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B-fest 2018: NOT THE Bs!

I’m inclined to jump right into the Fest just because, well, the rest of the weekend isn’t B-fest, which is the thing I’m writing up.  What I reflect on is watching 24 near-continuous hours of bad movies with my one-day-per-year BFFs, and the rest is the trip is just Elissa and me meeting up with friends and such.  I will say that B-fest weekend has evolved into its own ritual that’s come to sublimate B-fest into a bigger vacation.   E and I have taken to making it an extended weekend of food, friends, and fun that happens to contain B-fest, which I do all of while she drops by for a few movies.  Thus, my holiday has become our holiday. 

This year it was especially amazing because I was writing a grant at the time, and these few days away from that were just transcendent.  (The grant is also part of the reason I’m posting this so late, relatively speaking.)  Anyway, great time in Chicago and environs, and a pleasure seeing the likes of David, other David, Laura, Jeremy, and Megan.  The traditional pre-Fest Thursday tiki gathering was a particular highlight this year; despite the lack of online activity outside of social media (which I don’t do), we still got a pretty good group of both Festies and civilians to drink large coconut flavored things, work the jukebox, and in the case of some, bring the outlandish outfits.  The group actually stayed until a reasonable bedtime – in part due to getting started late – and Elissa mentioned that she really appreciated her time chatting with Raina and Christine.

As far as B-fest proper, this was our first time as sponsors rather than rank-and-file attendees.  As much fun as it might be to have a secret identity, only about three people are even going to read this, so....  I hereby proclaim that.  I, Benjamin, am “Dr. Rat.”  As a couple, we are Team Ratbird.  As part of sponsorship, I got to submit a list of movies, and the organizers ended up going with my #4 choice – which was probably the best complement to the rest of what turned out to be a pretty strong lineup.  E drew our rat + bird logo, and I got to put together a PowerPoint slide introducing the movie; for funsies, I did it as a lecture slide explaining the choice.  People seemed to like that, even if they didn’t like the move itself, which, well, we’ll get to.  First we were “treated” to…


Double Trouble (1992) - We open with the Barbarian Brothers (a couple of identical twins with bodybuilder type physiques who often play barbarians) getting dressed up and playing at being real actors in an action-comedy.  And they’re surprisingly okay at it – nothing too embarrassing.  One of the Paul brothers is a schlubby cop, the other is a jewel thief who appreciates the finer things, they hate each other, and they’re forced to work together because the script says so.  This B-fest was surprisingly high on attempted comedies, which are often death to a B-fest crowd.  I thought the jokes in Double Trouble landed reasonably frequently – there’s attention to detail, like how whichever Paul brother is the vain criminal has a framed painting of himself under which he has his sex scenes.  This B-fest was also surprisingly high on movies that aren’t actually “bad…” fortunately, the bad ones were really really bad so it balanced out.  Anyway, Double Trouble was not particularly bad: it was funny in parts, there was basic competence on display in staging and directing the many parts where shit blows up or gets destroyed, and the writers and directors did a legitimately good job designing a movie that played to the strengths of their limited actors.  It was a nice appetizer which kept our attention, and we had fun watching it, grinning at the gratuitous violence, chuckling at the corny jokes, and cheering loudly at the scene when the bumbling comic relief character saves the day.  B-fest had arrived!

She (1984) – Not to be confused with any of the various other movies called She out there; even the organizers were confused and originally listed the 1965 She with Ursula Andress.  This was not that movie.  This was a swords and sorcery movie, probably Italian, featuring Sandahl Bergman, and released in either 1982 or 1984 – the Internet is unclear on this point.  It looked like they were streaming it off YouTube or something, although it may well have been from an actual streaming service.  I’m glad we got to see it, but… holy shit, was it incomprehensible.  It’s set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland twenty-three years after “The Cancellation,” which is never explained, but presumably the exposition that would’ve explained this got cancelled.  A goddess of some sort known only as She who has no readily apparent divine powers is either fighting against or helping a pair of brothers who want to rescue their sister from the Norcs, who may or may not be the guys wearing football helmets and swastikas.  Don’t worry, it makes a lot less sense when you actually see it.  The inability to tell anyone’s motivations meant that I was waiting all movie for the Nazi guys to show up again so I could land a well timed “very fine people on both sides” joke – I like it when people laugh at my riffs.  I like it even more when I successfully start a sing-along like I did to in response to a sign reading “DANGER ZONE.” 

