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Pop in a Movie; You’ll Feel Better

The movie is not nearly as lurid as the poster.

Yes, it is another Cheesy Movie Sunday.  I guess I never declared that as a category, but I do often watch movies on Sunday and my favorites are the cheesy ones, so…  My only regret is the lack of alliteration, but I can’t worry about that now.  My husband, Steven, and I began our day with a couple of Mohawk Valley adventures, which may form the subject of articles for Mohawk Valley Living magazine or future blog posts. Now we are comfortably home, in sweats, and watching movies.  We began with The Screaming Skull (1958), which I believe I wrote a blog post about at some point.

The movie is on our DVD collection of 50 Horror Classics.  Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959) was on the same disc, so we continued with that.

They don’t even show the Victor Buono-looking guy.

I thought one character in the movie looked like Victor Buono, who played Bette Davis’ father in Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964).  I might have liked to go on to that one, but I was more into shorter movies today.  That is one virtue of your really cheesy features: they are in general short.  We did want something that moved a little faster, and Steven suggested Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959).  Say what you will about this movie, it is NOT the worst ever made. It holds your interest and moves right along.  I say, go, Ed Wood Jr.!

What’s not to like?

As you may have guessed, I am into Halloween movies.  Well, the Halloween season does begin after Labor Day, does it not?  It does in my house.

What’s a big ugly ape gotta do to get a date in this town?

We are continuing our viewing adventures with King Kong (1933).  What will come next?  Who cares!  Tomorrow’s Monday; I’m having fun today!

Full disclosure: I do not feel THIS bad about it.


Rest Your Brain with Brain Eaters

My favorite part about Brain Eaters (1958) was that the characters spend a lot of time driving places.  I like to see the old cars.

Spoiler Alert!  I’m going to just tell most of the plot of this movie, at least, as much as I can remember (regular readers know how little attention I pay to these things).

The movie was one of the VHS tapes I purchased recently at a rummage sale (perhaps you read my blog post about it), so its cheesy bonafides are impeccable. Steven and I selected it of the several I had bought because it had the shortest running time, just over an hour.  We wanted to watch several movies that day.

After viewing the movie, I made a note in the TV Journal that no brains were actually eaten or in fact used in the making of Brain Eaters.  I’m not sure what I expected.  Maybe a few munching sounds at least.  Nobody gets to die in agony, which I’m sure was a great disappointment to the actors involved.  It can be a great deal of fun to die in agony, I would imagine even more so on screen than on stage.  On stage you have to either get carried off or lie there and try not to let anyone see you breathe.

Be that as it may, Brain Eaters opens with a scary sort of prologue in which one guy attacks another and something gets spilled. A voice-over says something about a nightmare.  I dislike voice-over narration, although I have always narrated in my head about my own life. When I was younger, my voice was a good deal more euphonious than it really was and had that slight echo like in the movies, and I narrated in the third person. Now I use first-person and have the eventual intent of writing it down in this blog.  But enough about me.  Getting back to the movie, this scene is never explained that I could tell.  Of course there is that not paying attention thing.  Perhaps subsequent events made all clear to the more discerning viewer.  If you are one of those and you watch this movie, please clue me in.

The movie proper begins with a a classic car driving along a road surrounded by a wooded area. The guy in the car is the narrator.  He and his fiance are returning from a visit to her parents, where they set the wedding date.  They are about to let his father know.  This bit of backstory never recurs, but I mention it because it is the only real backstory any of the characters get.  Perhaps I should not have a beef with that.  After all, we tuned in to see brains get eaten, not believable characters play out human stories.  Only your really classy horror/scifi movies give you both. It’s not really fair to ding the cheesy ones for not.

I was making a note in the TV Journal, so I missed why they stopped, but when I looked up the Narrator and his Fiance were looking at some dead animals in the woods. Come on, Hollywood!  Be kind to animals! (I wrote a blog post with that title.)

