Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Astro-Zombies

Las Vegas-based filmmaker Ted V. Mikels’ cult classic THE ASTRO-ZOMBIES has earned its spot on any list of all-time worst films, and I love that M*A*S*H star Wayne Rogers (!) was involved in its screenplay and production. At least he put his name on it (he was just a somewhat recognizable TV guest star at the time), unlike his previous Mikels collaboration, DR. SEX, in which he billed himself as Juan Rogero. The opening titles play over footage of radio-control toy robots. I have no idea why. Just accept the fact of THE ASTRO-ZOMBIES.

Mikels’ film stretches across the horror, science fiction, and spy genres to present the story of mad doctor DeMarco (John Carradine, natch), furious after being sacked by the government. For revenge, he creates a zombie (played by an actor wearing an obvious rubber Halloween monster mask) from corpses and sends his mute hunchback assistant Franchot (William Bagdad) after more body parts. All the mutilation murders get the attention of CIA desk jockey Holman (veteran character actor Wendell Corey, who may not be entirely sober), as well as a bunch of Commie spies led by the alluring Satana (FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!'s alluring Tura Satana), whose cleavage and thigh-high skirts, as well as a revolver with a silencer (!), keep her boys in line.

THE ASTRO-ZOMBIES lurches madly back and forth from hilarious to stultifying, sometimes within the same scene. For instance, almost every Carradine scene finds the horror legend alone in his lab, reciting two pounds of senseless technobabble to Franchot and twisting knobs. Just when your eyelids have about closed (through no fault, I should say, of Carradine, who handles the turgid dialogue like a pro), Mikels cuts to the other side of the lab, where a sexy girl in a bikini lies strapped to a table. For absolutely no reason—nothing is done with her, and she is incidental to the plot.

Rogers claims some of THE ASTRO-ZOMBIES was filmed at Peter Falk’s house (!) and that he made a lot of money on it in drive-ins. Shot in six days (and Carradine was surely done within two), Mikels’ movie is a total mess with distracted actors and a nonsense plot. As rotten as it is, however, THE ASTRO-ZOMBIES (there’s only one astro-zombie until the last ninety seconds) remains eminently watchable and is certainly one of Mikels’ most entertaining pictures.

1 comment:

Temple of Schlock said...

*(veteran character actor Wendell Corey, who may not be entirely sober)*

MAY not be? He's pissed out of his skull! Seriously, if he couldn't stay sober for all those Academy Award appearances, why would he go totally tea for this bargain basement nonsense?!