Monstervision's Joe Bob Briggs Looks At

Phantasm 3: Lord of the Dead

"Joe Bob's Drive-In" for 12/5/94
By Joe Bob Briggs
Drive-In Movie Critic of Grapevine, Texas

I just got kicked out of a hotel bar for smoking a cigar.
I don't mind so much gettin kicked out, cause it was a 15-dollar Bolivar and I managed to save it without havin to smush it out in an ashtray. But what bugged me was: THERE WAS NOBODY IN THE BAR!
And I was in the SMOKING SECTION!
Am I the only one, or has anybody else noticed that cigar-smokers are just slightly above heroin addicts in terms of social respectability? My buddy Fred Olen Ray, the B movie director, once had to put out a cigar he was smoking at a CARNIVAL--in the OPEN AIR! People complained about the smell as they were walking by on the Midway! And I can vouch for Fred. He doesn't smoke cheap cigars. If they hated the smell, then they hated the smell of the finest tobacco in the world.

It's also interesting to me that, the more expensive the restaurant, the more they LIKE cigars, and the cheaper the restaurant, the more they HATE cigars. You can still smoke cigars in all the restaurants of the Plaza Hotel in New York, but you can NEVER smoke a cigar in the smoking section of a McDonald's.
Anyhow, here's my only point on this. I don't mind being considered the scum of the earth for cigar-smokin, but I'd like to point out a couple things.
Numero Uno, it's the CIGARETTES that smell bad. And the reason they smell bad is that most of what you're smelling is PAPER. People are burning paper. A cigar, on the other hand, is one hundred per cent tobacco leaf. Cigarettes were invented in the 1890's as a way to sell the WASTE PRODUCTS from cigars--the part left over--the SMELLY PART. So why should people favor cigarettes over cigars, especially in public places?
Numero Two-o, when people say "How can you put that poison into your body?" they're missing the point again. A cigar is something you taste, in your mouth, like cognac. A cigarette is something you draw into your LUNGS, to get a rush, like opium.
Numero Three-o, when people complain about cigars, they're not REALLY complaining about the particular cigar you happen to be smoking. They're really saying, "You're a disgusting human being for havin that thing at all."
In other words, it's not the cigar that people hate. It's the guy that smokes it. I don't know why this is, but, believe me, I'm a veteran of the tobacco wars.
It's true.
That's why, when you meet a Cigar Guy these days, it's like an instant bonding thing. You become friends for life. It never fails. Even if the guy smokes Romeo-and-Juliets and he HATES the taste of your Partagas, he never hates the SMELL of your Partagas. He's in the club. He knows. He's ready to go all the way with you, even if it means gettin kicked out in the street TOGETHER.
I kinda like this. Don't ask me why, but I do.

movie poster Speaking of great American traditions under attack, The Tall Man is back in "Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead." We get a new Phantasm movie about--what?--ever six, seven years. And every time the producers ASSUME that we remember the plot of the last movie, when the truth is, nobody could even figure out the plot of the very FIRST one. Basically it's about this real ugly-lookin old skinny guy who goes around collecting dead bodies, and the way you know he's coming is that a flying Christmas tree ornament with daggers stickin out of it tries to imbed itself in your skull right before The Tall Man shows up. There's always a lot of talk about who The Tall Man is, where he is, where he comes from, whether he's dead or alive, why he wants the dead bodies, what the flying Christmas tree ornaments are for--and I never understand a WORD of it. But it's neato-mosquito special effects, with all kinds of exploding goo.

This time The Tall Man, as played by the ghostly Angus Scrimm, is hangin around eastern Oregon, going from small town to small town, cleanin out the mortuaries while his army of zombie monks roam the countryside in pink hearses, trying to kill the remaining members of the cast.

One cool thing about the "Phantasm" movies is that the hero ALWAYS drives a Hemi Cuda, the most outrageous muscle car ever to legally prowl the highways. And this is no exception, as bald-headed Reggie Bannister sets out to find The Tall Man and rescue his dead brother's soul. Meanwhile, he joins up with Kevin Connors, a little kid who's become a Grade School Rambo ever since both his parents were killed by The Tall Man. And the two of THEM join up with a crewcutted black Amazon kung-fu queen named Rocky to destroy all the evil forces of the universe.
Multiple brain damage ensues.
It's no "Phantasm TWO," but it's still pretty dang decent.

