Monthly Archives: December 2011

Have a Martian Xmas!

The 1964 kiddie-matinee feature Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is on every “Worst Films of All Time” list imaginable.

There is a reason for that – it deserves it!

It has been riffed by MST3K, Cinematic Titanic and Elvira.

Kids on Mars (the little girl martian is played by Pia Zadora) are depressed as they watch Santa programs coming in from Earth TV. The leaders of Mars decide the kids need a Santa so they come to Earth and kidnap ours.

Now you’d think connecting Mars with Christmas would be a rare occurrence. Well, no.

Meet The Christmas Martian.

This low-budget atrocity from Quebec (French-Canada) features an alien visitor to a small town during the yuletide season. It makes Santa Claus conquers the Martians look like a freaking epic by comparison. The fishnet stockinged mime that plays the titular creature is just too damn creepy for my taste.

Here it is, dubbed in English.

And while we’re on the topic of martians and Santa, we might as well throw in this little stocking stuffer: The Single Santa and the Satellite – if only to alleviate the pain.

Happy Holidays!

Extra bonus: (most likely for a limited time)

The MST3K riffed version!

Advertisements

RIP Kim Jong-Il, Film Producer.

Over the weekend, Cinéma has lost one of its most oddball figures.

North Korean producer Kim Jong-Il is better known for his latter-day political career, which he inherited from his dad, Kim Il-Sung.

As Dear Leader, he walked the line between genius and madness – and in his case, it was heavily mined and subject to international observation.

But it’s really Kim’s career as a movie producer which interests us.

In the 70s, the then-son of North Korea’s dictator wrote a book about the art of filmmaking before embarking upon his own career as filmmaker.

As producers go, Kim truly distinguished himself from his peers-Most notably in his method of recruiting talent: In 1978, actress Choi Eun-Hee was kidnapped in Honk-Kong and brought to North Korea. Her ex-husband Shin Sang-Ok went to North-Korea to investigate only to find himself abducted as well. In 1983, he was made to remarry his wife and produce a film which would serve as a metaphor for Kim’s brand of communism.

Pulgasari, is a Period/Monster film which necessitated a whole bunch of extras (which could be easily obtained by asking dad to volunteer his army) and a special effects team -which turned out to be the same guys making the Godzilla reboot in Japan at the time.  The suitmation actor was none other than Kenpachiro Satsuma- the actor who was to portray Godzilla from 1984 to 1995. Satsuma would later write a japanese bestseller about his experiences over there.

The film is set sometime during the Koryo Dynasty (918-1392 AD). Evil rulers are raiding villages for all manner of iron to make weapons. They confiscate plows and pots depriving their citizens of means to farm and cook for themselves. The oppressed villagers then see their most vocal elder arrested and imprisoned for his views.

His children throw some rice at him through his windows. Instead of eating the mud-stained rice, the dying old man musters the last of his strength to mold and sculpt it into an amulet which becomes imbued with his spirit. The daughter inherits the crap and rice amulet which she keeps it in her sewing basket.

One night, she pricks her finger and a drop of her blood falls on the little Pulgasari- bringing it to life. The little monster starts snacking on her sewing needles, getting bigger and stronger until it starts defending the village by devouring the swords of their oppressors.

The monster grows bigger and bigger eventually leading the peasants revolt.  Their progress, however, is momentarily thwarted as the evil overlord captures the old coot’s daughter.  Pulgasari is then forced to step into a massive cage which is set on fire.

Big mistake! The now glowing RED (wink-wink nudge-nudge political metaphor) monster breaks loose and pursues the tyrant’s army to the river where it dives- boiling all the bad guys alive.

But this victory is not the end. Pulgasari’s appetite for iron keeps growing making him as much of a menace as the tyrants he was opposing. His deed done, Pulgasari must now be disposed of. (This is all in keeping with Communist doctrine which maintains oppression is just a temporary phase until everyone agrees it’s a good system).

Pulgasari is massive in scale and clearly whacked in both intent and execution.

We can all be thankful this is the biggest bomb Kim Jong-Il dropped on the rest of us.

Oddly enough, the film was part of a touring program put together by the North Korean Tourism Board a couple of years back. One has to wonder what kind of promotion one can derive from showing a film made under threat and coercion. “Come and be our guest. You won’t be able to leave!”

And now, prepare yourself for the aberration that is Pulgasari :

Pain Level: 9/10

Quality of Pain: Like a knock-off of Japanese pain

Painjoyment™ Index: Way up there!


Santa vs Satan!

For years, on Christmas day, a local station would air a most bizarre holiday offering.

The film, simply entitled Santa Claus, was obviously from Mexico – which is odd when you take in accout that Santa Claus wasn’t really a big part of the Mexican Christmas Mythos where The Three Wise Men traditionally brought the toys to all the happy bambinos on January 6.  As a result, this litte bit of “exportable” pop culture by Cuban born director René Cardona Jr. presented a slightly warped interpretation of the Santa Claus mythos: for one thing, he wasn’t at the North Pole per se but in a castle, high above it – in space.

