Classic Sixties Cult Schlock
Jack Burgess | Tampa, Fl USA | 01/25/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Who cares what anyone says negatively about Larry Buchanan's
films. Personally this is good cult movie entertainment. One
cannot properly critique a "cult movie" like mainstream films.
Either you appreciate this art form for what it is or stay with
regular fare. If you like Ed Wood type of filmaking get this DVD."
A Larry Buchanan Double Threat
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 03/01/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Oh man...yesterday I 'treated' myself to a mini Larry Buchanan film festival and I am now suffering from hangover like symptoms this morning. I thought it kind of odd that I should watch these two terrible movies on Oscar night, a night when Hollywood celebrates its' best films.Anyway, Azalea Productions, which worked with American International Television, a subsidiary of American International Pictures (AIP), was sort of a dumping ground for AIP's younger stars that lost some of their sheen. Azalea's productions where beyond cheap, and mostly produced for TV, turning out such schlock as The Eye Creatures (1965), Zontar the Thing from Venus (1966), among others. Larry Buchanan, director of Mars Needs Women (1967), was in charge, and pretty prolific. Retromedia presents two of his more memorable (or forgettable) telefilms here.It's Alive (1969) stars once popular Disney star Tommy Kirk, who appeared in films like Old Yeller (1957), The Shaggy Dog (1959), and Swiss Family Robinson (1960), but once he became older, lost his appeal towards casting directors and was forced to dwell in movie hell. The plot for this movie is basically a young New York couple, the Sterns, gets lost in the Ozarks, meets Wayne Thomas (Tommy Kirk), a paleontologist working in the area, who directs the Sterns to a nearby house in that they may get some gasoline and make it back to civilization. The secluded house belongs to a man named Greely (Billy Thurman), who also runs a sort of dinosaur park with wild animals that he's captured over the years. He's got snakes, wildcats, monkeys (where the heck did he capture monkeys in the Ozarks?) and something lurking in the caves behind his house, his prize possession. Seems Greely found a prehistoric creature, and feeds the occasional lost traveler to his 'pet'. Wayne comes by to check up on the couple, and Greely knocks him out, and throws him in the cave with the Sterns. Greely also has a housekeeper of sorts living with him, Bella, who, it turns out, was in a similar situation as the young couple a few years ago, and Greely kept her to make meals, clean house, etc. We spend a great deal of time hearing her story and how she tried to escape in what had to be the longest flash back I've ever seen, but since she's relating the story to the couple and Wayne, it seemed utterly pointless to let it go on so long, as we knew she didn't escape. Obviously padding to fill out the 80 minute run time. Anyway, stuff happens, and we actually only get to see the creature for like five minutes, but I suppose that was a good thing as we had already seen it in a previous Azalea made-for-TV film, Creature of Destruction (1967), and the suit hasn't been holding up none too well. This mess finally comes to a close, with the screen displaying The End? I'm serious, they put a question mark after the words 'The End' as if to warn us that someone, one day, will revive these characters, or, at least the plot. Poor Tommy Kirk...The second film in this festival of pain is called In the Year 2889 (1967), and deals with survivors of a post-nuclear world. This film stars another Disney alum and 50's TV child star Paul Petersen, who many may remember as Jeff Stone on the Donna Reed Show. Seems Captain John Ramsey (Neil Fletcher) has spent a number of year building a home in a secluded valley, one perfectly suited to protect him, his daughter, and her soon to be husband from post nuclear radiation. It has something to do with lead in the cliffs and a lake with an internal hot spring. Anyhow, this secluded valley isn't as secluded as we were led to believe, as various individuals begin to show up. First a young, wayward couple, then Steve (Paul Petersen) and his radiation poisoned brother, and then finally a local rancher/moonshiner, played by Billy Thurman. The captain gets irate, as he had only planned provisions for three people, but now has to deal with seven. He soon has something else to worry about as it's discovered mutants are roaming the valley, eating various game, and tensions within the house begin to grow, developing into a real power struggle. Will the survivors be able to fight off the mutants and keep from killing themselves in the process? Will humanity as we know it disappear from the face of the Earth, or will these people be able to save it from the brink of extinction? To be honest with you, I stopped caring about five minutes in...maybe sitting through the first feature wore me down.The picture quality was decent on these two films, but wear was noticeable. Both look as if they were shot on 35mm film, and there are plenty of tedious voice-overs. The production quality is non-existent, but I wasn't expecting a lot anyway. There are two special features, one being a piece with Paul Petersen, talking about his experiences in the industry, who he got started and such, and a little of how he ended up in this dog. He also goes on about his cause of helping child stars of past and present avoid the unpleasant experiences he went through being chewed up and spat out by a once uncaring Hollywood system. There is also a nifty photo gallery of Paul Petersen including stills of himself, and pictures of his various projects including records and books. Not a bad release of some truly awful films, good for a few laughs...and I have to say, Billy Thruman, a veteran of many a Buchanan film, was kind of fun to watch, especially in It's Alive.Cookieman108"
Manos Meets Psycho
Robert I. Hedges | 02/07/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As a longtime fan of cheesemaster Larry Buchanan, I was eager to see these two movies. While I view "Zontar, The Thing From Venus" as the touchstone for Buchanan, this cheesy duo stands on their own peculiar merits.
