Sunday, June 19, 2005

"Woah ho ho ho ho-oh-oh! At the late night double feature picture show!"

Ah yes, the double feature! Two movies for the price of one! How can you go wrong? Simple, usually neither movie is all that great and sometimes they just plain suck. With that said...

Welcome to BigRuta's first double feature b-movie review! Zowwie have we got a couple of classics for you tonight kiddies! From Hell It Came! and Zontar The Thing From Venus! Yep, ya know when you see the exclamation points, the flick has to be good!

From Hell It Came!

This beauty was made in 1957. Why? I have no idea!

The Plot:

A witch doctor on a remote South Pacific island kills the chief and frames the chief's son. The chief's son vows revenge and comes back from - guess where! - to kill those who betrayed him. Fortunately for those silly Pacific islanders, there are some white American scientists around to take care of the vengeful spirit.

The Hook:

When the chief's son, named Keeno, comes back from the dead he is not a ghost - oh no! That would be much too conventional! No, Keeno uses "the natural spirits of the island" to come back as a Tobanga. What is a Tobanga you ask? It is a vengeful creature that grows from the grave of the one who vowed vengeance. Or, to be more exact - it's a tree. A walking killer tree. With a human heart. Yeah.

The Goodies:

Okay, first of all, all of the actors are obviously white or Hispanic. There is even a native with blond hair! And he is a guy! What's up with that! If you are going to ignore genetics and have a blond south Pacific islander then dammit make it a babe!

The American scientists are there trying to find a cure for a plague that is killing off the natives. The witch doctor ferments distrust of the Americans by telling his people that it is the "Devil dust" of the Americans that is killing them. That would be your nuclear fallout that came down on the island from atomic testing nearby. Whoops! Oh, by the way, on this remote island where supplies only come like twice a year, the Americans have a compound with: full electricity, full plumbing, a gas oven, a full size refrigerator and an operating table. Damn! They were the greatest generation!

So, Keeno is killed by having a ceremonial dagger driven into his heart and when the Tobanga grows from his grave, it also has the dagger sticking out of it. Remember that - it's important! Well, of course the Americans desecrate Keeno's grave and take the Tobanga to their compound for study. Gee, I don't know why the natives don't like us! They discover that it has a human heart and that it may be able to move. They realize it is dying, and give it fluids via an IV! When they get up the next morning, the lab has been trashed and the Tobanga is gone. They blame the natives. Remember - they are scientists. They're smart. Yeah.

Well, the Tobanga rampages over the island killing those who betrayed and murdered Keeno. When I say rampages I of course mean walks very slowly. Very slowly. You could reach down and re-tie both your shoes before you started to run away from it. This was probably due to the costume being rigid from the knees up, so the guy in the suit could not move any faster. Besides, it's a tree remember? And when I say killing I of course mean picking them up and flinging them into the local quicksand pond so we can watch them go, "No! No! Noooo! Ahrrrgggg!" 'blub, blub, blub'.

The Tobanga kills several people including Kory - Keeno's wife who betrayed him to the witch doctor - and the good doctor himself. The natives lure the Tobanga into a pit and set fire to it, but that don't work. The Americans shoot it, but - come on! - when have bullets ever done anything to a b-movie monster!

The Tobanga kidnaps the hot blond American scientist. Why? No idea. Maybe he had a woody. Ha ha ha! Get it? A woody? Nevermind. Then the bright as all get out Americans get the idea that if they could shoot the end of the dagger, it would be driven fully into the Tobanga's heart and kill it! Yeah! Don't you feel silly for not thinking of that? Well, it takes several shots, but they succeed and the Tobanga falls over dead into the quicksand. The grateful natives now love the Americans!

Yep it's just as silly as it sounds. There a few good lines:

One of the scientists laments. "Why did I have to fall in love with a dedicated female scientist?"
Keeno says just befoe he is killed, "In death I will be stronger than in life! I shall come back from Hell and make you pay for your crimes!" Okay, okay, we get it!

There is a shower scene with the hot blond scientist, but it was the 50's, so we get to see her legs below the towel and her shoulders above it. Wow! The native girls show more. I guess this was included for the boys in the audience.

And of course there is the required comic relief provided by an Australian widow who runs a trading post and who is quite simply a slut. Unless she is in imminent danger of being killed, she is letting any male nearby know that this could be his lucky day. Unfortunately for her she is rather long in the tooth and the island is filled with young native babes. The accent the obviously not Australian actress uses is horrible. I felt cheated because she did not get killed.

This movie inspired a critic at the time to write, 'And to hell it can go!'

Guess what kids - that was the good one!

Zontar The Thing From Venus! 1966 apparently made for TV.

Yikes! This pile o' stuff makes From Hell It Came! a better b-movie. Yeah my similes suck.

The Plot:

Zontar - he's a thing from Venus - hijacks a satellite, comes to Earth and tries to take over the planet with the help of a "brilliant" scientist.

