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Huh? An A-Z of Why Classic American Bad Movies Were Made


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This book began at Cinema Head Cheese (blogspot.com). Back in 2010, I was writing a review a week to slate one of the "worst movies of all time". I was having a lot of fun with the project but initially I was concentrating far more on the humour then the history.

The Creeping Terror changed that. In reviewing the film, I discovered a story behind it that was so interesting that it overwhelmed the actual picture. The movie was a con, never intended to be made; the director raised money, started production and then skipped town with all the cash. Enough of the film had been made that people had become invested in the project (not only in the financial sense), including a Marlboro Man who didn't die from cancer. The folk who manipulated the giant alien turd monster from inside worked at the nearby Spahn Ranch and one even sold Charles Manson one of the guns used in the Sharon Tate killings. After all that, how could I restrict myself to laughing about the monster being so slow that victims had to climb into its mouth?

Soon, I realised that I'd finally found an answer to the oldest of the many rhetorical questions I'd hurled at screens for years: 'Why?' Why did someone think it was a great idea to make this movie? Naturally, the project changed at this point.

I did a lot more research and found a lot more answers. I restricted the project to classic American films, with 1980 as the cutoff as, even at this point, I had a modern sequel in mind (the reasons are very different). I made the selection as varied as possible, as to genre, age and budget, and worked them into an A-Z, with 26 reasons, one for each letter of the alphabet. One goal was to ensure that any fan of cult cinema would have seen some of these films, but nobody would have seen all of them.

Films Covered

Here's a complete list of chapters which details the films included and why:

  • A is for Ambition: Eegah (1962)
  • B is for Bruce: Fist of Fear, Touch of Death (1980)
  • C is for Con: The Creeping Terror (1964)
  • D is for Debt: The Corpse Grinders (1971)
  • E is for Ego: Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)
  • F is for Frustration: The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961)
  • G is for Gimmickry: Strange Interlude (1932)
  • H is for Hubris: Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)
  • I is for Insanity: Pink Angels (1971)
  • J is for Justice: Child Bride (1938)
  • K is for Knockers: Double Agent 73 (1974)
  • L is for Location: Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961)
  • M is for Mimicry: Life Returns (1935)
  • N is for Necessity: Monster a Go-Go (1965)
  • O is for Opportunity: Polk County Pot Plane (1977)
  • P is for Patchwork: Devil Monster (1946)
  • Q is for Quickie: Cuban Rebel Girls (1959)
  • R is for Religion: Blood Freak (1972)
  • S is for Sex: The Outlaw (1943)
  • T is for Timeslot: They Saved Hitler's Brain (1976)
  • U is for Unknown: The Monster of Camp Sunshine (1964)
  • V is for Violence: Blood Feast (1963)
  • W is for Whimsy: Rat Pfink a Boo Boo (1966)
  • X is for eXploitation: Chained for Life (1951)
  • Y is for Yes: The Conqueror (1956)
  • Z is for Zeal: Reefer Madness (1936)

Cover Art

With a theme that explored different reasons why bad movies were made, the obvious title was Why?, but I eventually changed it to Huh? because it felt more emphatic in its disbelief at the movies I'd included.

Once I had a title, the cover fell into place in my mind. Why not have a set of some of the iconic characters from these movies arranged on the cover, all sharing a single speech bubble that contained the book's title? The speech bubble led to a comic book style approach, so I reached out to Eric Schock of Evil Robo Productions (evilrobo.com) in Tucson.

Coincidentally, I'd originally met Eric at a movie screening, for Night of the Living Dead Reanimated at MADCAP Theatres in Tempe and I'd bought some of his prints. I met him a few more times over the years at Phoenix Comicons and his style seemed to fit.

I explained what I was looking for and sent him some Google Images links to the people I thought should be included. He was happy to do the cover and he was quick and efficient in doing so. I only needed one minor change to his original design, to tilt the flying saucers. I'm very happy with his work and would recommend him heartily.

Many browsers recognise one or more of the characters on the cover, but it's a rare filmgoer who identifies all of them.

