Before MST3K there was … The Texas 27 Film Vault! In the middle 1980s, way down on Level 31 Randy Clower and Richard Malmos, machine-gun toting Film Vault Technicians First Class hosted this neglected cult show. Balladeer’s Blog continues its celebration of the program’s 30th anniversary year.
ORIGINAL BROADCAST DATE: Saturday September 28th, 1985 from 10:30pm to 1:00 am.
SERIAL: Before showing and mocking the movie our members of the Film Vault Corps showed and mocked a chapter of Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940). In that serial Ming the Merciless unleashes a disease called the Purple Death on Earth, prompting Flash Gordon, Dale Arden and Dr Zarkov to fly to the planet Mongo to find a cure and defeat Ming for good.
FILM VAULT LORE: Fellow Film Vault Fan Doctor X-Rae ( a lady, hence the spelling) informed me that this 1952 film was shown by our boys as part of a promotional give-away of tickets to the Chuck Norris movie Invasion USA which was hitting theaters back then. This would have been similar to the ticket give-away a month or so earlier to the 1985 Godzilla remake, for which Randy and Richard showed King Kong vs Godzilla.
HOST SEGMENTS: Some potential dispute here. Dr X-Rae thinks that this was the episode that showed Randy and Richard seeming to quit the Film Vault Corps (“the few, the proud, the sarcastic”) and through an oddball series of events, winding up in front of a firing squad … and getting shot!
It all turns out to be a dream – see my interview with Randy Clower for details. This would all tie in with the “it’s only a dream” style ending of Invasion USA (1952 version) but there’s no hard and fast rule that the Host Segments HAD to parallel the night’s movie. Randy himself is unable to help as he doesn’t recall either way. (I think I’ve drained the poor man’s mind of every shred of Texas 27 Film Vault memories at this point.)
Invasion USA presented a hypothetical invasion of the United States by the Soviet Union. Well, technically the invading nation goes unnamed but with their soldiers’ Boris Badunov accents it’s no real secret who it’s supposed to be.
The film is vaguely structured like a disaster movie as we meet a variety of Americans in a bar – a tractor manufacturer, a ranch owner, a hot babe (Peggie Castle), a boozey Congressman, a smug bastard reporter (Gerald Mohr) and the establishment’s comic relief bartender. An enigmatic and seemingly sinister foreign man is also hanging out at the bar.
As mock newscasts and recycled World War 2 newsreels pretend to depict the actual military invasion of the U.S. we also see the personal travails of our main characters unfold. The tractor manufacturer has his date (Peggie Castle) stolen by Gerald Mohr’s smooth reporter character, then the invading army (which uses conventional weapons with fewer nukes than you might expect) takes over his factory to make tanks for their army. He tries to resist and is killed.
The rancher and a quirky cab driver reach his ranch just as an enemy plane wipes out a nearby dam, unleashing waters that wipe out (among other things) the ranch plus him, the cab driver and the rancher’s wife and kids. The Congressman gets killed when the foreign army seizes Washington D.C., leaving New York City the last major city in the country still free from enemy hands.
The happy-go- lucky bartender brags about how he always avoids service in wartime, immediately following which the Bitch Goddess of Karma causes his bar to get bombed in the next attack. His dead body is found in the rubble, clutching a daquiri tumbler.
Our two annoying leads, played by Mohr and Castle, romance each other in war-torn New York City like they think they’re World War 3’s answer to Rick and Ilsa from Casablanca. His career takes off as he covers the ongoing conflict (without ever leaving New York City) while she volunteers as a nurse. In the movie’s climax, with New York City itself occupied by now, the reporter is killed for refusing to become a propaganda shill for the country’s new dictators. (Today’s reporters are so shallow they’d be GLAD to do it in the best “Hail Ants” spirit.)
As for Peggie, she throws herself out the window to her death rather than submit to being violated by the horny new masters of New York. SPOILER: It’s all been a dream, or rather, a hypnotic illusion courtesy of the seemingly sinister foreign man, played by Dan O’Herlihy. Nobody ever left the bar. O’Herlihy’s character Mr Ohman (“Mr Omen”) just wanted to show these decadent Americans the importance of eternal vigilance against the Communist menace.
This is one of the most beloved and enjoyably campy Cold War melodramas. It has a kind of “War of the Worlds radio show but with Commies instead of aliens” feel to it. The timing of the film’s initial release is puzzling to me, however, since the U.S. was among the U.N. nations fighting in the Korean War at the time. Not exactly the lazy, idyllic, peacetime homefront atmosphere the movie tries to portray.
At any rate the recycled World War 2 footage and attitudes, the low budget and the hilarious dialogue all make this a true Bad Movie Classic. For trivia buffs BOTH original Lois Lanes – Noel Neill and Phyllis Coates – show up in the cast, as do William Schallert and Edward G Robinson, Jr. Lots of fun for Randy and Richard, the former stars of The Trivia Guys (their previous show).
IN THE NEAR FUTURE BALLADEER’S BLOG WILL PRESENT MORE TEXAS 27 FILM VAULT MILESTONES.
Be here to share the Film Vault Corp’s mission of “safeguarding America’s schlock-culture heritage”.
FOR ADDITIONAL INFO ON THIS SHOW –https://glitternight.com/texas-27-film-vault/
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