there is only one bat monster in Francis Gordon’s latest B-movie, but it would
hardly be the first time the zero-budget mogul delivered slightly less than promised. It will certainly attack though, rest assured. By hook or by crook, his cast and crew will pound
out his next drive-in programmer in Attack
of the Bats (trailer
Kelly Greene’s affectionate love letter to campy late 1950’s and early 1960’s
monster movie-making, an alumni selection returning to officially open the 2012 Dances with Films this Thursday.
Attack is not about
Roger Corman per se, but it would not have been made without his example. Gordon is definitely a grindhouse showman in
the Corman mold. He is convinced he can
fix anything in the editing room as long as they follow his cardinal rule: “when
the monster’s dead, the movie is over.” Paralleling
the genesis of Corman’s Little Shop of
Horrors, Gordon wrapped production on his latest film early, but he still
has three paid-up days in the southern California rock quarry he does not
intend to waste.
AD Chuck Grayson is rushing about lining up a screenwriter (the least important
part), a pseudo-star, and a new monster (that would be the biggie). The beatnik poet Bobby Barnstone and his
Barnstone method of Benzedrine-fueled stream-of-consciousness screenwriting looks
like the best bet for generating fast pages.
They don’t have to be good after all.
Larry “The Cat Creature” Meeker, Jr. seems to have fallen on hard enough
times he would consider a Francis Gordon movie and a former creature making
colleague has just been fired by a major studio. However, he still harbors bad feelings over The Snake Woman, a Gordon production so
notorious, the mere mention of the title sucks the air out of rooms.
the Corman motifs are present and accounted for, including spaced-out beatniks,
a jazzy soundtrack, and a ridiculously cheesy monster. What sets Attack
apart from thematically similar B-movie pastiches is Greene’s confidence in
the behind-the-scenes story. There will
be no real life monsters or aliens invading their set, just the union goon
extras from a studio gladiator movie sent to run the crew out of the quarry ahead
Attack had its world
premiere at DWF back in 2000. Frankly,
the fact that the film has yet to develop its own cult following is downright
mystifying, because it really delivers the goods. Greene knows the Corman lore inside-out and
his cast of not exactly household names is way funnier than you would expect. There is also a real edge to his dialogue, as
when Gordon indignantly defends his honor by declaring he always pays his taxes
and pays-off his unions. Indeed, what
more could one ask of a good Hollywood citizen?
are some hilarious supporting assists here, particularly Robert Bassetti as
Barnstone and Douglas Taylor as Meeker, Jr.
Fred Ballard is also pitch-perfect as the prickly Gordon, while Michael
Dalmon gamely holds the madness together as the put-upon Grayson.
Without question, Attack is generously stocked with goofy humor, but it can also be quite sly.
Yet, there is a real heart beneath the bedlam that cares about its
characters, precisely because on some level they also care about the B-movies they
are churning out, despite being fully aware of their schlockiness. A completely satisfying, all-around good show,
Attack of the Bat Monsters is ripe
for re/discovery when it opens this year’s Dances with Films this coming
Thursday night (5/31) in Hollywood, USA.
Labels: Creature features, DWF '12, Films within films