Monster A-Go Go (1965) (part 1 of 8)
Well, here I am. Hitting bottom. Again.
After more than a year of running a bad movie site, I’m no longer in a position to accurately state how bad movies rank in comparison to each other. To be blunt, repeated viewings of Moment by Moment, Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny, and the oeuvre of Tony Malanowski have completely warped my sense of what’s quality and what isn’t. And yet, there’s still no denying that Monster A-Go Go is one of the very worst films ever made.
This movie barely exists, with the most eventful moments being when you put the disc in your DVD player and push “play”. (And then, ten minutes later, when you push “eject” and immediately ship it back for a refund.) In that respect, the film is a lot like another Agony Booth subject, the crushingly awful Red Zone Cuba. I have no idea which is the worse film, but forced to decide between the two, I will always choose to watch Monster A-Go Go. Why? It’s twenty minutes shorter. And that, sadly, is the only positive thing I can say about this movie.
This is a film that’s dull from the very first frame, and somehow grows even more tedious and more insignificant as it slowly lumbers towards its conclusion. Halfway through, personality-less characters disappear, only to be replaced by actors that manage to be even harder to distinguish from one another; The script is a patchwork of lifeless scenes that have very little to do with each other; And by the time Monster A-Go Go gets close to its ending (or, to put it more accurately, the point where the film runs out), you’re not even sure if you’re still watching a movie, instead of the result of someone pointing a camera in a random direction just to see what it happens to pick up. And the movie, it would seem, will actually agree with you, as a voiceover narration is used in the final moments to deliver one of the most pathetic non-endings in motion picture history.
Monster A-Go Go originally began life as Terror at Half Day, a sci-fi horror flick on the bottom rung of the cinematic evolutionary ladder that was initially begun by infamous Z-grade director Bill Rebane. The title Terror at Half Day remains something of a mystery, since none of this movie actually seems to take place in Half Day.
(Random Trivia Note: Half Day, for those like me who don’t spend much time in the Midwest, is actually the name of a small town near Chicago, and the apocryphal explanation for the name is that in the days of old, it took a “half day” to reach it by stagecoach from Chicago. Which is a trip that I assume was far more exciting than watching this movie.)
Regardless, Rebane began the film in 1961, but unfortunately ran out of money before it could be finished. The footage sat around for several years, but before it could mercifully rot away, it was purchased by one of Rebane’s acquaintances, fellow B-movie director Herschell Gordon Lewis.
Lewis is a legendary figure, famous for singlehandedly inventing the gore genre with films like Blood Feast, Two Thousand Maniacs! and Wizard of Gore. He bought Terror at Half Day from Rebane in order to finish it, but his contribution to the film varies depending on the source. Some say that all Lewis did was edit the incomplete footage together and add a voiceover narration (which seems likely, considering he gave himself a credit for “Additional Dialogue” under his pseudonym of “Sheldon Seymour”). Other sources claim that he actually filmed new scenes with totally different actors. No matter what his involvement, Lewis’ motivation in buying the footage from Rebane was quite simple. As Lewis himself later told an interviewer:
H.G. Lewis: There wasn’t much of a movie, no climax or anything, so I turned it into a parody called Monster A-Go Go and used it as a second half with Moonshine Mountain. In that period, if you didn’t have a second feature, the distributor would throw in another second feature and claim to each producer that that picture was the second half, then pay $25 flat instead of a percentage. I wanted to make sure that I controlled the play, so I always had two pictures coming out together.
So, there you have it. This movie exists for one reason, and one reason alone: Money. And sadly, not very much money, even in 1960’s dollars.
(I’ll leave it to readers to decide whether or not this movie really qualifies as a “parody” like Lewis claims it is. The only notable “evidence” for this is on the movie’s poster, which declares, “The picture that comes complete with a 10-foot-tall monster to give you the wim-wams!” I’m not exactly sure what “wim-wams” are, but if it’s something that makes you run to the bathroom repeatedly during the movie, then Monster A-Go Go definitely gave me a case of them.)
Once he saw the finished product, Bill Rebane was utterly disgusted. (Though I have to admit that calling this movie a “finished product” is something of a stretch.) To this day, he insists that Monster A-Go Go is “the worst picture in the world”, and, I admit, he might not be too far off. But considering Rebane later went on to direct movies like The Giant Spider Invasion and Invasion from [the] Inner Earth, which, presumably, turned out exactly the way he wanted them to, I’m not sure how much right he has to complain.
The film begins with some muffled go-go music, and along with just one other brief scene, this is all the justification there was for putting “go-go” in the title of the movie. Actually, there’s even less justification for putting “monster” in the title, but I’m getting ahead of myself here.
So as the music plays, we see a black and white photograph of a galaxy, and I’m not sure which galaxy this is, but the exact same photo would later pop up behind the credits of The Giant Spider Invasion. We see a couple of legs in silver boots superimposed over the picture, trampling all over the galaxy. As expected, it’s a piss-poor A*P*E-level superimposition with parts of the galaxy bleeding through the legs.
