Worst Movies Ever Made

Scraping the Bottom of the Cinematic Barrel

Worst Movies Ever Made: The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed-up Zombies (1964)

514FJN3GE7L_cropTitle:  The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed-up Zombies (1964)
Directed by:  Ray Dennis Steckler
Starring:  Cash Flagg, Carolyn Brandt, Brett O’Hara, Atlas King, Sharon Walsh, Madison Clarke, Jack Brady
Buy here:  Amazon UK

One of the longest titles in movie history, and also one of the silliest, this film is fairly representative of the laughably bad work of the late Ray Dennis Steckler, who worked as a cameraman for Universal until as legend has it he was fired for knocking something over on set and nearly injuring Alfred Hitchcock!  Incredibly Strange Creatures was clumsy Ray’s first film as a director and was made for a bargain basement $38,000 with his then-wife Carolyn Brandt as the star. Spotting a gap in the market almost as wide as the gap between his ears, his ingenious idea was to stage the world’s first zombie musical, and to film it in “hallucinogenic hypnovision”. That’s a hypnotic spiral that crops up on screen from time to time.

Brett O’Hara is Madame Estrella, a gypsy fortune teller in a low-rent carnival who talks like Bela Lugosi on helium and has an ugly wart on her face, which mysteriously changes position from scene to scene. When men turn down her advances she chucks acid in their faces and locks them in a closet. That’s how things played out in the dark days before match.com.

5339870150_1f9e0d7c39_z_cropMadame Estrella has a much sexier sister Carmelita, a most ungainly stripper played by the aforementioned Carolyn Brandt. She also employs a hideous chain-smoking hunchback sidekick Ortega (Jack Brady) who assists her in disposing of bodies, grabbing innocent victims and making the coffee. But he has to have the odd day off to replenish his stock of filter tipped Camels or he gets the hump, so Estrella hypnotises a gormless lad named Jerry – played by Steckler himself under the pseudonym of “Cash Flagg” – to deputise and kill anyone who dares to criticise her crystal ball readings.

Impressively, Steckler is an even worse actor than he is a director, his goggle-eyed stare provoking big laughs as he sidles toward his victims, big shiny butcher knife in hand. Looking disconcertingly like a drunken Nicolas Cage, he could also be the first “hoodie” psycho in movie history – even David Cameron wouldn’t want to hug him.

22729_cropThe blood-curdlingly sickening scenes continue as American idol and singing sensation Don Snyder takes to the ramshackle stage to deliver his big hit and signature tune “How Do You Stand With My Heart”. When Jerry storms the stage with murder in mind, we can only applaud.

The hilarious finale sees our hypnotised hero getting an acid face wash from an ungrateful Madame Estrella. Then the putty-faced zombies get loose and Estrella cops it along with her leggy stripper sister and poor old out-of-puff Ortega, who can’t run fast enough to escape them with that pillow stuffed down his back.

These zombies may be mixed-up bunch, but the cops who arrive on the scene minutes later don’t offer them any counselling. They just do what any cop would do when confronted by a bunch of guys staggering around in rubber masks – blast away at them with toy guns.  They then chase Jerry across a rocky beach as he stumbles, falls, gets up again, and repeats the cycle until he finally cops it. You could probably make a brew while the final chase is on and get back to see the end of it.

incredibly-strange-creatures-lobby-card_2-1964_cropThere’s really only about fifteen minutes of story here, padded out with dire musical numbers (such as “The Mixed-Up Zombie Stomp,” “It’s Not You,” “The Pied-Piper Of Love” and “Scook Out Of Shape”) which all sound like they were recorded in a wind tunnel, and some of the worst dance routines ever committed to celluloid.

Amazingly, however, the movie turned a tidy profit for Ray because he had the bright idea of taking it on the road with a unique gimmick: at the end of each showing he had actors dressed in rubber masks and brandishing plastic knives invade the audience. Sadly, no cops ever turned up to shoot the lot of them.

