10. Ape (1976)
Released in Christmas of 1976, the Dino de Laurentiis-produced King Kong was a $24 million folly for which a forty foot high, six and a half ton monster robot was specially constructed, even though the filmmakers decided not to use it. In theatres within a week was Ape, a no-budget Korea-lensed 3D knock-off whose star appeared to be an extra in a monkey mask and wool sweater.
Leaving out the expedition to Skull Island, the dinosaurs, plus Kong’s introduction and subsequent capture, Ape begins three-quarters of the way through the traditional narrative with the hirsute antagonist wading ashore to stomp model buildings and throw around vehicles that look suspiciously like Tonka toys.
In a sequence strangely absent from its bigger-budgeted brethren, our antagonist, smitten by a hanglider, skips along merrily behind it, arms aloft, head moving from side to side. “Let’s see him dance for his organ grinder now,” growls an unimpressed General, before sending in some wire-supported helicopter gunships. He’s left open-mouthed, however (as is the audience), when Ape/ Kong swats them aside before giving him the finger.
9. Troll 2 (1992)
The popularity of this bizarre trainwreck, which features not a single troll, owes a great deal to the efforts of NY comedy troupe Upright Citizens Brigade, whose screenings made it a smash on the midnight movie circuit. Not bad for a picture sneaked out on VHS three years after being shot, whose cast claimed not to understand the script or, due to a post-production title change, even know of its release.
Lensed in Utah under the title Goblins, Troll 2 is your typical movie about vegetarian dwarves in rubber masks and burlap sacks that lure unsuspecting families to the town of “Nilbog” and devour them once they’ve been turned into vegetable matter by consuming green gloop.
The only people that can save the Waits family are young Josh (Michael Paul Stephenson) and his dead Grandpa (Robert Ormsby), who can freeze time, cause objects to move and appear as a disembodied head but can’t manifest himself in the correct room.
In the most memorable sequence, Josh has to devise a split-second plan for preventing his family from eating the contaminated food, which he does by urinating on the table to the understandable surprise of his father, who delivers the immortal line: “You can’t piss on hospitality – I won’t allow it!”
Watch it on a double bill with Best Worst Movie, Stephenson’s documentary about the film.
8. Horror Of The Blood Monsters (1970)
Thanks to the effects of “Chromatic Radiation”, an epidemic of Vampirism has broken out on Earth, resulting in starlets being attacked in dark alleys by extras wearing plastic fangs. In an effort to save humanity, John Carradine and crew venture into space with a TV, some deck chairs and a reel-to-reel tape recorder fitted into their wire-supported model spacecraft, which inexplicably transforms into the vessel from The Wizard of Mars (1965) when in orbit.
Landing on a planet “Identical to Earth” (and Vasquez Rocks Natural Park), they encounter lobster-men, sabre-toothed vampires, a flying bat demon and “Spectrum X”, the gimmick used to tint the black and white stock-footage red, yellow, blue and green.
You see, director Al Adamson took Tagani (1965), a B&W Filipino movie, shot some new scenes, jumbled it all together and released it to theatres as a “new” film, a trick he pulled again years later when he released the film to TV as Vampire Men Of The Lost Planet.
7. Demonwarp (1988)
When a group of teenagers arrive at their cabin to find the front door missing, furniture overturned and Oscar winner George Kennedy ranting about the “Thing” that carried off his little girl, they naturally flee in terror. Nah, just kidding. Because they’re in a horror movie, they hang around so they can make out and get high, which backfires when Bigfoot shows up to tear down walls, snap necks and steal their toaster.
Filmed in barely two weeks for the price of a Cadillac, with a supporting cast that includes X-rated starlet Michelle Bauer and Playmate Pamela Gilbert (gee, do you think they’ll get naked?), Demonwarp isn’t just your average Z-grade monster movie. For one thing, how often do you see an Oscar winner attempt to trap the monster by calling him a “woolly bastard”?
But the film’s strongest moment is its climactic revelation – Bigfoot turns out to be just one of several werewolf-zombie hybrids living in a space ship operated by a cackling priest and his master, a claw-handed archangel that eats the hearts of naked starlets. Didn’t see that one coming, did you?
6. Elves (1989)
The best Elves and Nazis movie ever shot in Colorado (in 1989, anyway), Elves stars Grizzly Adams himself, Dan Haggerty, as a homeless ex-cop who realizes that elves are in fact Nazi genetic experiments whose leader will mate with a virgin on Christmas Eve to produce the leader of the Fourth Reich. As is explained in The Book of Revelation.
What he doesn’t know is that the virgin in question is kindly waitress Kirsten, who when she’s not drawing naked chicks with “Art deco boobs” or having her ablutions interrupted by her potty-mouthed brother, is being knocked around by her Nazi grandpa, who is also her father. Gramps, you see, impregnated his own daughter to sire Kirsten, whose destiny is to produce a master race of Nazi Elves.
