Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Seeing TEENAGE CAVEWOMEN....


The stunning poster created by Mala Mastroberte

    It was a big moment in my life, finally seeing a motion picture come to completion that I was personally involved with. As a life-long movie nut, the experience was pretty special. There was that mixture of excitement and fear anyone would feel. I finally had my name in a credit sequence, but what if the movie didn't smell too good? No need to worry about that. VOYAGE TO THE PLANET OF TEENAGE CAVEWOMEN was a terrific show! The film is a hysterical spot-on homage to those Italian space operas of the 60's. 



   Those who enjoyed Josh Kennedy's earlier ATTACK OF THE OCTOPUS PEOPLE will get a kick out of this one too. The new film is much slicker (in color and scope yet), and the scope achieved with such minimal resources is truly impressive. I'm eager to see Josh's next picture (which, if everything goes according to plan, will be another screenplay credit for myself as well)!

Captain Sullivan (Josh Kennedy) and Queen Lyna (April Gomez)


    I met Josh on Facebook, through our mutual friendship with Larry Blamire. Larry has fueled a lot of excitement for B movie fans via his films, including the immortal LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA. His films have offered a lot of encouragement to others who wish to pay tribute to the kind of films that just aren't seen anymore. Among these fans is Josh Kennedy, who poured his heart and soul into a parody of 50's B pictures he titled ATTACK OF THE OCTOPUS PEOPLE. I saw AOTOP when Josh was kind enough to send me a screener of the film. It was crude (technically speaking, although I don't say that in detriment to the film), but it was magical.

Leslie Ann Leal as Prima, the adorable youth


   Even at 16, Josh displayed a knowledge and understanding of old genre movies that seemed to surpass even my obsessive fascinations. I knew at once, Josh is going to be a cinematic force of tsunami-like proportions when he gets to work with an actual budget. His back yard epic was something unique even among this particular brand of low-budget spoof. Josh 'got' it. He wasn't out to make fun of 50's monster movies. He really wanted to make his own films in the same genre. Lacking resources to make a 'real' movie, Josh instead delivered a comedy which both parodies and tributes the efforts of the producer-of-limited-means.  As in the best parodies, the film even provides a genuinely scary scene or two. Josh actually managed to have his cake and eat it too.

"Either our instruments were wrong or everyone lives underground..."


    Amazingly, Josh hadn't gotten a distributor for AOTOP yet. By chance (or divine intervention) I had seen an ad where New Alpha, the distributorship wing of Alpha Video for contemporary movies, was seeking product. I alerted Josh to this and ATTACK OF THE OCTOPUS PEOPLE is now in video stores nation-wide! The film was even nominated for a Rondo Award! (Sadly, it lost to the horrible anthology film CHILLORAMA, yet another in a long line of awful projects to feature Eric Roberts -and not even in a starring role at that. Roberts is a good actor, why is it so hard for him to find work in decent films?) 

Viviana Rodriguez as Tanna, the female warrior


     Josh was also kind enough to send me a copy of his next film, CURSE OF THE INSECT WOMAN. One could already see Josh improving by leaps and bounds, and even trying for a straighter horror feel. I knew I wanted to work with this guy, and the chance presented itself through idle conversation.

Xavier Roberto Aguilar as Tony, the first mate


   Josh and I were both puzzled by FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE SPACE MONSTER. How do you come up with a title so wonderful and then make a movie that falls flat? How can you make a movie about Martians abducting bikini girls, and pitting their pet monster against a modern-day 'Frankenstein' astro-robot, and it come out sorta dull? It just doesn't compute. The film should've been right up there with THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH in delivering the cheesy goods! But it wasn't. Josh and I quickly concocted our own 60's beach invasion epic, and I wrote a script for him. That project proved to be too large to tackle, so THE BEACH PARTY TERROR got put on the back burner. Soon enough, though, Josh came to me with a new idea....

