• Mark Zimmerman

Movies from Outer Space

I just finished watching The Queen of Outer Space, a 1958 movie starring Zsa Zsa Gabor. Three astronauts and a professor launch into space and witness a laser beam destroy the space station where they’re headed. Then they find themselves crashing into a lush world the professor speculates is Venus (looks more like Oz). They are surrounded by young women in tight-fitting mini-skirt dresses and nylons brandishing wicked looking rayguns. These babes speak English! The Earthlings are taken to the five-woman Council, all of whom wear masks. The council members wear masks because their faces have been hideously disfigured by radiation from Earthmen. They despise Earthmen, while the other gals are getting to know the astronauts better and begin to like them. The loveliest of all is, of course, Zsa Zsa, who wears dangling earrings, a bouffant hairdo, and who doesn’t speak English. Anyway, to make a long, lame plot much shorter, the Earthmen team up with the rebellious Venetians to overthrow the wicked Queen and her posse (yes, her posse), and divert the deathray that was supposed to destroy Earth. Unfortunately, the astronauts are advised by their commander on Earth that a rescue mission is at least a full year away, and they’ll have to survive as best they can, all the while surrounded by fawning beautiful women! The only purpose of this monstrosity of a movie, other than exposure for Zsa Zsa, was to serve as the basis for countless X-rated parodies in the far future, at least that’s my speculation. Ahem.

Some movies so bad you can’t turn your eyes away. These are guilty pleasures, films so lame that you can’t admit to anyone that you crave them. Here are mine.

Road House (1989), starring Patrick Swayze, an el supremo cooler or bouncer in big demand. He sews up his own wounds, carries his medical files with him, kills foes by ripping out their throats or hearts, reads philosophy, practices tai chi, drinks his coffee black, and smokes cigarettes for breakfast. He takes over the Double Duece nightclub outside Kansas City, cracks a lot of skulls, woos the local ER doctor, and battles the town’s rich bad guy named Brad (Ben Gazarra). Music by the Jeff Healey Band is not half bad actually. Fantastic guest appearance by Sam Elliott, bad-ass amigo. Bar fights, buildings blow up, cars trampled by big wheels, a strip scene, love scene, helicopter landing on a lawn scene, and a huge stuffed bear falls over on a stupid, fat guy. Rated five stitches.

Smokey and the Bandit (1977). Foul-mouthed Jackie Gleason is a joy to watch as is the big, bad, black car. Jerry Reed gets to run over a bunch of bikers’ hogs with his 18-wheeler, and cute little Sally Field maneuvers in some tight jeans. Law enforcement is thwarted at every turn. Five cans of Coors.

Tommy Boy (1995), starring Chris Farley and David Spade. Not sure why I find this slapstick mess such good clean fun. Cow tipping? A dead deer come to life and ripping up a vintage muscle car? Bo Derek in a swimsuit? Stunning guest appearance by Dan Aykroyd in a suit. Five brake pads.

Rambo-First Blood (1982), starring Sly Stallone as a Vietnam vet with ripped muscles who can eat stuff that would make a billygoat puke. Sly, topless most of the movie, runs afoul of hardass police chief Brian Dennehy, fresh from his role in Tommy Boy, and heads for the hills on a dirtbike. Sly manages to disable several search parties and totally demolish the town with bombs and a handheld Gatling gun without killing anyone, except the police chief. Five fireball explosions.

Total Recall (1990), starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, who’s married to Sharon Stone but wants to go to Mars to save the colonists from some bad dudes who look like they suffer constantly from migranes. Arnold pulls a big glob out of his brain through his nose that turns into a bug-like robot thing. Cameras can see through walls and robots that resemble Howdy Doodie drive little electric cars. Mars is vastly overrated. Five asteroids.

Death Wish (1974), starring Charles Bronson as Dr. Paul Kersey, an urbane architect whose wife is murdered and daughter raped by vicious gang members. Kersey goes out west and comes back with a six-shooter and commences to eliminate New York City’s scum. Vincent Gardenia plays the world-weary detective (we know this because he suffers from a cold) who tracks the vigilante down only to let him go. Kersey moves to LA and proceeds to gun down more lowlifes (not you, Ty). Five bullets.

Home Alone (1990), starring Macaulay Culkin as an insufferable brat caught alone at home over the Christmas holidays who celebrates the season by torturing two knucklehead burglars nearly to death. Super guest appearance by John Candy as a polka band leader who sits in the back of a U-Haul truck. There's just something about movies about rich kids goofing around in the affluent suburbs of a big city. Five tarantulas.

Jaws (1975), starring the crusty lobsterboat captain Quint, nerdy professor, and lantern-jawed police chief battling the largest studio prop ever devised. Their boat should have sunk in the first few minutes but lingers until the last scene in which the chief blows up the killer shark by shooting a compressed oxygen tank in its jaws with a rifle while the nerd lingers on the bottom and ole Quint, well, he's lunch. Murray Hamilton co-stars as the town's mayor, who must be a greedy bastard because he wears hideous sports jackets. Five buckets of chum.

Any Brian de Palma movie.

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