Monday, August 31, 2009

All about 'Teenage Zombies'!

By Steve D. Stones

TEENAGE ZOMBIES: A Jerry Warren “Schlock-ster-piece.”

Anyone who wants to climb on board the convenient bandwagon of labeling Ed Wood as the “worst director of all time” needs to spend some time sitting through a Jerry Warren film. Wood, in my opinion, is the Ingmar Bergman of low-budget filmmaking in comparison to Jerry Warren. Warren’s films are like watching a seventh grade stage production: entertaining, but extremely amateurish and very hokey. He also fills his films with lots of voice over narration that very quickly becomes annoying to the viewer. Go watch Creature of The Walking Dead or the opening of The
Incredible Petrified World and you’ll see what I mean. Although Teenage
Zombies has its share of flaws, the one thing going for it is that it
does not have any of Warren’s trademark voice-over narration in the
entire film. That is a relief for anyone who mines his films.

A group of teenagers, lead by Don Sullivan, star of The Giant Gila
Monster and Monster of Piedras Blancas, discovers a remote island. They
explore the island and are captured by evil terrorist-scientist
Katherine Victor. Victor’s dopey slave zombie Ivan captures the teens
and holds them in a cage. Meanwhile Victor and her colleagues have plans
for world domination by developing mind-controlling capsules that they
hope to drop in the waters and streams of most major American cities,
thus turning people into mindless zombies. The plot is ludicrous, but
that’s it in a nutshell.

Friends of the captured teens group together and go searching for their
lost friends. They ask the aide of the local sheriff. When the search
party and the sheriff arrive at the island and are lead to Victor and
her colleagues, they discover that the sheriff is also in on the plot by
providing Victor with drunks and derelicts to test her mind-controlling
capsules on. The teens are able to escape by the end of the film, but
not without encountering a man in a cheesy gorilla costume.
Unfortunately, George Barrows is not the man in the costume. Eventually
they arrive back in their hometown and the military awards them an award
of bravery and a visit to the White House to meet the President.

If you’ve never seen a Jerry Warren film, I would suggest that you start
with his best film, which is Man Beast, followed by The Wild World of
Batwoman, also starring Katherine Victor. Batwoman was also released as:
She Was A Hippy Vampire. Apparently Warren had some copyright issues in
using the word batwoman in the first title. The Wild World of Batwoman
is a parody of the James Bond, Batman TV craze of the 1960s. If you
don’t take the film too seriously, it is a real hoot to watch. As for
Teenage Zombies, it may take some getting use to viewing a Warren film
before you can sit through this film. Happy viewing!!!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Rifftrax does Plan 9 From Outer Space live

By Steve D. Stones

Earlier in the summer, I had the opportunity to see my favorite cult
film of all time, Plan 9 From Outer Space, on the big screen at a new
library in my community. It has been a life-long dream of mine to see
Plan 9 on the big screen. That dream came true twice this summer with
the Rifftrax special engagement of Plan 9 From Outer Space, which played
in theaters for one screening only on Thursday August 20th. Rifftrax is
presented by three comic geniuses, Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill
Corbett, who were responsible for the Mystery Science Theater 3000 TV
program, which aired from 1988 to 1999. In recent years, all three have
also been involved in a project known as The Film Crew.

When I purchased a ticket and arrived at the movie theater, I was not
aware that the Rifftrax screening would be in “real time.” I assumed it
was pre-recorded like any other film playing in a movie theater. My
first clue should have been that it was a one-time screening, and that
the ticket cost $12.50. With that price, I thought perhaps I was
attending a rock concert of some washed up 1980s Heavy Metal band. Not
that I’m complaining. The screening was well worth the ticket price.

Broadcast from the music capitol of the world, Nashville, Tennessee, the
screening began with a music performance encouraging audience members to
sing, “All we want to do is eat your brains!!” Then, a 1940s short
entitled: The Flying Stewardesses was shown. It seemed appropriate to
screen this short, since Plan 9 casts a stewardess, played by Norma
McCarty. The short was hilarious. Nelson, Murphy and Corbett kept the
audience busy with laughter. My own laughter brought me to tears with
many of their comments. I have never attended a movie where the audience
members were laughing so frequently. This was a lot of fun!