Every prehistoric planet populated by beautiful women also has giant spiders


    Having just watched BARBARELLA, Josh found himself wanting to make a sexy European sci-fi epic. BARBARELLA was just about the only 60's European space opera I hadn't seen, but I jumped at the chance to write a good pulpy space opera. Better still, we could create one of those lost-civilization-of-women-on-another-planet movies that Hollywood stopped producing with the sketch comedy AMAZON WOMEN ON THE MOON. Unsure how comical Josh wanted to be with the project, I decided to write a straight space opera, the kind of film I'd want to see. The result was VOYAGE TO THE PLANET OF TEENAGE CAVEWOMEN.

Queen Lyna and Prima confer with the earth men


    I wrote the film under circumstances that didn't allow for a page-count. The script I turned over turned out to be about half as long as it needed to be! By the time this became obvious, I was busy with other projects and couldn't devote the time to writing new scenes, although we discussed what the film needed and Josh filled in brilliantly. The finished film doesn't feel like a patch-job at all (other than where the film is SUPPOSED to feel like patch-work, of course).



   In short, the story concerns an approaching "cosmic holocaust" in the shape of two rogue planets joined together by a chain of gravity. The planets have been pushed out of their orbits and are hurtling toward Earth. One of the planets, Vigus, has a human population. Dashing young Captain Matt Sullivan and the crew of the United States space ship Astros must land on Vigus and remove the natives before an atomic missile strike blows the runaway planets out of the sky. Once there, Matt and his crew discover a civilization of teen-aged amazons....



   I provided a script that was cliched, but sincere. I wanted to see another film of this genre, and I wrote the picture I wanted to see. (Seeing the final film, I found some of my dialogue was a tad too flowery, but it seemed to add to the comedy.) Josh played the thing perfectly straight, and that is the source of much of the humor. The film is obviously supposed to be a fun adventure story, but one in which the limited production values make for some amusing elements (like prehistoric alien planets littered with tracks from bulldozers). Some of the gags are there because they seem so organic to the genre (such as a rocket that lands and the flames shooting out of it's tail vanish before the ship has completely landed).

Cassie Dean as Zora, the traitor


   Even so, the film looks much slicker than it could have. The landing rocket blends into the background plate (a real location) better than you usually see in these things, and the color is quite vibrant. Ultimately, I think Josh managed to deliver a picture that can be taken on its face value (as a cheesy sci-fi movie) or as sharp parody. The details are amazing. And like our model films, much of the finished product is the result of unexpected behind-the-camera circumstances.

Ralph Haskins intros the film and explains the science behind the picture


   Not long after finishing the script, but after Josh had started filming, I recalled that ambient noise tended to be a problem for Josh's outdoor shoots. Yet, his interior-shot footage has nice sound, and his talent at laying in music is top shelf. Since VTTPOTCW would involve so much location filming, I wondered if wind would spoil the takes. Inspiration struck, and we decided to film the picture silent and dub over it later, to further the resemblance to an Italian import. Josh jumped on this idea and embraced it. This left some footage with sync sound, but even that became a blessing, as all the scenes in question revolved around Matt's CO, Commander Mitchell. 

Ismael Rivera as Cameron Mitchell, er, Commander Mitchell


    Josh handled these scenes as if they were American-shot inserts ala Roger Corman, and they work beautifully as such. Since Josh appears in one of these scenes, it even looks like the American distributor got the original actor back to shoot for a single day! There's a scene toward the climax where Mitchell makes an appearance and you (provided you've feasted on a steady diet of such films all your life like I have) instinctively think the scene was squeezed into a perfectly normal scene transition at a later date.

In the future, communication devices will be worn on the wrist


   As to the dubbing, it seldom matches the actual lip movements of the cast. I really like a scene where one character spouts a couple of lines with a big pause between them, during which the actor continues to silently speak! Adding to the humor here is that all this was spoken in English to start with, as were many Italian films of this sort (but Italian films also tended to be shot without sync sound and the lines looped in later at the studio). The result is an American imitation of an Italian imitation of an American movie! But the imitation is sincere. Yeah, it's a comedy of sorts, but only because it isn't a comedy. It's people with more ambition than resources trying to make a science fiction epic. 



