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Best of Schlock 2004
BY G. NOEL GROSS | December 27, 2004

Bubba Ho-Tep made an impressive run toward eeking out an upset, but the readers of CineSchlock-O-Rama have spoken, and Anchor Bay's mammoth Dawn of the Dead: Ultimate Edition has earned the richly deserved CineSchlockers' Choice award for THE top DVD of 2004!!! What a year it's been for fringe cinema fans: Hardcore horror's made a triumphant box office comeback, unrated DVDs became a marketer's delight and CineSchlock-O-Rama's Most Wanted celebrated an unprecedented NINE captures! So, of all the schlocky delights yours truly reviewed in Aught 4, which ones stir my B-loins the most? Well, here they are in very particular order:

1. Dawn of the Dead
(Read original review)

While the rest of fandom wet their Wookie Underoos over a certain other bodacious box set, we CineSchlockers drooled (and are STILL drooling!) over Anchor Bay's crowning achievement -- a four-disc ode to George Romero's zombified treatise on conspicuous consumption. All three incarnations of the classick are lovingly remastered and lavished with commentaries and other goodies. By leaving NO cast or crew member uninterviewed, DVD guru Perry Martin even managed to top his Hills Have Eyes documentary with the sensational 75-minute tribute The Dead Will Walk! But two low-tech reels other distributors would've 86'd also proved particular fan faves: Ralph and Bob Langer's home movies as zombie extras and an impossibly FUN walking tour of today's Monroeville Mall by Ken Foree and a mob of his closest ghouls! No breasts. 236 corpses. Helicopter decapitation. Kiddo killin'. Neck noshing. Multiple disembowelments. Innumerable bullets to the noggin. Dawn's signature line never loses its luster: "When there's no room in hell -- the dead will walk the earth."

2. Bubba Ho-Tep
(Read original review)

Need the formula for a sure-fire cult sensation? Look no further than Elvis Presley and John F. Kennedy duking it out against a soul-suckin' MUMMY in an East Texas old folks home! B-royal Bruce Campbell's performance as a geriatric, laughably less-than-velvet Elvis is impossibly inspired as is Ossie Davis' inexplicably black fallen president. Further rewarding for CineSchlockers is to see Phantasm auteur Don Coscarelli behind such a bona fide phenom and with the extras to match. In the year's most unforgettable commentary, Big E hunkers down with a bag of popcorn in "an undisclosed location" only to be thoroughly baffled by what he beholds. "Is this a picture about erections!?!," he wonders in horror. Another treat is Joe R. Lansadle's craggy reading from his original Bubba Ho-Tep novella that's so artfully vile MGM felt required to preface it with a verbose disclaimer. Let's hope Joe's already scrawling Bubba Nosferatu: Curse of the She-Vampires on the nearest s@#%house wall. Two breasts. Seven corpses. Panty flinging. Multiple firesuit stunts. Bathroom hieroglyphics. Wangdoodle manipulation. Egyptian nose mining. The man hisself sums it up country simple: "Never, but NEVER, f@#& with The King!!!"

3. It's Alive
(Read original review)

VICTORY OVER VHS OBLIVION! This homicidal-hellion chiller was a long time coming to DVD, but when it finally arrived, it did so with a stellar commentary by the incomparable Larry Cohen that dang near amounts to a master's course in B-filmmaking! Every expectant parent's nightmare brews schlock gold when nature goes mighty astray with the Davies baby who pops outta his mama's womb grotesquely disfigured and ferociously steamed about it. Then the foam-rubber tyke savagely attacks and murders the delivery room attendants before lamming it into the cold, cruel world in search of someone to love his ugly mug -- and change his nappy! Terrific killer-baby cam footage wobbles throughout the picture as bodies pile up in generous pools of the red stuff. No breasts. 13 corpses. Mournful toothbrushing. Gratuitous Gabby Hayes impression. Pinata attack. Comical guns-drawn-on-defenseless-infant gag. If mama only knew: "WHAT DOES MY BABY LOOK LIKE!?! WHAT'S WRONG WITH MY BABY!?!"