Next, they find a cone-shaped space ship and the plot thickens. At least, it gets so dense I didn’t quite know what was going on (Hey! Do you suppose some of my brains got eaten somewhere along the way?  Oh, you’ve probably been supposing that for years).

A government guy is sent to check things out.  All kinds of cops are hanging around the cone, which is now surrounded by scaffolding.  A dashing scientist type is there along with his beautiful assistant.  They don’t know what’s in the cone, but they can’t damage it in any way.  Typical!  They don’t know what it is, but the first thing they try to do is break it!  Dashing Scientist even fires a gun into the opening, so they can hear it ricocheting off the sides as it apparently travels all around inside the thing.

It gets pretty dull and boring for a while when Dashing Scientist crawls into the hole and starts wriggling along an endless tunnel while everybody waits outside for him.  Things get a little more lively when they go to talk to the mayor, who just happens to be Narrator’s father.

The group converging on the Mayor includes cops, Government Guy, a few scientists (including Dashing and Beautiful Assistant), Narrator and Fiance.  Before they enter, Mayor is struggling against himself with a gun.  He picks up the gun, aims it at his head, pulls it away from his head, puts it in a drawer. It seems he is struggling with some unseen force for control of his arm.

“Is he trying to kill himself or to not kill himself?” I asked.  It was the most interesting bit of acting in the movie.

You’ve probably guessed that Mayor is having his brain eaten. These creepy bugs attach themselves to the backs of people’s necks and feed on the brain.  While making a hearty meal, the bugs can also control the person’s actions, some with greater success than others, apparently.  Really, the movie is not consistent on this point at all.

They figure out the brain-sucking thing pretty easily with a lightning fast autopsy on Mayor (oh yeah, he gets shot in a dramatic scene I didn’t tell you about) (this write-up is getting pretty long after all).  Seriously, one minute the guy’s is getting shot, two minutes later, the doctor is telling us all about it.  That is some damn good forensic science!

Of course, just because they know the problem doesn’t mean they can deal with it right away, especially since it is more widespread than they realize.  They sensibly call for help first thing (they don’t always do that in these pictures), but it does them no good when the brain eatee in the telegraph office assures them the message will be sent then sends an entirely different one.  The phone is no better when the bug-laden operator keeps telling them, “I’m sorry, that line is busy.”

And then a bunch of other stuff happens.  I know I said I was going to tell you the whole plot, but this post is over 1,000 words already.  Is anybody even still reading?  I kept watching till the end, paying my usual sporadic attention.  It isn’t a bad way to spend an hour on a lazy Sunday, if you like cheesy old sci fi flicks.  Which I do.


Post-Pain Post

Somebody at work today said it was Tuesday. In a sense it is, because we have Friday off. A four day week. I am quite delighted. For me it is like a Tuesday for a different reason: I am tired! All I want to make is a Tired Tuesday post!

I had thought I could do a Middle-aged Musings Monday. But I could not think of anything to muse about. I’m not so nuts about Middle-aged Musings Monday anyways. I mean, nobody uses the term “muse” in that sense any more. Once in a while somebody talks about having a muse, or being someone’s muse. Like in the TV show Castle, where Becket is Castle’s muse (I love that show).

So I tried to think of a different Monday thing. The Monday Malaise? I believe I used that as a title once. I wonder if the post was any good. Perhaps I’ll look it up and see…

Read it. I liked it, but I have an unfortunate tendency to like almost everything I write. That being the case, one might think I would have more self-confidence as a writer and not spend so much time listening to and arguing with my inner critics. Then again, I have enough self-confidence to hit Publish when I have typed in a bunch of foolishness like this.

I think this is after headache syndrome. I recall last week after having a bad headache one day, I did not have one the next yet wrote a ridiculous post. Yesterday I had a headache. Today I did not. Oh well, I’m going to slap a headline on this, hit Publish and hope for the best. I only wish I could think of a title with a little alliteration. Oh, wait, I think I’ve got one.

Cheesy TV

Here is a new feature I recently came up with: Cheesy TV. Regular readers know how I love to write about cheesy movies. Well, they are not always easy to come by. However, I am discovering a whole world of cheese on cable television.

