Month: May 2019

The Guilty Pleasure of Bad Movies: The Star Wars Holiday Special.

by Reality’s Frank

(sigh) the things I do for you people…

You know the saying “two in the pink, one in the stink?” Well this is the one in the stink. Premiering once, and only once, in 1978, this made-for-tv special is the only thing in the Star Wars franchise worse than the new Disney sequels. And yes, that does include Rey.

The movie starts out with Han and Chewbacca fleeing from an imperial star destroyer while trying to get Chewy home for “Life Day,” the Wookie Christmas. That’s all there is to their sub-plot, trying to get Chewbacca home. After the credits, we’re treated to the first juicy slice of hell as we’re introduced to Chewy’s family: his wife, Mala; his son Lumpy; and his father Itchy (I swear I’m not making this up).

“Hang on, Chewy! They’re not making us do a variety show without a fight!

The entire scene plays out with wookie grunting serving as the only dialogue. There are no subtitles, no recognizable sign language, no hints at all about what the hell is going on. And it’s like this every time these characters are on screen. The only relief we get from this is when there are human characters interacting with them, but as the human characters are hardly less annoying, it’s small comfort.

Disney+ series pending…

What follows is a series of short skits throughout the feature (because I’m not going to dignify this by calling it a movie,) making this a kind of variety show that was rather popular during the 70’s, but the only guest stars apart from the core cast of Star Wars are Art Carney, Bea Arthur, and Harvey Corman. Prepare for horrors…

After a weird, spacey kind of Cirque du Soleil, Mala calls Luke Skywalker and R2-D2, apparently hoping for news about why Chewy is late for Life Day. Mark Hamil, heavily covered with makeup to hide the signs of his recent car accident, bravely tries to carry this conversation alone, and after being worried for a total of 8 seconds, he’ suddenly convinced that everything is fine, although this might have been a ploy to get off the phone so he could finish fixing his X-wing engine. And with that, he’s out until the end.

“Wait! I’m only getting paid HOW much for this?!”

We’re then blitzed straight into the next skit and the first appearance of Art Carney (but sadly not the last). Art plays a trader named Saun Dan, who seems to be an old friend of Chewy’s family, and he bumbles through a scene with a transparently evil imperial officer. And when I say transparently evil, I mean he speaks with a low, sinister voice, and scoffs and scorns everything in sight. The only thing missing from the picture would be if he came into the shop casually eating a baby and singing Celine Dion. It would seem the empire is recruiting former members of Slytherin House. This goes into a very brief cameo by Darth Vader, and then a commercial break.

All citizens are warned to be on the lookout for this man! He will come to your house with presents and never leave! He is considered annoying and extremely dangerous!

The commercials are by far some of the most entertaining parts of the show, because, thankfully, whoever it was that recorded this back in the day neglected to edit them out.

And now, a cooking show. Yes, that’s right, a cooking show. Mala is only NOW starting to prepare the Life Day feast, and so she tunes into a program starring (sigh) Harvey Corman, in drag, and painted silver. This scene sets the tone for all of Harvey’s appearances: long and painful. Just imagine if Rachel Ray was crossed with Julia Child and given two extra arms.

“I took a break from the Carol Burnette show for this?”

Another bit with Han and Chewie, then right back to the crap. An imperial officer sends out a broadcast announcing that the Wookie planet “Kazook,” (not “Kashyyyk” as it’s always been known) is under martial law while they investigate reports of rebel activity in the system. I wasn’t aware the empire had the man-power to police an entire planet, but oh well…

Following this ominous announcement comes an even more ominous development: Art Carney shows up at the wookie’s house bearing “Life Day presents,” the irony of which was not lost on me as Art once played Santa Claus in “The Night They Saved Christmas.” Lumpy is given a wrapped present and he (thankfully) goes to his room. Unfortunately, this leads into the first, and longest, musical interlude. Art gives Itchy a “proton pack” for a machine called the “mind evaporator,” that, despite its name, is NOT a torture device, but some kind of entertainment system that projects images directly into the brain. This would be pretty cool, except the cartridge is basically soft core porn, as the woman it features is based on his ideal sexual desire (why a wookie has a hard-on for humans, we never find out) and we can only assume that Itchy is sporting a boner in the living room.

“Make sure that this time you wipe it down after, ok?”