Fortunately, She’s action scenes are the enjoyable kind of bonkers – you never know when a zombie will burst out of cardboard crate labelled with “PUNK” which She will then kill by knocking its head off and causing it to explode.  Or a decadent pool party which will be punctuated by a character stepping on a rubber ducky.  Or a guys eyes will abruptly and cheesily glow green as he displays hitherto unknown telekinesis.  Or the guy in the tutu, or the guy with the parrot and the owl in his evil science lab, or…  anyway, the characters lurch from one fight scene to the next and stuff happens with great randomness.  On the minus side, I really cannot emphasize enough how much the “plot” is complete incoherent nonsense, and it’s a pretty long movie that goes on way, way longer than it should.  On the plus side, She always has something new and differently batshit lying in wait for you. 

B-fest 2018 wasn’t really one for big running gags, but we did get some mileage out of the numerous scenes in which She’s followers engage in rituals that mostly involving kneeling and chanting “She!  She!  She!” for what feels like hours.  Turns out there are a lot of single-syllable words that rhyme or sorta-rhyme with “she” that an audience can chant at the screen in unison when it seems funny, or when they’re bored. 


Tremors (1990) – Thought I’d never seen this movie before.  But it turns out that I have.  In elementary school, one of my classmates had a movie afternoon at his house for a birthday party, and I’m pretty sure this was the movie we watched.  For some reason I became convinced that the title of what we saw was “Tremlins,” but I remember it being a monster movie and I remember the early scene in which our protagonists find a dude’s unclaimed face buried in the dirt.  The kids who picked on me had spent the afternoon going on about how I was a wuss and this movie would scare me to death.  Determined to prove them wrong, I responded by loudly and annoyingly making a show of mocking every scare-type scene before getting bored and wandering away.  In short, I was a bit of a shit kid.

This is another movie that got a lot of “too good for B-fest” comments, with people saying that the cash-in sequels would have been more appropriate choices.  I see the argument.  Tremors is a decently budgeted movie about giant snake-worm things of some sort, the production values are acceptable, the cast has some fairly big names, and the whole endeavor has a basic level of competence you don’t see much at B-fest (e.g. it’s always clear where everyone is in relation to everyone else, and where the monsters are popping out of).  I initially thought it’d lean heavily on schlocky comedy - Kevin Bacon and another guy (who play “Valentine” and “Earl,” respectively) are introduced as perpetual drunken fuckups who are always spilling sewage on themselves and such.  But the actors are charismatic enough that the film ends up with a set of heroes who are likable and charismatic enough that you’re rooting for them rather than the snakes (it helps that Finn Carter shows up to serve as the brains of their operation).  Audience favorite characters were clearly the power couple played by Michael Gross and (country star and new Colonel Sanders) Reba McEntire, as a couple of survivalists whose first answer to every problem is to shoot at it with as many heavy weapons as possible – not a bad strategy when dealing with giant worms. 

Anyway, even if it didn’t totally fit the festival, it was at least a monster movie in the spirit of the classics, and a good one to watch with a boisterous group.  So, now, some twenty-six years later or so, I can finally say with confidence – hey, Nat, Tremors was indeed a fun movie and a solid choice for the first edition of “Nat Cinemas.”  Sorry I didn’t properly appreciate it at the time, but, well, some things grow better with age.


Dolls (1987) – On the other hand, no one questioned this one’s appropriateness for B-fest.  It’s a low budget movie about killer dolls whose trailer ends with the tagline “you’re never too old to play with dolls… until you’re DEAD!”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFaNbnLGRoM But this surprisingly turned out to be yet another movie that’s not actually “bad,” and is pretty successful at what it’s trying to do.  The movie kind of blew our minds early with a sequence in which after a little girl loses her teddy bear at the hands of her abusive dad and stepmom, a guy in a ridiculous bear costume shows up and literally rips the parents’ throats out, causing the girl to say “oh, Teddy,” with this oddly affecting tenderness.  That scene reveals itself to be a fantasy – what she wishes for as her stepmom slaps her around – designed to make the audience cheer for the violent deaths of most of the cast.  So anyway, various characters get caught with a flat (well, how ‘bout that) and are drawn into the home of an elderly couple in the countryside.  They make dolls and have a house full of them, but it turns out the dolls are alive and don’t take well to any of their number being abused by terrible people, and also the old woman is literally a witch of some sort.  Audiences hoping to see some pretty cool deaths as dolls with their creepy eyes slaughter all except the little girl and the one other decent adult then get their wish.  The movie clocks in at a breezy 75 minutes or so, and is the exception to the rule that every movie this year was at least 15 minutes longer than necessary.  So, nice bit of black comedy and carnage, especially once you realize that the whole movie is basically a cranky old person manifesto.  You know how people in today’s machine age don’t appreciate good old fashioned hand crafted toys anymore?  And you know today’s parents who’re always getting divorced and not recognizing that parenting is a privilege rather than a right?  And what about those “punk” kids with their weird clothes and lack of respect for their elders?  Why, they oughtta have their heads violently slammed against the ground, ideally by sentient dolls!  That’ll teach ‘em!  At least until they’re DEAD!