Worst Movies Ever Made: The Wild World Of Batwoman (1966)

51VFX2K375L_cropTitle:  The Wild World Of Batwoman (1966)
Directed by:  Jerry Warren
Starring:  Katherine Victor, George Andre, Steve Brodie, Richard Banks, Lloyd Nelson, Bruno VeSota
Buy here:  Amazon UK

Easily one of the most ridiculous and incomprehensible films you will ever see, it’s no surprise that The Wild World of Batwoman was so eagerly embraced by the Mystery Science Theatre crew.

46841a_lg_crop“This movie is like they put a bunch of movies in a blender and hit the switch” was their verdict, and it’s an accurate one. It’s also actually a fairly typical representation of the work of its director, legendary American schlock merchant Jerry Warren.

Warren was active throughout the 50s and 60s and specialised in buying up low-budget foreign horror movies – usually from Mexico – on the cheap. He then chopped them to pieces and added new footage of down-on-their-luck US actors such as John Carradine and Robert Clarke. His woeful attempts at adding narration to smooth over the gaps usually made them even more incomprehensible.

‘Batwoman’ is played in played by Katherine Victor, aka Katena Ktenavea, an imperious-looking lady with no discernible acting ability who moonlighted in poverty row productions as a bit of light relief from her day job working in animation for companies like Hanna-Barbera and Walt Disney!

wild_world_of_batwoman_2_20130203004600By the time she made this movie, Katherine was over forty and looking it, and cramming her into a tight-fitting leotard was a batty decision indeed. To add to the hilarity, her character has a crazy face mask, a bat tattooed on her cleavage and wild hair that looks like either she stuck her finger in an electric plug, or a skunk just crawled on her head and expired. It’s a look that even Cher would run a mile from.

There’s no Batcave for this Batwoman, because the budget would only stretch to a normal modest suburban home, where our heroine spends most of her time sitting around looking bored, or chatting on the phone while playing den mother to her ‘Batgirls,’ who get up to more energetic pursuits, such as wrestling. At one point they are slipped some happy pills – probably from Jerry’s personal stash – that causes them to hit the dance floor and gyrate to wild swinging guitar music in a fashion that we’ve never seen before, and frankly never want to see again.

Put aside all normal rules of narrative because this movie will have you shaking your head in bewilderment right from scene one. This shows a guy being stabbed in an alley but bears no relation to the silliness that follows and seems to be from another film altogether. Maybe it is?

tumblr_kq3jhzjXTp1qz906xo1_500Anyway, as far as we can ascertain, Victor is a female vampire who is blackmailed by an evil scientist (who sounds like Apu on The Simpsons) into stealing an atomic hearing aid! Helping Apu out is a character called Rat Fink, who looks like he’s stepped out of an El Santo Mexican wrestling picture and is so pathetic that one of the Batgirls stifles a yawn when he threatens her. His menace value doesn’t exactly double when he clones himself at the end! Mix in some cheeky stock footage swiped from Universal’s The Mole People, and a spectacularly racist séance scene in which the Batwoman channels the spirit of an Oriental man in a style better suited to Benny Hill, and you have one awesomely bad movie.

It seems that The Wild World of Batwoman was cobbled together by opportunistic Jerry Warren on a slow weekend to capitalise on the popularity of the Batman TV show. Of course as soon as he announced the film’s release in the trade papers, DC Comics promptly sued him over the name, forcing him to initially release it as She Was A Hippy Vampire.

Who cares, really. The fact remains that under any title, it’s a stinker.

 

 

 

 

Worst Movies Ever Made: Beach Girls and The Monster (1965)

51H56CK50VL_cropTitle:  Beach Girls and The Monster (1965)
Directed by:  Jon Hall
Starring:  Sue Casey, Walker Edmiston, Arnold LessingElaine DuPont, Read Morgan, Tony Roberts, Dale Davis, Boyd ‘Read’ Morgan
Buy here:  Amazon UK – DVD; Prime Instant Video

Teenage horror flicks and beach party musicals were all the rage in the 1960s, and when schlock filmmakers combined the two genres the results were always as bad as they were enjoyable.

Beach Girls and the Monster is a classic example, a hysterically awful rubber suit monster romp which was the brainchild of Jon Hall. That name may not mean much to modern day audiences but in the 1940s he was a worldwide matinee idol with brooding good looks and an athletic figure. By the time he made Beach Girls though he was on a bottle a day – of Grecian 2000.

