Saturday, January 23, 2016

Forget bed bugs....we have CREEPOZOIDS

DISCLAIMER - My blog is an attempt to show respect to films some small minded, intellectually dishonest hipsters automatically label "bad". There is no film I discuss here that I believe to be bad at all.  The title of the blog comes from a discussion that took place some years ago when I was trying to explain the appeal of these films. The title is not meant to suggest I think these films are bad in the least.  Remember - ART IS ART!

I'm uncertain why it has taken me so long to do a write-up on this classic film; especially as it holds very fond memories for me.  This picture was one of countless gems I found during the heyday of the "Mom and Pop" video store.  While others were looking for the newest Sean Penn film, I and other like minded wannabe auteurs were lurking in the area of the less traveled shelves mining for brilliance.

Of course, I was always on the hunt for any picture that starred Linnea Quigley (or Brinke Stevens, Michelle Bauer (McClellen).  Thanks to the brilliance of David DeCoteau and Fred Olen Ray, I was generally able to spend my Friday nights with at least ONE of those fine actresses.

If you do any reading about this particular film, you will often find it is called an Alien knock-off.  I would never go that far; it may be a bit derivative of Alien, but, I'd suggest The Abyss is too.  Nevertheless, whether one sees it in that light or not, I don't think anyone can argue this film isn't in fact more claustrophobic and grittier than Ridley Scott's earlier fare.

Written and produced by the brilliant David DeCoteau early on in his career, the story follows a group of Army deserters in 1998 looking for shelter six years after a massive  nuclear war has turned the Earth into a "burnt out husk".  When the group realizes rain is moving in they have to get indoors quickly; not only to stay dry but the rain, in fact, is acid.  The endless nuclear bombardment has turn the rain into something that will melt the skin and muscle right off your bones.

To what they believe is their good fortune, the group is able to break into a complex of some kind.  They are uncertain of its previous use, but, feel lucky to have found a place to hide out, especially as it has running water and plenty of food.

And then...things go wrong. Very wrong.

David DeCoteau produced this picture on 150K - not a great deal of money when shooting on 35mm film stock.  However, it is clear every dollar is on the screen.  Part of this was, no doubt, one reason for such a small cast.  The film was shot in a warehouse in the greatest city on Earth - Los Angeles.  And good use is made of the location.

As the tension increases, the audience is supposed to feel trapped and claustrophobic and the set design certainly does that.  The effects are amazing and even more so as this film was made in the "Good Old Days" of in camera practical effects.  The creature designs are not only very good, but, incredibly convincing.  And, let's face it - Alien did not have as kick-ass an ending as Creepozoids.

True to form, the cast for this DeCoteau picture is another reason for the tension throughout the entire film.  Linnea Quigley is always solid - in fact, I can't think of a single film she has been in which she didn't nail the part.  Among the other actors are Ken Abraham (Butch) who has maintained a very successful career not only as an actor, but also editor, producer and writer); and I have to absolutely praise the performance of Kim McKamy, who is best known by the name she used in the adult film world - Ashlyn Gere.

In all candor, all the cast was great.  But Ms. McKamy/Gere was exceptionally good.  She portrayed a sense of concern and vulnerability that makes her character very relateable.  Ms. Gere is one of very few adult film stars who also managed to work quite a bit in the "mainstream" entertainment industry with parts in films and television shows such as Silk Stalkings, Millennium,  Willard and The One.

I can't encourage you enough to check out this film.  I watched it on Full Moon Stream - Great Films on your PC (simply the best way to check out this film and countless others.

Agree? Disagree?  Please leave a comment or message me - I'd love your input.

The Rotten Tomatoes page - clearly people don't understand how brilliant this film is

The IMDB Page - I don't understand the low rating

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Cult Film Sunday

So, you could watch the irrelevant snooze fest that will be the Golden Globes replete with Ricky Gervais doing his uttermost to offend you for no reason at all OR you could enjoy these films currently available to stream right now.

Eraserhead - David Lynch's first full length film defies explanation but will haunt you.  Ultimately all of Lynch's films have been amazing, as was his foray into television.  However, it was his first film which ultimately defined his genius and burrows into your brain like no other.  The film often feels like a black and white hallucination.

It is currently available for viewing on Hulu

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai - Clearly I'm a huge fan of this film as I write under the pen name Banzai.  This film had a huge influence on me...and continues to.  Imagine how surprised I was when I discovered there are people who have not even heard of this masterpiece!  The story of a surgeon, physicist, rock star saving the world from Lord John Whorfin and the Red Lectroids from Planet 10 (by way of the 8th dimension) is so good it is like comfort food for the soul.

