Monday, December 15, 2014

And The Worst Movie Of 2014 Is...

Hey, kids! Want to know what the worst movie of 2014 is?

I won't keep you in suspense: it's "The Legend of Hercules", directed by Renny Harlin and starring Kellan Lutz!

Yes, this 3-D CGI chronicle of young Herc's rise to greatness was a dumb, dippy, daffy, dunder-headed dud.

In fact, "The Legend of Hercules" was SO AWFUL a native of director Harlin's home country (Finland) was moved to write on The IMDb, "He makes me ashamed to be a Finnish person."

How bad is "The Legend of Hercules"? Let us count the ways!

WAY#1: "The Legend of Hercules" shows its stupidity right from the beginning by completely botching the story of Herc's birth.

"I had sex with Zesus and all I got in return was Hercules": Queen Alcemene has a close encounter with Greek god greatness.

According to the flick, Herc's ma Queen Alcemene prayed to the Greek goddess Hera for a son. Hera, an obliging sort, then sent hubby Zesus down to earth to do the nasty with Alcemene. We know the King of the Greek gods achieved maximum joy from this encounter because he mooed like a cow when he hit the bull's eye, if you catch my drift.

According to Greek legend, Zesus did indeed do the wild thing with Herc's ma, but Hera did not arrange it, condone it or even like it. On the contrary, she was fit to be tied about her hubby's relentless philandering. So mad was Hera about this affair and the child it produced, that she sent a serpent to kill baby Herc, who promptly strangled the critter in his crib.

WAY#2: Herc is portrayed by Kellan Lutz, best known for his minor role in the "Twilight" sagas. Lutz has abs of washboard, buns of steel, shins of granite, pecs like melons and brains of mush. Walking and talking simultaneously is not a skill Lutz the Klutz has perfected yet. Thus, instead of featuring him in any more films, I kindly suggest he just be put out to stud.

Introducing "Jerk-u-les"!: Stud muffin Kellan Lutz in the role that will make him shameless.

WAY#3: The slaying of the Nemean Lion figures prominently in "The Twelve Labors of Hercules", the epic poem written about 600 BC by Peisander.

However, in this flick, the Nemean Lion is just a very shoddy CGI; no context is given as to why Herc slayed it or why he wears its carcass for a cloak. And, to be fair, in this instance, the lion wasn't hurting anybody. And he was kinda cute. Herc just offed the kitty to upstage his sniveling big brother Iphicles and impress Princess Hebe and that's not OK.

WAY#4: Herc's older brother Iphicles (Liam Garringgan) is a scowly, whiney villain in a bad wig. Scott Adkins as pa King Amphitryon looks like Mr. Bean in a too-tight toga. Bro Iphicles is especially obsessed that Herc might have plundered the maidenhood of Hebe (Gaia Weiss), the princess the brothers are at odds over. When confronted about this, Herc replies, "Please reassure my brother that that is none of his business"--which is Herc-speak for, "We did it and you know it!"

Isn't it a bit icky that Princess Hebe is valued only for her looks and her virginity? That's not OK, either.

WAY#5: After Herc is sent on a suicide mission, he's captured and forced to be a gladiator or a cage fighter or a pro-wrestler or a ninja or some such thing to "earn back his freedom." This A) never happened in the actual Herc legends and B) it's a blatant rip-off of "Gladiator" and C) it's yet another example of how director Harlin was banking on his audience being so dumb they wouldn't know he was screwing with them.

Surprise, Renny! We're NOT dumb AND WE DID notice you were screwing with us.

"Look at me! I can fly!": Herc springs into action.

WAY#6: For a good chunk of the flick, Herc does not know and/or really believe he is Zesus' son. Then he's about to be killed and/or crucified and he suddenly realizes having a Greek god for a dad might not be a bad thing. Once Herc undergoes this, uh, "conversion experience", he becomes EVEN stronger.

The unsubtle implication here is to suggest Herc has a lot in common with another son of a powerful man, namely, Jesus.

This is, of course, utter horse pucky. Not even Kirk Cameron would suggest such a thing (but I wouldn't put it past him). This is yet ANOTHER example of Mr. Harlin counting on his viewers being stupid. Well, Mr. Harlin, stupid is as stupid does!

WAY#7: No doubt hoping to appeal to the ladies in the ticket buying public, "The Legend of Hercules" posits that Herc is just ga-ga about Princess Hebe and that marrying her is the only thing he wants to do in the whole wide world and he never, ever, EVER looked at another female.

Uh, not quite.

As usual, Harlin and his script writers chose to ignore yet again THE COMMON KNOWLEDGE about Hercules, mainly that he was a rather frisky fellow who enjoyed tonsil boxing as much as the next demi-god.

Herc actually had three (some say four) wives. Wife #1 was Megara. Herc "won" Megara by helping her pa King Creon defeat the Minyans. When Hera drove Herc mad, he ended up killing Megara and their ( three to eight) tykes. This resulted in the famous "Twelve Labors of Hercules", which he undertook to as penance for his crime.

Wife #2 was Omphale, "The Barbarian Queen of Lydia", who purchased Herc as her personal slave. See, after Herc killed Iphitus, he was sentenced to three years of servitude, which is how Omphale managed to bag her goods. He and Omphale got along great, but when his three years were up, Herc left. Because the circumstances of how Herc and Omphale actually got together are a bit unusual, some scholars question whether this was a "proper" marriage. For the sake of argument, we will assume it was a proper marriage.

Wife #3, meanwhile, was Deianira. This spouse Herc "won" after he defeated the river god Acheloos in a wrestling match.

When did Herc hook up with Hebe? It was only AFTER he was granted immortality and moved in with the other Greek gods on Mt. Olympus;  only then did Herc and Hebe became an item. For the record, Hebe was the daughter of Zesus and Hera, making her Herc's half-sister as well as wife #4. Eww!

Oh, and here is another tidbit about Herc: When he agreed to help King Thespios rid his kingdom of some giant rouge critter, he noticed the king had 50 virgin daughters. Herc slept with 49 of them (the 50th was said to be "too shy" to participate). Nine months later, King Thespios had 49 grandsons, all strong as an ox. Talk about keeping it "all in the family"...

"Isn't it romantic?": The makers of "The Legend of Hercules" wanted movie-goers to think this is how Herc expressed his love to mortal women...

In reality, it was probably more like this...which ISN'T very romantic. 

WAY#8: Although big, beefy Kellan Lutz is supposedly the star of this show, it's Liam McIntyre as army buddy/fellow captive Sotiris who steals the movie. Simply put, McIntyre is everything Lutz isn't: talented, charismatic, intelligent, able to read lines naturally. All of which begs the question: why wasn't he cast as Herc? He might not have been able to save "The Legend of Hercules" completely, but McIntyre would have made a more compelling hero. Pay attention, Renny Harlin! Never send a boy to do a man's job!

WAY#9: Making a movie in 3-D is dumb. Making a bad movie in 3-D is even dumber.

Instead of wasting big bucks on special effects, why not invest that money in a decent script and hiring actors who can act instead of just staring into the camera and flaring their nostrils? The 3-D effects in "The Legend of Hercules" did not enhance or improve the viewing experience one bit.

