IMDb Bottom 100: The Atomic Brain

The Atomic Brain

The Atomic Brain isn’t a good movie by any stretch, but it certainly has some charm to it if you ask me. This is an older movie that was dug up by the MST3K bunch, and has gained quite a bit of popularity through the show.

The Atomic Brain is centered around the idea of using brain transplants as a way of prolonging death, which is fodder for some grade A shenanigans as the plot progresses. The mad scientist who is pioneering the process is recruited by a wealthy aging widow (who is hilariously over-the-top evil and cruel) in order to execute a scheme for her to live on in a more youthful body. They invite a number of young women to their mansion under false pretenses, and start a process to select which one will host the old widow’s brain. I don’t completely understand why they needed to go through this final selection process, unless the widow just happens to be highly particular about her host. In any case, things go awry. Animal brains get mixed with human brains on a few occasions to hilarious effect, and ultimately the evil plot fails horribly as the house burns to the ground.

I enjoyed this movie quite a bit more than I thought I would. I loved how horrible the old widow was throughout the film, and how cheesy all of the human/animal hybrid experiments wound up. The leads weren’t particularly enthralling or interesting, but a lot of the peripheral action and characters were entertaining and ridiculous enough to make the movie a pretty decent watch (as far as bad movies go). I think this movie’s MST3K riff is golden as well, and adds a lot of entertainment value to the movie. I believe that this is one of the handful of MST3K episodes available on Netflix, so I can definitely recommend checking it out there.

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IMDb Bottom 100: Leonard Part 6

Leonard Part 6
leonard

Boy, is there a lot to say about Leonard Part 6. In general, failed comedies are some of the hardest movies to sit through. They have one primary purpose: to draw laughs. If they aren’t doing that, they aren’t going to be saved by any other aspect of the movie, such as how a bad action movie might be saved by an impressively hammy villain. Leonard Part 6 is a rare exception in my opinion: it absolutely fails to get the laughs it aims for, but I genuinely enjoyed sitting through it. The movie was incompetently written and executed in such a way that I was in a state of awe through most of the film, which is better state than I had expected. There were points that I laughed, but it was either at the absurdity of the plot, the overacting, or the low quality of the effects every time. Regardless, I was able to sit through the movie easier than most of the Bottom 100 films I’ve been through so far.

When people have asked me if I have run into any pleasant surprises in the IMDb Bottom 100, this is usually the one movie that I mention. I have described it as akin to Douglas Adams’ “Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, if Adams had been a moron. There is an absurd element to the movie that has potential, but none of it is ultimately clever or capable of producing genuine laughter. For example, there are a number of instances in which Leonard (Bill Cosby) attempts to reconnect with his ex-wife. During these segments, the wife oddly covers Cosby in food (spaghetti if I recall correctly). It isn’t funny and it doesn’t make sense, but for some reason the movie plays it off like it should be hilarious. The situation is strange and unexpected, as are most of the happenings in the plot, but they aren’t funny beyond their inherent oddness. I found myself spending most of the movie wondering “what the hell is happening here?”, but I will say that I was never tempted to turn it off. It was a strange ride, but not one that I particularly regret taking.

The acting throughout the movie is very much constrained by the poor writing, but there are a few stand-outs. Joe Don Baker has a role as Leonard’s former boss, but he only shows up occasionally throughout the movie. His character is mostly there to catalyze the plot, but he manages to pull off a pretty entertaining sleazeball G-man despite limited screen time. Bill Cosby, who plays the lead, is probably one of the most forgettable people in the movie. Despite being a producer 0n the film, it doesn’t seem like he really wants to be in it. Given that he later disavowed the movie in post-production and has actively prevented it from getting a television release, he clearly isn’t a fan after the fact either. The villains (extreme animal rights activists, by the way) are pretty memorably hammy, but my personal favorite performances are by Leonard’s unexplained Jeeves-like butler and his nonsensical, vaguely eastern-European psychic consult. Neither character is necessary in the film at all, and pretty much only exist to make the movie that much stranger.

The plot to this movie is a bit difficult to explain. The movie starts with an assassination carried out by a rainbow trout, which is later explained as the action of a terrorist organization that has discovered how to mind control animals. This gets more convoluted as the plot develops, because the terrorists are animal rights activists. Why would extreme animal rights activists enslave animals to do their bidding? They seem to imply that this is going to liberate the animals in some way, but that is some confused logic that I don’t want to delve into. What is more important and perplexing is that vegans apparently explode into sawdust when exposed to raw meat in this universe. Yeah.

