Retro Review: A Better Tomorrow (1986)

 

In the early 90’s, before we had instant access to every movie ever made like we do now, I was a voracious fanzine and magazine collector constantly seeking information about any new film experience I could get my hands on. Sending cash in the mail and eagerly awaiting catalogs from other collectors so I could get my hands on some fourth generation VHS copy of some obscure flick I read about— now a lost sensation. I’d travel all over the city to some niche video store, like the now defunct Kim’s Video, in the hopes I would discover some new classic. It was truly a great time; I honestly miss that jolt of discovery and the time and effort you had to put in to seek out these films. It was an incredible accomplishment to be able to put your hands on a letterboxed version of Deep Red from the Japanese laserdisc. Now these Holy Grails are all easily accessible through the internet and I guess that was everyone’s dream. But with this we lose the satisfaction of accomplishment, and that’s a shame.

 

Credit:  Courtesy of Yelp.com General view of the exterior of Kim's Video in New York City.

 

The reason I discuss this is because for me John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow was one of the ultimate discoveries of those years. I had always had an interest in Asian cinema through my love for Kurosawa’s films and anything Toshiro Mifune. When I heard about this whole “Heroic Bloodshed” genre that was coming out of Hong Kong, I had to see what the hype was about. So I immediately ordered my VCR copy from the late Chas Balun, the genius behind the greatest horror fanzine ever made, Deep Red, and settled in. After the credits rolled, I was immediately hooked. Who the fuck were these amazing actors? Who was this incredible director? I thought, “I must immediately consume everything they have ever done. I had never seen gunfights like this before.” Nowadays, the double fisted gun action of the impossibly cool Chow Yun Fat are par for the course, but back then it was definitely not the norm. His restaurant shootout, which the beginnings pays homage to Robert DeNiro’s entrance in Mean Streets, had my jaw dropped. How could I see more of this? It just got better from there.

The sequel, A Better Tomorrow 2, The Killer, Hardboiled and Bullet in the Head (John Woo’s best film), were all amazing experiences. I was hooked. After seeing a couple of great non-John Woo films, like Full Contact and the insane Run and Kill, I came up with a plan. At that time I worked at Tarzian Hardware on 7th Avenue in Brooklyn, so I had access to their manufacturer wholesale catalog. Even though it had nothing to do with hardware, the catalog sold VCR’s and blank cassette tapes. I was able to buy a second VCR and cases of blank tapes. I then went to Little Chinatown on 8th Avenue in Brooklyn and joined every Asian video rental store I could find to make dupes. Oddly enough, the best one was a video store owned by an Italian family who understood their demographic, as half their inventory was Asian. Every Friday after work, I went and rented as many films as I could and ran my tape-copy machine full time. My library grew extensively, and I watched some shit movies, but discovered some true classics. Hopping vampires, Category 3 gore fests, Simon Yam films, Anthony Wong psycho films, Ringo Lam films— it was fucking amazing.

I sat down last night and re-watched A Better Tomorrow, which I have not seen in about ten years now. I can say that it has 100 percent held up. I did watch with a little sorrow because I realized that unfortunately when John Woo and Chow Yun Fat took their talents over here to America, their careers more or less stalled. They never gained that superstar status they had in Hong Kong. Leslie Cheung, who plays Kit, and was an acting and music superstar in Hong Kong, committed suicide at the age of 46 by jumping off the 24th floor of the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Hong Kong after a battle with depression. I have no clue what happened to Ti Lung, who was originally known for his work in the Shaw Brothers karate epics. He did go on and continue acting but he never rose to super stardom from this film. That privilege went to Chow Yun Fat, who was catapulted to iconic status after his performance as Mark. After the film became a success in Hong Kong, it became common to see teenagers walking around in dusters and sunglasses like Mark’s character wears in the beginning of the film. As a matter of fact, the sunglasses he wears are called Alain Dellon sunglasses, named after the French actor, and after they sold out as a result of the film. Mr. Dellon sent Chow Yun Fat a note thanking him for bringing so much attention to the product.

