The Monster that Ate Everybody

Beware! The Blob is a B movie’s B movie. Even though The Blob ended with a question mark, it took 14 years to get a sequel. I knew about the 1958 original for years, but the 1972 Beware! The Blob is practically lost. The cast isn’t entirely unknown, but the director is probably the most notable aspect. Beware! The Blob is shot by J.R. himself Larry Hagman. Although the budget was increased, somehow the quality feels worse.

The acting is even more bizarre with characters who are only around to get eaten. The plot is a much more 70’s version of the original with hippies running around. The Blob returns when a dimwitted engineer brings a sample back from the arctic. It’s clearly a sequel, even though characters can be seen watching The Blob on TV. The rampage starts up again with the Blob eating flies and cats before consuming half the town.

The Blob itself is bright red and resembles jelly more than it did before. Roles are reversed with teenager Lisa having to convince her boyfriend Bobby of the attacks. Of course no one believes them until it’s too late. This time the final rampage is at a bowling alley and the source of cold that defeats it is an ice rink. The sequel ends with another question mark, but nothing ever materialized. Beware! The Blob is a product of the 70’s.

Beware the Blob

The Blob attacks

Preceded by: The Blob

It Eats You Alive!

The Blob is a B movie that devours the competition. Originally released as a double feature with I Married a Monster from Outer Space, The Blob took on a life of its own. I’ve known about the iconic monster for years, but I never watched the 1958 movie. Mostly because I always thought it was colorized from a black & white version. Turns out the The Blob is just very colorful. It’s a cheesy B movie with a campy theme song, questionable acting, and a seemingly laughable threat.

Yet the Blob is actually more terrifying than it looks. It’s surprisingly based on a true story involving star jelly discovered in 1950 Pennsylvania. The Blob is a red gelatinous mass that falls from a meteor and quickly consumes everything in its path. Nothing can stop it! The more it eats, the bigger it becomes! The Blob is an early horror film centered around teenagers, because it was made for the drive-in generation. Even though newcomer Steve McQueen clearly isn’t a teenager, he does manage to show off his driving skills.

Together with co-star Aneta Corsaut as his sweetheart Jane and a group of friends, Steve attempts to warn the town. The police don’t believe them until things get worse. The Blob first consumes a poor old man, doctors, and random townspeople until it reaches a movie theater. Engulfing an entire diner with the main characters in it is surprisingly tense. The Blob genuinely feels unstoppable until it gets cold. Ending its reign of terror (or does it?). The Blob grabs your attention and doesn’t let go.

The Blob

The Blob

Followed by: Beware! The Blob

Opa!

My Big Fat Greek Wedding is the highest grossing romantic comedy of all time. It couldn’t have happened to a more unlikely movie. It has a mostly unknown cast and was very independent, but I guess it just connected with people. Never underestimate the power of a Greek audience I suppose. My Big Fat Wedding is the passion project of struggling Greek actress Nia Vardalos. Her one-woman play based on her family was discovered by none other than Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks. They produced a movie adaptation and Vardalos was adamant about keeping her script exactly the same.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding centers on Toula Portokalos and her loud, enormous, and nosy Greek family. With the exception of mythology, I honestly didn’t know much about modern Greek people. Apart from how delicious their food is (Greek fries are to die for). The film explores Toula’s life as a thirtysomething Greek woman who’s never gotten married or made babies like her father wanted. Her father is an old fashioned Greek man who thinks Windex is the answer to every problem and her mother is an outspoken cooking machine.

The rest of her extremely close family is just as colorful. They’re all genuine Greeks, so I didn’t recognize anyone apart from Joey Fatone. Toula gets educated, has a makeover, and complicates her life by falling in love with the non-Greek Ian Miller. Their charming relationship goes by so fast that they end up engaged in no time. My Big Fat Greek Wedding ended up being pretty hilarious when they introduced the culture clash. Since Toula’s proud Greek family is vastly different from Ian’s small boring family. The wedding itself was more heartfelt than I was expecting. My Big Fat Greek Wedding is a big fat breath of fresh air.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Toula and Ian are married

Followed by: My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

Big Girls Don’t Cry

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman turned a beast into a beauty. Although The Amazing Colossal Man and its sequel War of the Colossal Beast have been mostly forgotten, the gender swapped Attack of the 50 Foot Woman is a well known cult classic. I dare call it my personal favorite 1950’s B movie. I’d been wanting to see it for years. The idea of a 50 foot scantily clad woman going on a rampage was much more appealing to me. Hence why Attack of the 50 Foot Woman is so bad that it’s good.

It’s far more silly compared to other size changing movies. Since most women in 50’s movies never had any serious problems to deal with. Nancy Archer is wealthy, but dealing with mental distress and a drinking problem. Made worse by her sleazy husband Harry cheating on her with a floozy named Honey. They plot to take Nancy out of the picture, but a giant alien in a UFO does that for them. More time is spent on either Harry’s scheme or the police investigating Nancy’s claim.

