MGM's Midnite Movies review by The Grim Ringler

Introducing... The Grim Ringler

Hello hello, both one and all and welcome to my little potter’s field of terror.
Well, ok, it’s just a rented trailer with a leaky toilet but man, I tell you what, them flamingos in the yard are mean as hell and will poke an eye out if you don’t watch yourself.
It is my sincere and foolish hope that I can shine my dusty old lantern on some neat horror films and other filmic ephemera.
What you may ask qualifies me for this?
Two words – no life.
That’s it kids, all it takes to be one of the writing elite, one of what they call the fourth establishment. A critic.
But why shilly-shally? So, off with us to my basement to see what is on the old Beta Machine.

The rise of the mighty DVD is a wonderful thing if you are a movie nerd. Sure you get all the grand commentaries from the likes of the Farrelly brothers that tell you just how many fart jokes make a true Farrelly brothers movie, but we are also getting the treat of having a lot of oddball movies find a new and cheap life on our new favorite format.
Such is the case with MGM’s Midnite Movie series.
Essentially what we are getting are a lot of movies in MGM’s catalog that they really could give a rat’s ass about but that they can release rather cheaply, sell rather cheaply, and make a vast fortune on.
Not a bad idea actually.
And I tell ya what, it ain’t a bad bargain for us schlubs that love the oddball movies.
Most of the movies are bare bones, though it’s nice to have better transfers and original aspect ratios on some older, lesser known movies, but then there are also a few of these little known gems that are mysteriously given the red-carpet treatment. And hell, for just over ten bucks, how can you complain?
So, what’s out there?
I have eight of these Midnite Movie DVDs and of all of them my fave has to be Killer Klowns From Outer Space, easily.

    Killer Klowns From Outer Space is a fun little farce about space clowns that land in a small town to wreak havoc on the poor, unsuspecting populace. Now we know why people hate clowns so much eh? What makes the movie so neat is the utter glee with which the people responsible, the Chiodo Brothers (sort of an evil version of Jim Henson and gang), present the clowns. From early on it’s clear that they are the stars, in all their grim glory. The movie is done as a farce, and is an utter delight in absurdity. The reason I love the disc so much though is it is packed with extras, and for ten bucks, you can’t beat that. The disc features a commentary by the brothers, the men behind the movie, deleted scenes (which are not ground-breaking but are fun to see), an extensive blooper reel, five featurettes on how they made the film, and some other odds and ends. Again, how can you beat that for ten bucks?

