Revenge of the Spacemen (2014)
I have never agreed with the brothers Medved assessment of Edward D. Wood, Jr. being the worst director of all time. As a writer Wood penned horrendous dialogue and was as bad behind a lens. Like Howard Hawks, Wood prefered a stationary camera, but unlike Hawks, his films often wandered out of focus. A few of his films are just terrible, including Glen or Glenda (1953) and the unwatchable Night of the Ghouls (1959). Bride of the Monster (1955) is his best film, which isn’t saying much, but it does have footage of Belá Lugosi and Tor Johnson, who make it interesting. And then there is Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), undoubtedly Wood’s most entertaining film, featuring cardboard props, paper plate flying saucers (I always thought they looked like hub caps), inept dialogue, terrible editing, ridiculous situations and bad acting. However, Wood did something where several others failed. He made films in Hollywood. That’s saying a lot. It’s unfair to call him the worst director of all time.
When I review a film I assess the film in context with the budget. Effective films made for nearly nothing like The Blair Witch Project (1999) and Gareth Edwards’ Monsters (2010) score high on my list, whereas 100 million dollar messes don’t. That is one of the reasons I skewered the promising and hugely disappointing Godzilla (2014).
I have a soft spot for independently made low-budget regional fantasy films. I like the atrociously bad Swamphead (2013), filmed in Wisconsin, and I like Jay Summer’s sci-fi parody Revenge of the Spacemen (2014).
Two years ago at the Cinema Wasteland Show, Strongsville, Ohio, Jay approached me about helping develop a story treatment for an homage to the 50’s teenager vs. aliens films. This is a broad sub-genre basically pitting hipster teens, inept adults and authority figures (cops or military ilk) against blobs, little green men in space suits, or rubber creatures. In Spacemen, you’ll see elements of Teenagers from Outer Space (1959), The Blob (1958), Invaders from Mars (1953), a later entry, Spaced Invaders (1990), the immensely entertaining Pandemic Studios game Destroy All Humans (2005-2008), and Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957). I worked up a 10-page treatment that expanded upon Jay’s premise of a rural Ohio family, fetching shotguns and at odds with a spaceship full of little green men. I added the moonshine loving characters Cooter Ray (Richard Raphael, Zombie Apocalypse, 2010) and Catfish Bob (named after one of my friends father-in-law). Cooter Ray and Catfish Bob were inspired by the bumbling and bickering Tahei and Matashichi from The Hidden Fortress (1958). [There, I’ve done it! I’ve managed to include Kurosawa in a review of Spacemen]. My treatment also included the notion *SPOILER* of alcohol being caustic to the spacemen. I also added the rock-n-roller Ozzy and perhaps a per other characters.
However, the story was rough and Jay sent it off to Conor Duffy who developed the final script. Most of the dialogue was developed by Conor. Spacemen is an amateur film, but it has moments. The flying saucer (a model kit of the Forbidden Planet C-57D) sat in my basement for 6 years. I like the special effects by Rockets & Monsters Makeup and Prosthetics, who added lights to the ship and created some effective green screen shots (check out MT Morgue LLC on Facebook). Some of the night scenes of the aliens in silhouette are creepy.
The story has three basic plot threads. The hick Johnson clan, lead by beer-guzzling Mrs. Johnson (Janine Sarnowski) battle the spacemen who have landed on their farm. Teens George (George Tutie), Janet (Janet Jay, a Cinema Wasteland regular), Ozzy, and a few others independently take on the aliens while drinking PBR. Cooter Ray and Catfish meet the aliens and Ray gets anal-probed, resulting in a trip to the doctor (who’s a hoot) and one of the more entertaining bits in the movie.
There’s also two cops, two romances, alien-human sex, a green horse, Mika the Racoon, Jake the Wonder Dog (who eats an anal probe), and a bizarre Benny Hill inspired slap-stick scene played to the tune of Boots Randolph’s Yakety Sax. The film has everything. Keep in mind this is ultra-low budget and disjointed filmmaking. My girlfriend called it an abomination with too much [green] fart humor. This is basically the hack version of Blazing Saddles in Ohio.
Catfish Bob and Cooter Ray encounter the spacemen.
Cooter takes fire.
Civil engineer and part-time actor/stunt-coordinator Rich Raphael will never be mistaken for Laurence Olivier, but he is always entertaining. I liked him as Axel in Zombie Apocalypse (2010). In Spacemen he really cuts lose on the material, getting anal-probed by aliens “with their green wandering hands”, expels a bovine’s worth of green methane, has green glop squeezed out of an abscess, has a probe pulled from his “backdoor”, downs a medicinal beer and proclaims “booyah”, and probes an alien. That’s quite a responsibility.
Mrs. Johnson (Janine Sarnowski) encounters her green horse.
Behold a spaceman brandishing an anal-probe.
For all the schlock, Revenge of the Spacemen has some decent amateur acting. I thought the core group delivered convincing lines (there were a few stumbles). George Tutie and Janet Jay were likable as the leads and are probably the most capable actors. I’d like to see them return in another film. Fred Munkachy seems to have delivered his lines with gusto and was fine as Taggart the cop. Rich Raphael is a presence in any film as far as I’m concerned. He’s entertaining.
There’s also way too many characters in this film and by the end it comes apart. I would have preferred the film played more subtle (the opening scenes of the spacemen in shadow are effective), with diminutive aliens not prominently shown. I would have preferred seeing three well-designed aliens rather than 12 clumsy ones, but why quibble? Sci-Fi/Comedy is a difficult genre to nail. Spacemen is parody and a lot of fun. Grab some moonshine and popcorn and enjoy.
This film premiered at the Cinema Wasteland Show on October 4, 2014. I was there and loved every minute of it.
This entry was posted on October 6, 2014 at 9:57 PM and is filed under Bad Films I Love, Flying Saucers with tags Ohio Sci-Fi Films, Revenge of the Spacemen. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.