Disclaimer: My reviews of media here do not mean that I lay any claim to the media in question. All reviews are entirely subjective. I may talk about how well the movie objectively works in my opinion, but it essentially all comes down to what I think of the movie. My liking a movie is not the same as thinking it's a great movie. If I trash a movie that you love, or love a movie you can’t stand, it’s not because I hate you. Also, all reviews are likely to contain SPOILERS. If you haven’t seen the movies in question and don’t want to know what happens, then you probably shouldn’t be reading about them here. Finally, a blanket trigger warning for people who don't want to read about common horror movie content such as sexism, racism, violence, etc.: I will likely discuss all of the above when they show up in the films I review, so please tread with caution. Check out this post for more on how my reviews are set up.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Horror Movie Reviews: I Was a Zombie for the FBI (1982)

Overall: C-
Acting: C
Writing: D
Story: C-
Technical aspects: C
Effects: C+

Directed by:
Marius Penczner

Larry Raspberry
James Raspberry
John Gillick
Laurence Hall
Christina Wellford

Passes the Bechdel test? Not to my recollection.
Specific warnings? None I can recall.

I have only seen the later DVD version, which is apparently not identical to the originally aired 1982 version.

            This movie was entertainingly silly. In some ways it’s probably more of a D film, but gets bumped to a C- just because it means so well and is so self-aware of its silliness. (Though unfortunately, it hasn’t aged well in my memory; Biophage for instance held up well in my mind, where this one I remember the negatives more than the positives.) The film is a parody of 50s B-movies, in the same vein as Lost Skeleton of Cadavera, though it appears to be a lower-budget more independent undertaking.
            The plot is as convoluted as one could hope when it comes to parodying 50s sci-fi and FBI agent type stories. A plane carrying a pair of criminal brothers, Bart Brazzo (John Gillick) and Bert Brazzo (Laurence Hall,) crashes in Pleasantville, and FBI agents Ace Evans (Larry Raspberry) and Rex Armstrong (James Raspberry) are sent on a case to find the brothers.
            But unknown to them, the plane was shot down by aliens! Aliens who have taken the Brazzo brothers hostage in the nearby Health Cola plant. Some time later, the criminal brothers go to a different cola plant, this time for Uni Cola, where they hold the secret cola recipe and an attractive reporter named Penny (Christina Wellford), (who also happens to be Ace Evans’ fiancĂ©e) hostage. They demand a ransom of one million dollars, which is provided. Ace and Rex thwart the brothers’ plans, sending them to jail. They rescue Penny, but the cola recipe is lost. Uni Cola is furious about the failure to retrieve their secret recipe, and Ace and Rex are reassigned.
            They are sent back to Pleasantville to investigate the strange zombie-like behavior among the townsfolk. They get a tip that the Health Cola plant is somehow responsible for the zombie behavior, and they figure out that it’s probably connected to the missing Uni Cola recipe as well.
            Showdown ultimately ensues in the Cola plant, where they must rescue the recipe (hidden in Penny’s necklace) and thwart the evil plans of the aliens who intend to control the world through the production of soft drinks. The final battle against a stop-motion monster that would make Harryhausen proud is truly a crowning moment.

            Honestly, I think the fact that this is a played-straight parody of 50s B-movies hides and in some ways excuses a lot of flaws. The acting is somehow both flat and over-the-top, but it fits with the parodies of stock-characters that the actors are portraying. The story itself is ridiculous and convoluted, to an extent that I’m afraid my summary above sounds a bit confused. This could have been intentional, but it could also have just been clumsy. The stylized black and white filming looks nice, so it gets points for that, and I especially loved a few of the shots of the buildings and other settings. And the effects, while apparently “updated” slightly for the DVD release, are delightfully silly. As mentioned, the stop-motion monster at the end is wonderfully ridiculous in a way that I really loved. On the downside, the movie kind of drags. In between some of the more ridiculous or action-heavy parts, the dialogue seems really unneeded, and it starts getting boring to sit through. Also, as most reviews mention, the title is quite misleading. There are zombie-like people, and there is the FBI, but there are no strict zombies, and definitely no zombies in the employ of the FBI.
            Ultimately, I think this may be a love it or hate it type film. If somewhat loving parodies of this nature appeal to you, this one is pretty good. It’s not as over-the-top silly as Lost Skeleton of Cadavera, but has the same deal going to some extent. But if that doesn’t appeal to you, there’s nothing else that will keep you interested.

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