Archive for the ‘science fiction’ Tag

Monster-a Go Go (1965)   3 comments


A rocket crash lands on Earth and a helicopter flies out to check for survivors. When the brass arrive, they find the burned, too-small-to-hold-a-human rocket with no astronaut in sight and a dead helicopter pilot. Oh well. They go back to the lab so they can stand around awkwardly and a narrator says things. That’s pretty much Act One.

“Hey Hank, is this what you were looking for?”

Later, a bunch of forty-something college students dance at a boring party. That’s the a-go-go part. A couple leave the party to go neck and a creature with a pituitary problem and a bad oatmeal masque attack them. The narrator says more things. That’s the monster part.

“Do my pores look smaller to you?”

Now, we’re in a lab manned by quasi-Annette Funicello and an accountant wearing Groucho glasses. They discuss radioactivity and office politics. After Annette leaves, Groucho does sneaky stuff with the antidote she just made and the narrator tells us this scientist is hiding the monster. Groucho goes out for a sandwich and when he comes back, he finds the lab has been destroyed. The narrator lets us know this is the monster’s doing and soon Groucho is getting a good talking to by his boss, Colonel Somebody. He meant well though so they kiss and make up. The monster runs amok again and I lose the will to live. That’s Act Two, I guess.

You could cut the tension with a knife.

Stuff and things and running. Anyway, they corner the creature in a sewer. Do sewers have corners? They’re just about to grab him when…absolutely nothing happens. You’re not surprised because the film has established that pattern already. The End.

“Lady, I’m tellin’ ya. This is the only way out of the movie.”

What can I say about Monster-a Go Go? Hmm…Herschell Gordon Lewis didn’t want credit for it. A military guy in one scene has no insignia. Budget issues? Another high-level conference scene looks like it’s taking place in a laundromat. Good call, @FanForumsTV ! Oh, the music! The music sounds like it’s being performed, on found instruments, by Yoko Ono’s less talented cousin. In one scene, you can hear someone making a ring sound with his mouth before the guy picks up the phone. I’m not kidding. Actors stand around awkwardly waiting for each other to talk and I swear one guy’s cue cards were on the floor. No one in the film can act and the plot doesn’t move forward…or sideways…or even backwards. It just lies there like a slug waiting to be salted. If it weren’t for Captain Exposition (the narrator) you’d never know what anyone was doing or why. Actually, you still don’t, but at least he doesn’t mumble like the rest of the cast who sound like they’re talking into a tin pail full of mashed potatoes. At least the cinematography holds up. Just kidding.

“Why did I order clams in Omaha?”

Bill Rebane directed this muck and The Giant Spider Invasion. Yep. Monster-a Go Go came out a year after The Creeping Terror which set the bar so low you’d think it would take the trophy for crappy, poorly-acted films with too much narration, but no. Monster-a Go Go wins. Painful.

“I’m outa here.”

Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010)   6 comments


A young woman, Elena (Eva Bourne) drugged and held against her will,  endures abuse and torture at the hands of her doctor, the weird and creepy Barry Nyle (Michael Rogers) in a bizarre institution guarded by mutants.

I’m firing my agent tomorrow.

Mind-altering drugs and a cult looking for deep enlightenment through murder and dullness star in this slow moving acid trip of a movie.  Set in the 1980s so director Panos Cosmatos could take advantage of the fashion sense and stellar décor of that era, BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW tells the story of…something.  I’m not sure what exactly, but Cosmatos got a writing credit so I assume someone planned this.  Anyway, Elena wants, wisely, to bolt from the sterile nuthatch she’s in so she uses her psychic ability (oh yeah, she’s psychic) to get away from Arboria Institute and all of its charms.  That’s hard to do strung out on soma.  Since we never hear the message of cult leader Dr. Mercurio Arboria (Scott Hylands), it’s hard to know why Elena or anyone is there.  We do want Elena to escape the uber skeevy Dr. Nyle so that’s something.

I collect spleens.