As I watched the Rifftrax Plan 9, I observed that many of the comments
made were some of the same comments Mike Nelson makes for the commentary
of the colorized version of Plan 9, put out by Legend Films. For
example, in the opening scene where Bela Lugosi is attending the funeral
of his wife Vampira, Nelson observes that you can see Lugosi’s heroine
kick in as he begins to express emotion for the loss of his wife. Or,
as Criswell opens the film, Nelson makes the comment “Keep those cue
cards steady for Criswell.” Also, as pilots Gregory Walcott and David
DeMering sit inside a barren ply wood cockpit, Nelson says: “Look at all
that instrumentation! How do these pilots keep track of anything?”

My only disappointment with the Rifftrax screening of Plan 9 is that
they used the same colorized version of the film that was put out by
Legend Films. It was obvious to me because in the scene where Mona
McKinnon is lying on her bed in a night gown as the phone rings, you can
see one of the pictures hanging on the wall behind her bed has been
changed to a color photo of a couple. That picture is not in the
original black and white print of the film, and was inserted by the
folks at Legend Films as a gag. I much rather prefer the black and white
print of Plan 9.

Although Rifftrax already has a Plan 9 DVD out on the market for sale,
it will be interesting to see if they release this one time screening
version onto DVD in the near future. Perhaps Criswell once made the
prediction: “In the near future, I predict Rifftrax will release a Plan
9 DVD version that will entertain you for years to come!”

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

An interview with Best Worst Movie director Michael Stephenson

By Doug Gibson

This article originally appeared in on Aug. 11:

I had a great interview with Michael Stephenson, the director of the indy documentary “Best Worst Movie.” BWM is the story of “Troll 2,” a film Stephenson starred in as a child.The film was an unmitigated disaster that for a long time never played a theater in the world. Now it’s a cult film. How that happened, and how it changed the life of the cast, most notably an Alabama dentist named George Hardy who starred with Stephenson in “Troll 2,” is funny, heartwarming and interesting.

“Best Worst Movie,” which plays this weekend at the Salt Lake City Film Festival, is garnering great reviews on the festival circuit. There’s a chance the film will get a theatrical release early next year and a DVD release is planned for next spring.

Stephenson admits that for a long time he tried to forget “Troll 2.” I asked him when he first began to realize the film was gaining a cult following.

“It was about four years ago,” he says. He started receiving MySpace messages from young people asking if he was the boy in “Troll 2.” The messages came with pictures of fans recreating scenes from the film, such as eating green “goblin” food. (”Troll 2″ is really about vegetarian human-consuming goblins, which adds to its lunacy.)

Stephenson noticed that these “Troll 2″ fans didn’t seem to know about each other. “I became intrigued,” he said, adding, “I’m the star of the worst movie … There’s a story here.”

Stephenson, still a working actor and living in LA, called Hardy and things started to roll from there. The first theatrical screening was in New York City. The premiere there of “Troll 2″ was a huge success. Since then, it’s played to large crowds in many cities.

Stephenson decided to make the charismatic Hardy the focus of the documentary “Best Worst Movie.” “He’s so genuine. He’s so likable,” says Stephenson, adding that Hardy represents what makes “Troll 2″ overcome anonymity: he has real sincerity and great rapport with the film’s fans.

The “Troll 2″ fans are as unique as “Best Worst Movie” portrays them, says Stephenson. They can also surprise, he says. “In Seattle a kid came dressed up as a tree in a pot and his friends dragged him into the theater,” recalls Stephenson laughing. (The fan was paying homage to segments of “Troll 2″ that featured North Ogden actor Darren Ewing.)

Stephenson was just a kid when “Troll 2″ was filmed, mostly in Morgan County, and was amazed to learn facts about cast members that he didn’t know then. Utahn Don Packard, who played a goblin store owner in “Troll 2,” admits in “Best Worst Movie” that he was a mental institute outpatient while making “Troll 2.” In the documentary, Packard admits he literally wanted to kill the young Stephenson. “I wasn’t acting,” he says.

Other cast members Stephenson reconnected with included “Grandpa Seth” Robert Ormsby and the reclusive Margo Prey, who played his mom in the film. The visit to her home, recounted in BWM, “was the bright spot of her year,” he said.

The director of “Troll 2″ is Claudio Fragasso, a veteran Italian filmmaker. After “Troll 2,” Stephenson made another film with Fragasso. Called “Beyond Darkness,” or “House 5″ or a couple of other titles, it’s a haunted house tale set in New Orleans. Stephenson played a possessed boy. Fragasso said the film made money in Europe, but it remains largely forgotten as “Troll 2″ grows in popularity.

