Monday, November 25, 2013

BAD MEANING GOOD #1 - Robot Monster 3D (1953)

ROBOT MONSTER 3D    (1953)

Cosmic Ray Calcinator Beams?

Giant, stock footage dinosaurs?

Witty banter?

A diabolical Gorilla Man?

Looks like this could only be… Robot Monster!!

     This isn't an especially obscure film, and I'm not exactly breaking new ground
by pointing it out as a movie that's so bad it's good.
The reason I wanted to discuss this particular movie is the fact that it's widely known as
But does it really still deserve that title after all these years?
Has NO ONE made a film superior in its inferiority than the 1953 anti-classic, Robot Monster?

     That statement just seems a little dated in a decade that brought us American Pie 
number whatever-they're-on-by-now or those teenage dance battle movies.
Back then you had to film a guy in a gorilla suit with a fishbowl on his head to make a bad movie.
It took some effort.
You had to kidnap Santa Clause or splice in scenes of a deceased actor, giving him top billing…
you had to be creative to be bad.
Nowadays, the bigger your budget, the more likely your Battleship's gonna sink.
  (get it? like that movie…? Battleship…? Yeah, I never saw it either.)

     That's got a lot to do with my interest in "bad" movies and why I can watch them over and over,
while your average "good" movie (let's say, Dances With Wolves, for example) I can barely finish once…
if I ever muster up the patience to get to them at all (Yes, my respectable film-watching friends,
I promise to sit through The King's Speech some day. I just gotta finish my never-ending
Italian Mad Max rip-off marathon first, ok?).

  There's a reason why Zombie 3 is funny and re-watchable,
while World War Z can tell a mostly similar story,
only to have it come out bland and uninteresting.

There's a reason why this:

will always trump this:

                                             What exactly is that, anyway?

     So, without any further unnecessary explanation,
indulge me, if you will, while I… explinate (?)… 
why Robot Monster 3D is NOT one of the worst movies of all time,
and is, in fact, the BEST movie ever made… 
ok, that might be a bit much…

It's a beautiful morning in Bronson Canyon:

home to such classic film and t.v. sets as 
Gunsmoke, Star Trek, Batman, Rawhide and… Star Trek
just to name a few,

and after a short dirt-nap in the comfy rock pile,
young Johnny goes peaking around in a nearby cave,
only to discover RO-MAN and his fiendish bubble machine,

who uses his cosmic ray calcinator beam to unleash unstoppable stock footage
from One Million B.C. and The Lost Continent
to wipe out all but 8 humans in a matter of seconds.

We only see some of this happen,
when RO-MAN shows the 6 survivors an instant replay on their magic projector screen
(that somehow works, even though they have chosen to seek safety
in a roofless pile of rubble right around the corner from RO-MAN'S cave).

It's ok, cause he can't detect them on account of the electric fence
they've installed around the perimeter.

RO-MAN is a one man pre-emptive strike against the HU-MANS,
who have grown too intelligent and must be wiped out.
Seeing how the entire eradication of the human race
is carried out in a matter of seconds, one might wonder if that assessment was based more on paranoia 
than scientific research, or how this everyday family survived the attack… outside!

The short answer is:
The professor has injected them all with a serum that makes them immune to death rays… 
I'm guessing he threw this miracle vaccine together in the seconds it took to kill EVERYTHING
or he would have injected more people with it. That, or he just didn't really care for anybody else anyway.

     Where were we?
     So, RO-MAN is trying to convince the survivors to give up
and accept a "peaceful surrender death" as opposed to a "painful resistance death".
He's a pretty reasonable guy.
Especially, given that he's under the constant scrutiny of The Great Guidance
who has given him "till the Planet Earth revolves once more"
to take out these pesky HU-MANS.