I have a long-standing addiction to true crime shows. I prefer a real documentary where they cover the facts of the case. I despise re-enactments. I find they are always cheesy and usually unnecessary. However, as re-enactment fests take over my true crime channels, I occasionally tune in to one. And I find they sometimes have a charm all their own. The dialogue in the re-enactments, which is often supposed to play like they’re being overheard, is laughable. The acting is of the scenery chewing variety. And when they show a photo of the actual people, you see the casting director had a very flattering idea of their attractiveness.

I almost feel I should include a spoiler alert, because this episode did not turn out as I expected. However, I also feel I can treat a true crime show, however cheesy, differently from now I treat a cheesy movie. I will also point out that I was paying my usual desultory attention to this one. They may actually have said who was going to end up dead and I missed it.

I will preface this essay by saying: Nobody deserves to be murdered. I suppose there are those who will dispute that statement, but I am not going there today. I would like to talk about a murder victim who, I feel, could have avoided the situation in which the murder took place. I intend to comment on this, and on the cheesy nature of the program which presented the case. I fear sounding insensitive, since an actual person did, in fact, die. Sorry about that.

OK, on with the write-up. Steven and I watched one of the cheesier crime shows on Investigation Discovery: Deadly Affairs. This one is narrated by the divine Susan Lucci, which I feel make it a cut above the rest.

Lucci presents to us a guy who has a girlfriend who is really a guy. They are off again/on again, because the guy is a serial cheater. Then they go on again and move to this cowboy town where the guy insists his lover live as a man and they keep their love affair a secret.

Soon the Guy is having an affair with a hot single mother. At first she doesn’t mind that he has a boyfriend, then she does, so he sends the boyfriend packing.

As soon as the Girl moves in, she discovers the Guy is a control freak. After many public screaming matches (all we see is a fairly hilarious fight about him telling her what order to hang her clothes in), they break up. The Guy can’t stand being alone, so he gets the Boyfriend back by telling him he can live as a woman and they can get married.

However, the Girl did not think they were permanently broken up, and she is not happy with this development. She follows them around, announcing in a loud voice that the fiance is really a man. She even has the nerve to crash their wedding. Naturally the Guy starts having sex with her again. Any slimy hound dog serial cheater would. But he makes no move to get rid of his new wife. Tensions escalate.

Of course I’ve been thinking all this time that Boyfriend/Wife is going to get it, probably from the Girl, because the narration keeps talking about jealousy. Imagine my surprise.

The Girl is out drinking one night and gets all maudlin talking about how she wants to “make amends.” Those are the exact words, used several times. If only she can see the Guy without his Boyfriend/Wife, she can “make amends.” So she goes over to their house at two in the morning.

Hello! Who goes over to somebody’s house at two in the morning and expects the wife NOT to be there? And if you really want to “make amends,” it is a better plan to wait till a decent hour of broad daylight and, for example, SEND FLOWERS! Maybe write a nice note. A conciliatory phone call.

The story is that the Boyfriend/Wife beats the poor Girl to death while the husband is sound asleep upstairs. Did you buy that? I didn’t. I don’t know what went down, and I don’t think the producers of this show did, either. I think they picked the version they liked best, and I’m kind of glad they did, because it certainly gave me something to write about.

I can believe the Girl SAID she wanted to make amends, but I don’t believe that is really what she had in mind. And I sure as hell don’t believe that the horn dog that started it all slept through a beat-down of that magnitude.

Really, when I think about it, it is a very sad story. That Girl did not deserve to be murdered and buried in the desert (oh yeah, I left that part out) (the post is getting a little long). I think what she needed to do to begin with was to find a classier guy to set her sights on. Same goes for the Boyfriend/Wife, although I lost a whole lot of sympathy for him when I found out he was a murderer.

