Have You Seen the ACTUAL Version of “The Devil’s Gift”?

Spoiler Alert: “The Devil’s Gift” is terrible regardless of the version.

But first, on a semi-related note…

It’s my BIRTHDAY!!!!

I’ll give you all the pertinents:

  1. I’m thirty-five.
  2. I’m aware I don’t look it.
  3. This post is relevant to birthdays.

All of that said…

The Devil’s Gift…Is A Hell Of A Birthday Present!

Let’s face it, we all get that one gift we don’t like. We suck it up and thank the giver for their efforts…then focus our time and undivided attention on something else. I’ve never had that experience (honest!), as rumor has it I’m easy to shop for.

However…

Someone needs to tell the kid in this movie that he should have played with his other birthday gifts. Because this movie would have been over faster!

The Devil’s Gift is a 1984 feature film directed by Kenneth J. Berton, he of the stinker Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders, which is only watchable with riffing and Ernest Borgnine.

For me, that’s probably because my Uncle Sam looked just like him. This is actually Borgnine, not my Uncle Sam.

The Devil’s Gift is infamously known in its heavily-edited, child-friendly form (as seen on Mystery Science Theater 3000), and until recently, this was the only version I knew about. I figured, “oh, it’s a short film and it was needed to pad out the runtime of this longer film.” It was version I saw as a sixteen-year-old MSTie in 1999, and several times years later.

Nope.

…and the DVD cover that makes me scream B.S.!

The Devil’s Gift is an actual living, breathing representation of what a truly terrible movie one can make (that doesn’t involve Tommy Wiseau), and how it can absolutely feel disjointed even without heavy editing. Again, not involving Tommy Wiseau.

The original version is darker and more “violent,” but just as cheap, ugly, poorly-plotted and clunky as the version seen on MST3K.

Again, I’m absolutely certain Tommy Wiseau’s name does not appear anywhere in the credits.

Oh, the “Plot…”

Michael Andrews receives a cymbal-banging monkey as a birthday present, purchased by his father David’s girlfriend, Susan. The toy monkey was found among the ruins of a burned-down house, untouched by the damage surrounding it, and brought to an antiques shop, where Susan later decides this monkey is a Great Gift Idea.

And that’s where the fun begins!

*Cymbals Banging*

Each time the monkey bangs his cymbals of his own accord (the first clue this “toy” could not possibly be safe to play with), something happens. And by “something,” I mean death. Houseplants, the family dog, a housefly. And if it isn’t death, it is near-misses involving Michael: a near hit-and-run, attempting smothering, and attempted drowning. The monkey wants this kid dead, and two out of three times, it wants Susan to be the killer. The other time, it wants a car to kill him.

This is a terrible, horrible, ugly, schlock-filled, low-rent film that tries to be horror/thriller, and comes up comedy/Not Thriller. And the ending…let’s just say Merlin doesn’t arrive to retrieve his monkey.

The plot of the film is similar to Stephen King’s short story The Monkey, which is obviously an insult to King’s genius, since this movie is far from the caliber of Stephen King’s genius (it is alleged that the movie is plagiarized from that story). I’ve used “clunky,” “ugly,” “cheap,” and “poorly-plotted” to describe this movie, all of which is accurate. The acting is ugly, the people are ugly, the general look of the film is ugly, and I swear that 1970s couch every grandparent had is prominent in this house. I recall laughing at the riff “Hello, 1970s house” hysterically as a teenager, acting like I totally got why it was so funny.  As an adult, I get the joke…this is a 1970s house. This is 1976 trying to masquerade as 1984.

The runner up for laughs? This scene with riffing…

Upload via WhiteBimboMan

If the guys from RiffTrax ever get their hands on it, I will be proudly claim firsties forking over the cost to see it in the theater. I have no shame.

The Devil’s Gift

Behold, the gift you don’t want, in its original form, complete with home video logos and trailers at the end.

For me, the real “gift” is that it is the 1985 Vestron Video print, complete with that screeching logo.

Anyway, celebrate my birthday with me over a movie about a possessed toy, and that toy’s determination to kill. It’s a helluva gift that you might just say the devil had something to do with…

Admit it, you giggled a little.

Anyway, here’s the ugly truth of a film…

Upload via m1lkm4n

But, if you prefer the equally awkward, heavily edited, family-friendly B-story of a Z-grade film, then by all means, watch the original, if only for Ernest Borgnine.

Come for the laughs, stay for the Borgnine!

Invisible Man

Visible Appreciation For The Invisible Man

Hollywood has taken many a swipe at retelling H.G. Wells’ tale of The Invisible Man. It’s just possible that none of them were as intentionally shagadelic as the 1975 NBC TV series of the same name.
Invisible Man

The Invisible Man starred David McCallum, who had just finished a two-season stint on the BBC World War II series Colditz, but was still best known to viewers the world over as The Man From UNCLE’s Ilya Kuryakin. McCallum was instantly recognizable, and still hot property on both sides of the Atlantic, and in this series he played scientist David Westin, who uses himself as a guinea pig in experiments to achieve invisibility. Westin’s wife, Kate, is refreshingly shown to be his partner in both lab and love, and his intellectual equal as a scientist; she’s played by Melinda Fee, who later became a household name on the soap opera scene. Craig Stevens, still best known for playing Peter Gunn, is their beleaguered boss, Walter Carlson.

