by Jay Seaver
SCREENED AT THE 2010 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL: Shouldn't young filmmakers with no money have moved on from spoofing bad 1950s sci-fi by now? It's too easy a target if the intent is to skewer, and if the goal is to pay tribute, a filmmaker would honor what was enjoyable about those movies far more by following the intent of these "classics" - making the best sci-fi movies they can with what they have available - and improving on the results. Because when you do what Michael Kallio does with "Mutant Swinger from Mars" and try to recreate crap, you succeed - at making crap.Things actually start out kind of promisingly, with interview segments apparently produced for a documentary on the life and work of forgotten schlock director Orton Z. Creswell (Pete LaDuke) - writer, director, actor, and psychic. We're also introduced to his ex-wife and frequent scream queen Miriam Van Saint (Colleen Nash), and frequent co-stars Lance Feldman (Michael East), Laszlo Brockingham (Bart Williams), and Gary Dunn (Bob Young). All too soon, though, we get to the "forgotten cult classic" that this is meant to be documenting - where Martians Slagathor (Brockingham) and Xedor (Dunn) come to Earth to demand a scientist build them a reanimated chick magnet, Fez Flackman (Creswell) to lure Earth cuties back to their spaceship. But when Flackman sets his sights on Mitzy Nussbaum (Van Saint), that spurs Rusty Rave (East), the town's swingingest swinger, into action!
"This shit needs to stop."
The "Mutant Swinger" part of Mutant Swinger from Mars isn't aggressively, offensively unfunny like some other entries in the retro-schlock category, but it is, by its very nature, a one-joke movie that spends close to an hour on that one joke, and rarely comes up with a more clever use for it than inserting the phrase "Mars Needs Women!" into the dialogue. To be fair, that plays well to a certain audience; there's a certain level of fun in watching a movie and thinking, ha!, the director likes the same thing I did - and so does the guy in the next seat. It's a sense of community and connection that is, under the right circumstances, a passable substitute for actual wit.
Isn't it great when you also get the actual wit, though? When they were at their peak, Mel Brooks and Zucker/Abrams/Zucker built bits that were memorable on their own instead of just name-checking; Quentin Tarantino's films steal bits all the time but he often puts them together in new, exciting ways. Kaillo and company fail at that, and perhaps even more frustratingly, they fail after showing us in the opening that maybe they could if they wanted to: The interview footage shows them creating actual characters who are funny as individuals, if only for a few moments. Creswell's delusion and the derision heaped upon him by his frequent collaborators are not really a whole lot more original than the B-movie parody, but they are much funnier.
You can offer up excuses for stuff like Mutant Swinger from Mars; this sort of thing is generally made as a labor of love, and that Kallio and company were able to get this in front of people at all is an impressive accomplishment; six years passed between photography (2003) and it getting in front of people. The thing is, too many people have worked under the same conditions and come up with good movies, worth watching entirely on their own merits."Mutant Swinger" isn't one of them, despite its occasional moments of cleverness. Having those moments likely puts it a leg up on the likes of "Epic Movie", but should we as moviegoers really settle for something we can damn with faint praise, or should we hope for invention and originality?
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originally posted: 02/08/10 20:51:41