Unable to find much employment in the movie industry, Hall decided to produce his own film, taking a starring role and directing too. He even shot Beach Girls in his own house to save more money. As to how successful the end result was, well, it was his final movie appearance and he killed himself ten years later, so probably not a resounding hit.

We have to say this though, the film does deliver exactly what it says on the tin, setting out its stall early with glimpses of a goggle-eyed monster getting all excited watching a bunch of bikini babes shake their booty on the beach. The monster suit here looks suspiciously similar to the one in Horror of Party Beach, another film which we are sure to get around to celebrating in the fullness of time.

Hall wisely hired “The Watusi Dancing Girls” from Hollywood’s Whisky a Go Go club on Sunset Boulevard to get things off to a swinging start, and you may feel compelled to join in at home once you synch with the red hot vibes of Frank Sinatra Jnr’s Dance, Baby Dance. Or not.

beach_girls_and_monster_poster_02_cropAfter this energetic workout most of the gals pocket their fee and head back to the Whiskey a Go Go club, while one of the beach babes, a honey named Bunny, flirts with her surfer boyfriend and puts sand on his hot dog. This prompts much inane laughter, because you’re supposed to put mustard on there.

After having exhausted her small repertoire of hot dog gags, Bunny eventually wanders off still giggling like a happy crack addict, and happens upon a beach cave. What lurks therein? You guessed it, the pointy-headed fish monster covered in leafy seaweed that we glimpsed under the main credits. How she manages to stop laughing long enough for the creature to slash her to death we’ll never know.

The local sheriff turns up and he’s mystified. How did a fish make these clawed footprints in the sand? They’ll be getting about on a bicycle next. The cops quickly pay a visit to noted oceanographer Dr Otto Lindsay, played by Jon Hall, who rattles on a bit about man-sized barracudas who wear hobnail boots before suggesting that the killer is: “One of those surfers that hang around the beach all the time, they’re capable of anything, even murder. The guys are loafers and the girls are tramps!”

The voice of reason at last.

Hall was knocking on fifty when he made this and he looks like he was knocking it pretty hard. With a sledgehammer. He may be playing a man who really knows the price of fish but from the look of his puffy face his bait’s not as fresh as it used to be.

Otto’s marriage to hotsy totsy younger woman Vicki (Sue Casey) is not working out well either, since she’s frankly a bit of a strumpet. This babe is so sultry that every time she appears on screen she gets her own sleazy jazz theme, slow and syrupy and heavy on the sax.

Sticky Vicki even flirts with her stepson, surfer hunk Richard (Arnold Lessing), who is disgusted by this, and by the way she treats his dad. At one point he complains to his girlfriend: “He’s well known in oceanography and her cute little title for him in company is Fish Doctor!” When she gets round to calling him Captain Birdseye that really will be the last straw.

Of course it’s obvious that Vicki is going to end up getting unconvincingly clawed to death by old seaweed chops, and at first it seems like this is going to happen on the beach when she goes swimming and the creature emerges making jazz hands behind her. But no, she eventually meets her fate when the monster turns up in her bedroom – yep, never expected that, eh?

This is only a short movie, but it’s still padded out with endless shots of people surfing, and the musical interludes will make your brain hurt. The low point comes at a bongo drum bash on the beach at night where a surfing ventriloquist with a lion head does a song called Monster in the Surf: “Everybody’s sleeping’, monster comes a creeepin’ yeah yeah yeah!” Look for it on Spotify.

Since the monster here so obviously looks like a man in a silly costume, its biggest stroke of genius is in the final revelation that this is exactly what it is. Yep, it’s frustrated old Otto himself, killing those waste-of-space surfers and his faithless wife.

The cops are soon on to him though and he escapes in a white MG – leading to a car chase containing some truly hilarious back projection enabling his car to turn corners without him even moving the wheel. The MG suddenly turns into a vintage automobile when it finally careers off a cliff in scratchy stock footage.

A suitable end to a car crash of a movie, Beach Girls and the Monster is available to watch on Amazon Instant Video any time you want!

