When I was a kid, there was a Saturday night ritual at my house – we stayed up till midnight, ate popcorn and freshly baked cookies, and watched really bad science fiction movies broadcast in black and white, sliced and diced with commercials for sleazy car dealers and weird gadgets. It was FUN!
We watched movies like “Attack of the Giant Crab Monsters,” “Attack of the Giant Octopus,” “Attack of the Giant Gila Monster,” “Attack of the – well, you get the idea. My favorite of the really bad movies was “The Killer Shrews,” which was so bad it was great (to my 7 year old self anyway). Deliciously terrifying and the good looking hero (played by James Best) had a Southern accent and a devil may care attitude predating Han Solo. Here’s the plot per IMDb: “On an isolated island, a small group of people are terrorized by giant voracious shrews in the midst of a hurricane. “ Giant voracious poisonous shrews as I recall!
Deathless dialog, heroine to our intrepid hero: “You’re a strange man, Thorne. I never met anyone like you. You seem so disinterested in everything. Aren’t you the least bit curious? Don’t you wonder about the unusual things around here? The guns. The fence. The shattered windows. My accent. Anything?”
Since they ended up in a clinch by the end of the movie he must have cared about something. A number of these old movies had very blonde, very buxom heroines with unplaceable foreign accents. I always wondered if they’d been Miss Eastern Finland or something and won a “starring role in a Hollywood movie” as one of their prizes. Sometimes the heroine’s accent was explained and other times you just took it on faith. Foreign exchange student maybe? Turns out Ingrid Goude, the actress in this classic, was in fact Miss Sweden 1956 and runner up to Miss Universe!
This movie actually made money. It even had a foreign release (in Germany!) But perhaps the scariest part is that they’ve now made a sequel, to be released in 2012….wait for it…”Return of the Killer Shrews”! James Best is one of the writers and acts in it, along with John Schneider and Bruce Davison. I kid you not. Presumably this time around the shrews will not be large dogs with very bad rugs or sheepskins or something thrown over their backs and maybe the movie can be in color? Unlike the 1959 original? Here’s the tagline: The Killer Shrews are back, and only one man remembers how to stop them…or die trying!
There was another one of these movies that actually scared me as a kid – “From Hell It Came.” Here’s the plot: “Tabanga, a prince wrongfully accused of murder and executed, becomes a killer spirit reincarnated as a scowling tree stump, comes back to life and kills people on a South Seas island. A pair of American scientists save the day.” I have no idea WHY it terrified me – the special effects were probably really bad….apparently one of the reviews at the time the movie was released said “Back to Hell it can go!” But I was petrified for weeks afterwards.
Here’s the intense dialog snippet I found on IMDb: Hero: “If you didn’t want me to kiss you, why did you kiss me back?” Heroine:”I don’t know. Maybe it’s my metabolism.” Oh, well THAT explains a lot…..
There were others that were really good, for their time – “Forbidden Planet,” “It Came From Beyond Space” (which is so much like “Alien” that it’s uncanny), “Thing From Another World,” which is still on my alltime favorite list and I DO watch that one fairly often…”Them”…..
Perhaps another day, in another blog, I’ll revisit those. Did you have a favorite “really bad late night movie” when you were a kid? Or a really good one?