But it is a fun show to watch. Susan Lucci pops up a couple of times looking delicious in an evening gown, about to go out on the town with a hottie who, presumably, does not plan to murder her. Lacking cheesy movies and sometimes time to watch a whole movie, I will continue to embrace cheesy television.

“Marvelously Theatrical” Cheese

It was a sad day for me when I realized I had seen all 50 of the Horror Classics on the DVD set I gave Steven some birthdays ago. Now where will I find cheesy movies to write about, I lamented. Then I remembered that I had also gotten him 50 Mystery Classics. I don’t know if I can expect mysteries to be as cheesy as horror movies. Still, murder and mayhem, what’s not to like? I would give it a try.

I selected Fog Island (1945), starring George Zucco. Zucco, I remembered, was described as “marvelously theatrical” in a horror classic I had seen. That boded well. I eschewed the description on this one, because I know from experience they often give too much away.

Speaking of which, SPOILER ALERT!!! A big one this time, because I am going to tell you EVERYTHING, including the climax and the end. So you’ve been warned.

I’m actually not too worried about giving away the plot, because I didn’t properly understand it. I think Zucco just got out of prison where he had been sent on trumped up charges of cheating some people who think there is still some money to be had somewhere. While Zucco was in prison, somebody came to Fog Island and murdered Zucco’s wife in hopes of gaining said money.

Zucco and his beautiful stepdaughter (the obligatory beautiful young girl) are on Fog Island, discussing this while at least two suspicious-looking types listen in. The stepdaughter wants only to be left alone, but Zucco has invited all his malefactors to the island. The malefactors will accept the invitation, because they think they might get at the money. Zucco, of course, has other plans.

Now I don’t properly understand high finance, but if the money-stealing charges against Zucco were trumped up, shouldn’t the malefactors already have the money? And if there is no money, as in fact seems to be the case, where did it go? I guess money can just disappear in these investment schemes, but I thought usually somebody somewhere eventually ended up with it. But no matter. We have a murder, we have a guy seeking revenge. What more do we need?

The eavesdroppers from scene one turn out to be Zucco’s colleague who was also sent to prison (different prison, similar charges) and the mysterious butler, who, if his mystery was ever explained, I missed it (in my defense, I was writing notes in the TV Journal).

Of course the greedy malefactors show up at Fog Island. As many of you saw coming, the only boat on the place returns to the mainland and there is no phone. I don’t have a problem with the set-up; it’s the basis of many a good thriller. However, you would think a villain clever enough to get George Zucco sent to prison on false charges when they don’t even know where the money is would be foresighted enough to take their own damn boat to an island.

Before his guests arrive, Zucco rigs a rather heinous booby trap. In a room deep in the basement, the door will lock and water will pour in. He moves a table over the device that triggers the trap and put a skull on the table. I am rather fond of skulls as decor myself, so I would undoubtedly be lured by such a trap. I’ll have to watch my step.

Amongst the malefactors is the son of one who had died, a nice-looking young man who apparently has some past with Stepdaughter (just when you thought there wasn’t going to be a love interest). The other malefactors include a turbaned psychic, a hot blonde and a couple of guys. The psychic was my favorite, but I tried not to get too attached to her, because I figured they would all come to a bad end.

And of course they did, even George Zucco (I TOLD you I was going to tell the ending!). Zucco at least dies happy, because he feels that in stabbing him, the guy has as good as confessed to murdering his wife. The guy next stabs the psychic, who is dumb enough to turn her back on him. Then he and the remaining two malefactors get trapped in the heinous set-up I mentioned earlier. That scene was as disturbing as I feared it would be, but I have a horror of being trapped and drowning.

In the meantime, Young Man and Stepdaughter have patched up their differences and are preparing to leave the island (is it morning already? How time flies when you’re killing off malefactors!). While Stepdaughter packs, Young Man discovers the corpses.

“I should tell my stepfather I’m going,” she says.

He tells her he’s seen stepdad, who is OK with her leaving. He also tells her, in effect, not to worry her pretty little head over the others, just get on the boat. They exit happily into sunshine. Get it? Fog Island is no longer covered with fog. Romantic sigh.