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Best Worst Disaster Movies Ever: The Swarm (1978)

41BX1BYY3BL_cropTitle:  The Swarm (1978)
Directed by:  Irwin Allen
Starring:  Michael Caine, Katherine Ross, Richard Widmark, Olivia de Havilland, Ben Johnson, Richard Chamberlain, José Ferrer, Lee Grant, Patty Duke, Henry Fonda, Slim Pickens, Cameron Mitchell, Fred MacMurray, Bradford Dillman
Buy here:  Amazon UK – DVD; Prime Instant Video

Big shot Hollywood producer Irwin Allen was known as “The Master of Disaster” back in the 70s because of his successful run of blockbuster disaster movies. A who’s who of Tinsel Town lined up to take the heat in The Towering Inferno and go glug in The Poseidon Adventure, but his most disastrous movie of all was the $20 million bee picture The Swarm.

Patrons who paid good bees and honey to see this really got stung!

Normal everyday bees just collect pollen from the flowers and help make honey to sell in shops. African killer bees, on the other hand, have a rather more sinister agenda, the clue being in their name. Having made enough mischief on the Dark Continent, this mutant strain of super-intelligent and frankly anti-social insects head for Texas on a mission to destroy Houston’s missile silos and nuclear power stations. Boy do they have a problem this time.

As usual Irwin recruited a lot of big stars, most of them down on their luck, to fill the minor roles. We’re talking about the likes of Fred MacMurray, Olivia De Havilland, Ben Johnson, Lee Grant, José Ferrer and Henry Fonda. The one big name still with a career to worry about was Michael Caine, who apparently used his inflated fee to buy a house. He is spectacularly miscast as a “brilliant entomologist” named Brad who munches on sunflower seeds and walks around like he has a broomstick lodged where the sun doesn’t shine. He also gets to say the film’s most quoted line: “Will history blame me or the bees?”

Not bad Michael, but it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as, “Bees! Thaaaasands of them!”

23513_cropCaine’s character is the first to recognise the imminent threat and puts it into words as eloquently as we expect of him: “We’ve been fighting a losing battle against the insects for fifteen years. But I never thought I’d see the final face-off in my lifetime. And I never dreamed that it’d turn out to be the bees. They’ve always been our friends!”

See, you learned something there – an entomologist is someone who fights insects.

The early part of the movie finds Caine in conflict with no-nonsense military man Richard Widmark as they try to thrash out a way to stop the bee invasion.

Caine asks him: “Are you endowing these bees with human motives? Like saving their fellow bees from captivity, or seeking revenge on Mankind?”

Widmark replies: “I always credit my enemy, no matter what he may be, with equal intelligence.”

Judging by Widmark’s performance we think that’s probably a fair thing to do.

Meanwhile, the sky is filled with what looks like badly back-projected coffee grounds as the bees make, er, a beeline for brightly coloured objects on the ground – those gaudy 70s fashions can be lethal. The scenes where the little buzzers attack people are seemingly accomplished by firing little black balls of fluff at the actors with an air cannon while they run around in a blind panic, realising their careers will be over when this film hits the screen.

Despite the film’s huge budget it has the look of a Roger Corman cheapie, with poor model work depicting helicopters and trains exploding. The film itself is the only convincing train wreck here and its failure affected poor old Irwin so much that he warned people never to mention it in his presence again – and walked out of an interview when one journalist did.

Strangely enough though, The Swarm still generates a bit of a buzz among bad movie buffs, and it has at least one classy thing about it, a rousing Jerry Goldsmith score which at one point cheekily borrows from Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee.” It also uses b-e-e as its primary musical notes…

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Best Worst Movies Ever: The Monster Club (1981)

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Title:  The Monster Club (1981)
Directed by:  Roy Ward Baker
Starring:  Vincent Price, Donald Pleasence, John Carradine, Richard Johnson, Stuart Whitman, Anthony Steel, Britt Ekland, Barbara Kellerman, Simon Ward, James Laurenson, Lesley Dunlop, Warren Saire
Buy here:  Amazon UK; Network official site

American producer Milton Subotsky was one of the men behind Amicus Productions, Hammer’s chief rival in the UK horror market in the 60s and 70s. While Hammer had their Frankenstein and Dracula series, Amicus specialised in the omnibus horror format, scoring their biggest hits with films like Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965) and Tales From The Crypt (1972).

