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Positively the most memorable movie-going experience of my life.
Theater in Troy, NY...probably around 1968 or 1969. My sister took me to
see this movie on a Saturday...billed as including a special guest
appearance by real live monsters.
I don't recall much about the first two shorts. But the last...when the Lemon Grove Kids and Cash Flagg enter into a cornfield or dense weeds...they are met by lightning crashes and a MUMMY!
At that moment...a spotlight hits the side of the Procter's stage and a guy in a Mummy suit staggers out. His arms are raised up and he heads for the aisles.
The audience flipped. I remember everybody leaping out of their seats and running down the aisles terrified. I ran too...but sister nabbed me before I could get too far. Things settled down. The mummy disappeared. And we sat back to watch the rest of the show. I have no memory of what came after.
But that memory of the mummy on the stage was indelible. I was around five or six when I saw it.
Years later in Washington, DC I came across an old video of the movie from the late great Georgetown Video Vault (this was around 1992) and I laughed it up with my wife over Lemon Grove Kids and Ray Dennis Steckler. Oh...if we only had that kind of movie experience again!
The trilogy of short films by Ray Dennis Steckler (aka Cash Flagg) were released as a feature titled "the lemon grove kids" the 3 shorts shot on the road he lived at the time (lemon grove)with his family and friends are still as fresh and vibrant as they were nearly 40 yrs ago. The first short "The lemon grove kids meet the green grasshopper and the vampire lady from outer space" revolves around a spooky old house and the disappearence of some of the lemon grove kids themselves, the old man who lives there is suspected but he is being controlled by the evil vampire lady who is out to take over the world. The second short is about a race between local hoods and the lemon grove posse and the chance of them being movie stars (the lemon grove kids go hollywood) and the final short is the Lemon grove kids. A small little review isnt enough time to do justice to this mans work, but check out "Wild Guitar","Ratfink a Boo-Boo","The Thrill Killers","Blood Shack","super Cool" to name but a few.
Most of Ray Dennis Steckler's films are so energetic that even if they
aren't very good (which is usually the case), they manage to entertain on
that same odd level Edward D. Wood, Jr. established a few years before.
That being said, "The Lemon Grove Kids" is a surprisingly entertaining
anthology (three episodes) aimed at a young audience, but I must say I found
a lot of it amusing myself (and I'm 22); Steckler has a real repoire with
his actors, as they bumble about in traditional Scooby-Doo fashion, as they
encounter space aliens, mummies, and kidnappers (they don't show any signs
of humiliation at the sheer wackiness of the material). The first episode
has the Lemon Grove Kids cleaning up an eccentric old man's ("Red Zone Cuba"
auter Coleman Francis!) house, only to find it's been invaded by a
grasshopper alien and a Vampira look-alike (played by Carolyn Brandt!); the
second episode has the Kids cleaning the mansion (also used in "The Thrill
Killers") of a washed-up Hollywood starlet (Brandt again), who is accosted
by a dim-witted duo looking to score a ransom; and the third (and weakest)
episode has two rival gangs competing in a cross-country (but more like
cross-town) marathon. In general, this is moderately entertaining stuff for
kids of any age (sure beats "Barney"), and makes me wonder why Mr. Steckler
didn't do more of this type of thing.
Born in 1965, I can't say much about this movie. I remember, as a little kid being scared silly, since there were 'live' monsters in the audience at the theater during the movie. This was the most scared I ever was at a movie.....ok, so I was probably 5 years old. E-mail me if you saw this show in the theater back then.
Ray Dennis Steckler put together a trilogy of comic shorts modeled on the Bowery Boys series, with impressive results if you're not expecting any sort of masterpiece. In the first story, the kids, a motley bunch of toddlers and adults dressed as teenagers, head to Coleman Francis's house to do some housework. Extraterrestrials start picking them off, a green grasshopper in a flying saucers claiming the main kid, so it's up to doofy Steckler (acting as Cash Flagg) to find a way to save the day.. In the second part, the kids get a job doing housework for falling star Carolyn Brandt. Some bumbling villains kidnap her, but her sleazy agent says she's not worth the ransom. Thus it falls to Steckler once again to intervene and rescue both Brandt and her career. This episode also features a very annoying adult who spends a little too much time with the kids and sings remarkably uninspired songs about them on an acoustic guitar. Not a person I would trust with my own offspring, but Steckler probably couldn't afford high-end babysitters. In the final part of the trilogy, Steckler heads into the wrong side of town to buy some sodas on a hot afternoon, instigating a rumble. They decide to settle their differences with a cross-country race. A funny French saboteur, hired by the rival team, does their best to put the Kids' star athlete out of the ahem running, and somehow we're led into a startling monster attack sequence. This conclusion seals tight the possibility that Steckler was having a grand time making these shorts, possibly never intended for theatrical release. In a way, Lemon Grove Kids exists as an interesting home-movie documenting the styles and culture of the early 1960's made by a barely experienced filmmaker, who had only been in the business for a few years. Although I enjoyed this film quite a bit, I'd only show it to children I really hated. Some of the women-children boast some surprisingly sexy outfits, plus a certain amount of the humor veers toward the sophisticated. Brandt appeared in a number of Steckler's films. Steckler fans with be happy to see hero Ray Pfink in a cameo.
