Tag Archives: mst3k

Interview with David Giancola of Time Chasers

The following is a rough transcription of an interview I had with David Giancola, who directed the IMDb Bottom 100 feature Time Chasers. Many thanks to Rifftrax for setting this up. Be sure to check out the Live Riffrax of Time Chasers, to be simulcast in theaters on May 5. Likewise, many thanks to David for his time.

GM: Hello David! I have a few questions about Time Chasers here for you.

DG: Shoot!

GM: I first saw Time Chasers a few years ago when I went through the entire IMDb Bottom 100. What is it like to have a movie in those depths? That is some illustrious company to keep.

DG : You’re a glutton for punishment, huh? Well, being on that list is kind of like being in prison: once you are in it, it is on your record, and it isn’t going away. If I remember right, we got as high (low?) as #6 in the ranking. I actually really wanted to get it to #1, but you just can’t be worse than Manos. That movie barely even has sound! In any case, I look at it fondly now, and can laugh about it. I made that movie when I was 19, and I didn’t really know what I was doing. I can look back on that now with perspective. Also, the audience attention from the riffs has been mostly positive, and the MST3k fans are generally pretty great.

timechasersGM: Speaking of MST3k, what has it been like to be on the receiving end of the riffs? How does it feel to be chosen for the Rifftrax Live show?

DG: Really, the riffing is what brought eyes on the movie. I have seen plenty of movies over the years that are worse, but they have mostly been forgotten. I feel like, really, I was lucky. I have also been lucky to still be in the business. Being forgotten is the worst thing that can happen. For Time Chasers, it released on 12 screens in 1993, and now it’ll be on 700. That’s huge! I was excited that Time Chasers was chosen, but it only dawned on me how big this would be when I saw the trailer. I’m also thrilled that they are bringing me and much of the cast to the show. Most of those people don’t work in movies, so we haven’t been together in 25 years. They’re farmers, school teachers, etc. I had to talk one of the cast members into coming, because he was worried he couldn’t find someone to milk his cows! Luckily, he did find someone, and he’ll be there.

GM: Something that really stands out about Time Chasers is how big the vision is behind it. It doesn’t look or feel like a YouTube movie, because there are some big aspirations in there.

DG: I always wanted to do big visions, particularly when I was young. However, I did write the screenplay keeping in mind what sort of resources would be available to us, like the warehouse and the airport. Unfortunately, money was always an issue with that vision. And, when you don’t have the resources to fulfill a vision, it winds up looking cheesy. Really, I was naiive enough for that vision and enthusiasm. I always knew I wanted to do time travel, but had to figure out a way to make it happen with what was available.

GM: Speaking of the airport, one of the things that really makes Time Chasers stand apart from most movies like it are those plane stunts. It all looks incredibly difficult and dangerous.

DG: A lot of that was the benefit of the time period. Back then, we were able to film at that airport, which would just be impossible today. We were, astoundingly, given the run of that airport, and a lot of local pilots were enthusiastic about helping us out with the footage and the stunts, and even loaned us the planes. Those shots of planes flying parallel to each other are incredibly difficult and dangerous, and were only possible thanks to those pilots. My father was also an amateur pilot at the time, and flew the plane that picked up the point of view footage going into the cliff. I was shooting, and remember telling him to “fly closer!” to the cliff-face. That’s definitely a benefit of youth, and I certainly wouldn’t do that today. There are so many ways those stunts could have gone wrong. I remember always expecting the local police to shut us down during the bigger stunts. They definitely drove by a few times, making a point to slow down, but never stopped us. Somehow.

GM: So, how did those Revolutionary War sequences work? Were those just local reenactors?

DG: Yeah, those were legitimate reenactors. There are two big reenactments in Vermont every year. For most of those shots, we just filmed one of them in action, before we even started shooting the rest of the movie, and that came together with the magic of editing. For the shots where the actors are in the foreground, we did that later. We had all of our permissions in order, but the General on site (a plumber by day) was far from cooperative and definitely didn’t want us there. He would yell at the crew and stop the battle in the middle of shooting, trying to throw a wrench into things. Worse yet, he was speaking in period dialect the whole time. It was a nightmare.

GM:  I read on IMDb that there was a big delay between the filming and the release of Time Chasers. Was that due to trouble finding a distributor?

DG: Part of it was trying to find a distributor, but most of that time was due to post-production and editing, which was a much more time-consuming and expensive process back then (thanks to the physical film). Frankly, we were out of money, and it took a while to afford the finishing touches on the film. Once we did wrap up and find a distributor, that’s when the title was changed from Tangents to Time Chasers. I always liked the original title, but apparently it doesn’t translate well. That’s business, though. Nowadays, they’ll change movie titles just to have an alphabetical advantage, because movies that start with numbers or “A” show up first in search listings.

GM: Always have to capitalize on that alphabetical advantage, huh? That’s an odd side affect of the rise of streaming services. So, you are still in the movie business today?

