Another feature of...
(note : discussion board aliases will be retained, to preserve a sense of mystery )
What one word would I choose to describe B-Fest 99 ?
Which eight words would I choose to describe B-Fest 99?
"Okay, enough with the bloody laser pointers already!"
Other than the Great Laser Pointer Tribulations, the only thing I can complain about in regards to the whole event is the weather that is, it was too warm. Kens joking prediction of an unseasonable heat wave rocketing temperatures up to 40 Fahrenheit actually came to pass that weekend, and little ole SoCal me was free to walk about without the need to stuff myself into any clothing trimmed in fur, or ominously named after mountains people have met their deaths upon.
Why is this a complaint, you ask? Simple : I had previously worked up what I thought was a clever little intro for my eventual B-Fest recap which revolved around me having a schizophrenic break with reality due to the extreme cold I was sure I was about to endure. Ah, well, theres always Fest2K
Before I go any further I have to again state my appreciation for AoJ Kens hospitality for the event. From transportation to/from just about everywhere, to picking up the B-Fest ticket cost for Yours Truly, to providing the single largest supply of drinks and foodstuffs Ive ever seen collected in one location outside of a supermarket or Red Cross disaster relief operation, Ken really knows how to make someone feel welcome. Not to mention the extreme simplification done to the logistics of things for us out-of-towners.
As a pre-Fest warm up, Kens friend Jeff and I were treated to (read : subjected to) a viewing of the immortal Mega Force, courtesy of the AoJ himself. All Ill say about it is this : Ken, if youre ever out in Laguna Niguel, Ive a copy of Hellgate sitting here. Waiting
While Ken headed off to pick up Loyal Reader SusieQ, I washed the taste of MegaForce out of my mouth by inflicting highlights from Divine Enforcer on an unsuspecting Jeff, thus ensuring that he couldnt possibly form a favourable impression of me at any time in the near future. Dont look for this little gem to appear on the site at any point ever, by the way. It's one of the ugliest, most morally repellent bits of cinema this side of I Spit on Your Grave. Sitting through Showgirls again would be a cakewalk compared to DE.
After Ken returned with the aforementioned Ms. Q, we all made our way to the Fest proper. Whilst waiting for the doors to open and admit the Eager Throng, I suddenly felt like Lorraine Bracco from Goodfellas Ken knew everybody, and everybody knew him. To cope with being merely a shadow in the footlights of anothers fame I amused myself by playing Tourist Boy with my new digital camera (pictures will appear in a separate article sometime in the near future).
Soon the doors were open, and we staked out a significant chunk of real estate in the first two rows on the left. Fate found me seated on the aisle, next to the amiable Ms. Q and in front of a gentleman who introduced himself as none other than Apostic of discussion-board fame (who, it turns out, has one of the coolest voices on the planet you should really be doing voice-over work, my Brother). We were at some point joined by TechMaster Paul and Andrew Muchoney
(see Kens previous Fest articles). One row behind and a few seats to my right were Al and Rob of the Oh, the Humanity site, and Ken had a front row seat next to SusieQ, and beyond that I couldnt tell you any more.
Things got off to a great start when one of the Fest coordinators, during his welcoming speech, asked the crowed politely not to discuss the line up of films, as there were some in attendance (such as our entire group) who were playing Stud B-Fest, and didnt want to know what was coming up ahead of time. The lights dimmed, cheers went up, and the grand spectacle began
6:00 7:20 Fiend Without a Face
This was the first time I had seen this little gem, and Im glad I had resigned myself to not hearing a word of the film early on. Time for an embarrassing admission : prior to the Fest I had concerns about my conduct. I was wondering to what extent those seated around me would ask me to shut the heck up so they could watch the movie. Quite silly in retrospect, but hey, how did I know?
