Diary of an old cheeser

Hi there! Like other blogs, this is my chance to wax lyrical (some might say talk utter cr*p) about a) what's happening in my life b) all of my pet obsessions in particular music, tv, movies, books and other generally connected things, quite often of the retro, old and "cheesy" variety. Hence the title of my blog. Feel free to leave a comment if the mood takes you. There's nothing like a good chinwag about one's favourite topics and besides I love to meet new people! Cheers, Simon

Friday, October 13, 2006

Horticultural Horror

The other night me and my hubbie went to see a truly bad 1970s film called "The Freak Maker" (also known as "The Mutations"!) at the Barbican centre in London. Oddly enough, it was showing as part of a "Bad Film Club" festival hosted by a comedy duo called Nicko and Joe. This may sound a complete nightmare to some, but for afficienados of trash like me it was pure heaven and a well-executed idea. Nicko and Joe and a special guest do an introduction to the movie before it starts, going through the "bad bits to watch for" and encouraging as much audience participation as possible e.g. clap slowly when a "so bad it's good" bit gets shown. They then gave a very funny commentary whilst the film was actually showing, which added a new dimension to the whole experience.

The movie itself was, admittedly, dreadful (well it could hardly be part of a "Bad film" series it if it wasn't, could it?) but that was the appeal. One must not take a movie of this calibre in the slightest bit seriously. It's actually hard to imagine the film ever being treated as a serious example of the horror genre, but I suppose at one point it might have been...just.

The "plot" such as it is, concerns a biology professor-cum-horticulturist-cum scientist played by Donald Pleasance (an actor who's specialised in being psychotic or weird in virtually every other thing he's done) and the results of a series of experiments that he is carrying out. The evil professor is kidnapping students from his own college and turning them into a bizarre hybrid of human and plant, for he believes that this is man's destiny - as you would. A group of students grow suspicious by the disappearances of their friends and start to investigate. To add to the mix there's also a group of dwarves (that's them in the photo above) who work in a local fair and are in fact the results of the professor's experiments gone wrong. Rather an insult to anyone who's a dwarf. There's also a giant sized fellow with elephant-man style features who's the Professor's henchman, played by none other than...Tom Baker!! (He's the tall bloke in the pic). This is a pre-Dr Who role for Mr Baker and oddly, one that he's never mentioned since. Strange, that. One can only imagine that he was so strapped for cash he had no choice but to star in such a pile of drivel. Would even the Nucleus of the Swarm have sunk so low?

As you can imagine, a potentially interesting concept (I say "interesting" very cautiously) is presented with supreme tackiness. The plant-humans look totally cr*p (one of the male students gets turned into a kind of giant venus fly-trap with cabbage hands - honest) although I guess there is a kind of horrific fascination in seeing the results of these transformations. The acting is atrocious (Donald P speaks in a dreary drone when lecturing his students and it's a wonder they don't die of boredom). The dwarves look freakish (the lizard-skinned lady for instance). There's also some gratuitous nudity (usually involving female characters getting their knockers out for no real reason - for instance when one of the lady students takes a bath). The pace is deathly slow at times (the opening scenes showing shots of plants and flowers blooming goes on forever). And there are some hilarious attempts to make it all serious and scientific (the daft voice-over at the start going on about the plant world and the professor's "meaningful" lectures). Finally the very fact that this is a film from 1974 dates it incredibly - the whole "look" of the film has a kind of tawdry grubbiness about it.

Many of these above aspects would probably render the film unwatchable, had it not been for the highly entertaining commentary provided by the presenters and the spontaneous audience contributions. Fittingly, the commentators took the p*ss out of the whole thing as it went along, such as the music, fashions, dialogue, acting etc. Anyone hoping to watch the film in respectful silence was sorely disappointed. But screw them! This was definitely THE way to enjoy the movie. Perhaps the ONLY way.

At the end of the movie, Nicko and Co asked the audience for feedback and also their own bad movie suggestions. I was a bit too shy to air my views in front of a load of strangers (chicken I know) and ended up emailing Nicko a bit later instead to say how much I had enjoyed the experience. If you want to find out more about the bad movie club, try: www.badfilmclub.com

Just before I sign off, here's a few of my own personal favourite BAD movies...

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman - the title says it all. B+W B-movie classic in which an American wife finds out that her husband is cheating on her with the local town floozie. Then a space craft comes down to earth and zaps her, causing her to grow to a staggering....50 foot. She goes on a rampage, smashing up pylons, and more importantly, getting her own back on her philandering hubbie. Often viewed as a metaphor for the empowerment of women and the "belittling" of men. Clever, eh.

Girl On A Motorcycle - made in the 1960s, starring Marianne Faithfull as a leather-clad biker (she's actually nude underneath her leather cat-suit, hence the film's other title of "Naked Under Leather"). In the film she's zipping across the countryside on her motorbike, having left her boring teacher hubbie (played by someone with the enticing name of Roger Mutton) to rendezvous with her hot lover (played by once-saucy French actor Alain Delon).

The Devil Within Her aka I Don't Want To Be Born - another tacky 1970s horror, with that classiest of ladies, Joan Collins as ... wait for it ... an ex-stripper who is cursed by a dwarf (they seem to crop up a lot) into giving birth to a baby possessed by the devil. A normal, every day kind of occurence really. She is well-supported (no, I'm not talking about Ms Collins' bra) by Ralph "Dear John" Bates as her husband, Donald Pleasance (again!) as a weirdo Doctor and Eileen Atkins as a nun with a dodgy Italian-English accent (she refers to the possessed baby as the "deeeeevil"). One not to be missed. For more on this masterpiece of trash check out:

Empire of the Ants - yes it's Joan again, in another pre-Dynasty role, this time as a rich-bitch land developer who is trying to sell off holiday homes on an island. However a chemical spillage has caused the local ants to grow to massive proportions and they start terrorising everyone. Cue shit special effects of giant ants and lots of hysterical acting.

The Lair of The White Worm - made by the enfant terrible of movie directors, Ken Russell. A group of friends, including Hugh Grant (ages before "Four Weddings") and Catherine Oxenburg (once the frightfully posh Amandaaaaa in Dynasty) are disturbed by goings-on in the Derbyshire countryside and rumours of a giant white worm that inhabits the local caves. Also features classy chick Amanda Donohoe (most recently seen in "Bad Girls") as a local toff who is really a high priestess and devotee of the worm. The scene where she dons a strap-on dildo to f*ck Catherine O. has to be seen to be believed.

There's plenty more to add to the list but I feel it's time for me to sign off...but if you have any favourite bad movies, I'd love to hear about them.



  • At 7:40 am , Blogger DougCLind said...

    Cheeser, I notice you're both a Dr Who fan and you did a review of "Lair of the White Worm". Tell me, am I the only person in the known universe who realizes that Amanda Donohoe and Janet Fielding are the same person? Or is it just that people choose to ignore the obvious?


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