Nancy finally becoming a giantess doesn’t disappoint. She’s definitely one of the sexiest monsters of all time, thanks to busty model Allison Hayes playing the part. A laughable paper mache hand is used for close up shots and some truly terrible compositing effects are used when she walks around. The only convincing shots are in miniature sets. Nancy’s only goal is to take out her cheating husband “Harry!” He very noticeably becomes a doll when she finds him. Neither survive, but I wasn’t expecting them to. Attack of the 50 Foot Woman speaks for itself.

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman

Nancy Archer disrupts a power line

Flame On!

The Fantastic Four was so bad it was never released. Thankfully ending Marvel’s woefully misguided attempt at live-action movie’s with non-existent budgets. The next victims to be pawned off as a cheap B movie were Marvel’s First Family. The extremely important team of superheroes that made Marvel who they are today. Thanks to Stan Lee & Jack Kirby creating them in 1961. The Fantastic Four had their share of animated shows, but it was a mistake to even attempt a live-action movie in 1994. With Roger Corman’s involvement no less.

The Fantastic Four was something I knew existed due to its infamy, but I honestly never thought I’d be able to see it. The movie is just as lazy as the 1990 Captain America. Which meant faithful costumes at a bargain price. Along with terribly overacted (or underacted) performances from actors who were once again chosen because they looked like the characters. Alex Hyde-White, Rebecca Staab, Jay Underwood, and Michael Bailey Smith/Carl Ciarfalio barely make an impression. Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic is bland with ridiculously slow stretch arms. Susan Storm/Invisible Woman is just a pretty face with poorly rendered invisibility. Johnny Storm/Human Torch tries too hard and he just throws fire. Until he flames on at the last second with atrocious CGI.

Ben Grimm/Thing is the worst among them. Ben has no presence and the makeup used on the Thing is laughable. Made worse by his melodramatic delivery. It’s definitely not clobberin’ time. The Fantastic Four sticks to the comics to a degree, but then they throw in a crappy original villain like the Jeweler. Victor von Doom/Doctor Doom is always present, but he’s just maniacally overblown. Alicia Masters is the closest thing to a serviceable interpretation. The origin lasts way too long with only the last 15 minutes devoted to costumed heroics. The Fantastic Four is an embarrassment I’m sure Marvel would like to hide away forever.

The Fantastic Four

The Fantastic Four ready for battle

P.S. Since it was unreleased, I’ve supplied the full movie underneath.

Stuck in the Middle with You

Reservoir Dogs started Quentin Tarantino’s career with a bang. Right out the gate, almost every Tarantino trademark is present. Harsh language, excessively bloody violence, 70’s era music, conversations about pop culture, and trunk shots. Although I’m a film buff (much like the director) who’s seen well over a thousand movies, I’ve actually never seen a Tarantino flick. Despite every movie aficionado I know claiming he’s one of the greats. I just knew the hard R content would be a lot to take in. So I waited until I was old enough and very recently did a marathon of every movie he’s ever directed. Now I fully understand what all the hype was about.

Reservoir Dogs gained attention as an independent production. It’s a heist film without a heist. Everything is driven by sharp dialogue that’s more like real life conversations. The titular gang of unknown criminals are first seen talking about Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” and the ethics of tipping in a diner. They also discuss old TV shows, comic books, and say the n-word a lot (Tarantino’s most divisive motiff). The heist crew plans to rob a jewelry store that we never see. In the most iconic shot, actors new and old slow-motion walk to “Little Green Bag.”

They consist of Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, Michael Madsen, Tim Roth, Edward Bunker, and Tarantino himself. They stand out for their colorful codenames: Mr. White, Mr. Pink, Mr. Blonde, Mr. Orange, Mr. Blue, and Mr. Brown. The most infamous scene is easily the one involving Blonde’s sadistic torture of a tied up cop. While dancing along to “Stuck in the Middle with You.” These aren’t good people, but they can be very funny. In nonlinear fashion, one of them is revealed to be a rat. Leading to a Mexican standoff and the unexpected death of almost everyone. As Quentin Tarantino’s shortest film to date, Reservoir Dogs shocked it’s way into cinematic history.

1. Reservoir Dogs

Mr. Pink (left) and Mr. White (right) point guns at each other

When thereโ€™s No More Room in Hell, the Dead will Walk the Earth

Dawn of the Dead increases the scale, budget, and body count for a zombie flick unlike any other made at the time. Although George A. Romero did direct Night of the Livingย  Dead, Dawn of the Dead is really more of a spiritual successor. Since it’s in color and a lot more ambiguous about the cause of the zombie outbreak. The tone for both movies is so different it’s like comparing night & day (or night & dawn in this case). Dawn of the Dead has more tongue-in-cheek moments and heavier social commentary that was only glimpsed at in Night of the Living Dead.

This time all the action takes place inside a shopping mall. A location that actually makes a lot of sense to survive in. One important zombie detail that’s introduced is a zombie retaining some memory of their former life. That’s why they gravitate towards a mall. Because only mindless zombies would go there “wink-wink.” The group of survives are made up of TV staff members Flyboy and Fran. As well as more militaristic SWAT members Peter and Trooper. Peter is another very capable black lead which was less rare in 1978.

