Tuesday, January 24, 2017

#2,296. Bad Channels (1992)

Directed By: Ted Nicolaou

Starring: Robert Factor, Martha Quinn, Aaron Lustig

Tag line: "In space, no one is safe from rock 'n' roll"

Trivia: Dollman appears briefly in a stinger at the end of the credits

As I mentioned in my write-up of Pure ‘80s, MTv, a cable network that once played music videos 24-7, was a formidable force in my younger years, and I spent many hours watching it. Of the initial MTv “VeeJays” (on-screen personalities who introduced the videos and occasionally read music-related news), my favorite was Martha Quinn; whether she chose them or not, the videos that played during her segments were usually among my favorites, and to see her in Full Moon’s’ 1992 sci-fi / comedy Bad Channels, which also features rock songs performed by a variety of bands, was, for me, like a walk down memory lane.

KDUL, a polka-only radio station out of Pahoota, California, discovers that it can transmit coast-to-coast (due to the fact it operates on 666 MHz, a bad-luck number that the other stations in America avoid like the plague). So, to lure in new listeners, the owner of KDUL, Vernon Lockout (Aaron Lustig), hires notorious DJ Dangerous Dan O’Dare (Paul Hipp), whose exploits have gotten him banned from most other U.S. stations. After a blatant publicity stunt, Dangerous Dan changes KDUL’s format from Polka to Rock and Roll, and with that his nationwide broadcast is off and running.

Lisa Cummings (Quinn), a reporter for the World Cable News Network, is sent to Pahoota to cover Dan’s first night on the job, and finds his blatant self-promotion distasteful, to say the least. Then, something amazing happens; while talking to Dan, Lisa spots a mysterious light in the sky that seemingly descends to earth, and, believing she’s just witnessed a UFO landing, races off to cover the story. While she and the town’s sheriff (Victor Rogers) are investigating this phenomenon, the KDUL studio is invaded by a real, honest-to-goodness alien being, which seals the broadcast booth off from the outside world and starts to use KDUL’s radio signal for its own nefarious purposes. Only this alien isn’t interested in conquering earth; instead, it wants to capture a few of Pahoota’s more attractive female citizens, shrink them down to miniature size, and store them in jars for the journey back to its home world!

With the help of his engineer Corky (Michael Huddleston), Dangerous Dan tries to warn his listeners about the alien invasion, only to find that nobody believes him! Can Dan convince the American public that he’s telling the truth, or will the alien get what it’s after and disappear before anyone realizes what’s happened?

Though more comedic in tone than some of their other offerings (Dollman, Castle Freak, Subspecies), Bad Channels still features all the fun and excitement you expect to find in a Full Moon-produced motion picture. Sure, the make-up and monster effects may not be the best (the alien is basically a puppet, or at least looks as if it is), but this doesn’t detract one iota from the movie as a whole. In fact, the scenes in which Dangerous Dan faces off against his unwanted “visitor” are among the film’s most entertaining. 

But the real strength of Bad Channels is its musical sequences (the alien uses rock and roll to pinpoint potential babes). With in-person performances by Blue Öyster Cult, Sykotik Sinfoney and D.M.T., which director Ted Nicolaou shoots in such a way that they actually look like ‘80s-style music videos, Bad Channels will have you tapping your feet in-between the laughter.

Paul Hipp does a good job as Dangerous Dan, a so-called “shock jock” whose penchant for publicity stunts causes most listeners to dismiss his alien “story” (a few even call in, complementing Dan for his “funny” show, all as the poor DJ cowers in the corner, begging local officials to come rescue him). But for me, the real casting coup in Bad Channels was Martha Quinn. She may not remind anyone of Meryl Streep, but as a fan of MTv in the ‘80s, I absolutely loved seeing her in this movie.

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