There’s ideas and (intentionally?) funny dialogue to spare in this overlooked treat, whose labyrinthine (some might say tasteless) plot is credited to three writers. Never mind Poltergeist and Fantastic Four, this is the movie we want to see being remade.
5. Poultrygeist: Night Of The Chicken Dead (2007)
By building an American Chicken Bunker on sacred Indian burial ground, big business has united displaced Native Americans and chickens sent to the “Concentration coup”, resulting in the most lethal combination of Indians and chickens since Tandoori was introduced to the American people.
Yes, it’s the first movie where chicken zombies go on the rampage, but Poultrygeist has so much more going for it, including some surprisingly barbed satire and the kind of gore-drenched slapstick you simply don’t see in multiplex horror movies. There’s also musical numbers.
Being a “fowl movement” from Troma, the studio that gave us The Toxic Avenger, means that whenever testicles aren’t being fried and eaten and the talking Mexican sandwich (don’t ask) is offscreen, characters are bursting into song. Typical of the numbers included is Slow Fast Food Love, a singalong anthem performed by topless women.
4. Vampire Killer Barbys (1996)
Imagine Countess Dracula crossed with Spiceworld, only with better songs and less taste, and you’ve got Vampire Killer Barbys, a feature-length promo for Spanish punk band Killer Barbies (with their name changed to placate Mattel) from the director of She Killed In Ecstasy and Erotic Rites Of Frankenstein.
After breaking down, the Barbies find themselves trapped in a gothic castle with scythe-wielding henchmen, dwarf assistants and a creepy servant who supplies his Countess with the blood she needs to retain her youth. The Countess is also a nymphomaniac, exposing herself at the dinner table before leading the male band members to her bedroom, where she performs the kind of shenanigans that would make Sharon Stone blush.
There’s frontal nudity, decapitations, death by steamroller and did we mention frontal nudity? Weirdest of all (no mean feat) is the end credits title card that informs us: “Nobody really died. Our story is, in reality, a creation.”
3. Pieces (1982)
On a New England campus, nobody notices a co-ed being hacked up with a chainsaw on the front lawn in broad daylight, so the Dean brings in Keystone Kops Christopher George and Frank Brana, who spend the rest of the movie wondering what use a heavy breathing maniac could have for the limbs he steals from his victims.
A movie that thinks ‘subtlety’ and ‘nuance’ are towns in the Midwest, Pieces throws in everything for the sake of an entertaining show and lets nothing – not the bad dubbing, the horrific acting or the outrageous plot – stand in its way.
In a movie with no shortage of unintentional laughs, special mention must be made of the sequence where a co-ed gets into a lift with a black-garbed, heavy breathing psychopath, who she doesn’t realize is carrying a chainsaw until he revs it up.
2. Starcrash (1978)
Roger Corman’s Star Wars has everything that George Lucas’s space opera had: a score by an Oscar-winning composer, larger-than-life characters, quotable dialogue, a memorable villain and, of course, light sabre battles.
It also features David Hasselhoff in heavy mascara, Caroline Munro as a bikini-clad space pirate, a police robot with an inexplicable Southern drawl and, best of all, Joe Spinell as a cackling villain who plans to rule the universe with a lava lamp. Christopher Plummer also appears, playing an Emperor who can change the course of history by shouting, “Imperial Battleship….halt the flow of time!”
There are, of course, bigger-budgeted (and therefore ‘better’) movies, but they don’t have an ounce of Starcrash’s dumb fun (no Amazons on horseback, either). Call it kitschy and juvenile, but it has a b-movie charm that’s as entertaining as it is endearing.
1. Robot Monster (1953)
Here’s the pitch: a $40-a-day stuntman, wearing a gorilla suit and a diving helmet, wipes out mankind with the “Calcinator Death Ray” except for six people hiding in Bronson Canyon. Then he spends the rest of the movie trying to find them.
Ro-Man (George Barrows) is a “robot man” from the planet Ro-Man, which has declared war on Earth for….oh, some reason or other, but director Phil Tucker couldn’t afford to stage the invasion, so he relies on footage lifted from One Million BC (1940) instead. He also couldn’t afford sets, so the picture takes place outdoors, with six of the stiffest actors you’ve ever seen delivering lines like “You’re so bossy you ought to be milked before you come home at night.”
The least competent alien ever to arrive on Earth, Ro-Man spends most of his time living in a cave with a bubble machine, and proves surprisingly easy to defeat. When a character calls him a “pooped-out pinwheel” before running away, Ro-Man stands there shaking his fist in the air, as he is wont to do to anyone more than three feet away.
Author Bio: Ian Watson writes about film for one reason – to encourage people to watch films like Starcrash instead of that drivel where cars turn into robots and save the world. Every time one of those pictures makes money, an angel dies and falls from Heaven.