10 June 2011


Bill Rabane (The Giant Spider Invasion, coming soon to The Uranium Café) finished all he was able to do with his super campy sci-fi feature Monster A-Go Go in 1961 under then the working title of  Terror at Halfday, referring to a small town near Chicago. He ran out of both money and ideas and the project was later picked up and finished , so to speak, by exploitation king Hershell Gordon Lewis as to use as a double bill with his film Moonshine Mountain. The film was finally released in 1965 which was the same year Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster came out, another mutant astronaut film with go-go parties. Gordon’s contributions are hazy at best but surely the voice over narration –an old gimmick to try and make sense of a meandering, pointless film- was surely added by him as well as the amazingly dangling ending. The ending has become something of legend in the history of Z-movies and I agree with some reviewers who say that the Gordon probably knew it was a horrible ending and yet probably felt he was putting a bullet into a horse with a broken leg at that point and just wanted to get the project out of its misery. No doubt other scenes were shot as padding to get the film to meet a reasonable playing time and these scenes were added with no regard to the already neglected continuity of Rabane’s original film.

Not really sure why Something Weird Video decided to make a double feature of Psyched by the 4-D Witch (see previous post) and then Monster A-Go Go as thematically there is no connection between the two films, other than they are both stinkers even to bad movie mavens. I would have to say thought that Monster A-Go Go with all its flaws is still a much better movie than 4-D Witch. That may be like saying it is better to get colon cancer than lung cancer but Monster A-Go Go still more watchable, at least if you watch, as I did, the MST3K version which has plenty of great gags by Joel and the bots to ease the suffering one may feel at points during a viewing of this truly inept film which falls in the category of truly bad movies –and I do not place Plan 9 from Outer Space into this category- like Women of Lost Mesa, The Beast of Yucca Flats and The Creeping Terror. And yet I will probably watch this film again some night –at least the MST3K version- while I will never, ever watch any of 4-D Witch again. Obviously by the time 4-D Witch was ‘made’ filmmakers in America had not only ‘expand their consciousness’ with psychotropic drugs like LSD but decided they could actually film and edit movies while under the influence such drugs.

Now the story of idea for Monster A-Go Go is nothing too bad really it is just what is done with the story that is the problem for the viewer. Astronaut Frank Douglas is injected with high amounts of ‘radiation repellent’ before being sent into orbit. The scientists who worked on the repellent decided they did not need to work out the glitch where it transformed lab rats into giant, insane mutants before injecting a human being with it. Douglas’s space capsule crashes outside Chicago near the small town of Halfday and I cannot go on without commenting on this space craft. It is obviously made of cardboard and is barely large even to hold a regular sized man much less a mutated giant (played by real life ‘giant’ Henry Hite). I found an image online and put it here. I was not really added to get screen captures since I have the MST3K version and all parts of the movie has the silhouettes of Joel and the bots. Add to that the fact the spacecraft would have had some sort of equipment on the inside and you get an idea of what the production and creative values of the film were from the very beginning.

The film then becomes a story of a radiation mutated astronaut –like Frankenstein meets the Space Monster- who wanders the countryside and city terrorizing sunbathing girls in bikinis and murdering making out teenagers in parked cars. The story line is so disconnected and incoherent that I can hardly review what happened in any linear fashion. Characters are introduced and then vanish from the story without explanation. The narration adds to the confusion rather than clears anything up. At some point the monster has been said to have been captured and is kept in a laboratory, but we never see the monster even as a scientist goes into to study it. He goes in and comes out and reports to his associate his findings. I was really confused by this sequence. Later we are told the monster escapes from the lab but again we never see anything happen. The classically weird ending has the monster -who we have accepted is Frank Douglas from the film’s beginning- being chased in underground sewers only to have the hazmat clad pursuers come to surface to receive a telegram that the real Frank Douglas is thousands of miles away in fine health. What the hell! How did he get out the capsule and travel thousands of miles? Why didn’t he just wait at the capsule to be picked up? How did he even survive a surface landing and not a sea landing as NASA space capsules are designed to do? And who the hell then is the monster?

No doubt Lewis just decided to wrap this turkey up so it could be doubled billed with his own turkey and begin the drive-in movie circuit ASAP and recoup some investments. Other problems with the film is the horrible sound quality that had me worried something was wrong with our new flat screen TV and the crappy photography which has faces washed out of the scenes in a bright solarized glare or has all the action lost in darkness. The acting is non-existent and while there is a story here -unlike 4-D Witch below-   it is just too baffling to follow. As Is aid I will probably watch it again for fun but I am not recommending this to anybody but lovers of bad cinema and even then with a warning.