One hiccup in this year’s festival is that there wasn’t enough time slotted in.  The Friday night movies went well after midnight and it wasn’t until 0015 or so that we finally got around to The Wizard Of Speed And Time.  (B-fest ended up running about 45 minutes late, which is by far the latest I’ve ever seen.)  A diminishing number of us still get on stage and “run” along with the Wizard as they play the short forwards and then backwards (no longer upside down in the post-film age).  Our little group of runners did include the pre-teens among us – it warms my heart to see that there are multiple second-generation B-festers in our little cult now.


Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) – Skipped this one entirely this year.  I was tired and worried that there wouldn’t be a good spot to sleep later, so I left the auditorium and lay down on one of the couches in the lobby with my book… and for the first time in my life, I actually successfully napped there for a couple hours!  This did mean that I unfortunately missed 2/3 of the next movie, but it also meant that I was properly rested for the remainder of the overnight.  So I returned midway through…


Night Train To Terror (1985) – The post-Plan 9 slot used to belong to ‘70s blaxplotation, but we’ve gone two years in a row now without that… a little sad to see that tradition slip away in a festival whose audience and movies skew very Caucasian.  Ah, well.  Seems like those who saw the whole thing really hated this one.  The part I saw was fun enough in a stupid and incoherent way.  What I gathered is that a few short films a studio had kicking around are loosely linked together into a “movie” that has God and Satan on a train trading stories.  There’s some nudity (the only “blue” film of the Fest), some Nazis or something, images of skulls constantly appearing to people in closets, a guy who’s punished by Satan for writing a book about atheism or something, and, uh, stuff happens.  The final vignette involves a nurse tasked by God with killing a playboy type who’s the embodiment of Lucifer.  She fails miserably but keeps her faith, and our storytellers agree to disagree about which of them “won” this hand.  I guess either way, we all lose?

The Crippled Avengers (1978) – There was some behind the scenes stuff I wasn’t privy to here.  Apparently the organizers wanted to show a “secret screening” of one of two totally different movies from 1975 called The Astrologer.  Whichever one it was, I assume it was the same movie that was shown at the Music Box the week before as a cult classic and of which only a few copies exist.  It proved unavailable, I guess.  So, late in the game substitution.

This Hong Kong movie changes things up very slightly by starting with the origin story for the villains, a father and son team whose family was slaughtered.  The kid had his hands chopped off.  Any inspirational value to his eventual dominance of the kung fu world as a metal handed master is mitigated by the fact that he pays it forward by “crippling” anyone who looks at him wrong.  From there the movie plays out exactly as one would expect, as we one by one see one guy lose his eyes, one his ears, one his legs… and one guy gets a string tied around his forehead which somehow turns him into “an idiot” who does painfully bad “retard” comic relief for the rest of the movie.  They meet a master, join forces, train a bunch, and fight a bunch of dudes.  Lots and lots and lots and lots of fights.  Every blow landed gets the same loud thwacking sound effect.  To make the sound collage even more unpleasant, the villains take to banding gongs constantly to blunt the blind guy’s super-hearing.  In part, I knew what to expect because we saw The Crippled Masters at B-fest 2010, which is basically the same movie.  Like every single movie that wasn’t Dolls, this went on way too long.


