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B-Fest 2003

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Inaugurated in 1981, this annual 24-hour marathon of B (and Z) movies runs Friday and Saturday, January 24 and 25, at Northwestern Univ. Norris Center, 1999 Campus Dr., Evanston. Tickets are $20, $10 after 8:00 am Saturday; for more information call 847-491-2378.


Kingdom of the Spiders

A veterinarian (William Shatner) and an entomologist (Tiffany Bolling) discover that tarantulas are preying on the people of Arizona. John "Bud" Cardos directed this 1977 feature. 95 min. (6:00)

Cool as Ice

Vanilla Ice stars in this 1991 musical biker flick, with Kristin Minter as the high school honors student who wins his heart. Directed by David Kellogg from a script by David Stenn; with Michael Gross, Sydney Lassick, and Dody Goodman. 100 min. (7:45)

Flash Gordon

Better than it might have been, given the limitations of this kind of brand-name filmmaking. Saddled with an outworn but still salable concept, director Mike Hodges faces the unenviable task of re-inventing a fairy tale: his competition is our childhood memories of the material, colored with a sweep and grandeur that the old Universal serials, when we see them as adults, don't really have. Hodges doesn't shirk his duties, and though his 1980 film lapses too often into easy facetiousness, much of it feels surprisingly substantial. The action moves smoothly and logically, finding a rhythm that engages your attention despite the patent lack of inspiration and genuine commitment. A respectable time waster. With Sam J. Jones, Melody Anderson, and a highly entertaining Max von Sydow as Ming. 110 min. (DK) (9:25)

Plan 9 From Outer Space

Bela Lugosi died during the making of this low-budget science fiction programmer, but that didn't faze director Edward Wood: the Lugosi footage, which consists of the actor skulking around a suburban garage, is replayed over and over, to highly surreal effect. Wood is notorious for his 1952 transvestite saga Glen or Glenda? (aka I Changed My Sex), but for my money this 1959 effort is twice as strange and appealing in its undisguised incompetence. J. Hoberman of the Village Voice has made a case for Wood as an unconscious avant-gardist; there's no denying that his blunders are unusually creative and oddly expressive. With Gregory Walcott, Mona McKinnon, Joanna Lee, and, of course, Lyle Talbot. 79 min. (DK) To be preceded by Mike Jittlov's short film The Wizard of Speed and Time. (11:45)


The Happy Hooker

Lynn Redgrave plays the title role in this 1975 feature based on Xaviera Hollander's best-selling book. Nicholas Sgarro directed. 96 min. (1:20 am)

Flesh Gordon

Porno king Bill Osco, together with Howard Ziehm, presents a $2 million takeoff on the perennial camp classic, but this 1974 effort never gets off the ground, betraying its lack of inspiration with second-rate puns and laughable acting. The idea of making something fresh (and dirty) out of such quaint material seemed a good one, but the end product doesn't justify the intention. The animation sequences are surprisingly good, though. 90 min. (DD) (3:00 am)

Warlords of Atlantis

Doug McClure goes poking around the Bermuda Triangle and stumbles onto the lost continent in this 1978 British feature. Kevin Connor (The Land That Time Forgot) directed; with Cyd Charisse, Daniel Massey, and Lea Brodie. 96 min. (4:30 am)

Dementia 13

Often wrongly identified as Francis Ford Coppola's first film, it was at least his third, depending on how you add up the contributions he made to a series of sex and science fiction films in the early 60s. Made in Ireland in 1962, it's standard horror fare--with one interesting effect that turned up again, 12 years later, in The Conversation. 81 min. (DK) (6:10 am)

No Holds Barred

Hulk Hogan plays a wrestling star and national role model whose refusal to kowtow to a network TV executive leads to his being matched against the lethal Zeus (Tiny Lister). Thomas J. Wright directed this 1989 feature; with Joan Severance and Kurt Fuller. 91 min. A breakfast break will follow the screening. (7:30 am)

Mac and Me

A ten-year-old boy becomes friends with a lost boy from the planet Iapedus in this 1988 fantasy-adventure written by Stewart Raffill and Steve Feke and directed by Raffill. With Christine Ebersole, Jonathan Ward, and Katrina Caspary. 93 min. (9:40 am)

The Last Dragon

Kung fu meets break dancing in a musical produced by Motown's Berry Gordy and directed by Michael Schultz (Car Wash). With Taimak, Vanity, Julius J. Carry III, Chris Murney, Leo O'Brien, and Faith Prince. The late Gene Siskel once selected this 1985 feature for a series devoted to local critics' "guilty pleasures." 109 min. (11:20 am)

It Came From Beneath the Sea

Ray Harryhausen, giant octopus, Golden Gate Bridge. Get the picture? With Kenneth Tobey, an axiom of the genre, and onetime Howard Hughes protegee Faith Domergue (Vendetta). Robert Gordon directed this 1955 feature. 78 min. (DK) To be followed by the short film What Is Communism? (1:10)


Queasily suspended between drag theatrics (Faye Dunaway and Brenda Vaccaro camping it up on a soundstage replica of a carnival spook house) and Spielbergian wholesomeness (Canadian Helen Slater as a toothy Aryan Ubermadchen), this 1984 release is one comic-book feature that doesn't fly. Director Jeannot Szwarc attempts to emulate the romantic comedy tone of Richard Lester's Superman II but doesn't have his winning way of placing throwaway humor in an epic context. The series's commercial tie-ins seem more blatant and oppressive than ever; all the film lacks is an announcer saying, "This movie was brought to you by TWA, Tylenol, A&W Root Beer, and Popeye's Fried Chicken." With Peter O'Toole and Peter Cook. 114 min. (DK) (2:50)

Godzilla 1985

I happened to catch Kohji Hashimoto's remake of Japan's classic rubber-monster tale during a trip to Tokyo, where it was the biggest hit of the 1984 Christmas season. But even the rare frisson of watching it in one of the very buildings destroyed by the hero during his climactic saunter down the Ginza didn't save it: it's a dull, drawn-out, completely impersonal effort. The American version apparently was severely cut and camped up, incorporating additional scenes directed by R.J. Kizer and featuring Raymond Burr (whose footage in the 1956 film was also a stateside addition). I haven't seen the add-ons, but I doubt that they can help. With Keiju Kobayashi, Ken Tanaka, and Yasuka Sawaguchi. 91 min. (DK) (4:50)

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