Friday, October 25, 2013

Shocktober Revisited: Documentaries - American Scary and The 50 Worst Movies Ever Made

Well, one documentary and a "list" movie, American Scary and The 50 Worst Movies Ever Made, both thanks to Netflix streaming video.


American Scary is easily the better of the two: it deals specifically with the cultural trend of "Horror Movie Hosts" which caught on regionally in the 50s and 60s. For those not familiar with the movement or have just heard of Elvira by reputation, in the early days of television the networks were starved for content to fill out their schedules. The film studios began leasing out their back catalogs (particularly horror) to the stations, and local stations would punctuate the films with a gag-spouting "host" who alleviated the tension for kids watching at home. As the "Horror Movie Host" spread, it ended up at all hours of the day and grew popular with local audiences.

The documentary covers the birth of the "Host", takes a regional journey through hosts in Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Trenton. Many of the surviving Hosts are on hand to tell their stories, including Roland / Zacherley, Vampira, Ghoularid, Count Gore D. Vol, Crematoria Mortem, Son of the Ghoul, and Penny Dreadful. Elvira doesn't appear in the interviews but he impact is mentioned on a national level.

Along for the ride to share memories of the Hosts are Neil Gaiman, Curtis "Booger" Armstrong, Joe Bob Briggs, Bob Burns, author James Morrow, Chris Gore of Film Threat, Joel Hodgson of MST3k, Tim Conway, Leonard Maltin, Patricia Tallman (the evil witch in Army of Darkness), John Kassir (the Crypt-Keeper), Len Wein and Phil Tippett.

I found the discussion of MST3k's role in carrying on the "host" tradition (albeit in different ways) an interesting take on the show's impact. If you look at Mystery Science Theater 3000 in that light, it does bridge the gap between the corporatization of network television (which effectively ended "Horror Hosts") and the rise of Public Access "Horror Hosts". It's strange that while Joe Bob Briggs appears, no mention is made of Monster Vision. USA Up All Night also fails to register even though it did similar work.

Still, this is quality stuff, and you'll get a lot of footage from people you may have only read about. Check it out.


The 50 Worst Movies Ever Made is less a documentary and more of a quick hit kind of list. The "movie" itself is 60 minutes long, so you can do the math. Generally you spend barely more than a minute with each film (the runtime includes credits and "graphics" devoted to a booing audience) so it's more of an overview than anything.

All things considered, I did pick up a few ideas for future Bad Movie Nights, and I buffered out the "trailer gallery" for this weekend (available here). I can't really argue with the list too much (other than possibly Spider Baby, which I like), but here are the 50 Worst Movies Ever Made:

50. Glen or Glenda?
49. Mesa of Lost Women
48. Troll
47. Teenage Zombies
46. The Fat Spy
45. Voodoo Woman
44. Ishtar
43. Frankenstein Conquers the World
42. The Creeping Terror
41. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
40. Howard the Duck
39. They Saved Hitler's Brain
38. Black Belt Jones
37. Greetings!
36. The Great Alligator
35. Hillbillys in a Haunted House
34. TNT Jackson
33. Robot Monster
32. The Incredible Melting Man
31. Firebird 2015 A.D.
30. Dracula Vs. Frankenstein
29. Bride of the Monster
28. Smokey and the Bandit Part 3
27. Xanadu
26. Leonard Part 6
25. The Wild Women of Wongo
24. Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla
23. The Ape
22. Galaxy of Terror
21. The Robot vs the Aztec Mummy
20. Snow White (German Version)
19. Creature from the Haunted Sea
18. The Swinging Cheerleaders
17. Trial of Billy Jack
16. Killers from Space
15. Spider Baby
14. Trog
13. The Three Stooges in Orbit
12. The Crippled Masters
11. Sorceress
10. The Crawling Hand
9. Bloodsucking Freaks
8. J.D.'s Revenge
7. Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster
6. Killer Shrews
5. Great White
4. Plan 9 from Outer Space
3. The Thing with Two Heads
2. Eegah!
1. The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies

Honestly this "movie" has next to no value unless you want a quick overview of some bad movies with next to no insight and clips of bad acting and cheap monsters. All Monsters Attack is better for that, as are the 42nd Street Forever discs. This is a "Watch Once" at best, but I'd advise skipping it altogether.

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