Twenty-three dead bodies.
Two breasts.
Exploding eyes.
Multiple fireballs.
Exploding hearse.
Zombie monks feeding on human flesh.
Multiple exploding heads.
Electric drill attack.
Needle to the neck.
Hatchet to the forehead.
Daggers to the forehead.
One flying monster hand with teeth.
One motor vehicle chase, with crash and burn.
Heads roll.
Hands roll.
Gratuitous 1970 426 Hemicuda convertible.
Kung Fu.
Baseball bat Fu.
Frisbee-with-a-razor-edge Fu.
Cryogenic spear Fu.
Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Angus Scrimm, as The Tall Man, for saying "Nothing is EVER as it seems";
Kevin Connors, as the kid who takes no prisoners, for saying "The Tall Man got my family";
Reggie Bannister, as the man trying to rescue his brother, for trying to sleep with the hot kung-fu mama by saying "Ever try vanilla?";
and Gloria Lynne Henry, as the kung-fu soul sister, for gettin into a hellacious catfight with a zombie.
Three stars.
Joe Bob says check it out.


Victory Over Communism! The Twin Drive-In in Wheeling, Ill., sometimes draws 1,000 cars for a single movie on a single night, and it has THREE giant screens. The Twin is one of the few drive-ins still owned by a national chain (Loews), which makes sense because only a big corporation could give a three-screen theater the name "Twin." The Twin has a fully functioning playground and is rented out as a flea market on the weekends. Walter Szewczyk of Lombard reminds us that, with eternal vigilance, the drive-in will never die. To discuss the meaning of life with Joe Bob, or to get free junk in the mail and Joe Bob's world-famous newsletter, "The Joe Bob Report," write Joe Bob Briggs, P.O. Box 2002, Dallas, TX 75221. Joe Bob's Fax line is always open: 214-985-7448. Joe Bob even hangs out on CompuServe: 76702,1435.

Dear Joe Bob,
"Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend"--rather, your review of it--got me thinking on an idea. Do you think it would be financially advantageous for us to turn it into a play? I have the theater in New York already picked out--you know, the one where Little Shop of Horrors had its run. It's my considered opinion that N.Y. is starving for some campy tits and ass. I even smell a little high tragedy. Tragedy, absurdism and voyeurism are a few of the subjects I consider myself an expert on. I also made a half-hour release printed on 16mm in college for under a thousand. Six professors at OSU and my "Playboy" bunny girlfriend acted in my mock documentary where film had been outlawed and was coming back after 20 years. Then I show an art film with every art film gimmick in one stunning montage film that is supposedly a normal film. Enough about me. I think we should start the play off, maybe prologue and epilogue, with a drive-in filmmaker character. The possibilities are endless: comedy, serious, musical?
So what do you say me and you put some actresses to work? We might even make money as genius pimps.

More about me. I almost had a film critique book published a couple of years ago when I was living in N.Y. I almost set myself up as a critic of film critics in a book for video rental consumers. Enclosed are some examples. ICM considered publishing it. Aside from that, my claim to fame is that I was for three years one of New York's leading barfly HIV-negatives. Life in the fast lane. When my girlfriend left me for a cartoonist with a house in Malibu, I went to N.Y. to look for her. I am now a lonely gambler by trade in Columbus. Help me, please. I used to know Andy Warhol, and Michael Caine once said I would never amount to anything. Maybe we can write and produce a play everybody but Michael Caine would find stimulating. I own a dog and I think you have one of the best jobs in the country. Thanks.
P.S. Was it sick of me to root for Hannibal?
Sincerely yours,
Scott Seip
Columbus, O.

Dear Scott:
I forgot the question.

Dear Joe Bob:
Sorry to have taken such a while to reply, but I completely agree with your comments on Ernest P. Worrel. Well, Disney films have started earning money again, so maybe, MAYBE we'll see more of Ernest in the future.
Also was happy to see my letter published, oh Great One. But I embarrassed myself. It wasn't Baryshnikov Ken Russell cast as Valentino.
It was Rudolph Nureyev.
Anybody would have made the same mistake. Except maybe Jessica Lange.
I'm writing to talk to you about a pattern I've noticed that's just as frequently horrifying as the Communist/Bureaucrat conspiracy to destroy the drive-in and shrink theaters down to sub-atomic size. But it's a catch-22, because it may be the last bastion for drive-in movies.

