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3 Fabulously Awful Grade-B Science Fiction Movies
By Joan Whetel
What is science fiction? Technically it could be defined as a genre of fiction books and films that is usually based on scientific discoveries and developments that are speculative in nature. These discoveries and developments may be in the area of environmental changes, travel in space, extraterrestrial life forms, medical advances, and technological advances, all of which play heavily into the plot and back story of the sci-fi book or film.
There's a sub-genre of science fiction when it comes to films, known as the Grade-B science fiction movie. They are considered to be low budget films which, even in the early days of Hollywood, tended to be the "bottom half" of a double feature, mainly because they would never be promoted in the "how to make a movie" category of filmmaking instruction books. Grade-B sci-fi films generally weren't well publicized because most people going to watch a double feature tended to arrive late, part way through the first movie. After all, they were really paying to see the main feature that followed.
For many science fiction / fantasy lovers today, though, grade-b sci-fi is hugely appealing. They love to pull out their copies of the oldies but goodies - or maybe I should say baddies - because they are so-o-o-o bad they're hilariously fun to watch. Here are three grade-b sci-fi movies that are fabulously awful. If you haven't seen them, and you love grad-b sci-fi, check them out. Even if grade-b films aren't on your science fiction movie list, these are worth watching at least once. Just for the laughs.
Reptilicus (1961) is a knock-off of the Godzilla films, starring Bent Mcding, Asbjorn Andersen and Povi Woldike, and directed by Sidney W. Pink. It was made in Denmark and appears to be poorly lip-sinked by English speaking actors. The general plot goes like this: Some miners in Denmark accidentally dig up a portion of a prehistoric reptile tail, which they turn over to an aquarium in Copenhagen. The aquarium scientists store it in a lab and begin running tests on it. The power goes out after a freak thunderstorm, which causes the tail to regenerate into a huge monster that roams the country, terrorizing the people and destroying everything in its wake, unless some way can be found to stop the creature.
Bubba Ho-Tep (2002) is a modern take on the grade-b science fiction genre, starring Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis, Ella Joyce and directed by Don Coscarelli. It takes place in a nursing home, where two of the patients believe they are Elvis and JFK, reincarnated as an African American. What better way to hide the fact that he was never assassinated? It seems a truck transporting a mummy from one museum to another, crashes near the nursing home, which is conveniently situated out in the middle of nowhere. The mummy is stored on the premises by someone at the nursing home. Each night the mummy comes to "life" and roams the nursing home wearing a cowboy hat, trying to regenerate by killing the residents, one-by-one, and swallowing their souls as the souls leave the bodies of the recently deceased. Elis and JFK join forces to try and stop Bubba Ho-Tep.
Bubba Ho-Tep Trailer
Bubba Ho-Tep - A Flutter
"Plan 9 from Outer Space"
Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) has probably earned the title of "worst movie ever made" for good reason. It stars Gregory Walcott, Tom Keene, and Mona McKinnon, with the small part of the Ghoul Man played by Bela Lugosi. In truth, Lugosi never spoke in this movie, and he should have been on screen more, all because of one itty-bitty problem. Lugosi died somewhere in the middle of the filming process. Rather than be knocked out of the game by this little predicament, Director Edward D. Wood hired another actor to take over the role of the Ghoul Man. This actor walks around the grave yard, with his cape covering most of his face, but even this doesn't hide the fact that the new actor doesn't even remotely resemble Bela Lubosi.
Anyway, the plot of Plan 9 From Outer Space is the story of a group of space aliens who have come to Earth to prevent humans from developing the Solaranite bomb (which nobody seems to know anything about) by turning everyone into zombies and vampires. Besides the obvious mis-casting of Lugosi's replacement, what truly makes this such a wonderfully awful grade-b science fiction film is that the stage sets are so simplistic and have nothing scientific about them - the bridge of the alien ship consists of a fold out table, a chair which the captain sits at, and a backdrop of heavy draperies. The script is the worst writing anyone could possibly imagine. On top of that, the way the scenes were pieced together does nothing to help the plot along. In fact, it looks like a bunch of mini-skits intermingled with a bunch of stock footage that someone dug up from the film company's archives. Like I said, this film earned the title of "worst movie ever made" but it's definitely worth sitting through, and laughing through, at least once.