Hey, come check out my contributing post for the amazing B&S Movies site: Ten from Tubi Week 12.
I've become a huge fan of Sam Panico and B&S, thanks to his encyclopedic yen for Mexican wrestling and 70s American TV disaster movies, two genres I've been exploring this summer, each a kind of cranial air conditioning, made extra cool by the infectious love apparent in B&S's concise reviews. He writes and posts about 20 new reviews a day!
And we both love the Tubi. It's so free! And it's got everything from 60s German nudity-and-sex-free sexploitation to 50s Italian sword and sandal epics to 90s shark movies to 30s British comedy-thrillers, and so much in between. Sure, there are commercials--Tubi gotta earn a dollar---but they don't overdo it like regular TV or 'free with commercials' Amazon movies.
And since everything is unedited, the commercials can be hilarious reprieves from the intensity in that accidental surrealist collage kind of way-- like a smash-cut from Leatherface's slamming the metal door to his secret meat locker/kitchen to a sizzling, juicy stake platter now just 10.99 at Applebees. That's kind of a more obvious juxtaposition than most you'll get, but it's still eatin' good in the neighborhood.
Anyway, you know from a Texas Chainsaw, and maybe even a Hills Have Eyes. This list is far weirder but gentler. Less rapey and screamy, more wild and woolly. In a word, cooler.
In addition to the ten here, don't forget to check out the two other top ten Tubi lists I created. Besides the one living at B&S (Ten from Tubi Week 12) there's My TUBI Cue (Deadly Women Edition): 10 Weird Vintage Gems for the High and Inside
That's 30 in all. Title availability not withstanding. In the words of Mantan Moreland, they come and they go... they come and they go.
A bit of a slow burner, on minimal sets, including one very strange and cool empty house (I get the impression the story was written around the house, which is all weird angles, twisty stairs, and spatial distortions), this starts with a happily engaged couple. David (Arthur Roberts) and Barbara (Robin Strasser), picnicking on a sprawling lawn, the music so treacly in that super-cliche'd 70s 'slow-mo run through the meadow' kinda way you may be tempted to give up right then, but don't be fooled. Within minutes the red flags start to unfurl: Barbara proudly announces she built the house and intends they shall live therein, and he clearly isn't that thrilled with all her plans, but as an ambitious employee of his fiancee's father (John Beal), he says nothing. A bit of a deranged, spoiled control freak who really wants her wedding to be fairy tale perfect, David meekly goes along with it all. But there's a reason, which Barbara finds out after walking in on him and his supposed-ex Ellen (Iva Jean Saraceni) having a snot half an hour after saying "I do."
If you're a stranger to the lucha libre movie world this a fine place to start. Las 'Luchadoras' are a tag team of statuesque wrestling women played by Mexican fantasy film fixture Lorena Velázquez (Ship of Monsters, Invasion of the Martian Women) and American ex-pat Elizabeth Campbell. They shall fight in the ring. They shall fight in the streets. They shall fight in masked criminal mastermind / mad scientist Dr. Doom's warehouse lair and secret laboratory. And then they shall fight in the ring again. Dr. Doom (no relation to the Fantastic Four version) is a villain straight out of the classic Hollywood serials, replete with half-dozen endlessly re-punchable henchmen and a monster made indestructible, thanks to body armor and a metal mask). The doctor keeps sending his armored monster and various henchmen out to :recruit" new female subjects off the streets, to use in his gorilla brain transplant experiments, but then he decides he needs 'stronger' women for the operation to work (the others die on the operating table). He happens to have heard of two of them... you guessed it!
Amiable, capable, smart and not shy about mopping up the floor with a whole room full of out-of-their-depth (male) abductors, the Luchadoras don't need rescuing; they even come the rescue of their smitten male cop escorts more than once, and--to their credit--the men are not threatened by it! When all else fails, the scientist decides he has to create a super strong female wrestler (named 'Vendetta'!) and sends her into the ring against las Luchadoras. Doom himself shows up in his own badass mask as her manager. (top)
Even if you don't go in for wrestling, it's a nice whirlwind of serial-style cliffhanger action, with a real reverence for strong female characters, a reverence lacking in America's film output at the time. (Russ Meyer was still doing nudie cuties in 1963 - Faster Pussycat was still two years away).
