Bill Rebane

Wicked Wednesday: Monster a Go-Go! (1965)

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To think when I did my very first Wicked Wisconsin Wednesday, I was afraid to tackle Bill Rebane head-on and alone. When I watched my first Rebane film, The Giant Spider Invasion, I was assisted (see: cheated) by watching the Mystery Science Theater episode instead. Not this time! Despite there being an MST3K episode in existence for Monster a Go-Go! I am putting on my big girl pants and refusing to be helped out on this one.

Rebane’s 1965 film is considered one of the worst ever made, but I don’t think that’s much of a stretch for any of his films (despite how fond I really am growing of them). Though Monster a Go-Go! (along with Spider Invasion) remains one of Rebane’s most notorious films. Considering that I have watched all but one of his films, I think I shall be the ultimate judge on this, thank you.

Monster a Go-Go opens with a sort of radio-narrator who insists on interrupting us throughout the movie. But to be fair, he’s the only one I can really hear in the movie. He tells us of a rocket that went silent after launch and no one has been able to find the astronaut or the capsule.

A search team is sent out with the police. The police are chatting with the helicopter on the radio when they hear him scream. They eventually find the helicopter, not too far from the capsule. The pilot is “shrivelled” (he’s not) with burn marks around him. But the astronaut is nowhere to be found.

Later that night (?) a bunch of kids are out having a swinging party. A girl is dancing with her friends when her boyfriend pulls her away, ruining the party. The narrator tells us that fate would have been different if she would have simply danced with her boyfriend instead of those other boys. If she would have stopped being a tramp, her randy boyfriend wouldn’t have been killed by a ten-foot-tall radioactive man.

A group of scientists involved are trying to figure out what has gone wrong with their project and find out what happened to their astronaut – all while dealing with people getting picked off by the tall coral-face man. Members of their team go. More randoms that we don’t care about. But all the ladies sunbathing seem to get away alright.

There is a subplot about the astronaut’s family, but don’t worry, that doesn’t matter about halfway through. Instead we are treated to two men and a assistant dealing with the bodies. The woman claims that all the victims look “shrivelled” because their blood had been turned to dust.

One of the scientists has been mucking about by giving an antidote to the man. It’s not really explained how the scientists got ahold of the specimen, but he’s got loose anyway. And really, the last thirty minutes or so of this film is utterly dull and disjointed. Even if it did make sense I wouldn’t know because I could hardly hear anything that was going on the audio was so shoddy.

But I can tell they want to get rid of the radioactive man. They (whoever they is at this point) decide to set a trap for the monster before he starts to spread the radiation to the people around the area. He falls for it but after two men in their led-suits follow him into a sewer tunnel, they find that he’s disappeared. While waiting for the two men to come back, everyone above ground receive a telegram saying that the astronaut has returned.

The narrator (who, by the end of the movie, is the only character that I seem to know about at this point) alerts us that this could be a “cosmic switch,” which is possibly what has happened to my brain midway through this movie.

This is by far one of the weirdest Rebane films. This is mostly due to the fact that this isn’t entirely his. Apparently he ran out of money and wasn’t able to finish the film, but when Herschell Gordon Lewis (director of the delightful Wizard of Gore) is the second, unnamed director of the film. He picked up Rebane’s film several years after he abandoned it in 1961 and finished the film off with other actors when he couldn’t get the original cast together, which really explains how I didn’t have a freaking clue what was going on in this film. Though it’s still more watchable than Invasion From Inner Earth – which I personally rank at one of the worst Rebane outings. But that could also be because this film clocks in at a tidy 68 minutes.

But I do think Rebane’s unusual style is apparent in the parts he had filmed. Name the weird dance scene, because every Rebane film needs a dance scene. And really, a film with such a cracking title deserves more dance scenes and swinging, hip kids.

I dunno, there wasn’t enough dancing this movie for me, so you can have Smokey Robinson as a substitute:

Wicked Wednesday: The Demons of Ludlow (1983)

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This week’s film is from my good old friend Bill Rebane. I have watched nearly every film of Rebane’s, thanks to my Wicked Wisconsin Wednesday project. But 1983’s The Demons of Ludlow was not on that list. Mostly for the simple reason that it wasn’t set in Wisconsin, though it is filmed there but I only just realised this… SO.

