package for those of us craving late night violence.  Apparently it was voted as containing the most unconvincing fight scene of all time by cracked.com, but I don't agree - the acting and dialogue are forgettable, but the fight scenes were just competent enough to provide exactly what I was in the mood for.  The villain is one of the most loathsome I've ever seen, which is why it's so much fun to see the violence get so over the top, but this is also the source of one of the biggest issues: this flick is very, well, rapey.  Sexual violence, mostly off-screen but always prevalent, is a major component of Undefeatable (part of where the "revenge" angle comes in).  The movie usually seems to be trying to treat the topic with the gravity it deserves (although you do have to question whether there needed to be so much of it, or why it needed to be facilely "explained" as a symptom of childhood neglect), but it's simultaneously cranking up the street fighting sequences to cartoonish levels.  So, potential viewers be warned.  But damn, those street fights always have a new wrinkle, be it one of Rathrock's gang randomly yelling "awesome!" at the most ridiculous of times, or the presence of a football-themed gang (whose fighter wears shoulder pads and begins the bout in a three-point stance), or guys tearing off their shirts while spasming and yelling for no apparent reason.  I'm actually going to go on record with this one - I liked Undefeatable and would recommend it to others, given the caveats above.  Perfect at 6:20 AM on a sleepless night.
Movie quality:  Good
B-fest rating:  Excellent

I Accuse My Parents
(1944) - My least favorite MST3K that I've seen, in part due to the robots' constantly screaming "liar!  Liar!"  So it actually played better without the commentary.  IAMP is a very slow story about a high school kid (played by an actor who looks about thirty-five) who gets slowly drawn into a life of moral complicity and increasing hat disrepair because his parents don't love him enough.  At least that's the stated moral, even though the parents disappear about 5 minutes in and the kid's stupidity is the main driving factor.  IAMP is a slow movie padded further by musical numbers, and it is a bad movie which tells a bad story, badly.  But I'll mention that A&O made a rather brilliant choice in programming it immediately after Undefeatable (in which the villain's childhood traumas do not pretend to excuse his actions), so as to best highlight how fundamentally flawed the premise of IAMP is.
Movie quality:  Bad
B-fest reating:  Decent

Night Of The Lepus
(1972) - I was looking forward to this one, but... well, let's just say that it is what it says.  It's a movie about giant killer rabbits, no more or less.  DeForrest Kelly is in it, as are Janet Leigh and a few others, but mostly big herds of giant killer rabbits.  That's pretty much it.  I don't know if this is a good or bad thing, but the film is tightly focused.  There are plenty of worthless minor characters, but there aren't any sidetracks as far as unrelated sub-plots; damn near every scene in the movie is about rabbits.  [BTW, at one point some characters hide in an underground bunker.  We had great fun with comments like "good thing rabbits can't burrow!"]
Movie quality:  Weak
B-fest rating:  Decent

With this reviewer fading fast, it was time for "lunch" (although it was early enough that the food court didn't open until halfway through the break.  The crepe place, which has earlier hours, was not really prepared in advance for an overload of Festies.  Ah, well).  Some food and some leisurely chatting before returning for...

American Ninja
(1985) - Michael Dudikoff stars in the premiere of this long-running franchise.  We saw AN2 back in 2009, but AN1 is a considerably better movie than its sequel (not that it's any good or anything).  Our hero is one of the few Westerners to know ninjitsu, and defends himself from enemy nijas while trying to earn the respect of his guys and flush out spies among his superiors.  Big beefy guys in big beefy 'ninja" fights that got the traditional "U-S-A!" chant cranked up to its highest.  And for the occassions that do require guns, they keep bringing in bigger and bigger ones until the thrilling climax...
Movie quality:  Decent
B-fest rating:  Good