 

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The film follows the story of Ho (Ti Lung) and Mark (Chow Yun Fat), two local gangsters, and Kit, (Leslie Cheung), brother of Ho and a police cadet in the academy. It tells the story of their lives on both sides of the law and how their lives clash because of each individual’s choices. In the end these choices cause familial and loyalty conflicts, as their characters’ deal with betrayal, tragedy and ultimately, understanding and compromising about their choices and the way these choices have shaped their lives in positive and negative ways. The film is filled with a lot of gunplay but also filled with quiet reflections about the choices men make. The regret and sorrow these choices cause are a result of struggling with the past and sometimes not being able to come to terms with the reality of your present. And make no mistake, this is a film solely about men, their loyalty and guilt over the trajectory of their lives. The sole female character is a background role used to try to reconnect the two brothers and the decision to divide them. But her role is a perfunctory one and not really necessary to the film. Most of the films from the “Heroic Bloodshed” era deal with the choices men of a morally questionable nature make and the consequences of these choices. These films are about more than watching two dudes shoot the shit out of each other. They are about the evil that men do and how these men sleep at night as a result. So if this type of moral handwringing interests you, run out and find your new film addiction.

 

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It is a true shame that most of these films are more or less forgotten now and that their pique ended in 1997 when the political climate in Hong Kong changed. I urge everyone to rediscover these classics of Asian cinema and see what an action film can be. What an action film should strive to be! Stay away from these over edited Michael Bay inspired hunks of shit and feast your eyes on the real thing. Cast away your prejudice against subtitles and watch a true classic. PLEEEASSSE!!!!!!! The true joy of being involved in a project like Death by Podcast is being able to discuss and write about all types of genre films and bringing attention to the forgotten gems or the need to be seen flicks that people may have missed. We mostly discuss and write about horror, but we are open to all types of films on the show and on the site. I would hope to classify us a more of a psychotronic film site, to use the term coined by Michael Weldon. I urge everyone to rediscover or discover these unfortunately lost classics that should not be forgotten. You will not be sorry.

5 out of 5 Zombie Heads

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DBPlaylist – A Rob Zombie Celebration

HOWDY, FOLKS!

For the month of October we’re paying homage to Rob Zombie and, as a huge music nerd, I couldn’t help myself. I made a playlist. No matter how you feel about his films, you can’t help but admire his own musical talent and consistent promise to deliver incredible soundtracks. Also big ups to Tom Rowland, the music supervisor for most of Zombie’s films. From the silly and strange to the perfectly timed epics, Zombie & Rowland give these songs new homes. Seriously, I hated “Free Bird” before I watched The Devil’s Rejects. Same with ANY Rush song, but “The Spirit of Radio” works perfectly for Lords of Salem.

Just for fun I threw in a handful of gems from the likes of The Cramps, Misfits and Little Richard.

So kick back and enjoy some Tutti Fuckin’ Frutti I made for y’all.

This playlist is NSFW. Headphones encouraged, unless you want to creep the fuck out of your coworkers.

 

Review: The Howling at The BAM

There’s something about an ’80s glare, an ’80s fog and midnight light streaming through trees. It’s nostalgic, I guess, reminiscent of a time when real film ruled as did real and rugged special effects. The Howling doesn’t let us forget either and certainly takes its time to deliver frightening aspects of both. The beginning paints a picture of a gritty New York scene, where there was a greater separation between the haves and have-nots, where peep shows still ruled Times Square and there was no real difference between what was in an alleyway and what was behind the doors of some neon sign. All was ruthless, all was chaotic—and you were considered crazy if you went looking for any kind of action at night. It was the perfect scene to open up a werewolf film. We weren’t in the remote hills of some European town or some too-quiet suburban street. The Howling reminds you that there are worse monsters amongst the murderers, rapists and thieves you already probably live near, which is such a refreshing way to start a story taken from folklore.