Rule of thumb, Renny: 3-D will not make your movie any better if it's rotten to begin with! Furthermore, using 3-D will not distract the audience from your movie's failures. A rotten movie in 3-D is just that: a rotten movie in 3-D!

WAY#10: Hercules movies are not meant to seen as historical treatises on ancient Greece. After all, in "The Loves of Hercules" (1960), Jane Mansfield played a naughty temptress who turned her ex-cuddlemates into trees. Herc has battled a race of moon men, drunk from "the waters of forgetfulness", co-starred opposite the 3 Stooges and sang with the voice of Michael Bolton. Do I also need to point out the Kevin Sorbo TV series where Herc was turned into a sensitive '90's guy with Anthony Quinn popping up as Zesus?

However, at least these movies/TV shows were fun. "The Legend of Hercules" was not fun--except when that obviously bogus moon peeked through the clouds or the unseen Zesus mooed like a cow while doing the wild thing with Herc's ma.

WAY#11: Earlier, I mentioned how human beefcake Kellan Lutz was upstaged by co-star Liam McIntyre. Here is a pictorial of actors who played Herc much, much better than Lutz:

Steve Reeves

Kevin Sorbo

Ryan Gosling

Lou Ferrigno

Alan Steele 


Cartoon Herc...who was still more life like than Kellan Lutz.

WAY#12: One of the neat things a really bad movie does is inspire movie critics to sharpen their pens and dip their quills in acid. "The Legend of Hercules" birthed some delightfully nasty put downs from critics that were vastly more entertaining to read than "The Legend of Hercules" was to watch. 

Just imagine, for a moment, that you are Renny Harlin or Kellan Lutz and you read these missive penned in your honor:

"Even dental extraction is more enjoyable to endure than this artistically bankrupt misfire."--Digital Spy.

"Essentially a Monday Night Raw episode with mythological dressing."--Chicago Reader

"Ode to a Grecian turd."--Houston Press

"The only thing epic about 'The Legend of Hercules' is what a failure it is."--Washington Post

"Has a whiff of the Augean Stables about it, if you catch my drift."--McClatchy tribune News Service

"(Kellan Lutz is) a big lump of hamburger who makes Taylor Lautner look like Daniel Day Lewis."--Screen Crush

"While the role (of Herc) may not call for a master thespian, it at least begs for someone who can emote without looking like he's straining to execute a dead lift."--Variety

"If there were any reservations about just how bad an actor Kellan Lutz is, 'The Legend of Hercules' more than confirms it."

For all these reasons, "The Legend of Hercules" earns the (dis)honor of being 2014's worst film.

And on that note, I take my leave. 

So, until next time, keep your loin cloth clean, and SAVE THE MOVIES!

The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance of Wikipedia, History and Rotten in researching this article.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Watch Pia Zadora Help "Santa Claus Conquer The Martians"!

Ho, ho, no! It's Pia Zadora's career high point "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians."

Ho, ho, ho movie lovers! Looking for a unique holiday film to spice up your seasonal cinematic viewing?

Look no further than today's offering, a tale of Christmas cheer that combines Jolly Old St. Nicholas, a pre-teen Pia Zadora and green martians--all shot on an empty airport hanger on Roosevelt Field by some off duty "Howdy Doody" employees for the bargain basement price of $200,000 bucks!

Of course, I'm talking about the immortal 1964 "yuletide science fiction fantasy" "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians."

The plot (such as it is) is really pretty simple. The kids on Mars are lethargic and depressed because they have no fun. They spend their days doing algebra and live for the pirated broadcasts of earth TV that feature Santa Claus and such alien concepts as "tender loving care."

However, it is in its execution that "SCCTM" achieves its status as a Junk Cinema Jewel ne plus ultra.

From its cheap-o sets to its hokey costumes to its bad jokes to its lame animation to its irritating theme song ("Hooray for Santy Claus!") to its misspelled title credits ("custumes", anyone?), "SCCTM" hits and sustains a perfect pitch of zany incompetence that few films can to match.

Even as a tween, Pia Zadora displayed the acting prowess that would later earn her a "Best New Star" Golden Globe (with a little help from hubby Meshulam Riklis).

You know what you're in for when the best known member of the cast is Pia Zadora. She plays Girmar (which stands for "girl martian"), one of the tots belonging to Leonard Hicks, the King of the Martians, or "Kimar" for short. Dipped in green paint, sporting a tinfoil helmet with antennae festooned on top and her chipmunk cheeks front and center, the future star of "Butterfly" and "The Lonely Lady" is no more ridiculous than anyone else in this flick, but when the best acting of your career is in a low-budget martian movie, it doesn't bode well for future artistic triumphs.

After consulting a wizened old mystic named "Chochum", the martian monarch decides to assemble a crack team to land on earth and bring Santa Claus back to the angry red planet. As Kirmar sees it, "Earth has had Santa long enough!" The only dissenter of this operation is the Elliot Gould-ish Volgar (Vincent Beck). With his bushy brows, droopy 'stache and evil laugh, Volgar doesn't want martian kids running around and having fun. In fact, he thinks "all this fuss about a fat man in a red suit" is a bunch of b@3&s*+?--and vows to scuttle the king's plan.

Due to their vastly superior technology, the martians land on earth lickety-split and soon make contact with siblings Betty and Billy. Kirmar reassures the startled kids, "Don't be afraid. We have children just like you on Mars." Still, Betty is sufficiently confused by the martians appearance that she points to Kirmar's wiggly antennae and asks, "Are you a television set?"

Scooping up the kids, the martians head back to their ship and set a course for the North Pole. Put in charge of babysitting Billy and Betty is Dropo (Bill McCutcheon), "the laziest man on Mars", who is a member of the king's household. As the flick's designated comic relief, Dropo is a cross between an idiot and a moron. He makes Gilligan on "Gilligan's Island" seem suave and sophisticated in comparison. And he always seems on the verge of wetting himself. However, it's Dropo and the earth tots who over hear Volgar's plan to off Santa and vow to defeat him.

Barging into Santa's workshop, the martians use their "Freeze Ray Guns" (which look like Super Soakers) to disarm the elves and a truly batty Mrs. Claus. (IMPORTANT NOTE: This is the first film to feature Mrs. Claus.) Wanting to avoid further bloodshed, Santa (John Call) agrees to travel to Mars. Billy and Betty, meanwhile, have escaped from the martian rocket ship. They plan to warn Santa, but battered by the wind and snow, they must seek shelter in a cave. It's there they run afoul of a "polar bear"--actually, some poor bastard stuck in a ratty, ill-fitting costume with a paper mache' head. No sooner does the "polar bear" saunter off than the martians find Billy and Betty and cart them back to the ship.

The ferocious "polar bear" that threatens Billy and Betty. (Wanna bet that suit itches?)

En route to Mars, Santa manages to charm and disarm all the martians--except for nasty Volgar. It's he who lures Kris Kringle and the kids into an air lock inorder to jettison them out into space. However, the meanie martian fails to take into account Santa's own super powers--and is astonished when the jolly old elf turns up just fine, thank you, along with Billy and Betty. Never one to harbor grudges, Santa forgives Volgar (after all, it's Christmas).

