JUST IMAGINE was one of those true oddities that make bad movie culture so much fun.
This uproariously campy sci-fi relic started with a comparison of life in America in 1880 and 1930, the year the movie was released.
From there it provided a speculative tale about life 50 more years in the “future” of 1980. The lame special effects, failed predictions about the future, typically stiff acting for a 1930 effort and – worst of all – a few unbearable SONGS make this a true Bad Movie Classic deserving of a Plan 9– sized cult following.
David Butler directed this film, which featured El Brendel as the incredibly lame comic relief. Brendel’s schtick was to embody stereotypes about Swedish – Americans just as Chico Marx’s schtick was to embody stereotypes about Italian- Americans. Chico was much funnier, though.
Brendel played a man who died in 1930, was cryogenically frozen, then gets thawed out and cured in 1980 when science has progressed enough to find a cure for being struck by lightning. El is pretty much the eyes of the audience in the brave new world of 1980 but his one-note comedy routine makes you wish a painful death on him early in the film.
The scientists who restore Brendel to life lose all interest in him once their operation is a success. The faux Swede doesn’t even attract media or academic attention despite being a man from five decades earlier who, uh … WAS BROUGHT BACK FROM THE DEAD!
Brendel is saved from becoming a homeless vagrant by two bystanders witnessing the operation: J-21 (John Garrick) and his pal RT-42 (Frank Albertson). Everyone in 1980 goes by numbers and letters, so the irrepressible (or annoying) El Brendel adopts the moniker “Single 0” (Isn’t he just too precious?)
Single 0’s new pals get him acquainted with the world of 1980 – everyone flies around in small planes instead of driving cars, traffic cops direct traffic from hover-copters, nobody’s clothes have pockets anymore, video phones have replaced telephones, babies gestate in machines and Prohibition is still in effect (?) but people circumvent it by simply buying whiskey in pill form (the Judy Garland future) just like they get their food.
Soon the fish out of water Single 0 is caught up in our main plotline – a tale of star-crossed lovers trying to find happiness together. In 1980 the government arranges all marriages and J-21’s beloved, LN-18 (a young Maureen O’Sullivan) has been assigned to marry a man named MT-3 (Kenneth Thomson).
MT-3 runs a newspaper and just like today, everyone involved with the news business is a complete scumbag, interested only in money and self-aggrandizement. The government has just rejected J-21’s appeal, making it illegal for him to even socialize with LN-18 ever again.
Naturally our young couple conspire to see each other on the sly and get caught by MT-3, who could have J-21 arrested but instead just orders LN-18 to tell her true love that she can never see him again.
LN-18 is considered such a catch she’s reserved for the upper crust so the only way J-21 could beat out the wealthy MT-3 to become the woman’s fiancee is if he becomes a more prominent citizen than the tycoon.
With the wedding between LN-18 and MT-3 scheduled just a few months away J-21 is desperate and feels he has nothing to lose. So, he volunteers to fly to Mars in an experimental craft built by the mad scientist Z-4 (Hobart Bosworth).
His friend RT-42 volunteers to join him, and (ugh) Single 0 stows away for the dangerous journey. After a kickass party to see the explorers off they fly away in a vibrator-shaped spaceship. And not just ANY vibrator-shaped spaceship, but the same one that would be used by Flash Gordon and company in his eponymous serial in 1936.
Mars is pretty much the highlight of the movie, both storywise and weirdness-wise. Our explorers can breathe without helmets, the landscape is straight out of an acid-trip and the Martians themselves … Well, they’re mostly scantily-clad women and a few scantily-clad men thrown in for variety.
Everyone on Mars is born twins, with one twin being “good” (and horny) and the other one being “evil” (and murderous). They are ruled by a queen whose consort is a flagrantly gay man who flirts with Single O. This flirtation prompts the El Brendel joke “She’s not the queen … HE is!” a witticism that would probably make the emotional cripples of the 21st Century cry.
Anyway, the singing and dancing on Mars is even stranger than anything we’ve seen thus far in this hilariously demented film and that’s saying something. If you’re not familiar with these early talkies (movies with sound) the filmmakers seemed to feel that just because they had sound they had to throw in lame-ass songs, even in a flick like this that didn’t, strictly speaking, need them!
Naturally the Martian expedition – which takes a Martian “monster” back to Earth to prove they really were on the Red Planet – gives our hero enough prominence that he beats out the villainous MT-3 for Maureen O’Sullivan’s hand, bringing on the movie’s happy ending.
Sprinkle in other bits of madness – women’s clothing in 1980 is reversible for day and evening wear, the Census Bureau is virtually fascistic and street lights float in the air.
This baby is a must-see for lovers of bad and weird movies, especially if you enjoy laughing at hilariously flawed visions of the future.++
FOR MY LOOK AT BLAXPLOITATION HORROR FILMS: https://glitternight.com/2011/10/26/a-very-blaxploitation-halloween/
FOR MY LIST OF THE TOP ELEVEN BAD MOVIES FOR HALLOWEEN: https://glitternight.com/2011/10/24/the-eleven-most-neglected-bad-movie-classics-for-halloween/
FOR MY LOOK AT MEXICAN HORROR FILMS CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/2011/10/31/a-halloween-mexi-monster-bestiary/
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