I’m sitting there at The BAM in Brooklyn, getting ready to watch this film as part of the latest Joe Dante series. There are maybe fifteen people in the whole audience. Horror shows should be packed! Needless to say, that didn’t enhance the experience for me. Neither did the out-of-focus few minutes here and there when the projectionist lagged a little. The BAM always does a great job at promoting their series, but I guess this curated series was not cool enough for Brooklynites? I can’t really tell. Anyway, I’m there with my husband, Ryan and our friend Tim, who was probably the most excited to hear this is what we wanted to do on a Saturday night. We’re the weird wide-eyed nerds who like to watch anything that was made before we were born, but Tim is there as a child of the early ’80s. He remembers what it was like to watch the VHS late at night, obsessing over the camera angles, the transformations and the gore. He loved these great horror films and even showed us his teenage fan art—excuse me—bookmark to prove it:

Tim Soter's The Howling
The Howling Bookmark made by a young Tim Soter

As a professional photographer who shoots famous faces and anything interesting that catches his eye, I had to ask him—what was the best part about seeing The Howling on the big screen?

“The best part of seeing The Howling, revisiting the film now after not seeing it for probably two decades, was the chance to see it projected. The print that the theater secured was atrocious, and I found myself honestly wondering if that was a bonus (because it enhanced the analog and dated quality of the film) or a hindrance. I was most excited to see the transformation scene in the medical office. In my memory the scene was a lot darker, literally and it probably was, given the VHS copy I had watched on a television. When projected, it looked a bit brighter and there was less left to the imagination with my eye being able to now see the image about twenty times what I had seen before. And yet, it still looked really great. The part I liked the most was how long the transformation took! So many stages. At one point while the beast’s face was changing and elongating the creature had a menacing Joker-like grimace, which people couldn’t help but laugh at—though not because it looked cheap. It was simply a reaction to that stage of the crazy, painful process. The lanky, agile quality of the werewolf is its most wonderful trait and probably why it’s my favorite of all of the monsters. It’s partially human and can walk on two legs, but it’s beyond that—it’s certainly not something that’s going to trudge along, dragging its feet while one looks for a door to escape through. The werewolf is man realizing his full potential and beyond and it comes with arrogance.”
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I’d never really thought about the werewolf in that sense, mostly because all the werewolves I grew up with were good guys who had to learn how to control their evil. But I had to ask myself why, now in my Thirties, did The Howling affect me so much. Growing up, my father had us watch Lon Chaney Jr.’s transformation in The Wolfman through double-exposure, the coarse hair growing over his still white hands. We were mesmerized and felt sorry for the man. His fate was sealed but there was nothing he could do. My sisters and I were also allowed to watch American Werewolf in London. There was no sex (which made it appropriate?) but also because of that fully lit transformation scene that was so incredible that the whole family HAD to watch! Again, though, you felt sorry for this guy. What do they all have in common though? I got used to seeing the guys as the werewolves and women as the victims.
M4DHOWL EC001The Howling was not a part of my childhood and yet is the first real glimpse I got of both the arrogant werewolf AND the female werewolf. Though Karen White (Dee Wallace) is the heroine, she isn’t the one who stole it for me. Marsha Quist (Elisabeth Brooks) is the catalyst, the queen, the alpha and the one who holds all the power. And she’s arrogant as fuck about it, too! She was the character I found so refreshing, ignoring the other characters’ eyebrow-raising and comments on her bold mannerisms. Marsha, Marsha, Marsha, I say! The alternate character, Karen, does still use that same power for good in the end. I did find it fun that she, at the beginning, is whispered among the cult members as having too much power as a celebrity in the real world. Yet, in the end, she must be destroyed once she shows her new superpower to the general public. Am I arguing that The Howling a feminist monster movie? Yeah, well, maybe. But more than the fact that everyone in this film more or less each gets to become his or her all-powerful beastly self, the transformations, as Tim pointed out, still work. The gore and effects still work and the werewolf—male or female—is powerful, for the most part proud of it and still frightening as hell. Giving it 4 out of 5 zombie heads, The Howling has officially been added to my own scrapbook of favorite ’80s horror.

