It's good to see his name again -- Ted V. Mikels, supreme schlockmeister of Las Vegas, proclaiming a new work of "Unbelievable Science-Fiction Horror!"
Funny thing about that word "unbelievable" -- it's almost ALWAYS true. They don't call 'em exploitation movies for nothing do they?
What is it with the retro-sixties trend this year? First we had "Satan Was a Lady," with Doris Wishman reprising her "roughies" from the 1960s. Then we had Herschell Gordon Lewis coming out of retirement to make "Blood Feast 2" almost 40 years after the original. And now we have the creator of classics like "The Doll Squad," "The Corpse Grinders," "The Worm Eaters," "The Undertaker and His Pals," and, lest we forget, "Blood Orgy of the She-Devils," making a sequel to a 1968 movie called "The Astro-Zombies."
Ted's movies were always talky and hard to watch, but he may have outdone himself this time, even with the reappearance of Tura Satana, who starred in "The Doll Squad" and is, of course, immortal as the crazed Varla in "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!"
She's no longer the sexpot burlesque queen she once was, but who can resist her performance as a sadistic conwoman attempting to steal the secret formula of outer-space aliens to turn people into invincible machete-wielding super-zombies that can never be destroyed? At least I THINK that's what she's doing. It's hard to tell in a Ted Mikels film. She might just be faking the super-zombie formula so she can sell it to a group of international secret agents she invites for coffee in her parlor.
It's called "Mark of the Astro-Zombies," and Ted's theory here is that the universe is full of asteroids many times the size of Earth, and on these asteroids are advanced civilizations that will eventually come to colonize us. Of course, where else would they land but Vegas, where a giant lizard in monk's robes and a goo-faced empty-eye-socket king of the aliens mumble incoherently and send out armies of hollow-eyed egghead machete killers who, oddly enough, murder everyone in the same way -- one thwack embedded in the neck.
Fortunately, the alert General Kingston, military attache to the American president, is quick to inform the commander-in-chief and put together a committee of crack scientists and intellectuals, all of whom have long discussions in which they try to figure out where the killers come from and what they might be doing.
Meanwhile, a psychic shrink of some sort sits in a room drawing disturbing charts on a poster to illustrate that the killers are "not of this world" while spunky TV reporter Brinke Stevens (yes! the eighties scream queen! she's back!) interviews fleeing victims and jokes around with her boyfriend, who works for the FBI early in the movie but somehow gets transferred to the CIA halfway through.
Eventually both the agent and his beloved reporter end up bound and gagged at gunpoint by Tura Satana and her Igor-like assistant Zokar, who likes to slurp green alien blood from a jar. Nobody ever knows this is happening, however, because all the members of General Kingston's talkative committee are being zapped with red hickeys by a cyberspace device and then abducted by aliens, who outfit them with brain-control devices in the Lizard Man Spaceship. General Kingston is mildly disturbed because he can't get them on the phone and ends up drinking way too much coffee.
In other words, "Mark of the Astro-Zombies" doesn't make a lick of sense, proving that Ted V. Mikels has not so much evolved as a filmmaker but calcified in that inimitable way he has of being simultaneously outrageous and boring. I doff my hat to a true craftsman.
Let's look at those drive-in totals. We have:
Forty-three dead bodies. No breasts. (Ted doesn't really go for much sex anymore.) Multiple limb-hacking, with spurting goo. Cleaver to the forehead. Lizard people. Alien psycho-surgery. Machete-thwacking to the throat, neck, forehead and shoulder. Cheesy outer-space star-field effects. Disembodied John-Carradine-lookalike talking head. Wire-tapping aliens. Hostage-hacking. Machete-wielding mutant clotheslining of highway Harley riders. Mutant vaporization. Head rolls. Neck-hickey Fu.
Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Liz Renay, as the wild-haired matron abducted by aliens who gives four identical interviews to reporters; John Waite, as the scholarly Dr. Weidermaier, for saying "By comparison, we are mentally retarded children"; Volmar Franz, as the distinguished pony-tailed shrink who says "Yes, as a matter of fact, aliens are being discussed as a possibility"; Shanti, as the stone-faced karate-kicking psychic who says "I don't like what I'm seeing"; Brinke Stevens, for hanging out in the bar when she's not getting tied up and tortured, for saying "Could they function as soldiers?"; Tura Satana, for slapping her co-star silly; Gene Paul Jones, as the President, who explains all the members of his top-secret committee disappearing by saying "Scientists and doctors all keep pretty busy"; and Ted V. Mikels, for writing, producing, directing, photographing, editing and playing the wild-eyed Dr. Mikacevich who makes an incomprehensible speech about "encapsulated thallium" and then gets the bloody high heel of Tura Satana ground into his eviscerated neck.
Two stars. Joe Bob says check it out.
Web site for "Mark of the Astro-Zombies": geocities.com/tedvmikels/astroz.html.
(To reach Joe Bob, go to joebob-briggs.com or e-mail him at JoeBob@upi.com. Snail-mail: P.O. Box 2002, Dallas, Texas, 75221.)