Thursday, July 16, 2009

Imps* (2009) [filmed in 1983]

Directed by:
Scott Mansfield

This comedy that went unreleased for over 20-25 years... Now see why! The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977) is a good example of a collection of comedy skits done right. IMPS* (which stands for The Immoral Minority Picture Show) on the other hand is an example of just how grueling this format can be when everything goes horribly wrong! Even Saturday Night Live on its worst day is funnier than this. I'm not really sure when IMPS* was actually filmed (checking the end credits says the DVD issue year of 2008), but it was obviously some time in the early/mid 1980s since several of the actors here were dead by the middle part of the decade. So is it a bad sign that it took about 25 years to actually release this? Absolutely! You will find yourself groaning and rolling your eyes about twenty times more than you'll snicker at this childish, horribly unfunny collection of skits that poke fun at various movies, TV shows, sporting events, news programs and commercials, as well as Nazis, gays, blacks, "Pollocks," Mexicans, Jews, "orientals" and other groups. I personally don't mind off color or offensive humor at all, but this movie doesn't go far enough to be over-the-top and outrageous, nor does it cleverly play up on stereotypes or anything of the sort. Though I can't recommend that anyone watch this, it's now of some interest as a curio piece because of the ensemble cast. Here we have a very interesting mix of up-and-coming young film and TV stars, washed-up former stars in their twilight years, magazine centerfolds, porn stars, cult/horror staples and even a Harlem Globetrotter!
One of the highlights is an ever-so-mildly amusing horror spoof "Don't Scream on My Face" (did Edgar Wright see this?) starring Linda Blair as "The Don't Girl," the dumbest horror movie heroine in history who does the expected stupid things (going into the house alone, the basement alone, the woods alone, etc.) Jason Voorhees even makes a cameo appearance in this one... using a walker! A young Jennifer Tilly goes to an auction to purchase a well-established bachelor in the next bit. "The 3 Mile Island People" is a sitcom spoof about a literal nuclear family (with Fred Willard as the dad). Marilyn Chambers shows up wearing see-through lingerie in a credit card commercial. Colleen Camp humiliates some poor guy at a bar for no real reason (was this even supposed to be funny?). John Carradine hosts "Great Moments" in Polish history (where an off-screen narrator reminds him there are no great moments in Polish history... har har). Wendie Jo Sperber is the Marquessa De Sade in a music video spoof about S&M and spousal abuse. Julia Duffy narrates a trashy soap opera sketch from a bed on a theater stage. Rich Hall tries to sell us an album from some Don Ho clone. Busty former Playboy model Lynda Wiesmeier plays sex queen Bambi Juliette in what is probably the most amusing segment - "Teenage French Stewardess Nurse Babysitter," though even that just rips off the much funnier "Catholic High School Girls in Trouble" sketch from the aforementioned Kentucky Fried Movie.

Jimmie Walker plays "the first black in space" in another segment that also features Keenan Wynn (who passed away in 1986). James B. Sikking gets to play a weight conscious Count Dracula in a stupid "Lite Blood" commercial. The two longest segments; one about a Nazi interrogation (with David Lander and Michael McKean) and the other a slasher/ detective movie spoof called "The Hanukah Horror," yield no laughs at all. There are also commercials spoofing everything from Calvin Klein jeans (featuring a young Erika Eleniak imitating Brooke Shields) to flavorless diet soda (with P.J. Soles) to dandruff shampoo (with Peter Scolari and Audrey Landers) to telephone companies (with Sybil Danning). Other commercial spoof involve super glue, aspirin, deodorant, Shake N' Bake, beer and "quaaludes for kids.

While some of this may sound amusing and many of the themes seem ripe for parody, this "comedy" is so horribly written and has such lame and obvious jokes that the laughs just aren't there. Like ever! I've seldom seen a film like this fail so badly. It's just plain painful to watch. Most of the segments last about a minute, though a few are longer are manage to wear out their welcome pretty quickly. The only thing the film really provides an abundance of is bare breasts, but you could always spare yourself the headache and just watch a porno instead.

The cast also includes Miguel A. Nunez, Jr. (The Return of the Living Dead), Karen Mayo-Chandler (Hard to Die), Diana Muldaur (The Other), Ed Marinaro, William Sanderson, Karen Witter, Meadowlark Lemon, porno actors Paul Thomas and Lori Wagner and many others. The 1983 year of production is just an estimate on my part based on the cast and some of the things spoofed (it couldn't have been shot any later than 1985). Either way, it didn't see the light of day until 2009!

p.s. I'm only including this here because of the horror spoof content.

