Monster A-Go Go: Special Collector’s Edition (DVD Review)25 Oct, 2010 By: Mike Clark
Stars June Travis, Peter Thompson.
Not too long before the movie that “Mystery Science Theater 3000” once called the worst of all time was originally released — actually, “sprung” is more like it — I read a film magazine interview with a rural drive-in owner who noted that as a matter of course, he simply advertised “two features” on his passion pit’s marquee. The people who come here, he said, don’t really care what’s showing.
This dollar store cheapie would have been an ideal candidate for his venue. Primarily directed by Bill Rebane, who engagingly uses the s-word to describe it on the DVD’s bonus section, Go Go was taken over and embellished by famed exploitation director Herschell Gordon Lewis, who added minimum dance footage (not in a go-go joint but at what looks like a teen party) full of moving female body parts situated inches away from the camera. Presumably, these additions were the rationale for Lewis’s afterthought of a title; “monsters” and “go-go” were two of the main cinematic food groups in drive-in fare of the day. Amusingly and no doubt predictably, Lewis’s additions (minor in terms of the film) make up a significant percentage of the coming attraction, which is also included on the disc.
Though MST3K later reconsidered and transferred its “worst” honor to 1966’s Manos: The Hands of Fate, this is not to take anything away from the Rebane-Lewis achievement. We know we are in good hands almost from the beginning, when there’s a long, arduous-to-endure conversation in a sitting car partially obscured by tree branches that nobody thought to remove. The result looks a lot like one of those screen images we’ve all experienced in which dirt gets trapped on the prodigiously magnifying lens of the projector, and the projectionist is too busy reading the racing form or the latest Hustler to notice or remove it.
The story (cough) involves an astronaut injected with the wrong kind of “radiation repellent” before he blasts off, which means he (or maybe a mysterious “someone else”) must be the radioactive creature who is stalking sunbathers and a lover’s lane couple after the mysteriously empty space capsule crash-lands. Officials (made up of scientists and the military) discover the female lover lying in the grass, pronounce her to be “in shock” and then elect to take her back to their lab. (Not a hospital or anything). I also like how the same staff drags along civilian acquaintances to see what may easily turn out to be gory crime scenes. An assistant describes one such human discovery — in which the victim’s blood has turned to powder. “We think that accounts for the shriveled effect,” she notes. Good work, and heckuva job, Brownie.
According to Rebane (both in the interview on the commentary he provides), Chicago-shot Go Go’s fate was sealed when union goons came visiting and demanded that most of the movie’s budget be placed in escrow for a union crew. If so, the director didn’t get a whole lot for his money. Assuming the union professionalism extended to the camera crew, someone might have told the director that it would actually be nice to see his top-billed actress (minor ’30s Warner Bros. player June Travis, inexplicably making this her first film in years) in her opening scene. It’s a living room shot with two others, but the camera is placed on the other side of the room. As a result, we see far more of a coffee table than we do of the actors’ faces, though at least Travis (who was still quite attractive in her ’50s) does rate one restaurant scene before disappearing from the picture altogether. The apparent salt fiend she’s playing orders a martini with a couple anchovies.
What else? The sound is muffled except for whenever’s there’s some extensive (and jarringly louder) voiceover narration from the Ed Wood school. I also like the scene, apropos of nothing else here, where a shapely woman runs out of gas and flags down a trucker played by Rebane. She then rubs her breasts against him while he’s helping her out, whereupon he asks her to move because she’s making him nervous (and this is even before her concluding thank-you soul kiss). The director notes in his interview that the actress who plays her is now a real-life spiritualist in Arizona and wants nothing to do with memories of this film.
For those who love to collect hall-of-fame baddies — a not insignificant demographic that is likely the only one for this release — Synergy has provided two color short subjects that are more entertaining than the main movie. One is a lively nightspot outing called Twist Craze, which features individual groups of dancers gyrating to a garage band in their finest sportcoats. The other features the late Elvis knockoff (and Robert Plant-acknowledged Led Zeppelin influence) Ral Donner, whose recording of "You Don’t Know What You Got" went to No. 4 in 1961. Its central dancer is a portly guy who looks just enough like J. Edgar Hoover to make it interesting.