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F*%k The Walking Dead

I was first introduced to The Walking Dead through the comic book series. After reading them, I thought they were revolutionary. The combination of horror and drama made me, as a horror fan, focus on the way a zombie apocalypse affects the human experience, rather than pure zombie mayhem. I remember calling my Dad and telling him to read this new comic and how it would make a great HBO series— I never believed it would happen though. Eventually, my hopes came true. A few years later, to my amazement, the show was picked up by AMC. Anticipation for a live adaption of The Walking Dead never wavered, as the comic book series kept getting better and better. It has presently plateaued a bit, but is still a superior horror comic compared to other series out there.

The first episode of The Walking Dead debuted on October 31, 2010, garnering critical acclaim and amazing ratings. This is an incredible feat for a horror television program based on a comic book. Comic books and horror succeeding on the same show never ever, never ever, never ever happens! This show did and it was good. It was probably the only adaption I have come across that I did not mind the deviations from the original origin. I enjoyed the fact that two successful universes were created from the same product with some similarities. More importantly, the alterations made were interesting enough to not incite pandemonium from not following the storyline exactly. Since the debut, the show has broken numerous ratings records, spawned a spinoff (Fear the Walking Dead), has a talk show (The Talking Dead) and helped conceive numerous novels expanding storylines from the show, thus creating new mythologies.

So why am I writing this article hating on this show? Well my complaints are numerous, although specifically target content and the effect on the genre.

When the show came on and the masses were watching it, I was so excited. People were finally going to see how great the maligned horror genre was. Finally, I was no longer going to be a weird outcast nerd! In all honesty, I probably earned that moniker all on my own and will never be able to shake it— and that’s a-okay. I imagined having great debates regarding slow zombies versus fast zombies, what would happen if zombies really rose from the grave because hell was too full, and if a zombie can beat a shark? We all know the zombie apocalypse is inevitable and not just some fantasy. C’mon people, wake the fuck up! It’s gonna happen!  Anyway, I couldn’t wait till all The Walking Dead lovers further pursued their love of all that is zombies, by going back and watching the Italian living dead library, the Blind Dead series and the George Romero Holy Trinity. I felt like Burgess Meredith at the end of the greatest Twilight Zone episode ever, “Time Enough At Last,” where the joy these conversations would bring was equated to his apocalyptic discovery, if not better. I couldn’t wait. In the end, what I got was The Twilight Zone twist. My glasses shattered on the floor, hope smashing it to bits.  I never got a discussion where I told someone that 28 Days Later is ABSOLUTELY not a zombie movie. I got no respect, nothing. Radio silence.

The masses obsessed over The Walking Dead television show, their obsession isolated to that rendition and that alone. From talking with other horror fanatics, they’ve experienced what I have. No matter how much I recommended the comics or novels as superior products, people just didn’t care. They only wanted to watch the show; some repeatedly over and over. For example, I work with a guy, who on Monday will watch the previous episode at least two or three times. Do you think he’d ever pick up the dirt cheap The Walking Dead Omnibus on Amazon to further his jones? Never! It drives me crazy! How and why did this happen? Most pop culture fads spawn numerous rip offs, but not this one. When I ask or tell people about other zombie products, I usually here “I don’t like horror movies.” “WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU MEAN!? YOU ARE CONSTANTLY TALKING ABOUT A HORROR SHOW!”

The Walking Dead television show is pretty good, overall. I was more or less consistently entertained, even though some seasons had an unnecessary lingering pace and flying by the seat of their pants scripting. But like most horror fans I am forgiving, and I am happy to have the show out there for a mass audience. But over the years, I’ve listened to podcasts and other people within the horror community who also seem resentful of this show. I’ve discovered a crucial issue. It’s not really a horror show and it never was.