Jekyll & Hyde... Together Again (1982)

Directed by:
Jerry Belson

Several dozen parodies emerged in the early 80s hoping the combination of sight gags, silly, irreverent dialogue and physical humor would appeal to the same audience who'd flocked to see Airplane! back in 1980. This one's a parody of Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (that took four people to write), was badly received by critics during its day and didn't make much of a dent at the box office. Dr. Daniel Jekyll (comedian Mark Blankfield), resident surgeon at "Our Lady of Pain and Suffering" Hospital wants to retire so he can experiment with drugs (huh?) but first, dying gazillionaire Hubert Howes (Peter Brocco), who's as old as Moses, wants Jekyll to perform the world's first full body transplant on him. Even though Dr. Jekyll's dead-set on retiring, pushy hospital administrator Dr. Carew (Michael McGuire) threatens not to let his high-maintenance daughter Mary (Bess Armstrong), who Jekyll's engaged to, marry him. After snorting some special cocaine, Jekyll becomes an aggressive swinger who grows an afro, chest hair, bushy eyebrows, a mustache, a tighter ass and a long pinky nail (!?) He also gets gold jewely, a silver tooth and a constant erection that won't go away.

It's your typical assortment of noisy, pea-brained gags; some of which are genuinely funny, while others are embarrassingly awful. Blankfield's lifeless performance as Jekyll is about adequately balanced by his grotesque over-the-top mugging in the wildman Hyde persona. Not that he's really a pleasure to watch either way... When Jekyll's told a woman has a "foreign object" stuck in her vagina, he enters the room to find a sexy woman and Japanese man latched together. Said woman is Ivy (Krista Errickson), who sings "Light Up My Body" at Madame Woo Woo's punk club with her band "The Shitty Rainbows." Blankfield (who would also appear in the horror parodies Frankenstein General Hospital in 1988 and Dracula: Dead and Loving It in 1995) also gets to sing "Hyde's Got Nothing to Hide" at the end during a mock Pulitzer Prize ceremony where Oscar-winner George Chakiris accepts the award on his behalf! Best that can really be said about this one is that are are worse examples of this kind of thing out. Then again, there's also better.

The supporting cast boasts some familiar faces. Tim Thomerson is a bewigged plastic surgeon who gets a little carried away performing a boob job. Cassandra Peterson (aka Elvira) plays a "busty nurse" whose scrubs are specially designed to show off ample cleavage. George Wendt ("Cheers") has a brief scene as a patient with a severed hand. Lin Shaye, Art LaFleur and others have small roles.


Attack of the Puppet People (1958)

...aka: Fantastic Puppet People, The
...aka: I Was a Teenage Doll
...aka: Six Inches Tall

Directed by:
Bert I. Gordon

Jovial puppeteer/scientist Mr. Franz (John Hoyt) runs "Dolls Incorporated," a company well-known for their beautifully crafted dolls. Secretary Sally Reynolds (June Kenney), just hired on to replace a woman named Janet who'd mysteriously disappeared, is a little wigged out by her new bosses behavior. After all, he talks to the dolls and treats some of them as if they're actual people. He also has a special selection of more lifelike dolls that are off-limits, and kept in a specially-locked cabinet and he never wants to be disturbed when he's working in the back room. Sally does get somewhat used to Mr. Franz over time and even begins dating salesman Bob Westley (John Agar), who asks for her hand in marriage after taking her on a drive-in date to see The Amazing Colossal Man (also from Mr. Gordon). The two plan on running off and getting hitched, but before they can, Bob disappears. Sally becomes suspicious when a lifelike Bob doll shows up in Franz's shop and goes to the cops with her theories that the dollmaker is actually somehow turning people into dolls. Naturally, Sgt. Paterson (Jack Kosslyn) thinks she's nuts and that Bob just ran off on her. Sally threatens to quit, but Mr. Franz (who's very lonely and hates when people leave him) straps her to a table and shrinks her using some ray gun emitting high frequency sonic vibrations.

As Sally awakens, she's introduced to the others who have also been shrunk down to one-sixth their original size. Aside from Bob, there's the saucy Georgia (Laurie Mitchell), who seems resigned to her fate as a little person, militaryman Mac (Scott Peters) and teenagers Laurie (Marlene Willis) and Stan (Kenny Miller). Each of the puppet people are kept in little compression tubes that render them immobile, but Franz lets them out every once in awhile to have parties, drink champagne, eat cake and dance to records. He shrinks a cat to keep them company and the younger girl even gets to sing a song called "You're My Living Doll!" Sally and Bob convince the others that this is no way to live and, when Franz threatens to kill them all because the police are breathing down his neck, the "puppet people" try to organize an escape attempt.

