Time to dance with those that brung us. Arguably, no other business entity was so instrumental in the development of what we now think of as “the “B-movie” as American International Pictures.  So through the month of February 2009, the B-Masters pay tribute to the movies that made us what we are, for good or ill.

And You Call Yourself A Scientist! The Beast With A  Million Eyes (1955) It was at this point that Roger Corman became aware of a screenplay for a science fiction film called The Unseen. It was about an alien attempting an invasion of Earth by controlling the animals and weak-minded human beings. That was all to the good, but not really relevant. What mattered was…the alien was invisible. Beautifully, gloriously, cost-effectively invisible.
And You Call Yourself a Scientist! The Phantom From 10,000 Leagues (1955) Even as early as 1955, even before there was such a thing as AIP, its progenitor company was churning out films with what would soon be recognisible as its trademarks: outrageously inaccurate advertising, threadbare production values, a half-baked screenplay and a crappy, crappy monster. Just how crappy? Let me put it this way: this one was evidently arrested and charged with impersonating a sea-serpent.
Teleport City Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine Once informed, the two men join forces to bring Goldfoot down, and this involves another visit to the cemetery. This time, the evil doctor is waiting and captures them. He takes them to his torture chamber, which is just an excuse to re-use some footage from The Pit And The Pendulum. Our two heroes somehow manage to escape. Not because of their ingenuity, but rather because of Igor’s incompetence. And this is where the film becomes a little hard to bare. It becomes a silly chase film. Gamble and Armstrong escape in a car, with Goldfoot and Igor hot on their trail, with Igor riding a motorcycle, and Goldfoot seated beside him in a side-car.
Teleport City Hell Up In Harlem Williamson, for instance, while undeniable blessed with a glaring surplus of charisma, gives an enthusiastic performance in both movies, but is seemingly incapable of giving a convincing line reading, with the result that Caesar’s level of melodrama is really not his friend. Leading lady Gloria Hendry, on the other hand, is just a little too cozy with melodrama, and comports herself throughout much of her screen time in both films as if she were chained to the wailing wall. Factors like these, along with the rough edges of Cohen’s direction, combine to make Black Caesar a bit of a bumpy ride for fans of consistent narrative tone. By contrast, Hell Up In Harlem, with its frenetic opening deconstruction of Black Caesar’s final act, lets you know from the get-go that it’s going to be a wild ride through crazy town, and never disappoints.
Teleport City Journey to the 7th Planet So it was with barely contained boiling rage that I discovered Journey to the 7th Planet is not only dull, but it also steals, like a horrible goblin in the night, the one ray of joy it could have otherwise delivered to us. It does this by making up a wholly new pronunciation for Uranus, something that goes a little something like “Your Ahhh Niss.”
Bad Movie
Meteor For myself, I traveled a quarter century down the line to 1979 and the film that pretty much literally put AIP out of business. Sam Arkoff was running the show at this point, for AIP cofounder James H. Nicholson had passed away in 1972. I don’t know what persuaded him to do so, but Arkoff finally made the mistake that his protégé Roger Corman never did. He decided to challenge the major studios at their own game, and make big budget movies in hopes of big returns. In doing so, another showbiz legend would learn a lesson as old as the time: In the long run, the house always wins.
Braineater The Brain Eaters So there are monsters in The Brain Eaters — but they’re some of the worst alien invaders AIP ever came up with (and no; I haven’t forgotten Larry Buchanan).
The Unknown Movies Panic In Year Zero! I personally found the movie to be captivating from beginning to end. Sure, the movie has a few dated elements, but that happens to pretty much every movie eventually; I chose to view the movie through 1960s eyes. One way that the movie has not dated is its intelligent screenplay. Just about every action that the Baldwin family takes in this movie not only seems the correct thing to do at the time, but what they do could also be the correct thing to do in real life if (God forbid) there is a nuclear attack – even when they start to break the law.
1000 Misspent Hours and Counting Zontar, the Thing from Venus Zontar improves on its source in several significant ways, even as it also botches just about everything that had worked in the earlier film.