To the surprise of no one, Santa is welcomed with open arms on Mars. Soon the little green kiddies are happier than they've ever been. The martians even build St. Nick a state of the art workshop, where Billy and Betty (along with Girmar and her brother Bomar) lend a hand to meet the demands for toys and games for Mars' youngsters. leaves the humans feeling hollow. Santa misses doing things by hand ("the old fashioned way") and Billy and Betty become homesick. Realizing that it's unfair to keep Santa all to themselves, the martians plan to send their earth visitors home. What's more, Dropo, trained by St. Nick himself, is all set to take over as Mars' resident Santa Claus, thus ensuring the yule tide traditions will live on.

The only fly in this holiday ointment is, naturally, Volgar. So determined is he to kill Santa that he rounds up some martian miscreants to help him carry out his evil scheme. What the Elliot Gould-ish villain doesn't count on is Billy, Betty, Girmar and Bomar. No sooner does Volgar arrive at Santa's martian headquarters than the kids bombard him with pop-guns, Wham-O air blasters, ping pong balls, model air planes, toy soldiers and water pistols. Thoroughly beaten down and overwhelmed by this vicious onslaught, Volgar is finally arrested and sent to jail for good. Christmas is least on Mars.

Shortly there after, Santa, Billy and Betty say goodbye to their Martian friends. With Kimar's help, the trio blast off for earth, just in time to meet the December 25th deadline back home. Hooray for Santy Claus!

"Let me introduce you to my little friend!" The evil Volgar threatens Santa with his deadly martian...blow dryer.

Cataloging "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians"'s failures would be like tripping a dwarf.

Yet...even though the premise is nutty and the final result is so lame, you can't help loving this picture. It's heart is in the right place, even if it's brain isn't. In fact, some film scholars have even suggested that the real message of "SCCTM" is for people not to forget their traditions, to let kids be kids and not to become overly dependent on technology.

 Personally, not a bad message for anyone to hear.

So, until next time, hang your stockings on the chimney with care, and SAVE THE MOVIES!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

"Xanadu": An Olivia Neutron-Bomb!

Olivia Newton-John in the role that made her shameless: Roller skating Greek Muse Kira in "Xanadu."

Critics once carped that if white bread could sing, it would sound like Olivia Newton-John.

Mean, yes, but there was a a grain of truth lurking beneath the snark.

After all, the Aussie song bird had unleashed a series of sweet, breathy hits like "Have You Never Been Mellow?", "I Honestly Love You" and "Please, Mister, Please" that didn't exactly give Patti Smith or Marianne Faithful any sleepless nights.

However, in 1978, ON-J burst out of her middle-of-the-road bailiwick by co-starring with John Travolta in the mega-hit "Grease".

Set in "the nifty fifties", this musical spoof turned the classic good girl/bad boy romance on its head by having sweet Sandy (ON-J) become a slut to keep the love of punk Danny (Travolta).

The runaway success of "Grease" had many in Tinsel Town believing that ON-J had the makings of a movie star. So, in 1980, ON-J starred in "Xanadu": an over-the-top "musical fantasy" where Greek muses, frustrated artists and roller skaters cavorted on screen accompanied by insipid songs, cheap-o animation and Gene Kelly (!).

"Do my eyes deceive me or am I really in this movie?" Neither ON-J (or her fans) can believe she's agreed to star in the roller disco extravaganza "Xanadu".

The final result was NOT a feel good movie for the ages, but a loud, nonsensical, glittery monument to...disco kitsch. 

In fact, "Xanadu" was (and is) such an epic failure that it proudly takes its place in the Junk Cinema Hall Of Shame as ONE OF THE WORST MUSICALS EVER MADE,  alongside "Can't Stop The Music", "Lost Horizon" and "At Long Last Love."

What's more, the sheer awfulness of "Xanadu" would inspire the creation of The Golden Raspberry Awards, the only movie awards that really count for anything (in my opinion, anyway).

How can a musical featuring Gene Kelly be that bad, you ask?

When your co-star is a bland songstress who can't dance, the second male lead is a scowly chap who appears to be suffering from tight under things and the soundtrack is penned by ELO, it's easy!

The (non)fun begins by introducing us to Sonny (Michael Beck), a surly fellow who paints full-sized reproductions of album covers (hey, it's 1980 remember!). Naturally, Sonny yearns to create something more substantial, but he doesn't know where or how to begin.

Enter roller skating Greek Muse Kira (ON-J) who, along with her sisters, "magically" comes to life from a mural while the ELO tune "I'm Alive!" relentlessly batters your brain. After dancing up a storm, the muses dart off in different directions. Kira, who is not much of a dancer, suddenly roller skates up to Sonny, kisses him on the lips and flits off without a word.

Considering that muses have inspired the works of Shakespeare, Mozart, Michelangelo, Picasso and David Hasselhoff, what is Kira meant to inspire in Sonny? A revolutionary new school in painting? A brilliant novel? Perhaps an international TV hit about the personal struggles of hard-bodied life guards?

Ah, no. Kira is meant to inspire Sonny to create the world's most fabulous roller disco night club EVER. Isn't that just what the culture starved masses are crying out for?

A deer in the head lights? Frustrated artist Sonny (Michael Beck) polishes his dazed and confused look.

To assist Sonny in this unholy quest, Kira directs him to Danny McGuire (Gene Kelly). Turns out Kira had inspired Danny himself 40 years earlier when he was a big band clarinetist. Sadly, Danny later lost the spark and gave up music to become a millionaire developer.

Together, Danny and Sonny decide to open a club. Unfortunately, the partners vision of their establishment should be like are, um, poles apart. See, Danny envisions at '40's night club, while Sonny imagines as '80's Viper Room rock vibe. To dramatize this "discrepancy", viewers are subjected to--actually, attacked by--a battle of the stage shows. One is '40's swing with jitter buggers and zoot suits, while the other features The Tubes and a cadre of "Solid Gold" dancers in leather and spandex. Cutting back and forth between the numbers, dancers and singers jump, jive, wail, writhe, moan, scream, twist and shout with increasing frenzy. In what is meant to be the "climax" of the scene, the sets merge, the performers mingle and the whole shootin' match melds into one, ill-fitting musical mash-up.

Or, to put it another way, picture the Hindenburg crashing into the Titanic--in stereo--and you have a pretty good idea of what a disaster this "show stopper" truly is.

Alas, the above mentioned sequence IS NOT the only "Xanadu" production number that goes off the rails and out of its mind. There is the roller skating love scene--I kid you not--conducted, oh, I don't know, in some vacant studio somewhere, where Sonny and Kira roller skate in, out and around shifting sets and special effects. The song warbled in the background is "Suddenly" by Cliff Richard and ON-J. This number is meant to be as dreamy and lyrical as the previous number was loud and obnoxious. However, the sight of Sonny and Kira endlessly skating, skating and skating eventually makes even the most patient viewer WANT TO SCREAM.

Anything else? Oh, yes. There is "All Over the World" where Kelly, ON-J and Beck dance and shop "all over the world" in preparation for Xanadu's grand opening. There is an animated sequence where Sonny and Kira frolic as cartoon characters. Later, ON-J sings "Suspended in Time", outlined in bright neon, where she laments about being an immortal muse in love with a mortal jerk. Last but not least, is the grand opening of Xanadu, where Gene Kelly leads hordes of skating extras who yell "Ho!" over and over again for no good reason.

