Monday, August 16, 2010

Confessions of a Monster Kid: 10 Guilty Pleasures -- Part 3

The Robot Vs. The Aztec Mummy
In the last few years, it seems like a lot of people have begun taking notice of the really inspiring weirdness of the Mexican horror film. This one, though certainly not the best, was loads of fun.

I remember when I first saw it. It was a Saturday afternoon. I was still a high school kid. I saw that goofy title in the TV Guide and thought I would put in on. What I saw blew me away. Here was a film that was actually 3 films in one, packed with extensive flashbacks to the first two movies and a fast finish in this last one. After I saw it, all I wanted to do was create a movie that Some Kind of Monster Vs. Some Kind of Monster, the cheesier the better.

Afterwards I sought out more Mexican horror, learning there was so much more truly great stuff to see, but this is the one that paved the way.

Just a quick final note on this movie. Years later, working for a publishing company, I took part in an interview with Mike Nelson and Kevin Murphy about the MST3K Movie hitting theaters at that time. I asked Mike what the worst film was that they ever had to watch for their show. Mike said it was The Robot Vs. The Aztec Mummy. I meekly asked, "Really?" He said, yes, it was by far the worst. I was stunned.

I still like it!

Godzilla Vs. The Smog Monster
There may have been two movies that no self-respecting Godzilla fan of the first series of films was likely to admit they actually liked. The first one was Revenge of Godzilla. Well. that sucked... despite Gabera. No matter how you try to rationalize it, it's awful. Now, relax and accept it. Okay, the other film was Godzilla Vs. The Smog Monster.

I won't speak for others, but there are those among us Godzilla fans who love this film, as they should.

This was a film that I and some buddies tried to catch at a summer matinee showing at the Plano Theatre but it was actually sold out. It had received a huge write up in Famous Monsters. Years later I caught it on TV and thought it was awful... and of that I had no doubts, with its juvenile preaching and that damned annoying little kid.

What happened to change my mind? Well, other than taking loads of drugs and drinking way too much, I flipped it on one day and saw something amazing... I think it may have been exposure to other films with an air of surrealism about them, intended or not. Within a short period, I discovered I liked Godzilla films like Son of Godzilla, Godzilla Vs. Gigan and Godzilla Vs. Megalon... okay, maybe not the last one.

GVSM had loads of oddball elements and astonishing imagery, including a wild theme song ("Save the Earth") sung by a hottie, Hedorah (the Smog Monster) sliming into a night club and leaving behind a muck covered kitten mewing pathetically, Hedorah flying through a construction site, his acid mist turning the workers into skeletons, strange animated portions, a nihilistic hilltop rock and roll party and Godzilla on the verge of talking but still getting his gruff point across, anyway.

So sit back and watch it again. If you're lucky, you might just scare your significant other.

The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism
Could a film with as lurid a title as that possibly be as gruesome as my brain imagined it could be, even showing on television.?

It was my good buddy Eric that turned me on to this one. He had a knack for seeing some truly edgy films first in our group of young monster fans... like, for example, Night of the Living Dead. He saw it before he was 12 at a theater or drive-in, meaning his parents actually took him to see it. As luck would have it, Svengoolie (a.k.a. Jerry G. Bishop) hosted the TV debut of the movie on his Screaming Yellow Theatre late night film fright program. We watched it and were scared shitless. We stayed awake and watched the second film, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, but even fantasies of gorgeous Allison Hayes' giant, swinging breasts couldn't wipe out the flavor of NOTLD... and we ended up staying up all night. That was the first time I had ever done that.

So, if Eric told me that I should see a particular scary movie, his advice carried a lot of cache. So, when he suggested Dr. Sadism, I watched...which was probably showing on Son of Svengoolie, played by Rich Koz.

Okay, it's not really scary... but it is mesmerising. The film is a period piece packed with lurid imagery telling the story of Count Frederic Regula, a nobleman who had been working on an elixir for immortality until the royal guard caught on, hammered a spiked mask to his face, and had him quartered. Christopher Lee plays the fiend and dubbed in his own voice in English for this production that was shot in German language.

Years later, his surviving henchman captures the descendants of two of his accusers who takes them to his sinister weird-ass castle. Within the film's narrative there are some startling images, like a great scene that has a carriage ride through the forest near Regula's castle, which has corpses hanging from the tree tops and various limbs protruding from around tree limbs, etc. That's one example. I don't want to give too much away, because if you haven't seen it I'd rather not wreck it for you.

For me though, it wasn't just a fun, gruesome story, but it also grabbed me the way something else inspired by horror films did. By that I mean it reminded me of what kind of film you might have if you took one of those sleazy old Eerie Publications comic magazines covers and tried to make a movie out of the bloodbath. These were bottom of the barrel magazines with a unique sleazy charm about them. You didn't mind getting caught reading Creepy or Eerie, but how on earth could you explain a typical issue of Tales of Voodoo or Witches' Tales? Check out a huge load of cover images from these sleaze gems by clicking on the Tremendous Thing Blog link in the right column on this page. Then, let the sleaze wash over you, letting it kick your sense of good taste out... Then, you'll understand The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism, but that's my opinion.

Those are my top 10...which are subject to change at any time. For example, I was thinking about Dr. Sadism and...

Ah, well, all good things and all that... But, hold, (as Roy Thomas might have written for a Thor comic long after Stan and Jack were gone) you want more? That is for another day... another list for another time. I must rest, let my mind's eye scan over visions of things perhaps better left unsaid...

More Guilty Pleasures? Perhaps someday...

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes it turns out that those things we think are guilty pleasures aren't so guilty. My favorite Kung Fu movie has long been Five Deadly Venoms--turns out it's considered a classic. Same with The Mask of Satan. Who knew they were classics? I just thought they were fun.