The Hook:

Zontar communicates with Keith the scientist via a special laser radio Keith has made and keeps in a closet in his living room. Yeah. Zontar convinces Keith that he will help human beings bring an end to war and poverty and disease and hunger and Communism and modern art and crazy teen-agers and rock & roll and all the other problems of modern civilization. There will be peace and mankind will work with Zontar to evolve into "something better." Yeah, we all know that's bullflop, but Keith is...well...a dork.

The Goodies:

Keith - who looks like an adult Millhouse from 'The Simpsons' - has issues. He is a brilliant scientist who has a gift for conceptualization. He is also an emotional basket case. He believes everything Zontar tells him, and because no one else can hear Zontar, everybody else thinks Keith is a bit bent. This just makes him paranoid and resentful.

In one of those only-in-the-movies situations, Keith happens to be married to a hot blond southern beauty pageant winner. He ignores her and would rather spend his time with Zontar. He's just a thing kind of guy I guess.

Keith's boss and friend Kurt is played by veteran b-movie star John Agar, best known from The Thing From Another World. I guess John was a thing kind of guy too. Keith tries to convince Kurt that Zontar is real and that he means to help man.

Once Zontar lands and takes up residence in a nearby cave, he gets Keith to give him the names of all of the important and powerful people in the area. Zontar then sends out "injecter pods" which are little bits of Zontar himself that fly and inject people with some of Zontar so that he can control them. In effect, they become part of Zontar. These people have little antennae sticking out of their necks where the injecter pods...uh...injected them. Once injected, the folks lose their emotions. The injector pods look like lobsters with wing make-up.

Zontar also stops all power "at its source" (?). So, no cars or radios or TVs or heaters or lights or anything that requires power work. Sucks for those on life support at the hospital, eh?

Well, Kurt soon finds out that Zontar is real and he is controlling folks and making them help him take over. He confronts Keith, but Keith says that it is all part of the plan to make a peaceful world. Once Kurt leaves, Keith tells Zontar where Kurt lives and when he will be home. When Kurt gets home, his wife Ann flings an injecter pod at him. Kurt kills it with a fire poker and then coldly gut-shoots Ann!

Kurt goes to Keith's place to kill him. Meanwhile, Martha - Keith's hot little southern belle wife - goes out to the cave with a gun to kill Zontar in the hopes that that will save Keith. Oh yeah, and the world. Well, as noted in the above review, guns ain't no good versus...uh...things. Zontar kills Martha - and lets Keith watch! This breaks Keith and he agrees to help Kurt kill Zontar using the laser power source from his laser radio. Okay, everybody make quote fingers and do your best Dr. Evil, "Laser!"

Keith kills Zontar, but he dies too. The end.

Dear God was this thing made on the cheap! It was fimed on 16mm color film and the print I saw had faded so much it looked almost like balck and white. The "research installation" Kurt and Keith work at seems to consist of a couple of rooms with some generic 60's style honkin big computers with the big magnetic tape spools. Oh and lots of oscilloscopes. Can't have a research installation without oscilloscopes.

Great lines:

Keith: "The days of people making fun of me are over!"
"Although his name is untranslateable into any Earth language, it sort of sounds like Zontar."
"You will beg to save your world!"

General: "Understand it? Of course not! No one understands it, but it's the scientific discovery of the century!"

Kurt: "I just saw you kill, in cold blood, your dearest friend. Now, I'm sorry, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask for an explanation."

Martha: "You took my husband away from me and now I'm going to kill you!"

Zontar: "buzz buzz buzz buzz"

This is one of those films that is so bad it is good - but just barely!

Horseshoes and Hand Grenades

What kind of beer do you drink when you watch a couple of really cheap American b-movies? A really cheap American beer! This may be the start of another quest! I just might try to find a good cheap beer. What is cheap? Well, I say it's any beer that sells for $4 or less a six-pack. And that brings me to...

Mickey's Fine Malt Liquor! $3.95 a six. Mickey's is made in Milwaukee, WI. It is 5.60% ABV with a very low IBU rating.

What is the difference between beer and malt liquor? Well, it has to do with ingredients. Some malt liquors don't have barley or hops in them. Some are just fermented processed grain malt or even extract or corn syrup! They are the most basic fermented beverage. Some real beers are also called malt liquor. Why? Not sure, and frankly, it's not worth going into here.

Mickey's has a light yellow color, a non-persistent head with big bubbles and not much aroma. It also is over carbonated, which produces lots of big bubbles that practically race to the top of the glass.

Ya know, when I was in my late teens I drank quite a bit of Mickey's at parties and just hanging out with friends. We liked it because it was cheap and had little taste and therefore we could drink 'em down quick. The bottles are green and shaped like barrels. We used to call them "hand grenades." Mickey's still has little taste. It's rather watery, with just a little sour taste during the finish and a slight aftertaste.

No bones about it - Mickey's is a "Let's get wasted!" beer.

Under the cap, there is a little definition joke. For example: "nonbusted - a cross-dresser named Ed." Yuk, yuk yuk!

Oh and the label on cans of Mickey's, is a picture of the bottle!

It's cheap, but good? I would not go that far! Although I would be willing to bet that if Keith had kicked back with a few Mickey's now and then...nah! He would still have been a dork!

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