This movie is very much a Rebane production: scantily clad women for no apparent reason other than boobs, a nice dance scene (this time WITH BANJOS!), and really dark lighting so you really can’t tell what’s going on most of the time. The Demons of Ludlow is instead more of a New England tale. Kind of like The Witch but not at all like The Witch.

Set in the town of Ludlow, the little community is celebrating its bicentennial with the arrival of a piano. The instrument came from England, arriving from the family of the man who had founded the town.  Joining in the festivities is Debra – the only character in the film whose name I know. Debra is a journalist whose family had once lived in Ludlow before they quickly packed up and left when she was still a young child.

Debra’s fascination with the town comes from the stories that her grandfather has told her. She drags her photographer around telling him stories about the people who died and the awful things that have happened to them. She’s a bit morbid, really, and a bit too obsessed with the piano. This is a majority of the film but when you get to hear “There’s just something about the piano!” 80-odd times, what’s not to like?

During the piano-induction service (go with me here), a couple sneak out of the church to have a bit of a roll in the hay. While the man leaves his girl behind, she is killed by a glowing green hand coming up from the ground. This has no consequence, nor do I believe it’s mentioned again in the film, but it does begin a long series of various people getting killed by ghosts.

After the service, Debra wants some questions answered. She’s a journalist so usually answers to questions is something to strive for. Her main strife is that the piano had once been at Ludlow before, even though no one in the town seems to have mentioned this. Debra thinks this is highly suspicious. I mostly think no one cares.

Later that night, the church pianist is sitting at the table with her daughter, who seems to not be mentally well. The pianist scolds her daughter for her strange ways before taking off to the church for a bit of a solo jam session. Like the hay loft scene earlier, this is a major theme of the film: don’t leave someone alone who probably should be left alone – they die.

The daughter is a bit of a strange one. She cuts off all her doll’s hair, acts like her own mother by scolding the doll, and then tells the doll she’s not allowed to hang out at “the party.” The daughter heads downstairs and sees the table full of ghosts. They all fight over who gets her before deciding its best to share her and kill her all together.

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Meanwhile, Debra is filling us in on some really uninteresting news, or lack thereof. Ludlow is one of the few old cities in the area that has very little information on it. But she does know that “Founding-Father Ludlow” (she says this like it’s his title, which okay) was exiled back to England after he had a run in with his townspeople. This left him feeling awfully betrayed. Which makes Debra even more confused why the town would receive a gift from the family of a man who was spurned by them.

But the reverend has a few secrets of his own. He begins talking about “the list” – a group of names of people who are likely to get killed of. While he goes digging for the list in a basement somewhere, his life is attacked while she is left home alone. This isn’t any more interesting than any of the killings in the film, but there is a man on a horse inside the house. Which that is pretty cool. Also noteworthy:  a woman gets stoned to death.

Eventually Debra and the reverend team up together. He tells her that the list is filled with names of the people who had a hand in the Ludlow Curse. The curse was put on the families of the people who had chopped of Founding-Father Ludlow’s hands – the ones he used to play his beloved piano. Being descendants themselves, the reverend and Debra know they are in trouble and decide the only way to deal with the danger is to get Founding-Father Ludlow’s ghost out of his piano.

And yes, this is a very bad idea. Especially considering that they know they can just leave the town and be safe. But not much of The Demons of Ludlow makes sense. The mystery doesn’t seem very well thought out, but I can say that out of all of Rebane’s films, this one has less filler than usual. There’s not a whole lot of running around in the dark (though there still are a few minutes, just not a half-hour of it). I thought this might be similar to Blood Beat, which was released in the same year. It’s not as silly as that, but Blood Beat was probably more fun.

The Demons of Ludlow was filmed in the same area as Ulli Lommel’s The Devonsville Terror, which is also set in New England and reals with demons/curses and other mystical business. So that’s next week’s film sorted then.

