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John Scalzi – The Science Fiction B-Movie Hall of Fame: Cast Your Vote!


America is getting ready to vote in a presidential election next Tuesday, but forget that — I’ve got something far more important to life on earth as we know it today: A poll for your choices for the Science Fiction B-Movie Hall of Fame! Two weeks ago I asked you all to nominate some of your cheesy favorite science fiction flicks of all time, and you came through, with over a hundred comments with suggestions. From these I’ve culled ten nominees, based on (in no particular order) frequency of nomination, enthusiasm for the movie by the nominator, and fundamental cheesiness of the film involved.

I tried to steer away from movies that, while cheesy, were also major productions — for example, 1983’s Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, while undeniably cheesetastic, was also relatively big-budget and heavily promoted by Columbia Pictures. And since I limited the poll list to ten movies, I couldn’t pick everything for this round. But don’t worry. If this goes off well, we’ll do this again.

And now: Your nominees — and selected comments from the nominators. Read the reasons, and then cast your vote. The two movies which receive the highest number of votes will ascend to the Science Fiction B-Movie Hall of Fame. I’m sure their filmmakers would be proud. In chronological order:

Robot Monster (1953)
TioChan:
“The last family on Earth have to contend with man-eating dinosaurs, a
food shortage, and a space helmet-wearing gorilla from outer-space
armed with a calcinator ray and a bubble machine who wants them dead!”

The Little Shop of Horrors (1960)
Elaine: “Directed by Roger Corman and made on a budget
of about $1.98… although Wikipedia claims it was $30,000. I’d say it
qualifies as science fiction: Seymour got Audrey Jr. through
crossbreeding, which is enough science to make it science fiction.
Anyway, it’s a classic just for Jack Nicholson’s early role as the
masochistic dental patient. I just want to know what they did with the
$30,000…it sure doesn’t show on the screen, which is one of the
things that makes the movie so much fun.”

Island of Terror (1966)
S’inneth:
“Sand gone bad! The one actor that I am familiar with is Peter Cushing
who battles bone sucking silicates on an island that no one can leave.
I remember watching this as a kid and being totally grossed out about
the ‘bag of skin’ that was left after the silicates got done feeding. I
also could never shake the feeling that there was some odd relationship
between the silicates and my mom’s old Electrolux vacuum.”

Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970)
Cag: “Decent production values combined with what were
probably inexpensive sets, since we’re talking about offices and a top
secret underground computer facility. Also, the headliners and rest of
the cast are solid reliable actors, but hardly A-list stars: Eric
Braeden, Susan Clark, Gorden Pinsent, William Schallert, Dolph Sweet,
Georg Sanford Brown, Martin E. Brooks and Marion Ross. And the plot is
pure SF B-movie — computers gain sentience and take over the world.”

Dark Star (1974)
Joel Finkle: “Co-written and staring Dan O’Bannon, who used some of the same tropes with less humor in Alien,
co-written, directed and scored by John Carpenter… this piece of
schlock, with crappy effects (shoe-shaped spaceship coming to a dead
stop in space), talking bombs, a beach-ball alien. Sweet sweet schlock,
this is great.”

Starcrash (1978)
Starflier:
“Is there any other movie that stars both Christopher Plummer AND David
Hasselhoff? The stars appear to be made out of Christmas tree lights;
the female protagonist’s clothing has this tendency to mysteriously
disappear. And of course, nothing beats the climax of the movie, when
Christopher Plummer looks out majestically over the star field and
declares: ‘Imperial Battleship, HALT THE FLOW OF TIME!'”

Battle Beyond the Stars (1980)
John Scalzi: “Future
Oscar nominees and winners put on a science fiction show paid for with
the lint in their pockets (OK, actually $2 million, but that’s still
not much). John Boy Walton as the film’s Luke Skywalker! A sarcastic
spaceship! George Peppard slumming — and think what that requires! And
’80s B-movie fixture Sybil Danning in hot leather! Truly, the best of
all possible B-movie worlds.”

Robot Jox (1990)
Melomel:
“‘It is 50 years since the nuclear holocaust almost destroyed mankind.
War is now outlawed and all territory disputes between the two great
alliances are settled by single combat. Giant robots confront each
other in gladiatorial combat, operated by their pilots known as “Robot
Jox.”‘”

1) It’s from that wonderful time when post-apocalyptic movies
envisioned before the collapse of the Soviet Union came out after its
collapse.

2) It got orbital mechanics right — thrust behind the robots moved
them *up* in orbit, and they thrusted below to increase speed.

2) There was no sound in space.

3) The hero said to the villain, ‘Wait! We don’t have to do this! We
don’t have to kill each other!’ and the villain (who has been pretty
smart throughout the film) thought it over, said, ‘Ok, yeah, you’re
right,’ and they walked off for a beer or something.”

Six String Samauri (1998)
Thisisendless:
“Post apocalypse, Elvis, spectacular marital arts sequences, great one
liners AND the Red Elvises provide the soundtrack. They filmed the
whole thing in Death Valley without a permit and kept getting kicked
out. I mean come ON.”

Pitch Black (2000)
CarrieV:
“Vin Diesel before he was famous. Claudia Black from TV. But the real
draw is the genuinely excellent story, rooted in traditional science
fictional tropes. Slam-bang opening action sequence, moral dilemma for
the main characters, well paced, twists and turns. Fantastic movie by
most criteria.”

Now: Vote! (P.S. If you’re an American citizen, please also vote on Nov. 4. I was kidding about this being more important.)

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scalzi.pngWinner of the Hugo Award and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, John Scalzi is the author of The Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies and the novels Old Man’s War and Zoe’s Tale. He’s also the editor of METAtropolis, an audiobook anthology on Audible.com. His column appears every Thursday.

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