The recent upgrade to HD makes it easy to finally stop wading through the murk of Something Weird's old DVD. And if you're aching for more, Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy is also in remastered HD on Tubi. If you're hooked after Doom and you want a kind of sequel, check out Wrestling Women vs the Aztec Mummy and its sequel Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy. All terrific, mindless comfort food for the soul and coolant for the troubled brow looking for some monster action to nod off to at four AM.
Special Note: There are other luchador movies on Tubi, including The Panther Women, and a lot of color Santos movies, but they have much newer dubs that don't really work as well, in my opinion. You might be OK with them and can always do as I do--watch them late at night on mute, with subtitles on and the YouTube Spanish version synced up and playing in a different window. Either way, don't let the newer dubs dissuade you from the older dubs, All of the movies mentioned in the above paragraph were dubbed into English back in the 1960s for K. Gordon Murray by a tight little Florida team who did dozens of them under the direction of Miguel San Fernando. YouTube is a real treasure trove for the older luchador stuff, especially subtitled Mexican language prints - visit my curated playlist: Mexico de Macabre.)
Speaking of cranky opinions, I never liked the first two Shark Attack movies and find John Barrowman (Torchwood) egregiously smarmy. These two reasons kept me away from Shark Attack 3 (in which Barrowman stars) for years, despite all the (so-bad-it's) good things I heard about it. But then I learned he was openly gay-married, whiuch made him less offensive. Now he makes more sense, and I can finally enjoy Shark Attack 3: Megalodon, in which he stars as--you guessed it--a smarmy/cocky chief of security at a Cozumel resort destined to fight a large--presumed extinct--big ass shark. And this self-righteous SOB is gonna need all the help a sultry marine paleontologist (Jenny McShane) and her two person documentary crew can lend. Will the inevitable sparks fly between this oceanic white prick and this blue-haired blond-eyed hottie sent from her museum by her smitten male dope of a boss? And you better believe there'll be a corporate whistleblower (Roy Cutrona) fingering the shady outfit he used to work for. And how about an 80s-style yuppie CEO whose deepwater trench-adjacent electric cable starts leaking out into surrounding water, thus driving up the prehistoric big game, forced up by the constant static?
Sure it's as original as 'boy meets girl,' sure it's shoddily-constructed, weather-beaten at the seams, but that's why it's also perfect for a lazy summer afternoon when it's too hot to move more than ten feet from your air conditioner and you're in the mood to see some giant sharks eating yachts full of environmentally irresponsible capitalists while yachting in the beautiful waters off resort-studded Cozumel. And the effects are a cut above the usual Asylum junk. The CGI here is never noticeable. Several of the shots of the giant shark rising out of the water to devour whole boats are surprisingly good; I couldn't tell if they were using miniatures, or just really well-done analog overlays. And I like that it doesn't feel the need to overdo the capitalist evil 'keep a lid on it' schtick. This movie knows you can make even the greediest capitalists somewhat sympathetic and we'll still cheer with bloodthirsty joy when they, their wives, the mayor, and everyone on their swanky yacht, and the yacht itself, are devoured in big cathartic gulps.
No such luck with Barrowman, but now that I know he's gay, it's OK if he stays in one piece. Also, he delivers a great WTF? proposition about 2/3 of the way in. You'll see what I mean, or hear what I mean, as long as you're watching the R-rated version and not the PG-13 one (both are on Tubi, so be careful).
(1962) Dir. Mario Bava
I don't mean that as a dis. The colorful language is part of the reason why I love this damn film. The other part, the white whale, I mean 'buff' is not a convincing buffalo at any time. It's just a big angry furry white steam engine; when it charges, it goes galloping forward as if on wheels on a hidden train track, its head bopping up and down mechanically, steam billowing from its nose like twin smokestacks. Personally, I think that's awesome, and Thompson knows just how to film the thing, i.e. in grand 'never show the whole monster' rule in horror filmmaking, in order to keep its mystique alive to the end. Only appearing at night in snowy scenes, like some ghost of the west, Thompson wisely shoots all its scenes on a big dark soundstage, with falling fake snow and swirling mist, out of which the beast comes a-charging out of the mist--at first just a thunderous roar of hoofs and a blur of kicked up snow far in the distance. The effect is to make the beast dreamlike, a bigger-than-life animatronic juggernaut that transcends the boundary between visions, nightmares, and reality. As a kid who loved big haunted house rides and Epcot Center dinosaurs, I'm a sucker for robot behemoths like this. And--if you were a kid in the 70s you may remember being excited for Di Laurentiis's 1976 King Kong--it was supposedly to be be a massive life-size giant ape robot. Instead, we got Rick Baker in a monkey suit. Was this buffalo his attempt at apology? If so, he is forgiven! Whether it's chasing Bronson around in the snow while Samson rides it, stabbing furiously into its back and neck; or its shoving its massive head smashing through a giant cave wall to get at them, this White Spike is a cool breath of rocky mountain Moby Dick meets snow Jaws air.