The actual soundtrack and dialogue of the first few entries at the Fest were drowned out by the enthusiastic riffing of the audience, and I suddenly realized that my own wit wasnt so quick, and my turn of the phrase not as exceptional as my home viewings of Bad Movies had led me to believe. From now on when I write my articles Ill remember to employ a person to sit behind me and whisper "Remember, thou art mortal" in my ear the entire time
Fiend is a fairly standard genre pic a U.S. Airforce base and its surroundings in Canada are menaced by initially invisible brain-creatures who propel themselves with their attached spinal cords a la an inchworm in stop-motion. To be accurate, the title should have been Several Fiends Without Faces (Or Bodies For That Matter, When You Get Right Down To It), but thats not quite as snappy on the marquee.
Things to watch for : stop motion brain deaths (complete with brain-spooge), the Cottage in the Middle of Nowhere, the "Oops, didnt realize you were nude and in the shower, miss" scene.
7:25 7:30 Short Subject Candy For Your Health
Youre going to think Im putting a spin on things to make the film sound inherently goofy, but the point of the short honestly is that fine, quality candies are good for you. Nuff said. Things to watch for : dentists everywhere shaking with barely contained ecstasy as they thumb through the new BWM catalogues.
7:30 7:3? Short Subject Species II trailer
Odd choice, but the first empirical proof that this years Fest was graced with a 35mm projector. Natasha Henstridge finds lots of excuses to run around in tight clothing, for those who find that sort of thing an acceptable substitute for plot and characters.
Things to watch for : <insert lewd joke here>
7:3? 8:40 Earth vs. the Spider
Carol : "Dad?"
Carol : "Dad?"
Audience : "What !?!"
Carol : "Dad?"
Audience : "WHAT !?!?"
Many will remember this Bert I. Gordon yarn about an embiggened (and very vocal) spider causing havoc with a few townies stupid enough to go crawling about in a cave clearly marked "Do Not Enter" from its showing on Mystery Science Theater 3000. I was quite pleasantly surprised to find that, while Im sure it is on the regular viewing list for most attendees, few (indeed, if any) resorted to parroting the quips theyd heard on MST3k, but threw their own bon mots at the screen instead. It may sound odd of me to point out, but that made the whole experience that much more enjoyable for me.
As this was only the second film in the line up, the only original dialogue that could be heard was the heroines plaintive wailings of "Dad?" in the inner recesses of Carlsbad Caverns (as realized via process shots of postcards no kidding).
Things to watch for : the oldest high school student in the world, the roaring of an embiggened spider, some of the most Freudian rock formations this side of a Georgia OKeefe painting.
8:50 11:00 Fearless Vampire Killers
I still question why this film was shown. Though it is rather non-eventful (contrary to the title, not a single Creature of the Night meets its end during the course of the film), it hardly seems like a follow up to Earth vs. the Spider. While I was wondering aloud why I was staring at Roman Polanskis quirky European gob (the mans face was designed to be the prow of an ice breaker) Ken, ever the veteran, pointed out the wisdom of showing such a film early on while the audience was still measurably conscious.
Things to watch for : lots of bosoms in bodices, Romans truly unfortunate (and pointy) visage, the feyest vampire this side of Tom Cruise.
*** The times get fuzzy here, so Im skipping them for a bit ***
??? - ??? Return of the Ape Man
This was another first-see for me, though I had heard much about the film. John Carradine and Bela Lugosi find a prehistoric ice man near some stock footage of Antarctica, and mayhem ensues. Bela apparently does some brain swapping with Ice Man and a few others via a rigged throw rug in his lab, but Id be hard pressed to tell you much more. The audience was settling down a bit at this point, but this was offset by the truly poor quality of the sound on the print. Im sure there was dialogue, but I could be mistaken.
Things to watch for : John Carradine before most of his wrinkles set in, the "painted brick" house, a few reasons why you shouldnt let creepy loners play the piano at your dinner party, Belas Carpet of Doom.
??? - ??? Short Subject What is Communism?
Ken has written the definitive protest of this short. While Im not quite as politically incensed as he, there are far better choices when it comes to 50s cultural shorts. Regardless of how you feel about Communism or patriotism during the Cold War, it's an understatement to say that I was hard pressed to find anything funny about shots of actual mass graves.