The White Gorilla (1945) – So, full disclosure: this was my movie, so I’m inclined to convince myself that it was well received.  The auditorium was definitely quite empty, as lots of folks either didn’t want to see a ‘40s movie in the overnight death slot at all, or watched five minutes and then decided it was nap time.  But those of us who were awake definitely laughed a lot… but still were chanting “end!” well before it ended.  This is another “movie” cobbled together from separate bits of footage which have nothing to do with each other, but in this case the bulk of it comes from a silent serial from the late ‘20s (Perils Of The Jungle) made by the same director; the original serial is believed by some to have started life as a Tarzan™ adaptation, although that’s disputed.  Awkwardly juxtaposed in are these poorly acted scenes “starring” a guy who fails to do anything whilst narrating the story.  The total inaction of the “hero” just keeps getting funnier and funnier – he can’t interact with the stock footage because it’s stock footage, he can’t in any way influence the main story since it was filmed 18 years earlier, and he can’t interact much with the White Gorilla because the actor, Ray Corrigan, was a gorilla-suit guy, so he also plays the ridiculous looking gorilla.  I knew the auditorium was in good hands when seatmate Ryan first reacted to the new/old footage mix with a withering “oh, yeah, that fits right in!”  The gorilla fights, mostly between guys in ape suits who look like they’re tickling their targets, were fun enough – especially with the overwrought narration describing it how all of Africa shook under the fury of their battle or whatever.  The older footage – run at a different speed than the ’45 footage – is full of all sorts of random nonsensical vignettes including but not limited to a lion attack on a village, a little kid who can control animals, and a tiger cult of superstitious African natives portrayed with exactly the amount of cultural sensitivity you’d expect from this kind of movie.  I don’t know if I can properly explain the mounting hilariousness of these events being breathlessly described by this guy who was apparently hiding in the bushes a few feet away from everything but in no way helped out, or ever did anything of any kind.  Again, I’m biased because it was my movie, but I had a great time with this. 


The Wicker Man (2006) – On we went, leaving behind the oldest footage of this B-fest, straight into to the newest film ever shown at the festival.  We watched the infamous remake starring Nic Cage, not the cult classic from the ‘70s; the two versions of The Wicker Man do share the same basic plot and even some of the same dialogue.  I’d been wanting to see it for years, so this was an exciting opportunity… mostly.  See, the opening is indeed bonkers, as our alleged hero relives watching a truck killing a little kid over and over – of course we laughed.  Nic is then enticed to work a case on an island in Washington state at the behest of his ex-wife, despite having no legal authority to do so as an employee of the state of California - the movie lampshades this nonsense and then ignores it.   The comically frigid denizens of the island refuse to give him any information about the missing child or their cult-like matriarchal society (yes, in the world of The Wicker Man, women who want to live women-centric lives are basically evil and insane.  To say that The Wicker Man has a few issues with women would be to call Lake Michigan “damp”).  Now, all of the batshit crazy clips you’ve seen on YouTube are basically from the last fifteen minutes.  The vast majority of The Wicker Man is tracing the investigation as the film attempts to build mood and slowly piece together a mystery which of course makes no sense.  You wonder what the filmmakers were thinking, having poured a lot of resources into this project that had potential but doesn’t quite come together, and steadfastly pushing ahead with their movie as originally conceived anyway.  And then it’s only at the very end that it lives up to its reputation of going completely off the rails and you have Nic demanding to know HOW’DITGETBURNED, dressing up as a bear and punching women in the face, yelling about bitches and goddamn honey, and OH GOD NOT THE BEES AAAAH MY EYES.  The movie, like every other movie this year, is about 15-30 minutes longer than it has any right to be, and it’s honestly a bit of a slog, but it’s a slog that’s both conceptually interesting and well worth seeing at least once.


Surf Ninjas (1993) – And after a couple of B-fest highlights we got an expected lowlight.  This was exactly what it looked like – a cringe-worthy action comedy pitched squarely at the kiddies, starring a group of entitled and obnoxious surfing bros (literal brothers, but also bros) who learn that they’re heirs to a throne and have to lead a revolution through the power of hijinx.  Rob Schneider, looking about thirty-five, provides some alleged comedy as a fellow trouble-maker who we’re apparently supposed to believe is also a teen.  This is the kind of movie that establishes that the kids are edgy (but lovable) trouble-makers by having them scandalize the school when – tasked with putting together a presentation to greet a spiritual leader at a school assembly – they do a last-minute thing to the tune of “Barbara Ann.”  Nothing says being a rebel like performing a shitty novelty song which was a hit before you were born.  If I’d been more awake I might have tried to watch this as an endurance test, but at this point in the night/morning I wasn’t in the mood – watched just enough to determine the ways in which it would suck, then took a short nap in my theater seat, then ended up missing a bunch more because of the length of the line at the Starbucks stand.  Someone needs to remember to alert the organizers that they should alert the baristas that they should expect a huge crush of smelly movie geeks the instant they open at 0900 on Saturday. 


