Thursday, July 24, 2014

What Junk Cinema (AKA Bad Movies) Can Teach You

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may wonder why I, the Movie Maven, devote so much time to the celebration and preservation of rotten movies/bad movies/Junk Cinema.

Well, I have no life.

Just kidding!

No, the reason I am so passionate about the preservation, promotion and protection of Junk Cinema is because it's fun. More than that, Junk Cinema is educational. You can learn things, important things, insights that will help you live a better life. And to prove my point, here is a detailed list of what Junk Cinema can teach you...if only you would paid attention!

1. Animals, insects, veggies, cars--you name it--can turn on you.

 "This movie isn't big enough for both of us!" James Brolin goes head to head with "The Car".

Lulled into complacency by your hum-drum life? Better watch out! Countless Junk Cinema movies have warned viewers that anything ANYTHING can be turned into an evil slobbering hell beast. All it takes is an alien energy ray, an atomic bomb blast, a comet coming too close to the earth--any weird, unexplained phenomenon will do--for the mayhem to begin.

"I never thought it would be the bees!" wailes bee expert Michael Caine in 1978's uproarious "The Swarm". "They've always been our friends!" Along with bees , grasshoppers ("The Beginning of the End"), bunny rabbits ("Night of the Lupus") and ants ("Empire of the Ants"), TV's ("The Twonky"), computers ("The Demon Seed") and even babies ("It's Alive!") can wreak havoc.

A pre-Donald Trump Marla Maples recoils in horror when she realizes "Maximum Overdrive" will be the highlight of her acting career.

Motorized vehicles are especially prone to evil. In the Stephen King epic "moron movie" (his words, by the way) "Maximum Overdrive", cars, trucks and big rigs take over the planet. In the ensuing mayhem, an extra who would become the second Mrs. Trump (Marla Maples, in a pink headband) gets offed by a fatal conk to the head by a rogue watermelon.

The best evil car movie EVER of course is 1977's "The Car" staring Barbara Streisand's future hubby James Brolin. He's a small town sheriff  whose sleepy burg is menaced by "Beelzebub's Buick". The Car chases marching bands, spin's donuts on people's lawns and kicks up a lot of dust. The best moment in the flick, however, is when James screams to the Mrs., "Honey! Grab the kids! The Car is in the garage!"

2) Beauty is only skin deep.

Good looking people have so many advantages over us average looking slobs that it's comforting to know that good looking people often make rotten actors.

Supermodel Carre' Otis puckers up in the super flop "Wild Orchid".

Sonny Tufts, Troy Donahue, Christopher Atkins, Brooke Shields, Kathy Ireland, Cindy Crawford, Carre' Otis...all easy on the eyes. But thanks to Junk Cinema, we can enjoy their floundering attempts to act in various big and low budget stinkers that will haunt them for all eternity.

3) ANYBODY can get mixed up in the seamy side of life, especially if you are really stupid.

You really have to tip your hat to made-for-TV-movies, an important subset of Junk Cinema, for altering viewers to the dangerous lure of the dark side and the foolish belief that exposing your breasts for money can solve all your personal problems.

Housewives worried about balancing the family budget? In "Money on the Side" (1984), they become hookers. Want to leave your small town to seek fame in Hollywood? Think again. Kim Basinger did that and she became an Oscar winning movie star! However, in "Katie: Portrait of a Centerfold" poor Kim couldn't find any employment what so ever and had to room with street mimes and desperation forced her to pose topless. Looking for a fun part-time job in college? Better read the fine print or you could end up a "Co-Ed Call Girl" like Tori Spelling. Is your home life miserable and your mom a bitter, 40-ish divorcee-slash-boozehound who, like, totally humiliated you at the spring dance? Learn some coping skills, kid. After all, failure to do so is what drove Eve "Jan Brady" Plum to run away from home and wind up a teen hooker in "Dawn: Portrait of a Runaway"--also, she was underage and didn't have any job references and people in The Big City are mean, but it was her awful home life that pushed Jan too far.