Skidoo
(1968) - Okay, so there are these aging Hollywood actors and their extended family and friends, and some of them are hippies.  There are LSD trips applenty, song-and-dance routines, a prison break, and Groucho Marx plays "God" communicating with the other characters by loudspeaker.  You never know when you'll hear a totally unexpected line that makes you sit up, such as "so, what is he, a faggot?"  I was drifting in and out a little bit early on, but was reassured that, no, the movie does not make any apparent fucking sense at all.  We couldn't make fun of it very much.  However, in sharp contrast to a similarly unriffable and mind-blowing comedy like Mama Dracula, Skidoo is highly watchable nonsense all throughout.  The ending was especially well received by this crowd, both with the last two songs (one of which is performed by garbage cans.  Really) being so catchy, and then the credits.  Which are sung.  You think it's going to just be the leads, but then they sing the names of co-stars, and then move on to line producers, etc... it just kept getting more and more amazing, one of the most awesome things I've ever seen at B-fest.
Movie quality:  Decent?  Good?  Unratable, really.
B-fest rating:  Good

Cool As Ice
(1991) - Starring Vanilla Ice in his heyday (well, this bombed, so I guess after)!  Wow, this was a fun movie to hate.  Keep in mind that Mr. Ice got to choose which persona he would put forth to the world.  He elects to come off as a giant entitled douchebag, riding a motorcycle, needing to be reminded that he's not black, and spouting lines like "words of wisdom: drop the zero, get wit' the hero."  In the world of Cool As Ice, Ice's attempts to woo a girl by ambushing her and knocking her off a horse, stealing her notebooks, and sneaking into her bed at night are seen as charming and romantic (rather than cause for a restraining order).  In the world of Cool As Ice, Ice's street cred is such that it seems normal for him to be single-handedly taking out four assailants and fighting the Mob.  CAI was compared several times to The Room in our part of the theater - a unique look inside the head of a totally delusional individual who doesn't quite understand normal human social interaction.  Plus, as I kept reminding my comrades, Ice does not come out the victor after his insufferable movie, for this reason: as we're watching him triumph over all the other douchebags, we're also watching him commit career suicide.  So the final victory belongs to us.
Movie quality:  Bad
B-fest rating:  Excellent

Film projector came back out for an untitled... thing, apparently played flipped horizontally.  It was soundless - don't know if it was actually silent or just a projector issue - and seemed to involve young people on a lawn at the U of Chicago campus in Hyde Park.  Then we held up the festival by practically demanding to watch the rest of a trailer on the Peking Man DVD - for Switchblade Sisters, a '70s girl-gang movie.  Based on the preview, there is no part of it that does not look awesome.  Also saw the trailer for From Dusk 'Til Dawn III, which looked considerably less exciting.

Mighty Peking Man
(1978) - And we closed with a Hong Kong giant ape movie, a sleazy attempt to capitalize on the renewed interest in King Kong in the late '70s.  Our hero has recently broken up with his girlfriend (I mention this because they flash back to him catching her cheating - leading to me and 1-2 other people all simultaneously/spontaneously coming up with variations of "but Mark, you are my best friend!"  Meanwhile, according to said  friend, the affair "started as kind of a joke.")  This leads to him going an expedition through tigers and quicksand to eventually meet a peaceful giant gorilla and fall in love with the Jungle Woman who's tamed him.  Our "hero" has no qualms about taking advantage of PM's trust by having JW send the ape into town to be captured.  The "hero"'s boss has no qualms about immediately ordering him chained up and put on display.  Further morons throw stuff at Peking Man or poke him with sticks, while the boss further increases chances of an escape by relentlessly trying to rape the Jungle Woman, who refuses to wear anything other than a rapidly degenerating leather bikini.  I should take a moment to mention that by this point, I think a lot of people had had their fill of gratuitous attempted rape scenes (Blackenstein was also full of them).  This villain is particularly single minded and stupid about it, dragging his intended victim from hotel to hotel while failing to take into account the correlation between his actions and the path of the giant gorilla's rampage.  
The rubber suit and model city scenes that are the main point of this movie are pretty good, but I was distracted by holding out hope that they might be able to work out somehting with the British (yeah, I dunno) army commanders to help Peking Man escape.  But you know how these things usually go - PM climbs a tower, JW calms him down, Army Commander breaks his word, PM gets killed in the traditional manner.  I concluded the Fest the same way I'll conclude this recap - with a heartfelt "fuck you!" to the entire population of Hong Kong, natives and foreigners alike.  Burn in hell, Hong Kong.
Movie quality:  Weak
B-fest rating:  Good

It's now one day later and I'm already looking forward to last year.  An event like none other.  Can't instantly say how this one compared to previous years (2010 was pretty amazing), but this was one of the better Fests.


Other notes...