From there, the God of Christmas would practice electronic surveillance of children using a variety of instruments which were Cronenbergian crosses between technology and bodily organs: a giant dish antenna with an ear on it (the “earoscope”)  relayed what it heard through a speaker that looked like a giant pair of lips.

He supervised the making of his toys which was done, not by elves, but by children of the world gathered to help Santa. Yup, it seems Jolly Old St-Nick operates a child-labor ring.

Then on Christmas Eve, Santa winds up is mechanical reindeer and comes down to Earth to go about is rounds.

Now you’d think this should make for a rather dull, uneventful film but wait: there is a devil afoot, his name is Pitch and he has been appointed by Satan himself to thwart the rotund lover of children on his gift-giving tour and corrupt children.

This seemingly odd inclusion of the Devil isn’t so strange when you take in account that nervous little devils are often seen peeking from the back of Mexican nativity scenes- concerned over the new messianic arrival. In fact, the devil shaped firecracker Santa is seen playing with in the film is very much part of the traditional celebration as it serves to illustrate how the devil is thrown for a loop on Christmas day.

The clownish Mephisto seems to concentrate his efforts on little Lupita, who wants a dolly so bad, she has creepy dreams about them.

As the years went by, the film crept into obscurity and eventually tumbled into the public domain. Once there, though, it began to reemerge slowly courtesy of video labels like Sinister Cinema. The print they used was a mess of scratches and it was a far cry from the annual eye candy I enjoyed as a child. But the goofyness was there- ready to inflict that jolly good combination of Painjoyment™ and nostalgia that would become an annual tradition in The Cinémasochist’s Dungeon where I’d often inflict it on unsuspecting guests.

In the 90s, the film became available packaged for bargain bins. The print used was a slight improvement  but there was a major omission:  the devil scenes had been excised.

So began my quest for a better copy. For years, I’ve searched for a better print. And with each passing Christmas, that obsession seemed to grow.

One year, a penpal down in Mexico taped it off the air and sent it to me. The film was in its original Spanish (with no subtitles) but the print was colorful and bright as well as free of scratches.

When bargain label Brentwood released and slightly faded (but “unexcorcised”) version on DVD a few years back. I figured that would be pretty much as good as it would get.I could either see the bright colorful print in Spanish with commercials or watch a reddish scratchy print in english.

Oh, but not this year!

This year, VCI has released an absolutely stunning (cropped) widescreen version of the film both on DVD and Blu-ray (!). The transfer is absolutely gorgeous. Details are sharp and colors are brighter even than the mexican broadcast or my recollection of the annual TV airing.

The Blu-Ray also allows you to view the film with the original Spanish audio and subtitles- although I must admit to being a sucker for the extra cheesiness the dubbing provides.

Look for it on amazon.com.

But here, for all of you cheap bastards out there is a free YouTube streaming of the entire flick – in Spanish:

Pain Level: 5/10

Quality of Pain: Like you’ve eaten too much candy . 

Painjoyment™ Index: Ooooh Daddy X! Let me sit on you lap!


OW!

This is what real cinematic pain – with zero Painjoyment™- is:

N.B.: This post originally had the longest word count of all my entries so far-but I had to cut out all the foul language. 

Update: Ain’t It Cool News just labelled the trailer “Genius!” which is the best confirmation this is crap yet.


Bang Bang! You’re bored!

The thing that struck me the most when I popped Cowboys and Aliens in my Blu-Ray player was the menu which had more stuff going on it than CNN’s screen during a snow storm and terrorist attack.

Scrolls pop up  actually congratulating you on picking the movie and prompt you to get online to access the zillion things you can do while the movie is playing. Personally, I got a Blu-Ray player to enjoy the films more fully (even the pain)- not because I have incurable ADD.

As I watched the film, it became clear that all the bells and whistles were meant to distract me away from the film. Cowboys and Aliens is probably the highest budgeted drive-in flick I’ve ever seen. A goofy sci-fi and western cliché sandwich served by expensive actors on a high production value background. The result is surprisingly generic.

What did I expect? Hollywood’s been cranking out Roger Corman movies for decades now- the only difference is they need $100+ million and months of location shooting to tell a movie Roger would commit to celluloid over a ten day period.

Well, I, for one expected to feel the weird sense that something is not quite right. I wanted the goofyness that a title like Cowboys and Aliens promises.  But the capable actors delivering their lines in a totally believable way couple with the “realistic” style kind of robbed me of that.

I’ll admit it. I wanted Shockorama!

Shockorama! was the final double feature by William “One Shot” Beaudine coupling Billy The Kid vs Dracula with Jesse James meets Frankenstein’s Daughter.

Beaudine was a remarkably prolific director of over 500 features. Legend has it he was instructed to “pick up the pace” in his early days during the silent era. His response was “You mean to tell me someone’s in a hurry to see this crap?” and he began to shoot without retakes until something really major jeopardized the shot. As far as “One Shot” was concerned, “If you can see it and hear it- it’s good!”