To sum up, Dr. Nyle has scary fire opal eyes that even his wife finds intimidating, sentionauts are tall, and Panos Cosmatos watched way too many David Lynch films on acid.  That’s all I got.

Super.  Keep in touch.


The Outer Limits: The Invisible Enemy (1964)   7 comments


The rocket M-1 lands on Mars. Its crew of two congratulate each other on a flawless landing and a start to their alien expedition.

“Phew! We made it. It’s all smooth sailing now.”

Lieutenant Bowman (Anthony Costello) admonishes Captain Thomas (Michael Mikler) to “stay in touch at all times.” With that, Thomas heads to the surface of the planet to check the place out. Seconds later we hear a bloodcurdling scream and Bowman runs out of the capsule to rescue his comrade. Soon another scream pierces the silence, then nothing. Since communications are delayed by three and a half minutes, we get to hear the entire exchange again as ground control listens to the two doomed men.


Cut to three years later. It’s 2014 and the four-man M-2 land on Mars to explore and to find out what happened to the M-1. I can’t help thinking about the old joke. Q: “Why does the new Navy sail on glass-bottomed boats?” A: “To look for the old Navy.” Anyway, Major Merritt (Adam West) leads the M-2 and orders Captain Lazzari (Peter Marko) and Lieutenant Johnson (Robert DoQui) to go out and do some exploring. He too orders the men to stay in contact with the ship at all times. There are screams and men not staying in contact with the ship and bazookas and pretty soon, it’s a two man expedition.

“This looks friendly.”

Merritt and Captain Buckley (Rudy Solari) are ordered by their bosses on the ground to stay put and, you guessed it, stay in contact at all times. Merritt’s had a tough mission, so he takes a nap. This gives Buckley the ideal opportunity to, um, tool outside and not stay in contact and stuff. You see, Buckley has a theory (ahem ahem) and he’s just itching to try it out. Merritt wakes up to find Buckley gone (no comment) so he blows off his orders to go look for the captain. Martian hijinks ensue.

adam chat
“You didn’t even leave a note.”

I don’t want to give away the entire plot here, but I will say this is the only television show, film, or toothpaste commercial that scared me as a kid. The episode aired first on Halloween 1964. I watched it and most of the Outer Limits episodes as reruns in the 1970s. I remember sitting, mesmerized, on the floor watching the famous opening segment narrated by Vic Perrin. “There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. we are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image; make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to The Outer Limits.” Yes! I’m ready, Vic!

Isn’t that the coolest?

As much as I enjoy The Twilight Zone and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, I’ve always considered The Outer Limits darker, edgier, and weirder. Like Serling’s and Hitchcock’s shows, Outer Limits starred a ton of film and television actors I knew. Robert Culp, David McCallum, Martin Landau, Bruce Dern, James Shigeta, Vera Miles, Ivan Dixon, Ted Knight, and Leonard Nimoy all starred in episodes.

adam west
…and Adam West!

Written for the magazine Imaginative Tales in 1955 by Jerry Sohl, The Invisible Enemy went through a few rewrites before filming began. Director Byron Haskin (Arsenic and Old Lace, War of the Worlds), producer Ben Brady, and the fabulously named Seeleg Lester also touched up the script.

So far I’ve mentioned everything but the thing that really scared me as a kid. It was a combination of the ominous music by Harry Lubin, cinematography by Kenneth Peach, who worked on the original King Kong, and special effects by Pat Dinga, who also worked on Bride of the Monster. The creatures in The Invisible Enemy were downright scary. They looked something like this.

open mouth outer
See! I told you.

piranha shark

These sand-loving piranha sharks move fast and have a great roar. They don’t seem to displace much of their odd, sparkly quicksand either which makes them hard to see coming. They’re also smart and a tiny bit territorial. This is their crap end of the universe and they’ll be damned if any buttoned-up astronaut types are going to swim in their pool. “Batman Shmatman!”, quoth the evil fish dudes. Well, maybe they don’t actually say that, but it’s implied.

“Dammit! I should have brought my utility belt.”