"Jan! Jan! Jan!" Jan Brady (Eve Plum) walks (and dresses) on the wild side in "Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway".

Of course, made-for-TV-movies also tried to show the good side of sexually exploiting yourself.

Is your marriage stale? Are you tired of being ignored by men? Are you one of those pointy headed intellectuals who have to turn everything into a polemical argument? Then you need to pose for Playboy magazine, just like the gals in the TVer "I Posed for Playboy". Not only did it give various gals ( a conservative housewife, a hot-shot lawyer who was once fat and a women's studies college student) a new perspective on themselves, they also earned a nice chunk of change.

4) Screwed up parents equal screwed up kids.

Jimmy Wilson is a high school senior who just won an award for his essay "My Home and Family". Little do people realize that Jimmy is a big, fat liar. His mother is a drunk, his father is a philandering gambler and they both would rather party with their pals than parent their child. Poor Jimmy, desperate for love, sells shoes by day and runs "errands" for the shady Charlie Blake at night. Even worse, Jimmy falls for nightclub singer Kitty Reed--who also happens to be Charlie's cuddlemate. It all ends in gun fire and a big, messy trial where Jimmy accuses his parents of being responsible for the whole sordid mess.

"I Accuse My Parents" (1944) is a classic low budget attack on parental neglect, but it's not the only one. "The Violent Years" by bad movie god Ed D. Wood, Jr. dared to show how indulgent parents who refused to impose limits on their kids were asking for trouble.

"Come here often?" Songbird Kitty Reed and Jimmy Wilson share a musical moment in "I Accuse My Parents".

Suburban teen princess Brenda is one such gal. Little do mom and dad know, Brenda is the head of a deb gang that rob gas stations and fence stolen goods. They also indulge in other sordid doings. After Brenda and her gang stick-up a couple in lover's lane, they tie the girl up and drag the befuddled boy into the woods, where they assault him. Boo! Brenda is finally found out, learns she's preggers and then dies during child birth. When her parents try to adopt their grand child, the judge refuses based on their prior parental performance. Can you blame him?

The moral of these tales? Watch your kids. Know their friends. Make them your priority. If parents neglect their brood to follow their your own foolish pleasures, is it any wonder young people get pregnant, sample weed, guzzle booze, turn to crime, race hot rods, join gangs, pierce their ears and listen to jazz?

Lots of people have sounded this alarm, but Junk Cinema got there first.

5) "Reality TV" is harmful to your health.

I know, I pound away on this theme with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, but that's only because it's true.

"Reality TV" is NOT real people experiencing real events in real time. If that's what you're looking for, hustle over to your local Walmart and watch people in stretch pants argue over paint chips.

"Reality TV", on the other hand, is just as fake, as phony, as staged any soap opera, except the acting is much, much worse.

I hate to burst your bubble, but NOBODY on "The Bachelor"/"Bachlorette" is looking to find true love and get hitched. True love can't we won on a game show. The vast majority of these couples break-up once the cameras are switched off. The real motivation for these people is to jump start a modeling or acting career, promote their business ventures, land a talk show or get rich quick. Love has nothing to do with it. Ever.

Conversely, don't you find it odd that the contestants on "Survivor"--which is supposedly taking place in some god-forsaken location--are followed around by a camera crew? Were you shocked to learn that many "scenes" from "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" were "revealed" to have been "staged" for maximum effect? Would you be surprised to learn that those various wine-sipping "Real House-
wives of..."(insert name of city/state/county) regularly collude with their producers to spring embarrassing "gotch ya" revelations on their fellow "cast members"?

Snake oil, my friends. It's all snake oil.

Meanwhile, made-for-TV movies, once a staple of the medium, have all but vanished--along with mini-series, documentaries and any original programming that doesn't involve people grasping to become America's next top model/singer/designer/decorator/inventor/dancer/chef. Worst of all, the careers of real actors like Lindsay Wagoner, Jacklyn Smith, Pam Dawber and Jane Seymour have totally evaporated in the wake of  "Reality TV".