4. Shaun of the Dead
(Read original review)

Gorehounds Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright do the undoable by masterfully cross-pollinating an honest-to-goodness romantic comedy with an old-school, flesh-gnawing, apocalyptic ZOMBIE epic. The result is so hysterical, so savvy in its nods to its forefathers that it transcends the very horror heritage it salutes. An utterly seamless blend of yuks and yucks made "for geeks, by geeks" that's so zombirific it's even earned the great George Romero's enthusiastic thumbs up! What's extra remarkable, is that this single disc's better equipped with fan-minded embellishments than most two-disc hurrahs. There's two can't-miss commentaries, scads of deleted scenes, outtakes and other fun nicknacks that, like the flick itself, continuously surprise in an endlessly entertaining way. No breasts. 236 corpses. Accidental impalement. Undead mimicry. Cranial clobbering. Dart to the brainpan. Gratuitous 28 Days Later gig. Ape aping. Our heroes' familiar promise: "WE'RE COMING TO GET YOU, BARBARA!!!"

5. Freaks
(Read original review)

VICTORY OVER VHS OBLIVION! Well, gooble gobble, if it hasn't been more than 70 YEARS and this great, great, great grand pappy of exploitation cinema STILL reigns! Director Tod Browning tells the sensitive sideshow story of a pint-sized Romeo (Harry Earles) who finds his romantic Everest in a swinging trapeze siren (Olga Baclanova). At first she's amused, but her reciprocal flirtation turns sinister with a scheme to bilk the little fella out of his loot AND his life. Browning's film noir backdrop provides for a deliriously garish parade of human "blunders of nature" such as Johnny Eck the perpetually handstanding "Half Boy," the pointy noggin'd Snow Twins and Radian the armless, legless "Living Torso" who can fiddle open a matchbox and light his own cigarette using only his choppers. They're all nice enough folks, but when they chant "One of us!!! One of us!!!" -- they MEAN it! As if the film itself weren't joy enough, horror historian David J. Skal's delectably detailed commentary is the perfect companion to a brand new doc chronicling the cast's real-life highs and woes. No breasts. Horsey-back humiliation. Siamese three-way. Freaky frolicking. Sword swallowing. Germanic hysterics. Table dancing. Ms. Baclanova emotes herself into orbit with the climatic line: "YOU DIRTY! SLIMY! FREAKS! FREAKS! FREAKS!"

6. Ice Cream Man
(Read original review)

VICTORY OVER VHS OBLIVION! While this El Cheapo disc couldn't be more vanilla, it still comes highly recommended based on the bizarre genius of the flick alone. In a scene toward the end of the movie, B-deity Clint Howard actually walks into frame holding a giant waffle cone topped with a gap-jawed human head. It's a truly awe-inspiring sight. His split slipped both bananas when he witnessed the machine-gun murder of the beloved Ice Cream King and realized, "Not every day is a happy, happy, happy day." A self-medicator, he dulls the loss by grinding dogs into his ice cream, feeding the eyeballs of his victims to customers and generally being an acutely WEIRD guy. No breasts. 10 corpses. Puree'd pooch. Kiddos in peril. Trippy sanitarium flashbacks. Waffle iron to the face. Gratuitous Doug Llewelyn cameo. Highly unconventional ventriloquism. CineSchlocker fave Jan-Michael Vincent checks in with the biggest understatement of the entire flick: "You know, there's something WEIRD going on here!"

