Assignment: Outer Space, the 1960 sci-fi flick from director Antonio Margheriti, is a textbook example of why cheap practical effects are better than bad CGI. I’m no Luddite. CGI will continue to improve and become more affordable right up to the point AI takes over film production and just thinks shit up on the spot. I’m thinking more of the bargain basement CGI of this still-young century versus what Margheriti’s crew was able to accomplish sixty years ago. Both are unconvincing, but cheap model work has a charm that bad CGI does not — almost an innocence. That’s illusory, of course. Cheap effects are all about saving cash, no matter which method is used. Yet, there’s something slimy about bad CGI, as if it’s more an enabler of poor filmmaking rather than a result of tight budgets. Continue reading “Shitty Movie Sundays: Assignment: Outer Space, aka Space Men”
Shitty Movie Sundays: Day the World Ended & In the Year 2889
What a pair of movies this turned out to be. Day the World Ended is an early Roger Corman flick from 1955, while In the Year 2889 is a made-for-TV remake from 1969 that used an almost identical script. Only the names were changed to protect the innocent.
Written by Lou Rusoff, that script tells the story of a small group that survives a nuclear apocalypse. World War Three has ravaged the world, silencing the cities of Earth and bathing the planet in radioactive fallout. But not in an isolated patch of rugged Southwestern landscape. Former Navy officer Jim Maddison (Paul Birch) has spent the last decade preparing for nuclear war. He has built his house nestled in between hills containing lead ore, which helps block radiation. Winds sweep through nearby canyons, creating a cushion of air that fallout can’t penetrate. I don’t know if any of this holds up to scientific scrutiny, but considering this is a 1950s sci-fi b-movie, I doubt it. It doesn’t matter, anyway. Continue reading “Shitty Movie Sundays: Day the World Ended & In the Year 2889″
October Horrorshow: The Amityville Horror (1979)
Early on the morning of November 13, 1974, at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, NY, Ronald DeFeo Jr. murdered his family — both parents and four siblings — as they slept in their beds. He shot them all with a lever action rifle. A year later DeFeo went to trial for the crime, and his attorneys chose to use an insanity defense. It didn’t work, DeFeo was convicted, was sentenced to six life sentences, and finally died in prison this past March.
Some strange aspects of the murders entered the cultural zeitgeist of the era. For one, all the victims were found in their beds, and that’s also where they died. DeFeo walked through his house, shot six people, and none of them were awakened or alerted by the shots. Evidence suggests DeFeo drugged his family beforehand, but that didn’t stop people from wondering why his victims appeared so docile. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: The Amityville Horror (1979)”
October Horrorshow: Squirm
Squirm is an appropriate title for the 1976 horror flick from writer/director Jeff Lieberman. This is the type of horror flick intended to make a viewer’s skin crawl. In that, Lieberman and company succeeded beyond any expectations. After all, this isn’t some mid-budget horror meant for mass theatrical release. This is a low-budget horror flick made for drive-ins and grindhouses. What I mean is, how in the world could the production afford to purchase millions of worms?
That’s right. Worms. The ugliest, slimiest, biggest, fanged (yes, FANGED), worms from the soil of these great United States. All shipped to Port Wentworth, Georgia, for use in a disgusting movie shoot. I fucking love horror flicks. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Squirm”
Shitty Movie Sundays: Empire of Ash III, aka Last of the Warriors
What a gloriously stupid movie. It has it all. Barely sensible plot, bad dialogue, bad acting, cheap filmstock, gratuitous nudity, and all the other accoutrements that make shitty cinema great. Every time the flick threatens to drag, directors Michael Mazo and Lloyd A. Simandi throw in a gunfight and some explosions, and all is well with the world once again. Empire of Ash III is no rare gem, but we shitty movie fans love it when filmmakers just throw shit at the wall to see what sticks. Continue reading “Shitty Movie Sundays: Empire of Ash III, aka Last of the Warriors”
Shitty Movie Sundays: The Amazing Transparent Man
58 minutes! Are you kidding me? We here at Missile Test enjoy filmmakers who show brevity in their storytelling, but a 58-minute running time is a little bit extreme. Perhaps director Edgar G. Ulmer should be praised. After all, most shitty movie directors of the era would have just thrown in stock footage or long establishing shots to pad the running time. But not Ulmer. His film is so Spartan that viewers will even notice some scenes with dialogue were trimmed. I applaud Mr. Ulmer for trying not to waste anyone’s time, but still…58 minutes!