The Villain (1979) – This one has Kirk Douglas chasing after some money being carried by Ann-Margret (seriously, why the hyphen?) as a sexpot wearing a ridiculously low-cut outfit and Arnold Schwarzenegger as her bodyguard, an oblivious do-gooder who usually fails to do good, and like twenty other pop-culture people cameoing to do various bits.  It’s initially framed a comedy western, leading everyone to try to figure out its context.  “So, this was a few years post-Blazing Saddles, right?  No one was making serious westerns at this point, were they?”  Would-be megavillain Cactus Jack (yes, there were lots of comments disparagingly comparing him to the pro-wrestler who later used that moniker) repeatedly fails to pull off his villainous plans while his horse, Whiskey, gives reaction shots of disapproval.  Whiskey is clearly both the most likable and the most nuanced character in the movie, probably the only character who can’t be described as “one note.”  This one was interesting just because it kept winning the audience over and then losing us.  The frontier town scenes are best characterized as a bunch of random bits, but I smiled quite a few times.  Then pretty much all of the characters drop out and we see scene after scene after scene of Kirk Douglas and Whiskey failing to waylay their unaware would-be targets… at first we were bored, but The Villain gradually revealed itself to be basically a live-action version of a Roadrunner cartoon.  You could hear the building buzz in the auditorium as our villains’ traps got more and more grandiose, and we were outright delighted at the movie’s chutzpah in actually having its flesh-and-blood actors recreate the old “tunnel painted on a rock wall” bit.  And then the movie lost us again with fifteen minutes of Paul Lynde in an over the top costume doing drunk-“Indian” jokes.  Lots of “problematic” (as the kids say) failed attempts at humor – to quote a guy a few rows back, “they’re trying to do ‘Mel Brooks Indians’ but can’t make it work at all!”  Most people seemed to at least enjoy the film’s bizarre non-climax that features Cactus Jack literally bouncing across the rooftops while the Looney Toons theme blares, reassuring us that all of the outright joke theft was probably done with the proper legal permissions.  All in all, there are a lot of things that this movie attempts, it never really congeals into something unabashedly enjoyable, and it’s – say it with me! – at least fifteen minutes longer than it needs to be.


Troll 2 (1990) – In some ways Troll 2 is a victim of its own success.  Everyone knows it now.  It last played at B-fest in 2010 – so I’ve already recapped and summarized it - and since then I’d already seen it twice more (plus partial viewings), and have seen it fascinatingly dissected in the relatively recent documentary Best Worst Movie.  So, through no fault of the movie, wasn’t as excited for this because… well, been there, done that.  I did things like tooth brushing for a little, and drifted in and out to enjoy seeing people discover the joys of a trip to Nilbog.  Saw the “you can’t piss on hospitality!” scene, missed the “oh my GOD!” scene, was back in time to re-appreciate the power of a “double decker baloney sandwich” when your family is holding a séance to summon your dead grandfather to help you fight vegetarian goblins.  We unintentionally continue the running theme of cobbled-together movies, sort of… in case anyone was unaware, the movie studio did a Cloverfield thing and tried to convince audiences that this weird Italian vegetarian-goblin movie had some relation to the clearly unrelated 1986 movie Troll.  So: never meant to be a sequel to Troll, got the title Troll 2 slapped onto it after the fact; this explains the oft-noted fact that there are no trolls in Troll 2.


Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978) – Coming out of the lunch break, I was not looking forward to this one, but it ended up as an unexpected festival highlight the way musicals sometimes do.   In some cocaine-addled haze, someone thought it was a good idea to repurpose Beatles songs – mostly from the titular record, with a decent chunk of Abbey Road thrown in and a hodgepodge of other late-‘60s cuts – into a nearly dialogue-free musical featuring actual characters named Billy Shears, Mr. Kite, Strawberry Fields, Mean Mr. Mustard, and so on.  No actual Beatles either appear in or perform music for SPLHCB; instead we’ve got the band being represented by a fraction of the Bee Gees, with Peter Frampton singing lead.  So, the first song played is the title track, which sounds okay, but then they go into a painfully lifeless version of “With A Little Help From My Friends….” leading us to realize that we were in for a long long movie.  That’s sort of the arc of the whole movie – it starts out merely bland, and then just keeps piling worthless crap on top of worthless crap until one’s eyes and ears are bleeding.  It’s a long, grueling, wear-down sort of process.  Now, nobody’s watching for the plot, but it didn’t stop the filmmakers from believing that we would be interested in the love story with the girl Peter leaves behind, and, uh, the theft of magical musical instruments by a villain riding an airship surrounded by singing robots.  Cocaine is a hell of a drug, apparently.