Stop wasting your time with amateurs when you can waste your time with professionals! I will take Sonny Tufts in "Cotton Pickin' Chicken Pickers" over "Duck Dynasty" any day--and so should you!

6) A perfect, Utopian society is bunk.

This point Junk Cinema makes clear in movie after movie after movie.

In "Logan's Run" (1976), for instance, viewers are presented with a youthful society where computers run everything. That leaves mankind free to endlessly shop, hang out and have lots and lots of no-strings-attached sex. The catch? When you hit 30, you must participate in "The Carousel" in hopes of being "renewed", that is reborn.

Actually, you are merely vaporized. No one is ever renewed. By killing people when they hit 30, the computer-run society maintains its "pleasure oriented" existence.

A little closer to home, scientist Fritz Weaver in "The Demon Seed" (1977) has developed a computer so advanced, it not only runs his house, it may make "obsolete many of the functions of the human brain." This upsets his wife Julie Christie--especially when the super computer (named Proteus 3) traps her in the house, assaults her and forces her to carry its humanoid child.

And you thought your ATM was nuts for charging you three bucks to withdraw your own money.

1964's "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians", meanwhile, dared to show that an overly mechanized and computerized society makes kids sullen and listless. The solution? Create a Christmas holiday to brighten up the kids' lives--and bring Kris Kringle himself over from earth to supervise. As the King of Mars declares, "Earth has had Santa long enough!"

Santa is indeed brought over (along with earth kids Billy and Betty) and he sets up shop. However, he arranges for a really irritating home grown St. Nick (named Droppo) to head up the Martian holiday in his place.

However, it's not just cheesy sci-fi that details how dangerous a "perfect" society can be. In 1950's "Prehistoric Women" (shot on location at the Department of Water and Power in Whittier, CA, no less) a bunch of cave women fed up with their abusive cave men set up a no-boys-allowed settlement. Things work out great until the original settlers' daughters start to yearn for male companionship. Thus, they set about catching themselves some boy toys--to handle the tougher jobs around area and for, you know, recreational purposes.

Eventually, love intervenes and the formerly liberated cave women decide matrimony isn't so bad after all.

So you see, there is NO perfect Utopian society. ANYWHERE. It's IMPOSSIBLE. Instead, work to make YOUR society better, freer and more humane right now.

7) Common household items can save your life.

Don't be fooled into thinking it's only lasers or flashy explosives that can turn the tide when the chips are down. Simple things you might not think of--but Junk Cinema did--have been shown to real life savers time and time again.

When the hapless humans in "Empire of the Ants" (co-starring a pre-"Dynasty" Joan Collins) need to defeat their evil ant overlords, they set the Queen Ant on fire with a humble safety flair. The other ants jump on their Queen in hopes of dousing the flames, but it only makes a bigger fire. Soon all the ants are dead and the humans are set free.

Meanwhile, over at "The Horror of Party Beach" set, folks are being terrorized by zombie fish men covered in artichoke leaves. What finally defeats them? Table salt! Thus, the plucky citizens grab their salt shakers and head for battle. The resulting mayhem looks like out of control well wishers pounding a bride and groom with rice, but soon Party Beach is zombie free.

Other handy house hold hints? Should you and your family be attacked by Eye Creatures from outer space (as in "Attack of the Eye Creatures"), just flash your car's brights and the Eye Creatures melt into goo. Should you find yourself in the center of the earth and confronted by both Mole People and evil albinos (just like in "The Mole People"), use your flashlight. It totally freaks them out and can help you escape their repressive society. Ator, the hero of "Cave Dwellers", can assemble a fully functioning hang glider with sticks, animal hides and a couple of leather straps. Not to be out done, Ator's love interest Millia can make flash powder from her own filth.

Even the simplest things can make a big difference.