The cast of "Xanadu" were as shocked as anyone else that their movie turned out to be so awful.

I could also mention the final numbers where Kira and her muse sisters sing and dance in a variety of styles and costumes--but I wont. I've suffered enough.

Lots of coin was dropped on "Xanadu"--$20 million, to be exact--and as the saying goes, it's all up on screen...and flushed down the (Olivia Newton) John. Of course, the asinine script, headache producing soundtrack and endless roller skating sequences helped doom "Xanadu" to bad movie back wash--although one cannot leave out the contributions of the cast, either. Sweet as she may be, ON-J just doesn't have the strength of personality (or the dancing skills) to carry a feature film. Co-star Michael Beck (last seen in "The Warriors"), meanwhile, is too glum and snarly to be a romantic lead. And Gene Kelly? A national treasure, to be sure. But why,oh, why would HE of all people come out of retirement for THIS? Is it any wonder that after "Xanadu"s failure Kelly hurried BACK INTO RETIREMENT and happily STAYED THERE?

My favorite review of this musical mishap was provided by a contributor to IMDb who summed up our feature presentation thus: "Yes, it's a stupid movie."

'Nuff said.

Consequently, the only good to come out of "Xanadu" was the founding of the Golden Raspberry Awards by John Wilson. "Xanadu" grabbed nominations for Worst Picture (it lost to "Can't Stop the Music"), Worst Actor (Beck losing out to Neil Diamond in the remake of "The Jazz Singer"), Worst Actress (Brooke Shields bested ON-J), Worst Screenplay (another win for "Can't Stop the Music") and Worst Original Song ("The Man With Bogart's Face" won). Thank God, director Robert Greenwald was recognized as Worst Director, although, frankly, I can't believe he was the only one so honored by the Razzies. If ever a movie deserved to sweep the (berry) boards, it was "Xanadu".

In an interesting side note, the roller disco craze of the late '70's-early 1980's spawned several more, equally awful films. There was "Roller Boogie", where Linda Blair finds love on four wheels. Also not to be forgotten was "Skate Town USA", which was the feature film debut of Patrick Swayze. His most memorable scene was a roller disco solo (performed bare chested) where Patrick cracked his belt like a whip. And then there was the notorious "CHiPS" episode where Ponch and Jon organize a celebrity studded roller disco fund raiser for the LAPD.

Until next time, keep your white disco suite in storage and SAVE THE MOVIES!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

If You Think Your Life Sucks, Please Watch...

Robin Stone IS "The Love Machine"...according to Jacqueline Susann, anyway.

Ah, greetings to you and yours, movie lovers.

How are things going? Not good? Has your career hit a dead end? Is your spouse/partner/main squeeze/ old-ball-and-chain becoming a pain? Has your get up and go gone up and went?

Take heart, movie lovers. Even if things seem bad now, please try to remember this: someone, somewhere, has it much, much worse.

Don't believe me? Well, then, settle in for another heapin' helpin' of our semi-regular feature "If You Think Your Life Sucks, Please Watch..." where I, the Movie Maven,  rummage through the Junk (Cinema) Drawer to unearth a flick gar-un-teed to lift you out of your deepest, darkest doldrums.

So, "If You Think Your Life Sucks, Please Watch..."

...The Love Machine (1971)."

This is the second (of three) big screen shlockbusters based on a tripe'n trashy Jacqueline Susann novel.

"Note to self: My face hurts." John Philip IS Robin Stone.

Susann, whose prose caused Truman Capote to snap, "That's not writing, that's typing", introduces us to Robin Stone, "a lock without a key", a man "pursuing freedom, but never free". It's his meteoric rise from local anchor to the head of "IBC News" that "The Love Machine" chronicles. Just like in "Valley of the Dolls" and "Once is Not Enough", Robin's roller coaster ride among the "media elite" includes plenty of cheap, sleazy behavior, ugly clothes and big hair--all set to a '70's Muzack sound track that will relentlessly worm its way into your brain, pushing out vital information you need and replacing it with such pearls as "That's Robin Stone/he walks alone..."

John Phillip Law--a blank eyed chump who bears an uncomfortable resemblance to "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" hanger-on Scott Disick--IS Robin Stone. When we first catch sight of him, he's filing a report on "the new fall fashions", which include ultra wide legged pants, stack heels, go-go boots topped with fur, checkered capes and a get-up that can only be described as a Holly Hobby gingham print evening gown with the middle cut out.

Here is Robin interviewing a super model:

HE: "And you are?"

SHE: "Amanda. Just Amanda. That's all there is."

HE: "That's all you need."

Mike Wallace, your days are numbered.

Big Bird takes an emergency phone call? No, it's super model Amanda (Jodie Wexler) in one of her fab outfits.

Seconds later, Robin and Amanda (Jodie Wexler) are back at his swanky pad, making whoopski. When Robin awakens from a sound sleep, he catches Amanda quietly dressing and has a fit. The model explains that she has an early call, but Robin is furious. "Nobody leaves me! Nobody!" he thunders--and then busts Amanda in the chops for good measure.

So there is poor Amanda, dressed in a head to toe red get-up, attempting to be photographed by the "world famous" shutter bug Jerry Nelson (David Hemmings, in a role so over-the-top camp that he makes Rip Taylor seem like Chuck Norris), waxing lyrical about her mysterious, difficult new beau.

"I can handle men so beautifully when I'm not involved," Amanda sighs. "It's different when you care." (Pause.) I'm in love with him, Jerry."

She's not the only one. Watching Robin on TV and ogling him like the juicy piece of butt-steak he is is Judith Austin (Dyan Cannon), the rapacious wife of IBC head Robert Ryan. It's at her direction that Robin is promoted to his executive position--not because he's a programming whiz, mind you, but because she's anxious to sleep with him.

Judith Austin (Dyan Cannon) models the latest turtleneck-corset-checked pants look.

Also panting after Robin is the bassy Edith Evans (Maureen Aurthur). She works in the network's publicity department and enjoys a reputation as "The Celebrity Banger." One day she corners Robin and tells him he needs new publicity photos. Robin explains her that Jerry Nelson will take care of that, except "he only wants to shoot me in the nude."

"Maybe I can hold the flash bulb," Edith offers.

When Robin suggests Edith dampen her ardour, she mutters under her breath, "You don't know what you're missin', buster!"

Meanwhile, back at Robin's pad, the besotted Amanda snuggles up to Robin and breathily asks, "Am I your girl? To have and to hold forever?" Then she presents Robin with an ankh pinkie ring, explaining that the ankh is "the Egyptian symbol of life and love everlasting."

How does Stone react to such a trinket?

"What's next?" he barks. "A little golden leash?"

Amanda's face crumbles as she pitifully wails, "Oh, Robin, I thought it was pretty..."

"Note to self: Get a real beard." David Hemmings as mod photographer Jerry Nelson.

See, Robin calls ALL the shots in his relationships. It's HIS world and YOU'RE just living in it. So when Amanda becomes too clingy and starts throwing around words like "love" and "forever", well, Robin's got NO time for THAT. And he proves it by cold shouldering Amanda and slipping between the sheets with every giggling bimbo who comes his way.