In any case, Bill Cosby’s Leonard is a retired super-agent who has apparently become extremely wealthy from doing covert government missions. His former employers are forced to turn to him to deal with the terrorist threat, and hijinks ensue as we follow Leonard through his mission. There is unexpected ballet, CGI ostrich action, a car with a tank cannon, and some very poorly executed explosions along the way.

I honestly can’t recommend this movie enough. It is a strange experience, and a complete train-wreck failure of a movie that is hard to look away from. Some apparently haven’t been able to enjoy this movie, but I thought there was some real entertainment value in it as an academic example of how not to make a comedic movie. You really have to just turn off all of your thought processes and embrace the confusion for this one. Just ride the ostrich.

IMDb Bottom 100: Time Chasers

Time Chasers

Time Chasers, or Tangents, is yet another IMDb Bottom 100 movie that can attribute most of its popularity to Mystery Science Theater 3000. Personally, I don’t think it is nearly as bad as most of the other movies on the IMDB Bottom 100. I actually enjoy it as a movie pretty well, despite the film’s obvious shortcomings.

The biggest flaw in Time Chasers is that the film-makers clearly didn’t have the capability to execute the vision of the script. Ultimately, I think that almost entirely came down to a lack of funds. Overall, I am impressed at the product that they did manage to create given their limitations. It creates some humorous moments as they improvise a number of their sets, but they put more effort into it than some other similarly-cheap movies. I think that the film also falls victim to the times in retrospect, as the special effects that are used in the time travel sequences look incredibly cheesy now, not to mention the fashion.

The MST3k riff of the movie focuses a lot on what they see as a miscasting of the lead character. The actor certainly doesn’t strike as a typical film lead, but his character isn’t supposed to be an action hero. He is a physicist and a hobbyist pilot, so why would it be necessary for him to look like a movie star? I also imagine that the film couldn’t afford experienced actors anyway (I’m assuming that from the dialogue delivery), but that “flaw” isn’t something I hold against the movie. The fact that none of the actors deliver lines very well is another matter. Again, I think they were making due with what they had available. I’m impressed that the whole movie is as watchable as it is given the circumstances.

Despite the poor acting, mediocre (and over-reaching) script, and low budget, Tangents is a thoroughly watchable movie. It is by no means fantastic, but it did a pretty good job of keeping my attention. Their future segments come up very short due to their limitations, but bringing in American Revolution reenactors actually served them pretty well in creating their 1777 setting towards the conclusion.

As with any movie like this, a good hammy villain goes a long way in making the final product entertaining, and Tangents really lucked out there. The antagonist is a great corporate CEO bad guy, who seems to get progressively more evil as the movie goes on. The whole movie picks up whenever he is on screen, and he almost makes up for the dull romantic aspect of the plot.

In general, I can recommend this as an enjoyable “bad movie” watch. It isn’t on par with a legitimate release by any means, but it has enough going on to be both watchable and enjoyably incompetent, and the pacing never slows down to a crawl like many poorly made amateur films do. The incompetencies are mostly compartmentalized into areas that make the movie more entertaining, which is a pretty rare occurrence.  The MST3k riff is a pretty good one, but this is a case where I don’t think it is necessary to enjoy the movie. If you want a slightly more obscure pick for a bad movie night, this is a swell candidate.

For Castleton!

IMDb Bottom 100: Chairman of the Board

Chairman of the Board

“Chairman of the Board” is a movie starring the infamous prop comedian known as Carrot Top. It is exactly what you expect.

Do I need to keep writing? Yes? OK, fine.

This is a movie that had absolutely no chance of succeeding, because its fatal flaw lies in its premise: it is a movie that (I assume) was designed around Carrot Top. There are lots of reasons that can lead to a movie falling on its face, but typically there is at least the nugget of an interesting movie idea buried at the core of a bad movie. This is not one of those cases.

I would actually be interested to know more about the story of how this movie got made. Who pitched it? Who put their money into it? More importantly, who greenlit this script when the only other credit to the writing team at the time was the atrocious “Leprechaun 2”, the worst of all of the Leprechaun movies (an impressive feat)? From some cursory IMDb digging, I noticed that the director of the film has a screenplay writing credit, which makes me wonder if he may have had a heavy hand in some rewriting. It clearly didn’t help much, but maybe there was an attempt to fix the unfixable.

There is unfortunately not much information out there about this movie that I can find. Most of what is out there is related to a Conan interview in which comedian Norm Macdonald lambasted the film’s premise prior to the release, and correctly labeled it “box office poison”. Apart from conjecture, there isn’t much solid information to be found. The IMDb trivia solely mentions that this was Carrot Top’s only starring role in a movie. Thank goodness.