Despite having a reputation for being a dud, I actually found much to enjoy here. Sure, it's silly as hell and sure it was obviously made on the cheap to cash in on the success of the previous year's The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), and lacks that film's depth, but I found it entertaining and enjoyably undemanding. There's a great performance from John Hoyt, sporting some Eastern European accent, in the lead role, and both the actor and the screenplay ensure he's not an evil, one-note villain, but more a man driven to do bad by his own insecurities and lonliness. The rest of the cast is certainly sufficient and the special effects (which were also done by the director), though highly uneven, still boast some genuine imagination. It's amusing just watching characters trying to use a giant telephone, using thread to lasso a doorknob and climbing up and down table legs, and there are enough clever touches (the miniature cat climbing out of a matchbox, the leads sneaking into a package to avoid a dog, the leading lady put on a little stage with a Dr. Jekyll puppet, etc.) to merit giving this a look.

On the down side, the film is saddled with one of the worst and most anti-climactic endings you'll ever see and much time is wasted on Emil (Michael Mark; Dr. Zinthrop from Corman's The Wasp Woman), a friend of Franz's from his homeland (Russia?) who doesn't adequately figure into the plot at all and is used as nothing more than a plot device to distract Franz so the puppet people can try to escape. The director's little daughter Susan Gordon (who'd appear in a larger and better role in TORMENTED two years later) shows up briefly as a spoiled little girl. It was an AIP production (exec. produced by Samuel Z. Arkoff and James H. Nicholson) and was scripted by George Worthing Yates (who also wrote IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE and other 50s sci-fi/horror favorites, including others for the same director).


Terror in the Haunted House (1958)

...aka: My World Dies Screaming

Directed by:
Harold Daniels

Sheila (Cathy O'Donnell) is haunted by a recurring nightmare about a sinister house ("Death in its most hideous form waits for me at the top of the stairs!") Her psychiatrist Dr. Forel (Barry Bernard) thinks its her subconscious acting out a repressed past trauma, but she's not too convinced of that. Newly married to Philip Justin (Gerald Mohr) after a "whirlwind romance," Sheila's about to travel from Switzerland (where she's lived since a child) to America to start her new life. Once they arrive in Florida, Sheila instantly recognizes their rented vacation home... it's the same one she's been dreaming about! When they try to leave, they discover someone's ripped all of the wires out of their car. Their chief suspect in doing it is elderly caretaker Jonah (John Qualen), who tries to scare Sheila away telling her about the axe-murder-laden history of the home and how its former occupants were referred to as "The Mad Tierney's." So Sheila spots a "hideous, inhuman face" outside her window. And Sheila is chased up the stairs by a mean dog. And Sheila starts suspecting everyone around her (including her new hubby) of foul play. Sheila pouts. Sheila screams. Sheila cries. Sheila faints. Sheila scream some more.

Eventually showing up at the home to shed some light on things is its owner, Mark Snell (William Ching), who helps Sheila fill in the blanks by informing her that her husband is actually the last of the Tierney's and she somehow was connected to the family in her youth. Well, before she went bonkers at the age of seven and was shipped off to Europe. After setting up the premise during the first half and sloppily unveiling the few twists to the storyline before it should, the film really has nowhere else to go and plods along toward a predictable and exposition-heavy conclusion. O'Donnell (fondly remembered by film buffs for her performances in The Best Years of Our Lives and They Live by Night a decade earlier) actually tries to give a performance, but she's stuck playing one of those irritating 50s females who ultimately has little to do other than act on the verge of hysteria throughout and whimper in the corner. The male actors (particularly the lead) are all pretty bad, and the supernatural/haunted house clutch is nothing more than a hoax.

The one and only thing that makes this worth watching is the fact it was shot in "Psycho-Rama;" a "subliminal communication" process which is nothing more than brief flashes of cartoon-like drawning; of a devil sticking his tongue out, a man in glasses with a rat in his mouth, a skull and a cobra (the latter colored red), and message cards (reading... "Get Ready to Scream!," "Prepare to Die!," "Scream Bloody Murder!," etc.), edited into the film in one-frame incriments. So if you plan on watching this make sure you keep your trigger finger on the pause/ foward advance button for maximum enjoyment. Well, it might be your only chance to get any kind of enjoyment out of this one. On some prints, Rhino Video (one of the major distributors of this title) had some fun by "subliminally" sneaking an advertisement in during the last ten minutes! Since use of subliminals was illegal until 1961, the print shown on TV had these inserts removed. The following year director Daniels made Date with Death (1959), which also made use of the same technique.

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