The Walking Dead is a drama with a horrific backdrop. Now if you are reading this and saying “no shit Sherlock,” you are rightfully, but there was a modification in the show that started to become a problem. The languid pacing, the constantly lingering in one area and never really absolving issues in a timely fashion became padding. Andrew Lincoln’s acting style started getting on many folks nerves. He seems to       preach while standing sideways and waving a gun around in an extremely unsafe manner. Many in the horror community thought this revolutionary show was going to get us mainstream acceptance. Rather, it gave us a shit sandwich so many began to resent it— including me. I stopped watching the show midway through Season 4 and haven’t missed it one bit. Maybe I’ll go back and finish the series and enjoy my time with it, but at this point I don’t give a shit anymore. The mainstream still watches obsessively, while the horror community simply shrugs their shoulders. Comic book nerds got their time to shine with the success of their cosmos, so why are the horror nerds still condemned to live their lives in the shadows, especially when we have the most successful show on TV?

Then AMC and Robert Kirkman decide to do a spinoff, Fear the Walking Dead. I avoided it for awhile, but was definitely intrigued with a show about the beginnings of the zombie apocalypse. I watched the first 90 minute episode and wow. What a hunk of shit! Word is it gets better, but based on that first episode there’s nowhere to go but up. At least in The Walking Dead the dramatic elements are fairly interesting, where in this boring drivel we get a generic drug addict storyline where the kid is an unsympathetic dickbag. And on top of that, there’s basically zero zombie stuff until the end of the episode. Why the fuck did you expand this episode? So I can listen to 90 minutes of Kim Dickens argue why her obnoxious junkie son doesn’t suck ass? WTF? What a waste!

I just recently watched a new film from Denmark called What We Become, which is about the beginnings of a zombie apocalypse. I didn’t love the movie and actually thought it would have made a better TV episode, rather than a full blown feature. What it did do perfectly was create a balance between drama and horror. Horror fans have no problem with drama being in their horror, but what most despise is the dreaded soap opera. Fear of The Walking Dead should have taken a cue from this movie.

So in conclusion, FUCK YOU THE WALKING DEAD for turning a horror show into As the Zombie Turns! FUCK YOU THE WALKING DEAD FANS for not expanding your love of the show into a desire to find out more about all that is zombie! FUCK YOU THE WALKING DEAD most of all for the fact that you gave me hope that my nerd-like tendencies would finally be accepted by mainstream society and that my Rain Man like knowledge of obscure Japanese horror cinema would be looked at the same way some jerkoff in a bar rattles off some obscure baseball stat!

Quick Note on Friday the 13th and Jason V.

Jason Voorhees is not only a staple in the horror realm, but in popular culture as well.  He’s a machete swinging, hockey mask wearing, semi-supernatural maniac, notorious for slaying liberated teenagers and camp councilors at Camp Crystal Lake. He is the slasher of all slashers; even Freddy couldn’t beat him (although outside of Freddy Vs. Jason, this is extremely debatable). The infamous breathing sound is a trademark  with resonance, recognizable on the level of the opening notes to the family sitcoms, Full House, The Simpsons, or The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Jason is so bad-ass, he “takes over” Manhattan, in one of the most cheesiest, yet splendorous, chapters in the film series; ah, nothing like a guitar to the face.

The Friday the 13th mythos is a unique one. In the original film, he is not the killer. Pamela Voorhees, Jason’s mother, is a murdering camp-cook and the antagonist. Jason drowned at camp when he was a boy, and she is avenging his name. Jason is seen in the final sequence of the film, as a child, rising from the lake, but it is supposed to be a “dream.” In the second film, the psycho killer everyone has grown to love becomes the central antagonist, and does throughout the rest of the series. He is also a mama’s boy, as he saves his mother’s severed head in a mini shrine— how sweet!

The Friday the 13th film franchise is one of the more superior, especially when juxtaposed with extended film series peers like Hellraiser, Leprechaun, Children of the Corn, and so on. Regardless of the camp factor (pun intended) in most of the installments, they’ve all been entertaining, engaging and mysterious, to say the least. Although the plot logic may not make sense after the first few films, they are still energetic and exciting. The fact we do not know what Jason exactly is (there is a damn good evidence he is a deadite from the Evil Dead series); is alluring, and he is extremely fascinating in physical and psychological nature.