Let’s get started with the plot autopsy (Plotopsy?).

Carrot Top’s character is introduced to the audience as an irresponsible man-child who spends all of his money on funding moronic personal inventions (props) instead of paying his rent. He refuses to get / hold down a job because…reasons. He likes to use his infinite free time to surf, which he also incorporates his props into. If I recall correctly, he invents an emergency break for his surfboard. I’ll let someone else figure out the physics on that one.

The plot appears when it is made clear that Carrot Top’s character, Edison (ugh), is about to get rightfully evicted by his landlady. He fails to hold down a series of jobs over the course of a montage, during which I assume the audience is expected to laugh. He also has all of his useless inventions rightfully rejected by a representative of an invention firm of some sort. At this point, it seems like Edison is going to hit rock bottom, and may be forced to mature in order to start piecing his life together as an adult.

Instead, he serendipitously befriends the head of a major research and development company, who then promptly dies for the convenience of the plot. For the further convenience of the plot, this well-regarded and now-dead businessman decided to leave his legacy and the future direction of his company to the strange person he met at the beach recently, and decided to change his will to reflect this fact just before his death. And so, Edison gets a job as the head of a major corporation.

Most of the rest of the movie could be summarized as “Carrot Top won’t shut up, and shenanigans ensue.”

Through those various shenanigans, Edison acquires a love interest (one of his employees) and sews the seeds of his destruction through being massively incompetent and trusting someone who clearly despises him. He does have one “brilliant” invention: a frozen dinner that comes with a television screen and a feature program. Yeah, it is a TV dinner. Yeah, it is a bad idea. Yes, they play it off as a good idea that is wildly successful.

The next section of the movie can be summed up as “Sabotage and just desserts.”

In this section of the movie (my favorite), all of Edison’s incompetencies and his ill-placed trust come back to ruin him. He is ultimately betrayed, fired, evicted, and left unconscious on a beach. Unfortunately, the movie does not end here.

The movie ends with the corporate antagonist being exposed for his sabotage of Edison, the board overthrowing him, and Edison turning down the only job ever genuinely offered to him in his life. He recommends his love interest take over his position at the head of the company (the board does so), and instead of ethically deciding to find employment elsewhere or remain an unemployed dreamer indefinitely, takes a job underneath her in the R&D department, maintaining the dodgy nature of their professional/personal relationship. They joke about this in front of the entire board of the company, and everyone laughs and plays along.

In case you were curious, all of the writers of this movie still get work in television as of 2013, and the director is attached to the already much anticipated “Jingle All The Way 2” starring Larry the Cable Guy, which is slated to go straight to hell DVD next year.

I can’t recommend this movie. It is almost worth seeing just for the spectacle of its strange and unlikely existence, but not quite. This movie is actually out there in a bunch of “family fun” DVD compilations, so it is shockingly still getting circulation after all of this time. Unless you have a high tolerance for both bad movies and the constant, nail-on-chalkboard sound of Carrot Top’s voice spewing nonsense dialogue, when you should really never seek out this movie.

IMDb Bottom 100: I Accuse My Parents

I Accuse My Parents

I think that I have lost count of how many times I have watched this movie. Just to be clear, it isn’t because I like it. This is one of those movies that is so boring and forgettable that I keep forgetting about major aspects of the movie, so I wind up watching parts of it again. As I write this, I watched the movie most recently within the last week. However, I don’t recall a pretty important aspect of the ending. Still, I’ll do what I can to lay this one out for you all.

“I Accuse My Parents” is framed around a court case, in which a young man is on trial for a murder. We open with the judge prompting the accused to give testimony in his own defense, to which he dramatically claims, well, “I accuse my parents”. Then he poorly defends the claim through recollections, and that is our movie.

First off, the setting has the potential to be interesting. There are some great movies out there that use the progress of a court case to tell the story, and they often go to interesting places where they play with unreliable narrators as they are put on the stand. This movie missed a brilliant opportunity to play with the unreliable narrator concept in particular, because it is established relatively early on that the accused is accustomed to lying on a regular basis (he blames his parents for making him pick up that habit, more or less). Despite that, there is no reason given for the audience to be skeptical of any of his testimony, and no one speaks to counter his recollection of events. Basically, the entire courtroom takes the testimony of the accused, a self-admitted grandiose liar, as gospel recollection of all events. Admittedly, this is a simple message movie that isn’t going to delve too deep into anything, but this is one of the most ridiculous courtrooms I’ve seen in a film.