DG: I run Edgewood Studios, so I have done some producing on Hallmark movies, and I’ve directed a few more movies over the years. Most notable among them is probably Illegal Aliens, that I did with Anna Nicole Smith and Chyna. In the years since, they’ve both died of overdoses, so that production might just have been cursed. I made a documentary about the experience of making that movie a few years ago. Much like Time Chasers, it got a title change from Craptastic! to Addicted to Fame (thanks to the alphabetical logic I mentioned earlier). Right now, I have a movie coming out in July called Mail Order Monster, which is about a young bullied boy who finds an advertisement in an old comic book that promises the delivery of a monster. To his shock, it actually comes. Because I have done these movies with my own company, I’ve had a lot of creative control, which I’ve really enjoyed.

GM: Thanks for your time! This was all very interesting information. I’ll look forward to seeing Time Chasers on the screen!

DG: This was a blast! Thanks!



Water Foul: Devil Fish

Devil Fish


Today’s installment into the “Water Foul” spotlight on the worst aquatic monster movies ever made is one of the illustrious members of IMDb’s Bottom 100: 1984’s Devil Fish.

Devil Fish was directed and co-written by Lamberto Bava, the son of the legendary giallo director Mario Bava (Black Sunday, Black Sabbath). He directed the film under the pseudonym of John Old, Jr., which was a frequent practice for Italian directors making knock-off films. Lamberto Bava also worked with noted Italian horror icon Dario Argento on the films Demons and Demons II.

The other credited writers on the film included Dardano Sacchetti (The Beyond, 1990: The Bronx Warriors, Manhattan Baby), Gianfranco Clerici (Cannibal Holocaust, The New York Ripper), Luigi Cozzi (Starcrash, Hercules, The Adventures of Hercules 2), and Sergio Martino (The Mountain of the Cannibal God, The Great Alligator, Torso).

The cinematographer for Devil Fish was Giancarlo Ferrando, who also shot movies like Troll 2, Hands of Steel, Warrior of the Lost World, The Great Alligator, and Torso.

The editor on Devil Fish was one Roberto Sterbini, who has also performed editing duties on films like Zombi 3, Hands of Steel, and Beyond the Door II.

The music for Devil Fish was provided by Fabio Frizzi, who also provided scores to Zombie, The Beyond, and the outlandish 1977 colorized, Italian version of Godzilla by Devil Fish co-writer Luigi Cozzi.

The ‘shark’ for the movie was created by one Ovidio Taito, who astoundingly has no other listed special effects credits on IMDb. The rest of the special effects are credited to Germano Natali, who also worked on movies like Starcrash, Suspira, The Beyond, Hercules, and King Solomon’s Mines.

The plot of Devil Fish is pretty straightforward: it follows a hunt for a mysterious, unidentified creature that is attacking swimmers off the coast of Florida.

As the dialogue loves to remind the audience throughout the film, the monster featured in the movie is clearly not a shark. Despite this, one of the most common alternate titles of this movie is simply Shark. Other alternate titles included Red Ocean, Devouring Waves, Monster Shark, and Shark: Red On The Ocean.

The reception to Devil Fish online is incredibly negative, and its IMDb rating of 2.4 places it in the Bottom 100 of the website. However, this is mostly due to the fact that the movie was featured on the hit show Mystery Science Theater 3000, which tends to dramatically skew votes into the negative range.

Devil Fish was obviously a Jaws knockoff in concept, but it clearly went very wrong somewhere in the creation process. The plot moves almost unbearably slowly in the movie, and the plot lines are barely interesting enough to follow in the first place. There is also, of course, tons of bad science loosely thrown around to try to explain the squid-shark antagonist of the film. I particularly like that it is supposedly capable of breaking down into individual cells and reforming into countless copies of itself, provided they don’t completely destroy it within a set amount of time. As you could probably predict, the evil shark-beast was created by sinister scientists for a vague military purpose, which explains some of its more outlandish qualities.

As bad creature movies often do, the monster was shown far too early on in this movie, and is given too much exposure throughout the film. On top of that, it looks really damn goofy, because the design is pretty much a sharktopus. While it looks good as far as quality goes, particularly for a movie as cheap as this one, it is damn near impossible to take a sharktopus seriously as the central monster of a movie.

Aside from the monster, the blood effects used in this film are really shoddy. There is a point where a character is shot and instantaneously has clearly fake blood dried on his shirt, which is pointed out to great comedic effect by the MST3k crew.

Overall, Devil Fish is a shockingly dull movie, given what it is. Despite fleeting moments of amazingness, like when the monster is killed by a mass of flamethrowers, the pacing of the film is so awful that it is a chore to sit through the whole thing. Even the handful of attacks are boring and routine, whereas they should be highlights of the flick. Unless you are used to watching through movies with Mystery Science Theater 3000, this is a movie that you should absolutely skip. There just isn’t enough going on here to be entertaining.

