Shitty Movie Sundays: Assignment: Outer Space, aka Space Men

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 readingShitty 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 readingShitty 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 readingOctober 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 readingOctober Horrorshow: Squirm”

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 readingIt Came from the ’50s: Attack of the Puppet People”

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 readingOctober Horrorshow: Frogs”

It Came from the ’50s: The She-Creature

Being a shitty movie fan is most rewarding when some obscure piece of cinematic ineptitude turns out to be entertaining. It’s impossible to know beforehand how one will react to a shitty movie. Every entertaining shitty movie is an unexpected surprise — the reward that makes slogging through the muck worth it. Today’s ’50s flick is part of the muck.

Released in 1956, The She-Creature comes from American International Pictures. AIP may have released a good flick here and there, but I can’t think of one off the top of my head. It really was a clearing house for schlock. Continue readingIt Came from the ’50s: The She-Creature”

It Came from the ’50s: It Conquered the World

It Conquered the WorldRoger Corman was a better director than Bert I. Gordon. That’s obvious, of course. Roger Corman is a Hollywood legend, while Gordon is known only to us poor souls who like trash cinema. Corman’s reputation has been burnished by all the successful filmmakers that came through his stable, but he could trash it up with the worst of them. I mention Corman and Gordon in the same breath because today’s It Came from the 1950s entry is almost indistinguishable from the crap Gordon used to turn out. The only major difference is that Corman knew how to end a scene before things got too boring.

It Conquered the World was released in 1956, and was directed and produced by Corman from a screenplay by Lou Rusoff, who penned the execrable Phantom from 10,000 Leagues. This flick is miles better than Phantom, and it still stinks.

It stars Peter Graves as Dr. Paul Nelson, who works on a project launching America’s first satellites into orbit. One of his friends is Dr. Tom Anderson (Lee Van Cleef), a scientist disillusioned with the state of mankind. How fortunate for Dr. Anderson that he finds a friend in an alien being from Venus, one of the last of his race. The alien communicates with Anderson through a radio set in Anderson’s house. The alien is giving Anderson instructions to help pave the way for a Venusian takeover of Earth. Continue readingIt Came from the ’50s: It Conquered the World”

Giant Monstershow: Empire of the Ants

It’s a melancholy day for the October Horrorshow Giant Monstershow, for this is the last film of the month from giant monster auteur Bert I. Gordon. His peak days as a filmmaker were in the 1950s, but while Gordon’s pace of work slowed, he never went more than a few years without directing something. In 1977, that something was Empire of the Ants, also written by Gordon, loosely adapting the H.G. Wells story of the same name. Something of a follow-up to Gordon’s Food of the Gods, Empire of the Ants tells the story of a Florida real estate pitch gone wrong. Continue readingGiant Monstershow: Empire of the Ants”

Giant Monstershow: The Food of the Gods

This is an important day for the October Horrorshow Giant Monstershow. The featured auteur of this month of reviews has returned. For the seventh time this month, a review features a film by Bert I. Gordon. Yes, a filmmaker that showed mastery at failing to master the art of filmmaking is back. Today’s film, from 1976, also shows that although more than twenty years had passed since Gordon’s first movie, he stayed true to his unique abilities as a filmmaker. Continue readingGiant Monstershow: The Food of the Gods”