The characters are all very one-dimensional and flat, which contributes greatly to the difficultly of sitting through the movie. The lead character is the only one who really changes in any way, and even his developments are shallow. He goes from being an ace student to a charlatan quasi-gangster and back again over the course of what I believe was only a handful of days, and there is only one scene where we actually see him reconsider his actions. All of that said, the accessory cast are all similarly dull. It is possible that the poor portrayals should be a criticism aimed at the script and the director, because it almost seems like they were instructed and boxed in to acting like they were in a cheesy PSA (this was the 40s, I assume they didn’t know any better). Regardless of where the fault lies, the characters come off as very uninteresting and unconvincing. The only exceptions to this are the parents (the ones he “accuses”, if you recall). The mother character is an alcoholic party animal, who is played up to the maximum. I really wish she had more screen time, because the scene where she drunkenly crashes a PTA meeting is one of the only thoroughly watchable bits of the movie. There is also a great segment early in the movie where the mother and father bicker after coming home in the evening. The father character is a biting, sniping, sexist, miserable suit of some kind. He fires a few verbal darts at the mother, but he generally just blends into the background with the rest of the accessory cast outside of a select scene or two. In his case, the character is supposed to be generally absentee, so I can kind of understand him not standing out or getting a ton of time on screen. Still, I doubt it was a creative decision to make him particularly dull.

So, here comes the bit I don’t remember. As the plot progresses, the lead character gains a love interest while in the midst of one of his lying binges. She is connected to the owner(?) of the club where she performs (yeah, we get a musical number in this) semi-romantically, who also is into organized crime in one way or another. This mob dude recruits the protagonist into doing some sort of menial criminal work (you can tell how well I am remembering all of this, I’m sure). Mob dude connects that there is romantic shenanigans a-brewing between protagonist and the club singer, and decides to remove our “hero” from the equation. At this point, something happens. The love interest breaks off from the lead at the behest of the mobster, and other things happen. Protagonist-liar-pants runs away, and unsuccessfully attempts to rob a diner in one of the worst attempts at a criminal act ever played out on screen. The cook manages to talk him down (and subsequently hires him as an assistant) over the course of the attempted robbery. Good work there, ace.
After hanging around in the diner for some unclear amount of time, he returns home. Things happen, and he ultimately faces off against the mobster character. If I recall correctly, the mobster is killed over the course of the altercation, which is the reason for the trial.

That is the best I can recollect of this movie without looking anything up, and I have probably watched this 6 times, and 3 for sure within the last couple of months. This movie is painfully boring to watch, and the MST3k helps less than you would hope it would. It isn’t as bad of a film as “The Starfighters”, I could compare it more to “The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies”, but without the cheesy effects and hammy acting that provided the few saving graces for it. “I Accuse My Parents” is really just a prime example of the message movies that were popular way back when. They weren’t deep, they weren’t artsy, and there was never much thought put into the acting or the plots in them. Like “The Starfighters” this movie is more like a historical tome than anything: it is an artifact of cinema, which I think would otherwise have been completely forgotten if not for the attention brought to it by MST3k. If watching this sort of cheesy message movie appeals to you ironically, or you enjoy cackling at the outdatedness of these sorts of films in general, then “Reefer Madness” is a much more famous and much more entertaining movie to check out. There are even some more recent edits of it that colorize the weed smoke to be a toxic green (IIRC), which makes the whole thing much more hilarious. That is a fun movie to sit through, “I Accuse My Parents” is not. However, if you are a MSTie, then this is a riff worth checking out. I think it is one of Joel’s best, but I am also firmly on Team Mike.

Oh, and here’s the musical number:

 

Bargain Binge IV

Attack of the Giant Leeches

My goodness, that’s one hell of a creature design! According the the IMDb trivia, the costumes for the “leeches” are basically thin plastic suits with the “suckers” sewn on. That’s some classic low-budget monster work there, perhaps worthy of Ed Wood. As with many of these movies, there is a fantastic alternate title that was used for some of the foreign releases that I absolutely adore: “The Diabolic Marsh”. There isn’t a whole lot to glean about the film’s plot from the trailer, but there also isn’t much information doled out at all. I think the biggest takeaway from the trailer is getting a solid look at those pathetic leech costumes. I’m willing to bet that those suits see way more time on film than they by any right should. Someone put some time into sewing on all of those suckers after all, and they’ll be damned if those suits don’t get some solid screen time! I’m cautiously looking forward to this one, because I have a feeling that this may be one of those movies that has a dull, dragging plot and way too much overexposure of the monsters. Then again, it looks mighty cheesy, and could make for some good unintentional laughs.