I love The Invisible Enemy for the cool story, well-done effects, original creatures, and because it brings back great memories of sitting, cross-legged on my living room floor getting scared. Fun stuff.

I wrote this for the Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon hosted by the lovely and talented Terence Towles Canote on his blog @mercurie80

Fun idea, Terry!


Dune (1984): Now with More Spice   2 comments

german dune

Dark, alien, and plagued by a period in development Hell that would make Terry Gilliam shudder, David Lynch’s 1984 film Dune endured a lot of false starts before making it to a theatre near you. The film tells the story of two warring factions: House Atreides and House Harkonnen. House Atreides (Jürgen Prochnow, Kyle MacLachlan, Francesca Annis) rule the beautiful ocean planet Caladan. They’re attractive, intelligent, and noble. House Harkonnen (Kenneth McMillan, Paul Smith, Sting) dominate the desert planet Arrakis. They’re ugly, barbaric, and cruel. OK, Sting’s not ugly, but he’s so nasty you think he is. Filled with political intrigue, spirituality, and even references to the Middle East’s control of oil, Dune is an ambitious film. It aims high, and while it doesn’t hit all of its targets, it hits enough to make for a bizarre and entertaining experience.

Don’t stand so close to me.

Though Lynch’s Dune premiered in 1984, attempts to film it started in 1971. Arthur Jacobs, who produced Planet of the Apes and Play It Again, Sam, gave it a shot first. He asked David Lean to direct. Lean said no. Jacobs searched for a director and worked on other projects. He died in 1973 before production began.

computer says
Computer says no.

Jean-Paul Gibon’s company took over after buying the rights from Jacobs’ estate. They hired Alejandro Jodorowsky, who brought in the dream team of Salvador Dali, Orson Welles, Dan O’Bannon, Mick Jagger, H.R. Giger, Moebius, Pink Floyd, and Shirley Temple Black. All right, not Black; I just wanted to see if you were paying attention. Cost overruns abounded, and the producers, afraid of what would have been a 10-14 hour film, wrestled the script from Jodorowsky’s hands.

japanese dune
Japanese poster for Jodorowsky’s Dune

Producer Dino De Laurentiis bought the rights, asked Dune author, Frank Herbert, to write a screenplay, and hired Ridley Scott to direct. Now the film would be made in two parts and last a more manageable four hours. The death of Scott’s brother Frank caused him to reassess his life and career. He left the production to make Blade Runner.

Either way, Ridley, you’re stuck with me.

De Laurentiis scrambled to secure the rights again, and his daughter, producer Rafaella De Laurentiis, hired David Lynch to direct Dune. Fresh from the critical success of The Elephant Man, but with no science fiction background or knowledge of the Dune series, Lynch began writing a screenplay. He wrote another screenplay. And another. Lynch wrote a whole bunch of screenplays; then he made the film we know and love. Well, some of us love it. Some lump Dune in the same category as Cimino’s 1980 film Heaven’s Gate: an expensive, rudderless epic. I don’t. For me, Dune has everything a good science fiction film needs.

Enough already with the abuse.

First, it has space. The two feuding houses don’t live on either side of the Adige in Verona. They live on different planets. It’s the year 10,192 and space travel is a snap. This is especially true if you’re in the Spacing Guild. Spacing Guild members travel the same way Carlos Castaneda did. They drop a little spice and fold space. It beats walking.

spice ad

Hey man, come over and we’ll fold space. It’ll be epic.

Next, it has cool futuristic weapons. House Atreides invents these awesome weirding modules that can kill a guy with the right wavelength. Also, Patrick Stewart and Richard Jordan, clad in transparent armor, train Kyle MacLachlan in hand-to-hand knife fighting. Stewart and others refer to atomic weapons, and remote-controlled hunter seekers armed with poison darts float from room to room.

Pew pew pew!