I have left out a few things, but we don’t need this blog post stretching off into eternity after all. I do tend to get long-winded in these movie write-ups. I was quite pleased with the cheese factor in the movie. I look forward to watching others in that DVD set. And I may take some Lame Post Friday to philosophize half-bakedly on the meaning of “marvelously theatrical.”

Horrible History or The Humpbacked Murderer

I’m making bold to write about another horror movie, because it is Halloween week. Steven and I watched three this past Sunday. I do love to write about horror movies. Some may protest that The Tower of London (1962) sounds more like history than horror, but I think it veers more into the horror genre.

I knew I would be in for some spurious history, because the movie is about Richard III and the princes in the tower. However, Vincent Price as a hump-backed murderer, what’s not to like?

Richard III, many historians now say, did not have a hump and did not murder his nephews in order to seize the throne. These stories were commissioned by Henry VII, who defeated Richard III and became king himself, thus proving the adage that history is written by the winners.

Full disclosure: I may have that wrong or I may be quoting some controversial revisionism. I may look up some more information on Richard III and get back to you. Right now I want to write about a horror movie.

I feel no spoiler alert is necessary, because a voice-over at the beginning tells us what is going to happen: Richard Plantagenet is going to murder people who are going to come back and haunt him. I believe at the time this picture was made everybody believed the hump-backed murderer story, so perhaps the filmmakers figured people knew that already anyways.

I, of course, know all about what “everybody knows” about Richard III, because I saw a production of the play Richard III by William Shakespeare. I kept comparing what I remember about that play to this movie, and I was a little disappointed that Richard never said, “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer…” (That’s all I remember of that speech.)

After the spoiler voice-over, the movie gets right down to business with Richard having a hunchback and looking evil. I could see where Mel Brooks got the idea for Igor’s movable hump, because Price’s prosthetic is not real consistent. Then again, my memory may be at fault and I only think the hump changed. If I watch the movie again, I’ll take hump notes (anyways, why would I not include a reference to Young Frankenstein if I thought I could get away with it?).

One of my favorite aspects of watching an old period piece like this one is the hats. I don’t know what they kept putting on Price’s head, but as far as I was concerned it didn’t do enough to cover his bowl haircut. At times I thought he looked like a Pilgrim from the neck up. Oh well, Thanksgiving is coming.

The women’s hats were more fun. One lady sported the traditional princess hat of a cone with a filmy scarf hanging from its point. Richard’s wife Anne had the best headgear. I’m not sure if the costume designers got them from paintings of the era (or within a couple hundred years; you know Hollywood) or from a deck of playing cards. Perhaps the Queen of Hearts, because in this picture, Richard truly loves his wife. She is a good wife, too, all encouraging his evil ambitions and to hell with everybody else. It’s sad what happens to her, which, spoiler alert or not, I won’t share here.

So almost right away, Richard starts murdering and almost immediately following, he starts to be haunted by the ghosts of his victims. You’d think he would repent his evil ways after the first ghost, but, no, after bouts of tremulous madness, he gets his evil mojo back and continues his blood-strewn path to the throne.

He is helped along the way by some henchman whose name I didn’t catch. I kept waiting for the henchman to turn on him or come to a bad end himself, but if it happened, I missed that part. I’m sure some people think that if I’m going to write about movies, it would behoove me to watch them with more attention. Well, I’m not apologizing, because I was roasting pumpkin seeds. It is Halloween week, after all.

Get On With The Creature!

I had great hopes for Wasp Woman (1959). The title seemed to promise a monster. I knew they might slough me off with a big bunch of insects, but I was willing to take that chance. When I saw Roger Corman’s name in the credits, I felt certain I had made a wise decision.

Spoiler Alert! I will give away some plot developments, but not all. Still, more than I would want to know, so I warn you.