Water Foul: “Horror Of Party Beach”

Horror Of Party Beach


Today, I’m kicking off a new section of the blog spotlighting the very worst aquatic creatures ever to grace a screen: a section I have decided to refer to as “Water Foul.” First up is the infamous monster movie / beach party flick, “Horror of Party Beach.”

“Horror of Party Beach” was written and photographed by Richard Hilliard, who was also behind films like “The Lonely Sex” and “Violent Midnight.” The film was directed and produced by Del Tenney, who also directed “I Eat Your Skin” and “Curse Of The Living Corpse.”

One of the producers on “Horror of Party Beach” was Alan V. Iselin, who also produced such timeless masterpieces as “Frankenstein Meets The Spacemonster” and “Come Spy With Me.”

The music for “Horror of Party Beach” was provided by Wilford L. Holcombe, who also scored “Curse Of The Living Corpse” and “Violent Midnight.”

Assistant director Wayne Tippit became a dedicated actor following “Horror of Party Beach,” appearing in numerous bit roles in films, and even featuring in television shows like “Melrose Place” and “L.A. Law” until his death in 2009.

Most of the cast for “Horror Of Party Beach” acted in no other films in their careers, including the leads: John Scott, Alice Lyon, and Allan Laurel.

The story of “Horror of Party Beach” is pretty much self-explanatory: radioactive sea creatures begin terrorizing a small beach town with a significant population of partying teenagers.

partybeach4In Stephen King’s nonfiction work Danse Macabre, he apparently refers to the film as “an abysmal little wet fart of a picture,” but is also a fan of the movie for focusing the plot and back story on a number of the anxieties of the postwar era.

“Horror of Party Beach” is one of the films included in the 1978 book “The Fifty Worst Films of All Time” by Harry Medved and Randy Lowell, which was the predecessor to the immensely popular “Golden Turkey Awards.”

A promotional sign was posted at every theater showing “Party at Horror Beach” which stated:

“FOR YOUR PROTECTION! We will not permit you to see these shockers unless you agree to release the theatre of all responsibility for death by fright!”

partybeach3In true William Castle style, audience members actually had to sign a “fright release” waiver prior to entering the theater.

“Horror of Party Beach” was filmed back to back with another feature with a nearly identical cast and crew, “Curse Of The Living Corpse,” with which it played on a double bill.

Because “Horror at Party Beach” was filmed in black and white, the production was able to use chocolate syrup for blood, a technique that was popularly used throughout the black and white era.

For reasons known only to the filmmakers, Alice Lyon’s lines are dubbed throughout the entire running of the film. This was a technique that was done in a lot of bad movies that couldn’t quite get the hang of sound recording on set, like “The Creeping Terror” and “The Beast of Yucca Flats.”

Because of the film’s low-budget, the production couldn’t afford to portray an actual ‘car crash.’ The one in the film was done through the use of sound effects and creative camera angles, which (shockingly) were particularly compelling.

The film apparently inspired a the punk song  called “The Horror of Party Beach” by Sloppy Seconds, which more or less follows the plot and details of the movie.

At the time, “Horror of Party Beach” claimed to be the first horror monster musical, despite the fact that “The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed-Up Zombies” released months earlier, and was structured in a more traditionally musical format.

“Horror of Party Beach” was apparently made for just over $100,000. I wasn’t able to dig up any gross information, but with a budget that low, there’s almost no way that it failed to make money. It is well known as a famously awful movie, and currently holds a justifiably terrible  2.7 rating on IMDb, along with a 28% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

The acting in “The Horror of Party Beach” is astoundingly awful, which makes plenty of sense given most of the cast was filled out by local non-actors. The dubbing that is used is also both unnecessary and distracting, adding to all of the other issues with the feature.

Most notably, the monsters featured in “The Horror of Party Beach” are comical, easily on the lowest tier of quality with films like “Zaat,” “Track of the Moon Beast,” “The Creeping Terror,” and “Robot Monster.”

partybeach1The MST3k riff of “The Horror of Party Beach” points out a pretty big plot issue, in that the revelation that sodium can kill the monsters is just forgotten and dropped for multiple scenes, as if either the script or the editing was done in the wrong order. That is the sort of thing that either the script supervisor or an editor should have caught long before a copy made it on to a screen.

Overall, “The Horror at Party Beach” is a perfect example of an old, cheap b-movie. You can’t help but love the bad acting, the awful dialogue, and the cheesy monster suits. That said, it isn’t quite as memorable as many of its peers. As far as bad musical numbers go, I’d choose “Eegah!” over this any day, and the monsters here aren’t nearly as memorably terrible as “The Creeping Terror” or “Robot Monster.” If you are a die hard bad movie fan, I recommend giving this flick a shot. Otherwise, this isn’t really a required watch in my opinion: there are just better options in the genre out there, and also ones with better riffs if that is what you are after.