Then, it has nomadic desert troops waging jihad against their Harkonnen oppressors. The allusions to Arabic culture don’t end there. The character name Thufir means victory in Arabic and Kyle MacLachlan’s tribal name, Mu’adib, translates to teacher. Herbert made comparisons to the Middle East oil crisis and environmental issues throughout his Dune series.

I hope they’re wearing sunscreen.

Then, it has worms and spice. Is there a relationship? The worms are rather large and have accompanying lightning. People fear and worship them. The spice mélange expands consciousness, changes eye color, and helps with that space folding thing.

I don’t think the heavy stuff’s gonna come down for quite a while.

Last, it has an alien aura like no other film. Dune looks like a post-apocalyptic steampunk S&M club’s rendition of Lawrence of Arabia. Vast deserts, steam-powered weaponry, red mohawks, burqas, goggles, leather Speedos, and dimly lit rooms contribute to the overall atmosphere of Victorian future space Bedouin chic. The sweeping theme by Brian Eno and Toto reinforces Dune’s epic status. With a supporting cast that includes the Lynch repertory company of Dean Stockwell, Brad Dourif, and Jack Nance, Dune is well acted and fun to watch. I even like Alan Smithee’s two-part televised version even if David Lynch doesn’t. I’m not alone either. Quite a few of us find the strangeness of Lynch’s vision appealing. Recently, the topic of guilty pleasure films came up on Twitter and I named Dune as one of mine. Immediately, people came out of the woodwork expressing their love for the much maligned film. The praise for Lynch’s odd science fiction gem surprised and delighted me. I guess I’m not the only fan of worms.

A version of this essay appeared first in the Brattle Film Notes, the blog for the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts and my favorite theatre in the world. Here’s a link to that piece.

What’s up, Baron?

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The Swarm (1978)   5 comments

french swarm

Mile by mile, city by city it moves leaving in its wake a path of destruction.

The Pentagon calls Major General Slater (Richard Widmark) and Major Baker (Bradford Dillman) to investigate the invasion of a secret ICBM site in Texas. They arrive at the base to find the entire crew dead except for Dr. Brad Crane (Michael Caine). Crane explains that the men died, not from enemy fire or poison gas dropped by the Soviets, but from bee stings. Crane sends for Dr. Walter Krim (Henry Fonda), beeologist, who claims the war they’ve been expecting has arrived and sets to work doing autopsies and testing venom.

And you thought ants could spoil your picnic.

In this man vs. nature film, the military refuse to believe the scientists or do very much until some picnickers die violently at the hands of bees. Do bees even have hands? Then bees overrun a Mayberry-like town filled with old Hollywood stars which puts a damper on Olivia de Havilland’s annual flower festival. She and her suitors Fred MacMurray and Ben Johnson along with the rest of the town board a train to look for a town without bees. Cue Gene Pitney.

Meanwhile, back in the lab, Dr. Krim experiments with his bee venom antidote and we meet Richard Chamberlain and José Ferrer for some reason.

Yeah, probably not.

Scientists and airmen make plans, bees foil those plans, and things blow up…a lot. No one knows what to do until Dr. Crane stops ogling Katharine Ross for a second. Oh, she’s in this film too. Crane has a weird and brilliant idea ‘that just might work’. More stuff happens. The end.

Irwin Allen, directed The Swarm and directed and/or produced many of the best disaster films of the 1970s. He produced The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, The Night the Bridge Fell (?), and The Swarm with big budgets and big, star-studded casts.

From Errol Flynn to this?

Along with the actors I mentioned, The Swarm also stars Lee Grant, Slim Pickens, Patty Duke, Cameron Mitchell, and Alejandro Rey. I enjoy seeing so many A-listers all in one place, but I have to wonder if the Screen Actors’ Guild had a 2-for-1 sale or something. Jerry Goldsmith wrote the music and Stirling Silliphant and Arthur Herzog wrote the screen play based on Herzog’s novel.

