Saturn 3 – 1980 – England
Saturn 3 opens with a similar title animation to Alien (1979) and the same opening shot as Star Wars (1977). The rest of the movie isn’t much more creative, but I guess it’s okay. In the vaguely dystopian future, an old man named Adam and a young woman named Alex operate a hydroponics lab on a remote moon. They are the only people on the moon, and they spend their days relaxing and having sex.
Captain Benson, a scientist from Earth, arrives at the isolated lab. He is supposed to modernize it and make it more efficient. Apparently, Earth is having a food shortage. Benson turns out to be a total sociopath. He describes a dog as “just something to eat” and says to Alex, “Great body. Can I use it?” He builds a robot named Hector that goes crazy and tries to kill everyone. It is mostly successful, and in one shocking scene, totally dismembers a nice dog.
The Flying Guillotine – 1975 – Hong Kong
The Flying Guillotine is a movie about the flying guillotine, a highly unrealistic martial arts weapon that resembles a bladed hat with a chain attached to it. After it is thrown onto a person’s head and the chain is pulled, blades fold out of the hat and decapitate the victim. In skilled hands, it goes over walls, punches through windows, and can land perfectly on a victim’s head from a hundred yards away. It also makes a scary sound. Obviously, this weapon is pretty cool, and I guess that makes up for the fact that it would never work under any circumstances.
One Armed Swordsman Against Nine Killers – 1976 – Hong Kong
This movie kind of sucked so let’s get this over with. One Armed Swordsman Against Nine Killers (OASANK) is full of deception. It has a cool title, but it isn’t actually that cool. There are more than nine killers. The main character never uses a sword. Also, he has two arms! He just pretends to be one-armed the whole time!
The 36th Chamber of Shaolin – 1978 – Hong Kong
The 36th Chamber of Shaolin might be best known for inspiring the name of a Wu-Tang Clan album. That is definitely a noteworthy legacy! But 36th Chamber is a pretty good movie too. The story follows San Te, a man who trains in a Shaolin monastery to learn kung fu in order to overthrow the Manchu government in 17th century China. San Te was apparently a real person, although it’s unlikely his life was this badass.
Abraxas: Guardian of the Universe – 1990 – Canada
In this movie, Jesse Ventura (former wrestler and Governor of Minnesota) plays a “finder” named Abraxas. Basically, he is a galactic cop. He has been doing it for 10,000 years and is supposed to be pretty good at it. He goes to Earth on a mission to capture Secundus (his rogue ex-partner) and find the “Culmator”. What’s the Culmator? Good question. Apparently, he is a psychic child who can “calculate the anti-life equation”, which I guess is probably pretty bad. While teleporting to Earth, Abraxas suffers a warp malfunction and loses all his cool sci-fi weapons. When he finally tracks Secundus to a small, snowy town, the two wrestle a lot before Abraxas disintegrates him using a futuristic wristwatch.
The Blob – 1958 – United States
Here’s an oldy but goody: The Blob! You’ve probably seen this. It’s about some teenagers who find a meteorite with an alien slime monster in it. It dissolves people whole and can’t be killed. It’s also a really attractive purple color. The teens try to warn the residents of their small town, but there is a dumb, lazy cop that won’t believe them until the Blob grows to the size of a house. Eventually, someone discovers that the Blob can be frozen. The U.S. Army shows up, packs the Blob in a refrigerated container, and drops it in the Arctic. The movie ends with this exchange:
“I don’t think it can be killed.”
“But at least we got it stopped.”
“Yeah, as long as the Arctic stays cold.”
Now that global warming is melting the ice caps, we are due for a sequel.
Varan the Unbelievable – 1958 – Japan
Varan the Unbelievable is an unimaginative clone of Godzilla (1954). It’s kind of weird since it was created by the same people. For some reason, Toho (the makers of Varan and Godzilla) decided to rip themselves off. Varan is like Godzilla combined with a turtle, but he can fly too. Now he is starting to sound like Gamera, but Varan is way less cool than that.
King Kong Escapes – 1967 – Japan/United States
King Kong Escapes is one of two King Kong movies produced by Toho in the 1960s, the other being King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962). It was co-produced by an American company and includes some American actors. I totally respect Toho’s kaiju movies from this era, but King Kong Escapes isn’t their best effort. The plot is childish, but that’s forgivable. All kaiju movies are sort of childish. What less forgivable is the sloppy, disfigured-looking King Kong suit. During the whole movie, I kept expecting it to fall apart.
An arms dealer named Dr. Who builds a robotic clone of King Kong (called Mechani-Kong) to mine “element X” at the North Pole. His business partner, Madam Piranha, plans to sell the element to various “oriental” nations so they can make weapons of mass destruction. However, Mechani-Kong proves too weak to mine element X, so Dr. Who captures the real King Kong and enslaves him via hypnosis. With the help of some friendly agents from the United Nations, King Kong escapes and is pursued to Japan by Mechani-Kong. They fight atop Tokyo Tower before Mechani-Kong plummets to the ground and smashes to pieces. As King Kong swims out to sea, someone speculates, “I think he’s had enough of what we call ‘civilization’.”
Furious – 1984 – United States
Furious starts off pretty weird and then gets weirder. At first, it seems like it’s just another martial arts movie. Ten minutes in, I’m wondering why there isn’t any dialogue. Twenty minutes in, I’m debating whether it’s set in the future. Thirty minutes in, I’m pretty impressed by all these magic tricks. A guy turns a dove into a handkerchief. Amazing! By the end, I have no idea what to think. People get transformed into chickens, and a magic spell hurls exploding chickens at the protagonist. There is a talking pig, and you can see him eating peanut butter to make his mouth move. For some reason, in this futuristic dojo, a rock band is playing, but their music sounds like shrieking electronic noises. Suddenly, one of the characters can fly. I guess that’s cool.
The Hideous Sun Demon – 1958 – United States
Lots of people mock The Hideous Sun Demon, but it probably doesn’t deserve it. I won’t deny that it’s slow-paced, talky, and not very realistic. Also, it’s basically the exact opposite of a werewolf story. There is a guy who turns into a humanoid reptile (not a canine) when exposed to sunlight (instead of moonlight). Regardless, The Hideous Sun Demon tries sincerely to be a movie with pathos, and I respect that. The monster makeup looks cool too.
While hungover at work, an atomic scientist named Gilbert accidentally subjects himself to a blast of radiation. Initially, he seems unaffected, but when he is exposed to sunlight, he transforms into a lizard-man. Gilbert’s employer wants to help him and hires various doctors, but Gilbert is angsty and depressed and rejects them all. Instead, night after night, he cruises up and down the Californian coast, gets hammered in a seedy bar, and flirts with a lounge singer. He debates suicide and gets beat up by thugs before finally agreeing to medical help. However, because of his melancholy and alcoholism, he ends up fleeing the doctors, transforming into a lizard again, and accidentally killing someone. Police discover the murder and pursue Gilbert before throwing him off the top of a water tower. Sad music plays.