7. Lost in Space: Seasons 1 & 2
(Read original Season 1 review; Season 2 coming soon)

For yours truly, the single greatest blessing of the TV-to-DVD revolution has been a 59-episode reunion with one of my greatest and earliest TV loves. Namely Irwin Allen's delightfully quirky, sci-fi cavalcade of camp populated by such wonderfully whimsical characters as the ever-conniving Dr. Smith, plucky Will Robinson and an ever danger-wary robot. Once again, fans can GET LOST! with the Space Family Robinson via TWO out-of-this-world seasons. (The third and final season is due in 2005!) While the shows themselves are prized kitsch, the first 8-disc set comes with the full-length, UNAIRED pilot "No Place to Hide" startlingly devoid of Dr. Smith AND a certain bubble-headed boobie. CineSchlockers may also be surprised that it wasn't until the second season that the show adopted its trippy technicolor motif. Now just how will I contain myself when "The Great Vegetable Rebellion" finally re-ensues in '05!?!

8. Monsturd
(Read original review)

The rank ranks of sewer cinema flushed forth an unexpected gem this year. Rick Popko and Dan West's astonishingly quick witted and paced call-of-nature belies the muck of its setting with infectious glee. Plus, they can also tell a story, they can make us laugh, they can make us puke AND they can do it with actors reading from scripts in plain sight! Their sublime symphony of s@#% jokes soars into action with fecalphiliac serial killer Jack Schmitt (Brad Dosland) amscraying into the sewers of Butte County. Though little does Schmitt know that the mad Dr. Stern (Dan Burr) has poured the acid-washed corpse of a contaminated colleague into said sewer whereby inadvertently transforming Jack into a hideous stool of superhuman size and stink. Yep, tough to believe, but given how inherently juvenile any DOODIE MONSTER movie is, it's remarkable how this sucker somehow manages an oddball level of CHARM! No breasts. 12 corpses. Megaphone misuse. Gratuitous preparation montage. One Hannibal Lecter impression. Projectile puking. Corn 'n' peanut chumming. A little girl cries: "A giant Number 2 killed my daddy!"

9. Night of the Demons
(Read original review)

VICTORY OVER VHS OBLIVION! Goth-gal Angela (Mimi Kinkade) invites a gaggle of horn'd up teens to spend Halloween at a bedeviled funeral home where their night's amusements include anxious exploration of each other's no-no zones and, just for giggles, conjuring up the devil. A particularly daring pair even punches their tickets to H-E-L-L by copulating in a coffin! CineSchlocker idol and sexpot scream queen Linnea Quigley goes from quizzing Quickie Mart clerks about their "sour balls" to becoming chock full of demons who make her cram a tube of lipstick into her bare bosom (!?!) and gouge out her beau-of-the-moment's peepers mid-diddle. Some shindig, eh? You betcha, thanks to the grue slingin' of Steve Johnson and a remarkably perverse approach to the otherwise exhausted haunted house formula. Even better, director Kevin Tenney and pals finally get their due via this special edition's commentary, plus don't miss the nifty reel that showcases how flicks of this bygone era were marketed. Four breasts. Eight corpses. Fireside interpretative dance. Sapphic soul kiss. Ol' razorblades in the apple gag. Piezest arm. Flamethrowing (with immolation stunts). Stooge makes his intentions known: "EAT A BOWL OF F@#&!!! I'M HERE TO PARRTTTYYYYY!!!"

10. Mayor of the Sunset Strip
(Read original review)

Daft documentaries hold a special place in the little black hearts of CineSchlockers and this criminally undersung sleeper noses into the mesmerizing world of pint-sized, red mop'd radio legend Rodney Bingenheimer. It's equally hilarious AND heartbreaking. It's a strange journey to the free lovin' age of the Sunset Strip. It's a meditation on fame, the famous and the not-so-famous. It's a fierce celebration of rockers and rock 'n' roll. It's thrilling. It's baffling. Yet somehow it all interweaves to reveal Rodney. That's fantastic filmmaking. That's arresting entertainment. Once CineSchlockers have seen the flick, they'll no doubt feel compelled to immediately flip over to Bingenheimer's charmer of a commentary. While music fans may just have to dive head long into oodles of bonus interviews with acts as diverse as David Bowie, Coldplay, Courtney Love, Alice Cooper, Cher, Oasis, Nancy Sinatra and No Doubt.

G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.

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