Film Review: The Mad Monster (1942)

Release Date: May 8th, 1942 (premiere)
Directed by: Sam Newfield
Written by: Fred Myton
Music by: David Chudnow
Cast: Johnny Downs, George Zucco, Anne Nagel, Reginald Barlow

Producers Releasing Corporation, 77 Minutes

Review:

“Gentlemen, I wish you were here to see the proof of my claim that the transfusion of blood between different species is possible. Perhaps you will change your mind one day soon when Petro tears at your throat.” – Dr. Lorenzo Cameron

More often than not a studio from Poverty Row would remind the world why they were a studio on Poverty Row. It’s not to say that they were incapable of quality, they made some good stuff now and again, but when you don’t have the finances or the nice studio to compete with the big dogs in the old Hollywood era, every project was an attempt to make chicken salad with chicken shit.

The Mad Monster looks and feels like a Poverty Row film. It’s poorly filmed with bad sound, bad camera work, bad acting and a script that didn’t need refinement, it just needed to be thrown out.

I’d imagine that this gem of awfulness would have been completely forgotten by this point, had it not been featured in the first nationally televised season of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Because of that, it found new life and will always exist, as that show’s die hard fans won’t let anything die.

It should go without saying that the effects are terrible, the acting is dog shit and the monster is cheesier than a Philly steak sandwich buried under Velveeta nachos. But there is an endearing quality to it because of those things.

Sadly, the film is pretty damn boring for the most part and relies on the same small swamp set over and over. The film feels confined, cheap and barely has any redeeming qualities other than the fact that a monster was created by a transfusion of a dog’s blood into a man’s body.

So as is customary with movies like this, I have to run it through the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 3 Stool: Like a sausage but with cracks on its surface.”

Rating: 2.25/10
Pairs well with: The Monster MakerThe Corpse Vanishes and The Vampire Bat

Film Review: The Black Scorpion (1957)

Also known as: El escorpión negro (Spanish title)
Release Date: October 11th, 1957
Directed by: Edward Ludwig
Written by: Robert Blees, David Duncan
Music by: Paul Sawtell
Cast: Richard Denning, Mara Corday, Carlos Rivas, Mario Navarro

Warner Bros., 88 Minutes

Review:

“[to the peons in the village as he and Ramos pull into the rural town in their jeep] We’re from Mexico City! I say, we’re from Mexico City! We’re scientists! Is the mayor here?” – Hank Scott

There were a lot of these giant creature movies in the 1950s when American culture had succumbed to atomic hysteria. Some of these films are good and some are terrible but then there is a third type, the ones that are so bad that they become an incredibly amusing experience to witness.

The Black Scorpion is that third type. This is also probably why it was riffed on the first nationally televised season of Mystery Science Theater 3000. But as awful as the effects may seem, they were still created by stop motion maestro Willis O’Brien: the man behind the effects on The Lost WorldKing Kong and Mighty Joe Young. Classic stop motion doesn’t hold up well today but for the time, it was better than the alternative method of forced perspective.

The plot sees this giant black scorpion start tearing up shit in Mexico. It’s a good Hollywood example of refined whitey boffins talking down to a culture that isn’t theirs. But I guess that doesn’t make this any different than any ’50s film that features scientists in an exotic location.

It’s a silly movie but it is exciting if you are into this type of thing. I obviously am because I spend a lot of my time throwing films like this on.

On a side note: it has a really cool poster. The monster is also cool. Plus, it has a lovable face.

I will refrain from running this through the Cinespiria Shitometer because I really like this film and I respect the work of O’Brien.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: Other O’Brien stop motion pictures like The Lost WorldKing Kong and Mighty Joe Young.

Film Review: Untamed Youth (1957)

Release Date: May 10th, 1957 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Howard W. Koch
Written by: John C. Higgins, Stephen Longstreet
Music by: Les Baxter
Cast: Mamie Van Doren, Lori Nelson

Warner Bros., 80 Minutes

Review:

It is hard to believe that Warner Bros. made this awful movie. Teen dancing movies were all the rage back in the ’50s and ’60s but they usually took place on the beach, not in some podunk town stuck in a barn. This is like a proto-Footloose but without Jesus ruining the kids’ high school dance.

This was also featured on the first nationally televised season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and for good reason. It’s a stupid, shitty movie but at least it tries to be fun.

The story is about these juvenile delinquents that look thirty. The local law is sick and tired of all their partying, singing and dancing so they are forced into slavery, working on a cotton farm. For real, this is the plot.

Most of the movie just showcases these nitwits dancing like spastic jackasses to awful tunes. I don’t think that any of these “kids” were professional dancers. I mean, Mamie Van Doren is in the film, showing off her talents but it’s hardly exciting.