I like The Swarm. It has a 70s dream cast, decent bee effects, and fun dialogue. At one point a helicopter pilot screams “Bees, bees, millions of bees!” right before crashing into a mountain. Dr. Crane remarks after a failed attempt to destroy the bees that “They seem to sense it’s something that will kill them.” Really, Brad? Later Richard Chamberlain says, “They’re brighter than we thought.” Henry Fonda replies, “They always are.” Wise words, Hank.

The film also boasts Bradford Dillman as an Air Force major trying desperately to decide what sort of accent he should use. He tries several so it becomes sort of a game to predict how he’ll sound next. A bunch of guys get covered in bees then catch fire and fall off buildings which is always fun. People who are stung also see other people as giant bees. Maybe the bees ate the brown acid.

four bee
Second word. Sounds like me?

Anyway, if you like 1970s stars, flame throwers, or bees, you’re in luck. The Swarm has all those and Michael Caine emoting all over the place and saying “Four minutes to flaming.” It’s a lot of fun.

I watched a making of segment on the DVD and apparently Irwin Allen took care of the actors and stunt people. He spends a lot of production time making sure they have the proper equipment and checking their condition after each shot. Fire and live bees, after all.

Oh I almost forgot the disclaimer.

I had to take a screenshot of this.

Some of my best friends are bees.

The Giant Claw (1957)   2 comments


Mitch MacAfee (Jeff Morrow), pilot, electrical engineer, and bon vivant, pilots a radar research plane full of radar researchers. During the flight, Mitch reports seeing a UFO.

What the…?

The Air Force scrambles its fighters, but no one else sees anything unusual and radar comes up empty. Everyone makes fun of Mitch and calls him names and plays keep away with his hat until planes begin to go missing. Now even the authorities begin to take notice.

Did you see something?

Finally everyone from General Considine (Morris Ankrum) to weather mathematician (?) Sally Caldwell (Mara Corday) believes Mitch and needs his help desperately. Instead of telling them all to pound sand, Mitch agrees to investigate. On a flight to return to the scene of the bird, Mitch and Sally discover a pattern and each other. After some sexual innuendo disguised as baseball metaphors, Mitch draws his spiral on Sally’s map and they’re engaged…or something.

gc spiral
Grand slam!

At this point we meet the required novelty character, Pierre. Pierre has an outrageous ‘Savoir Faire is everywhere’ accent and makes apple jack in his quaint cabin. He sees La Cocoña, a mythical Canadian creature with the face of a wolf, the body of a woman, and wings, and promptly goes into shock. Pierre kindly invited them into his home and sheltered them so after he sees the French Canadian Bigfoot, Mitch and Sally desert him because they’re sweet. Anyway, the creature described as big as a battleship…a lot, continues its ‘fantastic orgy of destruction’ (thanks, movie) destroying planes and eating the passengers dramatically with cool crunching sounds.

“B-7.” “Ahhhhhhhhh!”

We get to see Battleship Bird plucking victims from a Miami swimming pool and a London street. He’s a quick flier. We even see the goofy bird crushing the UN building in New York and hanging out atop the Washington Monument.

Where’s Angelina?

The Deadly Mantis, released the same year, visited the monument as well. I wonder if they got some kind of group rate. So the Army shoots at the bird and the Air Force strafes it to no avail until they get a scientist. Dr. Norman (Edgar Barrier) looks like a guy Ed Wood would know and says things like “You’re both right and wrong.” He explains that the big bird consists of matter/anti-matter and Scotty mentions dilithium crystals and before you know it, Spock has a goatee and a sash. I digress. The scientists devise a plan, but one of them can’t make it so they have to bring Sally which is a drag because she’s a girl and all. They rig up an anti-large bird thingee and get on a plane and things are tense because they forgot a part and Radio Shack doesn’t exist yet and since there was no Giant Claw II: The Molting, you can probably guess what happens.

Trust me, honey. Just close the window.

