Monday, January 24, 2005


Another Saturday night, another opportunity for a Festival of Bad Cinema.

Actually the first movie wasn't bad at all. It was "Shaun of the Dead", wherein an underachieving retail worker gets an opportunity to change his life when zombies suddenly take over London. The real fun of this movie is in the fact that Shaun and his friends are so ground down by their boring, repetitive, aimless lives that they're aren't even aware of the plague of zombies until about halfway though the film. Shaun is forever on the cusp of noticing the frantic TV newsflashes, screaming newspaper headlines, wailing sirens and staggering undead, before getting dragged back into another argument with his flatmate or a fight with his girlfriend or just the humdrum mechanics of suburban life.

It's a clever exploration of how Londoners might deal with the end of the world. Before Shaun finds a cricket bat, he's trying to fight off zombies with a toaster, a coffee mug tree, a plastic laundry basket and a Sade album. Later attempts to keep the undead at bay involve a totem-tennis set, some darts and a hatstand. The entire cast is woefully unprepared to deal with anything more threatening than a dodgy kebab, and those few that survive do so more through luck and classic English stubborness than anything else.

Second up was Hammer's 1972 classic, "Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter." It's sometime in Ye Dayes of Olde, and Captain Kronos, a blonde-haired ponce with an unconvincing fake scar, is hurrying to investigate reports of vampire activity in a quaint English village. On the way he rescues a sexy bra-less serving wench from the stocks, takes her with him to the village, and asks her where she'd like to go from there.

Sexy Bra-less Serving Wench: I'd like to stay here with you, if you'll have me.
Captain Kronos (with porn-star suavity): Oh yes, I'll have you.
Audience convulses with even mixture of gaffaws and cries of "Ewwwwwwwww!"

Then it gets a bit confusing. The vampire only attacks women wearing polyester wigs, to judge from the victims. Instead of being drained of blood, they're drained of youth, and their hair goes from blonde or brunette polyester to grey polyester before they die (probably from an allergic reaction to the petrochemicals).

Captain Kronos responds by getting his hunchbacked assistant to do all the investigations, while he takes several rolls in the hay with the Sexy Bra-less Serving Wench. Eventually Kronos and his assistant find out that the vampire is the widow of the local lord, butcher her in front of her horrified children, then abandon the Sexy Bra-less Serving Wench in the middle of nowhere and ride off into the sunset, or whatever passes for a sunset in the eternal English drizzle.

Lastly, we had Hammer's 1956 effort "X: The Unknown". In this one, a group of plucky British Tommys are threatened by a giant radioactive oil slick, and it's up to an imported American scientist and a small number of eager British boffins to stop it before it totals Inverness, or something equally grave.

The movie was obviously modelled on the Hollywood monster movies of the same era. But Britain in the mid-50s was a drastically different place to America, and the Brits are an entirely different species. Whereas the Americans in, for example, "Them!" responded to giant atomic mutants by sending in tanks, flamethrowers and helicopter gunships, the Brits send in a couple of soldiers in an Austin A30, armed with nothing more threatening than a stiff upper lip. It was like watching the War on Terror being fought by Beatrix Potter characters.

Major: I say, Sergeant, what seems to be the problem?
Sergeant: It's young Private Expendable, sir. He was closest to the mysterious blast.
Major: What's wrong with him?
Sergeant: I'll show you, sir. Expendable, look lively and lift up your shirt, there's a good lad.
Major: I say, it looks like horrific, pustulating third-degree burns. That must be jolly painful.
Private: It is a bit rich, sir. The MO says I got a spot of radiation sickness, too.
Major: Well I must say, that is damned unfortunate. Well, off you go to die, Expendable.
Private: Yes sir. Thank you sir.
Sergeant: 'Ere, Expendable, don't give the Major none of your lip.

No doubt the medic responded with an IV of lukewarm tea, and maybe some scones, STAT!


Blogger Eric B. said...

How/Where do you come up with the movies for your Festival of Bad Cinema? If you ever get the opportunity to see David Heavener's "Outlaw Prophet", you MUST. Or anything else he's done. He's like a spastic, undignified Ed Wood for the 90s.

1:38 AM  
Blogger Jillian said...

If you enjoyed Shaun of the Dead, you'll like Hot Fuzz!
Let me know if you want to borrow it!

11:08 AM  

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