While Amanda simpers and stews over this state of affairs, Judith takes a more direct approach. Because she's the one responsible for Robin amassing such power at IBC, she demands the hunky executive begin servicing her exclusively. She also insists on having a key to his always busy pad. However, when Judith must accompany her hubby to Europe so he can recover from a heart attack, Stone sees no reason why he must halt the traffic in his bedroom. This especially cheeses off the returning Judith, who registers her displeasure in a unique way: after catching Robin in the shower with TWO bimbos, Judith sets his bed on fire.

Hell hath no fury like a trophy wife scorned!

Believe it or not, a torched mattress soon becomes the least of Robin's worries. Amanda, deeply hurt by Robin's repeated rejections, commits suicide. In his grief, Robin hires a king-sized hooker billed as "The Amazon Woman" in the film's credits (honest). The duo are just about to get down to business when the hooker (Eve Bruce) pulls off her curly black wig to reveal Amanda-like blonde tresses. Unnerved by the resemblance to his lost love, Robin decides to leave. The furious hooker then begins taunting her client about being a "closet queen" who (gasp!) "probably still lives with his mother!"

"Can't start a fire without a spark..." A furious Judith decides to take revenge on philandering sweetie Robin Stone.

The unhinged Robin proceeds to beat the stuffing out of the lippy lady of the evening. Then he scampers over to fey photog Jerry's place. Cleaning up his pal's blood and bruises, Jerry tisk-tisks Robin's recent behavior as if it were the height of bad taste: "Why did you have to go out and beat up a hooker?" he sighs. In return for giving Stone an alibi, Jerry insists Robin buy him " a gold slave bracelet"--and engrave it, too. Robin agrees.

"The Love Machine" then shifts its locale from NYC to sunny LA. That's where Robin catches up with Judith and tries to smooth things over. He even escorts her to a swingin' party Jerry is hosting with his actor boyfriend. Unfortunately, Robin chooses to ignore Judith in favor of other guests, which makes her very, very mad. Then she stumbles upon the gold slave bracelet Robin purchased for Jerry.

What follows next is an eye-popping, show-stopping free-for-all that puts the Patty Duke/Susan Hayward cat fight in "Valley of the Dolls"--which ended with Duke flushing Hayward's wig down the john--to shame.

Once Judith has the incriminating slave bracelet in her grasp, she gleefully informs Robin, Jerry and his actor beau. Her plan is to brief the tabloids that Robin and Jerry are a couple and use the bauble "as proof." Judith brags that Robin's career will be finished--and promptly drops the bracelet down her bra for safe keeping.

"Can I freshen your drink?" Gracious host Jerry mingles with his guests while Judith simmers in the background.

Incensed, Robin, Jerry and his boyfriend converge on Judith to retrieve the item. Judith taunts Jerry's beau. He slaps her face. She then kicks him in the nuts. All three men chase Judith around a buffet table, where she throws food, drinks, plates, glasses and silverware at them. Jerry grabs a fistful of Judith's hair; she conks him on the head with an Oscar(!). The threesome continue to hit, kick, slap and bite each other until the police arrive to arrest everybody for A) disturbing the peace and B) performing a Three Stooges routine without a license.

When we next see Robin, he's exciting the police station. Then he's magically transported back to NYC, where he wanders around frozen-faced until his theme music ("He's All Alone" by Dionne Warwick) cues up. Then the credits roll and "The Love Machine" ends.

Kind of abrupt, don't you think? I mean, what happened? Was Robin fired? Did he quit? Perhaps he's "on assignment"? Are Judith and her husband through? Hey, movie makers, want to clue us in here?

"Shall we dance?" Robin and Judith struggle over an incriminating "slave bracelet." Jerry's boyfriend is collapsed in the corner.

Of course, for connoisseurs of cheese/sleaze "The Love Machine" is a cinematic document of sheer, unadulterated nuttiness.

First and foremost, one must applaud the near catatonic performance of John Philip Law in the title role.

With his hair plastered to his skull and never in the same turtleneck twice, Law is about as charismatic as a corpse in the advance stages of ririgormortis. Indeed, his unblinking state and monotone delivery recall Law's earlier performance in 1968's "Barbarella", where he played the angel Pygor to Jane Fonda's notorious space cadet. The big difference was in that movie was his character was suppose to have an unblinking stare because he was blind.(He was also down in the dumps because he'd lost the will to fly--until he has sex with Barbarella. Then he's soaring in the wild blue yonder like a pro.) However, Law's Robin Stone is so lifeless, you just don't buy that women are so crazy about him--unless they have a thing for necrophilia, which is kinda of icky.

Also stumbling around here is Jodie Wexler as the doomed, dim Amanda. Perhaps the highlight of her performance is the TV commercial she stars in to promote "Xanadu', the fragrance of Amanda." Wearing a bunch of hippy/dippy outfits and frolicking like a hose monkey among cardboard sets and psychedelic lighting, poor Wexler does her best to appear as the height of counter-culture chic. Unfortunately, the whole thing resembles a cross between an AV geek's wet dream and a cheap-o version of an OMNI-MAX Laser Floyd show. No wonder the poor dear disappeared from the screen after this--and who could blame her?

So now you may be wondering how watching "The Love Machine" will make you feel better. Admittedly, this is a toughie. Hmmm. Let me think. OK. Here goes. Watching "The Love Machine" will make you feel better because the flick is so awful and the clothes are so ugly and dialogue is so insipid that you can take heart that neither you nor your loved ones are responsible for one bit of it. After all, you didn't write this witty exchange between Robin and some nameless bimbo after Amanda catches them in the hay:

SHE: "You're not a very nice man."

ROBIN: "No, I'm not. (Pause) Let's take a shower."

Until next time movie lovers, be grateful that your fashion fails have remained private, and SAVE THE MOVIES!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Bloody Awful Mess Or Why "The Hunger" Never Satisfies

Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie are too sexy for "The Hunger"s VERY 1980's movie poster.

Hi ho, movie lovers.

Say, have you ever met John and Miriam Blaylock? They are rich, handsome, chic and so very European. They reside in a fancy pants mansion in New York, play classical music duets, have perfect hair and never appear in the same outfit twice.

When "The Hunger" (1983) begins, Miriam (French movie legend and Chanel No.5 spokesmodel Catherine Deneuve) and John (Ziggy Stardust himself, David Bowie) are visiting one of those very '80's dance clubs. The place is crowded with people sporting leather mini-skirts, finger less gloves and hair adorned with porcupine quills. The posh couple make contact with a pair of swingers and bring them back to their elegantly appointed home. The swingers, naturally, believe they are in for an evening of sex and shenanigans. So imagine their surprise when Miriam and John slit their respective throats, slurp their blood and then casually toss their bodies into an incinerator when they are through.

Oh, did I forget to mention that John and Miriam are vampires?

John and Miriam are vampires.

Very rich, very chic vampires, mind you, but vampires none the less.

"Was it good for you, too?" John (David Bowie) and Miriam (Catherine Deneuve) wash up after draining the blood of their latest victims.

Although John and Miriam appear to be a happy couple, John hasn't been Miriam's only honey bunch over the years. See, Miriam is actually a 2,000 year old Egyptian vampire and her cuddlemates (who come in both genders) are humans she has turned into vampires. She does this because A) there are apparently few of her own kind available for dating and B) you don't really expect an immortal being who looks like Catherine Deneuve to sleep alone, do you?