Unable to compete with the new style of Exorcist and Omen-type horror productions coming out of Hollywood, Amicus finally went to the wall in the late 70s, but Milton couldn’t accept the inevitable and formed a new production company to make yet another old fashioned compendium chiller, a disappointing comic book effort called The Monster Club.

Based on a collection of short stories by British horror novelist Ronald Chetwynd-Hayes, The Monster Club also marked Vincent Price’s return to acting after a five-year break, and he more or less chucked it in altogether after this embarrassing effort.

In his first ever feature film role as a vampire, Vinnie sinks his fangs into horror story writer Ronald Chetwynd-Hayes, played by an ancient looking John Carradine. When he realises who is victim is, he apologises and by way of compensation takes him along to the wacky establishment of the title, where the on-stage burlesque act strips down to a skeleton. This, like the sight of Vinnie and an arthritis-ridden Carradine getting footloose on the dance floor to bad rock music, is not easily forgotten.

monsterclub7big_cropThe Monster Club itself is just plain awful. Imagine the tackiest set you ever saw on Top of the Pops in the 70s and that doesn’t even come close. The place is populated by all manner of monsters but this is no Mos Eisley Cantina set-up – they are just extras wearing obvious joke shop masks. Rumour has it that the masks were made by Milton Subotsky’s milkman to keep the budget down!

In the first of the trilogy of stories, Barbara Kellerman and her boyfriend Simon Ward are strapped for cash, so she takes a job cataloguing antiques in an old manor for kindly James Laurenson, little realising he is a Shadmock, a monster whose silent whistle is fatal to humans.

Angela is hot stuff and well worth a whistle, but her soft-spoken employer doesn’t try it on. He does fall for her in a big way though, and when he asks her to marry him Ward persuades Kellerman to play along, with a view to absconding with his loot. They both have to whistle for it at the end. It’s an extremely tedious tale despite good performances.

Story two goes for cheap laughs and fails in a poorly written tale about a “Vamp Squad” of bloodsucker-hunting detectives led by Donald Pleasence. They are on the trail of a vampire (Richard Johnson) who has been stalking the London underground without an Oyster card, but when Pleasence finally tracks him down he gets turned into a vampire himself. Much supposed merriment ensues as his own team try to put a stake through his heart.

The vampiric Johnson appears to fall victim to the vampire hunters himself, but in the jolly finale he pulls the stake out, declaring: “I was wearing my stake-proof vest – and look – tomato ketchup!”

The third segment concerns a village populated by “Humgoos”, flesh-eating ghouls who attempt to put the bite on movie director Stuart Whitman when he drops in on the place scouting locations for his next horror flick. It’s hard to accept a mysterious ‘lost’ village would be just a mile or so off a main motorway, but at least this is an atmospheric yarn with a fairly neat finish.

Author Chetwynd Hayes was greatly disappointed in the end result and lamented: “I thought the so-called humour in the film was down-right silly. The only horror was the really horrible pop music they inserted into it.”

He has a point there. The naff, extremely 80s musical performances are delivered onstage by the likes of B.A. Robertson, UB40 and The Pretty Things, who belt out the title song:

“I was necking with my ghoulfriend when she just snapped out the light,

Saying ‘Thanks for the memory’ as she took a bigger bite.

Then there’s the blood, blood, blood…

Welcome to the Monster Club!”

Genre buffs will find plenty of Amicus in-jokes here, though none of them are actually funny. For example, the second story features a vampire film producer named Lintom Busotsky. Geddit? Producer John Dark made the Amicus compendium From Beyond The Grave, and there’s a scene involving a screening of From Beyond The Tombstone, co-produced by Dark John. Geddit? Forgeddit!

Released in 1981, The Monster Club bombed, the critics tearing it’s genteel pace and rubber monster masks to pieces. Is it ripe for revival? Network think so because they are about to release it on Blu-ray, meaning you’ll be able to see all those rubber masks in high definition and listen to all the awful songs in full surround sound. Ain’t progress marvellous?