Wednesday, Rifftrax’s live take on “Sharknado” from July will be available for download and streaming on their website. It was a damn good show (as all of their live ones typically are), and I highly recommend giving it a watch.

Of course, this Rifftrax release gives me a fantastic excuse to talk about the burgeoning franchise of centrifugal carcharadons, and whether these “Sharknado” flicks are worth the attention that they are garnering.

For those unaware, The Asylum, who creates the Sharknado movies, has been around since the late 90s, distributing and producing B-features. Over the past few years, they have made a name for themselves making two specific kinds of B-movies. First, they do a wide array of monster flicks: the “Mega Shark” movies, “2-Headed Shark Attack,” “Shark Week,” etc. Second, they have essentially created their own quasi-genre of the “mock-buster”: films designed to resemble current Hollywood releases as closely as possible, in order to parasitically feed on DVD sales. These have included such titles as “Snakes on a Train,” “Transmorphers,”  and “Atlantic Rim.” Unsurprisingly, this has gotten them into a little bit of legal hot water here and there, particularly with 2012’s “American Battleship,” whose name was eventually changed to “American Warships.” “Sharknado” obviously follows in the vein of the first type, clearly drawing inspiration from the outlandish “Mega Shark” series, which saw success similar to “Sharknado” a few years back, though not on the same scale.

Most of the movies put out by “The Asylum” are of pretty low quality by Hollywood standards, but are certainly leagues above Troma movies as far as production qualities go. They have particularly relied on cheap CGI in recent years to carry their films, which doesn’t enthrall today’s hardcore horror fans by any means. I mentioned in my “Lake Placid” review that I felt like the CGI used there really set the precedent for these Asylum monster movies, for better or worse. “Deep Blue Sea,” also from 1999, deserves some credit/fault as well for the first major modern CGI showcase of sharks on the big screen.

It is worth noting that while The Asylum’s movies are all of similarly low quality in regards to production values and CGI, they are not all equally entertaining. “Sharknado” is without a doubt one of the most genuinely entertaining products that they have put out, and I don’t think many would argue otherwise. Most of their movies are poorly paced, dull, and unmemorable, all of which are criticisms that I don’t think are valid to level at “Sharknado.” I will say that one of my favorite Asylum movies (maybe more so than “Sharknado”) was “Sherlock Holmes,” a mock-buster which was released just after the first Robert Downey Jr. / Guy Ritchie blockbuster. However, instead of just being satisfied with taking on a Holmes story, Asylum managed to wedge in an Iron Man suit, hologram dinosaurs, robots, and a hot air balloon battle. Really.

There is a really good video that circulated a bit last year that ruminated on the concept of good-bad (“nanar”) movies, and whether one could be made intentionally, a question that was clearly aimed at “Sharknado.”

The video did get me thinking, and I responded to it last month with a lengthy analysis of “The Producers” and “Springtime for Hitler,” in which I posit that there is a way to intentionally craft a bad movie. But, right now I want to dig into something that the video neglects to cover: the long tradition of intentionally made bad movies, which I believe deserves its own classification.

I mentioned Troma earlier in this post: in a lot of ways, they operate the same way that the Asylum does, but with a more tongue-in-cheek disposition and fondness for practical effects. They definitely have a cult following, and some of their films are regarded in the highest echelon of good-bad movies, but I don’t think anyone honestly believe that Troma goes into any of their movies aiming to create something conventionally “good.” “Surf Nazis Must Die,” “The Toxic Avenger,” “Tromeo & Juliet,” etc. are all clearly intentionally made bad movies, yet they have a loyal following of people who swear by them. They are still undoubtedly a divisive entity in the B-movie world though, so lets look at another example: Roger Corman.

Lloyd Kaufman, mastermind of Troma

Roger Corman is the undisputed King of the B-movies. Even beyond that, he is one of the most renowned fosterers of filmmaking talent in history, giving first breaks to people like Peter Bogdanavich, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorcese, Jack Nicholson, and James Cameron, among many others. His career has spanned the better part of a century, and he, without any doubt, creates intentionally bad movies that are often widely adored. Recently, his producing credits have included the “Sharktopus” movies, the next of which is slated for 2016. On the other end of his long list of credits is 1955’s “The Beast With a Million Eyes”: he’s been doing this for a long, long time, and I think you would be hard-pressed to find someone who would claim that Corman movies don’t deserve recognition in a “good-bad” movie discussion.

When it comes down to it, I think this video misses the category that “Sharknado” really belongs in. Here is a Venn diagram shown at 1:32:


I think that this diagram merits another circle. As he mentions, there are a few different definitions of what a “B-movie” is out there, and not all of them are made with the same sort of intentions of a Troma or Roger Corman film: to be outlandish for the sake of outlandishness. I’m going to include this category as a green circle on a modified version of the above graph, with the acknowledgement that not all of these intentionally made bad movies are “nanar”-style enjoyable, but some definitely are.

sharknado2So, I would claim that “Sharknado” gets the rare distinction or being in the intersection of the green and blue circles, alongside a handful of the more enjoyable Corman movies, treasured B-movie flicks like “Chopping Mall,” and a debatable selection of Troma’s filmography.