The only problem is that while Miriam is guaranteed eternal youth and beauty, her snuggle bunnies are not. Somehow, Miriam always seems to forget this detail when she puts the bite on her latest spouse. At most, her lovers get between 200 and 400 years of gorgeousness and then, bang, they start aging rapidly. Very rapidly. In fact, within 4 or 5 days Miriam's cuddlemates start to resembled wither up, dessicated prunes. Then, with a heavy sigh, Miriam carries their decaying bodies up to her private mausoleum, where she places them in coffins. It's there her spouses continue to rot and rot and rot--although Miriam swears she still loves them all, even if they now resemble those apple core dolls you can purchase at county fairs.

Of course, Miriam's cuddlemates are mighty upset about this turn of events. She. on the other hand, merely sighs over the inconvenience of it all and begins searching for a new partner.

Poor John has just begun this uncomfortable transformation and he's not taking it well. "What is to become of me?!" Bowie shrieks, while the world weary Miriam sips her cocktail with appropriate ennui.

Not prepared to give up the ghost just yet, Ziggy Stardust catches Dr. Sarah Roberts (Susan Sarandon) on TV. She's a blood researcher and may offer him some hope. Unfortunately, Sarah thinks John is a nut when he turns up at her clinic. Only after he ages from 40 to 90 while cooling his heels in her waiting room does the doctor think he might be, you know, not a nut.

  Ziggy Stardust's grandpa? No, it's vampire spouse David Bowie showing his (true) age.

However, when Sarah finally tracks down the Blaylock's address and shows up at their door, John is already wilting away in his coffin. Deneuve, meanwhile, has short circuited her mourning period and chooses Sarah as her new spouse (Miriam may have been grooming the tween Alice, a music student, for this spot, but after a desperate John slits Alice's throat and sucks up her blood, Miriam is forced to look elsewhere. Not only is Miriam immortal, she's also practical).

Thus we come to "The Hunger's" most celebrated sequence, where Deneuve puts the moves on Sarandon. This is handled with great subtlety, with Miriam playing the piano, Sarandon yanking off her blouse and the two gals gently hitting the sheets. In the course of making whoopee, Miriam bites herself, bites Sarah and then mingles their blood.

Suddenly, Sarandon is hungry, but has no appetite for food. She becomes restless and feverish. Her colleagues at the clinic take a sample and discover that "an alien strain of blood" is fighting "for dominance" inside her. Incensed, Sarah staggers over to Miriam's place and gasps, "What have you done to me!?!" That's when Miriam coolly announces that's she's becoming a vampire and that the two of them will live happily ever after. Unlike Bowie and the other spouses, Sarandon is not pleased about this, but she's too sick and sweaty to do anything about it.

"I Will Always Love You...Not" Miriam boxes up aged cuddlemate John.

It's at this juncture that the already preposterous "Hunger" blows a gasket. While Sarah is upstairs seating bullets and wasting away because she refuses "to feed" (Deneuve even thoughtfully picked up a self-satisfied gigolo for them to snack on, but Sarandon refused to participate) her boyfriend Tom (Cliff de Young) conveniently shows up. At first, it looks as if Sarah has made a meal out of her fellow human. After all, she waltzes up to Miriam covered in blood and agrees that blood sucking does a body good.

However, as the two women start to lock lips, Sarah grabs Miriam's ankh necklace, which conceals a nasty knife. The good doctor then proceeds to slit her own throat, much to Deneuve's horror. Believing Sarah is toast, Miriam carries her up to the private mausoleum she maintains. In the midst of her grief, the 2,000 vampyre is suddenly accosted by her past loves, who are VERY ticked about their endless state of deterioration. Even though Miriam insists that she "loved them all", the rotting corpses converge en masse and do something unspeakable: they smear Miriam's lipstick AND muss up her hair. Even worse, they cause Denevue to tumble over a railing. As she falls v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y, the youthful bloodsucker ages herself, becoming a hideously wrinkled monster. When Miriam finally hits the ground floor with a thud, her long suffering cuddlemates are finally released from their torment. One by one, they crumble and snap into dust, like long forgotten bread sticks. Yes, they are dead, but their souls are free at last.

Dr. Sarah Roberts (Susan Sarandon) enjoys a new found taste for human blood.

Unfortunately, "The Hunger" isn't over yet--so while Miriam's victims might have stopped suffering, the audience hasn't. See, when we next see Sarandon, she's alive and well, living in Rome in a spacious apartment. Boyfriend Tom is with her, as is a young gal who maybe the couple's daughter/niece/room mate/live-in nanny, take your pick. Is Sarah a vampire? Did she turn Tom, too? Or did she remain human after all? The movie never tells us. Miriam, meanwhile, has been boxed up in a coffin and locked away in a basement...somewhere. Plaintively, she calls out Sarah's name, but in a basement, no one can hear you scream.

OK, you are now probably wondering, "Hey, Auntie Beth, this movie doesn't seem so bad. In fact, it seems kinda interesting. Are you sure it's worthy of such scorn?"


Here's the thing. "The Hunger" might seem like a good idea for a movie, but in the hands of director Tony Scott, the flick is an irritating exercise in '80's MTV excess, wasted talent and plot holes so big you could drive a Mack truck through them.

First things first. Director Scott is so interested in his soft focused lighting, billowing curtains, polished floors and tasteful display of antiques that "The Hunger" often resembles a porno version of Architectural Digest. He's so fascinated with his sets, in fact, that he fails to flesh out his characters, which gives the actors nothing to do but pose like department store dummies at Bloomingdale's home furnishings department.

Second, the pace of this flick is like that of a drugged ox. Everything...moves...very...slowly and what is suppose to be "languid" or "sexy" is merely nails-on-the-chalkboard annoying. Many is the time during "The Hunger" when you want to scream, "Will you please get a move on?! You may be immortal, but I'm not! Move it!"

"This won't hurt a bit." Two thousand year old Miriam in the early days of vampire career

Third, the script for "The Hunger" has more holes in it than a piece of Swiss cheese. Who is Miriam? How did she become a vampire? Was she born to it or was she turned into one? Where did she met John? Did he willingly become a vampire? Why does Miriam lie to her spouses? Is she afraid that if she told them immortality was impossible, nobody would hook up with her? And what about Sarah? She looked pretty dead at one point of the film; was she just faking it? Did she become a vampire in the end, even if she didn't want to? By failing to tie up these loose ends, "The Hunger" just becomes even more annoying, if that's possible.

Personally, that's why I prefer the vampire movies of the '30's, '40's and '50's. Yes, they didn't have the budget "The Hunger" had, but at least those flicks had a beginning, middle and end that were plausible in their own blinkered way. Also, the directors didn't make a cult out of style and focused on the characters, not the curtains. Finally, pretty as they are, I will take Bela Lugosi over Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie any day.

So, until next time, keep some garlic handy and Save The Movies!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Is That A Giant Gila Monster Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?

Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's "The Giant Gila Monster"!

Teenage love birds Pat and Liz are parked at a secluded siding on the edge of town, hoping to snatch a little "alone time." Then Liz looks up and screams bloody murder. No, her shot-gun totin' pa hasn't found their secret hide away. Instead, a gigantic paw/claw from out of nowhere stomps on the couple with an enormous "thud!", leaving them deader than door nails and flatter than pancakes.