I'm talking about great movies that are given the smelly end of the stick because they go DIRECT TO VIDEO. They don't even give them a shot at the drive-in!
Now admittedly some of them wouldn't survive anywhere else, but it's not a matter of money, as distributors see it, that gets me on my high horse.
It's a matter of enjoying the movie at an actual THEATER, with a bag of popcorn in your lap, your girlfriend holding your hand and your Reeboks welded to the gum and sharing the laughter, the screams, and the cheers with other people who you don't know but who all decided to give themselves a little pleasure by seeing a flick.

As you know, it may be an individual experience, but it's the group participation that gives it SOUL.
Now direct-to-video release can be a group thing too--if you don't mind getting sticky candy and Mountain Dew on Mom's 300-dollar oriental sofa-waterbed-divan, lugging in extra seats for those 200 strangers you invite over, and using binoculars to SEE the show on a 1,000-dollar Foton super-small entertainment module. Kinda see some disadvantages there.

Some movies are made FOR video, I understand. Fine, nothing wrong with that in itself. But then we hear about really great movies that they're coming out with by directors whose previous work has been given theatrical release, who have developed cult followings, so great; we think, well, they'll DEFINITELY be at the drive-in. Or at an area theater at least.

But they go right to video. The companies say they've got no choice, that they're teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Well, if they are, they ought to allow the directors to look for another company to give it a proper release. Otherwise, it's a sign of disrespect to the directors and the fans. I can think of at least two cases in point:

Numero Uno: "The Pit and the Pendulum." This is the remake by Stuart Gordon, the guy who gave severed heads respect in "Re-Animator" and grossed us out to new heights in "From Beyond." What happened? The guy was a cult figure! Even "Robot Jox" was released in theaters . . . eventually, for one week, in New York. But it was RELEASED. And "Cinefantastique" loved "The Pit."

Numero two-o: "Resurrected," which you mentioned in a recent issue. "Fangoria" did a sneak preview of it. The director, Dan O'Bannon, the man who wrote Alien, made a small classic called Return of the Living Dead, the film that made Linnea Quigley a household drive-in name! His first film in God knows how many years, and it gets snubbed.
No respect.
And just HOW do the filmmakers expect to make a profit by selling these films for 90 bucks? And just how are we supposed to RENT them when they're placed needle-and-haystack style at Blockbuster?
No respect.
Joe Bob, you alerted me for the need to save Ernest. Now think about it:
Either I'm dim and these movies ARE getting theatrical releases in places I've never heard of, or the movie industry's sticking it to the directors. Again.
Think a petition's in order?
Ed Sharkin
Silver Spring, Md.

Dear Ed:
What really ticks me off about the direct-to-video mentality is that the independent distributors decide BEFORE THE MOVIE IS FINISHED whether it's going direct-to-video or not. In other words, nobody's even willing to gamble anymore, try a snazzy ad campaign and a little promoter's hype. They just say, "Oh well, erotic thrillers are not what they used to be, so... direct to video."
Burns my bacon.

Hi Joe Bob,
I just read your article today. You know the one about the Klan (KKK). I agree with you 100 per cent. The media really does incite controversy. I guess if there's no other news stories, you can always dig up something on the KKK or abortion. Small interest groups really are running this country. My only complaint about it is that I feel there are many individuals who "silently" support the Klan. These would never be caught wearing a white hood on television, but they definitely do send their dollar support to others who do. The Klan has a lot of silent support. And the media is very much aware of this. Some Americans make tragic mistakes, and lead very tragic lives.
Thanks for listening,
Kim Simms
San Francisco

Dear Kim:
I don't even think dollars help the Klan. Saddam Hussein has dollars, but I don't think spending them on any amount of p.r. is gonna make any dang difference, you know what I mean?

Dear Joe Bob,
Thanks for printing my letter. I feel famous. Now when lesbians, feminists, etc. write in and complain about how disgusting your column is, I can think, "Wow! Maybe they saw the one with my letter. Maybe I HELPED!"

Regarding your noticing the decline of freak shows: I noticed it too. LONG ago. I grew up around the carnival business, and though I wasn't involved in anything as exotic as freak shows (my mom and dad had a small carnival in the sixties, and later sold printed t-shirts--they just retired last year, in fact), I spent an awful lot of time on carnival lots and fairgrounds, and took a special interest in the sideshows.

As you guessed, part of the reason for the decline is the March of Dimes--also, new advances in reconstructive surgery. However, as far as I can tell, the main culprits are the self-appointed do-gooders who started putting all kinds of pressure on the sideshow operators to stop exhibiting freaks. I first started hearing about this in the late seventies, and it didn't take long for the do-gooders to carry out their plan. According to my parents, sideshows still survive, but they consist mainly of cheesy magic acts (the kind of stuff Penn and Teller make fun of). The freaks have disappeared.