Was drifting in and out some during the middle of Skidoo, but no significant sleeping at any time!  I'm kinda proud of that; prior to this year, I'd never made it thorough the overnight (defined as "before 9 AM when Starbucks opens") portion without at very minimum a 30-minute nap somewhere.

B-fest is all about the social event for some.  In the past I've leaned more towards seeing "the crowd" as an entity being important, rather than any particular individuals.  But that being said, this year I had the distinct privilege of again sitting near the trio of Ross, Rachel, and the shorter guy whose name I can never remember (I don't do names very well).  Although I didn't make myself a de facto member of their group to the same extent as last year, they're among my favorite people to sit near for riffing and discussion once the lights are down and the film is playing.  This year such pursuits were enhanced by proximity to another trio of B-fest vets, Megan and her two friends (see what I mean about  names)?   My riffing circle also intermittently included Tristian (MegaLemur's friend) and certain guys beside and in front of me whose names I never got in the first place.  Gentlemen and ladies, should you ever read this, it was a pleasure to join you in this endeavor.

But I also joined the Bad Movie Message Board community properly; been posting for a little, but actually tracked down and said hello to people this year, and basically was instantly inducted into a cool group available for quality chill time during between-movie or Plan 9 downtime.  Special thanks to bbanzai, who went out of his way to be sure that I knew where to find everyone and felt welcome - noted and appreciated, man.  It was also a pleasure briefly or slightly less briefly making the acquaintance of most of those who made it, and am hoping to be part of the extracurricular weekend gatherings next year, too.

Unintentional theme running through multiple films:  Pittsburgh sports!  I'd hoped there'd be a chance to give a shout out to the Stillers in advance of next week's game, and lo and behold, Undefeatable's football themed gang actually includes a guy in the background wearing a knockoff Steelers jersey (guess they didn't want to pay for the rights to the real thing, but it's got the right colors, the team name, and a big #32).  American Ninja eventually followed with black and gold ninjas training together, while Skidoo gave us a chance to scout out the opposition way too closely in one of its many hallucination sequences - "it's the Green Bay Packers!  And they're all naked!"  Finally, one of Ice's posse wears a Pirates jacket, sending out some love to a franchise whose success since 1991 has been at least on the level as that of the career of Mr. Vanilla Ice.

Finally, a word about the state of the festival.  In the last few years, we've gone increasingly modern and away from the Fest's roots highlighting dubious "classic" monster movies.  Now there's all different kinds of badness on display.  Even more strikingly, other than P9FOS, I Accuse My Parents was the only movie that wasn't in color.  I think some people will be upset about that, and the Fest maybe is missing a little something without the B&Ws.  But I do not expect that this lineup will produce the same kind of dissatisfaction of something like B-fest 2006 (my first 24-hour run!) provoked for being "too modern."  See, I'm convinced that the perceived problems with the 2006 lineup had less to do with newer movies per se and more with the particular movies chosen, plus the fact that it was arguably "too mainstream" rather than favoring as much smaller, niche fare.  This year, none of the films were less than 15 years old, and only 1 or 2 movies were particularly well known.  So maybe this is just the direction the festival will evolve without driving many away.

We've also pretty much completed the transition to DVD.  There are those who feel that the medium of film - with all the scratches, technical glitches, flipped/missing reels, and ability to throw on bizarre shorts that this entails - is the essence of B-fest.  I respect that POV, but do not agree with it.  Those are nice side benefits, but I'm of a generation that's always seen B-fests as about getting a crowd together to watch movies first and foremost.  And if we can get films on DVD that couldn't be obtained through other means, go for it.  Variety in movie selection is the lifeblood of B-fest.  In the 8 years that I've been attending, I've never seen the same movie twice (outside of the annual rituals, obviously), and that's been a big part of what makes this event keep on giving year after year.

So that's it for 2011.  I post with a heart at peace, feeling cool as ice.
www.youtube.com/watch
Wednesday, February 10th, 2010
8:44 am
B-fest 2010 summary

B-fest is a 24-hour bad movie festival held at the end of January in Evanston IL.  It is fun.  This is my recap of B-fest 2010.