Later, Sheriff Jeff (Fred Graham) is investigating the disappearance of the young duo. He checks in with Chase Winstead (Don Sullivan), the world's most responsible teenager and the go-to guy in this neck of the woods for absolutely everything. Sheriff Jeff (who is rather dim and forever complaining about how under-paid and under-staffed he is), asks Chase if his pals Pat and Liz were "in trouble" and ran off to get hitched.

No, Pat and Liz weren't "in trouble"; they were just the first victims of "The Giant Gila Monster", a B and W, ultra-cheapie, creature feature from 1959 about, well, a giant Gila Monster.

Actually, scratch that: the giant Gila Monster depicted in this flick is really a Beaded Mexican Lizard. Why the producers didn't engage a real Gila Monster is not known. My guess is the Gila Monster wanted more money and too many of those lavish "movie star perks" you're always hearing about. The Mexican Beaded Lizard, on the other hand, was probably willing to work for scale and had no problem sharing a dressing room. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, the star of our show: The Giant Gila Monster...who is actually a Beaded Mexican Lizard.

This, by the way, is a real Gila Monster (check out that tongue: Gene Simmons would be so jealous).

However, I digress...

As mentioned earlier, it's only natural that Sheriff Jeff would come to Chase in his hour of need. Simply put, Chase is indispensable to his fellow citizens. How so? His ma is a widow, so Chase works part time at a garage and towing company to help support the family. His kid sister Missy needs leg braces, so Chase saves up the money to buy them. The local boys enjoy drag racing around town, so Chase forms a car club to keep 'em in line and teach them safety. When Chase's French girlfriend Lisa (Lisa Simone, a Miss Universe 1957 contestant) worries that her student visa will be unfairly revoked, Chase promises to iron out the bureaucratic tangles. And when DJ Horatio Alger "Steam Roller" Smith (Ken Knox) wrecks his car while driving drunk, Chase not only gives him a tow, but fixes his fender AND finds a place for the drunk DJ to sleep it off.

Did I also mention that Chase sings? Chase sings. In the course of our feature presentation, Chase warbles "I Sing Whenever I Sing Whenever I Sing" and "Laugh, Children, Laugh".

 He also strums a ukulele or a miniature banjo, I can't tell which.

Teen hero Chase (Don Sullivan) takes a break from all the horror and mayhem to create more horror and mayhem by singing.

OK, you are now probably wondering, "Auntie Beth, what about the giant Gila Monster? Isn't that what this movie's about?! I could care less about this widow supporting/leg brace buying/car club starting/visa saving/singing auto mechanic/high school student Chase!"

Hey, I hear 'ya, movie lovers. Unfortunately, "The Giant Gila Monster" does spend A LOT of precious screen time detailing the fruitless search for Pat and Liz, the antics of local drunk Harris (Shug Fisher) and the multi-tasking Chase. Meanwhile, the giant Gila Monster--actually a Mexican Beaded Lizard, remember--appears in random shots, waddling around the underbrush, looking for a clean place to pee. Of course, he's not really a giant: the critter is a regular sized fellow shot close up sauntering around, occasionally smashing into toy train sets and Match Box cars. He has NOTHING to do with the plot and NEVER interacts with fellow cast members.

Why is that?

Well, with an estimated budget of $175,000, the producers had to watch their bottom line very care-
fully. There just wasn't a lot of coin to toss around on fancy Gila Monster effects. In fact, "The Giant Gila Monster" was shot back to back with that other spine tingling classic, "The Killer Shrews", where dogs were draped with moldy afghans to resemble... killer Shrews (you'll be happy to know the cast in that movie escapes the Shrews by sneaking away in upside down rain barrels.). Also, director Ray Kellogg clearly intended to ratchet up the suspense in his flick by giving the audience just enough tiny glimpses of the giant Gila Monster so that when the critter was displayed in all his glory at the local teen barn dance, it would be REALLY scary, kinda like that scene in "Aliens" when the acid-for-blood beasties rampage around.

Drink 'Em If You Got 'Em: Lovable town drunk Harris (Shug Fisher) downs a cold one.

Actually, the scene with the Gila Monster crashing the barn dance is only terrifying because Chase is singing "Laugh, Children, Laugh" again.

As he has through out the movie, it's up to Chase to save the day. With the giant Gila Monster about to make a snack out of his sister Missy, Chase loads his precious jalopy up with nitro and sends it careening into the scaly critter. The monster catches on fire, blows up and Sheriff Jeff plugs a few rounds of lead into it for good measure. Everybody on screen is thrilled and relieved, mostly because Chase has no plans to sing.

It will probably come as no surprise to dedicated bad movie fans that "The Giant Gila Monster" was the brain child of one Gordon McLondon, a Texas gent who owned a chain of drive-in movie theaters. He decided to try his hand at producing films NOT because he had an artistic interest in the medium of motion pictures, but because he wanted all the flicks screened at his establishment to be double features. So why not cut out the middle man and produce his own stuff? Ray Kellogg, who was responsible for the film's "special effects", was given the opportunity to direct. Ken Curtis, AKA "Festus" on "Gunsmoke", was the producer of record.

Over the years, "The Giant Gila Monster" became a cult hit and a bad movie favorite, so I guess it worked out well for everybody--except the Mexican Beaded Lizard in the starring role. His star turn in "The Giant Gila Monster" didn't lead to better parts and he presumably quit Hollywood for good. Also hampering the critter's career prospects are some nasty myths about it, such as that its venom is more lethal than a rattlesnake's (untrue), that it can cause lightening by wagging its tail (not so) and that a pregnant woman will miscarry if they look at a Beaded Lizard (false).  Because of these tall tales, the Beaded Lizard was hunted into near extinction by the locals of Mexico and southern Guatemala. Today, it's a protected species, so it's getting a little over-due respect after all.

Until next time, save the movies!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

"Manos: The Hands Of Fate" Is An American Horror Story Freak Show (And A Bad Movie, Too) THE FINISHED POST

You Have Been Warned: The title card for our feature presentation.

Greetings to you and yours, movie lovers.

It's October, which means only one thing: Halloween! All Hallows Eve! All Saints Eve! All Souls Day! Hallowtide!

You know, the day people trick or treat and stuff.

So to celebrate the season of spooks, why don't we pry open the Junk Cinema celluloid crypt and unearth a little movie mayhem?

Nineteen-sixty-six was the year our feature presentation "Manos: The Hands of Fate" was released. One of the dumbest. daffiest and most deranged flicks EVER committed to film stock, "Manos" is so laughably awful that it rivals "Plan 9 from Outer Space" as one of THE WORST movies ever ALL the world...AND parts of Canada.

The fun begins by introducing us to hubby Mike (Hal P. Warren, more about him later), wife Margaret (Diane Mahree), daughter Debbie (Jackey Neyman) and pet pooch Pepe the poodle. They are on vacation and driving to their motel. Unfortunately, they miss the turn-off and Mike, being an idiot, refuses his wife's pleas that they stop at a gas station and ask for directions. That's how they wind up at "The Valley Lodge", a rancid, run-down establishment where a scruffy, twitchy fellow sporting knee caps the size of snow tires greets them.

