By Gary Singh
EVER SINCE Video Mania at Branham and Almaden Expressway bit the dust more than 20 years ago, there has not existed a public place in San Jose where aficionados of vapid B-movie trash can peacefully assemble and feel at home. Now everything has changed as Thrillville has finally hit San Jose. Will "The Thrill" Viharo has proudly brought his rolling blunder review of below-budget atrocities to the Camera 3 Cinemas in downtown San Jose, so fans of grimace-inducing bombs can get their fill while ingesting some killer rockabilly music and retro tiki culture at the same time.
Viharo is a Rat Pack–era steak-and-martini dude who usually dons a leopard skin fez and a smoking jacket, while his co-host/cohort, Monica Tiki Goddess, sports vintage muumuus of the most unassuming sort. Together, they have presented the Thrillville series of B-movie screenings in the East Bay for more than a decade now, and they've been faves of Bay Area cult film fans for years. But as of last summer, Thrillville officially started up on a regular basis at the Camera 3. B-movie buffs, Mystery Science Theater fanatics, lounge lizards and all other sordid supporters of schlock are encouraged to attend.
The first San Jose installment went down on June 18. As a spectacular bash celebrating the TV show Creature Features and dedicated to its late host Bob Wilkins, the evening included previously unseen outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage of Wilkins as well as of the late film critic Bob Shaw. Mr. Lobo from Cinema Insomnia made an appearance, as did John Stanley, Wilkins' eventual replacement on Creature Features. The San Jose band Aardvark dazzled the crowd with surf music while selected prizes were doled out to members of the audience. For the main spectacle, Will and Monica screened The Horror of Party Beach, perhaps the first monster panty raid movie—a god-awful 1964 romp in which radioactive monsters transformed by toxic waste get their fill at a swinging beach party.
The event was a huge success, with numerous underground scenesters and connoisseurs of high camp arriving to sample the evening's debauchery. Both Stanley and Mr. Lobo hawked videos and other swag at tables in the lobby, and the entire theater exuded a beautifully ridiculous aura of old-school iniquity. Other Thrillville installments soon followed, the most recent of which included a spectacular Mexican wrestling double feature, Santo and Blue Demon vs. the Monsters (1969) pairing nicely with Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy (1964).
And just in time for Halloween, the next affair takes place this Thursday (Oct. 22, 7:30pm). Aptly titled Thrillville's Gore 'n' Snorefest, the extravaganza will feature two supersleazy, sexy, spooky exploitation classics: Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988) and Zontar, the Thing From Venus (1966). The former features veteran chainsaw virtuoso Gunnar Hansen plus '80s scream queens Linnea Quigley and Michele Bauer. One of the original grindhouse classics, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers contains all the gratuitous nudity, violence and sad one-liners a director could possibly cram into 80 minutes. Don't miss Quigley doing the Virgin Dance of the Double Chainsaws. They just don't make 'em like that anymore.
Zontar, on the other hand, was a Z-grade designed-for-TV slaughtering of Roger Corman's It Conquered the World, which originally came out in 1956. In other words, it was a cheesy remake of an already cheesy-on-purpose catastrophe from 10 years earlier. Shot on 16 mm, it stars the quintessential B-movie staple, John Agar, whose abysmal talents graced numerous sci-fi washouts like The Brain From Planet Arous and countless others. Zontar is so painful to watch, even hardcore B-movie masochists might have difficulty with it. (For some critical insights, see Richard von Busack's piece in this week's film section.)
But that's not all you'll see at Thrillville. Like any true showman, Viharo sprinkles the entire evening with all sorts of other shenanigans, and since we're nearing All Hallows' Eve, no one knows what he has up the sleeves of that vintage leisure suit. He's promising trivia contests, prizes, dancing girls and other guaranteed bombs from the blue.