Getting back to “Sharknado,” I do not think is as bad as it is by design alone.  Particularly after seeing it on a big screen for the Rifftrax event, I believe that this is an incompetently made film beyond just the outlandish concept and writing. I think “Sharknado” is kind of like someone laughing at themselves to try to cover up a genuine weakness. As we all should know, laughing at it doesn’t make a flaw magically go away.

The CGI sharks and, more noticeably on a big screen, CGI weather effects look damn awful throughout this movie, and are probably the biggest weaknesses to the whole thing. Given how often the sharks and weather need to be shown on screen for this film to work, it is a pretty big issue that they look so poorly done. To be fair, they aren’t “Birdemic” birds, but they still look pretty awful.

sharknado5Something else that stands out more upon re-watching is the cinematography of “Sharknado,” in the sense that it is just god-awful. The camera movements are frankly nauseating, far more so than is ever justified. It isn’t like there are people out there who find bad cinematography hilarious, this is just honest incompetence in the film-making showing through.

So, I suppose my point with all of this is that “Sharknado” 1) follows in a long tradition of outlandish concept films, 2) is incompetent beyond just the concept, and 3) is still an entertaining film. I understand the detractors that aren’t fond of The Asylum’s brand of B-movies, but I do think that the success of “Sharknado” isn’t an accident: despite being an incompetently crafted movie, it is fun, and is almost certainly the result of a boiling down of The Asylum’s past successes. It isn’t the same kind of fun that “Troll 2” or “The Room” offers, but it is definitely similar to the old Corman-esque tradition.

sharknado7“Sharknado 3” is slated for debut in July 2015, and it looks like it will mark yet another change of venue for the franchise, this time to the nation’s capital. After the second film’s location of New York, NY, I hope there are some more twists in store for this third flick apart from new monuments to level. It is going to be hard to compare with a shark assault on the Big Apple.

And, again, Rifftrax’s take on Sharknado will be available on Wednesday, February 18th at Rifftrax.com. It was a fun show to watch, and if you enjoyed Sharknado, it is sure to enhance the experience for you.


IMDb Bottom 100: Monster A Go Go

Monster A Go-Go

1965’s “Monster A Go Go” is an astoundingly bad film, enough so to be a true separation from the rest of the IMDb Bottom 100. The movie is a patchwork built primarily from parts of an unfinished product (that was poor in its own right), and then supplemented with original footage filmed years after the fact to complete the movie. This has been done with a number of other B-pictures (“They Saved Hitler’s Brain” comes to mind), but “Monster A Go Go” is the most distractingly awful example of this that I have come across.

The props are pretty awful as well. But then again, so is everything else in “Monster A Go Go”

Apparently “Monster A Go Go” was only cobbled together to fill out the second half of a bill for a double feature. With that in mind, a lot of the flaws in the movie make more sense: the sound issues, continuity errors, inexplicable sets, and abrupt editing are all explained by the simple fact that there was only a minimum amount of effort put into creating the film. The fact that “Monster A Go Go” was also a cheap attempt to salvage an abandoned film certainly contributes to almost all of the most glaring problems in the movie, such as the replaced actors and seemingly unrelated asides throughout the film.  The disjointed product of all of these problems is a film so unfocused and bizarre that it is nearly unwatchable and incomprehensible.

You have to love the laundry room science lab set

As with many of the other IMDb Bottom 100 entries, “Monster A Go Go” owes much of its reputation to the show Mystery Science Theater 3000. However, none of the other movies in the list have the honor of being considered by the MST3k crew as being the worst movie ever to have been featured on the show*. Considering the sort of movies that made their way onto the MST3k screen, that is really saying something. That said, they certainly do their best to make the movie worth the watch, and the episode highlights are worth checking out:

Personally, I am conflicted about Monster A Go Go. It is undoubtedly a spectacle of how to do everything wrong in making a movie. From an academic perspective, that makes the movie kind of fascinating. On the other hand, it lacks much of the entertainment value that people expect from “good-bad” movies. The MST3k riff is fun and makes the most of the overall rather dull movie, but it is still a tough film to sit through if you are expecting to have a good time. Some of the lighting goofs, silly sets, and the hilariously awful ending get genuine laughs, but they are very few and far between. Unless you want to watch a bad movie for the sake of seeing a movie gone terribly wrong, “Monster A Go Go” is skippable. It certainly isn’t the ideal flick to watch with a group of people to have a good time.


