Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cinemasochism: LITTLE LOST SEA SERPENT (1995)

It is no secret that I watch a lot of bad movies.  Hell, this whole blog is practically a virtual shrine to the kind of movies that make you want to pop your eyeballs out and soak them in bleach.  In my humble opinion, however, one filmmaker sits high atop the cinemasochism mountain.  He made films so bad that I run to Albert Pyun or Nick Millard for relief. This man is Donald G. Jackson.  There is a scene in MARATHON MAN (1980) where Sir Laurence Olivier’s Nazi character tortures Dustin Hoffman by drilling into his teeth sans anesthetic.  He then offers him a choice – numbing solution to dull the pain or further prodding with his dental pick. Jackson’s filmmaking is that pick, constantly plucking at the raw, exposed nerves of filmdom or, dare I say, humanity.

Like most folks, my first exposure to Jackson’s filmography came with HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN (1988) starring “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.  It was a decent post-apocalypse flick with an unusual twist and tongue firmly planted in cheek.  Then my “friend” Marty sent me Jackson’s ROLLER BLADE (1986) and it was all downhill from there.  Now, I'm not much for reading into things, but - no joke - my VCR spit ROLLER BLADE out twice when I first tried to watch it. Turns out I'm dumb enough to fix the problem (stuck gate) and throw the video back in.  The film is torture on celluloid and easily in my top 5 of the worst films I’ve ever seen.  It also virtually created a new fetish subgenre that I’m sure only Jackson was a member of – scantily clad chicks on rollerblades with samurai swords.  He would go on to make 4 more legit sequels to it and – heaven help us – a bunch more semi-related flicks with “roller” in the title. Imagine your craziest Uncle with a camera and that is Jackson.

Sometime in the mid-90s, Jackson made a choice that only most novice filmmakers made back then.  Namely, he decided to switch to “filming” his productions on video because it was cheaper and, hell, there is no difference between film and video, right?  Not a good move when the one saving grace of your movies is that they were actually shot on film.  At the time, video wasn’t at the level it is today and anything going down the SOV road immediately took on a garish porn aesthetic.  I think I can count on one hand the number of good shot-on-video product.  Regardless, Jackson ventured forward and gave the world LITTLE LOST SEA SERPENT (1995).  A shot-on-video kids flick? Could this be any worse?  Well, sure, let’s put Conrad Brooks in it!

The “film” opens with Tommy Rockwell (Brad Bufanda) and Julie Lockett (Linett Axelsson, who looks a bit like 80s Daryl Hannah) being dropped off at the beach by Tommy’s mom.  Seems there is turmoil in the Rockwell household as Tommy’s workaholic journalist dad (Joe Estevez) is never around and mom’s solution is to drop her kid at the one place he used to like going with his dad.  Nice passive aggressive move there, mom.  Anyway, wandering the beach the kids discover the title creature washed up on the shore after a big storm. Witnessing the discovery from afar are Ozzie (Conrad Brooks) and Wilbur (Jeff Hutchinson), two bumbling tabloid journalists.  The kids, naturally, decide the best thing to do with a sea creature is take it as far from its home the ocean as possible (did Tommy learn this from his mom), while the muckrakers decide they must try to steal this find of the century.

After the little monster (“He’s a sea serpent,” Julie would scold me) eats a bunch of hotdogs and the kids scare an old man (director Jackson in a non-Hitchcockian cameo), they get him home and more hi-jinks ensue.  The family dog Duke tries to get at LLSS and our cute creature eats some of mom’s tropical fish. Meanwhile, we get lots of cutaways to Ozzie and Wilbur in their car waiting for the best moment to strike (they never do) while eating lots of hamburgers and hotdogs. The kids show the sea serpent to their friends and they all decide the best course of action is to return it to the ocean so it can reunite with its family.  Of course, things gets crazy when Tommy’s dad sees their discovery and, like any good parent, decides this is his ticket to fame and fortune. So it is a race to get this little punk starfish back to the beach.

