Invasion of the Bee Girls

JULIE ZORN:  All right, you might as well know. We went to dinner at the Flamingo Bar and Grill. And by about 10:00 we were playing footsies under the table and having dessert like the good old days. And then we went to the hotel.  And then it happened.

AGENT AGAR: What happened?

JULIE ZORN:  We balled, and we balled, and we balled until he dropped dead.

AGENT AGAR:Touché. Let's go to lunch!

It took me a while to scrub my mind after the rape-fest that was Nude Nuns with Big Guns, and yet for some reason, I still wanted to dive right back into a sexploitation flick. Maybe I just wanted to see one done right. Who knows?

Maybe I just like boobs. Yeah, it's probably that.

Moving along.

Mixing Mad Science and Sex is never a bad thing in my book. What could go wrong?  I mean other than creating an army of sex-crazed killer bee-women. Psychotic sex-crazed-Stepford's aside, you've got nothing to worry about. Following a formula startlingly similar to a sexualized version of Jaws (1975), the film's story unfolds as a group of horny scientists are killed through "sexual exhaustion" until a curfew and forced abstinence is put in place. However, much like for Sarah Palin's children, the abstinence plan works about as well as you would think and the deaths continue until the movie switches gears into a classic 1950's monster movie complete with radiation and mutant bees.

And boobs.

Unlike our previously mentioned heavily armed Catholics, the film's level of misogyny never really rises above the traditional pat on the head of the self-assured male, who is then promptly seduced and killed by a killer bee-woman. Sure, the women here (either innocent and ignorant or seductive and murderous) are nothing more than sex objects, but that's the entire point; what with scenes carefully lit to hide the face but reveal the breasts and buttocks. It's easy to see what the main selling point of the film was (hint: It's not the compound EYES).

But is it any fun?

And the answer is absolutely.

From the opening notes of the insect-rific fa-la-la score by Charles Bernstein, to the closing momentous destruction of the film's doomsday device, there is never a moment where you won't marvel at the cheap 70's take on a b-grade sci-fi monster flick.

Besides, there's bees and boobs.

Tingler, The

Ladies and Gentlesirs, a declaration: William Castle, the producer/director of this motion picture, was a genius filmmaker who was decades ahead of his time. Oh, many a critic and historian have made mention of his dazzling showmanship and marketing acumen. Such as during the initial screenings of The Tingler, when Castle equipped seats with extra-large Joy Buzzers, to provide that “tingling” sensation; or in the final act, which actually takes place in a movie theater, and the lights go out. Vincent Price starts telling the on-screen audience (and, by proxy, us) to “SCREAM! scream for your LIVES!” On top of that however, Castle was still an effective director, who was able to elevate incredibly banal stories into effectively creepy pictures.

Case in point: The Tingler is about a spinal parasite that feasts on fear, and can only be destroyed by screaming. Yep, that’s the entire premise right there. And yet, Castle was still able to craft an edge-of-your seat picture, especially in two memorable sequences, one of which involving a splash of bright red blood in an otherwise black and white picture.

Of course, when we screened it at our event, we discovered an entirely different plotline at work. While director Castle, writer Robb White, and star Vincent Price would have us believe this is a horror film about a large spinal parasite, we found that the film was actually about something else entirely:

The Female Orgasm, and the invention of the G-Spot Vibrator.

Before I continue, allow me to present this dialogue exchange:

Price: Well, it affects some people like that. Did you notice how rigid she became just before she fainted?

Coolidge: She Always Does. It’s interesting.

Price: Because she has no vocal chords, she can’t release her fear tensions vocally as we can. So they continue to mount, until at last, she can’t endure it.

Exchange the word “fear” for “sexual,” and you have an entirely different story going on here. Conversations like this go on throughout the movie, permeating every aspect of the script:

Price: Her unreleased tensions grow so great…that she goes into a Psychosomatic Blackout!

Hell, one of the villains in the story is a woman whose primary crime is that she doesn’t love her husband anymore and is sexually independent. That’s about the gist of it…until she tries to kill her husband, of course; which even then is mostly laughed away as a prank.

As the story continues, a “tingler” is eventually extracted from a human host and put on display for the audience…revealing it to be a rubbery millipede that resembles nothing less than a “toy” intended for a woman’s pleasure. As we watched, our audience speculated that the irresponsible Mad Scientist (and yet somehow not just the protagonist, but actually the “hero”) played by Vincent Price went on to design the first prototype of said device, raking in millions.

All that aside, we're left with the final question: Is The Tingler a “good” movie? That depends on how much you appreciate 50’s low-budget horror. However, if you’re hosting a Vincent Price Cavalcade Event, this film is a surefire winner on all levels.

Human Centipede (First Sequence), The

Gentle readers, let me ask you: “You down with O.P.P.?”

Before you respond, allow me to clarify: I am not quoting the ever-so-catchy Naughty by Nature song from 1991. No, I want to know if you're down with other people's poop. Because, if you're not, Director Tom Six's The Human Centipede may not be for you.

And if you are...dear God, why?

Anyway.