It is currently available for viewing on Hulu

The Little Shop of Horrors - Perhaps no film has had as many lives as this Roger Corman classic. The 1960 original eventually spawned a musical, which then went on to become a film.  While the musical if amazing with one of the greatest casts assembled for any picture I still prefer the black and white grittiness of the original.  Written by Charles B. Griffith, who would go on to write a number of other brilliant genre pictures, including the beautiful Oliver Reed vehicle "Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype" it remains a jewel in the Roger Corman crown.

It is currently available for viewing on Amazon Prime and the colorized version (ugh!) is available on Hulu

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Slithis....when wet.

DISCLAIMER - My blog is an attempt to show respect to films some small minded,
intellectually dishonest hipsters automatically label "bad". There is no film I
discuss here that I believe to be bad at all.  The title of the blog comes from a
discussion that took place some years ago when I was trying to explain the appeal of
these films. The title is not meant to suggest I think these films are bad in the
least.  Remember - ART IS ART!

One of the first films I ever defended was the motion picture - Slithis (Spawn of the Slithis).  It was not a great essay so, perhaps, it is best the write-up has long since disappeared.  However, it is a film that deserves a second write-up and certainly a picture in some need of defending.

I have to acknowledge the fact I have lost, if I ever had, the ability to separate a film from the time time it was shot. But, I don't think that is honestly a bad thing.  For instance, would the French Connection be considered the classic it is if not for the gritty 70s realism and depiction of New York City?  I don't think so.  Not because it is not a great film - it is.  But, the time period and the city are characters in it as well.

Instead of 70s NYC, Slithis gives us late 70s Venice Beach - and the time period and the location, much like The French Connection, are major characters in this film. 1978 Venice Beach is the California a small-town Missouri boy dreamed of each night.  And Venice is a star in this film.  Much of the film is exterior scenes providing an historical document of Venice and the Los Angeles area of the time.

The film was written, produced and directed by Stephen Traxler.  Mr. Traxler graduated from Canoga Park High School in 1963 and his familiarity with Southern California shows in this picture. After a stint in Vietnam, he entered the film industry with Slithis.  Mr. Traxler continued to work in the film industry with work in films such as "Meet the Deedles", "Waterworld" and "Legally Blonde 2".

Also listed as producers are Dick Davis and Paul Fabian.  It is clear to see the producing chores were in a way passing from one Hollywood generation to another as Paul Fabian's first credit was in 1932 while Davis went on to work on the Ralph Bakshi picture "American Pop".

The films production company was Fabtrax Films.  However, I was unable to find much information regarding this company.  The only picture attributed to that particular company is Spawn of the Slithis.  Appears the company was founded only to produce this picture and probably disbanded afterward.

Shot in only 12 days with a budget of $100,000 dollars and using many local actors the film begins with the discovery two mutilated dogs and the murder of a couple in Venice.  Soon we are introduced to high school Journalism teacher Wayne Connors (Alan Blanchard).  Wayne, unhappy as a teacher and piqued by the
murders, decides to investigate despite the concerns of his wife Jeff (Judy Motulsky).

Wayne discovers a mysterious substance during his investigation and provides to friend Dr. John (J. C. Claire).  Dr. John discovers the substance is radioactive "Slithis" and suggests they speak to Dr. Erin Burick. In a nice paced scene Dr. Burick indicates a familiarity with the slithis and provides information of where the investigation should continue.

In the meantime, more residents of Venice are perishing at the hands of the Slithis creature.  With the city in a panic Wayne calls on the assistance of boat Captain Christopher Columbus Alexander (Mello Alexandria) to collect more samples and provide them to the police - who think very little of the evidence and are trying to pin the murders on "Cultists".

If you read other write-ups regarding this film you'll come across statements that suggest the film should have been on MST3K. You'll also notice a 36% on Rotten Tomatoes.  Yes, the film is not great in a conventional way. The film does have its idiosyncrasies - the odd performance of Hy Park as Lt. Prentiss, an actor who went on to work on such films as Blade Runner and the creepy perversion of the 40+ year old man "seducing" an 18 year can throw you off.  And the film does smack of sexism.  But, when you watch the film, remember you are watching it with 21st century opinions. That is not an endorsement of the behavior in anyway - just something to be aware of prior to viewing the picture.

As for the off the wall performance of Hy Park?  Well, knowing the actor went on to bigger and better things I can only surmise there was a method to the madness.  Perhaps it was simply the way the director wanted the Lieutenant portrayed or possibly they were shooting at 3:00 am and it was the only possible way to stay awake.  Yes, it is odd and it pulls you out of the film, but, on the other hand it is the performance always remembered by those who watch this picture.

Most of the cast only worked on this film.  I don't attribute that to the talent of the cast - the film is replete with solid performances.  I suspect many of the performers of this film were not intending to become professional actors.  That said - I can happily go on record saying the performances of each and every cast member are solid.

Mr. Traxler took the time to write the film and raise 100K - no small feat in 1978.  I admire his work, I admire the cast who approach the material in total sincerity and I enjoying seeing my beloved LA area the way it was when I was a kid.