"It's Alive," from 1969, is the weaker of the two offerings in every sense, so I recommend watching it first. The premise is that a young couple (Tommy Kirk and Shirley Bonne) on a driving holiday run out of gas at Billy Thurman's roadside circus of freaks. Thurman has an involuntarily detained housekeeper who narrates much of the film in a traditional Buchanan collection of flashbacks, and quickly detains the couple as well. The film sort of plays as a weird combination of "Manos, The Hands of Fate" and "Psycho" only without the nuance or character detail of either. Thurman is a sadistic creep who has wildcats and rattlesnakes among other things in his zoo, but his prize possession is the leftover costume from Buchanan's 1967 picture "Creature of Destruction." This monster dwells in a cave under Thurman's house, and while the script assures us it is a huge aquatic lizard, the DVD box refers to it as a "pet dinosaur-man," a premise that is discussed in some hilarious detail in the film. Thurman fairs reasonably as an actor here, but the rest of the cast appears to have never read their lines before.
"It's Alive" is very plodding and suffers from extremely low production values (even by Buchanan's chintzy standards.) The plot is fairly predictable, and borrows a lot of things from other films (in addition to the costume, note the recycled music from "Zontar," etc.) The film really does have a lot of structural similarities to "Manos" especially in the beginning when the couple is lost on their drive. I was amused that in true Manosesque style the final title card read "The End?" In other ways the film borrows heavily from "Zontar" particularly the cave location and conceptual ending of the film. The other amusing similarity I noted (and I can't imagine this was anything but coincidence) was Thurman's resemblance to Ernest Hemingway only without all the character flaws: he looks like him, is an antisocial narcissistic menace, and even his house looks like Hemingway's Key West home. As amusing as they are to contemplate, I seriously doubt any of these choices were made consciously by Buchanan (except perhaps for the "Zontar" parallels.) In sum, "It's Alive" isn't one of Buchanan's best movies, but it's worth seeing for a good dose of cheese.
"Year 2889" is a dour post-nuclear annihilation movie where a group of dissimilar people survive in a big house in a secluded valley, and have to figure out who is going to repopulate the earth. This cast is fronted by former Mouseketeer Paul Petersen and the lovely Quinn O'Hara along with Buchanan regular Neil Fletcher ("Zontar" and "Creature of Destruction") as Captain John Ramsey, the leader of the motley crew. The film is straightforward and bleak, but more exciting and interesting than "It's Alive" for a few reasons. The film has essentially endless discussion of the chances of rain, and when the meteorology angle gets boring, has various subplots running hither and yon involving a psychopathic misogynist, a hilarious monkey-monster with long gray hair, mange, and a fear of water, girls in bikinis swimming in a pool (yes, it's truly a struggle to survive...), and the least sexy dance number in film history.
The lines of conflict are pretty clear and it's no surprise how the film will end: I loved the final shot of a couple holding hands and a title card reading "The Beginning." Nice touch.
The DVD also has a short interview with Paul Petersen outlining his career and discussing some issues related with life in Hollywood and making these films.
This is a great and inexpensive salute to cheese: it isn't Buchanan's best (or worst) work, but it's a fun diversion from the big-budget Hollywood pictures of today."
Here's $57 and a movie camera! Go make us some magic!
Craig Edwards | By the sea in NC | 03/19/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)
"It's Alive (1968) American International Pictures moved into television in the mid 1960's with a package of their black and white 1950's movies, which local stations would purchase and then show during their movie programs . But the value of the package would be more if AIP could include more color films with the black and white ones, so the ever clever heads of AIP, Sam Arkoff and Jim Nicholson, came up with a plan: give somebody a tiny amount of money, some color 16mm film, and access to the scripts of those earlier movies and let that someone produce some color remakes with new titles they could include in their movie package to boost its value. The someone in question was Texas filmmaker Larry Buchanan, and for about the cost of one of AIP's color Poe films, Buchanan produced eight (!) movies for AIP! This particular movie was not a remake, but a second movie to re-use a monster suit Buchanan had previously featured in Creature of Destruction, one of the AIP remakes. This time out a guy named Greely (Bill Thurman) out in the boonies around the Ozark mountains supplements his failing exotic animal roadside attraction with a real humdinger: a prehistoric creature in a cave behind his house. The problem is, once you go into the cave to look at the beastie, the completely insane Greely locks you in for feeding time. Guess what the monster gets for dinner? Former Disney star Tommy Kirk (The Shaggy Dog) serves time in this filmic purgatory as a forest ranger captured by Thurman along with a married couple who had the bad luck to run out of gas right outside Greely's house. Lots of talk ensues. Then, finally the creature pops up very briefly well into the running time to claim the young husband, and good ol' Buchanan doesn't even try to camouflage how sketchy it looks with some smoke or weird camera angles. No, he shoots it straight on, giving the audience a good look at a man in an extremely ratty rubber body suit topped off by a dime store monster mask with ping pong ball eyes. -sigh- After this wonderful moment, the creature goes back into the depths of the cave and the movie somehow manages to slow down further by having Greely's long suffering housekeeper Bella start hanging out near the prisoners so she can relate how she came to be in Greely's clutches in a loooooong flashback obviously added to get this thing up to feature length. From there, the creature returns for his second and final appearance as we amble into a climax of a sort and the movie comes to an end, or at least to a stop. To sum this one up: it's pretty sad to see poor ol' Tommy here, sliding down several notches below Disney and even a few from the beach movies he'd made for AIP the previous couple of years; on the other hand, Thurman is actually pretty good as the nutjob, the story idea is not bad, and before it stretches out far too long Bella's flashback is pretty grim and creepy. But these elements are lost in a talky flick that doesn't even give the viewer regular monster breaks but tries to make do with those two paltry creature cameos. I can only recommend this one to Tommy Kirk completists."