Among the joys of the early videocassette revolution were the videos my old amigo Jack Venooker would mail me of USA Network's late-night program Night Flight. My memory is (though I can't confirm this at the time of this writing) that Night Flight slightly pre-dated MTV, but they were certainly contemporaries. Anyhoot, that's not relevent: Night Flight offered eclectic blends of music videos past (early sound era) and (circa the early 1980s) present, archival movie trailers, pre-Spike & Mike era outrageous animated shorts like JacMac and RadBoy GO! followed by a sequence from one of Russian animator Ladislas Starevich's silent or early sound stop-motion creations, and so on. It was a delightful mix which infrequently would dedicate the majority or an entirity of an evening to a single feature. This was rare, but always worth viewing.
Primary among the features I associate with Night Flight is Marius Penczner's endearingly maladroit paranoid tract I Was a Zombie for the FBI (1984), a long out-of-print and out-of-circulation curio from the Repo Man and Liquid Sky era. It's finally out on DVD from Rykodisc and Flashframe, and seen today offers a still-pretty-damned-entertaining artifact bridging 1960s "Men in Black" UFOlogy, The Blues Brothers, The X-Files and Men in Black (the crude comics series and upscale movie adaptations). In fact, I'd swear upon rescreening I Was a Zombie that the key X-Files writers/directors were acknowledging Penczner's minor cult gem amid the giddy stew of one of my fave episodes, "Jose Chung's From Outer Space": the crude clay-animation 'look' of the cyclopean alien monster glimpsed that episode's opener sure looks like kith & kin to Penczner's risible cellar-dwelling Z-beast.
And yessssss, there are zombies, but forget about Romero or Fulci: these are definitely sf hybrids of the forehead-stitched lobotomized Creature with the Atomic Brain category, refugees from some tacky Sam Katzman 1950s clunker, essential to the stew that is I Was a Zombie.
The Rykodisc release of I Was a Zombie for the FBI is a hoot and well worth picking up if you've a taste for these early-'80s revisionist genre opuses. Playing the "Joe Friday" manner of the FBI agents against the Chester Gould-like mania of alien-manipulated off-their-hinges escaped convicts The Brazzo Brothers, I Was a Zombie savors the deadpan fusion of (now, read carefully) 1970s-nostalgia-for-the-1950s, Cola Wars (I kid you not: alien infiltration of "the secret formula" for America's favorite softdrink is central to the plot), film noir hysterics, Heinlein's The Puppet Masters, and eruptions of cheesy gore and bemusing stop-motion monster effects (by Bob Friedstand). That it all hangs together is a miracle, but it does, though I can't dismiss the nostalgia factor in my enjoying this flick: had I not seen it in 1984, I must confess I'd probably be left scratching my head, wondering what this shit was all about.
Rykodisc sweetens the pot with audio commentary by director and co-writer Penczner, three 'making of' featurettes (including one highlighting the Z-beast), and a batch of deleted scenes.
The only way this could be better is if they'd added the dry-as-dirt trailor-trash alien-abduction satire (and beloved Night Flight fixture) Webb Wilder, Private Eye: The Saucer's Reign, which if memory serves was made by one Stephen Mims. God, I miss Webb Wilder.
The perfect antidote to the Brazzo Brothers, denied.
Last post of the weekend, sorry to say -- I'll be tied up until late in the day on Sunday. See you here then, OK?