    The humans, because they need things to do, have a communicator that broke during the attacks
and now can only be repaired by Alice if they want to talk to the guys in the Space Platform… 
and she gives it her best, in true A-Team montage style,
but even after two days of randomly turning screws and fighting off despair and weariness,

     It doesn't matter anyway cause RO-MAN destroys the Space Platform in the very next scene.
The space "Platform" is actually more of a rocket flying around in circles, carried by a giant, human hand.

Or maybe we're not supposed to see the hand. I'm not sure.
     He then reports that HU-MAN 7 and 8 are gone,
which leads to a powerful brooding sequence by the professor,
who decides to contact RO-MAN and introduce the family to him 
(to put a HU-MAN face on the carnage) while they all taunt him for some reason.

     Then, in a twist worthy of Shamalan, RO-MAN sees Alice and falls instantly in love with her
making him question his RO-SENSIBILITIES.
He decides that if there's to be any sort of truce, the negotiation will be with
"The One Called Alice", basically asking her on a date.
     To the entire family's astonishment, Alice agrees to this.

     Upset about her decision, Roy pressures her into marriage. 
(Hey, I wouldn't let the very last kinda hot, dumb chick on Earth 
slip right through my fingers at the charms of 
a guy in a gorilla suit who's "boyfriend resume" includes
"resurrected dinosaurs and crushed all humanity, at the same time.")
They immediately throw an impromptu wedding and everyone is joyous,
forgetting the dire circumstances that brought this occasion up, much less
the absurdity of the whole idea in the first place.

     RO-MAN goes for a long walk in all directions

(bad editing or an example of his omnipotent power? You decide), 
when he runs into little Johnny.
He attempts to Death Ray ole Johnny
who tells him all about the vaccine he and the family have taken and
all but draws him a map to their camp… 
if you wanna call the rubble pile they're hanging out in a "camp".

     Next, RO-MAN runs up on little Carla and, after a clumsy struggle,
strangles her.

     Her last words are: "My daddy won't let you hurt me!"
  Your daddy seemed ok with letting you wander around the post-apocalyptic wasteland, I wouldn't put all my beans in Daddy's basket just yet.

     Ro-Man is quick to report his victory over little girls to the Great Guidance.
He also adds that perhaps it would be best to keep one HU-MAN specimen alive.
I wonder which one he's got in mind?

     Meanwhile, on a romantic honeymoon, only a couple yards away from RO-MAN HQ…
Alice and Roy are obliviously making out in the bushes when their nemesis happens upon them
and instigates yet another clumsy struggle. 

It's the epic, 
Don't Tear-The-Gorilla-Suit-It's-The-Only-One-We've-Got
confrontation we've all been waiting for and it does not disappoint (or impress)!

     They both were asking for it in their own way.
She knows The Big Guy's got the hots for her.
Roy knows he's no match for a Gorilla man from space.
Both know they're goofing around right outside his cave.

     Maw and Professor find Little Carla's lifeless body and emote accordingly.
     At the funeral, the Professor offers these haunting words of wisdom to the grieving Johnny…

"No regrets, Johnny, we enjoyed her as long as she was with us, and now, somehow, we have to find a way to live without her."

     They immediately get over the deaths of Carla and Roy and get straight to their Independence Day-like Plan,
with Johnny being the jet flown by Randy Quaid, while Maw and The Professor get to be Will Smith and BrundleFly.

     After some "Me-Time", RO-MAN is tying up his blushing bride so she won't run off 
while he negotiates with the remaining HU-MANS.

Then he cops a feel and gives her a good conking on the head just to shut her nagging pie-hole.

     They agree to meet in "The Ravine" when "The Sun Passes Over The Mountains",
then, just as he gets rid of one nuisance and gets back to his prize,
The Great Guidance calls up to remind him that he's a failure.

[Responses like this do very little to support his case…]
("Yes…to be like the HU-MAN. To laugh, feel, want… why are these things not in the plan?")

Double G ain't trying to hear all this trifling and lays down the brass tax…
forcing Ro-Man to ponder over the concepts of "MUST" and "CAN NOT".

