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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Tammy and the T-Rex, or: My Friend’s Brain Is in That Dinosaur!

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.

The Film:

Tammy and the T-Rex

The Premise:

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.

The Ramble:

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.

Tammy, a teen with dark blonde hair, smiles as she introduces her boyfriend Michael, a tall white boy muddied from football practice, to her friend Byron, a black teen wearing colorful African-inspired garb.

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.

In a hospital room, Tammy leans over Michael, who is comatose. Byron stands in the background, looking upset, while Michael's uncle sleeps in a chair against the wall.

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.

Dr. Wachenstein dressed as a surgeon prepares to remove a deceased Michael's skull along a bloody perforation. Helga assists, dressed in scrubs.

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.

Sitting against the wall of a barn, Tammy huddles in fear as a robotic T-Rex offers a yellow rose to her.

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?

The Rating:

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.

Would my blog wife bring this one back as a T-Rex or shut down its evil plan before it could even locate a bone saw? Read her review to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Frankenstein’s Army, or: I Was Promised Nazi Zombies

Great blog collab with A Voluptuous Mind, round 2! Read Christa’s review here.

The Film:

Frankenstein’s Army

Where to Watch:

Netflix

The Premise:

A unit of the Red Army attempts to complete a secret mission to find and destroy Dr. Frankenstein and his army of zombies (robot monsters).

The Trailer:

The Uncondensed Version:

This is a found footage movie, so we’ve got the obligatory explanation of a mission that’s about to go horribly wrong. It’s WWII, and a group of Russian soldiers are about to film their mission, to be completed in the name of Stalin!

We’ve got a pretty solid start thanks to epic marching through Mother Russia music and some terrible Russian accents.

Soldiers march in the snow while carrying red flags with the Soviet Union's hammer and sickle
Ra-Ra-Rasputin?

The first action this unit of the Red Army sees happens when they have to take out a sniper’s nest (except for poor little incompetent Sasha who has to stay behind and guard their gear). After the fighting’s done, they encounter this weird monster skeleton, which is kind of creepy but, eh, they don’t give it a whole lot of attention.

We also get a better idea for who the soldiers are. Though I really only kept track of the attractive one (the Polish guy, OBVIOUSLY) and the guy who was a dick (because I wanted to see him die). Aaaaaaaaaand they all get drunk because that’s what you do in the Red Army.

A man in soldier's uniform stares dreamily into the camera
Can we get a spin-off of the Polish dude just staring into the camera?

Later, they hear an urgent message on the wireless from Tiger Bear, presumably another battalion, at a mining village nearby. There’s a lot of running through the sad, brown woods to get to the village. When they arrive, they find a pile of bodies, all nuns, being burned outside of a church. Surely the Nazis are responsible for this (spoiler alert: no, they aren’t. And stop calling me Shirley).

The Russians go into the church and discover it looks like a factory inside. Because they’re STUPID they start the machines up and encounter a robot monster, which salutes (of course). Before they can destroy the robot monster, it kills their commander pretty much by ripping out his intestines. Basically now either the asshole or the pretty Polish one is going to be in command. I think it’s the asshole guy. (I’m sorry, guys, but I need a more structured plot.)

Since they have no radio signal and no idea what’s going on, a small group goes into the village, where they find a house full of animals in cages. Suddenly the occupant returns and demands to know what they are doing (short answer: preparing to eat the animals).

A man with a gun crouches next to a man on the ground, saying "I'm liberating your rabbits from fascist oppression."
Russians: masters of sass.

He says everyone in the village ran from the things the doctor makes, but he knows where the rest of the Russians are. Of course they are in a creepy old basement, which doesn’t deter the jackass who’s in charge. As they navigate the narrow underground tunnels, they encounter a robot monster who awesomely has scythes for hands and a kind of steampunk-y helmet that clamps open and closed. There are some really pointless scenes in which one of the guys is mortally wounded and the Russians find a German nurse to heal him but he dies anyway…so I’m skipping those.

At this point, the cameraman reveals that there is no Tiger Bear, and there are no Russian soldiers awaiting their help. They are, in fact, on a top-secret mission to destroy the lab of one Dr. Frankenstein, mad scientist. After more robot monsters attack, including one with really cool metal lobster claws and a Pinhead look-alike, the Russians decide they’ve had enough and leave the cameraman to the robot monsters.

Now, having been sent down a chute by his own comrades, the cameraman starts muttering about Stalin (shame of all shames)! He reveals his Jewish parents will be freed in exchange for the doctor and generally feels sorry for himself. Eventually, he gets up and starts wandering through the lab. In the lab there are a bunch of odd hybrid experiments, including a woman’s head sewn to a teddy bear (how would that ever be useful to Nazis?) Then a bunch of really cool-looking robot monsters start chasing the cameraman. One attacks him with a sledgehammer. Camera glass breaking. Fade to black.

When the cameraman wakes up, Dr. Frankenstein feeds him this weird soup and explains his robot monster creations. He gets really offended when the film guy implies they’re puppets when, in fact, they’re individuals.

A man cuts into the skull of a restrained man, while a woman holds the victim still
Post would be incomplete without still of mad scientist brain splicing experimentation.

Frankenstein starts cutting this Nazi’s brain open to splice it with a Russian brain, which will, in theory, allow the two sides to understand each other and end the war (riiiiiiiiiiiiiight). When this experiment fails, Frankenstein begins a new experiment with the cameraman. When the Red Army suddenly returns, Frankenstein flees, explaining that the robot monsters will go nuts without him as a leader. However, one of the Russian dudes shoots him. The cameraman pleads with his comrade to save him, but the Russians just take the camera and peace out.

The Critique:

Maybe this is just me, but I interpreted “monstrous new soldiers pieced together from body parts of the dead” (from the Netflix summary) as zombies. So I was highly disappointed by the lack of any zombies in this movie.

The summary also says the monsters were created by the Nazis, which really isn’t true—they were just created by this one crazy German guy. So the monsters weren’t even directly part of some Nazi conspiracy. Sometimes German robot monsters aren’t Nazis; they’re just German robot monsters. Admittedly, they looked pretty cool.

Also I didn’t think the found footage thing worked particularly well in this movie and made the film feel really disjointed.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther 2/5 Pink Panther Heads

In a more generous mood, I might say 3/5 because it wasn’t that bad, but I’m cranky due to lack of Nazi zombies.