??? - ??? Short Subject Man Made Monster Compilation
I have no idea where I was for this one. Skip ahead to
??? - ??? Short Subject - Wizard of Speed and Time
One of B-Fests mascots, and the entry which inspires the most audience participation. It's not really about anything its just a man running really fast.
Things to watch for : a man running really really fast.
12:00 12:15 Break
Some attractive young woman shoved a tape recorded in my face and started asking me questions about the appeal of Bad Movies. I have to assume either that she was a reporter for the school paper, or that Random Wandering Journalism is far more commonplace in Chicago than out here on the West Coast.
Im not sure if she selected me because she had been told Id flown all the way from California for the Fest (though I think Apostics trip beats mine by a few dozen miles), or because of my brazen support for Heidi Fleiss (evinced by the Heidi Wear sweatshirt I wore proudly that night), but I found myself suddenly on the spot, twisting in the wind to the merriment of the Fourth Estate. I
sincerely hope something nasty happened to her tape recorder on the way home, as I think my commentary had all the wit and coherence of Collin Fergusons closing arguments.
12:15-1:35 Plan Nine From Outer Space
Hang your heads in shame, oh my Brothers, if youve not seen the magnum opus, the Citizen Cane, the Cappo di tutti Capi of Bad Moviedom. For the benefit of those who hadnt seen the film before, the crowd enthusiastically shouted out "Tor!", "Bela!", and "Chiropractor!" when the appropriate personage was on-screen. Those phobic about paper plates should find some excuse (any excuse!) to leave the theater.
Things to watch for : each and every frame of this Meister Werke.
1:35 1:40 Short Subject Wizard of Speed and Time (again)
Same thing, only upside down and in reverse. It made some sense to me at the time.
Things to watch for : .esrever ni tsaf yllaer yllaer gninnur nam A
1:40 3:30 Zardoz
This is, quite possibly, the single finest motion picture ever crafted by anyone at any time in the history of cinema. Sean Connery, adorned in a red diaper and shotgun shell bandoleers, climbs inside the floating stone head of a god which bellows out phrases like "the Gun is Good, the Penis is Evil" while dispensing mass quantities of firearms and ammunition to Seans cohorts, and finds himself surrounded by lots of semi- and fully nude British women who are immortal and make him dress up in a bridal gown. And thats the sensible bit of it.
But the most important part of the film for Yours Truly : Charlotte Rampling!
Kens criticism of my vampiric-looking countrywoman in his Orca review notwithstanding, Ms. Rampling filled every scene she graced with that creepy repellent eroticism only the vacantly psychotic can carry with such numb sensuality.
One might guess at this point that I have a "thing" for her. One would not be mistaken in this. Prior to the Fest I had even made a comment on the message board that there should be some sort of prize for the person who traveled the greatest distance to be at the Fest, and I humbly suggested an escort to the Fest by Ms. Rampling as being a fit reward. This was almost as good.
As I had recently finished my Exorcist 2 review, seeing director John Boormans previous offering (which he maintains was much closer to his vision than the film I reviewed <shudder>) alone made the whole trip worth it for me. Anyone who tries to explain what goes on to someone who hasnt seen the film is destined to fail. You have to see it to disbelieve it. Im not sure if it was the wee-hour timeslot, or the sheer oddity of the film playing, but the theater was quite hushed, with only a few confused whimpers breaking the silence.
Things to watch for : Charlotte Rampling, the "Nooo! I will not go to second leveeelll!" scene, the flying stone god head spitting out rifles and ammo to his "chosen ones", Charlotte Rampling, Sean Connerys Sasquatchian hairy back, a smile that had to be chiseled off the face of Yours Truly.
Charlotte Rampling also stars, by the way.
3:30 3:40 Short Subject Blue Hawaii (musical short)
I was still in the throes of ecstasy from Zardoz, so all I remember is that there was a good deal of bad singing about what a cool place Hawaii is. The main song found itself being invoked throughout the rest of the Fest, in the strangest of places, as a defense mechanism.