Alien it is not...but, watch it with an open mind and you'll find it is a fun ride.

The film is available to view for free to Amazon Prime subscribers and that is where I've watched it. The transfer...not great great.  Code Red released the film to DVD in 2010, however, from what I've read the transfer was not very good and there NO special features - which seems criminal.  The DVD is now out of print and copies now go for $60 to $80.

*bit of trivia - the Slithis creature was portrayed by Win Condict was essentially sewed into his suit for his scenes....sometimes for up to 12 hours with no way to use the restroom.

The Rotten Tomatoes page for Slithis

Saturday, January 2, 2016

You've not lived until you stopped living and become a mixed-up Zombie!!

DISCLAIMER - My blog is an attempt to show respect to films some small minded, 
intellectually dishonest hipsters automatically label "bad". There is no film I 
discuss here that I believe to be bad at all.  The title of the blog comes from a 
discussion that took place some years ago when I was trying to explain the appeal of 
these films. The title is not meant to suggest I think these films are bad in the 
least.  Remember - ART IS ART! 

Hello 2016 - it's been some time since my last post. Too long. Crazy thing adulthood.  
It seems to always get in the way of what I'd actually care to do.

So, like most everyone I've come up with a handful of New Year's resolutions. The 
first of which is to do a better job of posting articles to the site.  But along with 
that I've determined it is time to be more Iggy Pop and less Charlie Brown and to work 
smarter...not harder.  But, in any case, one with the show.

Tonight's post is about a film some people believe I'm making up when I give them the 
title - the Ray Dennis Steckler 1964 classic The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who 
Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies. For those who are familiar with the title, 
it is generally because they caught the July 14, 1997 broadcast of Mystery Science 
Theater 3000.

It's a great episode, and the film certainly provides ample material for Mike and the 
bots.  But, my goal with this film, like all the others, is not to deride the film.  
In fact, taken on its own stand alone merits the film is better than a number of films 
produced for the drive-in and grindhouse circuit during that time.

Originally titled The Incredibly Strange Creature: Or Why I stopped Living and Became 
a Mixed-up Zombie, a possible lawsuit from Columbia pictures, upset the title was too 
similar to their soon to be released Peter Sellars film Dr. Strangelove or: How I 
Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb resulted in Steckler changing the title.

And, what would a film with that title be about you ask?  Well, it is a simple of tale 
of boy meets girl, boy gets hypnotized by the girl's sister, boy goes on murderous 

Starring Cash Flagg (Ray Dennis Steckler himself) as the unemployed happy-go-lucky 
Jerry, who once under the spell of Madame Estrella (Brett O'Hara) becomes a knife 
wielding murder machine.  Also in the film is Steckler's wife at the time, Carolyn 
Brandt who stars as nigh-club dancer Marge Neilson.  Jerry is dating the blonde 
nymphet Angela (Sharon Walsh) much to the chagrin of her mother.  The third wheel is 
Harold, played spot on by Atlas King.

The cause of all the trouble is evil-eyed fortune teller Madam Estrella. Not only does 
she convince her strip club dancing sister to bring Jerry to her to hypnotize for her 
nefarious murder spree, she seems to keep a cadre of blood thirsty deformed monsters 
in house, all just waiting to turn on her.

Sure, it all becomes a bit surreal - but, I can honestly say that is part of the charm 
of the film.  Not to mention that was not out of the ordinary among films produced 
during that time period.  For instance The Horror of Party Beach (also released in 
1964 and a horror "musical" as well) and Psycho a Go-Go (1965) are equally surreal 
which is part of their creepy charm.

I think it is also important to understand what Stecker accomplished with a mere 
$38,00 dollars.  In today's digital world, a 90 minute film could easily be shot on 
that budget.  However, when film makers actually used (gasp) film - $38K could be 
eaten up very quickly on film stock and processing.  In spite of that, the film has 
fairly impressive sets (built in the old Masonic lodge in Glendale) and several 
musical and dance pieces; actually quite impressive considering.

A special thanks goes out to Atlas King who gave Ray $300 dollars so he could eat and 
keep the lights on.  Atlas has only one other credit to his name  - The Thrill Killers 
- and according to Steckler, King faded into the sunset and was, evidently, unable to 
ever reconnect with him before Steckler's death in 2009.

Finally, Steckler had the good fortune to work very early on with professionals who 
would go on to become legends in their fields.  His cinematographers László Kovács and 
Vilmos Zsigmond would go on to become award winning cinematographers working with the 
likes of Spielberg and Bogdanovich.

The film is available for viewing on Amazon Prime and Hulu (currently).  However, for this essay I watched the 2004 special edition with commentary by Joe Bob Briggs and Steckler himself.  I believe this version is out of print but worth grabbing if you get the opportunity.