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21 January 2008 @ 08:40 pm
This weekend was B-Fest, a 24-hour marathon movie festival that I've been going to since 2002. I only slept for about an hour during the fest, and then I stayed up late during the afterparty talking politics with nerds and watching Justin Timberlake episodes of SNL, so I'm still pretty wiped out.

Anyway, the general idea of B-Fest is to dig up a bunch of crap movies of various sorts and then sit there and yell at them. Classically speaking, "B-movie" has a pretty specific definition, but like MST3K, we don't really discriminate: anything that seems likely to inflict pain and lulz is what we're after. I told my father yesterday that we'd watched Barbarella and he was shocked, because that movie was a big deal -- a flop, but still a big deal, not really what you'd think of as a B-reel. Of course, some of the best B-Fest fodder is stuff that was conceived, produced, and even received in all seriousness at the time, like the "Airport" movies or celebrity-stuffed musicals that are horrifically dated and ludicrous now.

This year's selection, compared to past years, was a little heavy on Universal-style monster flicks; however, the choices on the whole were very good, and fit well with the spirit of the festival.

Tentacles: Shelley Winters and Henry Fonda battle Italian filmmakers for a paycheck in this bog-standard ripoff of Jaws, featuring a giant octopus who may or may not be in the same ocean as the people it's supposed to be killing. The monster is torn to shred by two orca hand puppets, because Dino De Laurentiis has an orca problem.

Dracula's Daughter: A random Slavic noblewoman decides to piggyback on the Dracula family name, but her taste for human blood probably excuses that. She seeks help from a psychiatrist who attempts to psychoanalyze her out of being undead, but for some reason that doesn't work. Edward Van Sloan reprises his role as a woefully understated Van Helsing in this official sequel to Browning's Dracula.

Mystery Short #1: "Darling, Do You Love Me?": Germaine Greer attempts to make the point that women make fools of themselves in the quest to elicit displays of affection from men. She does this chiefly through screaming and behaving like a five-year-old, which does help prove her point somewhat.

Barbarella: Fembot prototype Jane Fonda embarks on a mission to save the impossibly saccharine galactic collective from Duran Duran and his positronic beam thinger. Barbarella's people only have sex by taking pills and achieving unified mental vibes, which made me wonder if they were going to explain the three sea shells at some point. On her journey of sexual discovery, Barbarella and her outfits take on characteristics of each man she sleeps with, which helps explain Hanoi Jane's inconsistent political history.

Door prize raffle: I donated a box of VHS tapes I picked up at my local video store's final clearance sale.

Short: "The Wizard of Speed and Time": Five minutes of your life that you'll want back in order to watch it again.

Plan 9 from Outer Space: Graverobbers from outer space raise the dead as an unstoppable army against the living, which would actually be a good movie if it weren't this movie. Maila Nurmi, better known as Vampira, passed away shortly before the festival. Fans left roses at her crypt in tribute, and propitiated her hungry spirit with the promise that we would let her have Elvira if she would leave us alone.

Black Samson: Rockne Tarkington, bar-owner and part-time dashiki model, resists the encroachment of white criminals into his territory with the help of a tame lion, a Justice Stick, and the black criminals whose business he's protecting. Lesson learned: being a race traitor makes you talk like Chris Tucker. Score by Allen Toussaint.

Zardoz: An intriguing take on the first phases of a social-engineering project that will lead to the evolution of Elois and Morlocks, blown all to hell by unremitting pretension and Sean Connery in a red diaper. Charlotte Rampling is too good an actress to let on that she's embarrassed, but we know it anyway.

The Magic Sword: Bert I. Gordon directs a classic module of a level-0 commoner with a royal bloodline backstory who gets his hands on a magic sword +3, armor with damage reduction -30/ everything, and a paladin's mount, whereupon he goes off to rescue a princess from the lawful evil wizard Basil Rathbone and his pet pyrohydra. Along the way, he and his six ethnic-stereotype friends (Pepe LePew, Mario, Lucky the Leprechaun, Pedro, Herr Wienerschnitzel, and Sean Connery) encounter a hill giant, some hags who've memorized "alter self," a phantasmal killer, and the world's most unconvincing traitor. As a special treat, the aspect ratio was completely off and the color balance was cranked to screaming magenta, which made everyone look somewhat like fuchsia Oompa-Loompas.