"I cannot, and yet I must. How do you calculate that?
 At what point on the graph do 'must' and 'cannot' meet?
 Yet I must. But I cannot"

There's an absurd theme of existentialism at work in our suddenly sympathetic antagonist,
and it's part of what makes Robot Monster not just another bad Guy-In-A-Gorilla-Suit movie.

In a somber scene, the HU-MANS wish Little Johnny well, hand him a Star Trek phaser
and leave him alone in "The Ravine" while they make their way to RO-Man's layer.

Great Guidance keeps badgering RO-RO  to get it over with and snuff the chick,
but this just throws the Big Guy into the eternal conundrum of "Must" and "Can Not".

"I must, but I cannot. Great Guidance, I cannot kill the girl… but I will kill the boy. Al-ice, do not hate me - I must!"

     When it comes to killing Johnny, it's not as difficult an idea.
He lumbers off menacingly after the boy, while Mom and Professor rush in to untie Alice.
It's the ole' "Statue Of Liberty" Play!
The Malachi Crunch!
The Velociraptor Fake-Out!
("Clever girl...")

     The climactic uh… "battle" between Johnny and Ro-Man is a breathless roller-coaster
of unbearable white-knuckle tension as…


     Ro-Man… "kills" Johnny to death but Great Guidance is all out of patience
and sends out the lightning and the dinosaurs and the "CYCLOTRONIC VIBRATIONS" 
                                                  Even RO gotta go.

     And, just when you're starting to get overwhelmed by the sheer doom and apocalyptic terror,
we see Roy, very much alive and carrying Johnny who, we now learn, fell down and bumped his head
and dreamed the whole thing.

     Johnny looks mostly disappointed that Carla's not dead, but he finally agrees to "PLAY HOUSE" 
with her when they get home.
     The ladies, who didn't already know the professor and Roy in this reality,
invite the handsome strangers to join them in living happily ever after.

     The End  

          OK, so upon further analysis,  maybe Robot Monster actually ISN'T the "best movie ever made" 
and maybe I'm just that guy who always says that about whatever he happens to be watching at the time, 
but the point is: 
It's just so much more interesting to watch this train-wreck of a film unfold, zits and all, 
and be able to SEE that real people attempted to make a REAL movie (albeit, a ridiculous one)
as opposed to sitting through some generic Hollywood "blockbuster", starring models pretending to be actors,
that looks suspiciously like it was just randomly created by some automated Action-Movie Program
based on pre-determined calculations of things that are instantly pleasing to the lowest common denominator.

     Sounds like snobbery just for the sake of disagreeing with the mass movie going public at large?
     It FEELS like it, a little bit. 
     Believe me, I wish I could look past the annoying crash-boom-bang of the average Michael Bay film,

[Seems wrong referring to Transformers 2 as a "film" ]

bypass my bullshit filter and just let a popcorn movie be a popcorn movie,
but there's always a pop-song or a product placement or an annoying, soap opera-grade actor-person
or disingenuous, button-pushing sentiment for characters who were never successfully introduced,
much less worthy of the sympathy of the intended audience.
     There's ALWAYS  a love interest and there's ALWAYS an idiotic, wise-cracking comic relief guy.
If he's white, he's a stoner/surfer "dude" and if he's black, he's one of the Wayans brothers.

     There's an infamous rumor about Phil Tucker, the director of Robot Monster, 
attempting suicide in the aftermath of the film's universally poor reception.
This may or may not be an exaggeration. He DID try to off himself, but there were other factors involved
that may have had a much heavier impact than his movie having bombed.
That's not what's important here.

     The important thing is that history remembers Robot Monster.
The image of RO-MAN carrying Alice off to his Bronson Canyon lair
has become iconic in representing 50's sci/fi monster movies.
It has developed a strong cult following over the years, both in its original form
and the now-classic episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

     58 years ago, Phil Tucker set out to make a sci/fi thriller that tapped into its audiences fear
of nuclear holocaust, invaders from outer space and… dinosaurs (?).
4 Days and $16,000 later, he unwittingly made a fondly remembered, absurd comedy.