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Worst Movies Ever: The Beast Of Yucca Flats (1961)

81vru5WAWTL_SL1500_cropTitle:  The Beast Of Yucca Flats (1961)

Directed by:  Coleman Francis

Starring:  Tor Johnson, Douglas Mellor, Barbara Francis, Bing Stafford, Conrad Brooks

Buy from:  Amazon UK – DVD; Amazon Instant Video

Anyone who thinks that Ed Wood was the worst director of all time needs to take a look at the movies of a certain Coleman Francis, a legendary boozer who graduated from acting in bit parts in other bad movies to making his own when nobody would employ him any more.

Between 1961 and 1965, Francis wrote and directed three absolutely abysmal Grade Z movies:  The Beast Of Yucca Flats, The Skydivers, and Night Train To Mundo Fine (also known as Red Zone Cuba). Every one of these makes Ed Wood’s Plan Nine From Outer Space look like a masterpiece by comparison.

Coincidentally, The Beast of Yucca Flats shares the same star as Plan Nine, 26-stone Swedish wrestler Tor Johnson, who famously broke Ed’s toilet just by sitting on it. Tor’s grasp of the English language was even more limited than his acting ability, but if you wanted your toilet trashed he was your man.

Tor is certainly cast against type here as, wait for it… a brilliant Russian scientist. Defecting to the West, this man has the fate of the world in his briefcase, along with a lot of sandwiches and crisps. He arrives at an airport and is met by a government escort, but before his bodyguards have time to say, “We should have brought a bigger car,” some trigger-happy KGB agents turn up, intent on kidnapping Tor and taking him direct to the Kremlin branch of Weight Watchers.

A very low rent car chase ensues, cutting between day and night repeatedly, and from desert to forest, to mountains and back. It ends with a pathetic shootout and Tor making off into the desert as fast as his bulky little legs will carry him. He somehow manages to outdistance his younger and fitter pursuers, but accidentally stumbles into a nuclear bomb testing facility just as there’s a jumpy cut to scratchy stock footage of an A-bomb explosion.

22742_2_cropThe radiation from the blast transforms Tor from an overweight, menacing scientist into an overweight, menacing scientist with what looks like a fried egg on he face. He shambles through the sagebrush in search of victims, and first to cop it are a couple whose car has broken down in the area. Somehow they don’t see this monstrous salad dodger bearing down on them until it’s too late. Then he picks up a stick and chases two young boys around for an interminable amount of time with absolutely no chance of catching them.

Meanwhile, two cops, named Jim and Joe, are on the trail of the monster. The narration reveals all: “Twenty hours without rest and still no enemy. In the blistering desert heat, Jim and Joe plan their next attack. Find the Beast and kill him. Kill, or be killed. Man’s inhumanity to man.”

When they eventually catch up with Tor they blast him with about fifty bullets without reloading. As The Beast slowly succumbs to his fatal wounds, a rabbit stumbles into the scene and he grabs it and kisses it. The rabbit takes a look at Tor’s frightening fizzog and seems as if it’s going to have a heart attack. Apparently the rabbit just came along while the cameras were running and Coleman didn’t want to waste film reshooting it.

It’s often quite difficult to tell what is going on here, because clumsy old Coleman lost the movie’s soundtrack and had to glue the movie together with his own nonsensical narration.

It doesn’t help that much of this narration bears no relation to the action (if you could call it that) onscreen. Out of nowhere, we get immortal dialogue like: “Flag on the Moon, how did get there?” or “Young boys feed soda to the thirsty pigs.” In one scene a shot of a guy sleeping in a hammock is accompanied by Coleman musing: “Nothing bothers some people, not even flying saucers.”

The most amazing thing about this movie is it runs just 54 minutes, yet after you’ve watched it you’ll feel you’ve lost hours of your life. Coleman Francis was eventually found dead in the back of a station wagon with a plastic bag on his head, but his legend lives on among bad movie buffs.