 

Starting about 20 minutes late due to projector difficulties, we finally got rolling with Crippled Masters (1979), a kung-fu flick in which one hero has no arms (but a prehensile piece of flesh of some kind on one shoulder) and the other has no legs.  It was about as insane as you’d expect, and we were full of energy for the opener, shouting out random quips to the theater at large (“I will not be de-feat… oh, wait…) and having quieter conversations trying to figure out the plot (regarding some jade horse statues that the heroes had to steal – “wait, did he just say that *horses* would show them kung fu?”  “Not very well, though.”).  Every blow in every fight, regardless of whether or not it seemed to connect, gets the same overdone “impact” foley sound effect, except for blows to the hump on the villain’s back, which gets a “squishy” sound.  After a strong start, the movie started to wear out its welcome in the midst of samey fight scenes; there are a whole lot, and some of them are long and don’t involving any cripples (“okay, we get it!  They’re fighting!). 
Movie quality: Decent
B-fest rating: Good

 

Edward IX of BMBB fame, wearing a tux, introduced the first of his two sponsored choices, Heartbeeps (1981).  Our dubious benefactor concluded with the ominous words “I hope you really hate it,” and I did, in a B-fest appropriate way.  Within a few minutes we were starting to get angry at Andy Kauffman and Bernadette Peters’ ro-bot-ic voi-ces.  They star as escaped robots starting a family.  Also present is Catskill, a sidekick who talks almost entirely in tired routines seemingly from “My First Jokebook” but actually contributed by Henny Youngman, according to the credits.  Meanwhile, tthey’re pursued by a totally ineffective police robot who looks like a Dalek riding a flatbed.  Heartbeeps is a centrally flawed movie that doesn’t know from scene to scene whether it wants to be comedic or poignant; not surprisingly, it fails at both.  Given Kauffman’s involvement, I wondered out loud several times whether the whole movie was an elaborate prank on its audience.  Especially after a key scene in which Catskill reveals that he had enough energy left to save his dying robot friends because he’d been running entirely on “low power jokes.”  (Which became a bit of a running joke for us.  Sadly, the idiocy of characters drinking “a pouch of beer” was not properly exploited, in my opinion, as a B-fest running joke.)  Obviously, the writers were capable of crafting a genuinely witty moment, yet they relentlessly did not do so.  “We,” as a whole, were not pleased, but although a movie like this wouldn’t normally play so early in the Fest, it meant that we could weather it without too much gibbering – our resistance was at its highest.
Movie quality: Bad
B-fest rating: Good

 

After this came a Merrie Melodies short (a little non-obscure for this venue, huh?) called “One Froggy Evening.”  This is a fairly famous one, with the dancing frog who sings “Hello! Ma Baby.”

 

Gymkata (1985) has been shown at B-fests past, but this was my first time seeing it.  I wouldn’t have put the two “martial arts movies” so close together, but despite my disproportionate worrying about such things, the film order turned out just fine.  Anyway, at first it seemed like Gymkata might, as some have suggested, render the rest of the genre obsolete.  What else would you expect from a movie featuring Kurt Thomas as an Olympic gymnast also blessed with the skills of karate?  He fights thugs across the world, makes it with Asian princesses, and has a knack for finding stuff he can use as makeshift parallel bars, pommel-horses, etc.  (Some alert individual was ready for an up-shorts shot of him, and stood next to the screen with a “DO NOT WANT” sign.)  But then Gymkata takes a strange but still entertaining turn in its second half, in which Thomas’s participation in a nonsensical competition involves him passing alone through an entire town full of crazy people with weapons, and huge chunks of slow motion.  I got a few chuckles by running on stage and treating this like a very slow version of “The Wizard Of Speed & Time.”  Speaking of which…
Movie quality: Weak
B-fest rating: Good

 

B-fest continued with a few annual traditions, including the annual raffle (and the annual me not winning anything) and the annual showing of “The Wizard Of Speed & Time,” a short about a guy who uses the power of stop-motion to run really really fast.  We lie in front of the screen and try to move our feet as quickly as he does.  You kinda have to be there to appreciate it.  Three consecutive showings for the Wizard this year, one of them backwards and upside-down, and no re-appareances later.