The movie opens with predators of a different kind, in a corporate board room. A hard-nosed businesswoman is putting her board through the wringer on declining sales. A good-looking young man jumps up and in arrogant leading-man fashion blames her. It is a cosmetics company, you see, and she has always been its “face.” Now that the face has changed, customers do not trust it.

Snap! Why didn’t you just say, “It’s your fault, because you got so old and ugly!” Incidentally, she’s neither. She’s not young and chipper, but I should look so good in my 40s (I’m still in my 40s for at least another month, so shut up!). Obviously the movie is setting her up to take extreme measures to look young and beautiful. Naturally this will lead to trouble.

I can’t help noticing that the quest to keep a woman young and beautiful forms the catalyst for a number of horror movies. I like best the ones where they have to kill authentically young and beautiful women to do it. Oh dear, that didn’t sound very nice. I only meant that those were the most horrifying and in general the cheesiest. I think woman’s quest for beauty and man’s role in aiding and abetting is a ripe topic for some serious commentary, if I was that sort of a blogger. Being the sort of blogger I am, I may mine the topic for some half-baked philosophy one Lame Post Friday.

Where was I? Ah yes, with Cosmetic CEO ready to fund some highly risky experiments involving wasps. They provide some background on what terrible creatures wasps are, especially the queen, and the supposed scientific basis for the experiments. I wasn’t paying a great deal of attention. You know in these pictures the science is going to be spurious; I say just get on to the creature.

It takes a while for the Wasp Woman to show up, and she’s a pretty good movie monster. I wish she had gotten more screen time. Before the creature shows up we have to go through the mad scientist (he is actually a rather sweet old man) convincing CEO to fund him, then watch him work, progressing too slowly to suit CEO. Of course she experiments by giving herself extra injections.

She doesn’t see a kitten, previously rejuvenated from an old tabby, go crazy and attack the mad scientist. He gets hit by a car and goes into a coma before he can either perfect the formula or warn anybody about what happened to the cat (he kills the cat, by the way; it might have been fun to have several wasp-infused creatures running around but I guess that’s just me, always wanting more).

The hero — remember, arrogant guy from scene 1? — and his love interest — CEO’s secretary — are, not surprisingly, pretty boring. There’s another guy who always has a pipe in his mouth and gets to have a little more character. My favorites were the two brassy secretaries. I was a little worried over who would end up being wasp food, but the body count wasn’t too high (which could be a good or a bad thing, depending).

It’s a pretty fun movie. I recommend it. If you watch it and have a discussion on the feminist implications, please let me know what conclusions you draw.

Drop that Torch!

I DVR’d The Night the World Exploded some weeks ago, when the pickings were slim (full disclosure: I did not make a note of the year and as I write this, I’m not even sure I’ve got the correct title) (further disclosure: the first draft read The Day the World Exploded; I had written the title but not the year in the TV Journal). I was not sure if it was the sort of cheesy horror movie I love to write about. Still, an old science fiction picture might not be too bad. Or, well, you know, too good. Last weekend, I finally got around to watching it.

Spoiler Alert: I’m probably going to give away everything but the ending, which I do not remember.

I don’t remember the beginning very well, either, but I did have a few minutes’ anxiety that the movie was going to turn out to be a precursor of the Irwin Allen disaster flicks of the ’70s. Of course those movies have a cheesy charm all their own. However, I felt fairly certain that a precursor made as a B feature in whatever year this was would not live up to the Allen opuses (can you use the word “opus” for movies or is it just for music?).

Having started right out with some earthquakes, the movie almost caught my interest when it was revealed that scientists did not know what was causing them. I right away thought subterranean monsters, maybe just woken up after vegetating in some tar pits or frozen during the ice age.

Um, no.

Before we find out the cause, we have to be introduced to the love story. This lady scientist named Hutch (honestly) is about to quit and get married. Some older guy advises her to don’t do that but continue to hold a torch for this other scientist. Sooner or later he’ll suddenly realize he’s in love with her.

Yeah, right. None of my crushes ever accommodated me that way, and I held a couple of torches for an embarrassingly long time. Actually, I don’t really feel too embarrassed about it, because so do a lot of people. One thing most of us do not need encouragement for is to continue to hold a torch, and Hutch is no exception.