I like this movie because a giant malicious muppet dangling from a very obvious wire threatens the entire world and a guy who combs his hair with a pork chop comes to the rescue. Mara Corday is lovely and she and Morrow have some nice chemistry going. Morris Ankrum does his general thing admirably and the squawking sounds of the bird make me giggle. Director Fred Sears (Earth vs the Flying Saucers, Crash Landing) tries for a Cat People effect by showing only the bird’s shadow for the first part of the film. All bets are off, however when he shows the whole googly-eyed bird and the challenge…and the fun is to believe this ungainly behemoth could really accomplish all the destruction in the film. As with most mutant creature films of the 1950s, the science is less factual and more two boys chatting in a sandbox about dinosaurs. Also the fact that Mitch, as a free-lance pilot, has the ear of the joint chiefs strained credulity. The Giant Claw makes up for all that with its patented drinking game. If you take a swig every time a character says ‘big as a battleship’, you’ll forget all your doubts and possibly your first name. So stock up on mixers and watch a big puppet eat planes. You’ll be glad you did.

Best line in the film: “I’m the chief cook and bottle washer in a one man bird watcher society.”
-Mitch MacAfee (wordsmith)

How the hell are ya?!

They Saved Hitler’s Brain: It Earned 37 Green Stamps!   7 comments


Filmed almost entirely at dusk, They Saved Hitler’s Brain picks up where The Madmen of Mandoras leaves off. Well, to be more accurate, it starts before The Madmen of Mandoras begins.

Madmen, originally released in 1963, clocked in at 64 minutes. At the request of the producers, director David Bradley and a handful of his UCLA students added 30 minutes to the film for television broadcast in 1968. His added footage appears at the beginning of the film and isn’t exactly seamless despite the skill of cinematographer Stanley Cortez (Night of the Hunter, Chinatown).

As the film opens, we see Dr. Bernard remove papers from a safe, go to his car, and blow up. In the briefing at CID headquarters which follows we learn that Bernard had been working with Professor Coleman on the L7 Project looking for the antidote to G gas. What is G gas, you ask? The head stiff explains that “…loss or destruction of this antidote could mean the complete annihilation of the world.” So there’s that. To prove the lethal power of G gas, Science Guy shows a filmstrip of an elephant lying down. Then, we meet Vic and Toni. Vic and Toni work as agents for the CID. Vic and Toni were not in the original film. Vic and Toni were filmed in different light wearing a completely different style of clothing from the people in the 1963 film. Vic and Toni are doomed.

Vic and Toni chat about the mission.

Anyway, Vic and Toni begin working on the case of the exploding professor. They drive around in Toni’s VW Beetle looking for clues until they’re chased by some guys in ill-fitting hats. Things go downhill from there for our intrepid duo. At this point the original film starts and it’s The Madmen of Mandoras from here on in.

The Madmen of Mandoras (1963)

Professor Coleman invents an antidote to the powerful nerve gas PAM. PAM, of course is an acronym and don’t ask me for what. It’s also a cooking spray so it’s clear ConAgra never saw this movie.

All this fuss over me?

Anyway, bad guys want the formula so when they release PAM, no one gets out alive. To lure the professor into their clutches, the criminals kidnap his Valley Girl (circa 1963) daughter and take her to the South American country of Mandoras. The professor’s older, more sensible daughter and her husband hop a plane to Mandoras after a foreign guy holds them at gunpoint, then dies in their car.

“I’ll be fine.”

Down in Mandoras, the couple is reunited with their dippy sister. After a weird gunfight in a nightclub where Carmen Miranda’s less talented cousin performs, some guy we don’t know takes a bullet and the local sheriff, portrayed by local sheriff portrayer Nestor Paiva, rounds up our trio of nitwits and brings them to the hoosegow. There we meet the president, who resembles the Hispanic version of Colonel Sanders, and find out the real power behind this incredibly contrived plot. A band of Nazis holed up in the presidential palace plot to gather the rest of their evil gang, drop PAM, and take over.

Nazis have the weirdest cotton candy machines.

