Over the course of 6+ years of the Blog Collab(!), we’ve watched quite a few really great films that I’m so pleased have come across my radar. As much as I’ve enjoyed these, we tend to have a lot more fun with the Collab when our films are about as far from critical and commercial success as it’s possible to be and still get a movie produced. I’m thrilled to say this month is all about luxuriating in that campy, trashy, B-movie world that we would live in, without hesitation, if we could. And we’re kicking things off with a robot T-Rex brain swap.
Tammy and the T-Rex
After an attack leaves her boyfriend in a coma, teenager Tammy is reunited with him…when mad scientists transfer his brain to a robotic T-Rex’s body.
Tammy (Denise Richards) is a cheerleader who is happily dating her dream guy Michael, a very young Paul Walker who wears cut-off sweatshirts and bites the heads off of flowers. Not a euphemism. Though her best friend Byron wholeheartedly approves, Tammy cuts short the romance when she believes Michael is in danger from her unhinged ex, Billy. Spoiler alert: she’s not wrong.
Perhaps a minor grievance compared to…virtually every other plot element, but I find it so difficult to believe that there’s never been an intervention for Billy or a string of arrests when he is an actual gang leader whom other teens refer to as “boss” and fully grown adults are legitimately terrified of him. But that’s what we’re led to believe, at least until Billy, who still considers Tammy his girlfriend, picks a fight with Michael. Apparently the cops are clued in enough to realize Billy exhibits all of the tendencies of a spousal murderer, so he’s the one arrested when they break up the fight. However, Billy vows revenge against Michael. Uh-oh.
Meanwhile, in a mad science lab…mad scientist Dr. Wachenstein and his assistant Helga scheme to bring a robotic T-Rex to life. For murky reasons related to investors, and I guess what else do you do as a mad scientist. Though brainy henchman Bobby insists he can build a computer powerful enough to drive the machine, the doctor has his own plans in mind to acquire a human brain for his invention.
Guess who may be about to get another chance at life as a robotic dinosaur? After Billy learns that Michael has sneaked into Tammy’s bedroom at night, he furiously marches over to catch them in the act. Tammy encourages Michael to flee, but it’s not long before Billy and his actual gang of teens ok with being accomplices to murder catch up. When they dump a beaten Michael in a wildlife park that has the lowest number of security measures ever, he’s severely mauled and is comatose in the hospital.
As Tammy mourns, Byron is a suitably supportive best friend. Because both teens are quite naive, they’re easily manipulated by cartoonishly evil Dr. W. and Helga. The doctor declares Michael legally dead, stealing the body for a truly gruesome brain extraction. Apparently powering your robot dinosaur with a human brain is the easy part, as it’s not long before the Michael dino is awake, chomping henchmen left and right after the trauma of seeing his own dead body without a scalp. Surprisingly, Michael is pretty quick to connect the dots and realize that his brain is now powering a robot T-Rex body, even mastering dialing a pay phone with relative ease.
It’s not long before Michael’s goals become apparent: 1) find Tammy and 2) seek revenge. Not necessarily in that order. Michael crashes a high school party and does his fair share of chomping. When a frantic Byron is spared, he is mystified but doesn’t complain too much. His father, the sheriff, investigates the carnage at the party, disbelieving the multiple witnesses who claim the culprit is an actual T-Rex. Honestly, this is one of the only plot elements I accept as realistic.
Since Michael has found revenge on the teens responsible for his murder, he visits Tammy, who is understandably petrified. I presume because their love is so true, their soul connection all too real, it’s not long before Tammy realizes the dinosaur is none other than her beloved Michael in a different body. Rather than question her sanity like a normal person, she schemes with Byron to steal Michael’s body to return him to his true form. But if there’s anything Team Mad Science has, it’s schemes of their own. Who will survive…and in which body?
4/5 Pink Panther Heads
Whoa–there’s a lot packed into this film’s short runtime. As a work of B comedy/horror, it largely succeeds. There is certainly a lot of humor that misses the mark (believe we’ll get into that), but the silly premise works. I legitimately got a lot of laughs from the Dr. Wachenstein character and Helga, who couldn’t be more transparently evil and out of place, yet the vast majority of characters have a straight-faced reaction to them.
While the plot mostly makes no sense, the film’s oddness kept me engaged; I was certainly never bored. For what initially feels like a breezy ’90s teen comedy, there is a lot of gore, along with some extremely unconvincing special effects–though that’s a large part of the charm here.
Not so charming: all of the homophobic jokes at Byron’s expense. Though he is something of a stereotype, I found him more of a fleshed out character than expected. But of course we can’t just let that stand; there has to be a ton of ridicule to go along with that, and very much the kind of tone that suggests the audience is meant to find all of this hilarious. I hoped after the first couple of times we could move on, but the two comic relief(?) cops frequently made truly awful jokes about Byron, and it was pretty difficult to move past those at times.
If you can get past that–and I recognize that’s a pretty big if–I can’t deny that I enjoyed the ludicrous, camp, and frequently grotesque experience of watching this film. I will likely lay on my deathbed with the awful dialogue still echoing in my brain, but I’m not even that mad about it, honestly.