After this nightmare, we’re treated (or perhaps subjected) to another cameo from the core cast, this time from Princess Leia and C-3PO. This is almost a replay of the Luke Skywalker scene as Mala is looking for info on Chewbacca. The only slight change is that now Art butts into the conversation, and after the same momentary concern, Leia abruptly becomes convinced that everything is probably fine and signs off.

“3PO, call my agent. He is SO fired…”

Suddenly, a ship flies overhead, and the family is sure this is the sound of Chewbacca’s arrival. Lumpy excitedly runs to the door to be met by some storm troopers and another imperial officer, going door-to-door looking for rebels. Once again, the imperials are so transparently evil that it occurred to me that the Nazis in “Schindler’s List” were more subtle.
This goes right into the second musical number featuring the Jefferson Starship (get it? because it’s Star Wars and they ride around in star ships?). It was at this point that I began to wish I was watching “Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer.” Sure it may be goody-goody crap made for little girls in the 80’s, but at least it told a coherent story and maintained a consistent tone.

Art Carney leaves (finally) and we then get what is easily the coolest part of the whole show: the cartoon. I won’t go into it much here, but it’s done as if it’s a common, Saturday morning cartoon in this universe, strangely starring the rebel forces and Chebacca himself. How many kids get to watch cartoons starring their fathers? Then Lumpy is sent upstairs to clean his room, but instead, he starts playing with his present: a mini transmitter that includes an instructional video starring… (sigh) Harvey Corman as a robotic life form that is constantly running down and trying to fix himself. Maybe it looked funnier on paper…

Han’s embarrassing “Wolverine” phase

After this, another imperial broadcast announces that everyone has to watch the following reality program, for…reasons…

It seems that Bea Arthur replaced the guy working the bar in the Mos Eisley cantina, and she has to deal with her new stalker, played once again by Harvey Corman. This whole scene is totally pointless and uncomfortable. Somehow, the producers must have thought it would be cool or perhaps funny for Harvey Corman’s character to ingests everything through a hole in the top of his head. The empire imposes a curfew on the entire planet (again, how?) and Bea Arthur has to sing a song to convince all the violent, drunken space bums to leave. This song is, at least, kind of catchy, as it’s set to a slower, jazzy rendition of the cantina tune from the first Star Wars movie, you know the one. Also, you can play a drinking game with every time she says “friend.”

You ever wonder if he uses his head anus thingy to get freaky?

Yes, this was required viewing by the empire.

When the new guy makes the mistake of playing “Piano Man” on the juke box

Back in the “main plot,” the imperial soldiers are called back to base, but they leave one trooper behind to wait for Chewy. The trooper discovers the return orders were made by Lumpy and his transmitter, so he chases him through the house and outside, where Chewbacca and Han appear to dispatch the trooper with a glorious Wilhelm scream. Hugs and kisses all around, then Han leaves to hide the Millenium Falcon before someone finds he’s double-parked and gives him a ticket.

Art Carney comes back for one last scene, because his agent obviously insisted he get a certain amount of screen time. He bullshits the imperial officer who sent out a general summons for the dead trooper, the FINALLY leaves once and for all.

And with this, everything grinds to a halt as Chewy and Mala gaze into each other’s eyes and begin the incomprehensible rites of celebrating Life Day. This could best be described as that moment on Christmas afternoon where everyone is done thanking each other for the presents, dinner has been served, and now it’s quiet and no one really knows what to do next. You’d think the show was finally over, but no. There’s still more pain to endure.

The wookies dim the lights, hold up their glowing glass balls, put on red snuggies, and all line up to walk into a giant glowing special effect in front of the blue screen (no green screens in the 70’s). Now at last comes the grand finale, and it’s stupid. For some reason, all the wookies are now in some kind of cave and inexplicably, R2 and 3PO are there to greet them. How? Why? Huh? Then Luke, Leia, and Han run in to remind the audience that yes, this is indeed a Star Wars story. And then Leia sings. And it sucks. And it goes on WAY too long. And the tune she’s singing to is set over the Star Wars main theme, and they do not match at all.

The collective “I hope the paycheck clears” look

And that’s it. Except for a montage of random scenes from the REAL movie, there’s a couple more commercials, including one for the first line of Star Wars figures and toys, and then it ends with Chewy and his family sitting around the table. The end.