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Best Worst Movies Ever Made: Sharknado 2: The Second One (2014)

51jDpIWU3JL_crop Title:  Sharknado 2: The Second One (2014)
Directed by:  Anthony C. Ferrante
Starring:  Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, Vivica A. Fox, Mark McGrath, Kari Wuhrer, Courtney Baxter, Dante Palminteri, Judd Hirsch, Kelly Osbourne, Robert Hays, Billy Ray Cyrus, Andy Dick

It’s a general rule of thumb that movie sequels are never equal to the original, but when that original is as hilariously bad a movie as Sharknado, then it’s impossible for that sequel to jump the shark so to speak… it has nowhere to go but up.

The perils of climate change are again front and centre in Sharknado 2: The Second One, which is actually a much more fun movie than the original, though equally as daft. The opening scene sets the ludicrous tone nicely. If there’s anywhere that you might consider yourself safe from a shark attack it’s in a Boeing 747 aircraft flying well above the clouds, but the hero of the first film, Fin Shepard (Ian Ziering) is still in a state of high anxiety.

Mind you, with Robert (Airplane) Hays as the pilot, he may have a point.

His former wife April Wexler (Tara Reid) is his co-passenger, and she tries to calm him down and start to have some fun now they are heading to New York. “Two of my friends were killed, I almost destroyed Los Angeles and I got eaten by a shark,” he says. “How much fun do you think that was?” Fair point, actually.

Then in a direct pinch from the classic Nightmare at 20,000 Feet episode of The Twilight Zone, Fin spots a shark flopping about on the wing of the plane. Nobody believes him of course. They didn’t believe Bill Shatner either.

He has the last laugh though, as the plane is soon right in the middle of a wild and wacky CGI sharknado. Both pilots are snacked straight out of the cockpit and purple-haired stewardess Kelly Osbourne loses her head. April gets her hand bitten off while hanging out the plane door taking pot shots at the flying fish. Serves her right, really.

It remains for our hero to grab the controls and bring the 747 in to land explosively but safely at JFK airport. Who would have thought that a surfer bar owner would know how to pilot a jumbo jet? The passengers are screaming wildly one moment, smiling and clapping the next. All apart from April, who now only has one hand.

sharknado-2-enough-said_cropSafely on the ground, Fin tries to warn a bearded, bespectacled and rather effeminate New York policeman (comedian Andy Dick) that the events of the first Sharknado, a hurricane-related waterspout bringing shark-infused-flooding to the city streets, are about to repeat themselves in the Big Apple. “I can see you’re upset,” says the caring cop, looking like he’s about to offer to come round and redecorate Fin’s apartment.

April has gone off to the hospital to get a prosthetic limb fitted, and she’s worried that the sharks are targeting her personally. “It’s like he knew who I was”, she says of the one that attacked her. Surely everyone knows who Tara Reid is? Ever sympathetic, Fin tells her, “We’re gonna get past this.” Then he delivers the zinger: “The next time you offer to lend a hand, don’t be so literal about it.” She doesn’t return his high five.

This kind of groanworthy dialogue is all part of the film’s cheesy charm, and there’s plenty of it, but the key to Sharknado 2’s success is that everybody plays it absolutely straight, no matter how implausible things get on a minute by minute basis.

As for the plot, well it’s like that of the first film but amped up to eleven. This time there are two (count ‘em) sharknado twisters, and if they merge together then it will create the perfect shark storm, or to put it another way, a sharkopalypse. Can Fin and April stop it and pave the way for Sharknado 3? You betcha.

First of all our hero has to save his nearest and dearest, including old flame Vivica A. Fox and his brother-in-law (Mark McGrath), who has gone to a baseball game at a park right next to the river – I bet they get a lot of lost balls. Meanwhile, Fin’s sister (Kari Wuhrer) – who’s named Ellen Brody! – tries to keep her daughter and assorted pals from becoming shark bait. Also along for the ride is Judd Hirsch, a genial New York taxi driver with a wooden leg. Hirsch was of course the star of TV’s Taxi.

The playful, anything goes feel of the piece is evident from the start and culminates with Fin hopping from shark to shark the same way as Roger Moore negotiated alligators in Live and Let Die (though without the raised eyebrows). Swallowed by a giant shark he chainsaws his way out, striking a Bruce Campbell Evil Dead posture in the process.

