Recently Rated Movies #11: We Just Let You Think We're Part of the Human Race...

A pleasant surprise this weekend was taking a remote control stroll past the Orange County Public Access channel late Saturday evening and discovering that some dementedly wonderful person was running Teenagers from Outer Space, a zero-budgeted and profoundly terrible movie from 1959. 

I came into the film about five minutes in, so I had to wait until they showed it again later that evening to find out if it was some yuckster's regularly scheduled bad movie show, hopefully graced with cheesy host segments before and after. It turns out that the latter wish was not to be, but neither was I able to ascertain whether it was a regular show either, as it was not actually on the scrolling index for the channel that runs between every program. So, now I will just have to wait until next Saturday night to see if they roll another science fiction anti-classic.

Ray guns that disintegrate clothing and flesh but not bones (portrayed by cheap plastic skeletons), a cute ingenue with a cross between a Louise Brooks and Bettie Page wig-do, the most stiffly, sub-community theatre acting level uncle in the history of the cinema, and lobster shadows that grow to gigantic proportions (though they are called "Gargons," they are undisguisedly lobsters in form) are unleashed upon the viewers. I was in "B" movie heaven.

The last few times I have seen the film was on the late, lamented MST3K, and I had not seen it in its non-robot puppet version since I was a teenager. Poor Sparky the dog, reduced immediately at the beginning of the film to a pile of bones; and yet, he becomes the chief proponent of the plot as his dog license tag survives the ray gun blast (but somehow his collar does not). [A side note: many good friends of mine will remember the dog-frying scene from our numerous viewings of It Came From Hollywood on video in the '80s.] The rebellious teenager from outer space, who goes by the popular interplanetary monicker of Derek, surmises quite correctly that this creature must have been someone's pet, and goes off in search of the owner. Luckily for him, Sparky's owner is a hot girl, and then the intergalactic whoopee commences!

Sure, the film is unintentionally funny enough to fill 27 movies and is inspiringly amateurish in every single regard; yet, it is still weirdly compelling, and it doesn't really require the Mystery Science gang to get you through it. I was delighted to run into the film in the middle of the night on a nothing station, as it reminded me of how I used to find my science-fiction and horror thrills as a teenager: almost completely at random, never knowing what film you were going to see, and without having any choice in the matter. You just tuned in and watched whatever you got, and also wherever you happened to tune into it. I really miss that feeling.

A planned viewing that I had this weekend was finally watching my recording of Seven Men from Now, which sounds like a gay porn title, but is actually a quite intriguing and enjoyable western from Budd Boetticher, for whom this film was the first of seven consecutive team-ups with Randolph Scott. Of their films, I had only seen The Tall T and Comanche Station previously, but had read about this film quite a lot over the years. So when TCM showed Seven Men for the first time a couple weeks back in conjunction with a documentary about the director and bullfighter called Budd Boetticher: A Man Can Do That, I made sure to set the DVR up for its recording.

It seems a generic western until you get deep into it, and then you discover a couple of well-choreographed gun battles, some excellent camera set-ups and location usage, a fun dose of sexual suggestion, and a scene of Scott suffering severe psychological torture at the hands of the conniving yet charismatic snake-in-the-grass Lee Marvin, who completely swipes the picture out from under the stoic Scott. I'm sure Scott could have cared less, because once the film is finished, there is a shot of him with gun drawn that resonates deeply with the viewer, and I have had it stuck in my cranium since I finished watching the film, which I now believe to be a piece of subtle, unshowy genius. It is now the next film that I shall purchase on DVD.

The List:
The Goldwyn Follies (1938) TCM - 5
Jaws (1975) DVD - 9
Teenagers from Outer Space (1959) PUAOC - 2
Kingukongu no gyakushu [King Kong Escapes] (1967) DVD - 4
Batman Begins (2005) DVD - 8
Gojira: Fainaru uozu [Godzilla: Final Wars] (2004) DVD - 6
Kingukongu tai Gojira [King Kong Versus Godzilla] (1962) DVD - 4
Seven Men from Now (1956) TCM - 7
Around the World (1943) TCM - 5
Swing Your Lady (1938) TCM - 4
Swing Fever (1943) TCM - 5
Night Must Fall (1937) TCM - 6
Budd Boetticher: A Man Can Do That (2005) TCM - 7
The Producers (1968) TCM - 8


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