After a stressful trip to the grocery store, which has become a maze of confusing one-way aisles, what do you do to unwind? You’ve sprayed down all your groceries with disinfectant, taken your shower and put on your sweats. Time to fire up the old streaming service, am I right? Now comes the question: do you binge or do you comfort watch? Binge watching relies upon that human impulse to learn what happens next — you’re following story arcs, investing in characters and on the edge of your seat.
When you comfort-view, the pressure is off — you know what to expect already. Comfort watching immerses you in nostalgia for a time in your life, or in the familiar tropes of a beloved genre. Me, I like some good old-fashioned comfort T.V. Lately, the genre I’ve been craving is goofy old B-grade movies. The kind of campy sci-fi that makes me laugh at the loosely constructed plots, the terrible special effects and the sheer lunacy behind the premise of the script. I find it comforting that grown adults spent good money producing these preposterous films.
As a library card holder at Daniel Boone Regional Library, I have access to the amazing Kanopy streaming service, which (in addition to foreign, classic and independent films) holds a treasure trove of wonderful campy films. You too can indulge in this sort of comfort viewing and to get you started, I’ve put together a list of four perfectly ridiculous movies you can stream on Kanopy today! Starting with the oldest …
“White Zombie” 1932, Black and white, directed by Victor Halperin
Contrary to the salacious movie poster pictured here, no one performs “his every desire” in this movie. Bela Lugosi stars as the mysterious zombie master of Haiti, menacing with his wild uni-brow. The movie begins with fiances Madeline and Neil arriving at the home of Monsieur Beaumont, who has invited them to wed at his luxurious home. There’s a catch — M. Beaumont is infatuated with Madeline and makes a terrible deal with the evil zombie master (who has a nefarious agenda of his own!).
Favorite quote: “… sins even the Devil would be ashamed of! …”
Special effects: Lots of bizarre split-screen action. Extreme close-ups of Lugosi’s crazy intense eyes dominate the screen on multiple occasions.
“The Devil Bat” 1940, Black and white, directed by Jean Yarbrough
Another awesome vehicle for Bela Lugosi. This time he plays a bad guy with a good cover story: the beloved town doctor of Heathville, Paul Carruthers. Dr. Carruthers develops cosmetic formulas for the owners of Morton Heath cosmetics. He resents their success, which he hasn’t shared in, and has devious plans which involve a mutated bat trained to attack anyone wearing the good doctor’s latest experimental aftershave. You’ll enjoy the antics of the two investigative reporters, Johnny Layton (the only intelligent character in the movie) and One-Shot Maguire (the photographer who literally only takes one shot during the entire movie).
Favorite quote: “…the most diabolical plot a madman has ever concocted!”
Special effect: The Devil bat itself is the most bizarre bit of Franken-taxidermy you’ll ever see. And its dive-bomb attacks are accompanied by ear piercing shrieks.
“A Bucket of Blood” 1959, Black and white, directed by Roger Corman
The setting is a beatnik cafe in the 1950’s. Awkward and dim-witted bus-boy, Walter, is in love with an ingenue who haunts the cafe with her boyfriend, cafe owner Leonard. Walter has aspirations to become an artist and when he comes home with a bag of plaster, he is lost as to what he might sculpt. The yowling of his landlady’s cat trapped inside his apartment wall soon has him attempting to cut the poor creature out of the wall. His first stroke, however, kills the unfortunate beast. After a good deal of fretting, the bus boy settles upon a scheme to immortalize the dead cat and pass it off as art. When his “work” catches on with the cafe crowd, he is faced with the need to create ever bigger and better realistic sculpture. Can you see where this plot is heading? Some unintentional hilarity ensues, and you wince every time he launches upon a new “sculpture” project.
Favorite quote: “Bring me a cappucino and a piece of papaya cheesecake and a bottle of Yugoslavian white wine.”
No special effects, but there’s some must-see terrible art. You’ll roll on the floor laughing when you get a load of the pretentiously awful poetry.
“The Astro-Zombies” 1968, Color, directed by Ted Mikels
At first I had a hard time even divining what the plot might be for this film. I think you must have to really enjoy excessive goofiness to get all the way through Astro Zombies. There are Russian spies, government agents, lady assassins, a mad scientist, a lab assistant with deplorable hygiene and solar-powered Astro Zombies. Yes, you heard right, solar-powered Astro Zombies. The movie truly does have it all, although I have to admit that it slows down a little after the opening scene where the redhead in the convertible is attacked by an astro-zombie in her garage.
Favorite quote: “The young are never satisfied with anatomical experiments on plastic models.”
Special effects: Buckets and buckets of red paint and brains made out of Jello. The Astro Zombie is basically a guy in a blazer wearing a Halloween mask.