1965 | B&W | 69 min.
Starring: Phil Morton, June Travis, George Perry, Lois Brooks, Rork Stevens, Peter Thompson, Robert Simons, Barry Hopkins, Stu Taylor, Lorri Perry, Del Clark, Art Scott, Leonard Gelstein, Avivn Crane, Dean Tompis, Jim Bassier, Rick Paul, and Henry Hite.
Directed By: Bill Rebane and an uncredited Herschell Gordon Lewis
There is a general consensus among aficionados of z-grade cinema when it comes to the short list of films believed to be “The Worst Movie Ever Made.” Today, often without thinking, folks like me who spend far too much time thinking about such things, toss out titles like, Plan 9 From Outer Space; Manos: The Hands of Fate; and Troll 2. While there are several films which are certainly contenders for the title—The Creeping Terror and The Beast of Yucca Flats spring to mind—there is only one film, for me, which is truly worthy of the title, “The Worst Movie Ever Made.” That film is Monster A-Go Go.
Starting life in the hands of Wisconsin filmmaker Bill Rebane, Monster A-Go Go (originally titled, Terror at Halfday) sat unfinished, due to a lack of funds, until fellow schlockmeister Herschel Gordon Lewis found himself in need of a film to fill the back end of a double bill with his “hicksploitation” flick, Moonshine Mountain. Seeing a prime opportunity to snag the required film on the cheap, Lewis purchased the incomplete footage from Mr. Rebane, filmed a few new scenes of his own, slapped some irritating narration over the whole mess, and called it a movie.
The plot of Monster A-Go Go, such as it is, centers around Frank Douglas, an American astronaut sent into orbit to investigate a suspicious satellite. Unfortunately for Frank, the capsule which sent him into space returns to Earth without a trace of its intrepid pilot. Instantly, the town experiences a string of unexplained murders and it quickly becomes apparent that the missing astronaut, now suffering the horrible effects of a massive dose of radiation, is the culprit. It’s up to NASA’s top scientists to find the irradiated monster astronaut and return him to normal before he, and his ever-growing level of radiation, kills everyone in town.
Nearly every aspect of Monster A-Go Go leads the viewer to the unavoidable conclusion that H.G. Lewis simply didn’t care about the quality of his final product. The film features barely audible dialog, countless scenes featuring nondescript people talking endlessly in equally nondescript rooms, and several excruciating stretches of complete silence. And in a ruthlessly cost-effective, albeit enjoyment-sapping storytelling strategy, nearly every bit of action takes place off-screen, only to be described later on by our friendly narrator—reportedly voiced by H.G. Lewis himself. Despite clocking in at just over an hour, Monster A-Go Go is an absolute chore to finish in one sitting.
I could easily spend several paragraphs listing dozens of examples of the staggering ineptitude on display in Monster A-Go Go (and after enduring the torture that is this film, such an exercise would be quite cathartic, I imagine), but I think two scenes in particular highlight the complete apathy Mr. Lewis felt for this film.
The first scene features a middle-aged couple reminiscing over dinner. Shortly into the scene the man asks his partner if she remembers the song playing. She responds positively, prompting the man to ask her if she would like to dance. She declines, and the scene continues from there. Not much wrong with this exchange, except for the fact there isn’t any music playing during this conversation. I assume Rebane originally shot this footage with the idea of dubbing a song in later, something it seems Mr. Lewis simply couldn’t be bothered with.
The second, and far more entertaining, example of the lack of polish this film received is the infamous telephone scene. The scene opens with a shot of a telephone sitting on a table. When the phone rings we are treated to what is quite clearly someone off-camera making a “brrring” noise with their mouth. Obviously this sound was meant to be nothing more than a cue for the actors in the scene, not the final effect. Fortunately for fans of inept film-making, this placeholder sound was never replaced, resulting in one of the more embarrassing moments in b-movie history.
What takes Monster A-Go Go a notch above—or below, I suppose—the other films considered among the worst of all time, is the unbelievably frustrating way the film ends. If you are someone who tries to avoid spoilers, you may want to stop reading here, because there is no way to accurately explain how infuriating the ending of this film is without spoiling the hell out of it. You have been warned.
After tenaciously slogging our way through the first hour, we finally—mercifully, we foolishly assume—approach the end of the film. Of course Lewis burns another ten minutes of screen time as our heroes don radiation suits, fiddle with oscilloscopes, wave Geiger counters, generally mill around, and, eventually, corner the beast in a storm sewer. Then, as they finally close in on the radioactive monstrosity, it happens.
Having seemingly run out of time, footage, money, and any desire to produce something even vaguely resembling an entertaining film, Lewis decided the best way to end this mess was to simply have the monster disappear. That’s right, the horrible, irradiated beast which has been terrorizing the city, murdering everyone in its path, and causing untold levels of panic—albeit, mostly off-screen—simply vanishes without explanation. After our confused heroes make their way out of the sewer, they are quickly handed a telegram which informs them that the object of their citywide manhunt, Frank Douglas, has just been rescued alive and well, somewhere in the North Atlantic. No explanation as to where the hell the capsule from the beginning of the film came from, or what exactly was mutilating folks left and right, or how Mr. Douglas survived the last eight weeks floating in a lifeboat, or where exactly the viewer is supposed to direct his unimaginable rage after having just wasted sixty-nine minutes of his life watching this cinematic cul-de-sac.
The film abruptly ends with our friendly narrator desperately attempting to turn this indefensibly-clumsy, deus ex machina ending into some sort of triumph of thought-provoking science fiction film-making. Trust me, The Twilight Zone, this is not.
I’ve little doubt—in fact, I’m quite certain—that obscure third world directors and anonymous film students all over the world have produced far worse films than Monster A-Go Go. However, as far as movies that were theatrically released in the English speaking world go, you would be hard-pressed to find one worse than Monster A-Go Go—thanks in no small part to its complete “f**k you” ending. As of this writing, Monster A-Go Go is BadMovieRealm.com’s official pick as the worst film ever made and it’s going to be quite a task indeed to knock this one off its perch.
Reviewed By Derek “A-Go Go” Miller
Posted June 1, 2013
This has to be the biggest f*** you in b-movie history.
You know what? Right back at you, Monster A-Go Go!
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