Things to watch for : the longest follow the bouncing ball musical number coupled with the most a-rhythmic sing-along ever conceived by anyone.
3:40 3:45 Short Subject Slaves in Bondage trailer
Standard titillation fare, with slight dollops of spanking and implied B&D thrown in to give me an excuse to stay awake. For those in the know, I think Id use the phrase "vanilla" to describe its pretence at being racy.
Things to watch for : women spanking each other (its not funny, just very interesting [at least to me]).
3:50 5:40 Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
"Its my scene, baby, and it freaks me out!"
Just as the shadow of Piranha II : The Spawning looms menacingly over James Camerons shoulder on the set of each new multi-quadbillion dollar production, so Roger Ebert has this distasteful little sword of Damocles perched precariously over his head, waiting to slice off a thick slab of self-important ego-mania the next time he has the gall to stomp on the cinematic vision of some up-and-coming film maker. The Ebster actually wrote this monstrosity, which pretends at being a morality play (Sheya! As if!) on the decadence of stardom (specifically rock music).
The one thing that really stands out in my memory is the way it was shot : with the exception of the obligatory montage scenes, I dont think that any one camera angel was kept for more than ten seconds at a go. Seriously. Cut to a shot (any shot, it doesnt matter), and inside of ten seconds the camera would cut to another angle. It's like the editor was a speed addict who accidentally downed a bottle of Jolt Cola instead of the beer he thought he was knocking back
to calm down from the Scarface portion of cocaine he had taken the night before so he could cobble together Rogers celluloid vision.
Things to watch for : if you value your sanity - not a bloody thing.
5:40 6:50 Reefer Madness
The film that did for the anti-marijuana movement what Showgirls did for Joe Eszterhaus' bid for the presidency of N.O.W. Teens are drawn into a dark world of pain and suffering (accompanied by a few frenzied riffs on the piano) by the demon "narcotic", "marihuana" (sic).
Things to watch for : nicknames for marijuana even Cheech and Chong never heard of, the "oh how the nerdy have fallen" bit, the "Faster! Play it faster! Faster!" bit.
7:00 7:10 Short Subject Mime Sex
I am not going to talk about this short, you cant make me. Go ahead and cut my ear off or set me on fire ; I will not re-visit this abomination for any reason. Go away now.
7:10 8:20 Terror From the Year 5,000
Another "as-seen-on-MST3k" entry, this about some scientists (and their attendant Lonely Pervert handyman) who bring things back to the present from, well, the year 5,000. As I had seen this quite recently, I started to drift in and out of consciousness at this point.
Things to watch for : why does Angelo spray paint out the Swimsuit Areas on his nudie pin-ups?
8:20 8:35 Break
Im sure things happened, but I dont remember them too clearly. At some point SusieQ and I each won a door prize during the breaks (SusieQ the last remaining 98 Fest T-shirt, and I a tape of Piranha II). Since I dont recall which ones these happened during, I might as well list them here.
8:35 9:45 Viking Women and the Sea Serpent
Roger Corman. Seen it. Slept through most of it.
Things to watch for : "Dont you underssstand?! Im a prinssss!"
9:45 10:45 Robot Monster
Time to wake right the heck up and give my undivided attention to the film which proudly sits at the right hand of Plan Nine. Ro-Man (a guy in a gorilla suit with a space helmet), at the direction of the Guidance Ro-Man, wipes out all of the planet Earth with his Calcinator Death Ray, save for a small group of Hu-mans living about two miles from his own base of operations. My favourite line has to be Ro-Mans decisive statement to Al-lice : "I must do it with my hands". Make of that what you will.
Things to watch for : the Billion Bubble machine, stock footage of dinosaurs (read : iguanas with fins glued on their backs) fighting for no good reason, Al-lices sign language foreplay with the last eligible bachelor Hu-man on Earth.
