Last weekend I was introduced to my new favorite Chicago event: B-Fest. Each year, a dedicated team of film geeks put on a 24-hour b-movie marathon at Northwestern University. Guests are encouraged to hurl comments at the screen MST3K-style, hop onstage to perform impromptu skits, and sleep in the aisles when they start to fade. It’s essentially a 500-person slumber party.
I made it through about half of the program, catching such classics as Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (the dullest monster team-up movie ever filmed), Murder in the Air (apparently one of a series of Ronald Reagan spy films), Scream Blacula Scream (awful, yes, but man, William Marshall is fun to watch), and Don’t Knock the Rock (Bill Haley and the Comets crusade against the persecution of wholesome and lucrative rock and roll.)
To keep things fresh, the evening is peppered with the most bizarre short films you will ever see. My dreams are still haunted by Comics and Kids, some kind of 70’s anti-war propaganda piece in which a bunch of boys read issues of Sgt. Rock and are transformed into cold-blooded soldiers who brutally murder and eat an innocent group of toddlers. Or actually, maybe they just scare them away and wreck their sandcastle. I did fall asleep for a second. However, my favorite short was easily The Wizard of Speed and Time, the only legitimately good film I saw. I could attempt to describe how it redefines “fantastic”, but instead just watch for yourself:
The highlight of the evening, however, was the traditional midnight showing of Plan 9. While all of the films are verbally savaged by the attendees, Plan 9’s riffs have risen to the Rocky Horror level of audience participation. The audience calls out each time the scene abruptly switches from day to night, when Ed Wood’s chiropractor is standing in for Bela Lugosi, and at every appearance of the inimitable Tor Johnson. And each time the shoddy UFO appears, a shower of flying paper plates ensues.
I could give you my ratings for these movies, but that’s not the point. They’re all terrible. But watching them with an audience of smart, funny people is an absolute blast. So, B-Fest. Awesome. See you there next year.
Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman
Murder in the Air
Scream, Blacula Scream
Don’t Knock the Rock
The Wizard of Speed and Time
Plan 9 from Outer Space