Full confession before we start… the fine folks from the Mike and Ike’s ASSJam podcast are not only friends of the site, but also composed a theme song for yours truly when I sent out a half considered request on Twitter. Yep, my own theme song. But I’m a professional, so I won’t let their act of charity enter into my thoughts on the very funny MIKE AND IKE’S GRINDHOUSE – VOLUME 1, a mix of gonzo party tape and Mystery Science Theater 3000 style riffing.
For those familiar with the humor (and voices) of the Mike and Ike podcast, you probably have an idea of what to expect. Rip-roaringly funny comments, die-hard horror movie love (with plenty of neat-o information), and an omnipresent stoner sensibility which permeates the entire proceedings. The key to GRINDHOUSE – VOLUME 1 is their ability to pick material that is both obscure enough that it hasn’t been done to death by MST3K (or Rifftrax, or Cinematic Titanic), but familiar (and goofy) enough that it still provides a fine canvas for commentary. Not an easy task in the era of snark in which we live, but Mike and Ike manage to choose three pieces which cover the often disparate and confusing landscape of Grindhouse cinema, while remaining fun on the bun.
We start – surprisingly – with a cartoon. But not just any cartoon. It’s the infamous “Hittin’ the Trail for Hallelujah Land”, one of the Censored Eleven Warner Brothers cartoons that have been pulled entirely from syndication due to their questionable attitudes towards race. In fact, this particular cartoon (despite being in the public domain) has been withheld from distribution since 1968, likely because it features some ridiculously exaggerated African American stereotypes, though doesn’t dive quite as deeply into awful caricature as some of the more famous wartime Warner Brothers efforts. Perhaps equally surprising is how much the cartoon borrows from the Disney shorts of the period, most notably “Steamboat Willy” and “The Skeleton Dance”. Mike and Ike refrain from commenting over this effort, and it’s just as well since it really does speak for itself. Historically important, but definitely offensive.
Thankfully our intrepid hosts follow up that effort with hand-picked sequences from the B&W Beach Party monster movie THE BEACH GIRLS AND THE MONSTER. It’s 18 minutes of nuttiness as Mike & Ike throw rapid fire references and movie trivia at the screen with reckless abandon. The editing likely saves what is a rather stodgy film, and while the humor doesn’t always land, the “greatest hits” style editing of the film makes for a raucous good time, and Mike & Ike have obvious chemistry (even when they trip over their lines a bit). As a full length feature it might have been a lot to swallow, but this is just the right amount of nutty goodness – though you’ll likely still wonder what the producers were smoking to bring such a film into existence.
But these are just the appetizers. The MEAT of MIKE & IKE’S GRINDHOUSE is Jack Hill’s classic (and awfully nutty) SPIDER BABY. The film is delightfully gonzo, and worth watching even in its unexpurgated form to get a full taste of the dark humor and weirdness on display. Our two hosts are really on their game here, and find the proper balance of awe and humor, while maintaining proper respect for their source material. Worth the price of admission for this segment alone.
Technical specs are high for the entire program, though obviously sound quality is what is most important here. Mike and Ike have always had one of the better sounding exploitation podcasts out there, so thankfully this production follows suit – with clear audio throughout. While all three of the included films are in the public domain, the prints used here are – for the most part – extremely watchable. “Hittin’ the Trail for Hallelujah Land” is in the worst shape, but it’s also the rarest and oldest, so that’s expected. SPIDER BABY looks to be taken from a TCM broadcast, and looks terrific for a low-budget production from 1964.
Feel like checking out MIKE & IKE’S GRINDHOUSE? It’ll be available at GeekPlanetOnline starting on JANUARY 12th for the low, low price of $10 U.S. Help out some fellow exploitation fans, and check out Mike and Ike’s podcast. Tell ’em Sweetback sent ya!
Mike & Ike’s Grindhouse: Vol. 1 will be available for download from 12th January 2012 in the form of a DRM-free download, provided as a thank you gift in exchange for a $10USD (currently £6.43GBP) donation towards the running costs of the Mike & Ike series. By agreement, $2 of every donation will be applied towards the running of GeekPlanetOnline as a whole.
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