 

Ed Wood’s most famous film, Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), is also shown every year, and also has a bunch of rituals that go along with it, such as throwing paper plates into the air whenever the suspiciously plate-like “flying saucers” appear.  [http://www.flickr.com/photos/jima/4317942928/]  It’s B-fest at its most cult-like, but also its least spontaneous.  Repeat attendees tend to get tired of seeing it year after year and often find other things to do (I used the early portions to go brush my teeth and such) and in fact one loudmouthed guy in the back went on an extended rant about being sick of the film.  But it’s a classic for a reason, combining near-constant cinematic ineptitude with a suprising amount of watchability, which keeps it fun.  This year featured the long-awaited return of the Solarmite Lecture, in which a few Fest attendees don lab coats to show slides illustrating the “science” behind the weapon humankind is apparently about to develop.  These folks did this routine in 2004, and it was a highlight of my first B-fest experience, so it was very good to see it again.
Movie quality: Weak
B-fest rating: Excellent

 

Another long delay setting up the DVD for the next movie left the rest of the festival short on time.  During the gap, the organizers threw on another old animated short, “Ego Trap,” a pointed little story in which a hapless engineer is forced to design a plane that looks more and more like his boss with each revision, and then blamed when things don’t go well.  This festival was very light on the shorts compared to previous years, partly because of the prevalence of movies on DVD rather than film, and partly because of the time crunch.  All in all, I’m fine with that.

 

All festival, people had been greeting each other with “oh, hi, [name]!” in anticipation of The Room (2003), the newest cult movie whose legend is still spreading.  Summarizing The Room is best left to others (http://www.avclub.com/articles/the-room,25723/), but having read about it, I was stoked.  Well, whomsoever reads this, The Room both is and isn’t as enjoyable as I expected.  Writer/director/star Tommy Wiseau’s story of relationship angst (and specifically, why women are evil whores) does indeed contain all the bizarre and memorable moments for which it is justifiably beloved, but it’s also a long time to spend watching essentially the same 2 or 3 repetitious scenes over and over, in no particular order, with characters’ behavior showing no consistency or logic, ever.  I did bring spoons and led off some throwing action, and “you’re tearing me apart, Lisa!” got a chant-along.  Plus, this was sown with the subtitles on, meaning we could attempt to turn it into a music during the cheesy pop numbers that play over the less than erotic sex scenes, which include a moment in which Wiseau appears to be fucking a woman’s belly button.  But as the movie dragged on, it also got a few “end!” chants and caused one lady to curl up into a fetal position on stage.  I’d have characterized the crowd’s reaction as “mixed” (or “pleasure spiked with pain,” to quote a song I like from a band I dislike), but The Room also led to about ten running jokes that persisted throughout the festival and almost always drew laughs.  In short, this one hurt, but it was totally worth it.
Movie quality: ABOMINATION
B-fest rating: Excellent

 

The other movie I wanted to be sure to stay awake for was a Andy Sedaris film, Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987).  And I was close to dozing off at times, but never all the way out.  This movie… well, it’s not subtle with the violence and breasts.  For instance, it actually includes the line “I do my best thinking in the Jacuzzi.”  It also seemingly blows its wad by having a character use a rocket launcher “too early” in the film, but my concerns about that proved unfounded.  This one is about two frequently topless agents, one of whom appears to be pushing 40, who fly out to Hawaii to… fight a bunch of people, or something.  It’s all blurring together.  But HTTH is actually a bit of a monster movie, since it in part (although not nearly enough) concerns a killer snake.  A snake that is “contaminated” by having “been fed toxins from cancer-infested rats.”  Not surprisingly, that line of dialogue went over huge with this crowd.  Clearly, the only appropriate ending was to eventually have the snake get shot at point-blank range with the rocket launcher.  Oops, spoilers.
Movie quality: Decent
B-fest rating: Good

 