"Are you the concierge?" Mike (Hal P. Warren) meets Torgo (John Reynolds) for the first time.

"My name is Torgo (John Reynolds)", he sputters. "I watch the place while The Master is away."

Now, any sane person with an IQ above room temperature would take one look at Torgo and his creepy motel, jump back into their car and gun it. Not these people, who decide they have no choice but to spend the night there. (Actually, Mike decides they must spend the night there and that is just the first of many, many stupid decisions that doom these people--and the movie. And the audience.)

Once inside Motel Hell, hubby and wife spy a huge oil painting of The Master, who resembles a demonic Frank Zapa with Groucho Marx's bushy eyebrows and 'stache. According to Torgo, The Master is "always with us" and he "likes beautiful women." That last bit of info is directed at Breck Girl Margaret, who is not in the least bit flattered.

Then things start to get weird.

First, strange, howling noises are heard outside and pooch Pepe dashes out into the dusk. Husband Mike later finds his body and makes an I'm-going-to-throw-up-face, while Margaret wonders what kind of a beast would turn sweet Pepe into poodle puree'.

Next, daughter Debbie toddles away to go exploring. She returns later with a new friend: a menacing, red-eyed Doberman she found "at the big place." What is "the big place", you ask? Well, that is where The Master (Tom Neyman, little Jackey's real life pa) resides with his multitude of bouffanted, sheet-draped "wives". These folks spend a large chunk of their day in some sort of hyper-sleep, although the wives snap-to when The Master orders them awake.

"Haven't we told you a hundred times not to play with dangerous hell beasts, young lady?" Little Debbie returns from "the big place."

Now we come to the part of the flick I like to call "We Married Manos", after a pithy saying attributed to "MST3K"s Tom Servo. The Master must have about 6 or 7 "sister wives" and ALL OF THEM have an opinion on what to do with the hapless family in their midst. The gals agree Mike is toast, but what to do about Margaret and Debbie? Kill them both? Make Margaret The Master's new wife? Let Debbie go free? Perhaps make Debbie a wife-in-waiting?

This spirited discussion suddenly turns nasty, however, when the wives stop arguing about the family's fate and start complaining about their shared hubby's lack of attention and his roving eye.

"He has no more time for his older wives!" snips one.

Their claws now unsheathed, the wives launch into a hair-yanking, face-slapping, sand-throwing catfight that shows directer Warren knew just who is his prospective audience would be.

While The Master's wives duke it out, Mike finally decides they better leave. Unfortunately, their car won't start. While hubby Mike tinkers with the transmission, Torgo sneaks up from behind and conks him on the noggin. Out cold, Torgo ties Mike up to a poll and leaves him there to rot--then promptly scampers over to spy on Margaret, who has stripped down to her skivvies.

Eventually, Mike snaps back to life, unties himself, and rejoins his hysterical family. With The Master and his wives in hot pursuit, Mike, Margaret and Debbie run off for help. Then Margaret sprains her ankle and tearfully pleads for hubby to leave her behind in order to save Debbie. Does he follow her advice? Of course not. Instead, Mike convinces his wife to return to Motel Hell because that is the last place The Master and the Mrs' will look for them(?). Also Mike announces, "I have my gun!"

Put (both) your hands together for "The Master"! 

So back they go and, sure as shootin', The Master IS waiting for them. D'oh! Mike fires off round after round into The Evil One, but they have no effect on him. D'oh! Then the screen goes ominously black...

Suddenly we are introduced to two college co-eds with gigantic bouffants. They are planning to meet up with their gang "and have a blast." Unfortunately, they miss a crucial turn-off and wind up at...The Valley Lodge. There they are greeted by a zombified fellow who haltingly states, "I am Michel. I take care of the place while The Master is away."

And where is The Master? Back at "the big place", sound asleep, with his bevy of wives surrounding him...which now includes Margaret...and little Debbie. As "The Love Theme from Manos: The Hands of Fate" cues up, we are shown that creepy painting of The Master once again as the words "The End?" flash on screen.

It's all over now, except for the credits...and the blame.

After experiencing a film as nutsy as "Manos: The Hands of Fate", one begins to suspect that the "back story" of how this hilariously dreadful dog made it to the silver screen must be a real corker.

And it is.

"We Married Manos": The "wives" of The Master settle down for some girl talk.

Hal P. Warren was a fertilizer salesman from El Passo, Texas, who was also active in community theater. One day, he ran into the Oscar-winning screenwriter of "The Heat of the Night", Stirling Silliphant, who was in town scouting locations for a future project. Warren became convinced after talking to Stirling that film making must be a snap and decided to write, produce, direct AND star in his own flick.

Recruiting his cast and crew from a local theater group and modeling school, Hal purchased a camera that didn't record sound and went to work. Warren's inexperience in front of AND behind the camera is painfully apparent from the start; sharp-eyed viewers will notice the chalk marks on the floor indicating where the actors were to stand, as well as several appearances by the boom mike. Continuity jumps are common. Because no sound was recorded during filming, Hal and two other people dubbed in all the voices themselves. Meanwhile, the actors look stiff and uncomfortable--although The Master's "wives" throw themselves into their cat fight with relish.

Warren, however, was totally convinced that he had a hit on his hands. Unlike other bargain basement film productions, "Manos" was not shot over, say, a three-day weekend, but filmed over the course of two months. Director/writer/producer/star Warren became such a diva during this period that his cast and crew took to calling his masterwork "Mangoes: The Cans of Fruit" behind his back.

Nobody was paid. Jackey Heyman, who played little Debbie, was given a bike for her troubles. The dogs in the movie were each given a bag of kibble. The rest of the participants were given "shares" of the expected profits, which, of course, never materialized.

"Heeereees Torgo!" John Reynolds in one of his more lucid moments in "Manos: The Hands of Fate".

The twitching, jerking, halting performance of John Reynolds as the charming Torgo, meanwhile, was NOT based on Reynold's talent as an actor or Warren's direction. Instead, they were a by-product of the acid he frequently dropped during production.

Never the less, when "Manos" had its gala premiere director/producer/actor/writer Hal P. Warren expected a big hit. He even came to the event in a limo. But when the audience began laughing and heckling his masterpiece, Hal slipped out to avoid embarrassment. Other cast members followed suit. However, a woman recognized Warren and, offended that little Debbie was made one of The Master's Mrs., walloped him across the face with her pocket book! (You go, girl!) In fact, "Manos" was such a resounding dud that Warren was unable to interest anybody in his next project, "The Wild Desert Bikers."

"Manos The Hands of Fate" would have continued to gather dust on some obscure shelf if the geniuses at "MST3K" hadn't gotten a hold of it. Broadcast on January 30, 1992, "Manos" was considered so wretched by the writing staff, that they struggled to come up with the requisite quips, cracks and jokes that the show was famous for. In their Amazing Colossal Episode Guide, the "MST3K" staff considered "Manos" the worst movie they ever featured. However challenging "Manos" was to write for, the "MST3K" crew did a bang-up job and the "Manos" episode became one of their best and a fan favorite, too.

Which just goes to prove you can't keep a good "Manos" down.

Until next time, save the movies!

The author wishes to acknowledge Wikipedia and IMDb for research support. The author owns a copy of  Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Amazing Colossal Episode Guide and has read it so much its held together by rubber bands.