Joe Bob, freaks (for lack of a better term) were traditionally the best treated, most highly paid people on the fairgrounds. They were usually just plain folks who were damned glad for the opportunity to go out and make a living, rather than just sit around the house and accept charity. However, certain people who should've had better things to do screwed things up. Sound familiar?

One amusing example of what a pain these people can be, is a story I heard back in the late seventies. The guy telling it used to be somewhat of a freak himself--a half and half. This doesn't refer to something you'd pay 30 dollars for over on the wrong side of the track--it means half man, half woman. As you might have guessed, very few of these, if any, were biological freaks. In fact, people without benefit of "Torch Song Trilogy" or "La Cage Aux Folles" or Phil Donahue eventually figured this out, and the demand for such an attraction declined rapidly. So the guy changed careers. Puts together a show of human oddities such as two-headed babies, vestigial twins, human cyclopses, etc.

This was not quite as impressive as it sounds, because these were all fetuses, in big jars of formaldehyde (known in carnival language as "pickled punks"). Things went okay for a while, until he began getting shut down by various meddlers who complained about how horrible it was, how the fetuses should be treated with dignity, etc., etc. Here's the funny part: These "fetuses" weren't even real. They were clever imitations made out of rubber! And he STILL got shut down! These folks must be the same people who write in and complain about your column. I know this because the guy telling the story was wailing, "Those f---in' broads won't shut up and mind their own business!" (Bet this letter doesn't make the papers.)

Before I go, let me leave you with one more bit of carnival lore. Nowadays, I regularly see the word "geek" (mis)used to denote a nerdy type of guy. "Geek" is actually an old carnival term, referring to a type of performer (again, for lack of a better word) who would do things like bite the heads off snakes, and rip small animals apart and eat their entrails like spaghetti. Geeks were usually recruited from the ranks of junkies and alcoholics, who would do ANYTHING to keep their supplies coming and avoid the DTs, withdrawl, etc. However, public assistance, methadone maintenance, recovery programs, etc., pretty well put an end to the geek by the fifties, sixties at the very latest. Just one more example of how the government infringes on our personal freedoms.

That's about all for now. Oh, and thanks a lot for the positive review of Andrew Dice Clay. The guy has really gotten a bad rap, and it's nice to see a review done by someone who's actually seen his work. However, I'm still not sure the feminists haven't wrecked his career. So he's playing Vegas now. Remember what happened to Elvis. ("That's the Way It Is" has to be one of the best horror films of the early seventies). Keep up the good work.
Bill Shoemaker
Charleston, S.C.

Dear Bill:
I don't know what the world is coming to when three-headed hermaphrodites can't make a decent living anymore.

Hey Joe Bob,
I'm a straight-shooting guy who's looking for something and I ain't getting it in San Antonio. Your column really hit the spot on my life. The article on hookers was great, but it doesn't mean anything here in San Antonio. It's the cleanest city I've ever been. I've lived in Las Vegas and Ft. Lauderdale and you know what it's like living there, but in San Antonio you can't get anything more than a massage. I've tried the titty bars, escorts and 900 numbers, but it's not the real thing. I'm like the guy in your column who spends his life savings on hookers. I love picking them up, partying with them and not worrying if they'll call you again. I'm on the edge right now because your article on quitting your job made a lot of sense. I feel like just quitting my job and moving to a new place with hookers and massage parlors and all that fun that goes with it. I'm just a maintenance guy and I've always found jobs when I moved around before. But I'm tired of moving and if this city had any of the good things I love I'd stay forever. But there's nothing here for me, so what do you think I should do? You sound like you know what I'm talking about and maybe you can give me advice or just shoot the breeze. Please write and if you know any ladies in San Antonio who like to party I'd like to know where they are.
Michael Sherman
San Antonio, Tex.

Dear Mike:
When I said quit your job, I didn't really allow for the hooker expenses. You probly have to choose one or the other. Keep your job and use hookers. Or quit your job and never have any money for hookers.
Life's a bitch, isn't it?

© 1994 Joe Bob Briggs All Rights Reserved

For more of Joe Bob's pre-TNT reviews in Grapevine, Texas, go to his Drive-In Reviews Archive over yonder at www.Joe Bob

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