The F13th film series and the “iconic” Jason Voorhees are some of the more interesting in the horror collective. Tune in to the Spike network today (a marathon, woo-hoo), even if only for a few scenes, and enjoy a one-of-a-kind 80’s throwback that none can replicate.

The Crucial Element

What makes one like specific kinds of genre films? Horror, for eternity, will be associated with “cult” films, and the word choice seems to be for a fine reason. The category has all differing subgenres, many of which produce “cult” or midnight movies. Phantasm brings “phans” from all over the world to conventions where Don Coscarelli and company ventures to. Viewers of horror are from all walks, although the majority of the populous are loyal and dedicated fanatics. From devotees of the horror genre, to the casual watcher, these films and the emotions evoked strike specific chords internally, giving release to several bodily actions within.

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Horror influences the human body’s chemistry, which most other genres cannot produce on their own. What happens physically is the heart and breathing rates rise, muscles tense and one may even crack a sweat from all the stress a movie is providing. While putting oneself in what feels like a life-threatening situation, even if conscious of the fact it’s not real, the physical body releases differing levels of adrenaline, endorphins, cortisol and dopamine. So, horror is kind of like getting naturally high on the fight or flight response.

All the best horror flicks induce this natural occurrence for most, although it easily transpires in young children and scaredy-cat adults. Think back on those moments when watching the most frightening of films, and try to go to that memory of first encountering the shark from Jaws, Freddy Krueger, The Exorcist or whatever terrifies people in their dreams. These encounters are most likely not forgotten and stick with a person forever. The reason is not just due to the elements of film being encountered, but the body timestamps internally as per the fight or flight response.

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Some viewers like to tune into a horror film and be tormented psychologically, whether consciously doing it or not. The dark movie with an edge, for example Se7en, is not considered horror. But it is. Many would consider this a psychological thriller, which it is, but psychological horror fits the script better. Other films like Silence of the Lambs, The Terminator and Black Swan are not considered horror, according to Netflix, Amazon Prime, yadda, yadda, yadda. These movies are all on different landscapes, yet share a common thread: they were considered “mainstream” are related to the genre in one way or another.

This doesn’t just occur in straight-up horror like the original Nightmare on Elm Street or Dawn of the Dead, which are two of the most popular. This also takes place in action or sci-fi themed films, Jurassic Park for example. That movie has the “crucial element,” which without would make the movie a failure. From the frightening opening scene, when the raptor grabs and drags an employee into the holding cage; to the overwhelming euphoria most feel when surviving T-Rex and the raptors, and the JP theme plays over the ending credits— everyone who has seen it has survived Jurassic Park.

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Horror forces people’s sensations to mimic a survivor’s experience on a conscious and subconscious level. The fear, dread, death and gothic undertones, which a movie like Jurassic Park contains, is not a horror movie, but an action adventure. During “adventures,” many horrors come about. Indiana Jones experiences his fear of snakes in the films. In E.T. there are many encounters which embody fear, loss, longing and death, yet the movie is found in the Kid’s section of Netflix.

Without the crucial element, these non-horror films would not be anywhere near as powerful as they are. It is a necessity to compose a film and have some aspect of dismay and dreadfulness involved. The physical and mental effects occurring while watching horror and non-horror both share a key component important in filmmaking. No, not conflict- horror.

Whether one loves or hates horror, they will never escape it in cinema… or real life.

The Blob Gets No Respect

The Blob is an underrated creature which absolutely deserves to be on a higher pedestal in the world of monsters. The gelatinous mass simply rolls across the landscape, engulfing anything it comes in contact with. With every immersion, it gets bigger and bigger. There is no stopping it…except maybe a fallen bowl of ice cubes, as the amazing sequel shows us. Technically, The Blob can consume any living entity in the whole world; just as long as it doesn’t snow, it isn’t winter and its prey isn’t hiding out in a meat freezer. And for some odd reason, the Blob gets no respect!