So in theory the attraction is mediocre renditions of songs that everyone knows, performed by various musicians of the time.  I don’t really feel like typing for hours about which songs are intrinsically solid enough to survive the mangling and which ones aren’t (turning “Mean Mr. Mustard” into a disco/electronica dirge is actually kinda fun!  Whoever thought “She’s Leaving Home” should be sung by robots should be shot!).  Or pontificating at length about which guest musicians shine and which ones don’t (inexplicably beloved cheese-rockers Aerosmith do a surprisingly serviceable “Come Together!”  Even more inexplicably beloved cheese-funkers Earth Wind & Fire utterly butcher “Got To Get You Into My Life” and it fucking sucks, much like everything else they’ve ever performed!).  But I do need to talk about the ending sequence.  See, after what feels like about five hours of this thing, Strawberry Fields dies in the course of defeating the evil band played by Aerosmith – and yes, it’s just as stupid as it sounds - leading to a funeral scene set to some of the medley songs from the end of Abbey Road.  It seems like the film is winding down.  Folks who’d seen it before started gleefully started letting the rest of us know that we were in for about fifteen times that the movie fails to end.  Indeed, they then do a long version of “The Long And Winding Road,” and it doesn’t end.  They do “A Day In The Life,” with Peter Frampton trying to commit suicide or something, and it doesn’t end.  We, the audience, had just been getting progressively more infuriated as this stupid thing steadfastly continued.  And then, out of nowhere, actual Beatles collaborator Billy Preston appears as a literal Magical Black Man, here to sing “Get Back” and magically resurrect everyone and cause everyone to suddenly be wearing clerical robes!  Or something!  And then the fucking movie still isn’t over!  So, finally, someone – I think Tim started it - got the good idea to hit the stage as a group, and thus as the movie gathered various TV stars to recreate the cover of the Sgt Pepper record while singing the “Reprise” version of the title track, a handful of us, buoyed by nerd rage, hate-danced along in front of the screen like an uncoordinated and angry flash mob.  With one mind, we all turned in unison to flip off the movie as it finally ended.  Thanks to the organizers for finding a movie so deeply hateable, and thanks to B-fest for turning it into a celebration.  With only slight hyperbole, I have to say that these are the sorts of moments that I live for.


The Mummy’s Ghost (1944) – Kicking it old school again with a Universal, uh “classic.”  I feared this would be deathly dull, but it was way more fun than the last time we had to watch a Mummy movie at B-fest (in 2008).  So, apparently a college – and one particular student who’s the reincarnation of the Mummy’s ancient betrothed or something – are being haunted by the immortal spirit that a vaguely ethnic mystic is trying to resurrect.  Boris Karloff in silly makeup plays the Mummy, and I guess because of an ancient wound, spends the entire movie with one arm and one leg held almost immobile, causing him to “pursue” his victims at the speed of a particularly sedate tortoise.  In their infinite wisdom, the filmmakers put the Mummy’s lair at the top of a tower accessible by a really tall staircase, leading to endless sequences of characters slowly ascending or descending stairs.  We as an audience were long past being clever, but we’d already been periodically making “hut! hut! hut!” noises whenever there were cops or soldiers marching – I think it started during one of the early movies and then just never kind of went away.  So we pretty much spent the movie cracking each other up by doing that whenever characters charged (we’d do it more slowly when they shuffled) up the stairs or down the stairs.  This happened many, many times.  Meanwhile, our more intellectual characters sit around squinting at things through magnifying glasses, talking about the phases of the moon, and dying while telling each other that “you have to remember this: nine.”  (As far as I can remember, that was the whole message.)  Anyway, all of our heroes ultimately fail miserably to stop the Mummy from killing mystic-guy and then doing a Creature From The Black Lagoon imitation and swimming away, presumably killing himself and the chick they’re trying to rescue.  Remember, kids: nine. 


The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Beyond The 8th Dimension (1984) – Another repeater from B-fest 2010.  Was able to stay awake this time, at least.  And I came in prepared to accept that this is patterned after old adventure serials, so it’s structured to make it seem like our titular brain surgeon slash brilliant inventor slash rock star slash adventurer has bizarre adventures all the time and we’re just happening to look in on one of them.  People around who hadn’t seen the movie were commenting on how it made its own sort of fever-dream sense.  The entire movie seems to consist of random bits that only kind of connect to whatever the main story is.  Weird dudes with weird accents are constantly drifting in and out for bit parts, we get a tiny glimpse into a much more interesting movie about an alien civil war between the mostly-good Black Lectroids and the evil Red Lectroids (there are strange racially charged things going on here) who’re all living in New Jersey as humans named John.  Let me give one more example here:  I’ve noticed that whenever someone tries to explain the vibe of this movie, they inevitably bring up the watermelon.  See, there’s a moment when Jeff Goldblum, playing a dweeby guy trying to help out the heroes and prove his worth, is walking through Banzai Labs and one of the consoles has a watermelon sitting on it.  The movie lampshades the randomness by having Jeff ask about the watermelon, and a character state that “it’s a long story, I’ll explain later,” and then we never hear that story.  According to my B-fest seatmates, the entire reason for this little aside was to see whether the producers were paying attention and would ask about it; they didn’t, so it made it into the movie. 