10:45 12:15 The Tingler
One of William Castles gimmicky productions, where electrodes in the theater seats would give random audience members a slight shock at the appropriate time. Vincent Price plays the first scientist to discover the now well known fact that extreme fright causes a little beastie to grow at the base of the frightened persons spine, which can only be driven away by screaming.
Apparently the film made enough of an impact on me to give me my own Tingler whilst sleeping on Kens couch later that night the next morning Jeff told me I had given a quick shout in the dead of night, which I dont recall at all, but wish I could, as it sounded funny as hell to me. Talk about effective film making. Things to watch for : the one scene done (for reasons still a mystery to me) in a garish proto-colour, my 65,535th double-entendre involving a Tingler or Tingling, SusieQs unflappable politeness in not telling me to shut the hell up with the Tingler jokes already.
12:15 12:30 Break
One more life-sustaining infusion of caffeine, a quick stretch of the legs, and back at it.
12:30 12:40 Short Subject Dr. Coke Eneday
For the benefit of those who havent had my 6th degree black belt training in Symbolism and Artistic Conceits, the name of Douglas Fairbanks character, Dr. Coke Eneday, is a sly reference to wait for it the fact that he uses cocaine. A lot of cocaine. More cocaine than the editor of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. You might think its a lot of cocaine when you watch that DeLorian video, but thats just peanuts compared to this. Listen
Anyway, the white powder not only serves as our heros fuel, but as one of his weapons at one point, when he throws a double-handful at some Chinese men bent on doing him harm (which would have caused a certain ex-girlfriend of mine to spontaneously combust at the scale of his waste of the drug). In the end, it turns out that hes some sort of detective, but I think it's all just a cry for help.
Things to watch for : Dr. Eneday having the same reaction to a mouthful of opium as a snootfull of coke, the woman cryptically referred to in the film as the "Fish Blower", proof positive that cocaine wasnt invented at the same time as junk bonds, despite what the media would have you believe.
12:40 2:15 Creeping Flesh
The Creeping part I get, but the Flesh doesnt really enter into it until the last few minutes or so. Peter Cushing thinks it would be a good idea to inject his prissy little daughter with the Essence of Evil which he extracted from an odd looking skeleton he came across somewhere, which causes her to dance around in a pub, show off some cleavage, stab a guy in the neck with a broken bottle, and go on to make a general nuisance of herself. Portions of the film had to be skipped over due to some technical problems with the sound. Truth be told, an enjoyable little film.
Things to watch for : Instant Evil (just add water), Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee together again, one of the few effective "bookend-ings (the end brings you back to the beginning) in horror movie history.
2:?? 3:?? Girls Town
Given the extended problems with the previous film, the Fest was running over schedule and we had to choose between seeing this and War of the Colossal Beast. While I would have been happy with either one, the clear preference of the crowed was for the Mamie van Doren flick.
Both Mamie and her extensive collection of bullet bras get tossed into a Catholic nun controlled version of Jonestown by way of events which make one wonder if local law enforcement have the power to suspend civil rights on a whim. My former education in Sociology had me wondering throughout the entire film what could have possibly possessed American culture at that point when it found grotesquely top-heavy (and conical breasted, I might add) physiques sexually attractive. Mel Torme and Dick Contino partake in the stupidest version of "chicken" ever conceived, and Paul Anka sings mercilessly at a mentally disturbed young girl named Sarafina, eventually driving her to join a nunnery <insert Hamlet reference here>.
Things to watch for : the opening death, which takes place at Leo Carillo beach (where a young Douglas Milroy has spent far too many drunken nights carousing with friends to count), Mamie van Doren spiking all the Slang-O-Meters in the audience in each and every scene, Mel Torme trying to play a hip punk (watch for this just for the Schadenfreude of it all)
3:?? end Destroy All Monsters
Talk about ending things on a high note! And in the original TohoScope, no less!
This is what most consider to be the most exciting Giant Rubber Suit Monster film, if for nothing than the sheer number of monsters (and attendant city-stompings) it features. Well known beasties like Godzilla and Rodan romp about alongside lesser-known (at least to most) entities like Manda (and an incorrect reference to Barugon, thanks to the American cut of the film, but never mind that).