As you can imagine, this never officially went to video, and the only copies of it you can find are rough, blurry bootlegs made from the original broadcast. You can find it on youtube, or you can maybe download it from a torrent site. I recommend seeing it at least once, especially with the rifftrax, because it IS interesting, it’s certainly unique, and with enough alcohol, it could even be funny. The alternative is “Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer” because it’s…wait a minute…I used that as a positive example earlier…damn…

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Blackenstein (1973), directed by William A. Levey, reviewed by Dionisio “Don” Traverso Jr.

Jeez, I have no luck with Frankenstein monster movies.

First off, a nitpick: The version of this movie I’d watched gave the title as Blackenstein, The Black Frankenstein. Except Frankenstein wasn’t the monster, and the doctor in this flick isn’t black, though his name is Doctor Stein. I get that the producer was trying to capitalize on the success of Blacula, which was released the year before, but the title is still wrong.

The movie opens on a shot of what supposed to be a laboratory. I say “supposed to be” because it looks more like a soundstage with tables and lots of various types of Jacob’s ladders all sparking and arcing off as Doctor Stein, played by John Hart, also known as the guy who replaced Clayton Moore as The Lone Ranger on TV for one season, pulls switches and pushes buttons while breakers of colored liquid bubble and steam with dry ice.


Doctor Stein=>not black (see title)

Suddenly in another movie, a plane lands at the airport in Los Angeles as Cardella Di Milo, who appears later in the film as herself, a blues singer, at a nightclub, belts out a song about being unable to find love. Off the plane comes Doctor Winifred Walker, played by Ivory Stone. She rents a car and heads off to Doctor Stein’s house, where she’s greeted by Stein’s sinister deep-voiced assistant Malcomb, played by Roosevelt Jackson. When she’s taken to Doctor Stein, we get the most awkward expository dialogue ever.


Stein: Well well well!

Walker: Doctor Stein! It’s so good to see you again!
Stein: My goodness, you look wonderful. How long has it been?
Walker: Oh, I guess about…three years. Yes, because I’ve had my PhD in physics now for two years. I’ve never forgotten the year and a half I spent studying under you.
Stein: Malcomb, Doctor Walker’s a former pupil of mine.

Mmmm…Malcomb would like Winifred to study under him….

So Walker wants Stein’s help with her fiance, who’s just returned from Vietnam after stepping on a landmine and getting wounded. By wounded, I mean getting his arms and legs blown off. Think about that a second. He was walking, stepped on a landmine which goes off, and only loses his arms and legs. No other damage to his body. Right. That’s possible, I suppose.

Which brings us to Eddie, the fiance, played by Joe DeSue.

Not even a facial scar???

He’s in the VA hospital spending his days being a human burrito while being tormented by an orderly, played with gusto by Bob Brophy, who’s jealous that Eddie got to go to Vietnam to get his limbs blown off while he got 4F’ed while enlisting.


“That should be me lying in a hospital bed as an armless, legless human burrito!”
(*Not actual dialogue, but better.)

When Eddie asks this guy for ice cream, he goes off on him about his jealousy and starts to torture him. Eddie’s reaction to all this?

Bob Brophy as the orderly only gets this one scene to shine, and he runs with it. He shows more skill and emotion here than any of the principal actors. You see sorrow, regret, rage, disappointment. Sure, his dialogue (really monologue, since Eddie doesn’t say much here) is awkward and too full of exposition, but he gave it his all.

Joe DeSue, however, has two expressions.


This one…

…and this one.

Luckily the orderly’s bedside manner is interrupted by Winifred and Doctor Stein (who doesn’t have a first name, but wouldn’t it have been great if his name was Frank N.?), who tell him the good news: he’s to be taken to Stein’s castle to receive DNA treatments to help his condition. The good doctor has been treating others at his house, like a 90-year-old woman who now looks like she’s 50, and a man whose lower legs have been reattached using “laser beam fusion” and a DNA solution created by Doctor Stein. He did, after all, win the Nobel Prize for “solving the DNA genetic code.”


“Stop staring at me so blandly, Eddie. You know how that turns me on.”

Of course, there are complications. One of the aforementioned reattached legs is striped, caused by, according to Doctor No-First-Name Stein, an “unsolved RNA injection.” Honestly, his explanation made little sense and made the good doctor look like his didn’t know what RNA and DNA were. But this “unsolved RNA injection” becomes the impetus of the film, as Malcomb, having had his romantic gestures rejected by Winifred, taints Eddie’s DNA injections with the problematic RNA, causing Eddie to regress into….

