Hail To The King, Baby: The Most Underrated B Movies You’ve Never Seen

hail to the king babyBy Jim McDonald

If you relieve yourself in a standing position there’s a movie you love that’s hideous.  The production values are so low as to be laughable, and the plot is full of more holes than your favorite old t-shirt.  Why is this?  I think it’s because men are doers.  We like to look at something and be able to say, “I could do that!”  While many of us have gone on to prove our right to add to the gene pool through the creation of cinematic blockbusters, our unsung heroes are those who create the fast food cheeseburger of the theater world, the B movie.

We all know the equation for a good B movie.  A replaceable plot that’s been rehashed more times than a man of average intelligence can count, cheap scenery, a small cast, and more than a little stock footage.  More than a few directors have attempted to stake their claim in the realm of low budget cinema by covering up a lack of creativity with boobs, blood and brutality, but a truly spectacular B movie offers something more.  A unique take that surpasses the overdone (and often overblown) themes to give the viewer something unexpected.  Something that will be cloned by mainstream movies for years to come, and provide a lifetime of inside jokes for those lucky enough to stumble across such a gem.  In this spirit I give you the most overlooked B movies of all time.

#5:  Evil Dead II:  Dead By Dawn – The Evil Dead trilogy is legendary.  The first and the third installments in the series, Evil Dead and Army Of Darkness, have rabid cult followings, but the true gem is the green kangaroo of this triad, Evil Dead II.  What do you think of when someone mentions Evil Dead?  Man with a chainsaw hand?  That had its origins in Evil Dead II.  How about the line “I’ll swallow your soul”?  Evil Dead II.  The word Necromonicon never appeared in the initial offering of Sam Raimi’s opus.  The humor that pervades B movie marvel Army Of Darkness had its twisted, 3 Stooges genesis in Evil Dead II.  The lack of nudity found in your run of the mill B movie fare won’t even be missed when you see the interesting shades of blood used in this flick (none of which are red) and the trippy puppetry as bad ass main character Ash slowly goes insane.

#4:  Killer Tomatoes Eat France – Everyone knows that Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes is the quintessential B movie.  Did you know that the folks that gave us paper mache tomatoes tormenting the United States gave us not one, but three sequels, three video games and an animated TV series?  By far the best of all of these is the final film feature in the tomato quadrilogy, Killer Tomatoes Eat France.  In the final epic of the violent vegetable franchise we see Professor Gangrene and his rebellious puppet tomatoes attack Europe in a final attempt at world domination which can only be thwarted by Skippy from 80s sitcom Family Ties.  I learned a great deal watching this movie, such as in France all men are called Frenchy and all women are named Marie.

#3:  Getting Lucky – This bizarre comedy about a nerd who wins the love of his life, the beautiful cheerleader Christy, with the help of a leprechaun trapped in a beer bottle as punishment for his drunken hijinks, is laugh out loud funny.  This is a prime example of nudity getting in the way of a good movie.  The skin shown is an annoying distraction from the constant humor of a rusty leprechaun botching every wish granted.  This movie has it all – a message of the importance of being eco-friendly, a love story, a man attacking himself with his own tennis racket, and a finale featuring a chase on horseback.  Standard B movie clichés abound, such as a cheesy soundtrack, poor acting (Christy seems distracted through the entire flick, and try not to laugh at the basketball coach’s  heartfelt instructions to his team) and actors playing teenagers that are obviously a decade too old for the role.  Getting Lucky is a gem that hasn’t seen the light of day since the death of USA Network’s Up All Night.

#2:  Starcrash – Remember how much you loved Star Wars?  Remember how you thought “it would be amazing if someone could do this on a shoestring budget, using legitimate actors who will hope everyone forgets they did this in the future”?  Welcome to Starcrash.  This 1979 space opera falls squarely between Star Wars and Xena Warrior Princess, all but ripping off the first and more than likely inspiring the second.  Space smuggler Stella Star (Bond girl Caroline Munro) must save the galaxy.  The emperor (Christopher Plummer – Captain Von Trapp from “The Sound of Music”)’s son (David Hasselhof) is at her side for an interstellar adventure that includes light saber battles, among other obvious Star Wars trappings.  All the action is set to an original score by John Barry (Midnight Cowboy, Goldfinger, Somewhere in Time, Dances with Wolves).  Secret weapons, frozen planets and lasers abound in this little known clunker that every sci-fi fan should view at least once.

#1:  Netherbeast Incorporated – Vampire movies have been done and overdone for years, but Netherbeast Incorporated offers something a little different.  A telephone company in Arizona is actually a front for Netherfolk, or in common lingo, vampires.  They live and work within the organization’s building, allowing the local vampire populace to live in a controlled environment away from the dangers of the mortal world.  When an executive begins to experience the vampire version of dementia (“the retardations”) and hires from outside the Netherfolk community the fun begins.  There are a lot of recognizable faces in Netherbeast Incorporated, including Steve Burns (Blue’s Clues), Jason Mewes (Clerks, Malrats, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back), Judd Nelson (The Breakfast Club), and Darrell Hammond (Saturday Night Live).  I have watched this movie numerous times, and it remains quirky, fun, and just plain funny every time.

There are several honorable mentions worth looking into.  The rock n’ roll vampire farce “Suck” is a hilarious movie, and includes Dave Foley, Alice Cooper, Moby, Henry Rollins and Malcolm McDowell in its cast.  1980s sci-fi nuggest “Night of the Creeps” and “Night of the Comet” are both incredibly fun.  Ed Wood’s very satisfying “The Bride of the Monster” is overshadowed by big brother “Plan 9 From Outer Space” though far superior in many ways.  With today’s technology anyone can make a movie.  I’m sure we’ll see more low budget jewels as time goes by.