     The several-hundred-million dollar, disposable, interchangeable, cash-in epics of the last 10 years are already forgotten and out-dated by the time their inferior sequels are even in the can,
yet they are viewed by modern audiences as the pentacle of filmmaking,
the top rung in the evolutionary ladder of visual storytelling.

     I guess we'll have to wait until 58 years from now to see if that really is the case
or if we're actually living in the cinematic dark ages.

A time when more movies were being produced than ever before,
but only a handful worth remembering.

Peace… Or the extreme lack there-of,


Monday, May 13, 2013

Lyrics to "2004:OdysseyZero" by DoomsDayDevice

*I cheated and changed the "2004" in line 3, to "2013" to bring it up to date a little. Sue me. The whole point of blogging this 9 years later is the fact that it still means alot to me and I like reading, writing and saying it.*

Control keeps the mind locked away from the user.
Your reality is based on information being fed to you by a person you will never meet.
It's The Sims 2013, with all the subtlety of watching The Matrix in fast-forward,
skipping all the dialogue.

It's a bible bog, 
where the words of the wise, over time, have been turned into a subconscious off-switch for the mind,
and I didn't wanna use the word "BLIND".

Blind to the fact that this is only the second fucking act,
Evolution's off track,
You can still knock down what you have stacked.

Lust in the dust of the In God We Trust,
and it's a must,
'cause you're bragging about the overseer's chains when you bust,
about the upper-crust, the stuff small minded dreams were made of,
The barren waste of:
 the Saints 
 the sinners
 the wheelers
 the dealers
 the patriots
 whose patriarchs promise an eternity in Valhalla,

for every single American with a yellow ribbon on the back of their car,
whose only sense of faith and hope lies in the fact that
someone, is killing
somebody, in the name of The American Way Of Life,

a life who's expectancy grows shorter with every generation
and each poisons the next,
it's like a hex,
the life and death of the microscopical specks,
that already shows a stunt in the tide,
it's almost the end of the ride,
for those dinosaurs that failed to grow wings and fly,
above the tar rising from outside,
and just abide.

The epitaph of the world is gonna say 
that The Human Race existed just to be its own slave.
Arthur Clarke and Stanley Kubrik said we'd be on our way,
but now we're in the future while we live in yesterday.

The final pages of the book are gonna say
that The Word Of God was written in the planet's DNA.
And God came for his people in a hell of a way,
fell asleep among the bones, and he died where he lay.

                       DUE TO THE FACT THAT THE ANOMALY
                       HAS EVOLVED 
                       BEYOND THE FASHION SHOW,
                       BEYOND THE MONEY CIRCLE,
                       LARGER THAN LIFE AND TWICE AS UGLY,
                       AT THE TREE-DWELLERS, LIVING IN FEAR
                       A SPECIES SCARED TO GROW.

Peace... or the extreme lack there-of,

Monday, April 8, 2013

Everything You Never Needed To Know About Evil Dead



     It's hard to review the remake of The Evil Dead without comparing and contrasting with the original. If you want my thoughts on the original, they're all over everything I write. If you want my explanation for that, go to my November '05 entry, titled: "Wait… Are There Zombies In It?" Go ahead… I'll wait.
     Back? Good. 
     Shall we then?
     If you should ever find yourself in an isolated cabin in the middle of the woods and come across a book made from human flesh and bound shut by barbed wire, never, fucking ever, cut that barbed wire so that you can get a better look. And if you do give in to curiosity and cut it open and notice that it's full of pentagrams and scribbled depictions of demons devouring human souls and the only words printed in English are "DO NOT READ THIS" and other such foreboding phrases, then DON'T READ IT! And especially NOT ALOUD! Even if you're the most cynical person on the planet, it's not worth it. You don't know what it means anyway, except that it's obviously supposed to be some sort of incantation, so, just for shits and giggles, give the violently scrawled warnings the benefit of the doubt and fuck off. The very best case scenario is that you're gonna give somebody the creeps and they're gonna bum everybody else out for the remainder of the trip, hearing noises that aren't there and seeing things move in the trees and what have you.
     This is not a fault in the new film that didn't sort-of already exist in the original. It's just an observation that I have to get out the way before we go any further. 