Once they’ve laid waste to the world as we know it, they plan to put their own guy in power. Since they’re Nazis, three guesses as to who they’ve chosen to lead them. Yup. The Big Kahuna himself, Adolph. It seems scientists collected some cells in the fabled bunker and used them to…um, grow a new Fuhrer. They didn’t exactly grow a whole Hitler, just a head. So we get some hilarious scenes with a head under glass making odd expressions, looking around curiously, and barking orders. There’s even a carrying case with handles for when the head has to ride in the back of a limo. More stuff happens but who cares? You watch this film to see Hitler’s head scream, “Mach schnell!” to his underlings from under a pastry cover.

“Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!”

According to imdb, Steve Bennet and Richard Miles wrote the screenplay for this and They Saved Hitler’s Brain and not much else. Often hard to follow, the story meanders and the audience feels just as out of it as the cast. The Madmen of Mandoras has, as Joe Bob Briggs says, “too much plot getting in the way of the story.” David Bradley directed The Madmen of Mandoras as well as They Saved Hitler’s Brain and used some scenes for both films. I guess with gold like that you want to get as much mileage as you can out of it. I’d recommend this for the weirdness quotient alone.

Added observations:

It may be because I just watched Glen or Glenda and Plan 9 From Outer Space recently, but the double agent who claims to work for the CID, but is really Hitler-Under-Glass’ chauffeur looks like a cross between Bunny Breckinridge and Criswell.

chauffeur hitler
This guy. You’d agree with me if he took off his hat.

David Bradley directed Charlton Heston in the 16mm student productions of Peer Gynt and Julius Caesar while they attended Northwestern University. I thought that was pretty cool.

I wrote this piece for the Accidentally Hilarious blogathon hosted by Movies Silently. She runs a terrific blog about classic film.

Find me on Twitter. @echidnabot

It’s beautiful!


The Killer Shrews (1959)   3 comments

Thorne Sherman (James Best) and Rook Griswold (Judge Henry Dupree) moor their boat on the shore of a small island hoping to sit out a rough storm as they deliver supplies to the island’s inhabitants. They arrive in time to see the residents of the island heading toward the boat hoping to leave. When told of the approaching hurricane and that they must stay at least one more night, Dr. Craigis, his daughter Ann, and Jerry Farrell rush back to the house and ask Mario, their live-in-mixologist, to start making martinis. This should have been our heroes’ first clue.

At this point we meet Dr. Radford (Gordon McLendon) who took acting lessons from the David Caruso School of Dramatic Eyeglass Removal and slowly, almost painfully learn about the problem that has them all in a dither. It seems they’ve been experimenting with metabolisms in shrews as a way to fight starvation and overpopulation. Well, you see, they kind of made the potion a bit too strong and someone left the cage door open (JERRY!) and now the little tiny shrews you can fit in the palm of your hand are the size of Afghan Hounds and have nasty big pointy teeth.

There’s more drinking and Jerry (Ken Curtis, Gunsmoke‘s Festus) gets trashed and Thorne and Ann (Ingrid Goude) fall in love even though she’s engaged to drunk Jerry and can’t seem to look anywhere near the camera. People yell at each other, fire weapons, scream whenever they see a shrew, and generally fall to pieces until they come up with a cunning plan to outwit the rodents.

Will two PhDs, a boat captain, his mate, a bartender, and a drunk prove smarter than large dogs wearing bathmats? I’ll never tell. Ray Kellogg directed The Killer Shrews the same year he helmed The Giant Gila Monster. The production values rival that of a middle school language arts project and the only one with any acting chops is James Best who did some cool Twilight Zone and Andy Griffith Show episodes soon after. The Killer Shrews made me laugh. I recommend it highly.

killer shrews

The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962)   Leave a comment


brain poster

A surgeon who scores about an 8 on the 1-10 Creep Scale gets in a car wreck which decapitates his fiancée, Jan (Virginia Leith).  Instead of crying or buying flowers, he grabs the head and high tails it to his lab where he just happens to be grafting amputated limbs onto things.  Every man needs a hobby, after all.  He rushes his assistant Kurt into action and together they complete the experiment they’ve only theorized about.  Using a special compound he’s invented, Dr. Perv, ok Dr. Bill Cortner (Jason Evers) keeps the head alive by attaching things to it, running liquids around it and plunking it in a cafeteria tray full of his special compound.

brain creep
“Did you have to get an onion bagel?”