(Two side notes: One, nobody in this movie uses the actual words “carry a torch.” That’s my embellishment. Two, anybody gearing up to tell us that they never have and never would carry a torch, don’t bother; none of us will believe you.) (At least, I imagine it must be true that SOME people never carry torches, but how obnoxious it would be to brag about such a thing.)

Where was I?

Ah yes, Hutch stays a scientist, the earthquake nicely providing her with justification for such doormat behavior. The object of her desires does not even treat her very well. When she gets hung up climbing down a loose ladder, he taunts her in an unkind fashion to goad her into continuing. Oh I know, taunting is a time-honored technique and I daresay it even works on occasion. However, I find it unbearably condescending, paternalistic and mean (so anybody thinking of using the taunting method on me the next time I have trouble writing a post, please do not).

So there they are, down a hole in the earth, looking for the cause of the earthquakes. And they find a rock which they say is a new element. Another disclosure: I don’t know from elements. I had to memorize the periodic table in eighth grade science, but all I remember is that Fe means iron and there are some numbers that mean something about electrons or something.

Pause for PSA: Remember, kids! Pay attention in science class! I wish I had!

Back to the blog: Even with my limited scientific knowledge, I think that you cannot just look at a rock and know it is a new element. Sometimes you can’t even look at a rock and know for sure what kind of a rock it is! Don’t they have scientific tests for these things?

But one guy gets all excited and takes the rock home with him (cue unkind jokes about science nerds not taking girls home). We see the rock — uh, element — burst into flames and explode. Cool. Apparently it is quite an explosion, because they never find the poor guy’s body.

The action pauses for a little more condescension toward Hutch from that guy (you know, the one who is GOING to realize he is in love with her SOMEDAY) when she feels sad over her friend, because, you know, a lot of people died in the earthquakes. Perhaps he was making some profound philosophical point. I sat there thinking, “There’s always someone.”

I lost track of the movie shortly after that, so I don’t know how they contained Element 112 or whatever they were calling it. I think Hutch finally got her man, though. I would only recommend this movie for fans of spurious science and condescending love stories. Or, to use another rating system I’ve toyed with: needs robot heads.

I Can’t Phantom It

I believe I mentioned watching a cheesy movie last weekend while I was suffering from a sinus problem. I was too fuzzy-headed to pay even my usual desultory attention to it, but I think I can come up with a paragraph or two.

Phantom from 10,000 Fathoms (1956) starts right out by showing you the monster, which looks a little like a low-rent Creature of the Black Lagoon. I don’t particularly mind low rent; it adds to the cheese quotient. Ah, but here’s the point: the title says “phantom” but, to me, that’s a monster. Perhaps the writers considered a phantom a kind of a monster. Or maybe they just like alliteration as much as I do. No matter.

A lone fisherman in a boat apparently does not see the monster, although we can look down into the water and see it perfectly well. I suppose it’s a little petty to carp about a thing like that in a movie like this. After all, we WANT to see the monster, and the writers of the movie wanted the fisherman to NOT see it. Call it dramatic license. After dispatching the poor fisherman, the monster disappears for what seems like a long time (ooh, could that be why they call it a phantom?).

I found the plot a little hard to follow. Nobody is what they seem, except maybe the mad scientist’s beautiful daughter (all your better mad scientists have one). Well, I guess he’s not really a mad scientist. He is an oceanographer. But he is working on something he is being awfully secretive about. His assistant, his secretary and his janitor are all trying to find out what it is.

The assistant is the most sinister of the bunch. He keeps sneaking around carrying a harpoon gun. I wasn’t clear on what exactly he does as an assistant, since it seems he’s not privy to the doctor’s actual work. Then again, I was not clear on a lot during this movie, most notably my sinuses (for once I have an excuse other than my usual “just not paying attention”).