Fragasso is a fascinating man. He can be a showman and play to the crowd in BWM, but Stephenson captures his anger at “Troll 2″ being called the “worst film” of all time. In BWM, during a “Nilbog Invasion” event in Morgan, Fragasso is visibly angry at criticism of his film.

Nevertheless, Fragasso and his partner, “Troll 2″ screenwriter Rossella Drudi, plan to make a Troll 2: Part 2. Stephenson is conflicted by the idea of a sequel, but I get the feeling he would — again — get intrigued enough to try.

“You can’t create something like “Troll 2″ intentionally,” he says. But then he adds, “maybe they (Fragasso and Drudi) will do it again.”

Recently “Troll 2″ was placed on, where fans can watch it for free on the Net. I can also be watched via its page.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Steve's take on Best Worst Movie

BEST-WORST MOVIE: The dentist will see you now!

By Steve D. Stones

Just how does a popular and beloved dentist from Alabama, who also happens to star in the 1980s cult classic Troll II, spend his day? That is the subject of Michael Stephenson’s excellent documentary “Best-WorstMovie.” The documentary also focuses on the fanatical fan following of Troll II, and many interesting interviews of eccentric cast members. Dr. George Hardy is a great highlight of the documentary.

I remember seeing Troll II playing late one summer night on cable TV in the early 1990s. I didn’t think much of it, and immediately switched the channel. “This movie really stinks,” I remember thinking to myself. Boy
was I wrong! Now after seeing it a dozen times or so and becoming a big fan, I realize my initial judgment was too harsh and quick.

The great thing about “bad movies” is that they cannot be intellectually defended as great entertainment, or even great works of art, for that
matter. However, they are like a sick lost puppy that you want to take
home and nurse back to health, even though you know the pup will never
survive. You learn to develop a personal “taste” for “bad movies” over
time. Fans of Troll II have definitely nursed it back to health, and it
has survived as a cult phenomenon.

Best-Worst Movie is a documentary that even non-cultists can enjoy,
although it does help to be a fan of Troll II. It is truly amazing to
see that screenings of the film in big city venues in recent years have
sold out to standing room only crowds. The collectibles associated with
the film, such as t-shirts, buttons and posters have also done quite
well. I’m happy to report that I’m a proud owner of a Troll II-NILBOG
Invasion poster from the Morgan, Utah Festival last summer in 2008. I
proudly hang it in my living room.

Best Worst is full of many humorous and insightful moments that hold the
viewer’s attention. Dr. Hardy roller-skating as the tooth fairy is one
particularly hilarious moment. He walks into a local video store and
asks the clerk behind the counter where he can find a copy of Troll II
to rent. The clerk informs him that “It’s in the Holy F*cking Sh*t
section.” Now that is funny!! I just about spit my dinner everywhere as
I was watching this scene.

While attending a horror movie convention to promote Troll II, Dr. Hardy
observes that many horror fans walking around have a bad case of
gingivitis. His dentist instincts seem to follow him everywhere he goes.
He also becomes gravely sickened by many of the displays by vendors at
the convention. He tells the cameraman at the airport that he’s glad
director Claudio Fragasso is not around so that he can steal the
spotlight for the day. This is one funny and interesting man! Everyone
loves him, even his ex-wife.

As the documentary comes to an end, Dr. Hardy reveals some truthful and
insightful information. He tells us that he has grown tired of repeating
and acting out his now famous “You can’t piss on hospitality! I won’t
allow it” line from the film. He goes on to say that it has become too
boring and predictable for him to recite that line over and over again
for fans, and wonders if Celine Dion feels the same way in singing the
theme song for Titanic thousands of times. I would have to say that I
have every intention of watching Best-Worst Movie over and over again,
and will enjoy it every time I view it. I hope you will enjoy it too.

To watch Troll 2 go to

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Best Worst Movie is coming to SLC!!!

This Friday and Saturday "Best Worst Movie," Michael Stephenson's funny, quirky look at the cult film Troll 2, which he starred in as a kid, will be at the Tower Theater in SLC as part of the Salt Lake City Film Festival. It plays Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 12:30 p.m. Saturday night "Troll 2" plays at 9:30 p.m. For more info, go to:

I (Doug Gibson) reviewed the film today in the Standard-Examiner:

Here's a trailer to "Best Worst Movie" below: