Rudy Schwartz's Reviews

It was Thursday. I heard the morning traffic coming through the window when I woke up, but that day it seemed different. There was a persistent squeaking coming from the laundry room. At first I thought the washing machine must have been out of balance, but the noise lacked the usual rhythm of the spin cycle, and was more like a Riddle and Phelps interlude on Hee Haw. I crawled out of bed, put on my robe, and walked down the stairs to see if anything was wrong. When I opened the washing machine, a guy dressed up like a pirate was staring up at me. He was eighteen inches tall, had no teeth, and smelled like goat cheese. He had been rubbing two pieces of styrofoam together, but he stopped and yelled up at me:

Whoa, hey, goddamn. You startled me!

What are you doing in my washing machine?

Oh hell, I don't know... Hey, listen to this noise I can make with these two pieces of styrofoam!

Yeah, I heard it, but what the fuck are you doing in my washing machine? How did you get in there?

Oh, is this YOUR washing machine?

Yes. It's my washing machine.

It's very nice. I like it. Say, would you like to have sex?


You know. Sex. And then maybe we could watch a movie?

How did you get inside of my washing machine?

Hey, do you like Ted V. Mikels?


Ted V. Mikels. You know, that guy who made "The Corpse Grinders" and "Blood Orgy of the She Devils".

Sure, I guess. What was that you said about having sex?

Never mind that. Let's watch this movie. It's called "Mark of the Astro Zombies." It's the dumbest pile of shit since ABC let Paul Lynde host that Halloween special.

What's your name?

Name's Peaches. Happy to make your acquaintance!

I reached down to pull Peaches the Pirate from the spin drum, and carried him over to the ottoman in front of my 15" Sylvania with the matchbook wedged under the tuning knob. I went to the kitchen to get a bag of Doritos and a couple of cans of Schlitz, and Peaches yelled something about antibiotic ointment. When I returned to the living room, I pretended I hadn't heard him, gave him a beer and patted him on the head. Fortunately, he hadn't moved to my recliner, so I settled in for a morning of cinema. Peaches let out a nervous giggle as the FBI warning ended and the DVD menus appeared. We had the choice of playing the movie, or watching a brief documentary on the making of Mark of the Astro Zombies. We decided to watch the movie first. Peaches grabbed a handful of Doritos, and I noticed that his fingers were caked with scabs. I had hoped his lack of teeth would discourage him, but he could salivate prolifically, quickly reducing the chips to a nauseating, crumbly paste that projected from his diseased gum tissue. After rolling it around on his lips for an uncomfortable duration, he choked down the starchy mess with little effort. I fetched him a damp towel and moved the bag to the other side of the recliner.

I knew we were in trouble right out of the chute, because the set-up for the plot began rolling from the bottom of the screen toward the horizon, like that stupid introduction to Star Wars that has since been copied ad nauseum by every idiot in their first video production class. In this case, it was explained that there are asteroids that are much larger than earth. Some of them are inhabited by beings far more advanced than humans, while others are inhabited by Republicans. Unfortunately, some of the more advanced beings have decided to "force their intentions upon us." It turns out these advanced beings have plastic lizard heads and wear black robes like monks in Monty Python movies. Since the film is from 2002, Ted opted to use the kind of special effects you used to see in Coca Cola commercials in 1983. The aliens arrive aboard a plastic Happy Meal toy landing in the desert. They announce their evil intentions through some sort of flange/distortion device so that you can't understand a fucking thing they're saying, and they have a machine that drains blood from their victims and replaces it with green fluid. These victims in turn are reincarnated as machete wielding killers who look a little like the Intel Blue Men after a six month Krispy Kreme binge. They are unleashed on strip malls and sterile suburban office complexes to slaughter innocents in front of Starbuck's, after which their corpses are returned to the U.S.S. Happy Meal to be converted into the next crop of mindless machete wielding butchers, perpetuating a vicious cycle of terror not unlike a never ending PBS pledge drive.

Meanwhile, at a local television newsroom, Brinke Stevens is busy putting together her nightly broadcast. It must be a slow news day, because she seems genuinely elated that random mutilation murders are taking place in front of places like Appleby's and Circuit City, so she summons a camera crew to go get some live footage and interviews. Her FBI agent boyfriend does not share her enthusiasm, and immediately suspects terrorists. And Tura Satana, reprising her role as Malvira from the original Astro Zombies, eagerly watches it all with her emotionally retarded assistant Zokar, and a pair of binoculars, hoping to parlay the carnage into a lucrative extortion plot.

Peaches spat out some Doritos sludge and squealed something about "kicking some ass" and "taking names," but I pretended I didn't hear him and checked my watch nervously.

