Tuesday, January 29, 2013

B-Fest 2013: Friday/Saturday

Last year we got to the theater two hours early to get seats and there were maybe twenty other people there. This year we got to the theater two hours early to get seats and it was half full. We still got a good spot, but it was a lot more difficult to get everyone together than last time. Of course, this is only true for the first couple of movies because after that people start wandering around or looking for a nap spot for later in the night. All was groovy in the end.

In addition to chatting with Paul again (and getting a few more of his delicious cookies – thanks dude!) and getting to hear about Dr. Christian Kamerer's expedition to Brazil discovering all kinds of fossils of fish and huge, crocodile-like amphibians new to science (and I'm holding you to that autograph when the book comes out!), I finally got to properly speak with Tim Gerolami. We shook hands briefly at the tiki bar, and he thought we'd met once before, but if we did it was little more than a, “Hey, how's it going”. It seems like every B-Fest I've missed are the ones he's been to. It was a pleasure, and I look forward to seeing him again next year. It was also great being introduced to Skip's Canadian friend whose name I of course have forgotten (hey, she said she'd forget mine too so fair's fair!) and Jacob's friend Natasha, as well as Gavin's girlfriend, also Natasha. Hope you all enjoyed your first B-Fest and that we see you back again.

Hey, we came to see some movies didn't we?

Breaker Breaker: There are few better ways to start B-Fest off than a Chuck Norris flick. Unfortunately, they missed just such an opportunity this year, but we'll come to that. Meanwhile, Chuck stars as an over-the-road trucker whose brother is kidnapped by a corrupt judge who runs a small haven of evil southern redneckery with the appropriate name of Texas in the wilds of California. The bastardly villains discover that not only is it a bad idea to mess with Chuck, it's an even worse idea to mess with Chuck when he's backed up by a squadron of guys in 40-ton trucks. And we all discovered that without his beard, Chuck looks a lot like a Carradine.

The Wasp Woman: I refuse to believe any of you haven't seen this already, but just in case; the aging head of a cosmetics company enlists a scientist working on a youth serum derived from the royal jelly of wasps, with side effects including nausea, dizziness, hemorrhoids, and turning into a homicidal were-wasp. It's almost a perfect fit for B-Fest, if it weren't for the fact that there's almost no action in it. Despite the utterly bullshit science (wasps don't make royal jelly, and that's just the most obvious problem), it's honestly a pretty solid character-driven flick, and it's definitely at its worst when the dismal monster makeup is on display. There were several good Re-Animator jokes during the scene with the mad cat, and it was fun doing the crowd buzzing noise. Overall a pleasant if unremarkable movie to get everyone in the groove after the deafening roar that always accompanies the first flick.

Steel: When the lineup was announced I was hoping this one would be later in the night so I could sleep through it. I don't give a damn about DC Comics and I especially hate Superman and things related, but aside from a few references, this was turned into a standalone feature and had almost nothing to do with the comic but the title. Shaq plays an ex-soldier who has to take up arms against the evil weapons manufacturer who has been selling experimental military weapons to gangs. Except in this case, “take up arms” means, “build a stupid-looking RoboCop suit that utterly fails to convince the audience it's made of anything but foam rubber”.

Stop! Raffle time! Holy shit, I won! I scored the Rolling Thunder release of Switchblade Sisters, a Gordon Liu double feature of Guns of Master Killer and Raiders of Buddhist Kung-Fu (the company that released this set is called Insta-Action and it's labeled Not For Individual Sale, I'm sure the prints are high quality but that's part of the charm of these things – given the choice between a pristine high-def transfer of a 70's kung fu flick and a blurry, badly cropped transfer from a third-generation VHS complete with tracking errors and an occasionally visible time code, I'll take the latter every time), and a slim-case double feature of two movies I've never heard of; Night of the Bloody Horror and Good Against Evil. The cover art is stolen from Michele Soavi's The Church, with a slight photo shop filter because we'll never notice if it's the wrong color.

Wizard of Speed and Time: Get on that stage motherfuckers! Cardiovascular dorkout!

Plan 9 From Outer Space: I really love this movie, but after so many viewings it's nice to use the time to talk with friends. Pleasantly enough, I got a little of both this year, as I sat in the aisle next to Paul for a while and we discussed some of our favorite movies (and I had another cookie) before I wandered around the Norris Center to wake myself up a bit before settling down in the lobby to rap with Skip and Tim G and Gavin a little more. Wandered back into the theater with Tim L in time to catch the glorious storm of dumb that is the final reel of Plan 9, and then...

