Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women (Cave Women of Mars, 2008)

Mihm_Cave_Women_PosterIn the far, far distant future of 1987, Captain Jackson, son of Professor (now Director) Jackson,  is on a mission to Mars.  He and lieutenant Elliot arrive on Mars and discover a lush jungle…er…midwestern wooded area and Lieutenant Elliot ends up a prisoner of warrior cavewomen.

Elliot is desperate to get back to his spaceship as he finds himself catapulted between rival cave woman clans. While both are really disdainful of men, you can tell the good Cave Women from the Bad Cave Women because the Bad Ones wear leather and have dark hair, while the Good Ones wear cloth outfits and are blonde.

 

The film uses very simple coding (not uncommon for the era that inspired the film).  Part of the amusement in the films of Mihm is the archaic ideas of the sexes.  These are not presented as the “Good old days when men were men and women were women”.  I have noted that Christopher does not mock the horror and sci-fi of the 50’s and 60’s.  But that is not entirely true.  He pokes a lot of fun at the silly mentalities (Girl scientists?! Girls with opinions?!) of the time.  In this film, the portrayals of independent woman as hating men is the target for mockery.  The Cave Women are so over the top in their talk about how inferior men are, the oppressive matriarchy comes off as the fevered nightmare of Rush Limbaugh.

Visually, you start seeing some growth.  The monster looks a little better.  There is some nicely done green screen that manages to still give that old movie set look.  And the portrayal of Mars is a lot like those early films that imagined other planets looking vaguely earth-like…but you know…rockier. Also, the space suits are in that great line between looking cobbled together and being a little futuristic.

There were a few points where the film drags, but at the same time, this is not that out of character for a lot of sci-fi and horror of that era.  Setting it in the future of 1987 (so “far” from the 50’s, but well in our “past”) creates it’s own humor with the visuals of how far and advanced we would be. Of the first three films, this one, in some ways, feels the closest to the sci-fi films of the 50’s.

It Conquered the World (It Came From Another World, 2007)

Mihm_It_Came_From_PosterThe A-Rockin’ Scientist  Professor Jackson is back!!!   Along with the Canoe Cops!!!! Wait one second…

Associate of Professor Jackson Dr. Frasier is in the woods when he witnesses a meteorite fall to earth.  He goes to investigate and appears to be attacked by a force from the meteor.

Professor Jackson is called in to determine what has happened to Frasier.  He goes out and is assisted by the Canoe Cops, Sven and Gustav.  They locate Dr. Frazier, who seems unaware of just how long he has been gone.  They bring him home and Professor Jackson runs tests to see if he is okay.  But of course, he isn’t.  Because there would not be a frickin’ movie if he was fine.  Frasier is possessed by an alien intelligence that seeks to rule the earth.  He uses mind control on the Professor’s girlfriend and escapes to set his diabolical plans in motion.

Again, Professor Jackson must save the world..but can he stop the evil alien fiend being that has possessed his dear friend?

This one has it all.  A ping-pong ball eyed alien! Romance!  A Canoe Paddle Battle! Science! Josh Craig returns to the role of Professor Jackson, this time with an even more pronounced Shatner inspired vocal pattern.  It is a bit over the top but is also a lot of fun.

Like the Monster of Phantom Lake, the budget reads in the film as “No Budget”.  As noted, the evil alien is actor Mike Mason with what look to be ping pong balls for eyes. As a semi-sequel, Jackson and Elizabeth are the only characters to return.  The film acknowledges his love interest Stephanie…with a single line noting she is dead.

This one has more jokes slipped into it, as well as a musical number.  This time around it is a slickly produced song…but played off as being performed by the cast.  There are split screens, clearly different singing voices and far more instruments than the cast members are playing (the song was performed entirely by Mihm).

It Came From Another World is an enjoyable romp.

Humanoid From the Deep (The Monster of Phantom Lake, 2006)

Mihm_Monster_Phantom_CoverChristopher R. Mihm’s debut is a tale of toxic waste and teens in danger.  Professor Jackson (a professor of science!) and his assistant Stephanie have come to the woods of Wisconsin to study the local frogs.  Meanwhile, a group of teens is on a camping trip to celebrate graduating from high school.  Unbeknownst to any of them, a local company has its employees dumping toxic chemicals into the lake.

When the shell-shocked veteran Michael “Lobo” Kaiser falls into the toxic lake, he is mutated into a giant algae monster that begins to attack those around the lake.  It falls to the Professor and Stephanie to figure out how to stop the monster.

The Monster of Phantom Lake features a monster that looks like it was made from paper mache and duct tape…and this works within the confines of the film.  With large round and unblinking eyes, the mouthless creature successfully evokes a b-movie monster from the 50’s.

The teens are noticeably not teens and their dialog sounds like what adults in 50’s Hollywood thought teens sound like.  The dialog, in general, is quite campy and dated, such as when the professor cheerfully notes he does not pay much attention to the talk of women.

Then there are goofy additions like the Canoe Cops Sven and Gustav.  The joke is they get around in a canoe.  And they have Norwegian accents.  This aspect is a very Minnesota thing.

What brings it all together is a sense of sincerity.  Mihm is not mocking the films of the 50’s.  Instead, he is looking back fondly.  This is not to say they lack humor.  The laughs, including the dated language and cheap effects, are intentional. They are simply not derisive.

There is a warm-hearted charm to the Monster of Phantom Lake and it’s simplicity, looking back to a far complex time for movies.

October: The Dead, Martians and Atomic Brains

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Welcome to the month of October.  As with every year, it will be scary movies all month.  Themes for this month include the films of George A. Romero and Tobe Hooper.

I had started doing a zombie theme for the month, but the death of Romero in July prompted an exploration of his films, as I really had only seen a few.  And I had not seen some key parts of his older work, so it was interesting to take a look at films like Martin and Season of the Witch (one I find myself generally thrilled with and the other…well…).

Only a month later, Hooper passed.  Now, I have covered a few Tobe Hooper films in the past so I will not be creating new entries for those.  For Lifeforce, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and the Funhouse…click the links). I confess Hooper’s films start to take a sharp turn after the Mangler (which is more a crazy mess than a classic).  I am going to also include his Masters of Horror episodes Dance of the Dead (which seems like it would be a Romero title for a zombie movie set at a rave, oh wait, that was one of the Return of the Living Dead films) and the Damned Thing.

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Also, later this month, I will be going through the entire filmography of Christopher R. Mihm, a local Minnesota filmmaker.  He has a new movie coming out this month, the Demon with the Atomic Brain.  His films are loving odes to the horror and sci-fi films of the fifties and sixties.  His Mihmicerse is populated with ghosts, mutant animals, and Nazi Killing Weresquitos.  I will expound more as we get to the films later this month.

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Hope you have as much fun reading these as I have had writing them.

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