Sergeant Deadhead

Sergeant Deadhead. Alta Vista Productions 1965.

Before watching the movie:

From how hard the movie is trying to be sold as a wacky comedy, I would expect that the change that Avalon’s undergoes in space would be really wacky, like he comes back really loopy, or having switched minds with his simian copilot. At the very least, “Deadhead” suggests to me an “idiot comes turns smart” story, which isn’t necessarily funny. But the summary I read says that he returns with a more “aggressive” personality. That doesn’t necessarily sound funny. Maybe it’s funny because he’s aggressive like a chihuahua, overconfident in his abilities.

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Gorgo

Gorgo. King Brothers Productions 1961.

Before watching the movie:

I’m sure nobody wanted audiences to think this was Godzilla with a bit of a King Kong plot. It’s a giant monster movie, but this time in London because it’s a UK production. That’s about all that one can expect, I guess. Specifically, the monster is taken back to London from the place it was found to be shown off, but its mother comes and stomps everything.

Western kaiju movie. I don’t know what more to say. Some of the names are slightly familiar but I couldn’t place them to anything specific.

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Earth vs. The Spider

Earth vs. The Spider.
American International Pictures 1958.

Before watching the movie:

I feel like I’ve seen clips of this movie used as a generic sci-fi B movie in a lot of places. I was definitely thinking it’s the source of the giant spider footage in Lilo And Stitch, but I think I’ve seen giant spider movie clips in other places not noted on Wikipedia, but I might be thinking of giant ants and THEM.

As far as what I know to expect, apparently there is a giant spider in this movie. My supply of midcentury schlock sci-fi seems to be more exhaustible than it seemed like it was a few months ago.

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The Toxic Avenger

The Toxic Avenger.
Troma Entertainment 1984.

Before watching the movie:

I hadn’t heard of this movie until I stumbled across it on a streaming platform, but apparently it has a cult following. It’s from about 20 years later than I initially thought, but I also thought it was played straighter. This is going for satire, not camp.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the grotesque deformity the accident that gave him his super powers came from is a specific take-that to all of the superheroes and villains that got their start from chemical or nuclear accidents and end up looking amazing, or at most with a cool scar on the face, completely unlike most things that suddenly and dramatically change a human body in reality.

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Godzilla (1998)

Godzilla (1998).
Centropolis Entertainment/Fried Films 1998.

Before watching the movie:

I don’t quite understand why Godzilla captured people’s imaginations. I would’ve said that a large part of the charm of the original Japanese kaiju movies was camp and cheap effects, but everything that sells eventually gets three high-budget reboots here, and I think this did pretty well in theaters.

I certainly remember it being heavily promoted and cross-promoted. It probably made its money back just on toy sales, or at least the studio thought they had a shot at doing so.

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Earth Girls are Easy

Earth Girls are Easy.
De Laurentiis Entertainment Group 1988.

Before watching the movie

How did I never know, or at least never have it sink in, that Jeff Goldblum is in this? Jim Carrey playing a weird alien, okay. Jeff Goldblum playing a weird alien, the potential to really let him run wild with it has massively piqued my interest.

I stayed away from this movie for a long time because I was expecting a raunchy comedy that hasn’t aged well. But now I find that it was inspired by a song by and co-written by Julie Brown, of songs like “Cause I’m A Blonde” and “The Homecoming Queen’s Got A Gun”, so it has the potential to at least not be tasteless in the way I was expecting. It’s still over 30 years old.

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The Cat from Outer Space

The Cat From Outer Space.
Walt Disney Pictures 1978.

Before watching the movie:

In the 60s and 70s, Disney’s live action movies department came up with some pretty outlandish ideas. Some of them are cartoon ideas, but done in live action, some are just… did they throw darts at a board or something?

This is an adventure about an extraterrestrial cat. There’s some humans trying to help the stranded alien cat get home and some other humans trying to steal the cat’s technology, and I don’t really know much more than that, which I learned only minutes ago.