Wicked (Wisconsin) Wednesday Pt. 37: Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake

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This is it. My last Wicked Wisconsin Wednesday. 37 weeks of some incredible films. And we can use that word ‘incredible’ in any way we want. But I saved some delicious Bill Rebane for last because really, would this project even exist if it wasn’t for this man?

Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake or Croaked: Frog Monster from Hell or Rana: The Creature from Shadow Lake just plain Rana was made around the time his other creature film, The Capture of Bigfoot, graced us with its existence. But this time there was a bit more originality involved because we’ve got a whole new type of creature: a killer frog-man! Oh and some of the funkiest music to ever be featured in a Rebane film (and that’s saying something with this as competition).

Rana takes place mostly in flashback form as Kelly Morgan tells the story of his childhood to a woman in his cabin who may or may have something to do with this movie. Though strangely enough, one of the first bits we see is a flashback that has nothing to do with little Kelly, but since this is a Rebane film, I’m not going to argue. A fisherman is looking in the waters for a catch when he’s killed by his own harpoon.

Though little Kelly is the one who finds some fancy fossil that brings all these strange people together in our little film. He and his forest ranger father are living up at Shadow Lake with a paleontologist woman who has joined in on their camping trip for whatever reason.

But early on, I’m totally won over by the line delivery in this movie. It’s as though everyone is seeing their lines for the first time and are just testing them out to see if they can pronounce the words or not. It’s stiff enough to make the Rana costume look realistic.

There’s also a group of three men in flannel marching around the woods. But it doesn’t matter because LOOK! Baby Raccoon!!

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Baby animals are so distracting. I suppose that’s why I missed the fact that these men are supposed loggers. Get it? Because they’re wearing plaid? And remember that funky music I mentioned before? It’s following a strange old man as he runs through the forest. Again, I feel like I’ve missed the point of this character, but he’s hand-down the best part of this movie after the baby raccoon.

But then… older Kelly and random lady are making out in the present-day living room? Of course, Rebane. Of course.

So this movie is still going on, but I feel like I missed something like maybe the point of this movie (as is per usual with Rebane films). One of the loggers/legend-hunter was attacked by something in the lake. Whatever grabbed him has infected his leg with some neon-green pus. They’re looking for the entrance to some find some sort of treasure, which I guess explains something but also begs more questions like, why did anyone bother to hide something interesting in Wisconsin?

The old man is caught sneaking around Kelly’s home. His father catches the old man who warns that the frogs “know” about what’s going on up at the lake and that the logging group are going to be “heaps of trouble.” And they are.

The paleontologist’s niece, Susan, passes out when she’s spooked by one of the loggers who is scuba diving. In one of the more unnecessary moments, he brings her up to the shore where he then proceeds to wrap his hands around her neck like some sort of randomly aggressive animal. I guess this was done to make it feel more satisfying when he gets killed off two minutes later, and it definitely works.

The old man tells the paleontologist that her colleague (the fisherman who was harpooned earlier in the movie) is not around and that she should leave as soon as she can. But why listen to him? Everything feels so inviting by this lake. Somehow she’s put off by this exchange and makes Kelly go to question the man instead. He begins to tell the story about these Indians who find this creature that is half-man and half-frog. The Indian then throws this magical yellow pebble into the lake. This apparently brought game to the area of the woods. These pebbles were apparently some sort of gift to Rana who then gave them food. The “yellow pebbles” were actually gold nuggets. And that gold was to remain in the lake.

Everyone on this place clearly hate each other, and spend their time either avoiding each other or making life a hell for the others. The old man is shot by the loggers after he shoots at the loggers. On his death bed, he tells the paleontologist that Rana is there to protect the gold. As he’s dying, Kelly’s father goes to chat to the loggers who claim they are innocent but then proceed to beat the man up.

At this point, shit begins to hit the fan. One of the loggers finds the body of his friend while Susan finds a skull when she falls over in a field. Then the poor logger gets his face smashed into a tree by Rana. And the forest ranger gives absolutely zero fucks when he finds the body.

But by far the BEST, most unintentionally funny death scene is when the final logger is shot by the forest ranger and dies to the oh-so-subtle town of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake Suite. But anyway, our leading paleontologist is (rightfully) points out that now that the old man is dead, there is no one to continue carrying out the ritual of giving gifts to Rana. Obviously Rana’s little froggy years were burning as it immediately punches its green arm through the kitchen window, scaring the shit out of everyone left.

