THE SCREENING ROOM
By Bill KallayCertainly we movie snobs love our masterpieces. We'll talk for hours on end about the brilliance of Alfred Hitchcock versus François Truffaut. Maybe we'll debate the merits of John Ford. Deep down inside, though, we love our trash flicks. We love movies that are so bad, we might invite friends over to laugh at the horror unfolding onscreen. Bad movies can be just as much fun as masterpieces.
"Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XVII" is now available on DVD.
Those crazy characters from "MST3K" are at it again, this time ravaging four classic baddies for our pleasure. They even find time to roast Canadians! What more could a bad movie fan want from Joel Robinson, Mike Nelson, Crow T. Robot (Trace Beaulieu), Tom Servo (Kevin Murphy), and Gypsy (Jim Mallon)? More I say!
THE CRAWLING EYE (1958)
My parents were pretty merciless when it came to teasing me when I was a kid. They liked, for some reason, to spook me and get a reaction out of me by telling me the tale of the Crawling Eye. You see, legend has it that high in the mountains, when the fog moves in, the Crawling Eye comes out and beheads its victims! As an adult, I find that to be such a ludicrous story. As a kid, it gave me nightmares. Before you write me about "how cruel" my parents were, it was done in the same way as a counselor tells camp fire tales. All for fun.
It took me many years to actually watch this flick. Not because I didn't seek it out. I just couldn't find it. As far as I know, it's been out of distribution for years. When Tom of the Shout Factory mentioned to me it was in this DVD set, I said, "Send it on over!"
There's no way around it; this movie, despite the casting of Forrest Tucker and Janet Munro, is awful. The plot of a crawling eye in the mountains and bad acting has classic written all over it. Add in mountain sets that jiggle once a climber leans against them, and hideous beheadings, brother, this is some fun! The Crawling Eye doesn't show up for a long time, so viewers have to wade through various scenes of people going mad because of the Eye. Once it shows up, it's a scary beast with tentacles and ooze. The alien from "Alien" has nothing on this beast.
The movie is all around fun with the overacting, a genius scientist who tries to explain everything, brooding mad men and awful special effects.
THE BEATNIKS (1960)
Those crazy hoodlums! Those lousy, no good beatniks!
This movie is actually my favorite in the "MST3K" disc set. It's corny and downright ridiculous. Eddie Crane (Tony Travis) is a hoodlum with pipes. This boy can sing (though not tremendously well). He really wants to be a singing pop star, but his gang keeps bringing him down. The lesson here, kids, is if you want to be a star, don't go shooting people in diners.
The film was written and directed by none other than Paul Frees. Who's he? If you've gone on the Haunted Mansion ride, or ridden on the old Adventures Thru Inner Space ride, or seen clips of Ludwig Von Drake on television, you'll instantly recognize his distinctive voice. The film was produced by Ron Miller, who was not only Walt Disney's son-in-law (he married Disney's oldest daughter, Diane), but also produced a number of Disney films and ran the company in the early-1980s.
The music, the style and the overall playfulness of the movie completely dates it. That's part of the fun. It's rooted in late-1950s morals and lessons about the corruption of bad youth, so it's easy with our 21st century mindset to poke fun at it. But drop the snarky attitude, bub. These are Beatniks you're dealing with!
THE FINAL SACRIFICE (1990)
The Canadians Strike Back!
Rush. Bryan Adams. Aldo Nova. B.T.O. The Guess Who. Celine Dion. That's just the music Canada has given us. And not to be outdone, they gave us the movie, "Starship Invasions."
I love Canada. I've been there a couple times and everyone I've ever met there is wonderful. But with the exception of "SCTV" and some David Cronenberg, I've often wondered how unusually bad entertainment comes from our northern neighbors. One such creation is "The Final Sacrifice," which pits a teenage kid with a father's mysterious past against a gang of wrestlers and their evil boss. That's not all! There's something to do with a mysterious cult, a mullet, an old coot, beer, picking up strange teenage boys, and Zap Rowsdower (Bruce J. Mitchell). The film was directed by Tjardus Greidanus.
The movie is badly directed, written, produced, acted and shot. After listening to actor Bruce J. Mitchell talk about making it, I began to appreciate it on the merits of a low budget film. By the sounds of it, Greidanus and his motley crew did everything they could to bring this epic to the screen. People chipped in, people worked long hours, people worked for free. This is not much different from a student film or other low budget moviemaking. The movie's a mess, but it's a mess filled with passion for making movies. How can you go wrong when one of the leads is named Zap Rowsdower?
BLOOD WATERS OF DR. Z (1975)
When I popped this DVD into my PS3 and the opening titles came up, I thought I was watching a film made in the 1960s. To my surprise, it was made in 1975. It might as well had been made maybe two decades earlier considering it's a story about a mad scientist. But this is no ordinary scientist. He's Dr. Z and he's turned himself into a walking fish who goes around spritzing fish with a spray bottle. Only plots like this make it onto the Satellite of Love.
Out of all the DVDs in this great box set, this one was the most difficult to sit through. For almost 90-minutes, we watch a guy in a really bad fish costume walking around Florida, spraying. It's only saving grace is the wacky crew of the Satellite of Love doing their funny commentary.
Special thanks to Tom Chen
Photos: © Shout Factory. All rights reserved.