I didn’t mind the assistant being sneaky; at least his motives were made clear later. I’m still puzzling over what the main guy is even doing there. He shows up when this federal (I think) guy is investigating the sailor we saw get whacked in the first scene. He says his name is Ted Baxter (did you all just flash on The Mary Tyler Moore Show? I did). We later find out he’s really Ted Stevens, a prominent oceanographer who wrote a book on which his picture is prominently displayed. Didn’t he think the guy he is going to see — the mad scientist/oceanographer — might possibly have a copy of his book? Perhaps modesty overcame him.

I got a little chuckle thinking that Ted’s fake name sounded more real than his real name. I read somewhere that when people come up with aliases, they often use their own first name for a last name. For example, in Tootsie, Michael Dorsey becomes Dorothy Michaels. It would not have surprised me to find out that Ted Stevens’ real name was Steven Tedford. But I digress.

As I was saying, I never did find out why Ted was masquerading as Ted Knight, but in any case, both Federal Guy and Mad Oceanographer find him out quite soon and with very little difficulty.

Every so often the Phantom Monster shows up again. We find out what Sneaky Assistant is up to, we watch Mad Oceanographer at work, and of course Ted romances Beautiful Daughter. I never really figured out the whole plot (blame my sinus infection), but I think it boiled down to the beware-of-science-there-are-things-we-aren’t-supposed-to-know paranoia that became so popular at the dawn of the atomic age.

I will have to watch this silly movie again when my head is less fuzzy.

Don’t Swallow Your Oxygen Gum

In my ongoing quest to find cheesy movies to write about, I watch some pretty bad ones. I try to make it all the way through them, just on principle. However, I think it is OK to write about a movie I didn’t watch all the way through, as long as I make a full disclosure.

Full Disclosure: I did not watch all of Battle in Outer Space (sorry, didn’t write down the year) (I’m not even sure I wrote down the right title; I can’t find it in any of Steven’s movie books). I don’t think I even watched enough to warrant a spoiler alert.

Steven and I tried to watch the movie twice. The second time, we weren’t even sure we had tried it before. The title didn’t sound familiar (I think I have established that it is not very memorable). On consulting the TV Journal before writing this, I learned that it was two weeks between attempted viewings.

Once it started I said, “Oh, yes, we started to watch this. Remember, the credits are in Japanese.”

Steven asked, “Is this the one where the guy goes up in the air?”

The scene Steven referred to is pretty much all I remember from the movie, and it goes way beyond “Waaait a minute” and into “Huh?” or even more vulgar expressions. A group of men (no women in this movie, another thing to dislike about it) are walking through a space ship, in outer space. Suddenly one of them starts to float up to the ceiling. One of his colleagues pulls him back down.

“I forgot there’s no gravity here,” Floating Guy explains. And they continue to walk down the corridor. On the ground! As if there’s plenty of gravity!

Excuse me, what? Just by knowing there’s no gravity they can act as if there’s gravity? It’s never explained. Not even some bad science crap like, “Push the button on your belt to create your personal gravity field.” I suppose some people would have found that harder to swallow than force of mind overcoming all, but I like an explanation, however spurious.

For example, I don’t know if anybody remembers a cartoon from (I think) the 1960s (I saw it in the ’60s) called Marine Boy. Marine Boy could function perfectly well in the water because he had — I kid you not — Oxygen Gum. I was about three years old (don’t sit there doing the math and shake your finger at me like I’m pretending to be younger than what I am) (I’m 49). I took things at face value. The only thing I found odd about Oxygen Gum was that Marine Boy put it in his mouth, gave one chew and was done. I did not have gum very often, but I knew you were supposed to keep chewing it.

I did not spend much of my young life pondering the inconsistency. I suppose it wasn’t too many years later that I began to understand the limitations of animation.

I don’t intend to spend too much of my middle age wondering what the makers of Battle in Outer Space were thinking with that gravity thing. The movie was dull, and there were not enough scientific howlers to distract me from that.

Perhaps I could find some re-runs of Marine Boy on the Cartoon Network.