Here’s the first feature Billy the Kid vs Dracula, starring John Carradine who also acted in more films than anyone and holds the record for most appearances onscreen as Dracula.

The link is to part one but you can follow the links to the rest of the film there.

Then comes Jessie James meets Frankenstein’s Daughter, which really amps up the weird.

Aaaaaaaah. I feel better already. The itch I had when I decided to watch Cowboys and Aliens has finally been scratched.

For years, Jessie james meets Frankenstein’s Daughter has been available through various  public domain labels. But for some unfathomable reason, Billy the Kid vs Dracula was hard to find. One would expect the two films to remain paired as they were meant to be.

I’m now happy to announce the full Shockorama! is now finally available on DVD from Cheezy Flicks.

Cowboys and Aliens

Pain Level: 2/10

Quality of pain: Dull and generic

Painjoyment Index: Almost nil.

Billy the Kid vs Dracula

Pain Level: 8/10

Quality of Pain: A real pain in the neck

Painjoyment Index: Dude! I’m watching this one nekkid in mah cowboy boots. Nuff said!

Jessie James meets Frankestein’s Daughter

Pain Level: 9/10

Quality of Pain: Katie, bar the door!

Painjoyment Index: I’m workin’ them spurs. Yaahoooooo! 


Have yourself a crappy little Christmas

I was thinking of holding off until we got closer to the Holiday season. But then it struck me that some of you would like advance warning to acquire these films in time the holidays to better share the Painjoyment™. Thats right, the Holidays are meant for giving and The Cinémasochist’s Holiday picks are films you should pop in the DVD player once the whole family is assembled in Holiday cheer so you can watch as they politely endure our parade of insane Holiday offerings.

In the wheelin’ and dealin’ world of Exploitation, few can hold a candle to Barry Mahon. A former WWII pilot for the Royal Air Force, Mahon was decorated for distinguished service and even spent time in a Stalag. After the war, he wound up as the personal pilot – and eventually manager for Errol Flynn.

As producer, Mahon’ output was considerable. He produced a large number of nudie-cutie features and shorts for “main street’ cinemas and adult movie houses. Now those theatres had a definite lull in their attendance on weekend afternoons, so Mahon began to crank out a couple of kiddie matinées to fill that void.

Often shot with the same crews as his skin flicks, those kiddie movies were bottom-of-the-barrel dreadful. They were nothing more than somewhere to send the kids to while daddy tried something on mommy he learned during a long lunch at the same theatre earlier that week

In 1970, in what reeks of dealings and product placement, Mahon produced a film called Thumbelina. I say “reeks” because too much time is spent in a wraparound segment at Pirate World before we get to the meat – which consists of a hippie girl staring at a diorama telling her the story of Thumbelina which in turn is the wraparound to the actual story. Somehow, it feels like the filmmakers was more intent on pleasing his sponsor than his audience.

Then, a few years later, Thumbelina was repackaged with yet another a wraparound segment (that wraps around its opening credits and everything) and retitled Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny.

Jolly old St-Nick’s sleigh is stuck in the sand own in Florida.  Sweating like a pig, he summons the help of a bunch of kids who try to hook up various animals from Pirate’s World’s petting zoo in attempts to pull Santa’s sled out of its sandy entrapment. When animals fail, it’s up to guy in a gorilla costume to try – and fail.

That’s when Santa decides to regale his entourage of ritalin-deficient kids with the tale of Thumbelina, credits and all. So we have a wraparound around a wraparound of the story of a girl being told a story. Can someone get me the Matrix’s “Architect” on the phone so he can explain this structure to me?

Then, from Pirate’s World, comes the Ice Cream Bunny (so-called because …er, let me get back  to you on this one…)- racing to Santa’s rescue in his fire truck, at O.J. Simpson Car Chase speed,  his siren blaring in what has to be one of the most maddeningly interminable sequences in film history.

Look, even Rifftrax gave up at this point on their version of it.

Do I recommend the Rifftrax version? Hell yeah! You’re gonna need it if you want to make it through this thing. You might also consider stocking up on the really hard stuff -like Tequila or Jagermeister or Nyquil- to spike the eggnog with.

This gag alone is worth it:

In fact, this year the boys will be doing a live on-line Riff of the film, adding 13 minutes of previously unseen footage to the film. You can get your tickets here:

http://rifftrax.tv/

The video can be purchased online as well. It’s also available on amazon.com

For the rest of you cheap bastards, here’s the whole stinkin’ movie- in parts- via YouTube:

Special Holiday feature: Click on the snowflake for an extra bit of kitsch.

Pain Level: 10/10

Quality of Pain: This one makes you numb. Just plain numb all over. I suspect it’s a defense mechanism kicking in. 

Painjoyment™ Index: It’s a gift that keeps on giving!