Friday, May 27, 2016

Worth Mentioning - B-Movies: In Memory of Vince Rotolo

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

Cody pays tribute to BMovieCast host Vince Rotolo with a B-movie double feature.

I don't recall how exactly I discovered the BMovieCast, but I believe I started listening to the podcast sometime in 2011, not long after Life Between Frames began. The subject matter drew me in, but what hooked me was the voice and attitude of host Vince Rotolo. The passion he had for the movies that were covered, the dedication to talking about "the movies we love, no matter how good or bad they are." That was the same purpose I started this blog with, so I always felt a kinship with Vince. In an online film community brimming with cynicism and snark, his BMovieCast stood apart from the pack as a light-hearted celebration of the under celebrated.

The show had already been going for years by the time I tuned in, but I quickly caught up on the archives and for the last five years I have been downloading and enjoying each new episode. I followed the 'cast's journey from being a one man show through the addition of co-hosts Mary (his wife), Nic Brown, and Juan Ortiz, from its humble beginnings to the masterfully produced epic it became. For 374 episodes I have been entertained by the B-movie adventures of Vince and the gang.

I was deeply saddened by the news that Vince passed away at the end of April. My first reaction was one of shock and disbelief. It didn't seem possible. Within minutes, tears were running down my face. I only directly interacted with Vince on one occasion, to give him my mailing info when I won a piece of artwork in the podcast's weekly contest, but I have spent many, many hours listening to him on a regular basis. I've admired him, his outlook on movies, his commitment to the podcast, his ability to put together such a wonderful show. He didn't know me, but he has been a part of my life for the last five years, and his absence has left a huge hole. I can't imagine how hard this has been for the people who were lucky enough to be in his inner circle, and my heartfelt condolences go out to Mary, Nic, Juan, and all of his friends and family.

I found the above poster advertising a double feature of the 1957 B-movies I Was a Teenage Werewolf and Invasion of the Saucer Men somewhere online years ago. The image made me want to write an article about the two movies, but I never got around to it. Since both of the films have been covered on the BMovieCast, back on episodes #122 and #138, it seemed like now was the appropriate time to go ahead and write about them, in honor of Vince.


For decades, Michael Landon was a permanent fixture on television. Generations grew up watching him on Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie, and Highway to Heaven. I saw many episodes of all three of those shows when I was a kid, and I still remember when he passed away from cancer in the summer of 1991, at the too-young age of 54. I was very familiar with his wholesome TV persona long before I discovered that he had dabbled in my beloved horror genre earlier in his career.

Landon stars in this film as Tony Rivers, a high school kid with serious anger management issues. After going to a Halloween party, which turns into an impromptu musical sequence, Tony gets in his fourth violent confrontation in the span of a month. This convinces him that he should take the advice of everyone around him and visit a local psychiatrist, Dr. Alfred Brandon. Brandon is played by Whit Bissell, an actor with over 300 credits to his name, and the doctor has a unique approach. He hypnotizes Tony and experiments on him with a serum he has brewed up that is supposed to bring a person's savage instincts to the surface.

Bissell does some great "mad scientist" work here, and what do you know, Brandon's manipulations end up turning Tony into a teenage werewolf. He does start to chill out after his sessions with the psychiatrist, the problem is he keeps wolfing out and murdering people. The police station custodian immediately recognizes the wounds on the bodies as the work of a werewolf, since there are werewolves all over the place where he's from in the Carpathian Mountains, but the actual police officers find this hard to believe.

The design of the werewolf is basically along the lines of the one in the Universal classic The Wolfman: Tony gets hairy and grows fangs, but in wolf form he's still dressed in his clothes, which gives us the sight promised by the title. A werewolf dressed like a teenager. Our first good look at the wolf comes during a sequence that director Gene Fowler Jr. shot in a really fun way: the Tony-wolf is going after a gymnast hanging from some gym equipment, so we get shots from her upside down P.O.V. of the werewolf approaching.

In his novel It, Stephen King writes about this film's werewolf as something straight out of nightmares, It takes the form of the creature to scare its young victims. The image of this wolf probably wouldn't stick in the mind of a modern kid as something scary, but he is pretty intense when he's on the rampage.

I Was a Teenage Werewolf is definitely a film of the perfect level of quality to be covered on a show called the BMovieCast, and it's a fun bit of 1950s silliness that I really enjoy watching.


Claiming to be the "true story of a flying saucer" (but really based on a short story by Paul W. Fairman), Invasion of the Saucer Men starts off in a similar way to the following year's The Blob. Here we have a saucer landing on the outskirts of a small town instead of a meteor crashing down. On their way back from lovers lane, a teenage couple encounters not a man with the blob on his hand, but one of the titular saucer men. Actually, they run the little sucker over, and while its body is incapacitated one of its hands is able to detach and crawl away from the scene... after getting back at the kids by popping needle-like claws out of its fingers and puncturing one of the car's tires.

A character played by the 1966 Batman TV show's Frank Gorshin has an even worse experience with the saucer men, as they use those claws they have to pump a lethal level of alcohol into him. These aliens may not have acid blood like the Alien xenomorph, but they do have alcohol flowing through their systems.

As the aliens run amok, that teenage couple takes the blame for their actions. The police even want them to confess to being responsible for the death of Gorshin's character, believing they ran the man over instead of the "monster" they say they hit.

With the authorities of no help, the teens have to take it upon themselves to bring an end to the alien menace, a mission that the military, which has secretly been aware of flying saucer activity in the area, is having no luck with.

The poster at the top of this article is no lie, this film was indeed released as the second half of a double bill with I Was a Teenage Werewolf, and I think the "B-movie" slot was the appropriate place for it, as I find it to be a lesser movie than its werewolf predecessor. Still, it provides a decent viewing experience and its 69 minute running time flies by like a rocket.

The design of the aliens is the movie's greatest selling point. These big-headed, bug-eyed little green (although the movie is black & white) things are awesomely goofy looking. And these ridiculous creatures fight a bull in one scene. How can you go wrong with a movie that features a sight like that?

I was happy to hear recently that Vince had renewed the website for the next four years, taking it as a sign that the show would be continuing over those years. There certainly are enough movies left out there to cover. I looked forward to four more years of episodes, of holiday specials, of listening to Vince make his way through that massive stack of movies he needed to get around to watching. I fully expected to tune in one day and hear him proudly announce that he had finished watching all 1225 episodes of Dark Shadows, an endeavor he had been working on for quite a while.

What has happened is devastating. It's a terrible loss. But Vince has left his mark on the online film community as a whole and on us listeners. I will continue to listen to the 374 episodes he left behind for us, to watch the movies discussed in them, and to do my best to follow in Vince's footsteps of spreading the word about and showing my appreciation for the films and TV shows I love, no matter how good or bad they are.

Rest in peace, Vince. Thank you.

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