2013 Drive-In/Exploitation/B-Movie Challenge! PART 1

by kdlough

And here we have the first installment of this month’s feature! Will I make it to 100? Probably not, but maybe I’ll beat October’s score of 31 movies. Suspenseful, huh? Movies I’m seeing for the first time are marked with a *.

bill and coo poster

1. Bill and Coo * (1948) Genre: Birdsploitation

Are you unusually excited when someone says the words “tightrope-walking parakeet with an umbrella”? If so, you’ll love Bill and Coo. This is a movie cast entirely with birds wearing people clothes. It’s supposed to be a kids movie, but I’d be very surprised if any kid could watch it without falling into a drugged stupor. It’s really dull and really stupid.

For fear of making this sound more appealing than it is, I’m going to let you in on a little aspect of Bill and Coo I wish someone had told me beforehand: even though it’s sold as a fictional film starring birds, a full third of its runtime involves the lead characters watching a bird circus. Hope ya like bird tricks!

And while hindsight is 20/20, you would think that at some point the filmmakers would rethink making a movie where the villain is a crow named The Black Menace who the townspeople mob and throw in jail. Yikes.

2. Gamera: The Giant Monster (1965) Genre: Kaiju

The first Gamera entry is quite a bit more political than any Toho monster flick since the first Godzilla, explicitly framing its monster action as a result of Cold War nuclear build-up. And even though the Gamera movies are remembered as being cheapo rip-offs, this one’s nearly up to Toho levels. Good special effects, too!

I love the heroes’ scheme to get rid of Gamera: they use an elaborate trap to catch him in a Gamera-sized rocket and blast him into space! But apparently this was part of an experiment they had already been developing before the movie began. So what possible use could a Gamera-sized giant rocket trap have in a pre-Gamera world? It’s not as weird as the increasingly surreal plots of later Gamera entries, but it points the way.

3. Teaserama * (1955) Genre: Sexploitation

A bunch of filmed burlesque acts, with a couple jokes in-between by a comedian who looks weirdly like Robert De Niro (sample joke: “My wife, take her – PLEASE!”). Looks like it was filmed in a community recreation hall in an afternoon. Bettie Page introduces each act and does a couple dances; this would be great, but by the way, Bettie Page is a TERRIBLE dancer, despite how much fun she seems to be having. Still, she’s a bright spot among a lot of hypnotically dull strip-teases. There’s also a strip performed by a “female impersonator” which seems weirdly out of place in a 1955 movie; who exactly was the audience for this supposed to be? Still, it’s a fun watch for anyone interested in the history of drag or burlesque.

4. Django Unchained (2012) Genre: Faux Italian Western

Okay, maybe this is a knock on my “cred” to admit this, but I enjoyed Django Unchained. It hits all the required notes for a spaghetti western and Tarantino  doesn’t fuck things up too much by over-writing (even though it’s got some real groaner moments, and I don’t mean that in a good way). I don’t think that attacking depictions of race in Westerns is quite as radical as QT seems to think it is, but I have to admit that the movie does play some interesting games with genre stereotypes.

Fortuitously, I even got a good grindhouse experience when I re-watched this in my local dollar theater. I love the place because they always show the most beat-up 35mm prints I’ve ever seen (this one had a big scratch down the middle of the WHOLE MOVIE) and there was even a projector malfunction during a dramatic late-movie scene that had the audience squirming. A good omen for this feature?