This is a really bad movie for a major studio, even for the time. Warner Bros. should still be embarrassed by this film, over six decades later. If this movie was any indication of their track record, this alone should have kept the DC Comics films (not controlled by Christopher Nolan or Tim Burton) out of their hands. This film left a blight so deep that even sixty years couldn’t cure it. But I’ll give Warner Bros. a pass, as I like the Police Academy movies.

Anyway, this sucks. Plain and simple.

Of course it must be ran through the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 7 Stool: Water, no solid pieces. Entirely liquid.”

Rating: 3.25/10
Pairs well with: Dancing beach movies from the era but even then, this will bring that horrible genre down into deeper, shittier depths.

Film Review: Moon Zero Two (1969)

Also known as: Alerte Satellite 02 (France), Gangsters na Lua (Brazil)
Release Date: October 20th, 1969 (Denmark)
Directed by: Roy Ward Baker
Written by: Michael Carreras, Martin Davison, Frank Hardman, Gavin Lyall
Music by: Don Ellis
Cast: James Olson, Catherine Schell, Warren Mitchell, Adrienne Corri

Hammer Films, Warner Bros.-Seven Arts, 100 Minutes

Review:

“If we’re gonna play, we’re gonna play by my rules!
[flips the artificial gravity switch, so the bar fight is now happening in slow motion]” – Kemp

Moon Zero Two was lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000 but it isn’t as bad as such an honor would suggest. Sure, it is fairly terrible and bizarre and also, incredibly dated. However, it is a wee bit better than other schlocky ’60s space movies.

First of all, it was made by Hammer Films in the UK. The studio famous for their re-imagining of classic Universal Monsters characters. They gave us Christopher Lee’s Dracula and Mummy, Peter Cushing’s Dr. Frankenstein and Van Helsing and a slew of other offshoots, sequels and stylish gothic horror remakes. They also dabbled in straight up sci-fi too with the respected Quartermass films.

This film is also directed by Roy Ward Baker, who was hired by Hammer to helm several films. One of those being one of the Quartermass movies. Baker wasn’t as great as Terence Fisher but he was still pretty accomplished and had a lot of good experience under his belt.

I guess the real problem with Moon Zero Two and why MST3K had to take shots at it, is the overall style of the film. It is low budget, boasts shoddy effects, silly costumes, silly hair and looks like a retro-futuristic 1960s relic. But at the same time, those are also the things that make this movie kind of cool.

The film also stars one of Hammer’s scream queens, Adrienne Corri, who was fantastic in Vampire Circus and probably most famous as the home invasion rape victim in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. Catherine Schell is also in this and she would go on to be in the similar styled television series Space: 1999. In fact, I think this movie had some influence on the style of that iconic British show.

Moon Zero Two came out at the height of the space race when everyone was lunar crazy. But it takes that and gives an interesting twist to a film that is really just about a real estate scam. This was also marketed as “The first western on the Moon”. I don’t really get the western vibe from it and IMDb doesn’t categorize it as such but I guess the Moon’s surface can look like the wilderness of the Old West if you squint and ignore the lunar rovers.

I like this hokey, groovy motion picture. I can’t realistically give it a good rating but it certainly isn’t going to be run through the trusty Cinespiria Shitometer either. It exists in this weird limbo between good and bad but with a peculiar stylistic panache that keeps its head above the muck.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: Space: 1999, the Hammer Quartermass films, When Dinosaurs Ruled the EarthOne Million Years B.C. and At the Earth’s Core.

Film Review: The Amazing Colossal Man (1957)

Also known as: The Amazing Nth Man (working title)
Release Date: October 4th, 1957 (Las Vegas premiere)
Directed by: Bert I. Gordon
Written by: Mark Hanna, Bert I. Gordon, George Worthington Yates (uncredited)
Music by: Albert Glasser
Cast: Glenn Langan, Cathy Downs, William Hudson, Larry Thor

Malibu Productions, American International Pictures, 80 Minutes

Review:

“What kind of sin could a man commit in a single lifetime to bring this upon himself?” – Manning

Bret I. Gordon loves his giant monster movies. The Amazing Colossal Man is actually part of a two movie series with its sequel War of the Colossal Beast. The monster is the same character in both films but in the sequel half of his face is a skull. Here, he’s just some dude in a diaper. I prefer skull-faced diaper dude much better.

Like its sequel, this film was lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000 during the Joel Hodgson run. It makes for a good episode but the film on its own is hard to get through minus a few scenes like the awesome one shown below this review.

Basically, this soldier grows to a massive size and decides to kick the crap out of Las Vegas. This is an anti-nuke movie, as atomic fears were very high in the 1950s and Hollywood loved to capitalize off of that. While this is extremely dated and wasn’t that good, even for its time, this is a nice nostalgic look at that era’s technophobia.

I prefer anti-nuke movies with giant insects or reptiles or animals of some sort. At least I can suspend disbelief and enjoy the creature effects or the forced perspective awkwardness. When the threat is a giant man, albeit one in a diaper, the film becomes more silly than anything. But I guess these were essentially American kaiju pictures but Hollywood just didn’t have the creativity of Eiji Tsuburaya, the special effects director on most of Toho’s Japanese kaiju pictures.