Fran is a much better female lead that thankfully picks up a weapon and learns to fly a helicopter. These survivors actually have many lighthearted moments of just making the best of their situation. The zombies are just as slow, but far more gruesome with their kills. Famed makeup artist Tom Savini really shows off his ridiculously bloody effects this time around. In the end, man is once again just as big of a threat as zombies. Only the final outcome of the survivors in a helicopter low on gas is much more ambiguous. Dawn of the Dead kept zombies “alive” for years to come.

dawnofthedead1-1050x591

Zombies

They’re Coming to Get You Barbara

Night of the Living Dead is the zombie movie that started it all. From the late great Father of Zombie’s himself, George A. Romero. Today is the 3 year anniversary of when I first started writing my blog. So I figured I’d review something I technically own the rights to. We all do, since Night of the Living Dead is probably the most well known Public Domain movie ever released. Despiste being released in 1968, Romero had a very miniscule budget of $114,000 to work with. That meant filming in super grainy black & white with all first time actors.

It’s a very simple story of survival that refined the term “zombie.” By depicting them as undead flesh-eaters that can be killed with a blow to the head. Although they’re only referred to as “ghouls” and they exist because of radiation from a Venus probe. Night of the Living Dead could have very easily been a forgotten B movie, but the choices they made helped it stand out. The group of survivors consists of 7 ordinary people. Barbara first encounters the living dead at a grave with her brother Johnny.

He’s the one who delivered the famous line “They’re coming to get you Barbara.” Made even creepier by the strange reflection on his glasses. She meets Ben after running into a nearby house. Having an intelligent capable black lead was a very big deal back then. Unfortunately Barbara is pretty useless throughout most of the film. Joining them is blow hard Harry, wife Helen, their daughter, and young couple Tom and Judy. The zombies may not always be grotesque (one is even naked), but they’re still just as disturbing today. The ironic character deaths are equally shocking. Night of the Living Dead is budget horror done right.

night_of_the_living_dead_3

Zombies

P.S. Being public domain, I’ve supplied the full movie underneath.

Story Time

Happy Thanksgiving! Smoke Signals is the first movie made by Native Americans for Native Americans. Meaning almost the entire cast and crew was Native American. For that it was recently let into the National Film Registry. Something even the most well known classics haven’t gotten into. The only reason I know about it is because my Freshmen reading teacher showed it in class. I very much enjoyed it as the first modern Native American tale that I saw. Although they refer to themselves as Indians.

Smoke Signals follows two young Indians named Victor Joseph and Thomas Builds-the-Fire. They both live on an Indian Reservation in Idaho. Victor strives to be as stoic as possible. While Thomas is a nerd who honors his heritage by frequently telling stories. He was rescued as a baby by Victor’s dad in a fire that claimed his parents lives. Thomas idolizes him, but Victor resents his father for leaving due to his abuse and alcoholism. They both take a trip to Arizona in order to retrieve his ashes. Where they have plenty of time to discuss their perceived Indian identities.

The primary theme is lying. Something that comes up a lot in the movie. Especially in Thomas’ overly exaggerated stories. Smoke Signals is full of great Native American performers. Like a young Adam Beach or Pocahontas herself Irene Bedard. I found the unique cultural perspective of Smoke Signals to be the best part. Better since I have some Native ancestry on my mother’s side. Smoke Signals is a story worth telling.

american-indian-diversity-in-film

Thomas (foreground) travels with Victor (background)

The Night He Came Home

Halloween is an independent horror classic from visionary director John Carpenter. Obviously, I mean the title is Halloween afterall. It was the movie that popularized the (masked) killer formula that we all know today. With a small budget no less. I’ve seen Halloween many times. It’s the kind of movie you watch traditionally every Halloween night. Halloween opens with an iconic POV shot of a clown masked shape killing a topless teen. The shape turns out to be a child named Michael Myers who’s just murdered his sister.

After 15 years in a mental hospital, Michael Myers escapes and returns to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois on Halloween day. The only man who knows of his evil is psychiatrist Dr. Sam Loomis. Played brilliantly by Donald Pleasence. Halloween also popularized the term final girl. Jamie Lee Curtis makes her “Scream Queen” debut as Laurie Strode. A teenage babysitter and virgin that Michael Myers stalks in particular. She’s one of the all time best even though she keeps dropping her weapon. There’s a fair amount of disturbing kills and a sense of tension that I imagine was really scary back then. Along with almost unheard of uses of sex and violence. Plus Halloween has what is easily the most memorable horror theme of all time composed by Carpenter himself.

Michael Myers is an iconic horror slasher. He traditionally wears a dark blue jumpsuit, a white mask, and is completely silent. Save for some heavy breathing. The mask is infamous for being a William Shatner mask that was painted white (now that’s terrifying). His weapon of choice is a long kitchen knife. Put that all together and you’ve got an unforgettable shape. He was also the first killer to be practically unkillable. Knock him down and he just sits right back up. SPOILER ALERT! After an unexpected face reveal, not even 6 shots to the chest are enough to kill him in the end. Halloween answers the question, “What is the Boogeyman?” And it’s Michael Myers from horror classic Halloween.

1. Halloween

Michael Myers looks down at Laurie

Followed by: Halloween II