Continuing Education

Professor Fred’s Top 10 All Around, Best-Ever Schlock Films Under the Sun

For more years than we dare count, Fred Hopkins has curated a cabinet of cinematic Imagecuriosities via his SCCtv series Professor Fred’s Movie Marvels and his very popular CE class, Schlock Cinema. Each quarter CE students reap the benefit of Professor Fred’s film erudition as he releases nearly a half dozen fractured flicks from his vault, delivering the sort of oddball, bottom drawer product Hollywood would like-as-not prefer kept sealed away. Professor Fred speaks to the contrary, declaring such films as delightful challenges to our culture’s storytelling conceits. Present and of late, Professor Fred was kind enough to take a break from his busy schedule to highlight for us his Top 10 all-time favorite Schlock films— the Best of the Bad as it were. Here they are, in no particular order, Professor Fred’s Top 10 All Around, Best-Ever Schlock Films Under the Sun. We supplied the plot info, Professor Fred supplied the fine points.  Enjoy… and please don’t blame the messenger.

The Bride and the Beast (1958, Allied Artists. Dir Adrian Weiss).

Plot: Newlyweds Dan and Laura dream of a happy life together, but Dan keeps a pet gorilla in the basement and Laura finds herself far more smitten with the great ape than her new groom. The plot swings over the treetops when it’s revealed through hypnosis that Laura was Queen of the Gorillas in a previous incarnation. Everything goes ape from then on out.

Points: “Ed Wood wrote part of the screenplay and we get to see two different actors playing Gorillas in equally moth-eaten Ape Suits. What would you do if your wife turned out to be the ancient Queen of the Gorillas?  Tell the truth!”

Door-to-Door Maniac (Alternatively titled Five Minutes to Live) (1961, Somera Productions-Flower Film Productions. Dir Bill Karn).

Plot: When a suburban bank robbery goes awry, the ringleader hires a hard-up lowlife to take the wife of the bank's vice president hostage. When it all goes wrong, somebody will have to…walk the line.

Points: “Johnny Cash makes his screen debut as a down-on-his-luck hoodlum posing as a door-to-door salesman—with Vic Tayback, Donald Woods, Pamela Mason, Ron Howard, and Merle (“16 Tons”) Travis. Horrible, but what a cast!”

Beware The Blob! (Alternately titled as Son of Blob, Son of the Blob or The Blob Returns(1972, Jack H. Harris Enterprises, Inc. Dir Larry Hagman)

Plot: In this direct sequel to the 1958 Steve McQueen classic The Blob, the 14-year time-lag between the first and second film flows like crimson protoplasm when an Arctic oil company worker returns home to LA with a sample of sentient slime in his luggage. The pejorative protoplasm first consumes a housefly and then quickly works its way up the food chain until it makes a meal of a skating rink, resulting in one quagmire of a climax.

Points: “This was TV Actor Larry Hagman’s (I Dream of Jeannie, Dallas) feature directorial debut and must have been a party to make as it was filmed in and around Hagman’s beachfront home with a cast recruited from his famous friends and neighbors. With Shelley Berman, Godfrey Cambridge, Larry Hagman, Carol Lynley, Dick Van Patten, Cindy Williams and Larry Norman making a meal of the scenery, it’s a wonder the slime monster didn’t starve. What more do you need to know?”

Mars Needs Women (1967, American International Television. Dir Larry Buchanan)

Plot: Martians have developed a genetic deficiency and can now only breed male children (and run a high risk of the entire race being mansplained into extinction). They launch a mission to Earth to recruit women willing to produce female, half-Martian offspring but find themselves intercepted by the US Military. Resorting to hypnosis, the Martians find four likely candidates; a homecoming queen, a stewardess, a stripper and a Pulitzer Prize-winning scientist who’s an expert in "space genetics"…which makes about as much sense as anything.

Points: “Mars Needs Women…So do all the other planets---don’t they? Featuring the talents of erstwhile Mouseketeer and failed teen heart throb Tommy Kirk, the best scene is where Kirk and his fellow Martians are acting weird in a bar and the bartender asks them where they’re from.  Their reply: ‘Seattle!’ See? It was the Martians that put us on the map, folks. Blame them for the length of your commute.” 

Old Mother Riley Meets the Vampire (1952, Blue Chip Films. Dir John Gilling) (Alternatively titled Mother Riley Meets the Vampire, Vampire Over London and My Son, The Vampire).

Plot: Nearing his career nadir, Bela Lugosi stars as Von Housen, a supervillain bent on world domination utilizing his army of 50,000 uranium powered, radar-controlled robots. He also fancies himself a vampire and as such has several young women abducted. One in particular Imagehas in her possession a map to a uranium mine Von Housen needs to power his army. Sadly, his only functioning robot was mistakenly shipped to Old Mother Riley’s shop. Von Housen abducts Mother Riley to regain his robot and comedy ensues.

Points: “There are seventeen Old Mother Riley comedies featuring a cranky, incoherent, discombobulated Irish washerwoman produced in England produced between 1936 and 1952. The final film, which starred Bela Lugosi as a ‘pseudo’ vampire was the only one released in the US.  Bela’s next film was the equally awful Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla.  Thank God Ed Wood came along and salvaged his career!”