     Evil Dead is the story of 5 hapless souls who could've benefitted greatly from that little piece of wisdom, but then we wouldn't have much of a movie now, would we?
     In Sam Raimi's original film, the knuckleheads are there to party. The guys play the spooky tape with the words from the book even though it really freaks out the girls. Much evil goes down.
     In Fede Alvarez's new version, One of the knuckleheads is kicking heroin cold-turkey and the rest of them are there for support, which is about as opposite to "partying" as a group of 5 can get while still being alive. The one obviously smart guy sneaks off and cuts the barb wire holding the book closed and all but deciphers it, reading aloud as he goes. He's a professor. His intellect demands it of him. Much other evil goes down.

    I'm trying to avoid letting this become a review because I've always sucked at those. I enjoyed it for what it was, despite itself. If that's all you were reading this for, then: YES. GO SEE IT IF YOU LIKE THAT KINDS OF MOVIES. THUMBS UP AND ALL THAT. ONE MORE PERSON ON THE INTERNET DEEMS IT:  "NOT THE SUX"…

     But, it's not even arguably superior to Sam Raimi's film. It's got more expensive looking special effects. They look more realistic. The acting is more realistic, but not nearly as interesting. The plot shadows the original, but makes minor changes that, for the most part, stay loyal to the source without mimicking it entirely. The score is big and scary, not a real stand-out, but not offensive in any way. There's no misplaced pop songs or those fake-metal "duh-dup duh-dup" parts that cut into the orchestra when somebody's being a badass or some shitty rapper, rapping about everything that just happened, over the closing credits. There's nothing wrong with the movie. Nothing damning anyway. I bet it had less things wrong with it than the old one, even. Still… I never once watched The Evil Dead and thought, "As much as I love this movie, it could sure be a lot more realistic and less over the top."

It's not you, it's me…

     I've been pretty open with my feelings on remakes over the years. 
"There's good ones and there's bad ones."
 Same thing any self-respecting racist will tell you about the ethnicity of their disapproval.
 I could never be one of those, "FUCK ALL REMAKES!" kinda fanboys, cause there have been too many that I've liked. Anybody paying attention can spot the difference between David Cronenberg's The Fly and, say, Friday The 13th.

     You know. The new one.
     Yeah, They made a new one.
     No, I have no idea who directed it.

When Peter Jackson remade King Kong, it felt like a tribute to the original King Kong. He went to great pains to translate the images that the original film had seeded in his imagination throughout the majority of his life. Love it or hate it, that's Peter Jackson's movie you're seeing when you watch it.
All I know about the When A Stranger Calls remake is that it's from The Producers Who Brung You The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and A Nightmare On Elm Street.

     Oh shit!
     Tobe Hooper and Wes Craven?
     No… They were the directors…

Not that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and A Nightmare On Elm Street, silly.
The 2003 and 2010 versions. The new ones, with all new graphics and actors with fashions that aren't out of style.

    Oh… Yeah…
     Well, that's kinda misleading. What if I didn't already know that those were both just new versions of older movies you hadn't told me about yet?

 We're making money here, Kid. You got 8 bucks to see When A Stranger Calls or what?

     …And I'm back.
     So, maybe I'm a little bit schizophrenic when it comes to the endless hail of remakes we will likely spend the rest of our movie-viewing lives sifting through, but the best way to solve that would be to STOP MAKING UNNECESSARY REMAKES NOBODY EVER ASKED FOR.
     What I'm pretending is my "point" here, is that Evil Dead - The New One is a fine little movie by a director who didn't do a bad job. It's self conscious enough NOT to try to outdo the original and… succeeds? Yes, succeeds at never one-upping the 1981 film of the same name.
     Bravo. Mediocrity achieved.