I have to stop here to ask a few questions. First, Winifred Walker is a physicist, and Stein is presumably some sort of geneticist. She studied under him how? In what field? How does a physicist know how and where to give an injection? Also, the man with the striped leg had them both reattached by a combination of “DNA” and “laser beam fusion.” Eddie had no limbs to reattach. They were blown off in Vietnam. So whose limbs are being attached to him? And how is Malcomb able to taint the DNA solution with the RNA? Stein called it an “unsolved RNA injection” and babbles about “sort of part of the primeval theory,” which lays the foundation, albeit nonsensically, for what happens to Eddie later, but implies that he doesn’t know what’s causing it besides something with the RNA. How is Malcomb able to isolate what the “unsolved RNA” problem is and use it to taint Eddie’s DNA solution? Why does Stein have an RNA solution to begin with, if he’s having such success with the DNA solution? Also, why does this movie have so many audio flashbacks with Stein repeating phrases over and over? They’re supposed to sound like echoes, but more sound like John Hart has echolalia.

“Primeval theory….Primeval theory….Primeval theory….”

“Throwback….Throwback….Throwback….”

”Jungle….Jungle….Jungle….”


Annoying….Annoying….Annoying….

Also, you would figure from the RNA “explanation” that Eddie would turn into some kind of cave man, like William Hurt did in Altered States. Instead he turns into this:

Now I have to commend Doctor Stein’s DNA formula. Even though tainted by an “unsolved RNA injection,” it not only changed the shape of Eddie’s head, it grew him more hair and a black turtleneck sweater and suit coat to match!

During the day, Eddie lies near catatonic as Stein and Walker try to figure out what’s happening to him. At night, the sweater and suit ensemble comes on and Eddie sneaks out on the town, killing and cannibalizing his former orderly first, then going after has-been strip tease artist and future John Waters actress Liz Renay and her boyfriend. While doing this, you occasionally hear Eddie grunt monstrously, like a Frankenstein monster would, except his mouth isn’t moving, and neither is Joe DeSue’s facial expressions.

“Expressions bad!”

Of course it all descends into chaos, murder and madness, in the dullest way possible, leading to what has to be the longest and least exciting chase scene I’ve ever witnessed, as Eddie stalks a woman through an empty industrial warehouse. Believe me when I say you feel every inch of that warehouse during this scene, and will rejoice when it ends anticlimactically, if only because it’s also the end of the movie.

Much like Doctor Stein isn’t black and “Blackenstein,” neither is this film “blacksploitation” like its predecessor Blacula. That film and its sequel had plots that were grounded in black culture. Blackenstein never references black culture at all, except in the occasional blues song by Cardella Di Milo in the soundtrack and a scene in a blues club, also featuring Di Milo singing. The main characters have no racial identities whatsoever, even Doctor Stein and Eddie, outside of physical appearance. Even the orderly in the VA hospital abuses Eddie not because he’s black, but out of jealousy.

The direction by William A. Levey is on the low side of competent, with many scenes shot in very low light. Eddie’s cannibalistic nocturnal excursions are sometimes difficult to discern, but at least everything is in focus, unlike Frankensteins Bloody Nightmare. The acting is subpar, with John Hart, Roosevelt Jackson, and Ivory Stone slightly elevating into mediocrity, while Joe De Sue scrapes the bottom of the acting barrel. Blackenstein never goes beyond bad into exquisitely bad, which could’ve made it more fun to watch.


At least you see a couple of breasts….

½ cheese curd out of 5. For the curious only.

The Guilty Pleasure of Bad Movies

by Reality’s Frank

There’s a guilty pleasure in watching bad movies. Think of the campiest, corniest, crappiest movie you ever saw. It was pretty bad, wasn’t it? And yet you might just sit down to watch it again some day, wouldn’t you? Sure you would. How else do you think the Toxic Avenger series got to be so popular?


I myself have a pretty fair assortment of bad movies: Captain America, The Guyver, Toxic Avenger (of course), at one time, I even owned a VERY bad live action Dragon Ball movie. Trust me, it sucked.