|Samson and Bronson bond from 30 yards away by making crazy hand |
gestures and shouting across the snowy hilltop
The opening blurb --an ad for the film you are about to see-- declares Schlock! the greatest film since 2001, and who are we to doubt it? John Landis, the director of Animal House and American Werewolf in London, had to start somewhere. Indeed, so did mankind itself. And here is the starting point for both: a smart and refreshingly deadpan 'spoof' of every movie e'er made that e'er had an ape in it (and even some that don't). With a great termite attention to momentum akin to Italian movies like those two-fisted Terence Stamp-Bud Spencer comedies of the same era, Schlock keeps itself in the groovy moment with a plot that makes reverent use of the entirety of classic creature features without ever mugging or clowning or showing disdain for its audience or inspirations.
Landis himself (in an early Rick Baker-designed gorilla suit) plays the mighty 'Shlockthropus,' thawed out of his frozen tomb ala Trog or Return of the Ape Man, Schlock goes on a spree of random killing and grappling with the strange new world of 70s small town culture, as in his triple-digit massacre of everyone at the 'Canyon Valley Metaphysical Bowling Society's Annual Picnic'. Scenes like his bonding with a girl throwing bread to the ducks trade on our familiarity with the 1931 Frankenstein's "flower toss" scene, for just one example of the films referenced.
Despite the staggering toll in life, limb, and property wrought by the Schlockthropus--trash bags full of limbs, broken store windows--Landis' deadpan black humor never wavers, never making light of the carnage, but approaching it with the same dead-eyed square jawed scientific self-seriousness we see in countless 50s monster movies. No one plays it anything but straight and deadpan, that's why it works. The TV announcer on the scene of Schlock's opening massacre may initiate a contest to guess the total limb count, but he doesn't go 'whoa! whoa!' and surf on a banana peel. A blind girl in a wheelchair may force Schlock to keep retrieving a thrown stick, and maybe he can't figure out how to use a soda machine, but damnit, Schlock keeps his dignity. Under Landis' watch, even common 70s prank call parlance, like asking a hard-working scientist about Prince Albert in a Can, is made funny again by being delivered so mercilessly serious. David Gibson's music score could have easily gone the dopey silent film comedy route (Boing!) we'd expect from someone like Les Baxter, but instead sits the inning out or plays the deadpan suspense card. As far as the score concerned, Schlock is as serious as Trog. Maybe even Trog-er.
A time capsule of old chestnuts (one character even says "I feel a lot more like I do now than I did when I got here" --my granny's frequent one martini-in catchphrase), a wealth of deep cut in-jokes for Landis' fellow classic monster lovers (Forrest Ackerman cameo!), there's an extended uber-meta theater scene wherein Schlock sees a movie called Dinosaurus vs. the Blob which provides a smorgasbord of epiphany via clips from both. There's a touching moment when Schlock grasps the implications when he hears people talking about the doomed readjustment attempts of the thawed cave man in Dinosaurus. And there's a moment of post-meta sublimity as the theater audience watches The Blob's scene wherein the theater audience are watching Daughter of Horror. They run run out of the theater chased by the blob around the same time they start screaming and running out of the theater chased by Schlock --double meta double feature termite in-joke heaven! Sublime moments like that let you know
See it alone or with anyone who remembers creature double features on local TV, and cry... cry for the ape person old enough to remember that simpler time, an ape person with no stake in the modern world, who has to die one day, sooner than later maybe even.... But til then, there's Tubi!