Surprisingly, “Monster A Go Go” is pretty low in the IMDb Bottom 100 (it has been sitting in the 80s). Without a doubt, this is one of the most objectively worst films I have seen while going through the list, standing out with movies like “The Starfighters” and “The Maize”. Given the influence of MST3k fans on the IMDb Bottom 100, I don’t expect it to fall out of the ranking anytime soon, but it is quite surprising to see it so low. I am somewhat curious if there is an odd subset of people over-ranking this movie intentionally, because I have a hard time believing that any significant number of people would rate this movie with more than one star in earnest. In any case, it is sitting where it is for some reason hidden within the will of the masses.

Plotopsy Podcast #6 – Santa Claus (1959)

Santa Claus (1959)

santaclaus1 santaclaus2

Today on the (Plot)opsy Podcast, I am spotlighting a particularly infamous IMDb Bottom 100 film as part of the 15 Days of Bad Christmas Movies: a 1959 Mexican production called “Santa Claus.” Despite the simple title, this is one of the strangest Christmas movies out there: the plot involves Satan, Merlin, some of the creepiest surveillance devices in cinema history, robotic reindeer, and Santa’s captive child workforce who are housed indefinitely in his space castle. I recommend seeking it out.

santaclaus11santaclaus12 An assortment of Santa’s humanoid listening devices
Santa with his mechanical toy reindeer
Santa with his mechanical toy reindeer
The demon Pitch attempting to tempt Lupita
Santa Claus with Pitch
Lupita with giant, horrific, dancing dolls
Promotion for the December 2014 Rifftrax Live event featuring “Santa Claus”

Be sure to visit my cohorts in the “15 Days of Bad Christmas Movies”:

Stinker Madness Podcast
If We Made It Podcast
JT Movie Podcast
Dark Corners of This Sick World

Also, you can check out previous episodes of the (Plot)opsy Podcast here.

IMDb Bottom 100: Bat People

Bat People / It Lives By Night

batpeople1 batpeople2

“Bat People” is yet another recent addition to the IMDb Bottom 100. As with many other members of the list, this is a B-movie that had the great misfortune to be featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. However, I didn’t think it was a particularly notable entry in the series. Overall, it has a pretty standard B-movie formula, and is very similar to other movies I have covered in the IMDb Bottom 100 already (namely “Horrors of Spider Island” and “Track of the Moon Beast”). Basically, someone is bitten by a bat, and then slowly becomes a bat-man through a serious of murderous fits.

A murderous fit of a batman

As is not unusual with low budget B-flicks of the time, this is another film with a good number of alternate titles. IMDb recognizes “Bat People” as the official name, but it is also widely known as “It Lives By Night” due to the popularity of the MST3K episode (which ran it under the less-used alt title).


As far as interesting trivia goes, “Bat People” was Stan Winston’s first feature film makeup work, which is a real shame given how awful the lighting is in most of the movie. The makeup effects that you can make out in the darkness don’t look totally horrible, which isn’t exactly shocking given the storied career in special effects and makeup that he would ultimately have.


These are probably the best-lighted shots of makeup in the movie

While the acting and writing in “Bat People” could certainly be better, nothing is nearly as distractingly awful about this movie as the lighting. Given much of the movie takes place in caves and at night, you have to expect a fair deal of darkness. That said, there is a way to deal with filming at night, and this flick totally fails at pulling it off. Even the opening shot is so dark that it is unclear what the image is supposed to be for a number of seconds.

As far as other complaints go, I wasn’t really impressed with the execution of the ending. Part of this is due to the fact that the twist wasn’t set up well enough in the writing, but there also wasn’t much of a sense of suspense in the final sequence like there should have been.

Overall, this is a pretty forgettable and skippable movie that I can’t recommend on its own devices. The story is formulaic enough that it is pretty easy to follow along, but there just isn’t much entertaining going on as the movie progresses. That said, this was a really fun episode of MST3K, and the comedic commentary really works well with this one. It isn’t the best MST3K episode, but it is a pretty good one worth checking out.

Plotopsy Podcast #4 – Santa Claus Conquers The Martians

Santa Claus Conquers The Martians


Today, as part of the “15 Days of Bad Christmas Movies” pod crawl, I will be talking about the B-movie holiday classic and IMDb Bottom 100 stalwart, “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians”.

To begin with, the setting of “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” is a bit peculiar. In this universe, Santa Claus is an established, real person: there is no particular mystery or mysticism associated with him. This is fairly bizarre for a Christmas movie, to say the least: most use the mystery surrounding him as part of the story. The movie even opens with Santa being casually interviewed on TV at the north pole (where he, of course, has a physical workshop in the near-uninhabitable tundra). This sequence also features the first appearance of the character Mrs. Claus on the big screen, as “SCCTM” predated “Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer” to the theaters by 3 weeks in 1964. Santa also strangely forgets the names of his reindeer during this scene, famously referring to “Blitzen” as “Nixon”. Keep in mind, at this point in time Nixon was only know as the former Vice President of the United States, and as the man who lost the Presidency to a Catholic.