Released in 1960, The Amazing Transparent Man is a bizarre combination of film noir and science fiction. The film follows Joey Faust (Douglas Kennedy), a career bank robber who is serving a long stretch in a penitentiary. As the film opens, we see Faust escape from prison, aided in his escape by Laura Matson (Marguerite Chapman). Faust doesn’t know why the escape was arranged, only that he’s being taken to a home in the countryside. Continue reading “Shitty Movie Sundays: The Amazing Transparent Man”
It Came from the ’50s: Attack of the Puppet People
I am shocked by this movie. Shocked, I tell you. Bewildered. Astonished. Flabbergasted. Not because Attack of the Puppet People is a great film. Oh, no. My surprise comes from the fact that despite this being a film from Samuel Z. Arkoff’s gristmill, American International Pictures, and despite it being produced and directed by shitty movie auteur Bert I. Gordon, this film does not suck. It’s low-rent, to be sure, and there are more than a few amateurish moments scattered throughout, but this flick is at least as good as contemporary television sci-fi. Continue reading “It Came from the ’50s: Attack of the Puppet People”
It Came from the ’50s: The Screaming Skull
What a boring, plodding, nonfrightening, trope-filled mess we have with The Screaming Skull, from 1958. There was a promising film in here, somewhere. After all, an uncountable mass of pulp fiction and comic books (especially EC Comics in their heyday) used the exact same plot, with the exact same ending. If they couldn’t be competent, then the least director Alex Nicol and company could have done was be enjoyably shitty, but they couldn’t even manage that.
At the beginning of this film, viewers are treated to an announcement from the film’s producers promising a free coffin should anyone die of fright while watching the movie. It’s not the worst marketing ploy of the time, and the producers could sleep easy about ever paying it out. This is amongst the least-frightening horror movies I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot. Continue reading “It Came from the ’50s: The Screaming Skull”
October Horrorshow: Frogs
Frogs, the 1972 environmental horror flick from screenwriters Robert Hutchison and Robert Blees, and director George McCowan, has a misleading title. There are indeed frogs in Frogs, and they do indeed pose a menace to the characters in the film, but there are also plenty of toads, snakes, geckos, iguanas, tarantulas, scorpions, and other creepy-crawlies lurking about. The title Frogs gives short shrift to all the other swamp beasties that make an effort to murder the film’s protagonists.
Sam Elliott, in an early role, stars as Pickett Smith, a freelance photographer taking pictures of the effects of pollution and littering in a swampland environment. It’s not pretty, as Smith finds civilizational detritus everywhere he looks. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Frogs”
It Came from the ’50s: Night of the Blood Beast
Night of the Blood Beast is barely a movie. That shouldn’t be any surprise to viewers familiar with its pedigree. It comes to us via American International Pictures, and was produced by not one, but two, members of the Corman clan. Despite there being twice as much Corman as audiences would usually get, this flick looks as if it had half the budget.
From 1958, Blood Beast plays out like an updated version of It Conquered the World, only with all the fat trimmed. That’s quite a feat carried out by screenwriter Martin Varno and director Bernard Kowalski, because that flick didn’t have any fat to trim. It was a test of an audience’s patience, and so is Blood Beast. It amazes me that a film like this could have such a short running time, at 62 minutes, and the filmmakers had trouble filling that up. It’s as if Roger Corman would hire writers to pen a half-hour long episode of The Twilight Zone, and then tell his directors to stretch it out as much as they could. I wouldn’t be surprised if Corman paid his writers by the page, and thin screenplays were his way of pinching ever more pennies. Continue reading “It Came from the ’50s: Night of the Blood Beast”