Over in Washington, U.S. President Ward Pennington has assembled a team of experts at his office, which for some reason resembles the U.S. Capitol building from the outside, and a San Bernardino La Quinta Inn from within. Although no one has any idea what's happening, an FBI agent, a medical researcher, and an asteroid tracking specialist are included in the blue ribbon commission, which convenes in a meeting room with ugly office furniture and a ten foot wide painting of the Cascade Mountains. The general from the U.S. Army who has called the meeting explains that the Oval Office "wasn't available" that day, successfully tying together any loose ends in the narrative that more discriminating viewers might have flagged. They then launch into a stilted exposition, trading lines like local news co-anchors at an NBC affiliate in Waco, Texas, about how the spate of random machete murders reminds them of that time back in the 60s when John Carradine tried to control the world with zombie experiments, and almost succeeded except that he fucked up and used defective brain tissues. The President asks whether implanting computer chips in corpses might produce super zombies, and the medical specialist says "My department would certainly be interested in knowing about that." They discuss it some more, and the President says he doesn't want any of this information getting leaked to the public, since other countries might want to buy the technology, leading to a zombie technology arms race. The asteroid specialist says the possibilities are endless, and then the medical specialist says "My department would certainly be interested in this," as if she hadn't just said that. The President orders the FBI to bring in the CIA, probably since they did such a bang up job with that Bay of Pigs deal, then tells everyone that he's available around the clock.

Peaches' mood switched from giddiness to concern, and I noticed he was scratching his butt a lot. I regretted not picking up a can of Scotchgard the day before.

To keep the story moving, Ted uses screen crawl text to explain what's happening, kind of like when MSNBC gives you breaking news that babies have been switched at a hospital in Iowa, or that Barack Obama is a shitty bowler. I don't recall seeing this plot advancement method in any film before, but it does spare us ten more minutes of dialogue, and quickly gets us up to speed with what John Carradine's been up to since the original Astro Zombies. Dr. Mikacevich, a "mad scientist" who is an arch enemy of Tura Satana, is played by Ted "Multitasking" Mikels. He has kept John Carradine's head alive with wires and vacuum hoses, hoping to extract the secrets of zombie-humans who can kill everyone in the world except Ted, and then be controlled by "signals sent through cyberspace." He cross-examines the fake rubber John Carradine head:

"Come come, DeMarco. As a fellow scientist, I thought your information would be more forthcoming."

"Perhaps you're right. I suppose I could give you some little clues about the heart flow valve."

"The true spirit of camaraderie must prevail here. You have the knowledge. I need the knowledge. Now let's approach this man to man. Or man to head."

"Very well. Set the frequency boost at five, and the induction coil at 0.2, first of all. And about the memory circuits. You'll need to update that."

"But what about the thought wave transmissions? The radium control units will be overloaded!"

"Radium is useless. You'll need to use my formula for encapsulated thallium. Seven thousand grankins will do it. And pay close attention to the electrolytic limitator. Set it at 12.2 amps."

This brain dump of the Scientific Holy Grail is rudely interrupted by Tura Satana and her sidekick Zokar, who have located Ted's laboratory with Google Maps and the white pages. Tura bursts into the laboratory from an exterior shot that looks like an office furniture warehouse, shoots Ted in the chest, then laughs as she pushes her high heel into the wound. An exchange of schoolyard sarcasm with the fake rubber head ensues. How this furthers her plan isn't clear, but the plot involves convincing world leaders that she holds the secret to Carradine's zombie technology, and scamming them into paying millions of dollars for it.

After some really stupid shit involving a remote visioning psychic being brought in to assist the federal government, there's a wonderful scene at Tura's apartment. Emissaries arrive from Germany, Hungary, Cuba, Romania, Italy, along with a black guy who's using a fake accent that renders his one line indecipherable. The "Cuban" guy looks like he's from Wisconsin, and the "African" guy is wearing a red polo shirt and Reeboks. Zokar points toward the living room and tells them "There's some booze and snacks back there. Don't eat 'em all". Tura has kidnapped a couple of people and bound and gagged them in chairs. Her presentation involves dressing up Zokar as an alien, then using a TV remote control to make him slit their throats, thus demonstrating her complete mastery of alien zombie technology. The emissaries are duly convinced of her legitimacy, and begin bidding for her services.

I looked over at Peaches and noticed that he had nodded off. His enthusiasm had apparently waned, but to be honest, I was now completely immersed in the compelling chronicle that Ted was weaving. Thankfully, some good aliens from some other asteroid showed up and dispatched the evil aliens with some weapons purchased at Dollar Tree. President Pennington thanked them and sent his psychics and asteroid specialists back to their day jobs. The End.

The bonus documentary unraveled the mystery behind the eye catching special effects used in the film. Wires and plastic hoses were attached to a rubber head to present a convincing portrayal of a rubber head with wires and hoses attached to it. Cheap plastic machetes with neck-sized indentations were used in conjunction with red food coloring and a case of Karo pancake syrup. Who would have guessed? One of Ted's sycophants explains that Ted "taught half of Hollywood how to do what they do." Presumably this includes editing scenes such that the ends of sentences get cut off, but forgotten and mumbled lines remain intact.

Peaches rolled off the ottoman onto the carpet, leaving smudges of pus and saliva. I fetched some rubber kitchen gloves and poked at him, but when he didn't respond, a wave of dread swept over me. My little Peaches the Pirate had suffered a fatal stroke without my noticing, and had remained propped up in a deceased state until a draft from the window knocked him from his perch. Compounding my grief, I would have to spend the day explaining to a coroner and to the police how a spunky, malodorous pirate named Peaches had changed my life for the better. It took a few hours, but eventually their suspicions faded, and I was left in peace to reassemble the broken pieces of my life. Looking back on that day with a bittersweet regret, I will always treasure Mark of the Astro Zombies, but I will also know the heartache of a lost opportunity for incredible sex.

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