The Blue Bird: A charming child's tale about the futility of searching for happiness. Starring Elizabeth Taylor, Cicely Tyson, Jane Fonda (who attempted to convert the Russian production crew to Communism), Ava Gardner, Robert Morley, and as many Russian ballet dancers as they could convince to give up their dignity. Remarkably awful costume work by Edith Head and the cast's inexplicable urge to lick children distinguish this overblown musical from other overblown musicals.

Mystery Short 2: "Marijuana": If it's 1968 and you want to talk kids out of smoking pot, you probably shouldn't admit that all of their pro-legalization rhetoric is true. It's also probably a bad idea to have Sonny Bono narrate your film while stoned.

The Mummy's Hand: An librarian archaelogist discovers a puzzle box vase that provides clues to the location of HamunaptraPrincess Ananka's tomb, but a museum curator who wants to prevent their discovering the mummified-but-frisky ImhotepKharis burnssmashes the artifact. Undaunted, the archaeologist and his friend enlist the help of an American adventurermagician and they accidentally unleash the mummy's vengeful spirit on the world, et cetera.

The Undying Monster: Sixty minutes of sleep. Monster in question was apparently a werewolf.

Xanadu: Olivia Newton-John, the youngest of the Muses, comes to earth and falls in love with an obnoxious my-art-is-sacred type and helps him to open a dance club. Her previous engagement on earth was as a muse to clarinetist Gene Kelly, whom she jilted once she got bored inspiring him. Though the Muses traditionally have their own specialties, these Muses are all fond of interpretive dance and roller-skating. And, though Newton-John is apparently supposed to be Terpsichore in disguise, Gene Kelly dances her into the ground.

The Creature Walks Among Us: That poor bastard from the Black Lagoon is apparently evolving into even more of a fish-human hybrid, so he can't be in the water anymore. His poor health puts him conveniently out of the picture so we can have a nice human drama involving a nasty little alcoholic man whose wife inspires date-rape attempts in every male member of the cast. The Creature, whose suit is much the worse for wear, mostly just hangs out and tries to comprehend how these people could possibly have gotten the better of him.

Mystery Short #3: I'm not sure what this was called, or really what it was. The message, conveyed by the drooling, stream-of-semiconsciousness hiss of a guy who you last heard breathing heavy on your phone, is that comic books with war themes make young boys want to maim children.

Lone Wolf McQuade: This was supposed to be Empire of the Ants with Joan Collins, but Chuck Norris beating the piss out of David Carradine is a more than adequate substitute. The producers of "Walker: Texas Ranger" had to settle out of court over ripping these folks off, so you get the idea: anything that you've seen in any other Chuck Norris movie is in here too, plus some other very nice things besides.

Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla: What the title says. Two questions: one, has Godzilla ever been magnetic outside of this movie, and two, why does Anguirus even try to fight people anymore? Poor thing must have permanent TMJ troubles because of all the times someone's ripped his lower jaw off.

The day after the fest, those of us still left in Chicago watched Night of the Lepus at our friend Paul's house. That was a very special moment for me, because my dad had once mentioned this movie to me when I was a small child, and ever since I've burned to see just how silly a movie about giant killer rabbits could be. Unlike so many things one anticipates from childhood, this one actually exceeded expectations. Production-wise it resembled the Shatner vehicle Kingdom of the Spiders in almost every detail, except that roving gangs of vicious tarantulas actually represent a plausible threat (look, just pretend the pollution gave them deadly venom, okay?). This movie, on the other hand, used every possible trick of lighting and camera angle and fake blood to make their rabbits appear to loom menacingly, and the response was still "Bunny bunny! Oh, who's a snuggly flufflebottom? You are! Yes you are!"
Recedite, plebes! Gero rem imperialem.tres_faux on January 22nd, 2008 05:52 am (UTC)
I have seen five of these. Guess which!
happiness is not a potatocumaeansibyl on January 22nd, 2008 06:17 am (UTC)
Hahaha, oh man. Um... Xanadu, Zardoz, Barbarella, Plan 9, and the Norris flick?
Green Jeanzgreenjeanz on January 22nd, 2008 11:46 pm (UTC)
I love "Dracula's Daughter".
But, um, she really was Dracula's daughter and not a random slavic noblewoman. I believe she puts Dracula's remains to rest in the beginning, in fact.
Unless there's some other version of Dracula's Daughter that I'm not familiar with.
d-rex-8seserakh on January 29th, 2008 12:05 pm (UTC)
I donated a box of VHS tapes I picked up at my local video store's final clearance sale.

I'm sorry, but you don't mean Video Hits Plus... do you?
happiness is not a potatocumaeansibyl on January 29th, 2008 05:59 pm (UTC)
Nah, this was at Hollywood Video.