Land of the Minotaur

I’m surprised that I haven’t been able to find a formal trailer or many clips from this. I have heard it mentioned a number of times as one of Peter Cushing’s lowest points, and I was pretty excited to finally find a copy of it in a monster movie collection with the likes of “The Creeping Terror” and “Eegah!”. I’m also eager to see how Donald Pleasence is in this flick, as the last thing I caught him in was the dreadful “Pumaman”, which he apparently said on record was the worst movie he was ever involved in. I guess that means he thought more highly of this movie then? Apparently this was originally titled “The Devil’s Men”, which sounds like a more accurate title from what information I can piece together about the plot. I’m a little surprised they didn’t go with that title, so I have to assume that someone had a hangup about using the term “devil” somewhere along the line. That would be pretty strange for folks making a B-movie, and I certainly don’t see any reason why someone would think a Minotaur title is more marketable that one about the devil. I don’t seem to recall there being a big boom in Minotaur movies at any point.

Star Knight

I was really surprised to find a Klaus Kinski appearance in a bargain bin collection of old science fiction movies. The only exposure I’ve had to Kinski is through his stellar work with Herzog, and those films are about as far as you can get from the movies I typically feature here. Never the less, here he is. After some further reading, it looks like Kinski did a handful of European exploitation films early in his career, but this one was oddly and unfortunately one of the last movies he did before his death. The film seems to be a sci-fi interpretation of a knight versus dragon tale, which seems interesting enough in concept. Kinski plays the “dragon”, and Harvey Keitel stars opposite him as the knight named “Klever”. I haven’t been able to find a trailer or clips for this one, but I did locate the theme song. The writer/director has quite a few credits in Spain, but not a whole lot that stands out or saw much of a wide audience. I’m looking forward to seeing how this movie goes horribly, horribly wrong.

Videodrome Atlanta

For most people, video rental shops are a thing of the past, or at the very least vestiges of a bygone era. At the beginning of the year, I watched one of the last once-mighty American Blockbusters close down, and that looked like just about the last nail in the coffin of physical video rentals as a business model.

block

However, I recently came across a charming little video rental joint in my travels: Videodrome, a local shop in the heart of Atlanta, GA. I can giddily report that it is just as delightfully dingy and fascinatingly unique as the Cronenberg masterpiece from which I assume it draws its name. And even more excitedly, I can happily report that the business seems to be doing well!

I spend a lot of my time on the road wandering through used DVD shops, and find a lot of interesting and hard to find movies in the process. I even have a section of this blog dedicated to the interesting and obscure stuff I find.

Well, Videodrome knocked them all out of the water. They had copies of films that I though didn’t exist in any kind of physical form. They had a number of movies that I had only ever heard of via Z-movie reviews from folks like The Cinema Snob or the deeper cuts of MST3K. Overall they didn’t have the widest selection out there, but the stuff that they had was impressively off-the-wall. Any place that keeps a physical copy of “Turkish Star Wars” in stock with a warning label that subtitles are not included has my attention.

Personally, I picked up a handful of movies that I had been meaning to watch but hadn’t gotten to: “WestWorld”, “Dead Alive”, and “Time After Time”. If you haven’t seen those three, I can highly recommend the lot, but with a special emphasis on the latter two. I will likely do a full length post on the bizarre creature that is “Time After Time” soon, and I plan to go over all of the early Peter Jackson movies once I can find a copy of “Meet the Feebles” to watch (to Videodrome’s credit, it was present but already checked out when I came in).

"HG WELLS RACES THROUGH TIME TO CATCH JACK THE RIPPER"
“HG WELLS RACES THROUGH TIME TO CATCH JACK THE RIPPER”

I am tempted to pick up a couple of more movies for my last night in Atlanta tonight, because I want to support this lovely, utopic cinematic paradise in any way that I can. Also, because they have some Ted V. Mikels movies that have proved near-impossible to find through any other means, and because I’m hoping “Meet the Feebles” is back in stock today so I can start working on that aforementioned review of all of the early/weird Peter Jackson films.

If you love B-movies and find yourself in the Atlanta area for a few days, you absolutely must check out Videodrome. They are open daily from noon to midnight, which are business hours I can totally get behind. Videodrome Atlanta is an amazing video rental spot that is surviving through their focus on the rare and obscure entries into the history of cinema, and can use the support of local film buffs and transient bad movie enthusiasts alike to keep being awesome.

Reviews/Trivia of B-Movies, Bad Movies, and Cult Movies.

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