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DVD Review: Monster A-Go Go

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What a glorious day Tuesday, October 19, 2010, is! ‘Tis the day we have long awaited—for Tuesday, October 19, marks the release of Monster A-Go Go, in celebration of that iconic film’s 45th anniversary. Why iconic? When it was released in 1965, its impact was so great that it was billed as “The picture that could set our space program back at least 50 years.”

While plot is important in most films, Monster A-Go Go dispenses with that stale device and presents an abstract, surrealistic film, using the screen as its Dadaist canvas.  Just as art was meant to appeal to the senses, Dada was meant to offend, and as movies were meant to entertain, Monster A-Go Go succeeds in being so grossly anti-entertainment (as Dada was “anti-art”) that it is a masterpiece of awful film-making. A movie so bad, even its director, Bill Rebane, calls it “shit.” (Among the many accolades awarded Monster A-Go Go, Mystery Science Theater 3000 voted it “The Worst Movie Ever.” Ever!)

The story is simple and classic sci-fi. The ponderous narration begins, “What you are about to see may not even be possible within the narrow limits of human understanding.”

A space capsule returns to earth, but where is the astronaut? What are those strange burns in the field where it landed? The scientists in charge of the investigation don’t take soil samples or other evidence. A helicopter pilot, who was assisting in the search for  the missing capsule so that it could be returned to the space agency astrophysical labs in Chicago, lands and dies (“horribly mangled in a way no one had ever seen before”), his blood turned to powder (which obviously accounts for the fact that he was completely “shriveled”).

Soon we learn there is a “monster”—a 10-foot tall man spreading radioactive havoc. What caused this mess? The “radiation repellant” the astronaut was treated with before he was sent into space. What caused this mess of a movie? Perhaps it was the fact that first-time director Rebane had so many union and financial problems that he shelved it, then turned the project over to “infamous gore and exploitation producer” Herschell Gordon Lewis. Is it just a typo on the DVD box where Lewis is referred to as Herschell Gorgon Lewis?

Bill Rebane blames Lewis for the mess that is Monster A-Go Go (Rebane especially despises the title. His original? Terror at Half Day), but viewers know better. Military personnel wear uniforms with kooky insignia and drive around in showboat sedans. The acting is…I don’t think there’s actually a word in the English language that would adequately describe the acting “talent.” The film is padded with scenes of people reacting to a radio broadcast, twisting teens,  and bikini-clad young women, while the narrator-from-hell (without whom there would be no continuity, inadequate as it is) booms the narration at double the decibels of the movie which is so inexpertly sound-recorded, the audience can’t hear or understand many of the actors’ lines.

Another reason the audience can’t hear the dialogue is that it’s simply impossible to watch this film and not speak. Every line, set, situation, and character provokes comment and question. The popcorn maker can’t keep up with the demand for product to throw at the screen.

With its awful camera work, it’s day—it’s night—it’s day lighting techniques, awful script and screenplay, bizarre sound effects and incidental “music,” and miserable special effects and props (including a space capsule that isn’t big enough for one of Paris Hilton’s dogs), there is only one thing missing from Monster A-Go Go—Ed Wood’s name attached to the project. This film stinks of “Hey, if Ed Wood can make a movie, so can I!” The audience knows it’s in trouble when it starts looking for Bela Lugosi. But even if Bela made an appearance, it would be brief—characters are introduced who simply disappear from the rest of the film (so what was Mommy’s relationship to “Uncle” Frank and when is Jimmy going to get that ice cream soda?).

Great scenes include:

  • Two military men in a vehicle listening to the helicopter pilot’s last transmission: one asks the other “what happened?” The other doesn’t say, “Were you not just here when that call came in?,” but instead replies, “Sounds like he’s in trouble.” Really?
  • A couple in a silent restaurant. He asks her if she remembers “that song,” and asks if she would like to dance. When she says “no” he replies “good.”
  • Two scientists talking in a lab. After being told he jeopardized the project, one says “What the hell do you want from me, Dr. Brent? I don’t have a precision mind like yours…I made a mistake…chalk me up as incompetent.” Dr. Brent responds “It’s all right, Conrad.”
  • Two soldiers on the lookout for the “monster:  “What are we supposed to do if something happens, just stand here?” “Shut up and watch the scope.”
  •  A bizarre out-of-gas lady-in-distress/truck driver scene that defies description.

Finally, it ends—suddenly, incomprehensibly. The narrator intones, “The line between science ficition and science fact is microscopically thin. You have witnessed the line being shaved even thinner. But is the menace with us, or is the monster gone?” The denouement defies reason, sanity, logic, and the rest of the screenplay.

Thousands of words could be written describing this delightful film, and—yes—it is delightful, but could not compare with the pleasure of watching it. There is so much wrong with Monster A-Go Go, so many inconsistencies and impossibilities, that one could—and should—write a book (complete with screen shots).

DVD extras include two unintentionally hilarious shorts by Bill Rebane, “Twist Craze” and “Dance Craze.” Rebane, for whatever reason, seems to have been fascinated with the twist, including it in Monster A-Go Go and creating these short films around it. While “Twist Craze” is an inane look at a dance party, “Dance Craze” is like an acid trip to a discotheque; the first is “documentary,” the second is (maybe) comedy. Also included is a theatrical trailer that actually makes fun of the movie; a Bill Rebane interview in which the director contradicts himself on Lewis’s input, decries unions, and—when asked his thoughts on the film— says, “I think it’s the worst picture ever made.  I am amazed, I can’t figure out why, how this happens, but evidently …I keep asking myself why do they want to see shit like that? I really mean that…I am very surprised it’s still got legs”; and  an audio commentary with Rebane and cult film historian Joe Rubin.

Bottom Line: Would I buy/rent/stream Monster A-Go Go? Absolutely—it’s hilarious. I’ve seen Monster A-Go Go several times already (including MST3K’s enhanced version), and if anybody does write that book, I need a copy. In the meantime, I am more than satisfied with Scary Monster Magazine, a booklet included with Monster A-Go Go, filled with pictures and interviews.

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About Miss Bob Etier

  • Geeeek Girl

    My god. You are so brilliant! I almost pee’d myself. Thanks.