Or, Is it Still a Marathon if it Takes Us Three Years?
Way back in February of 2011, I bought the now seemingly out-of-print Full Moon Archive Collection 18-disc boxed set during some crazy sale that the company was having. And because Jay is both a good friend and a complete idiot, he agreed to watch the whole shebang with me, except for Head of the Family, which he skipped on the grounds that he had seen it already. And while he wasn’t missing much, it also certainly wasn’t the worst of what was in store.
Due to a combination of factors–including lack of time to get together, the fact that both of our significant others had the good sense not to want to watch any of these movies, and the simple necessity of generating enough wherewithal to get through some of them–it took us about three years to get through all 18 movies (17 in his case), but, as of last Friday night, get through them we did!
Since I can’t just link to the listing on the Full Moon Direct website anymore, here’s what the set contains: Puppet Master 1-3, Dollman, Demonic Toys, The Pit & the Pendulum, Crash and Burn, Robot Wars, Arcade, Doctor Mordrid, Castle Freak, Head of the Family, Trancers 1-3, and Subspecies 1-3.
For those of you unfamiliar with Full Moon, they were a company that made direct-to-video, mostly horror and sci-fi movies in the late 80s, throughout the 90s, and apparently into the present. Headed up by Charles Band, a producer and director in the grand Roger Corman tradition, and a man with over 200 producer credits to his name, almost all of them for movies more-or-less like this, Full Moon movies were mainstays of the local video store when I was growing up, and they’ve always had a special place in my heart. They’re garbage, pretty much from top to bottom, but they’re gleefully garbage, and there’s something endearing about that. They also tend to feature diminutive monsters–their best-known franchise is about killer puppets for gods sake–and by the time I was a kid they were one of the last places where you could still routinely find stop motion effects.
Plus, every video copy of a Full Moon feature contained a short “Full Moon Videozone” featurette at the end that told you a little bit about the making of the film. In those days before DVD or any of that, these were the first places I ever saw behind-the-scenes stuff from movies, or started to learn how movies actually got made.
For all that, I had actually seen very few of the movies in this set previously. A couple of the Puppet Master films, Demonic Toys, and that’s about it. My experience with Full Moon pictures had apparently mostly been constrained to others in their massive oeuvre, so most of this got to be a surprise. And, when you sit down for a Full Moon movie, you’re almost always guaranteed to get one kind of surprise or another, if not always a pleasant one.
The quality of the movies was all over the map–or at least, all over that portion of the map that can still be encompassed with the legend “gleeful trash.” There were surprisingly enjoyable films and utterly unwatchable ones, and at least one (Castle Freak) that managed to be both surprisingly good and almost unwatchable. Congratulations on pulling that off, Stuart Gordon!
It seems like such a Herculean undertaking deserves a writeup, but honestly, I can hardly remember the movies that we started this saga out with. That was over three years ago! So I’ll have to settle for handing out a few no-prizes, and call it a day.
My Favorite Movie: Doctor Mordrid, absolutely no question. It is, in fact, pretty much what I bought the whole set for, and it was worth every penny. Charles Band doing Dr. Strange with Jeffrey Combs in the title role and Brian Thompson in a bathrobe, plus a stop-motion dinosaur skeleton fight! This movie’s got it all!
My Least Favorite Movie: Arcade is the obvious answer here, but I might have to go with Trancers 2. Someone needs to just add a laugh track from an old TV sitcom to that movie, and it would be a classic.
Most WTF Moment: Demonic Toys. Sure, Trancers 3 had a crystal-powered fishman cyborg for no reason (do you need a reason?) and every other movie had more than its share of nonsense, but nothing beats that bizarre flashback explaining how the demon kid got underneath the toy warehouse, a scene made extra confounding by the fact that I’d seen this movie when I was a kid and didn’t remember it.
My Favorite Franchise: Going in I would have guessed Puppet Master, but it was absolutely the Subspecies movies, which all blended together, but which were all pretty wonderful. I want a “Team Radu” shirt!
Movie That Was Just And Then There Were None with a Budget Terminator: Crash and Burn, no joke.