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What always scared me most about The Blob is that we have no idea of where it came from, its origins or how the hell it really works. What does it feel like when this thing gets a hold of a person? Does it burn? Does it eat flesh slowly? I have no fucking idea. Its blood red color is disgusting and I get consistently creeped out by the many ways it attacks clueless victims. Don’t ever stop paying attention or that motherfucker is going to get you. Sewer drain, doorjamb, sink….he’s coming for you. Or is it a she? Who the fuck knows? I will NEVER get my hair washed at the barber after viewing the fate of the hippie victim in Beware! The Blob!. Another respectable point about this unjustly forgotten gooey mastermind is that it is 3 for 3 in the world of filmdom. This is a rare feat that not every creature could say. The Blob (1958), Beware! The Blob! and The Blob (1988) are all solid films, with their own unique charm.  Can you name another series of films featuring the same creature that goes 3 for 3? It ain’t easy.

The original Blob is something of a conundrum. It’s a film that gets laughed at and is called campy; but also a film that got the much sought after Criterion treatment for home video— a company which reserves their treatment for the elite in filmmaking. Criterion’s print of this film is gorgeous and well worth seeking out, containing two commentaries and a cool photo gallery of Blob memorabilia.  So what is this film: a campy laugh fest or a genuine horror classic? I’ll go with the latter.

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The Blob (1958) has been labeled as a camp classic, which is absolutely unjustified. Maybe it gets that label due to the title, which was originally The Molten Meteor, or the ridiculously catchy title tune penned by Grammy Award winning Burt Bacharach. You’ll be humming it for days after. Re-watching this film I realized that it is a near perfect 1950’s creature feature. Steve McQueen is great as Steve Andrews; but too old looking. He plays the films chicken little, who on the night of a meteor landing is on his first date with Jane Martin. Played by Aneta Corsaut, Jane and Steve’s relationship is charming and believable. Even though it was their first date, they both knew their connection was something more. Even in the face of the unbelievable, they both trust each other fully. Committed teenagers in a low budget monster movie is almost unheard of and it was great to watch these two become a couple, despite the ridiculous situation they are in.  The film was budgeted at 120,000 but was brought in under budget at 110,000. It went on to gross 4,000,000.

There are a lot of little interesting aspects in the movie, like the cute relationship between Jane and her brother, and the way Steve’s dad sticks up for him at the police station (instead of treating him like the clichéd meddling kid). Also, the quick side story about the angry cop’s wife being killed by a teenager, which adds a depth to his character instead of making him the typical cop who hates teenagers for the simple reason that they exist. I also loved the way the local teenagers called the cool cop, Dave, making me feel like these kids didn’t automatically rebel against authority. They just hated assholes. They only hate The Man if he treats them like shit, which is a good reason to rebel. All these little bits are smart script moves and extremely rare in the normally throwaway creature features of the 50’s. These tiny character moments elevate this film to classic status.

Don’t discount The Blob’s influence on later horror classics, especially after seeing the scene where the old man pokes the meteor and it cracks open revealing the Blob. It is very similar to the scene in Alien where John Hurt pokes the egg and the face hugger jumps out and attaches itself to him. The meteor opens exactly the way the alien egg opens. And after all these years, one can still celebrate the film’s awesomeness by going to the original theatre of The Blob’s attack, The Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville. Every year they have a 3 day “Blobfest,” where the highlight is a recreation of the movie theatre runout scene. There is also an appearance by the original Blob, which is now kept in a bucket by its current owner. Not a joke. “Blobfest” is being held this year from July 8-10 so go check out its website and revel in the gelatinous activities.