The New York setting allows for some CGI fun with the local landmarks. We get to see the decapitated head of Lady Liberty bouncing down the streets of Manhattan, and since everybody knows the sewers of the Big Apple are full of giant alligators, they join the sharks in chomping on innocent subway bystanders – leading to the tempting prospect of an Alligatornado movie in the future. Get on Twitter now and demand it.

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Worst Christmas Movie Ever Made: Santa Claus Conquers The Martian (1964)

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Title:  Santa Claus Conquers The Martians (1964)
Directed by:  Nicholas Webster
Starring:  John Call, Leonard Hicks, Vincent Beck, Victor Stiles, Donna Conforti, Bill McCutcheon, Leila Martin, Pia Zadora
Buy Here:  Amazon UK

Christmas may be the season of good will to all men, but the makers of this particular oven-ready turkey were just taking the p!$$. Filmed in an old aircraft hanger, it’s the kind of movie that Ed Wood might have made at the start of his career, before he learned which end of the camera to look down.

The film opens on Mars, where the poor Martian kids are really down in the dumps because nobody showers them with unnecessary gifts once a year. They sit around in a zombie-like state watching TV shows from Earth about good old Father Christmas and wishing they could get an old geezer with white hair climbing down their chimney too – though obviously not one who is clad in a shell suit and muttering, “Now then, now then…”

01-1_cropThe rulers of the Red Planet call an emergency meeting and consult an 800-year-old wise man who lives in a cave with no chimney. He comes up with the genius idea of kidnapping Santa Claus from Earth and installing him on Mars, rather than just finding their own fat little man in a red suit and paying him minimum wage.

A raiding party of Martians set out, employing a cunning plastic “radar screen,” available from Woolworth for 3/6d, to fox our planetary defences. Kidnapping two annoying American kids, they threaten them with roles in the sequel unless they take them to Santa’s home at the North Pole, a Winter Wonderland which looks a bit like a typical department store Christmas grotto.

It soon becomes apparent that Kris Kringle himself – as played by rotund John Call – would never have passed the sobriety test to work in such a place. He’s definitely Christmas pie-eyed and his ‘Ho! Ho! Ho!” sounds much to lewd for our liking. Did the filmmakers do a CRB check on this guy?

After turning their freeze rays on Mrs Klaus and a few stray elves, the green-skinned meanies head off to Mars with Bad Santa and the irritating Earth kids. But their lives are in danger from the main baddie of the piece, a character called Vulgar (Vincent Beck) with a Frank Zappa moustache and the screen presence of a lump of balsa wood. He tries to bump Santa off but is foiled at every turn by good Martian kid Droppo (Bill McCutcheon), who must be sweating his cobs off under that ridiculous rubber mask.

Santa2_1024x1024_cropWhen the cardboard spaceship lands, the Martian kids immediately burst into peals of laughter. Well, it is a rubbish bit of special effects, that’s for sure. Santa is given a workshop and starts making crystal meth… sorry, wrong show, cheap consumer goods for the children. Vulgar is not happy and kidnaps Santa to finally settle his hash, but in an amazing plot twist we discover he’s really kidnapped young Droppo, who has dressed as Santa for a bet. The Martian kids attack Vulgar with ping pong balls and toy tanks, and tears stream down his face, either from being repeatedly hit in the goolies or suddenly realising he’s never going to get that Oscar now.

The Martians realise that Droppo makes a convincing Santa, and one who doesn’t need vodka on his cornflakes every day, so they fly the original back to Earth just in time for Christmas as the end titles come up to the inspirational song, Hooray For Santy Claus.

All together now:

“You spell it S-a-n-t-a C-l-a-u-s

Hooray for Santy Claus!

Hooray for Santy Claus

Yeah, yeah, for Santy Claus

He’s fat and round, but jumping jiminy,

He can climb down any chimney,

Why do we hear sleigh bells ring?

Our hearts go ding-a-ling!”

Yule never believe how bad this is, despite the fact that it has attained some sort of bizarre cult following, probably because it marks the acting debut of Pia Zadora, later a winner of a Golden Raspberry Worst Actress Award for the film Butterfly. Kids who are not yet old enough to cut up their own food might get some fun out of this but for older viewers it’s a bit like Christmas itself: it goes on far too long and you’re glad when it’s all over.

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