As the movie opens, narration helpfully informs us that all the giant monsters have been rounded up and dumped on an island somewhere under guard of various high-tech security measures which you just know are going to fail big time at some point real soon. As it turns out, a mob of invading alien chicks who dress like disco versions of the girls in Robert Palmer videos sabotage the security systems on the island in order to free the monsters and cause some serious world-wide mayhem. This does somehow help their cause, but frankly I couldnt tell you how, or what their cause was in the first place (I assume its the standard take over Earth thing). I was far too entertained by the spectacle of it all to care about silly things like plot.
Yes, this film is one of the few that I can be happy with just sitting back and watching all the purty things going boom. While I myself would have slightly preferred War of the Gargantuas (its a sentimental fav of mine), I still think it was a great way to end the Fest, and the crowed went absolutely wild over it. Some of the B-Fest Players even made a few cities on the stage out of used paper cups and what not, and went a stompin along with the movie, kazoos and Silly String doing a great job of simulating monster roars and breath-weapons.
Things to watch for : cities other than Tokyo getting the Monster Stomp for a change, astronaut uniforms which could get the wearer mistaken for a member of The Cramps, more Giant Monster Whup-Ass in one place than just about anywhere else.
This was an event to remember, oh my Brothers. I still have a hard time believing how well everything worked. From the little things, like being able to unload the cars right in front of the entrance and then park (Ken says this was blocked off last year), to the big things like the selection of films (Zardoz !!!), everything came together to make it a great first Fest for Yours Truly. The people I was with only made things that much better.
But, sadly, there was one small blight on the Fest. Those bloody laser pointers. Heres the deal at some point recently a Fest tradition started up where audience members would shine flashlights onto the screen for comic effect. For example, in one film shown this year a character is stuck inside a large tomb and has only matches and a small candle for illumination. These of course give off an impossible amount of light, so a flashlight-toting audience member would shine the beam up on the candle flame to draw attention to this. It's actually more amusing than Im making it out to sound. Also, the flashlights were used to indicate a post-coital glow on characters (when appropriate, of course) every now and again. Sparingly used, and always within a certain context, so there was humour in it.
The laser pointers, however, were a different story. We estimated that about four people in the audience were toting these bad boys, and there were only a few scenes throughout the Fest that werent plagued by their presence. Whats worse is that there was no bit behind their use it was nothing more than some guys waving red dots around on screen.
Once or twice they did elicit a chuckle. What comes to mind by way of example was during Girls Town, where the dots were used to indicated characters staring at the Swimsuit Areas of other characters. Those were, admittedly, moderately amusing. But the near-constant spastic twirlings of red dots on screen for no reason at all well, I just didnt get it. Neither did most of the audience, given the very vocal complaints that rang out. But the pointer operators seemed
to feel they were on to some higher level of humour which we the groundlings just couldnt appreciate, so they persisted.
It may sound strange to complain about being distracted during fliks like Return of the Ape man and Dr. Coke Eneyday, but it really got on a lot of peoples nerves. Since Id hate to see any kind of audience participation banned at B-Fest (even those that annoy me), consider this a plea to reason friends dont let friends bring laser pointers to the Fest.
To end things on a happy note, here are some pointers for any prospective first-time Festers next time round :
Bring caffeine and bottled water in roughly equal proportions. Youll want both at different times.
Pillows are your friends
If youre considering toting a laser pointer with you, ask a friend to smack you in the head, and reconsider
Antacids are your friends, even more so than pillows
The first row is the only way to go plenty of room to spread out your gear
Stud B-Fest is the only way to go
Uncooked chocolate frosted Pop Tarts are your friends
Clean up after yourself ! This is just common courtesy, you know.
I said it once, but it bears repeating antacids are your friends
Beware roving reporters with tape recorders ...
To the gang I went with, thanks for a great time. Hope to see you all there next year.