But the effect is supposed to be temporary, and instead Westin is permanently invisible. And since the Cold War is still on, as soon as word leaks out from the Klae Corporation, the Westins’ employer, that invisibility has been achieved, it isn’t long before government agents want Westin and his secrets, and show few qualms about hurting anyone who stands in their way. The Invisible Man is emblematic of entertainment in the lingering shadows of both Watergate and the Cold War: even our guys can’t be trusted, never mind the Commies. To prevent the process from being repeated for the benefit of spies and assassins, Westin destroys the equipment that rendered him invisible, thereby cutting off any hope that he can just step back into the machine and become visible again.

In order to pay back for the equipment and to stay in a position where he can try to figure out how to become visible again, Dan Westin becomes “the Klae Resource”, a top secret asset for which the Klae Corporation commands top-dollar prices. From takedowns of drug rings to corrupt small-town judges, nothing is more than the Invisible Man can handle. Dan always has a handy stockpile of gloves and masks that just happen to look flawlessly like the hands and head of David McCallum.

To show Dan donning or ditching his “visible man” disguise involved a problematic process of shooting on video against a blue screen, with McCallum in at least a partial blue bodysuit that would “vanish”. In an attempt to avoid the jarring switch between film and video, that video footage would be played back on a monitor whose refresh rate matched the shutter speed of a film camera positioned directly in front of it. This effect was used sparingly, both because of the time involved and because, frankly, it didn’t look that great.

So what did The Invisible Man have going for it? The sheer chemistry going on between McCallum and Fee accounts for much of the appeal. In true 1970s style, the show plays up the one thing we’ve always suspected about the Invisible Man, in whatever setting the story is told: while Westin is invisible, he’s running around naked. Little secret is made of the fact that the Westins take every opportunity to…enjoy…Dan’s invisibility. They’re a great on-screen team – The Invisible Man has a lot of comedy moments and doesn’t take itself too seriously. The invisibility gag is put to use in situations other than earth-shaking secret agent scenarios, which also keeps things lively.

If you’re new to The Invisible Man, you’ll be happy to know that the pilot movie and all twelve episodes are available on DVD and, since the show was shot on film, Blu-Ray. Be warned that the Blu-Rays, while sharp, reframe the show in widescreen, cutting off the top and bottom of film footage that was always intended to be in a 4:3 aspect ratio. I wish the Blu-Ray producers of the world would get the hint that this is as much of a butchering of the original material as pan-and-scan VHS tapes were. (The DVD gives you the original 4:3 picture.)

So why did The Invisible Man last only 12 episodes? Invisibility gags, whether they’re of the time-consuming, video-to-film type or pulling stuff along on fishing line, aren’t cheap to do, and each episode has several of them. The show’s creators, Harve Bennett and Steven Bochco, were rising stars who had more than one iron in their respective fires – Bennett was already overseeing The Six Million Dollar Man, while Bochco was in the early stages of a career that would see him go on to be the showrunner and creator of the likes of Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, and Cop Rock. After The Invisible Man’s cancellation, Bennett retooled the concept and relaunched it just a few months later as the even-shorter-lived Gemini Man, trading McCallum’s British class in for Ben Murphy’s all-American aw-shucks, which only stayed on the prime time schedule for four weeks following a pilot movie. (Gemini Man may well be remembered best for giving us the MST3K episode “Riding With Death”.)

In the meantime, rewind to 1975 and enjoy once more the days when The Invisible Man – complete with a mention of H.G. Wells in the end credits – was keeping the prime time schedule groovy.

[Via] Visual Ent

May the 4th Be With These 1978 Commercials!

There’s a bit of an overkill vibe of “May the 4th Be With You” floating around the interwebs today. You’d think it’s some kind of official holiday, wouldn’t you?

I think we can all agree to disagree,The Star Wars Holiday Special made a great case for why we don’t celebrate Life Day, but actual Star Wars cannon makes a great case for why we celebrate May 4th as Star Wars Day.

Another thing we can all agree on? How great these 1978 commercials that aired during the holiday special are…when riffed by Michael J. Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy of RiffTrax and Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame.

Both uploaded by Torgo Fury

Oh, and…you want Tobor. Because he’s probably some long-lost scrapped Star Wars character who got his own toy, complete with not-so-subliminal advertising pitch from Michael J. Nelson!

Allison is the collector of commercials, and commercials with RiffTrax commentary on them? They’re even better! She’d love for you to stop by her blog, Allison’s Written Words to see some of what she has in her collection, and would love for you to follow her blog on Facebook, if you like a little randomness and geekiness in your Facebook feed. And who doesn’t? You can also find her on Twitter @AllisonGeeksOut.

Allison doesn’t want Tobor.