Now on to the bizarre creation that is Larry Hagman’s 1972 sequel, Beware! The Blob! aka Son of the Blob. I honestly love this movie because I don’t know what the fuck to make of this WTF weird-fest. It’s more like an odd series of Blob vignettes with a loosely connected story. There are bizarre extras, bizarre cameos, an opening credit sequence showcasing a cat running through a field and the Blob wreaking havoc on all sorts of people as it pops up everywhere. Geographical limitations be damned. This motherfucker jumps all over the joint, killing everything all over the town and showing up fifty places at once. Honestly, what the fuck is this? I don’t know; but what I do know is that it’s remarkable.

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The director is Larry “JR” Hagman of Dallas fame. This is his one and only film and it’d be interesting to hear the story behind his decision and process in making Beware! The Blob!. What compelled him to go behind the camera? He had previously done some TV directing work, but this was his first and last feature. Deservedly so, I guess. Godfrey Cambridge plays a drunk, Schlitz drinking, horny husband, Dick Van Patten as a camp counselor and Burgess Meredith in an uncredited cameo as a drunk hobo. There’s improv legend Del Close, Gerrit Graham in an ape costume, Carol Lynley as his girlfriend, Cyndi “Shirley” Williams as a hippie singing in a sewer drain, comedian Shelly Berman as an oddball hair “artist” who charges $400.00 a haircut and the director himself as a drunk— a perfect role for him because he must have been really shitfaced during the filming of this one.

All this insane nonsensical filmmaking leads to an entertaining mind numbing experience, where each viewing expands the limitations of my “what the fuck were they thinking” brainwaves. Somebody seriously needs to write a “making of” book about this film. The special effects are horrible with The Blob being portrayed by a large red balloon, red plastic sheeting and red silicone. The main reason for all this craziness on screen is that during the filming, the script was thrown out and mostly improvised. It absolutely shows that no one gave a fuck, except maybe Robert Walker and Gwynne Gilford as Bobby and Lisa in the wraparound story. All in all, an extremely entertaining second feature for our hero, The Blob.

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Fast forward sixteen years later to 1988’s The Blob, a big budget remake with a decent pedigree of talent. The film is directed by Chuck Russell, who directed the best (although Joey will debate this as second best) Nightmare series entry, Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors and written by Frank Darabont, director of The Mist. Kevin Dillon (in a role long before portraying Johnny Drama on Entourage) and Shawnee Smith (of the Saw series) are the leads. With the duo is fantastic, but the special effects is the real star of the film. Done by Lyle Conway, creator of Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, and Tony Gardner, creator of Return of the Living Dead’s Tarman. This time around, The Blob is purple in color and is able to move around a lot more, using all of its parts to grab, pull, suck and crush its victims. It’s bubblier than a red piece of Jello; but I don’t know if that works as much for me. I guess I like my Blob traditional. In the remake we also get an explanation of The Blob’s origin, which makes it out to be a man-made military weapon. I wasn’t crazy about that, and it loses its mystery. There are some unexpected deaths, great special effects and a good cast, with the returning Del Close as a crazed preacher. This a fun film, but just a step below the original and its sequel, which is not bad for a remake.

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So in the end, the Blob is a genuine, classic monster that needs to be discussed more when it comes to movie creatures. The three films are camp extravaganzas, and are over the top with good and bad special effects. All three are worthy of multiple watches. So what is the future of this gooey god? It was announced back in 2009, in a bizarre choice, that Rob Zombie would direct a remake. That got scrapped, but I would have loved to see what he would have done with it. Zombie’s take would have been crazier than Larry Hagman’s oddly uninvolved directorial choices, and maybe not as effects heavy as the 1988 remake. Maybe we would have gotten a white trash blob raping and pillaging towns as it relentlessly pursues Sheri Moon Zombie. Cue numerous shots of the Blob chasing Sheri Moon Zombies bare ass. Sounds awesome.  Now the word on the street is that Simon West is attached to direct a remake, but I have not heard any further news.

Let’s get this gelatinous monster back on the screen and further enjoy its insane rampages. There are many unsung heroes in the world of horror movies. Whether the tree in From Hell It Came, the octopus in Octaman, or the brain creatures in Fiend Without a Face, someone needs to champion for these much maligned monsters.