Part of the charm of “SCCTM” comes from a horde of cheap effects used throughout the film: these include the kind-of animated introductory credits, a man in a polar bear suit that makes the bear fight in Lou Ferrigno’s “Hercules” look dignified, a cardboard killer robot named Torg (not to be confused with Torgo from “Manos: The Hands of Fate”), space ships of Ed Wood levels of quality, and martian costumes consisting of what appear to be spare television and vacuum cleaner parts. Last but not least, the Martians carry magic guns (capable of freezing or tickling targets) that are just recolored “Wham-O” air blasters. Personally, I can’t hold the fact that the production was frugal with effects too harshly against them, but the end result of all of these cost-saving decisions is pretty entertaining to see on screen.




A lot of fanfare has been made regarding the inaccuracy of the title of this movie. Santa does not do any fighting in the movie, and doesn’t claim Mars for the glory of the North Pole. The more accurate title is “Santa Claus and the Martian Civil War”: the conflict of the story comes from a split in martian society over whether the joy of Christmas should be assimilated into their lifestyle. The martian elder Chochem warns that the children of Mars will become rebellious if they are not exposed to yule-tide cheer, a controversial declaration which sparks the initial martian expedition to retrieve Santa in the first place, and plants the seeds of the eventual martian rebellion by Voldar. so if anything Santa is a catalyst to conflict, not a space conquistador.

Despite not featuring any real conquering, there is a climactic fight scene in the movie, in which toys are used by Santa Claus and the martian children to annoy and distract Voldar and the martian rebels until they are subdued by Kimar and his loyalist soldiers. It is a frenetically shot scene that needs to be seen to be believed, and is perhaps the most infamous sequence in the film.

The leader of the martian rebels, Voldar, is one of the most purely evil characters in the history of film. He not only convinces the martians to kidnap and interrogate a pair of human children, but he also attempts to murder Santa Claus and two kidnapped children on multiple occasions, including an incident in which he attempts to launch them into the void of space via an airlock. He is also established to be particularly bellicose and fond of war, at one point commenting on Mars’s past as a military society. Mars, of course, is the romanticized name for Greek god Ares, who is the god of war in both mythologies. He also has a legendarily villainous mustache, just in case it wasn’t clear to the audience that he would be the mutinous villain of the story.

Voldar, ordering a robot to murder children
Voldar is the one with the stache, of course

It is worth noting that the Martian naming conventions in the script and by and large astoundingly lazy: four of the primary martian characters are named Kimar, Momar, Bomar, Girmar. standing for “King Martian”, “Mom Martian”, “Boy Martian”, and “Girl Martian”, respectively.

One of the most memorable parts of “SCCTM” is undeniably the theme song, Hooray for Santa (or Santy) Claus: it is absurdly catchy, and features some mean trumpet work to boot. I specifically recall finding the sheet music to this is my high school band’s archives, and despite my pleadings, we ultimately never performed it publicly. The song is arguably the best thing to come about as a result of this film, though you probably won’t hear it on a Christmas radio station.

Infamous actress Pia Zadora appears in this film as Girmar in her first on-screen role (she was 8 years old at the time). She is best known as a punching bag for movie critics in the 1980s, particularly for her Razzie nominated roles in “Butterfly” and “The Lonely Lady”. Bafflingly, she also received a Golden Globe for her performance in “Butterfly”, a decision that is mocked and criticized to this day

One of these is Pia Zadora. Flip a coin, I can’t tell them apart. Does that make me a Martian racist?

At the end of the movie, it is decided that one of the martians (Dropo, who provides much of the film’s comic relief) will take on all the duties of Santa Claus for Mars. It is never made clear as to why this wasn’t tried in the first place: the martians have a concept of what Santa does, and it is established that they have earth television programs that feature him prominently. Why wouldn’t they try to replicate Santa’s work first, instead of going through the trouble of apprehending Santa? Who knows?

The cult status of SCCTM is iconic among “so bad it is good movies” and Christmas movies alike. it particularly took off in popularity after it was featured in the show MST3K in the 1990s.  The movie has since seen multiple adaptations to the stage, is often cited as one of the worst movies of all time in professional publications, has become a staple in the IMDb Bottom 100 ranking, inspired a spin-off novelization, and was even re-dubbed in Brazil as a drug comedy called “Santa and the Magic Powder”. It was re-riffed live by the Mike Nelson MST3K crew as part of a Rifftrax Live event in December of 2013, which was simulcast in theaters around the United States and Canada.

Promo for the Live Rifftrax of “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” from December 2013.
Photo from a stage production of “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” in Fullerton, CA

As to the Plotopsy of SCCTM, what went wrong with this production? As I previously mentioned, the defining aspect of the movie is frugality, bordering on frank cheapness. That said, there is an honest charm to this film that has turned it into the cult classic that it is, much of which is rooted in those same financial limitations of the production. So, when it comes down to it, the movie’s weakness is its strength, and it wouldn’t be what it is without it. The cheesy writing is also often criticized, but to a certain degree, that was unavoidable: after all, this was intended as a simple children’s film, so cheesy elements were going to seep in regardless.  Director Nicholas Webster did have success directing television, so he certainly wasn’t incompetent behind a camera (though the failure of SCCTM pretty much killed his chances with features). There are even some shockingly half-decent shots to be found in SCCTM, so unlike many bad movies, it isn’t so much a failure on a technical level.