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The Black Hole

The Black Hole. Buena Vista 1979.

Before watching the movie:

This always seemed a strange choice for Disney, even considering the weird live action movies they made in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. The trailer I dimly remember seeing for it on some tape seemed dark and scary and serious, not the kind of fanciful family outing that most Disney live action movies try to be. I’ve heard there are fun comic relief robots for the kids, but this always seemed to be positioned as “Disney does Star Wars” (which took about three and a half decades to actually happen).

The synopses I’ve seen are not much help for shaking this notion. It seems like Alien meets 2001: A Space Odyssey. A deep space mission with a sense of foreboding encounters a mystery that ultimately takes them beyond anything the reality we know prepared them for. You know, for kids!

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Movies of My Yesterdays: Howard the Duck

This is a little later than most My Yesterdays selections, but it’s still formative. I first saw this movie shortly before starting Yesterday’s Movies and I had Opinions, and at the same time I was looking for an internet project I could add to on a regular basis. And now it’s been ten years of putting my unsolicited thoughts about movies people have forgotten about into the void.

Howard the Duck. Lucasfilm 1986.

On one night of his perfectly ordinary life in a world run by humanoid ducks, Howard is suddenly sucked into space by an interdimensional portal, and lands on our Earth. Stuck in a world that finds him weird, freakish, and otherwise a magnet for harassment, Howard quickly gets mixed up with Beverly, singer for a great girl band with a bad manager, and helps her out. As romance kindles, suddenly a group of scientists arrive and explain that Howard was brought here by an accident with a “laser spectroscope”. Before Howard has a chance to get them to reverse the beam and send him home, there’s another accident with the machine, the police show up and arrest Howard, and the lead scientist, Dr. Jennings, has a Dark Overlord of the Universe taking over his body.

This still seems like two incompatible movies to me. The first act and the epilogue are a very upbeat music-filled story that’s almost a romantic comedy, but once Howard and Beverly are starting to settle into a relationship, an entirely different movie, and not a better one, crashes the party and takes the plot in a completely different direction. It felt like half and half originally, but the space alien section seems much longer now, mostly due to the action scenes that last three times as long as they need to.

I guess the point of that turn was to spend some time establishing a status quo before getting on with a surreal adventure, but Howard still just got there and wants to leave. Nothing is normal for him and Beverly. They’re just interrupted as they’re beginning to figure out what to do with themselves.

The swift escalation of a lot of confrontations between Howard and people who don’t get him is still cartoonish. There are the people who assume he’s a human in a costume or some kind of puppet, and the people who think he’s a deformed human or animal, but somehow, way too many of them, when they find out he’s not what they think, go straight to “picking a fight”. To the point that he practically almost gets lynched at least once. If duck people were common and a lot of humans knew them as a race they wanted to subjugate, that would make more sense than “thing I can’t identify is giving me some lip”.

The filmmakers wanted to “have fun with it”, but the main part of the movie is not much fun. There are some scenes that are trying to be comedic and muddying the tone, but the overall way the Dark Overlord story is handled is a slog of bad to mediocre ideas. It’s not a complete travesty of a movie, but it really doesn’t have much understanding of how to handle itself.

Face/Off

Before watching the movie:

Face/Off. Paramount Pictures 1997.

My strongest memory of this movie being in the world was the giant poster on the side of a building at King’s Island for years. I don’t think it had anything to do with anything at the park, it was just a 50-foot poster nobody bothered to take down across the three to five years my visits were spread across. (Update: apparently they named their head to head roller coaster Face/Off, until Paramount sold the park and the new owner debranded it. I didn’t ride many of the coasters there.)

I later learned the movie is about a good guy and a bad guy trading faces for… reasons, don’t think too much about it. I’m not sure which actor starts as which character, because of course both play both. I’ve heard that Cage as the terrorist gets eccentrically creepy in the way he’s famous for now.

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