This year’s crop of student organizers did a great job running things, but not such a great job making it clear what was happening.  With little explanation (we later found out that a film scheduled for the afternoon, Earth vs. The Spider was unavailable), they were going to “change things up a little” and show Black Shampoo (1976).  This was met by a rousing cheer from those of us who’d been looking forward to it from the tentative lineup and disappointed not to see it in the official schedule.  (Some blaxpoitation is traditional at B-fest, usually in the post-Plan 9 spot.)  For anyone who thought _Hard Ticket_ was shameless… well, BS redefined “shameless.”  Unlike in many blaxplo films, BS’s hero – a “hair stylist” known only as Mr. Jonathan – is all about the sex and uninterested in the violence, until events finally force him into action at the end.  So we see him “servicing” all sorts of female clientele, including a scene that verges on child porn and ends with a mom spanking her teenage daughters with a belt until they fall into a swimming pool, then mounting our hero in front of them to “show them how it’s done.”  That’s all in the first ten minutes.  Yes, this movie was actually made, and as dirty as it makes one feel to watch with a theater full of foul-smelling nerds, much appalled fun was had by all who were still awake.  Except for the curling iron scene, which mostly just had us appalled (it’s probably best not to ask).
Movie quality: Either Good or Bad, and I honestly don’t know which
B-fest rating: Good

 

After the promise of no more sex - I think some people were relieved - they played The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Beyond The 8th Dimension (1984).  I never “try” to sleep at B-fest, but I knew I’d be okay should I happen to nap in my seat here, since I did not grow up with this one.  I ended up being out for about an hour, and then woke up for the second half.  My main impressions were that it’s intentionally campy (and thus not appropriate for B-fest?  I dunno…), unpleasantly loud (although that could be the lack of sleep talking), and involves a lot of guys with accents saying or yelling “Buck-a-ROO?!”  Never really figured out what was going on.  Except for the power-walk over the ending credits; that was cool.
Movie quality: [Can’t judge]
B-fest rating: Decent

 

Troll 2 (1990) is a bad movie legend almost on par with The Room, and is another one that’s just maybe too well known for B-fest.  But hey, I’d never seen it, and it earns its reputation too.  For those unaware, Troll 2 contains no trolls, and has no connection with Troll; it’s an unrelated movie that got renamed.  It does, however, feature a grandfather who traumatizes his kid by telling him stories about militant vegetarian goblins who kill people by tricking them into eating green food that turns them into plant-goop.  Yes, that’s actually the plot of Troll 2.  Then the kid has to save his family of horrific actors (it’s an odd mix of competent filming and budget with some of the least convincing line readings and fakest monsters in major motion picture history) when they travel to a village called “Nilbog.”  This is another one where the badness can’t be retold properly, but there’s another line that got a chant-along from those who’d already seen the movie: “you don’t piss on hospitality!”  There’s a moment in which the enemy recoils at the sight of a bologna sandwich.  There’s a moment where a goblin witch seduces a kid whilst holding an ear of corn, which leads to the room filling with popcorn.  And a whole bunch of other moments that make one say “no, really, this movie actually exists.”  And then at the end of it all there’s an effective “last scare” that, much as it shames me to admit, actually totally works, IMHO.  Maybe it was the lack of sleep.
Movie quality: Bad
B-fest rating: Good

 

Live It Up! (1963), a black-and-white pre-Beatles British rock musical, was next.  First, by popular demand, we also saw the trailers for two other rock musicals from the same era.  (Also, sometime during the Fest, they also showed trailer for a movie called Black & White, which is a running joke I’ve never quite gotten that dates back to B-fest ’08.)  Anyway, LIU! was supposed to be even more whitebread than B-fest 09’s most polarizing film, Don’t Knock The Rock, and it lived up to that.  Our “teenage” (read: 30-ish) hero is a member of a band we dubbed “Draco And The Malfoys” after its peroxided bassist, although he reminded me more of Spike from Buffy.  He just wants to play music, but his parents, and the showbiz industry, and such make it tough.  I admit I tuned out a lot here, and spent most of the time chatting and ignoring the movie. 
Movie quality: Weak
B-fest rating: Weak

 

Lunch break, earlier than planned.  Which was excellent – I prefer to have more than three films after the last break.  A good chance to eat food laden with green vegetables and talk extensively about the finer details of The Room (trying to figure out why the characters were wearing tuxes in one scene, and who that guy abruptly introduced towards the end was, and whether Johnny and Lisa had been together for five or seven years (I opined that the movie took two years to watch)).  So many questions. 