They are:

  • John Wayne as Temujin (Genghis Khan) in The Conqueror
  • Tom Neyman as the Master in Manos: The Hands of Fate
  • Tor Johnson as Joseph Javorsky in The Beast of Yucca Flats
  • Jane Russell as Rio McDonald in The Outlaw
  • Bill Freed as Adolf Hitler's head in They Saved Hitler's Brain
  • Chesty Morgan as Jane Genet in Double Agent 73
  • the flying saucers from Plan 9 from Outer Space

Layout Notes

I wrote this book in OpenOffice running on Linux because I like free software (free as in both beer and speech), so naturally I laid out this book in OpenOffice too [note: I've since switched to LibreOffice but the same applies].

I found that I didn't know as much as I thought I did on that front, so had to google a few things. Many thanks to Alexandra Rowland (alexandrarowland.net), a fantasy author who doesn't know me from Adam but who wrote a thoroughly informative blog entry on the subject, Formatting POD Novels with OpenOffice in Linux (wordpress.com). She taught me a lot and saved me a lot of time.

It's typeset in Gentium (sil.org), which is a open source font, released under the SIL Open Font License (sil.org), which means that it can be used, modified and redistributed for free.


I've reached a surprisingly diverse audience in a couple of years. I've sold copies to published authors, magazine editors and distributed filmmakers, along with a range of fans.

I've also given copies to a few celebrities in the hope that they'll read it and enjoy it enough to tell someone. A plug from Cassandra Peterson would make my millennium and she has a copy... so watch this space!

My best experience was when I met Dan Haggerty at the Wild West Festival in Glendale. As I gave him a dedicated copy of the book, because it contains a review of one of his films, he asked which one I'd covered. I mentioned that he looked great with pink ribbons in his hair and he knew I was talking about the transvestite biker movie, Pink Angels. He jokingly called for me to be thrown out of the venue but was then kind enough to sign my own copy of the book on the page with the Pink Angels poster.

Given that I'd struggled with the demographics for the film, as it seemed to be to be potentially offensive to both bikers and gay men, which characters constituted the majority of the movie, I asked Dan who he thought the audience was supposed to be for this movie. He thought about it, then looked at me and said, "I guess you are." Thanks, Dan and R.I.P.

Creative Commons

Current copyright law in the US tells me that I should be able to profit from my work until 75 years after I've been buried. I don't buy into that because copyright was always intended to benefit the public (not creators) by ensuring a constant flow of work into the public domain where the public could do whatever they liked with it. It's how Disney got famous! To ensure that creators kept creating, it also gave them a temporary monopoly on their work, which was originally 14 years. If I couldn't make money off a book in 14 years, then let the public have their turn.

I toyed with the idea of copyrighting my books for 14 years and then releasing them into the public domain, but quickly realised I'd never remember to do that. Instead, I chose to license my books through Creative Commons, using the CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 (creativecommons.org) copyleft license. That means that you are legally allowed to copy and distribute them, with my blessing, as long as you:

  • clearly identify that the work is mine (attribution)
  • don't make money by doing so (non-commercial)
  • keep this license intact (share-alike)

Free Download

So please download a PDF of Huh? An A-Z of Why Classic American Films Were Made from the link below, read it and share it with others so that it can reach as wide an audience as possible. Remember, piracy is not the enemy; obscurity is the enemy!

Buy a Print Copy

Of course, I don't get paid anything from a free download so, if you enjoy the book, please consider buying a print copy to show your appreciation and help me pay my bills. If you don't have room for dead tree products, then please consider buying a print copy for a friend or donate one to a library instead. Either way, I get paid and someone gets to read a good book.

New copies are available for $14.99 at Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.

If you're in the UK, the book is £9.99 at Amazon.co.uk. It's also available from the various other Amazon sites. Here's what I look like in Japanese.

Signed copies are available from the Dog Eared Pages (dogearedusedbooks.com) used bookstore in Phoenix. Trust me, it would not be a hardship for me to travel to a great used bookstore to replenish my stock!

Review the Book

Even if you only read the free PDF, please consider writing a review of it on Amazon.com. Reviews are like gold at Amazon, who will promote books which have obtained enough of them. Getting fifty reviews at Amazon would be like a Christmas present to me.

Of course, the same goes for other independent authors too. If you review their books at Amazon as well as mine, you can help to make it Christmas every month in indie world and we'll love you all the more!

Other Details

Huh? is my first book and the first volume in my Cinematic Hell series that focuses on bad movies.

Other technical details are:

Catalogue Number: ALP001
Publication Date: May 2013
Page Count: 218
Dimensions: 8.5" x 5.5"
ISBN-10: 0989461300
ISBN-13: 978-0989461306

Last update: 16th June, 2019