8) Alien females are either man-hating shrews or man-hungry sexpots.

Earth girls are easy? Says who?

If you watch Junk Cinema as carefully as I do, you'd know it's female aliens who are either panting after men like hyenas or are using their sexy wiles to trap men and then take over the universe.

In "Cat Women of the Moon" (1954) for example, the futuristic Cat Women use their slinky charms to distract the male astronauts (including Sonny Tufts!), take over the mind of lone female crew member Marie Windsor and hijack their spaceship. All the better, you see, to take over the earth. In "The Queen of Outer Space" (1958), on the other hand, the all female residents of Venus are on an anti-man kick. Or at least their leaders are. So when a bunch of male space jockeys end up on their planet, the Queen and her court (who all wear Mardi Gras masks) are determined to kill them. Luckily, Zsa Zsa Gabor is there to save the day. The reason the Queen of Venus hates guys? Her face was ruined in "an atomic war" started by men.

Moving right along, the "Fire Maidens from Outer Space" (1956) are clearly delighted when astronauts from earth land on their man-free planet ("the thirteenth moon of Jupiter", in case you're wondering.) After defeating "The Creature of Horror" (don't ask), the guys have their pick of literally dozens of eager, man-starved Jupiter gals in skimpy costumes. Unable to satisfy everybody, the space jockeys promise to return with plenty of reinforcements from earth.

Two things about "Fire Maidens from Outer Space" that are especially piquant: the movie's tag line, which screamed "World of Women Seeking Males Partners to Carry on Race!" and the leading lady of the flick, who was born "Patsy Sloots". She sensibly changed her name to Susan Shaw later.

Unlike their alien counter parts, earth women in sci-fi are usually serious, all-business professionals who have to be repeatedly reminded that they would be happier if they gave up their space careers and became housewives.

In short, who you callin' easy?

9) Be proud of your name, whatever it is.

Look, I realize many stars changed their names before they became famous (Archie Leach to Cary Grant, for instance). However, the names in Junk Cinema--both real and stage--are especially unique.

Besides the aforementioned Patsy Sloots (AKA Susan Shaw), there was "The Glamour Queen of the Beast Claw Men" and "The Venezuelan Volcano" Acquanetta--born the humble Mildred Davenport. Director/actor Ray Dennis Steckler opted for the stage name "Cash Flagg" as a sort of in-joke. After too many investors' checks bounced, Steckler insisted on cash only payments. Thus, "Cash Flagg" was born.

Other eye and ear catching names include cowboy star Lash LaRue, starlets Bermuda Schwartz and Joy Bang, and the unforgettable star of "The Brides of Blood", one Beverly Hills.

Who wants to spend their time with boring folks named George (Clooney) and Amy (Adams) when you can hang out with fun people like Twinkle Watts, Merry Meisters and Vera Vague?!

10) The world's most profound observations come from Junk Cinema.

This is really, really true. Watching Junk Cinema, you are often taken aback by the words of wisdom the otherwise loopy characters often say.

Granted, this is often a hit or miss proposition, but, still, at least these guys were trying. Now consider the following meditations on the human condition via Junk Cinema:

"He tampered in God's domain," Harvey B. Dunn commenting on Bela Lugosi's ill-fated plan to make a super race in "Bride of the Monster".

"There's more to life than fighting for fish heads!" Jonathon, the Christ-like sea gull in "Jonathan Livingston Sea Gull", to his dad.

"Mary! You're never gonna be happy if you're always gonna be sad! Now you've got nice teeth and you took two years of French. So why not try to see the bright side of things?!" Shirley Temple's dim-witted friend trying to cheer her up in "That Hagen Girl".

"They're more virulent than the Australian Brown Box Jelly Fish!" so says Henry Fonda in "The Swarm". Remember this when you head Down Under and so scuba diving.

"I cannot--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!" The Ro-Man suffering angst in "Robot Monster".

And remember, save the movies!

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