On the whole… well, it was fun learning tidbits like the watermelon thing.  And I guess John Lithgow’s villain chewing the scenery – aggressively devouring it, really - is pretty fun.  But on the whole I had two issues with this film as a closer.  One is that it’s better in concept than in execution, and just really isn’t as clever as it thinks it is (and is, naturally, at least fifteen minutes longer than it needs to be).  The other is that even though I do understand the appeal of closing with a “good” movie that’s more cult favorite than outright schlock, that strategy also leads to less riffing and audience participation, and more watching passively.  Poor Elissa, who’d come back for the ending of the Fest, is not the target demographic for Banzai at all, and she was miserable.  As for me, I didn’t love it either, but didn’t hate it or anything; it’s a’ight. 


Stray thoughts:
- All in all, if I had to sleep for two hours total during the Fest, I don’t think I could have possibly timed my naps better. 

- This year’s C.J. Cherryh book:  Foreigner

- Seriously, fuck Earth Wind & Fire, and fuck every DJ who’s ever subjected me to them

- Kinda wanted to participate in the group power-walk around the auditorium as they rolled the pretty amazing ending credits of the last movie (in which Buckaroo and most of the good guys take a long power-walk through a dry river bed).  But I didn’t quite feel like actually leave my chair.  And I’d already participated in a group activity a few hours earlier with the dance-off thing.  Hey, it’d been a long 24.75 hours.

-  Best of Fest:  Tremors or Dolls, about tied

- Worst of Fest:  I dunno, probably She

- Worst of Fest, runners-up:  Surf Ninjas and Night Train To Terror seemed terrible as well based on the parts I watched, and Sgt Pepper was just dire.  But this was a year in which some of the worst movies – She, definitely, along with The White Gorilla, The Wicker Man, and Troll 2 come to mind – were just a blast to watch.  It was a good year for “good” bad movies.

- Best example of the power of B-fest to provide a wonderful experience watching an otherwise unwatchably bad movie:  Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

- Where are we going?  B-FEST 2019! 

- When are we going?  REAL SOON! 

- Well, soon, relatively speaking.  When can we do this again?

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B-fest memories: 2009

To me, B-fest at its best is embodied by certain years.  2008, 2010, 2013, 2014.  Amazing Fests.  But not every year is perfect.  There are years where not everything hits on all cylinders.  B-fest 2009 was one of those.  The details were all wrong.  The friend who joined me left early due to physical pain and never came back.  I was tired enough to be drifting in and out during multiple movies.  I convinced myself I loved ‘80s action movies more than I did, so when one of them didn’t deliver quite to the extent I might have wanted, it was disappointing.  I’d posted online that the lineup was “made of win,” but as it turned out, not so much.  Actually, the film lineup was “problematic” as the kids today say – too many movies with similar themes from the same era, often in clusters.  No nudity at all, nothing modern at all…  All things considered, it’s the most disappointed B-fest has ever left me, and I’m baffled by why some others seemed to treat it as a highlight.  Well, it takes all kinds.

This of course highlights how much I enjoy going to B-fest.  Because B-fest 2009 was a lot of fun, in balance.  Many movies I’m glad to have seen with this crowd, and many moments of mirth including about the hardest I’d ever laughed in a movie theater.  Glad I went, would do again.  Just maybe not as much as I could have.  Anyway, these were the movies.

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B-fest memories: 2008

As one may have gathered, I enjoy going to B-fest.  This is because it is a fun and hugely entertaining thing to do.  However, sometimes it gets rough and seems a little excessive.  Some years don’t knock it out of the park with every movie.  And then there are the good years.  The transcendent Fests where the lineup as a whole just sings, the films feed off each other - or one is just surrounded by the right group of riffers in the right mood, irrespective of what’s on screen – and it’s one of the great years.  As special as B-fest had been before, B-fest 2008 was my first taste of one of the great years, in its entirety.  Not necessarily what I was expecting with the luddite fringe driving the lineup firmly away from anything not shown on film, and away from anything shown after 1980 (at least on the original schedule).  I imagine this as the continuation of a drive not only away from the “too modern” films that dotted Fests like 2006, but a last gasp of the attempts to make the ‘40s/’50s monster movie the B-fest baseline once again, rather than the ‘80s action movie.