Black Belt Jones: Hell yes! This was one of the flicks I was more excited about this year, as I'd never seen it but its praises have been sung to me since I was in a band in high school and the bass player couldn't stop talking about the interminable final fight scene at the car wash. It didn't disappoint. Jim Kelly and his amazing spherical afro battle a bunch of mafia creeps who are strong-arming the karate school he learned the art at. When they kill his mentor (played wonderfully by Scatman Crothers), the fu hits the fan. It's a little disconcerting at the end of an otherwise mostly lighthearted flick to see the heroes throwing thug after thug into the back of a garbage truck and engaging the compactor. We hear the muffled voice of the main villain right before the credits so I guess the director didn't know how a garbage truck works, but one of the thug's legs is clearly snapped in two when the mechanism closes and the heroine shrugs and makes a, “whoops, did I do that?” face to Jones. My guess is the ending was deemed too dark and the voice-over was added later.

I had considered staying around for the ludicrous science lecture at the beginning of The Mole People but decided nap time was more important. After all, there was a lot of stuff coming up later I was looking forward to. Unfortunately, this was a bad decision because if I had stayed I wouldn't have missed one of those things. Due to a schedule flip, Sorority House Massacre was shown first, when originally it would have come on just as I woke up. By all accounts it's a boring load (which I'm pretty sure I've actually seen before and remember nothing about, so that says something to its quality), but it was the first slasher flick ever to play B-Fest and I wanted to be there for history being made. Oh well. A solid four or five hours of sleep in the overnight stretch makes a world of difference, and my blurry eyes were opened to...

Rhinestone: After hearing everyone from the BMMB hate on this movie, I was less than pleased to discover I'd missed something I wanted to see and got stuck with this instead, but you know what? It wasn't that bad. Dolly Parton is a country music star who loses a bet and has to take the next person she sees under her wing as her protege and turn him or her into the next big thing. That person turns out to be a New York cabbie played by Sylvester Stallone. Tim Thomerson steals most of the scenes he's in as Parton's sleazy douche ex-boyfriend. I may be a metal loving gore hound, but I'm also a farm kid from rural Iowa. We're the #1 supporter of The Red Green Show on PBS for a reason. This type of corny, goofy, totally sincere humor is just as appealing to me as the most brilliantly scorching satire the Monty Python crew turned out. Plus, how can you not love watching Stallone interrupt a funeral by spazzing out singing Little Richard?

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman: I was looking forward to this as I'd never seen it, but aside from the giant floppy rubber hand and humming “Telstar” when the space giant's ship lands, there wasn't a lot that stuck with me. I was in and out of consciousness for this one and what little memory I have of it is fading even now.

Beach Blanket Bingo: This was another one I was hoping to sleep through. Our absent buddy Chad from 3B Theater told me to give it a chance, though, and since I had just come off a four hour nap and dozed through the previous flick, I was wide awake for this one and damn glad of it as it turns out. I remember my mom talking about seeing this when she was a kid, and apparently she used to have more interesting taste than she does now. This flick is like a live-action Warner Brothers cartoon, with jealous mermaids, zany sound effects, people surviving being chopped in half by a giant saw, and dirty old man Buster Keaton and turbo-bitchy Paul Lynd walking away with the whole thing. The plot of teen love and record contracts and surfing is so saturated with weirdness it's hard to describe, so I'll just recommend you all see this one for yourself and revel in the wackiness. It felt like Chad was sitting next to me in spirit; I could almost feel the rib-cracking bear hug.

Steele Justice: This could have been a good opening flick too. K-Mart Reb Brown (did I really just type that?) Martin Kove stars as John Steele, a Vietnam vet who is betrayed in Nam by his commanding officer. Years later, he's a cop on the edge (has there ever been a happy, mentally stable cop who does things by the book without being a stuck up asshole in a movie?) who discovers the evil Vietnamese general he thought he killed is running a gang that is encroaching on his neighborhood, and all the rest of the cops are in the general's pocket. This was a pretty dark and violent flick for B-Fest. Sure, the dialogue is dumb and the acting sucks, but the tone is pretty nasty. Not nearly as nasty as Undefeatable from a few years back, but still. It seemed to me the room was pretty quiet for this one, but that could just be because I was so looking forward to the next movie, one of the shiniest jewels ever to adorn the crown of B-Fest...

