Part Three
by Greg Sorenson

Still more B-Fest fun, from 7:30 a.m to the bitter end.

Test Tube Babies (W. Merle Connell, 1953).

This was one of those - ahem - "educational" pictures. Its ostensible goal was to educate us on the new (as of 1954) breakthroughs in artificial insemination and how this miracle could save childless marriages on the verge of collapse, but its real purpose was to sneak some salacious footage past the censors. So most of the 70-minute film chronicles a childless marriage on the verge of collapse. Cathy and George have been married for just about a year (!) and aren't yet in the family way. While George works long hours as an architect, Cathy toys with an affair, and tries to make peace with George while wearing a see-through black nightgown. Later, while George is off at work again, Cathy throws a party that gets out of hand with drinking, a striptease, spilled drinks that result in disrobing, and some apparent partner-swapping that ends in a topless catfight. When George arrives to throw the guests out, the marriage seems ruined, but then science steps in. After seeing Test Tube Babies, I know what has to be done to save my childless marriage. Party at my place!

The Corpse Grinders (Ted V. Mikels, 1972).

Coming just before the breakfast break, all expense was spared to bring us the saga of Lotus Cat Food, whose "secret ingredient" turns ordinary housecats into vicious man-eaters - assuming their victims are prone at the time. A doctor and nurse, who should probably be spending their free time improving their golf games, decide to investigate. The grossest thing about this, to me, was not the concept of human-flesh cat food, but the fact that the bodies were ground up with hair and clothes still on 'em. Who wants Fluffy eating all that Orlon? Highlights include the amazing cardboard corpse-grinding system, a cemetery-caretaking couple featuring a wife obsessed with her plastic doll (apparently she hasn't seen Test Tube Babies), and a throwaway scene where the catfood people lobby an undertaker to replace formaldehyde with a liver-flavored fluid. Shot with no regard for wardrobe continuity, the nurse seems to change her sleuthin' garb about forty times while on the case.

Around this time there was a silent short involving midgets frolicking on a backlot. I don't get it, but apparently this is a time-honored tradition. Whatever. I was just gearing up for --

Breakin' (Joel Silberg, 1984)

Breakdancing and this film hit right during my early teens, but somehow I missed this one. A Flashdance ripoff, young waitress/dancer Kelly (Lucinda Dickey) is introduced through a dance classmate to breakdancers Ozone (Lee "Shabba-Doo" Quinones, also of the superior graffiti/hiphop film Wild Style) and Turbo (Michael "Boogaloo Shrimp" Chambers). They overcome their class differences to team up, beat some breakdance challengers (in a dance contest), completely avoid any interracial love triangles that wouldn't play in Peoria, and then get a shot at whatever's passing for the bigtime thanks to the great Christopher McDonald (lately of The Man Who Wasn't There) as Kelly's agent. I'm sorry, I still think breakdancing is pretty damn cool. Jude Law agrees with me; he's 'fessed up to his krush-groovin' past, and I hope when it makes a comeback in a year or so, he once again dons the pleather, this time on screen. There were some good moves on display by the peripheral cast - the leads were kinda lame. Oh, and while the one-hit wonders "Ollie & Jerry" had the movie's hit song, the film does include classics from Art of Noise and Kraftwerk. Finally, Breakin' features Ice-T as the MC at a breaking contest. I can't begin to express how much he's improved as a rapper and actor.

Battlefield Earth (Roger Christian, 2000)

1000 years in the future, Earth's under the rule of Psychlos - big tall wealth-mongering aliens who look like Rob Zombie. Humans are scattered, primitive nomads. The Psychlos get the idea of training humans to do their mining for them, and thus it comes to be that Johnnie Goodboy Tyler (Barry Pepper) comes under the tutelage of Terl (John Travolta). Johnnie learns more than Terl bargained for, and leads the human race in reclaiming Earth.

Okay, stop right there. This isn't a bad outline. This could have been worthwhile, had Travolta not slavishly stuck to the golden word of L. Ron Hubbard. But he turns Terl into an alien Snidely Whiplash, and the Psychlos have this corporate-speak going on, like they're from Planet Dilbert. And then there's the means for the human victory - despite being bombed back to the stone age 1000 years ago, Johnnie goes back to the ruins of DC and an airbase in Texas, and he finds caches of books, weapons, and aircraft all in perfect working order. Just, y'know, put dropcloths on your aircraft and they'll be fine for 1000 years. Riiiight. Isn't Travolta a PILOT?! I hope he's paying his flight crew for a little more maintenance than that. On top of all this, Battlefield Earth is mostly dull. I was running out of steam at this point, as was most of the audience. This film and Message From Space were flipflopped, as Battlefield Earth's reels apparently came out of order and needed some fixing. I'm glad they were - with even less sleep, Message From Space would have been more of a soulsucker.

Tarantula (Jack Arnold, 1955)

Growth serum. Big spider. The big spider hangs out with his labmate, a gigantic pig, and attempts to save it from becoming the world's largest hamhock by spinning huge webs that read "SOME PIG" when viewed from space.

Just seeing who's paying attention. This is supposed to be one of the better giant bug movies, but I was unimpressed, really - Them! was much better. I'm told Clint Eastwood plays one of the Air Force guys fighting the spider, but I didn't recognize him.

The Mummy (Terence Fisher, 1959)

This was the Hammer Films version starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, and as such, I would consider it too classy for inclusion in this event, but here it was. Adhering to Universal's script, Lee is an Egyptian priest who is mummified alive after trying to bring his beloved princess back from the dead. When the princess's tomb is discovered, he's reanimated and comes after who violated the tomb. Pretty slow going, really, but it was amusing to hear these "civilized" Brits rationalize what's essentially graverobbing.

Godzilla 2000 (Takao Okawara, 1999)

Sponsored by - who else?! Japan is threatened by what appears to be a silver nose from space, and it's up to Godzilla, in his paunchy, rubber-suited glory, to become the reluctant hero. Having seen this recently, we were already aware that there's a little Godzilla in all of us (no kidding, that's the moral of the film), so we decided to go home and hit the sack for 16 hours.

Upon waking up, we watched The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie, and it wasn't nearly as fun. I think I've been ruined by this. So that's that. Managed stay up for all but twenty or so minutes, and this was right after a full day at work. Lessons learned for next year? Bring more snacks, a comfier pillow, maybe some earplugs if I decide to sit one out. Afterward, Buñuel films do not work as a palate-cleanser.

©2002 Greg Sorenson