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COMMENTARY

All the schlock that's fit to print

If it's a gory, kitschy and low-budget film, Filmfax magazine likely has it covered.

May 23, 2008|Peter Carlson | Washington Post

"Monsters Crash the Pajama Party"?

Yes!

"Werewolves on Wheels"?

Absolutely!

How about "Teenagers From Outer Space" and "Evil Brain From Outer Space" and "I Married a Monster From Outer Space"?

Yes, yes and yes! You can buy these timeless classics of the modern cinema on DVD from those wonderful folks at Filmfax magazine! But wait, there's more! You can also buy "Fiend Without a Face" and "Devil Girl From Mars" and "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians."

I'm supposed to be writing my usual scholarly analysis of the articles in Filmfax magazine and here I am getting all excited about the ads. Filmfax has page after page of ads for DVDs of the kinds of films you just don't see on Turner Classic Movies -- movies like "Monster A-Go-Go" and "Saturn Avenger vs. the Terror Robot" and "They Saved Hitler's Brain."

But the thing is: In Filmfax, the articles and the ads are, as they say in the quality lit-crit biz, all part of an organic whole. Filmfax, which bills itself as "The Magazine of Unusual Film, Television & Retro Pop Culture," is the bible of B-movies, Kama Sutra of kitsch, the Bhagavad-Gita of so-bad-it's-good cheesiness. For 23 years, Filmfax has been covering the auteurs who created movies such as "Invasion of the Bee Girls" with the same reverence that Cahiers du Cinema reserves for Jean-Luc Godard.

In a recent issue of the influential cinematic quarterly, the cover story was an interview with William Shatner about his role in the 1962 Roger Corman film "The Intruder." It was an unusual piece for Filmfax because Shatner is actually, you know, famous. Most Filmfax interviewees are utterly obscure, except to the kind of fans who know everything about the cast and crew of "The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism."

The best article in that issue was a six-page homage to William Smith, who appeared in "The Ghost of Frankenstein," "High School Confidential" and "Grave of the Vampire" but really built his reputation as a brawling biker in such classic motorcycle movies as "Angels Die Hard" and "Chrome and Hot Leather." The high point of the piece was a description of the legendary fight scene between Smith and Rod Taylor in 1970's "Darker Than Amber."

"Taylor used the opportunity to see how tough Smith could be by deviating from the planned action to pummel him with body blows that broke several ribs," writes William Fogg. "He responded by breaking Taylor's nose as the cameras rolled. At the end, both actors were bruised and bloody, and Smith's knee was compromised when Taylor hit him with a board that somehow missed the protective kneepad."

Filmfax doesn't just focus on the actors and directors. It also covers makeup artists and special-effects wizards and the composers of the ominous music that lets viewers know that the girl is about to get eaten by the monster.

Every once in a while, Filmfax writers remind you that Filmfax readers are not your average Americans. In David J. Hogan's review of a DVD containing four movies by Sam Katzman -- "Zombies of Mara Tau," "The Werewolf," "The Giant Claw" and "Creature With the Atomic Brain," it said, "Filmfax readers are well familiar with the four features," Hogan writes, "so the pictures need not be detailed here."

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