This was (probably) meant for TV. There were three separate shows on
the video I saw.
Slide whistles, boops on heads, keystone kops style violence, and goofy outfits.
It looked like a Mack Sennet comedy with sound.
Steckler filmed this in and around his home using his friends and family mostly as cast. The anarchic wildness made this a trip from start to finish.
Steckler had a habit of making things up as he went along. And he was BRILLIANT at it.
My son liked this film enough to ask me to find the DVD so we don't have to deal with our worn out tape anymore.
This is a great film for the kids.
Lemon Grove Kids Meet the Monsters (1965)
** (out of 4)
If you like the weird and bizarre then this film will be just for you, although I think most people are really going to hate every second of it unless they're familiar with The Bowery Boys. Director Ray Dennis Steckler made three shorts and edited them together (although each still has its own credits) for this feature that's a homage to The Bowery Boys. In this film, the Lemon Grove Kids end up doing battles against burglars, vampires, an insect monster and there's even a mummy that shows up at one point. For the life of me I can't see how this film didn't come under some sort of legal dispute especially when you consider that Leo Gorcey went over The Beatles for his likeness being on their Sgt. Peppers album. It's really hard to judge a film like this and you could spend days talking about all its faults but I'm really not going to do that. This here was clearly a project of love because it's just Steckler and his friends having some fun by impersonating a group of characters that I'm sure they all loved. Steckler plays the Huntz Hall look-a-like and for the most part I thought he was fine in the role. In fact, I'd say the majority of the cast were good enough for what this film was calling for even though none of them came close to the real people but that's to be expected. I thought the final short, the one in Hollywood, was the weakest but the first two were mildly entertaining as long as you went into them not expecting too much. The insect monster was obviously very cheap but it was fun in a kid's movie type of way. This film is mainly going to appeal to fans of The Bowery Boys and monster movie die-hards who will also enjoy seeing director Coleman Francis (THE BEAST OF YUCCA FLATS) in a small role.
This is a very bad film, though as far as bad movies go, there are
still worse--though not much worse! The Lemon Grove Kids film is
definitely one of the most amateurish and dopey films I have ever seen
and it looks like a home movie, though because it doesn't take itself
too seriously, I couldn't completely hate it.
The Kids are a very bad knockoff of the Bowery Boys--though it begs you to wonder why anyone would want to do this in the first place?! One of the "actors" is Cash Flagg as a Huntz Hall-like idiot. According to Flagg's impersonation, all you need to do is wear a baseball cap, make stupid faces and walk around like an idiot. The film's knockoff of Leo Gorcy wasn't much better. Like some of the silliest Bowery Boys films, this one has monsters, a rival gang, etc. but is squarely placed in the 1960s with the music and fashions.
The bottom line is that with terrible music, rotten dubbing, horribly exaggerated action and slapstick sound effects, this film is a dud on every level and would probably appeal only to small children and bad movie fans. All others approach at your own risk.
FYI--Cash Flagg is the stage name for Ray Dennis Steckler. He also appeared in such great films as "The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!?" and was equally pitiful there. Also, there is a homage to the previous film RAT PFINK A BOO BOO--look for it after the gorilla appears.
This movie holds a special place for me in my movie going experience. It was the absolutely worst movie I ever saw in my hometown theater. After more than 35 years, I can still remember walking home from the theater and thinking that this was the worst movie I had ever seen. And, yes, this was the same theater where I had seen Edward D. Wood Jr.'s "Plan Nine From Outer Space" (1959) years earlier. This movie was shown as a special event with people dressed up as monsters invading the theater during a point in the film. If there was anything good to say about this film, it would be about Cash Flagg's impersonation of Huntz Hall (I was a Bowery Boys fan). For rather obvious reasons, no other Steckler film ever played in my hometown. I have since seen worse films, but I would have to go to other cities for that torture.
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