And what is it about these cinematic abominations that people find so entertaining? Beats me. But I do have one theory. As there can be no good without evil, there can also be no masterpieces without bombs.


Why just the other night, I sat down and watched the unreleased Fantastic Four movie. Wow. That’s all I can say, because if I think about it any more, my head might explode from how bad it was. And what about all the new movies that are so full of suck that you wish you paid more to see it so you wouldn’t feel like such an ass asking for your eight bucks back? Does Cloverfield ring any bells? Blair Witch? Sure.

Then on the other side of the coin are the really good movies that got no recognition and were passed off as crappy. I would direct your attention to exhibit…oh I dunno…I guess: Mystery Men, for one. And then of course there’s the shitty movies that a lot of people liked, and you have no idea why, movies like Charlie’s Angels, Blades of Glory, Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

So I ask you now to share the last really, REALLY bad movie you saw and, be honest, how much you actually liked it. It’s okay, there’s no one else here but you and me. The lights are off, here’s the pop corn, I’ll put in Laser Hawk. What’s that? Yes it’s a Mark Hamil movie. It’s terrible, so I think you’ll like it. Press play.

Avengers Endgame: A Raiders of the Lost Flicks Review

avengers-endgame

by Adam M. Wilcox

I don’t usually do spoilers, and I think I can pull this off without spoilers. Why do people try aggressively to spoil this movie? I am not sure that it is intentional. This is a movie that is meant to be a shared experience. The culmination of 11 years, and 22 films worth of set up. It is about resolutions, and the water cooler talk of the moment is either Game of Thrones, or Avengers Endgame. To discuss said resolutions would in fact spoil things. At this point at least 3 billion dollars worth of people have seen it, but I refuse to break tradition. A good review CAN be presented without spoilers. To cover virtually any details of the movie’s three-hour run time would in fact spoil the hell out of this movie, so unfortunately this review will have to be shorter than normal.

avengers_endgame_group_shot.0
The moment we have been waiting for. 11 years, and 22 films, and it did not disappoint.

Avenger’s Endgame picks up 23 days after Avengers Infinity War, where Thanos achieved his goal of getting all of the Infinity Stones, and snapping away half of the population in the universe.  A large chunk of this is dedicated to the ones who were NOT snapped out of existence dealing with the aftermath. Character developement has always been a strong point of most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. Most comic book movies, are only as strong as your villain, but somehow the MCU managed to break that curse, but making these super heroes both relatable and believable.  By design it has been a fun journey to grow and advance with these characters in their respective movies throughout the last decade.  The biggest star of THIS movie is probably Nebula played by Karen Gillan, who was first introduced to us as a villain from Guardians of the Galaxy. We have gradually spent time throughout these movies developing this character, but this time she gets more screen time than before. Of course Rocket Racoon voiced by Bradley Cooper, is still the scene stealer and of all the characters in this universe he bounces off everyone’s lines flawlessly.

null
Other than Robert Downey Jr., Rocket and Nebula are the stars of this movie.

I am thankful to say that I rarely felt this movie’s three-hour runtime. It was never boring. I would be lying if I said I was not genuinely entertained. There was a great deal of humor in this movie. Surprisingly not as dour and depressing as the last movie. There were still a couple of minor gripes I would have to address, because while they were not enough to ruin the movie, they were enough for me to remove a couple of points from having a perfect score. One of them involves a character that kind of shows up, and then disappears. There are actually a few scenes where characters show up and disappear that may or may not have been the result of simply having a movie with this many characters that continuity becomes a villain itself.  My other gripe, is that there are some not so subtle moments in the movie that tease some possible future instalments of this franchise, that may not sit well with all fans. There is a glaringly forced scene involving multiple female characters that looks cool, but doesn’t make much sense within the scene itself, if for nothing else than to virtue signal that there are women in the MCU, as if anyone actually needed to be reminded. The scene really sends me mixed messages, but still not enough to ruin the experience for me.

As far as the resolutions that I refuse to speak of? I would say that most fans will be satisfied with how the story wraps. The same way that most of us felt when we first saw Return of the Jedi. Had that been the last Star Wars film, we would have been completely satisfied. I feel the same about this movie. I am completely satisfied with the ending. I may even buy a copy of this one at some point. I would recommend seeing it. I am giving this one a 3 out of 5 cheese curds. I will be posting a spoiler review on my YouTube channel on Monday: 5/6/19.