There are easily a couple dozen movies, of which I know there are some duds – Planet of the Vampires being one shining example of this. Gorgeous movie, but more boring than any math class Man has ever invented. Here are the ones I currently own –
   Theater of Blood – A wonderful chiller that features Vincent Price at his absolute best. He has never been campier or creepier and thank the dark gods of film it happens in a great movie. Price plays an over-acting thespian that has managed to perpetually wow the critics with his ham-like quality. Ah, but this is one actor that has decided to re-pay his critics for their woeful words. And thus we have a film about how deliciously dark revenge can really be. Price’s Edward Lionheart truly brings the old Bard to chilling reality as he acts out some of the grislier events of Shakespeare’s plays using his critics as unwitting leads. It’s a really marvelous movie and though there are no extras aside from a trailer, the film is shot and presented beautifully, and if you have any love for Not Very Gay Price you will adore this film.
   The Beast Within is a fun little monster movie that mixes hillbilly folktale with a dark coming of age film. What you get is the story of a seventeen-year-old boy that is the product of a rape his mother endured on her wedding night. Much to sonny-boy’s chagrin though his daddy is of the drooly, clawed, hillbilly monster variety and as he starts to become a man he is finding he shares a few too many traits with his pops. The movie, for something that could have turned out so bad, is pretty darn good. Well acted, well shot, and really well staged, holding the real gruesome stuff (which includes a neat transformation scene in which we get to see how much junior really looks like pops) for the end. The problem is that the end sorta falls apart, as if they didn’t quite know what to do with what they had. And that’s a bit of a letdown, but the movie overall is really well made and is a neat little creep-fest that reminds us that not every movie in the eighties was bad. HAHA!
    IT! Terror From Beyond Space is a must-own. This movie basically serves as the launching board for the much beloved classic Alien and is very well made and well paced for a fifties sci-fi film. Essentially a mission to an unexplored planet leaves all the crewmembers mysteriously dead and only one man left to explain things. As soon as a ship is sent for a rescue they find this lone survivor and pin the deaths of the other crewmembers on him, not buying his story of a mysterious creature on the planet. Little do they know that he was right about said monster masher and it isn’t until well on their way back home do they realize there is a stowaway on the ship with murderous intent. Very fun, very scary monster movie that basically set the groundwork for Alien and everything we love about it. Full frame but then very few, if any, were using a wider scope, but it’s a tremendous movie and a definite sci-fi classic.
    The Monster That Challenged the World is a very fun monster movie that won’t set the world on fire but will definitely keep you entertained. Basically people start to die mysteriously after an earthquake shakes a small town and sets loose a horde of ravenous sea creatures that had lain dormant since prehistoric times. It’s your basic fifties monster movie – monster eats people, people scream, people try to stop monster, can’t, tension builds, I leave to go to the bathroom, people scream, monster gets a recording contract and tours with Aerosmith – you know the drill. It’s a fun movie though, a neat monster, decent acting, and a fair amount of creepiness to keep it keen. Nothing that will set the world on fire but it is a swell movie to have for ten bucks.
    War Gods of the Deep. Another Vincent Price film, and in this one he plays a sea captain that has found a sunken city and is none too happy to find that some locals have fumbled upon his little underwater haven. To make matters worse an underwater volcano has gotten a sudden tummy ache and is threatening to take the entire underwater city to doomville first class. Another fun movie that is brilliantly shot by legendary director Jacques Tourneur (the original Cat People). The underwater scenes are pretty hokey, especially since there are only two mermen in the entire film, and two mermen trying to look like twenty does not play well. But it’s a neat movie about a man’s obsession for a lost love (Price fixates on a woman that looks strikingly like his dead wife) and his fear of an outside world he knows nothing about. Price makes the movie as does the direction of Tourneur, but it really is a neat little film for what it is.
    The Man From Planet X. Ahh, damn those space midgets, ya can never trust them can ya? Time to tighten the borders eh? Somewhere in a non-descript part of Britain (somewhere Scottish I wager, as that’s what the box says, despite the questionable accents) there is a mysterious crash on the highlands, which happens to coincide with the mysterious arrival of a rogue, moon that is headed our way and people are starting to wonder what the what is. Turns out a spacecraft with a creepy space hobbit has crashed into the moors and he is none too keen on eating candy or showing you his glowing finger. What he does want is to pave the way for his fellow martians, who are conveniently waiting on said moon to invade. After a failed attempt to corral the space nut and use him to figure out all sorts of swell mysteries of space, the alien escapes the clutches of our heroes and begins enslaving the townsfolk to rebuild his ship so he can get back to his clan. And then the fun really begins. It’s a pretty neat little creeper, even if the resolution is about as plausible as Ozzy winning the Pulitzer, but if you can buy into it, it’s a fun movie. The alien is suitably creepy, the sets are crammed with oceans of atmosphere, and the acting, while not great by half, is passable for a B-movie. No extras save a trailer, and the film is full-frame, but it’s just neat to have this odd gem on the shelf and looking so dandy.
    Last but not least in my little collection is At the Earth’s Core about an exciting little jaunt through the acting world of Doug McClure. And what I really want to know is who the hell told McClure he could act? I mean, sure he is passable in this feature, and he was ok in the short-lived syndicated television classic Out of This World but really, did we need another pretty-boy actor? Isn’t that what Richard Lynch is for? But I digress. Core is a neat little movie set in the late eighteen hundreds, I presume, and tells the tale of a dandy professor (Peter Cushing) and his lunk-headed ex-student (Doug McClure) as they try to be the first people to see the Earth’s core via their newly constructed drilling machine-thing. They set out for a short trip to see if the craft works but when the driller stalls out on the return trip, and their being no AAA around they find themselves trapped in the center of the earth and in the middle of adventure! The center of the earth, for your information, is a psychedelic mind-hump where giant beasties eat on the human populace that seem normal, and even talk in English, but have oddly colored afros. But alas, there is trouble in paradise, well, trouble beyond man-eating plants and creatures, and those lie in race of human-Ughnaut hybrids that seem seem to have piggy faces and human bodies and are the slaves of a master-race of bird-monsters that crave the flesh of young women. Don’t we all! Enter McClure and Cushing to save the day, and of course to save the gorgeous princess (the yummy Caroline Munroe). Much action ensues. A gorgeously filmed movie with insane sets that made me feel like I had been on acid, this is a bizarre and swell movie. The tongue is in the cheek much of the way, thanks in part to the hammy Cushing who seems to be playing the most effeminate man he could muster. The plot is bollocks, the acting is odd, but man, what a weird, nasty little movie, with people being eaten left and right. If you get one Doug McClure movie today, get this one. Or some other one, hell, he acts the same in all of them. There’s a trailer, which is shite, but the film is in wide screen and the image is gorgeous.

There are scads of these Midnite Movies out from MGM, and I know I still have a couple I want to pick up. They truly are good, cheap, fun, and you can really find some gems. Hell, the release of Return of the Living Dead is fast approaching and that is a Midnite Movie. Whoo Hoo! A very good way to get some neat oddities that generally we’d never pay more than ten bucks for anyway, and a cool way to catch up on some forgotten classics, good and bad.

10 out of 10 Jackasses
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