     I know it's a very petty thing to get so uptight about (especially when there's SPORTS I'm supposed to be excited about) but, in my unsolicited opinion, poor ole Fede Alvarez should have been given just as much money and resources to make a movie with only a couple more changes, that could muscle out from under the weight of the name, "Evil Dead" and be remembered for being a fun (if somewhat derivative of Sam Raimi's first film) little splatter movie that showed the promise of an inventive and fresh new director.
    You know, kinda like Cabin Fever, but much closer, narrative-wise.
     It wouldn't take that many tweaks to totally overhaul it into its own idea, just obviously, you know… derivative. So what. Some of our favorite genre films would never have existed if their creators had been worried about snobs thumbing their noses at them in the name of originality. 
     Where would any zombie film since 1968 be if their directors had been scared of treading on George A. Romero's turf?
     Would it even be possible to make a space opera epic without copying Star Wars or Star Trek just a little bit?
     What if Don Coscarelli had decided that The Beastmaster was too close to Conan The Barbarian?
     Were you one of the bazillion people, me included, who thought Children Of Men was a brilliant depiction of a dystopian future and a fantastic idea? What if I told you that it lifted it's premise, with very little deviation, from 2019: After The Fall Of New York, a kickass Italian ripoff of The Road Warrior and Escape From New York? Would you appreciate it less?

     It was hard to watch Evil Dead- The New One without carrying on this inner dialogue with myself, which is very distracting when I'm just trying to enjoy a movie I haven't already seen. If it had been called Dead Muhfuckas In The Middle Of The Woods or ANYthing more clever than that, I might not have seen it the Monday after it opened. It may have been a week or two later, when word of mouth got around and one night I'm hanging out with some like-minded friends and somebody goes, 
     "Hey, did ya'll see Dead Muhfuckas In The Middle Of The Woods yet?"
and everybody's like,
     "Fuck no. That shit looks like the Evil Dead episode of Dawson's Creek, but without Bruce Campbell."
and that one brave soul who probably sees all the cool shit before the rest of us says,
     "Nah, it's kinda badass. I mean, yeah, it's totally ripping off Evil Dead, but at least it's not ripping off Dances With Wolves or FernGully. It's got some cool ideas, though, and it's way brutal. I'm telling you, that Alvarez dude… No… Al-Va-Rez. Yeah. Next movie or two, that dude's gonna make a name for himself. I betcha."
     I'd want to check it out first chance I got. I might actually be excited. That's how cult classics are born.

     Instead, all I'm gonna hear is, "We went see Evil Dead - The New One today… It was pretty good. Not as good as the old one."
     Nobody asks who made the movie with that description.

     In my '05 blog, I mentioned that The Evil Dead was the first time I had considered the concept of "random" evil. Evil without a face. It was as if the movie itself was out to get the characters inhabiting it. At any moment, anything could happen. The only guarantee you had was that it would be something absurdly horrific.
     The New One inexplicably stuffs that random evil into a dark witch-like doppelganger of the protagonist who is spotted right behind the tree line sporadically throughout the movie, needlessly personifying the evil presence and making it less omniscient, therefore less effective. She only comes into clear view twice. The first time, it's so that we can see the vines protruding from her mouth. YOU know what vines I'm talking about. YOU know where those vines are going. Well, now you also know that there was a scary witch lady animating them instead of your previous notion that the forest itself was part of the evil and capable of doing terrible things all by itself.
The second time she steps out from the shadows is for the inevitable final showdown that reduces everything that has come so far into a one-on-one rock-em-sock-em brawl with our hero's soul as the prize. It's never explained why that's suddenly all it takes or how our heroine has somehow found salvation after having spent all that time possessed and being raped by a length of tree branch long enough to make a kebob of her insides. I wouldn't care about any of this if the movie hadn't spent so much of its time over-explaining itself, but now, since it did, I want the rest of those answers.