Oh man, I thought there was nothing worse than SOV horror and sci-fi flicks (CRYSTAL FORCE II is a good example), but there is: shot-on-video kids films!  At least the horror/sci-fi ones offer the possibility of some cool gore or cheesy T&A. LITTLE LOST SEA SERPENT offers nothing but the possibility of pain, which it delivers overwhelmingly.  Yes, Jackson must have thought he had hit the goldmine at the cost of a VHS ten-pack as he hoped to cash in on the fervent love kids have for movies.  But this guy can barely make a film, let alone a children’s film.  I’m not kidding, there is an early dialog scene between Ozzie and Wilbur where some guy in the background starts digging through a dumpster.  That is symbolism at its finest.  Jackson can’t be bothered with stuff like continuity and camera set ups, so you can’t be surprised when he fails in the family film plot department.  Here is his take on the classic “parent almost discovers the secret” scene:

Believe it or not, that kid in the clip actually went on to have a career in Hollywood, making this film his equivalent of Vanessa Williams’ nude pics.  I also love how Julie’s line is “we were going to build you a lamp” but it sounds like “we were going to build you a man.”  He also commits the ultimate sin of not including a “I’m going to name you ______” scene. This is required of all kids’ films (per Spielbergian law #1982-ET) where they discover something cute and take it home.  As evidenced by that clip, the acting is horrible as well.  You know your film is in trouble when Conrad Brooks gives the best performance. I give Brooks a hard time for his contributions to cinema like HILLBILLY MONSTER (2003), but he truly is the best actor here as he plays it totally goofy.  There is a long bit where he and his pal talk vaguely about Ed Wood’s PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE (for the uninitiated, Brooks co-starred in that) and they decide since their previous Plan 8 failed that it is time to use Plan 9.  Get it?  It is strange that he and his friend never actually do any kind of attempts at stealing and, most likely, their scenes were added later as they are never onscreen with any other characters.  

Even weirder is the relationship between the two lead kids. Julie is several years older than Tommy and it is never established if she is his babysitter or what (“she’s down for the summer” is all we get about her from one character).  The finale has Tommy giving her a peck on the check (which he misses!), so I’m thinking she has a teaching career ahead of her.  There is also this awkward exchange after they scare Jackson’s character off the beach again.

Tommy: “You’re pretty sneaky.”
Julie: “Hey, I’m a woman.”

The ending is a total hoot as the mother of the sea serpent appears and says in English, “Time to come home.”  The little lost sea serpent then says something to the kids in English.  Wait a sec, the whole time you could communicate but decided to annoy the kids (and the audience) with high pitch bleeps?  Little lost sea prick is more like it.  The theme song (“nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah”) is repeated so many times time that I swear you will be humming it by the end of the film.  Ha, who am I kidding?  You’re not going to watch this as only idiots would watch this *goes to sit in corner*.  The film threatened ANOTHER LITTLE LOST SEA SERPENT in the closing credits, but thankfully Jackson never made it that far.  If I ever have kids, I am totally going to show them this film…as punishment. Any bad behavior will be treated with a “don’t make me get the LITTLE LOST SEA SERPENT disc out” threat.  No doubt I’d be getting a visit from Child Protective Services real quick. Welcome to my top 5 worst films of all-time, LITTLE LOST SEA SERPENT.  I think you’ll find a cozy seat right over there next to your brother ROLLER BLADE.  Special thanks to my "friend" Dave for sending this to me.  I think he might be in cahoots with my other "friend" Marty and they are trying to get me killed via Bad Movie Overdose.  Friends don't let friends watch Donald G. Jackson movies.

3 Reactions:

  1. Wow, this looks like a slightly altered version of ANOTHER Donald G. Jackson flick, ROLLERGATOR, which mixes the director's passions for bad puppetry AND rollerblading into one amazing miasma of bad. The Duke reviewed that one over at our site...the stills were all I could take!

    If you're...um, "interested" in Jackson's beginnings, you should check out "Demon Lover Diary," a documentary made by two film students working on Jackson's 1977 horror flick DEMON LOVER (both reviewed on our site as well). A pretty cool and kind of scary look at Jackson and his particular madness at the time.

  2. Oh man, I've seen that clip of ROLLERGATOR on Youtube and it looks just as rough. Maybe I'll hit that after my 6 month Donald Jackson/Conrad Brooks quarantine is over.

  3. For more punishment watch this DONALD G JACKSON film 35mm in which I play the lead psycho
    It's really not that bad


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