Barbarians: That's more like it! God DAMN I love this movie! This is what I was talking about when I said A&O missed an opportunity for a truly great opening flick with a built-in running joke. David and Peter Paul, better known as the Barbarian Twins, star as Kutchek and Gore, orphans rescued on the side of a road by a traveling band of acrobats and entertainers. When the caravan is attacked by evil king Kadar (Richard Lynch) and his henchman the Dirtmaster (Michael Berryman), the brothers are split up and raised as gladiators so they can be fought against each other because a prophecy says they will destroy Kadar, who has foolishly promised the nomad queen that neither he nor any of his minions will harm them if she becomes his love slave. This goes about as well as it does for any evil king in a barbarian movie. Oh, and if that pedigree of cult stars isn't enough, it was produced by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, directed by Ruggero Deodato, and features a cameo by George Eastman. It was also the first starring role for Eva La Rue, who is now best known for CSI: Miami but also has a decent B-pedigree including the short-lived TV series Freddy's Nightmares, Ghoulies III: The Ghoulies Go to College, and RoboCop 3. A few graphic gore effects aside, this is not exactly the Conan knockoff you'd expect from Deodato. It's so lighthearted it's practically a comedy (and I'm pretty sure the Paul brothers think it is), and the twins are such charming lunkheads it's just impossible not to love them. You can tell they're the type of guys who don't take themselves seriously at all and would be totally boss to have a beer with. Right, so that running joke I mentioned. The Barbarians make this insane moose noise whenever they're happy or excited or in trouble or really just for no reason but the sheer pleasure of sounding like a moose in rut. When the lineup was first announced, before the schedule had been set, this was the first title on the list, and I was hoping against hope they'd actually run it first because then it would be simultaneously the loudest and quietest B-Fest ever, as everyone would be making the moose noise like it was B-Fest 2003 Of the Spiders all over again, and then after about hour 5 no one would be able to utter more than a painful, raspy whisper. In retrospect, though, I think the waiting made it even better and more exciting, like waiting til after lunch to open your Christmas presents. I'd been doing the odd moose call here and there throughout the Fest, and after 20 hours of anticipation, when I got to hear the entire theater erupt first into laughter, and then 200 exhausted, stenchy nerds moosing along with me and the Barbarians, I was in fucking heaven. And as if the Barbarians didn't do it enough in the movie, all it took was one of us to start the call and the crowd would go wild all over again. To give you some idea of just how much that noise colored my perception of the flick, I hadn't seen it since high school, and I'd completely forgotten there were some seriously goofy monsters in it because all I could remember was the moose noise. Oh, Barbarians, how I love you.

Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah: I was pleased that after a much-too-long absence, Godzilla was coming back to take his rightful place at the end of the Fest. Too bad it had to be one of the worst movies in the entire series. This was the first G flick made after 1989's excellent Godzilla vs. Biollante, so the expressive and totally bad-ass animatronic head and the main suit from that movie were still in good enough shape to be pressed into service again, and most of the rest of the effects are nearly up to that standard. Unfortunately, despite boasting probably the most cracked plot of any G flick, the big lizard himself doesn't show up until halfway through the movie and the human plot is every bit as boring as it is silly. If they're going to show one of the dumber Heisei movies at the Fest, I hope next time it's Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla instead. That movie has almost as insane a plot as this one, but the special effects are jaw-droppingly bad so we have another jumping off point for jokes, and there's almost never a dull moment, even when Godzilla isn't smashing stuff. Not to mention, it's pretty fucking hard to follow Barbarians. It's like having Clutch open for Nickelback.

The BMMB crew was pretty thin on the ground this year, and several from the already sparse group opted out early, but the few of us left hit Portillo's for supper (and thanks to Gavin for hooking me up with his spare copy of the Robby the Robot/Forbidden Planet poster). After three hours of moose calls, the thought of a conversation that would need to be screamed at point-blank range to be remotely audible was less appealing than it otherwise might have been, so the traditional trip to Delilah's was canceled for this year. Not to mention Mal and I had to get up early so we could drive home into an ice storm.

Thanks to A&O Films for another fine Fest, and to all my Once A Year In Meatspace friends, I love you guys. You all give me something to look forward to that has become so much more than a marathon of silly movies. To absent friends, I hope you can all make it next time. And so, the majestic power of B-Fest is placed carefully back into its ark topped with three-winged worms and carried back to the magical dimension of speed and time by the archangels Tor and Bela where it dwells until next year, when the time comes to return to Earth and embrace us all with love and schlock once more.

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