So, anyway, these boots were made for walking, and as the legs stagger and the feet drag, we notice that the figure is dressed in an “anti-radiation suit” like the kind worn by Prof. Erling and Bob Hedges at the end of Terror from the Year 5000. I wonder what store they all shop at. Anyway, we see the title of the movie, and it’s spelled out in the same high-class “horror” font last seen on boxes of Count Chocula.
The legs fade out and the singing begins, and it’s obvious this theme song wants to be a bad knock-off of Barrett Strong’s “Money (That’s What I Want)”, but unfortunately the band is made up of double amputees playing their instruments with their feet. Or at least, that’s what it sounds like to me. But I’m sure these guys eventually got a nice gig playing each and every night (along with opening acts Off the Wall and Ray Gregory and the Melmen) at the lounge of the Econo-Lodge in Hell. According to the credits, this band is called “The Other Three”. Wait, is this Genesis after Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett quit the group? Anyway, here are the lyrics:
Go, you monster, back to space
You may come from beyond the moon
The music ends with a crashing thud, and we immediately cut to a helicopter circling over some trees. A disembodied voice begins explaining what’s going on, because without a doubt, what this movie really needed was an Obnoxious Shouting Narrator to help make things even more confusing.
Obnoxious Shouting Narrator says, “What you are about to see may not even be possible within the narrow limits of human understanding!” Well, at least he’s being honest. “Case in point: A space capsule is rocketed into orbit, on schedule. Its mission: To observe new objects circling the earth!” I guess all that “seeking out new life and new civilizations” stuff fell victim to budget cuts.
“Satellites,” the Narrator says, “Which no nation had launched!” The narration is sounding very Twilight Zone-ish here, so I guess this was meant to be a Rod Serling parody. Yeah, that’s it. “Parody”. Anyway, at this point we cut to a car parked in the woods, and inside are two military guys in full dress uniform. Oddly, the car is an ordinary Buick [?]. The first military guy gets out and looks up at the sky.
The Narrator explains, “As the capsule reached its orbit, communications with it suddenly went silent!” Then we go back to the helicopter, which is still circling around. The Narrator says, “Several days passed. A search team headed by Colonel Steve Connors began an intensive search of the entire area!” Uh, which area, exactly? If the thing was in orbit when they lost contact, where would you start looking for it?
We cut back to the military guy, who I’m now going to assume is Col. Steve Connors, as he’s handed a CB radio. Connors speaks to “Patrol Two” while his voice gets distant and reverberating. Patrol Two responds, and their reply is even more incomprehensible. It’s like little Debbie from “Manos” The Hands of Fate, only speaking to us from behind a six foot wall of concrete.
Connors tells Patrol Two to “come on home”, prompting the Narrator to barge in again to say, “In a wooded area not far from the Space Agency Astrophysical Laboratories in Chicago [??], observers had reported that a strange object had fallen to earth!” Ah, the good old reliable “Wooded Area”, the site of many a no-budget B-movie. We see the helicopter, presumably Patrol Two, swoop down to prepare for a landing. Then we cut back to Connors as he gets in the Buick, and the other military guy starts the car and pulls off in reverse [?]. Making this even weirder is how the guy doesn’t even bother to look behind him [!] before hitting the gas.
However, he suddenly stops when Connors gets another call on the CB. Patrol Two says something, but given the audio quality, my best guess is that the pilot has “spotted something!” Connors then turns to the other military guy and says, “They may have found something!” Gee, it’s almost as if the other guy weren’t sitting two feet away and able to hear every word. (Also, the use of “they” in this context is puzzling, because as we’ll soon see, there’s just one guy in the helicopter.)
We cut back to the helicopter, and the narrator asks, “Was it the space capsule?” No, I think the helicopter just happened upon a freeway chase and is now covering it for the local Fox affiliate. There’s a long, long pause as the helicopter again swoops down towards the ground. We go back to Connors again on his radio, now referring to Patrol Two as “Jim”. Connors wants to know “how it looks” and Jim replies that “it looks like this it!”
Jim then shoves his radio into his mouth, or at least that’s what it sounds like, as the rest of his lines are completely garbled. We then get to watch in its entirety as the helicopter sets down in a field. This is a helicopter landing, alright. Yep, I can definitely certify that this is a helicopter landing. No need to call the Helicopter Landing Certification Authority on this one, no sir.
We go back to the military guys just sitting in their Buick, until finally Jim radios them again. He squawks for a while in what must be Esperanto, before suddenly crying out, “Oh my God!” It’s full of stars! Then he makes a heaving noise like he just drank a carton of milk that was two years past its expiration date. Which I assume is also more exciting than watching this movie.
The conversation is cut off and Connors tries unsuccessfully to get back in touch with Jim. The other military guy casually asks, “What happened?” Okay, so I guess he can’t hear radio conversations going on two feet away from him, after all. Connors tells the other guy it “sounded like he was in trouble!” In trouble of pissing himself, that is.
After half a minute of silence, Connors suggests they go over and investigate. Yes, that sounds like a good idea. Let’s do that. This time when they pull off, however, they’re going forward. So did the other guy finally figure out what “PRNDL” stands for, or what?