So I capped off Sunday night in style with a little Sleazy Sundays. The theme for this April Fool's day was "Other Worlds." I.e., cheesy low-budget sci-fi.
First they started it off with a raffle, where I won tickets to "Grindhouse" at the Bridge theater. Only problem, the passes aren't redeemable until after opening weekend, and of course I want to go to the big opening weekend party. So I guess I'll just have to bite the bullet and see "Grindhouse" twice. Or, if it sucks (which I doubt), I'll be giving away two free tickets to "Grindhouse" at the Bridge.
Okay, on to the movies. First up was "War of the Robots" a genre-bending surrealist masterpiece, effortlessly scif-fi, action, socio-political allegory, romance, and just a dash of comedy in a story with more plot twists than your average spy thriller. Ostensibly a story of a scientist kidnapped by aliens and the crew sent to rescue him (and his beautiful assistant), it's really fundamentally about the confusion inherent in the human condition and a cautionary tale about the desire for immortality. Really, it's the details that make this movie work so well. For example, you wouldn't expect in the distant future that a Texan accent would sound the same as it does today. A realistic Texan accent would destroy the verisimilitude, so the actor cleverly plays it as a mix of British/gay (I can never tell the difference) and Texan. Brilliant!
Well, I had very little time to recover from the overwhelming brilliance of "War of the Robots" before they started the even more brilliant "Planet of the Vampires", from Italian auteur Mario Bava. I've seen a number of his horror films before, but never any of his rare forays into sci-fi, and now I'm kicking myself for not seeing it sooner (on the other hand, seeing it on the big screen with an enthusiastic audience is definitely the right way to go). Barry Sullivan captains the Galliot onto the mysterious (and high gravity) planet Aura, in search of their sister ship Argos. As soon as he lands, the crew goes berserk and tries to kill each other. A good beating snaps them out of it, and they find the Argos--but the crew has gone berserk and killed each other (and destroyed their meteor deflector that keeps them from being destroyed by stray rocks in space). They bury the crew, only for them to rise from the dead and take over the Galliot. Bava is a master of horror, and the original Italian title translates to "Terror in Space", which is more appropriate as there aren't any real vampires. Instead, it's more like "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (invoking much the same sense of who-can-you-trust paranoia) with some great proto-"Alien" atmospheric set design.
And finally, after two masterpieces, I didn't think it could get any better. But I was wrong, "Starcrash" is the brilliantest of them all! Wrongly derided in its time as a "Star Wars" rip-off, it's more appropriately seen as fulfilling the possibilities that "Star Wars" only hinted at (and besides, "Star Wars" is just a rip-off of Kurosawa's "The Hidden Fortress", but I digress...). The thrills are practically non-stop as Akton and Stella Star (Caroline Munroe) are two smugglers who come across a ship housing a sole survivor of a mission to discover evil Count Zarth Arn's doomsday weapon. Being the best navigator and pilot in the Galaxy, they're summoned by the Emperor (Christopher Plummer) to locate the weapon and--on a personal note--his only son Simon, missing in the search for the weapon. Their mission, aided by police chief Thor and robot Elle (who speaks in a redneck accent) takes them to exotic worlds. Finally the find Simon (David Hasselhoff--yeah, that's right David eff-in' Hasselhoff!) and the doomsday weapon, but they're captured by the evil count. And just when you think all hope is lost...well, I shouldn't give this away, but the Emperor has the ability to Stop the Freakin' Flow of Time! There is just no no freakin' way this could get any better! Bravo, Luigi Cozzi, bravo! (and why the heck did you change your name to Lewis Coates for this film?)
And that's how I spent April Fool's Day.