American tourists Jenny (Ashlynn Yennie) and Lindsay (Ashley C. Williams) are enjoying a vacation in Germany until they get lost in the woods (literally) and seek refuge in the home of Dr. Josef Heiter (Dieter Laser). Dr. Heiter is a world-renowned expert at separating conjoined twins.  However, at some point between his retirement and the beginning of the film, he went irretrievably insane and now is more interested in creating conjoined twins. Thus, it was Dr. Heiter's good fortune that two potential portions for his pet project fell into his lap.

There is no getting around the premise of the film.  As Dr. Heiter explains to the girls and soon-to-be lead portion, Katsuro (Akihiro Kitamura), in specific detail-he will surgically mutilate and then attach each of them mouth to anus to form one disgusting creature. Why? Because he's crazy!

What's worse is that he actually performs the surgery. That's right, The Human Centipede is not a film that jokes around, or merely hints at what could be. No, the title of the film is The Human Centipede and, by gum, Tom Six gives you a human centipede! But then the story continues for another 45 minutes! Over the course of which the audience learns that, while being part of a human centipede is one of the most disgusting ideas put on film, it is not the worst thing that could happen to you.

One difficulty in watching the picture, other than keeping your last meal down, is that it's difficult for the audience to sympathize with these girls. One does sympathize, of course, because no one should go through even half the things that happen here. However, Six could have tried to make these girls a bit more competent in horror movie survival. Think back to every horror film you've watched. Combine all the of the mistakes characters make, and you've got these two girls. Getting out of the car on a deserted road on a rainy night, wandering in the woods with a flashlight, going back in the house instead of running for help, hiding in a corner, not checking what's in your drink, and-worst of all-not running in the opposite direction when a scary/Germani/Mengele/Christopher Walken opens the door.

Dieter Laser is the real find here. Having the burden of about 60% of the dialogue all by himself (it's hard to talk with a mouthful of...yeah) and competing with one of the more striking visuals in recent horror movie history, Laser commands the audience's attention at all times. He's creepily fascinating and cannot wait to see him in future films.

The Human Centipede is an impressive picture. Aside from some minor pacing issues in the second half and the overall brutally disgusting subject matter. It delivers exactly what it says it will, and is far more interesting that I ever thought it would be. That said, I can't think of a person I'd recommend it to, and would require a signed and notarized consent and waiver before I show it to anyone.

Bug

Once upon a time as a boy, I used to explore deep into the woods behind my house and explore the vast microscopic universe of the insect kingdom. Waterbugs, Wood Ticks, Beetles, Ladybugs, Ants, Bees, Yellowjackets, and Wasps all held equal fascination for me. The entimology wing of the Natural History Museum was my second favorite  stop after the dinosaurs, what with the living bee hive within the Plexiglas box that I could see inside.

This all changed in the swealtering hot summer of my 12th year, when I was sitting on the front porch of my friend's house, talking about whatever it is that 12-year-old boys talk about when trying to escape the cloying heat of Maryland's humid sweat box. I felt a strange pinch, looked down, saw a large red ant, and flicked it off my arm-thinking nothing of it.  Not long after, I felt another pinch, this time on my leg. Looking down there was yet another ant, which I again swatted away. Before long, I felt another 10 pinches and realized that I was swarmed, running home to my mother who threw me in the shower and helped get the hive off of me. Since then, I've been less inclined to get anywhere near anything remotely insect-like.

I share this tale with you so that you understand when I say that I was distinctly creeped out by Bug,  a movie where a seismic disturbance leads to an invasion of giant cockroaches capable of causing fires with their hind legs, you realize my disquiet has very little to do with the actual quality of the film, and everything to do with my own neurotic phobias.

Yes, this film is bad, but you could probably already tell that from the description. That said, the first half is not as stupid as one might expect, though there is signifigant padding for time. After the initial introduction of the main characters and the afore-mentioned earthquake, things plod on for another 40 mintues or so before anything really interesting happens. Wait, no...there is a scene where the cockroaches take down a cat in a scene that would be disturbing if it wasn't so hilarious. After that, there's nothing for the better part of an hour.

There are a lot of scenes with the main protagonist, Prof. James Parmiter (Bradford Dillman) looking intently at the smoldering palmettos as he figures out exactly what makes them tick (and tick they do, as this their associated sound effect), and other scenes where they talk about the bug's origins, their lifecycle, carapice,yadda yadda yadda. Every once in a great while, somebody gets their head set on fire. But nobody in the film seems to really mind all that much in the next scene. Small towns, go figure.

Where the movie takes a bizzare turn is when the Proffessor gets all disappointed about the short lifespan of the deadly insects (I guess because that would mean the movie would end earlier) and decides to "improve them" by cross-breeding them with another roach to create, you guessed it: HYPER INTELLIGENT PYROTECHNIC COCKROACHES that can spell words, formulate complex strategies, and even eventually fly.

Those cooky college Professors, they just never leave well enough alone.

Then the film just kind of ends... That's it, no doom, no real anything. Kind of pointless, really. So is this cinematic gem worth a Cavalcade? Not really, unless you fast-forward past the insufferable padding with the horrible 70's synth track music and skip straight to the cat attack and the games of bug scrabble.