He's no Ed Wood (his movies aren't that good) and he pales in comparison to names like Larry Buchanan, Rick Sloane, and Coleman Francis. But there's no denying that Midwestern moviemaker Bill Rebane is a member of the hollow halls of utter cinematic shame. Even if you discounted later stumbles like The Capture of Bigfoot and The Game (no, not that one), he'd still earn his place for two terrifically terrible films - 1975's The Giant Spider Invasion and the 1965 debacle Monster a-Go Go. The latter, originally conceived as a serious science fiction effort, ran into huge monetary and production problems. Desperate, Rebane sold the project to exploitation king Herschell Gordon Lewis. Changing the title from Terror at Halfday (and adding a few bikini clad babes), the mastermind behind Blood Feast tried to salvage this silly, talky mess. He didn't succeed. Monster a-Go Go is now considered one of the worst movies of all time, something the new DVD release hopes to change. Again, it doesn't succeed.
An astronaut is given an experimental radiation treatment before being shot into space. When his capsule eventually crash lands in a field outside of Chicago, the occupant is nowhere to be found. Before long, the populace is complaining about a huge pizza faced monster terrorizing the town of Halfday. Indiscriminately killing for no apparent reason, it is up to a group of ever-changing scientists to sit around and talk about what to do. In the meantime, a human oddity decked out in dried dough lumbers about the monochrome countryside, scaring the bejesus out of swimsuit clad coeds and random extras. Only in the end does the narrator tell us that the original pilot was discovered thousands of miles away, safe and sound. So who, or what, was causing all that crappy movie commotion?
When is bad is bad - really bad...odor from a homeless person bad...Justin Bieber as your bedmate bad - it's impossible to resurrect it. You can't perform some manner of good natured rehab on it, or hope a new generation sees value where excrement once reigned. Such is the case with Monster a-Go Go, a supposedly misunderstood masterwork that actually plays like a celluloid torture device. Even if it hadn't been handed over to the man responsible for ruining Egyptian feasts forever it would still be a mighty pungent disaster. Rebane, who recalls his attempted speculation with the insight of an in-patient, still defends it as something viable and ahead of its time. In truth, it's nothing more than bad B-movie schlock confused even further by a lack of narrative competence, clear production continuity problems, and a dearth of anything remotely resembling entertainment value. If you like your sci-fi disjointed and laden with pointless conversation, this is the movie for you. Otherwise, avoid it like a plague of logistical locusts.
The main issue here is the bifurcated nature of its creation. Lewis and Rebane didn't see eye to eye on this project, and the truth is, they didn't need to. The latter was desperate and the former saw an opportunity. It happened a lot in the glory days of the drive-in. Exhibitors needed cheap product and producers were always looking for something that could provide a quick turnaround. So it was a manner of befouled fate that Rebane ran out of money and sought help from his fellow Chi-town connection, hoping to salvage something. After seeing the results, it should have remained in the motion picture equivalent of limbo. As junk relics go, Monster a-Go Go is like watching paint dry on growing grass. The special effects are non-existent and the pacing is so problematic that it actually seems to slow the rotation of the Earth on its axis. Scenes drag on and on, dialogue a dizzying combination of nonsensical science speak and expositional confusion. By the time we get the spoken "trick" ending, we believe it, only because nothing else about this movie made sense either.
Yet someone wants to champion this chum. Such is life in the digital malaise of 2010. Arch Hall Jr. can sully an entire artform (or in the case of his musical chops, two) and still get support for his Cabbage Patch Elvis affronts. Manos: The Hands of Fate can flummox viewers with its combination of talentlessness and amusement inertia and yet a few still feel compelled to praise its peculiarities - or even worse, remake it. Monster a-Go Go is not worth supporting. There may be a pea-sized decent idea buried somewhere in the morass of meaningless drivel, but you'd need an electron microscope and the patience of a tween's parent to find it. Compared to something like Plan 9 from Outer Space or Troll 2, it just can't compete. Heck, even Rebane's repugnant Giant Spider Invasion is more likeable. Instead of being known as a steaming pile of motion picture pus, the backstory (and the casting of seven foot plus Henry Hite) are far more intriguing. Monster a-Go Go deserves its detested status. Little about this cheerless space joke succeeds.
Offered in a decent, if not definitive, 1.33:1 full screen image. The black and white is a little soft, lacking the sharp definition of a remaster. Even worse, there is no alternative cut of the film. This is the same Monster a-Go Go you can find on the Something Weird Video release (paired with the absolutely stunning Psyched by the 4D Witch) or as part of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 catalog. Everything Rebane shot is here, plus what Lewis added/changed. No other version exists, so those hoping for some new insights into the film will be rather disappointed.
The Dolby Digital Mono mix is mediocre at best. It lacks clarity and cleanness. We gets lots of track noise, a muddled approach to conversations, and a musical score that bounces between decent and dull. Even the narrator seems to be speaking from behind a studio door. All in all, not a very good aural representation.
It's a Chicago-ccentric commentary track that leads off the added content, and while Rebane is game (helped by cult film historian Joe Rubin) the discussion turns tedious quickly. The same answers always seem to apply ("that would be something Herschell did...") and memory is not either participants' strong point. Still, with all the Chi-town shouts out, it's an interesting one shot listen. There are also a couple of fascinating short features directed by Rebane - "Dance Craze" and "Twist Craze" - that attempt to capitalize on the latter teenbopper fad. They are fun and full of dated nostalgia beats. Finally, there is an interview with the filmmaker (repetitive, especially given the commentary), a trailer (interesting) and a 24 page booklet excerpting an article about the film from Scary Monster Magazine. All in all, the extras almost rescue this release - almost.
While it's nice to see Rebane get some due after decades as a lamented laughing stock, this new DVD release of Monster a-Go Go won't really rehabilitate his status. Why? Well, the horrible piece of crap at the center speaks loudly enough for that fact. If you love this lame bit of bullspit, this new release is recommended. If you hated it before, you can definitely skip it now. Landing right in the middle of such a conflict is the final score of Rent It. The bonus features add some intrigue, but overall, you can't make a silk purse out of a 70 minute septic tank. Bill Rebane seems like a decent guy - a little confused, but decent nonetheless. Sadly, his sole claim to fame will be his bad movies - and there are few more fetid than Monster a-Go Go.