A while back we looked at why Ed Wood films are funny, and shared the strange stories behind films like Plan 9 from Outer Space and Manos: The Hands of Fate. Some of the worst films of all time (the hilariously bad kind) are those awful, poorly made B horror films. A lot of those poor excuses for use of celluloid just have fantastic backstories behind them. Let’s take a look at the bizarre ways some of these miserable productions got made.
Monster a Go Go
For my money, this is easily one of the top five worst movies ever. It may even be the worst. This one isn’t even funny at all. It’s just 70 minutes of incomprehensible babble that concludes with a non-ending that leaves you furious over all the time you wasted. The “plot” revolves around an astronaut returning to earth. As he’s been exposed to radiation, he has turned into a monster that stalks and kills people.
If that sounds mildly entertaining, don’t worry. You barely see any of that. Instead, you mostly see fake science talk where scientists discuss how his radius and danger zone are increasing. But that’s the least of this film’s problems. It’s shot horribly. In one scene in particular, the character’s faces can’t even made out. Sometimes, including that scene, the dialogue can’t even be completely made out. When it comes time for the phone to ring, someone off camera makes the noise with their mouth. The soundtrack usually consists of just bizarre, repetitive, awful noises. And there is an even bigger problem afoot.
When I first saw this film, I dozed off and when I woke up, I couldn’t follow the plot. I thought this was because I must have missed something important. It was a fair question, seeing as there were suddenly new characters all over the film. But no, that wasn’t my fault. It’s so confusing because people just leave and enter the film constantly. Characters you’ve watched just disappear while others take their place. That leads us to the weird story behind this film.
Original director Bill Rebane ran out of money, and production was stopped. Years later, Herschell Gordon Lewis bought the footage, figuring he could complete it and add it on a double feature. Given that it was four years later, most of the cast couldn’t resume the parts. One that could had lost his hair in the intervening years, and thus had to play his own brother. As for the inconsistency of all the characters changing, no matter. Surely, Lewis thought, some narration can fill in the holes (more on that later).
The end result was a film that looks terrible, can’t even be heard correctly and changes characters on the drop of a dime. Scenes stretch on for ages and nothing ever happens. And as stated, the ending is appalling and makes the rest of the film even worse.
The Creeping Terror
Do you love narration? If so, this is the film for you! Boasting one of the worst monsters this side of The Giant Claw, The Creeping Terror has more narration than you will probably ever see. Throughout the film, the characters’ lips move, but rarely are they heard. Instead, the narrator usually just jumps in to explain what they’re talking about. There are conflicting reports as to why there’s little dialogue. It may be because the soundtrack was lost, or simply because it was cheaper to film without sound. Either way, it sure is odd.
The production of the film is more interesting than the film, which mostly consists of a plodding, boring monster moving around. Director/producer Vic Savage allegedly swindled most of the people involved in the film. Instead of paying cast and crew, they fronted money with the promise profits would be received after release. Instead, he ran off when faced with several lawsuits and was never seen again. Not many productions can claim to be as outwardly skeevy as this one.
The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies
This film brings to mind many questions. What’s with the long title? Why are the so many terrible dancing scenes? Who is the second male lead who can barely speak English properly? Why did Ray Dennis Steckler have a career making movies whilst having no talent?
As for the title, Steckler claimed he had to alter the original title (The Incredibly Strange Creatures, or Why I Stopped Living and Became a Mixed-Up Zombie) after threats of a lawsuit over being too similar to the full Dr. Strangelove title. This seems ridiculous on the surface, purely for the fact that Steckler being anywhere near the radar of Columbia Pictures just sounds silly. Plus, Steckler was clearly not very attached to the title, as he released the film several times under different names.
The production and release include a virtual who’s who of awful films. It was filmed in some of the same studios used for The Creeping Terror. It was initially released on a double bill with a film by king of nepotism Arch Hall Sr. Later, it travelled around with The Beast of Yucca Flats, directed by legendary awful filmmaker Coleman Francis and starring everyone’s favorite wrestler turned incomprehensible actor, Tor Johnson.
The numerous dancing scenes, terrible and pointless, do have an interesting story behind them. The lead dancer was fired after she went off to do something else one night. Steckler grabbed one of the other girls and declared her the new star. But since she had already appeared as a background dancer in other scenes, her appearance was altered to hide that it was the same person.
But what about Atlas King, the Greek actor who gives some of the worst line readings ever buried beneath his thick accent? All that’s known about him is that he appeared in one other film, another Steckler production. Even Steckler later said he lost track of him. But one thing is known for sure: he had an all time great name.
And speaking of Coleman Francis . . .
The Beast of Yucca Flats
This film, already mentioned above, has more in common with other bad films than just Tor Johnson. It falls into the “screw the sound, we’ll fix it in post-production” category. But Francis proved to be even lazier than some of his counterparts. Sure, Manos: The Hands of Fate has only three people dubbing all the voices, but at least the effort is out into to dub. Francis, as if he knew he wouldn’t be bothered to do the work later, actively avoids showing the characters’ lips while they speak. That way, he just skipped the work of syncing the words perfectly. It’s like that one scene of the lip reader episode of Seinfeld, except for an entire film.
And what about the random opening scene, where a nude woman gets murdered by an unidentified man and is never mentioned again? The answer is very simple. Apparently, Francis was just a fan of nude scenes.