The paleontologist is killed, so the remaining three head down river in a raft only to get invaded by Rana himself. Only the kids escape with nowhere to go but home. It doesn’t take long for them to get tracked down and Susan is taken by Rana, who is finally revealed to be a rubber suit-wearing man that sounds like a chainsaw that’s unable to start up.

And the ending, well, is so strange and pointless it could only be in a movie sometimes called Croaked: Frog Monster from Hell.

Rana is pretty much typical Rebane fare: dark shots, nonsensical directing choices and all with a lot of love and occasional humour, which is almost always unintentional. The weird flashback part is completely unnecessary but sort of adds to the charm. And if you really like people wandering around the woods and lake for 90 minutes, this just might be the movie for you! But after all these weeks, Rana was my parting gift, and I find myself left with just one lingering question:

Is Kelly really a boys name?

Wicked (Wisconsin) Wednesday Pt. 20: The Alpha Incident

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The Alpha Incident from 1978 is a Rebane film through and through. Twenty weeks ago I didn’t know the man’s name. Now he’s like my second father and I’d be able to sniff out one of his movie’s in a heartbeat. Smart hero who keeps quiet (mostly do to lack of acting ability)? Check! Random dance scene without a purpose? Yes of course! That weird sort of random chord that counts as music? As always. Unnecessarily complicated scientific background? Well, we saw it in Giant Spider Invasion. But even though I can guess the structure of every one of his movies now, I really have grown fond of this man. Even if The Alpha Incident is pretty shit.

The story begins with two scientists: one pre-dating Jeff Goldblum and the other is literally just a talking beard. I seriously never saw the man’s mouth move ones. Just the occasional beard twitch. The two are talking about their current project. A mission from Mars has returned with an organism that could kill the entire planet. They are informed that the organism is to be moved. Both think it’s a bad idea, and so do I.

For some illogical but plot-driven reason, the organism has to be transported via train to its new location outside Denver, Colorado. Boring Hero #1 and Hank the Idiot are the only two one the journey. Of course Hank digs through the cargo because he was told not to and gets contaminated. But it’s not fun when only two people die, so it’s time to spread some deadly Martian organisms! Along the way the train has its stops, but the next one will be it’s last. One of the stops is, of course, Moose Point, Wisconsin because where else in the world would a Bill Rebane film take place? Here are two employees and the local guy who has to be a jerk to everyone for no apparent reason other than to be the antagonist dick of the story.

Hank and Boring Hero #1 hop off the train and Hank instantly touches everyone and, of course, contaminates them and sentences them all to their doom. Once Boring Hero #1 figures out what happened, he tells the other four that they are quarantined until the scientists (Goldblum and Beard) figure out the cure. So there’s nothing else left to do but sit and wait. As exciting as that sounds, that is the only thing they do besides the occasional attempt to run away and have Boring Hero #1 shoot them.

As the resident sexy female Jenny says, “I’m sitting here waiting for something to happen only I don’t know what it is.” Me too, Jenny. Me too.

I have almost nothing to say about this movie. It plays out almost exactly like one would think only minus a plot and any action. But The Alpha Incident‘s real crime is saving all the action for last. There’s so much time spent waiting for something to happen that all the final action literally happens within the last ten minutes (I checked).

In a way, I could see that this might have been a sort of trying to emulate what George Romero’s work on Night of the Living Dead was: people of differing tempermants stuck together in a small space, all with different ideas of solving the problem at hand. Alpha Incident attempts to recreate the feeling of “everything goes to hell all at once” feeling, but unfortunately, this movie doesn’t do anything like what Romeo created. With all the action directly in the end, everything happens so quickly and the attempts to make suspense don’t work at all.

If anything, this film is pretty fun to watch for the last 10 minutes. Worth checking out that bit, at least. If I learned anything from the movie it’s this: never, ever spend time with your co-workers.

