What would it be like to open a time capsule from your favorite era of cinema, and find an absolutely unknown gem of your preferred genric persuasion- in mint condition? We live in an age when even the least known films receive at the very least a Mill Creek release or a YouTube rip, so unless you wanted to watch The Day the Clown Cried, it's very likely you see watch whatever films you like from among the horror, Sci-Fi, and cult spheres of influence. This is precisely why the films of Christopher Mihm are such an awesome surprise. Allow me to blow your mind: Mihm's nine films (made independently over the last nine years) are, for all intents and purposes, 1950's science fiction and horror flicks.
I can hear the reactionary outrage clear across the internet, like a thousand authenticity obsessed neck beards crying out in anger being suddenly silenced. Certainly no one can turn back the clock to the heyday of classic retro drive-in scifi and add new entries into John Stanley's Creature Features guidebook. BUT Christopher Mihm bravely walks through the midnight graveyard of others' attempted homage failures, surviving to the end credits unscathed, head held high. His body of work fits so successfully into the 50's feel that I confidently booked his (then) newest film, The Giant Spider, to play at this past weekend's BLOBFEST- where it met with raucous applause from an audience who had spent the weekend watching classics like The Blob, Mothra, and King Kong vs Godzilla. If you still are not sold on the 1950's street cred of these films, Mihm had a number of older folks (ages range from 50 to 80) approach his table at BLOBFEST this past weekend to talk about how much they adored these films when they were children. Let's just say that they were "combatively argumentative".
The Giant Spider can be easily summed up by just glancing at the title. The price of admission entitles viewers to all the giant tarantula they can stand to be matted into their motion picture going experience. Using their actual family pet spider to menace the black and white resplendent townsfolk is a great starting point, but what really slams the 50's monster effect home are insert close ups of a hideous spider puppet face, which is simultaneously revolting and hilarious. Aside from the retro hairstyles, clothing, cars, and dialogue, Mihm's films stick the landing by both including and lambasting the sensibility of the time in full measure. Here's where so many film makers try and fail to homage a time period they love, but Mihm knows exactly what he's doing as he delivers reverence and revelry like a symphony conductor armed with camp and pomade.
As a mammoth tarantula, the size of three barns, rampages toward a sleepy town, the task of averting disaster falls to a daring news reporter and some forward thinking scientists. But a jingoistic army General with a head full of "might makes right" nonsense has other plans. The adventure includes funtastic rear projection driving action, a man versus spider battle which calls back to one memorable scene from Army of Darkness, chaste romantic interludes, and what is perhaps the best "Put ze candle BACK" accent since Teri Garr went for a roll in ze hay for Young Frankenstein.
All of Mihm's films occur in a shared universe, referred to as the "Mihmiverse", despite spanning period 50's through the far flung, space-capading "future". There are plenty of subtle references to his previous films, but they're accompanied by fun call backs to genre favorites like Star Wars and Back to the Future (poor Mr. Peabody and his unfortunate pines). His film House of Ghosts features a William Castle-esq gimmick- the "fear shield", which frightened patrons can use to cover their eyes during particularly terrifying moments (Mihm also introduces the film in true Castle style, replete with sensationalized warnings). One of his Sci-Fi epics, Attack of the Moon Zombies, boasts all the sincerity and authenticity of an original series Star Trek episode, and comes quite close to toppling The Giant Spider as my favorite Mihm picture.
So, as I nurse my BLOBFEST 2014 con flavored hang over, I take absolute delight in the few of my unwatched Mihmiverse titles which came home as part of my loot haul. As I pop the plastic for Cave Women on Mars, or his newest film The Late Night Double Feature (actually features two films- X:The Fiend from Beyond Space and The Wall People), I'd be selfishly remiss not to direct you over to his website so that all of my maniacal friends who dig 50's flicks can get in on these wonderful new motion pictures straight out of another time. Cruise on over to SaintEuphoria.com to purchase his films, which include kitschy special features such as a full five chapter radio serial adventure (on The Giant Spider) or introductions by local horror host Dr. Ivan Cryptosis.
Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for Mania, writing Shock-O-Rama, the weekly look into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a co-curator of several repertoire film series at the world famous Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA. You can hear him drop nerd knowledge on weekly podcast You've Got Geek or think him a fool of a Took on Twitter.
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