I can’t recommend this one highly enough, especially with the MST3k riffs. It is horrible and absolutely deserving of a place in the IMDb Bottom 100, but it is also an absolute blast. Definitely check it out if you haven’t already, it is readily available on YouTube.


You can catch up with the 15 Days of Bad Christmas Movies over with the Stinker Madness Podcast who just covered “Home Alone 3”, the If We Made It Podcast who just did “Ernest Saves Christmas”, the JT Movie Podcast, who took aim at “Jack Frost” this week (notably the creepy snowman one, not the Michael Keaton one), and Dark Corners of This Sick World on YouTube, who are featuring one of my personal holiday bad movie favorites this coming Monday, “Elves”: because nothing says Merry Christmas like a Nazi incest plot.

Make sure to tune in next week for my next entry in the 15 Days of Bad Christmas Movies, which will feature the Hulk Hogan vehicle and fellow IMDB bottom 100 member, “Santa with Muscles”

IMDb Bottom 100: Ator, The Blade Master

Ator, The Blade Master / The Cave Dwellers


“Ator, The Blade Master” is part of a series of sword and sandal movies, which wasn’t exactly clear to me when I started watching the movie. It strikes me from looking at some of the alt titles that there may have been an attempt to market this more as a standalone movie than as a second installment. Apart from some flashbacks early in the movie, there wasn’t much sense that this was the continuation of a previous story. Admittedly, I have not seen the first of these movies, so I don’t know how much actually carries over to this one.


Speaking of alternate titles, this movie is probably most famously known as “Cave Dwellers”. This title comes from  a particularly bad TV cut that the MST3k folks got a hold of and featured on the show, in which the intro titles are just blacked out and replaced with the alternates. The episode is one of their best for sure, and the shoddy copy of the film gives them plenty to work with.


“Ator” has some really fun moments interspersed throughout the movie, including an amazing sequence in which bombs are dropped from a hang-glider on to a castle, but the overall pacing to the movie is absolutely atrocious, and makes something that could be a lot of fun into a pretty dull watch. Even the fight choreography, where it exists, is pretty disappointing, but the shots are all bad enough that it wouldn’t matter much anyway. There are so many mechanical issues with this movie that it absolutely boggles the mind, from cinematography to choreography to editing.


The acting in “Ator” is a pretty mixed bag: the villain of the story is absolutely amazing, and hams up the role as much as you could possibly image. He not only has bad guy facial hair, but also dons one of the most ridiculous bird helmets that I have ever seen. On the other end of the spectrum is the elderly “Wise One”, who drags the entire movie down with his drawn-out line reads and pauses. Whenever he is on screen, the movie moves along like molasses. In the dead center of the two is the fellow playing the eponymous Ator, who could not look the part any better. He has some ridiculous lines, but he certainly never phones in the performance.

Right: Bird helmet bad guy. Left: The worst actor in the movie

I can’t recommend the whole experience of watching “Ator, The Blade Master”, just because the pacing slows down so much in the body of the film. That said, I can definitely recommend checking out a supercut of the MST3k highlights to get the gist of the film, that would be more than worth your time.

As a side note, there is a very similar bad movie out there that I enjoyed much more than “Ator”: “Yor: Hunter of the Future”. The movie stars Reb Brown (from IMDb Bottom 100 flick “Space Mutiny”), and features a hilariously incoherent theme song. Overall, there is a lot more ridiculously entertaining stuff going on in that movie, so it is more of an interesting watch if you are sitting down to enjoy yourself.

IMDb Bottom 100 in theaters!

The good folks over at Rifftrax are going to be doing yet another live simulcast for the holidays! The former Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang are taking on an old favorite: IMDb Bottom 100 member and cult classic “Santa Claus”, a Mexican-made children’s movie in which St. Nick lives in a sky-castle with Merlin and battles demons for the souls of children.

You can check it out in select theaters around the US and Canada (maybe elsewhere?) on December 4th. To check where it is playing near you, go to the Fathom events page here, and throw in your local ZIP code. Or, if you happen to be in the Nashville, TN area, you can go to the in-person showing at the Belcourt Theater! I went to the live Rifftrax of “Godzilla (1998)” at the Belcourt this summer, and it was an absolute blast. I recommend making an evening of it if you can.


Also, I highly recommend checking out the old MST3K episode on “Santa Claus”, which is among the best of the series. I’ll be covering the movie later in December here on the blog as well for the IMDb Bottom 100 reviews, so keep your eyes open for it!