   In general, the film is well-cast. Filmed near the border in Edinburg and La Joya, Texas, the actors are mostly of obvious Mexican descent. That only adds to the flavor of the film, as they often come across as looking Italian or Spanish, with a token American lead tossed in. 

Capt. Sullivan chats with Mitchell's secretary, as played by the beauteous Gloria Salinas (who is actually one of Josh's teachers, lucky guy)


    One actor got his hair cut half-way through production, offering another fun glitch. Also adding to the fun (and in many ways grounding the film) are the Herman Stein music cues recorded for old Universal International movies. Not only is this perfect because such cues would be likely to turn up in 60's imports, but the grandness of the music gives some legitimacy to Josh's efforts.



   I have to say, I'm quite pleased to have the film as my first screen credit. Hopefully, the final cut will be on sale through New Alpha sooner than later. I'd say more about the film, but I don't wish to spoil anything for potential viewers.

Miranda Gracia, Miss Edinburg 2012, is special guest star


   Where to next? Well, after I'd seen the movie, Josh and I were discussing various aspects of it. One thing we both wanted to do was use Miranda Gracia in our next picture. Miss Gracia is 2012's Miss Edinburg, and this added some fuel to the film when Josh hired her for a small part. As the running time needed to be expanded, Josh gave Miranda a larger supporting role. Despite never having acted before, Miranda shows some real talent just waiting to escape. I found her reactions to be very natural, and her smile nothing short of adorable. I see a potential star on the rise, and Josh and I both want to help forge that talent if we can.



    I quickly drafted a script that would feature Miranda in a starring role, and the picture is set to start filming soon. Details when the time comes. For my part, the script was a complete tonal shift from VTTPOTCW. This new project, actually about the making of low-budget exploitation movies, had to be a lot sharper, script-wise. It'll be as much a test for my skills at character development as it will be for Miranda's skills as an actress. I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to seeing the final film!

Miranda Gracia, the rising star


   My sincere thanks and congratulations to every one involved in the production of VOYAGE TO THE PLANET OF TEENAGE CAVEWOMEN. You've made a life-long dream of mine come true. I'm in the movies!  Josh, I'm looking forward to many more cinematic adventures together!


The crew of the Astros, Michael Morales, Josh Kennedy, and Xavier Roberto Aguilar

One of my favorite sequences, an encounter with an alien monster

Stephanie Cisneros, a lovely source of exposition







Lunar Preymate

 A new Preymate from inker Jeff Austin and myself. I think this one is my favorite so far, obviously inspired by CAT WOMEN OF THE MOON.


Figure detail, would make great 'clip art'

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Betsy in Action

   A few images from Betsy the Bookwriter I happen to have scanned. The series was created by Jeff Austin and myself for Main Enterprises. Betsy's adventures can currently be seen in Main Enterprises Presents.

The very first panel of her very first story

Her second story

A more recent one, the space opera!

Ditto

Ditto.

From her second episode, the way most of them end!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Who's That Girl?

 This is interesting. I drew this from a photograph (well, the face, at any rate), and it looks nothing like the girl in the magazine. It does look like someone, though, and I can't quite figure WHO! Elizabeth MacRae was suggested, and I can see that, although I keep thinking it's someone else..... I just wish I knew for sure who it was I've drawn!

 

Friday, July 20, 2012

I'm Back!





   Actually, I hadn't gone anywhere, but the computer was moving so slowly as to make regular posting all but impossible. The problem seems to've been fixed, though, so we'll see if I get back in form pretty soon. To start with, here's a pair of cheesecake drawings I've recently scanned.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Man's World of Adventure on the 4th of July!

   Here's a little Independence Day gift for everyone! I just had to share these when I found them. I don't know who painted them, but their work is breath-taking! Enjoy!