 

Fiend Without a Face (1958) was more in keeping with traditional B-fest fare.  Are the killings somehow caused by radiation?  It’s always the radiation.  Is the half-crazy scientist involved?  It’s always the scientist.  This was a little slow, but all was forgiven in the last fifteen minutes or so, when they finally show us the monster(s) – and it’s a bunch of detached central nervous systems that look like brains attached to slugs.  The rest of the film involves brains diving in through windows to strangle people, and brains being shot into gooey bits.  Kinda glorious, really.  This is the first time I’ve ever seen the braaaains come after the humanoids…
Movie quality: Weak
B-fest rating: Good

 

Sextette (1978), originally scheduled for late night, is another musical, and another one legendary for badness.  The word “indulgent” got thrown around a lot here, because when Hollywood makes a movie about itself, the results are rarely interesting.  Especially when it consists mostly of Neil Sedaka inspired musical numbers.  There are a whole bunch of cameos from lots of random famous people, but the star is Mae West, who was in her 80s.  West plays a sort of official international-relations whore who’s been married six times and tells a bunch of raunchy jokes, but the octogenarian-sex angle turns out to be all talk and no action.  I wasn’t horrified so much as bored, and needed to caffeinate midway through, although that latter is more attributable to the lack of sleep.
Movie quality: Bad
B-fest rating: Weak

 

In the penultimate slot, we got Italian import War of the Robots (1978), sponsored by Dripdry of BMBB fame.  Oh, wow.  See, I tend to prefer something really shockingly awful towards the end, as a last dose of pain.  And did this movie ever deliver.  For the first 45 minutes, I suffered trying to make out the mumbled dialogue.  But eventually it came down to a bunch of guys, gals, and aliens fighting against a group of (I guess) robots.  They “shoot” them with their laser guns (depicted by having the guns light up and make a sound).  Then they go to a similar looking tunnel set, and fight another group of robots (or possibly the same group).  Then they fight another group.  And another.  The robots never shoot back and never accomplish anything other than padding out the film.  After a bunch of this, I started saying stuff like “you know what should happen next?!  They should fight more robots!”  And then they *would*.  It’s one of those things that’s so awful it comes all the way around and becomes something beautiful.  In any case, all of my comrades in arms were suffering, but there was a period of about 5 minutes where I just started laughing hysterically – trouble breathing, tears streaming down my face, the whole deal.  Maybe it was the lack of sleep.  Eventually the movie moves on to a space battle that, if anything, is even more repetitious.  As a sort of a piẻce de résistance, a major character is shown hunting down an enemy ship, and says “it’s hard to get away from me!”  This character is then killed.  We then see the same model ship footage, and *the same scene*, including the same “it’s hard to get away from me!”  This time he lives to the end of the movie.  They don’t make ‘em like that here.

 

I’ve said that in its way, WOTR is as shameless as the _Black Shampoo_s of the world are in theirs.  At the end, one of the organizers congratulated us “for getting through what may be the worst movie I’ve ever seen.”  This came from a man who’d watched Heartbeeps, The Room, Troll 2, and Sextette, just like the rest of us. 

Movie quality: ABOMINATION
B-fest rating: Excellent

 

B-fest usually ends with a Godzilla movie, but this time we kept it American for a finale of The Giant Claw (1957).  The oldest movie of the festival, TGC would actually be an entertaining and perhaps better-than-average giant monster movie, if not for the fact that the monster is a giant bird, played by an obvious puppet with visible strings and a beak that doesn’t close completely.  There are stories about how much this embarrassed the cast at the hometown premiere.  There were plenty of highlights during the talking parts too, actually, including the random background character who wins the audience’s heart by telling the leads to shut up, and the revelation that French Canadians are cowards, but women can be useful in a fight – but only if they’re from Montana.   The explanation of the bird being made of antimatter or something prompted a well-timed riff from one Fester when the hero is asked if the antimatter thing was just a guess; “it’s an anti-guess!”  Moments like this perfectly supplemented the main course of unconvincing giant bird menacing NYC and destroying famous landmarks.  A good way to end things.

Movie quality: Decent
B-fest rating: Good

 

And somehow we’d survived it all once again.  I’m worried that schedule conflicts may make this my last Fest for awhile, but if it’s at all possible, I want to be back for B-fest 2011.  The end.

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010
11:26 pm
As of 2/9/10
I have remembered that this journal exists.  From now on, it will be a dumping ground for a B-fest recap.  And maybe other things that don't conveniently fit anywhere else on the 'Net.
Sunday, May 25th, 2003
12:42 am
So, you see... nah, nevermind.
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