The Amazing Colossal Man isn’t good but it also isn’t a waste of time. It’s unintentionally funny but to be honest, the people that worked on this film were probably just having a damn good time making some hokey schlock to throw on drive-in screens across the U.S.

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: War of the Colossal Beast or Village of the Giants.

 

Film Review: Hercules Unchained (1959)

Also known as: Hercules and the Queen of Lydia (English literal title)
Release Date: February 14th, 1959 (Italy)
Directed by: Pietro Francisci
Written by: Ennio De Concini, Pietro Francisci
Based on: Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles, Seven Against Thebes by Aeschylus
Music by: Enzo Masetti
Cast: Steve Reeves, Sylva Koscina, Primo Carnera, Sylvia Lopez

Lux Film, Galatea Film, Lux Compagnie Cinématographique de France, Warner Bros., 97 Minutes

Review:

“I’m so sleepy, I can’t seem to keep awake!” – Hercules

Mystery Science Theater 3000 has always loved to showcase old sword and sandal movies of the worst quality. Actually, nearly everything in the genre is of poor quality. However, you knew you were getting into something special when one of MST3K‘s sword and sandal selections was a Hercules movie. Okay, maybe not special… more like, slightly better but still not good.

At least this one stars Steve Reeves, the true Hercules of his era and the only one that really mattered in that iconic role.

While this isn’t as good as the first Reeves’ Hercules, it is better than nearly everything that came after it. Still, it’s a fairly crappy motion picture that doesn’t do much to capture the imagination and makes one wonder why these style of movies were so popular. I mean, at least in the ’80s there was ConanRed Sonja and my personal favorite, Beastmaster. But those were actually sword and sorcery movies and not sword and sandal ones. I guess sorcery pairs better with sandals on the big screen. I certainly enjoyed James Earl Jones’ Thulsa Doom, as a villain, much more than the many harlots and weirdos that Hercules got tangled up with.

This film is pretty boring overall. It’s less interesting than the zanier stuff like Hercules Against the Moon Men and it doesn’t have a cool Hydra like The Loves of Hercules. It may be a hair better than both of those due to Reeves giving the film some legitimacy but to be honest, these films all sort of blend together in my mind as a big stew of sand where Steve Reeves’ face occasionally pops up.

Hercules Unchained isn’t a painful experience, it is just a really dull one.

And it is also shitty enough that I must run it through the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 7 Stool: Watery, no solid pieces. Entirely Liquid.” That’s a bit harsher than I thought but the machine never lies.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: Steve Reeves’ first Hercules movie.

Film Review: War of the Colossal Beast (1958)

Also known as: Revenge of the Colossal Man, The Terror Strikes (alternate titles)
Release Date: June, 1958
Directed by: Bert I. Gordon
Written by: Bert I. Gordon, George Worthington Yates
Music by: Albert Glasser
Cast: Sally Fraser, Dean Parkin, Roger Pace

Carmel Productions, American International Pictures, 69 Minutes

Review:

“The foot that made that print is about ten times the size of a normal man’s. That would make him about sixty feet tall.” – Dr. Carmichael, “Glenn was sixty feet tall!” – Joyce Manning

Bert I. Gordon was synonymous with bad movies. So much so that he had eight of his films featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. He also had a penchant for making pictures like this one, where the threat is some sort of human giant. This particular human giant flick is a sequel to an earlier Gordon film, which was also featured on MST3KThe Amazing Colossal Man.

This movie picks up on the previous film’s story but it wasn’t actually marketed as a sequel and has an entirely different cast.

After hearing about some food truck robberies in Mexico, the character of Joyce is convinced that her brother, the giant from the previous film, survived his dramatic death and is responsible for these strange crimes. Joyce, along with an Army officer and a scientist, heads off to Mexico to find her giant brother. The giant, once found, is disfigured from his injuries in the earlier movie: half of his face is mostly just a skull. He is captured, chained to a slab in a warehouse and eventually escapes. He then rampages through Los Angeles until he commits suicide in a really bizarre finale.

War of the Colossal Beast is pretty terrible but it certainly isn’t close to being the worst film featured on MST3K. It’s use of forced perspective and trick shots to display the giant in the same frame as tiny normal people is actually better than similar movies of the time. The effects aren’t necessarily good but they are a step, well… maybe half a step, above other pictures that employed the same techniques.

I can’t say anything good about the acting or the script or really anything else about the film. But I don’t hate it and it presented some solid material for MST3K riffing.

As is customary when reviewing a film of this ilk on Cinespiria, War of the Colossal Beast must be put through the Cinespiria Shitomter. The results read, “Type 5 Stool: Soft blobs with clear-cut edges (passed easily).”

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: The Amazing Colossal Man or Village of the Giants.