This must be some compound.  It takes the place of the heart, lungs, and well basically everything but the head.  Anyway, Jan wakes up and is she miffed.  Bill tells her he’ll fix everything by going out and finding a body to attach her head to and then they can get married and live in the country.  Of course Bill has no intention of grafting Jan’s head onto some uggo, so he travels the burlesque house/strip club/hot body contest circuit until he finds a photographers’ model with a great physique and a hideous (not really) scar on her face.  Under the guise of taking her to a consultation with his plastic surgeon dad to remove the scar, Bill takes Doris (Adele Lamont) to his secret laboratory where he drops about 72 hints about his nefarious plans.  Doris, who’s a bit slow on the uptake, catches none of these.  No matter, she won’t need her head soon anyway.  Dr. Perv slips her a Mickey and brings her to his lab to do the headectomy.  All the time Bill scours the red light district for bodies, Jan changes from a regular old head on a tray to a malevolent head on a tray and spends most of her time befriending the unseen creature locked in the lab closet.  Apparently a product of Bill’s earlier, failed grafting experiments, Closet Guy grunts and bangs on the closet door to communicate with Jan-on-a-Tray and the two form an unholy alliance.  Faced with the prospect of Bill’s plans to put her head on Doris’ body, Jan takes the only action a head on a tray can.  She convinces Closet Guy to stop the madness.   Joseph Green wrote and directed The Brain That Wouldn’t Die in 1959, calling it The Black Door, but didn’t release it until 1962.  Filmed at dusk and through cheesecloth, Brain doesn’t impress in the cinematography department.  The score gets points for sleaziness though.  Called The Web and written by Abe Baker and Tony Restaino, the music fits well with the general perversity of the doctor and his body finding mission.  As odd and unsavory as The Brain That Wouldn’t Die can get, it entertains.  The acting of the main characters is pretty solid and the story cracked me up.  The strippers at the burlesque club looked and acted as if they were auditioning for a John Waters film, but that’s half the fun.  While hardly a classic, it is a classic of the B movie genre and since I own at least four copies of it, I’ll watch The Brain That Wouldn’t Die again.  Fun!

brain 1
“A little more to the…ahhhhh that’s it.”

Queen of Blood (1966)   3 comments

Queen of Blood

An alien spacecraft sends a distress call to Earth moments before crash landing on Mars. Since it’s 1990 and the United States has a cadre of rockets at the ready for such an emergency, we send one up to see what all the fuss is about.

“Have you tried wearing it down?”

A crew of five, including John Saxon and DENNIS HOPPER, flies up to Mars to save the day. They find one survivor, a female in a catsuit with a weird tulip hairdo and green skin.

“Sure! Let’s bring her on board. What can happen?”

They decide to bring the alien on their spaceship because that always works out well. Before you can say, “Have you seen my cat?” Tulip Head gets hungry.

“Perhaps a soupçon of O positive before bed?”

Dennis Hopper…let me repeat that, DENNIS HOPPER tries to feed the alien but she won’t eat the weird Soylent Green-like astronaut food offered her. Later we find out why. Her tastes run to liquid nourishment and no one in the crew is safe from her snacking. Instead of killing her or jettisoning her into space, they tie her loosely and try to stay awake.

“Is there a Dunkin’ Donuts around here?”

As you might have guessed, she gets out and let’s just say, her efforts leave a few empty bunks in the crew’s quarters.  They still don’t kill her though because science (Basil Rathbone!) needs to study her and, oh crap, she laid eggs.

“Game over, man.”

Director, Curtis Harrington made some nifty films for American International Pictures like Night Tide and Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet. He also wrote Queen of Blood and a number of other screenplays. You don’t have to look too closely to find connections between this film and a couple later, more famous science fiction favorites. This is a fun one.

“Put. The alien. Back.”

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