The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!? (1964, Fairway International Pictures. Dir Ray Dennis Steckler)

Plot: Three friends: Jerry, Angela and Harold visit a carnival and stumble upon a group of occultists and disfigured monsters. The horror starts when a fortune teller predicts a dire future for the trio. Jerry soon gets hypnotized by a besmirched occultist, turns into a zombie and goes on a rampage. The film was billed as the first “Monster Musical” and features such break-out tunes as "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie" and "Shook out of Shape".

Points: “This film stands for one proposition:  Never, repeat NEVER, make fun of gypsy fortune tellers! Written, directed by and starring the wonderful Ray Dennis Steckler, whom I once got the chance to meet.  Ray is the closest thing to Ed Wood since Ed Wood.  If you like this movie, you must see Ray’s magnum opus, Rat Pfink a Boo Boo!”

Invasion of the Saucer Men (1962, American International Pictures. Dir Edward L Cahn) (Alternatively titled Invasion of the Hell Creatures)

Plot: When a flying saucer lands in lover’s lane, a lone hydrocephalic occupant meets an unfortunate end under the wheels of a teen’s roadster. A drunken opportunist (Frank Gorshin), stumbles across the diminutive alien's corpse and plans to stash it in his refrigerator with dreams of exploiting it for fame and fortune. The deceased alien’s compatriots soon arrive and exact revenge on the hapless drunk by injecting alcohol into his veins via their retractable hypodermic needle fingernails. The police discover the dead drunk and accuse the teens of foul play while the hand of the dead alien detaches itself, grows an eye and starts a single-handed campaign of havoc.

Points: “Between 1931 and 1962, Ed Cahn directed 124 B-movies like It! The Terror from Beyond Space and Girls in Prison. He deserves some kind of merit badge. Frank “The Riddler” Gorshin co-stars in this thriller about what happens when an amorous teen happens to run over an unfriendly space monster in lover’s lane.  See space monsters get angry—go vroom!

Untamed Women (1952, Medallion TV Enterprises. Dir W Merle Connel)  

Plot: During World War II, an American bomber pilot is found adrift aboard a raft. After being administered a truth serum, he tells the doctor a story of how his plane was shot down and he and his surviving crew washed up on an island inhabited by a tribe of beautiful primitive cave-women, dinosaurs and a group of savage cavemen bent on abducting the women for breeding purposes. Too low budget for original dinosaur footage, the film poached sequences from Hal Roache’s One Million BC (1940).

Points: “Untamed Women was directed by W Merle Connell (from Yakima, WA!).  You’ve never heard of the director or the cast, except for perhaps Lyle Talbot  (Glen or Glenda, Plan 9 From Outer Space, Jail Bait and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet), but this is a memorable ‘desert island’ Schlock film simply because it takes itself completely seriously.  Everyone in the cast is playing it straight, pushing the film beyond the confines of exploitation.  To take Andy Warhol’s quote one step further ‘There’s almost no ‘there’ there!’”

Empire of the Ants (1977, American International Pictures. Dir Bert I Gordon)

Plot: This larger-than-life tale finds a group of wealthy Floridian investors led by a shady land developer (Joan Collins) pitted against giant, mind-controlling mutant ants. The beleaguered group flees the giant ants through a swamp, only to have their numbers reduced by the marauding insects. They make their way to secluded town only to discover its inhabitants laboring under the ants’ pheromonal thrall in the local sugar refinery.

Points: “Directed by Bert I Gordon (AKA Mr. B.I.G), who is almost singularly responsible for the ‘Giant Monster Movie’ fad of the ‘60s and ‘70s (Village of the Giants, The Food of the Gods and The Amazing Colossal Man).  Bert is a wonderful man and this is one of his best films—with Joan Collins hamming it up as a sleazy real-estate agent trying to dump useless Imageswamp land on befuddled seniors who don’t look like they have the money anyway.  Sales are also hurt by the appearance of giant, angry, hostile, discombobulated ants. Let’s be glad HG Welles (who wrote the original story) never had to watch this!”

Creation of the Humanoids (1962, Emerson Film Enterprises. Dir Wesley Barry)

Plot: In a world devastated by nuclear war, humanity has grown dependent upon human-like robot servants designed to fill the gaps in a waning population that suffers from decreasing birth rate. A fanatical organization tries to prevent the robots from becoming too human, fearing that they will take over. Meanwhile, a scientist experiments with creating human replicas that have genuine emotions and memories.

Points: “Directed by Wesley Barry, a guy who had been a popular child star in several silent movies during the 1920’s.  Robots are acting more human than humans in this stark, but compellingly weird film.  Cast includes Don Megowan (The Creature Walks Among Us) and Dudley Manlove (Plan 9 From Outer Space).  Rumor has it that Humanoids was Andy Warhol’s favorite film because it has the happiest ending he’s ever seen.”

A special thanks to the inestimable Professor Fred for compiling this extensive list for us. To learn more about Schlock Cinema, visit our CE online course catalog.