ALPHA

Wicked (Wisconsin) Wednesday Pt. 18: The Game

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A special shout-out to Bill Rebane for making and/or setting so many movies in Wisconsin. Without him, this project would have lasted three weeks. His movie The Game, or The Cold as it is sometimes titled, follows a fairly House on Haunted Hill type story line. Three millionaires bring nine people to a mansion where they will have to face their fears – all for the reward of mega cash. All familiar territory, but in the realm of 1984 low-budget fare.

A new game – a sort of fun and game for the rich who have become bored with their lives. Doesn’t seem too far outside the realm of possibility. The old friends discuss ‘the games’ of the past – of which last year got out of control and nearly resulted in a ‘loss’ – “could have been very embarrassing” remarks one of the men with one of the most manly-man-old-man voices ever. Though that hardly seems too important because we are quickly moved on to an 80’s disco. This now seems to be a motif in Rebane’s 80’s movies and I’m really growing fond of it (but nothing will ever top what happened in Capture of Bigfoot – “Sensuous Tiger” is ALWAYS stuck in my head these days). But thankfully The Cold holds its own and gives us funky moves from people of all ages.

Why does this scene happen? No body knows. I can’t seem to find a clip of this, but just take my word for it that this it’s painful.

And ‘the players’ consists of:

Four members of a band
Two token ‘sluts’ (one Southern, one bland)
Two preppy 80’s schmucks
One absolute creep

After the introductory dance party, the players are introduced to “the game of fear”. The winner receives a prize of a million dollars. The only requirement to win is to be the last person to leave the grounds. How will they get rid of the players? By fear, of course! The players are instantly introduced to the first bit of gruesomeness when they discover a tarantula in the soup. One of the men instantly smashes the beast with his foot, which I can only assume is a reference to how Rebane felt about The Giant Spider Invasion.

The three hosts leave with these parting words: “Good night and pleasant… screams.” Just when you thought you couldn’t cringe any harder, they cackle manically as they leave the table.

The games aren’t supposed to start until noon the next day, but of course things get freaky before then (thankfully). But when the REAL games begin the real terror begins like no plumbing and cold winds! Though I think the most terrifying part is the dialogue:

“Don’t be be so edgy. Come on. You’ll get me goin’ too.”
“I’m sorry. I don’t mean to. Want some pickles?”
“Yaaaaa.”

The mansion parts of the movie were filmed in the Northernaire Resort in Three Lakes. The movie doesn’t change the name of the location, which I find weird, but I also strangely accept and love. The place is massive. It gives the movie a feel of isolation really well. But of course the players aren’t alone. Plenty of strangers pop up occasionally: taking out players, skipping to Scott Joplin, walking in the background unnoticed. Then there is this guy lurking about:

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One of the band members/boyfriends goes missing. As night falls, the players are shown his body, apparently hung from the ceiling, on the television. The show seems to be a nightly occurrence (and host even plugs Giant Spider Invasion, so my earlier haunch is brilliance). Soon player after player becomes trapped in one way or another, most of them by looking for their missing band member. And preppy boy is proving to be more suspicious as each scene moves by.

The three hosts play Russian Roulette with Miss Southern Belle. They walk away cackling at all the fun they had when they hear a gun go off. The mystery begins of whether they’re truly the ones in charge or if there is perhaps another player on the field playing them. Thankfully it doesn’t bother them. Don’t let the man get you down, man! But the players seem be learning a few tricks, including the fact that an old patient at a mental home was a janitor at the resort.

Though “Felix”, the janitor man, is not all that he seems (as apparently nothing is in this movie). A twist is revealed. Then a twist on the twist is revealed. Then I’m really, really not sure what happens. THEN ANOTHER TWIST. It’s a really confusing ending. Even the narrator (who is only present at the beginning and the end) doesn’t seem to understand what is going on because he asks the audience the same questions they’re asking themselves.

I’ve found that most people enjoy The Game less than several of Rebane’s other films, but for me this is probably the second-best after The Giant Spider Invasion. It’s one of the few that still keeps some momentum beyond the hour mark. Well, for the most part anyway. The ending is one of the more unusual I’ve watched so far. Not necessarily good but it made me scratch my head at least. But at least this one gave me a couple chuckles, which is worth something.

hmmm