Joined by a different friend, Nick, who acquitted himself admirably going nearly the full thing in his first B-fest.  Also his brother and a group of associated people came specifically for Barbarella.  I think I remember this Fest pretty well…
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B-fest memories: 2007

Well, as a seasoned veteran showing up at B-fest 2007, I’d be introducing others to the fun; Dave, one of my friends from med school, managed about 12 hours of festing including the overnight; not bad for a first-timer.  I figured I’d be engaged and funny throughout, and having done it once would have no problem hurdling the full 24.  Turns out, I would in fact learn that the crisis of “why am I here?” can’t be so easily overcome, that not everyone showed up would be a devotee but that all would have a good time, and, uh, valuable lessons of some sort about something or other.  Possibly about not messing with mad science or sketchy looking cheap liquor.  One thing I was right about – a good time was had watching some bad movies.
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B-fest memories: 2006

I have a soft spot for B-fest 2006, despite its foibles.  For me, it was the first – doing the whole marathon.  I learned about community, true agony, perseverance in the face of it, and the ebbs and flows of the experience that you just don’t get unless you do the full 24.  And about Troma movies too.  I’d planned my year around it to a degree – doing the PhD portion of my combined-degree thing meant I had more control over my schedule – and knew I would make a serious attempt to last the whole thing.  As long as it was fun, anyway; no promises were made, but it was a goal.  Certainly was not about to be deterred by the fact that – even with a hefty price increase – the Fest sold out within two hours.  I remember the frantic phone calls from my lab, busy signal after busy signal (and getting my PI to wander by and basically say “dude, don’t try to multitask like that – make your phone call or pipet stuff, not both together.”

Among people who were Festies at the time, B-fest 2006 ended up being kind of infamous, as the year that things got “too modern.”  As I’d ramble about in later years, this was the crest of a wave that would lead to ‘70s and ‘80s movies becoming the standard at B-fest, whilst the ‘40s and ‘50s monster movies that used to be front and center would be relegated to a few per Fest.  This year B-fest unhesitatingly jumped into the modern-movies pool.  Suddenly almost nothing was in black and white, which was a culture shock to those who remembered B&W monster movies being the bread and butter of the whole thing.  But it was more than that.  Apparently sponsors got to pick their movies for the first time, everyone provided a list of stuff, and whatever was newest or closest to mainstream was generally the one the organizers could actually get the rights to.  There wasn’t a sense of oversight and cohesion to the lineup.  So not as many movies as usual – because so many of them were long! – not as vintage as usual, and not as… B-movie as usual.  I’d argue that B-fest 2006 wasn’t too modern, rather, it was too mainstream.  Never coherently expressed it at the time, though.  And subsequent B-fests have borne that out, as the lineups became more modern but didn’t elicit the same kind of backlash.

Plus, it was my first time doing the full 24, so what did I know of how B-fests “should” be?  I mostly remember having a blast.  It really is different doing the whole festival.  You get a cross-section of the whole audience reacting at different times to things.  You start to get a sense that those people on the Internets and surrounding you are a community.  The people writing reviews for movie websites are re.  I think I got Tim’s mix CD for the first time that year.  Didn’t actually meet Ken Begg or the B-movie legends who sit with him, but did run into other people who’d written reviews I’d read.  I ended up getting a good seat pretty close to a group (dominated in terms of yelling volume by a chick who goes by M’ris whose enthusiasm for this stuff is infectious… she sadly stopped coming to B-fest about five years ago) which turned out to be mostly people at the B-Movie Message Board, which I later discovered as a way to interact year-round as it was more or less starting to fade away.  We noted the absence of the legendary “Slide-Whistle Guy,” although someone else partially filled in.
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B-fest memories: 2005

B-fest 2005 got off to a potentially shaky start.  I guess someone wrote an article and gave the festival one of its periodic ebbs in popularity, because I’d had in mind all year that it would be the site of my next Robot Jox esque experience.  Lagged a little on getting tickets… and discovered the horrifying (to my perspective) news that tickets were sold out.  This could not stand.  A friend who’d kinda wanted to go but not felt all that strongly about it hoked me up with one of her friends who was selling his ticket.  He asked for above face value, which I totally would’ve paid, but felt I needed to point out that the organizers had a specific policy against doing this, and I fretted over whether he’d still be willing to part with the ticket.  He was.  I felt determined to at least take in half of B-fest 2015, and it would go down as my first overnight stint.  Didn’t necessarily make the most of it, but hey, I was a young Festie still learning how to handle things.

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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.
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There wasn’t the slightest question in my mind that I’d be back.
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 fuckin' 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.
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!!!…

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.