Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Professoriat

by John Holbo on May 3, 2006

It seems to me that 50 SF films for $16.47 is a good deal [Amazon]. Anyone care to comment on the various titles? It’s got classics like “Teenagers From Outer Space” and “Destroy All Planets” and “Phantom Planet” and “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians”. Everything. (Nothing good, of course.) It’s got John Agar and Basil Rathbone and Steve Reeves. How well do I remember the Young Fresh Fellows singing “The New John Agar”! Well, sort of well. It was long ago. Discuss! (Someone should start a roll-your-own MST3K mp3 commentary track project.)

This collection of 100 cartoons seems likely to be good as well. How can a badly made cartoon from the 30’s entitled “Professor Ya Ya’s Memories” be bad?

I know it seems terrible that I’m always flogging stuff from Amazon. But is it?

UPDATE: As is pointed out in comments, there is in fact a a whole series of 50-packs: mystery, horror, comedy, musical, drive-in, martial arts, historical, dark crimes, pastoral-comical, tragical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical pastoral, robot monsteral-pastoral, santal clausal-tragical, teenageral-historical and so forth. Also, some intrepid/damned soul has reviewed every single item in the SF 50-pack!



harry b 05.03.06 at 7:11 pm

But John, follow the links on the 100 Cartoons page to the Mystery Classics: 50 Movie Pack and the Comedy Classics: 50 Movie pack. While I’m sure the SF films are… interesting, a good deal of what’s in the comedy classics is genuinely good, and some of the mystery classics are….better than interesting.

We have all the Popeye shorts in the Cartoon pack, or I’d get it: they are fantastic (the Popeyes).


ben alpers 05.03.06 at 7:23 pm

Boy…that’s quite a collection!

These are the sort of films that they used to mix in with the good stuff at the annual 24-hour SciFi film festival at the late lamented Orson Welles Cinema in Cambridge.

Some quickie reviews some of the films on the list I’ve actually seen:

Robot Monster: Famous so-bad-it’s-good film that more or less lives up to the hype (if you’re into that kind of thing). The title monster is a guy in a gorilla suit wearing a space helmet.

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians: A more unusual so-bad-it’s-good flick. This one is really stupendously bad. Santa Claus is kidnapped by Martians because the children of Mars are unhappy, and St. Nick seems to bring such joy. The leading Earth scientist character is named Dr. Werner von Green (get it?). Features a very young Pia Zadora as a Martian girl.

Mesa of Lost Women Saw this one at the Harvard Lampoon’s 12-Hour Bad Film Festival (guess everyone can figure out how I wasted my youth!). A mad scientist turns women into spiders. Less bad that the previous two films, but arguably therefore less good.

Eegah and Message from Space were both tackled by MST3K. They both deserved it. Former is a caveman flick; the latter a Japanese Star Wars rip off. Not sure what watching them without the chatter would be like.

Destroy All Planets stars lovable turtle monster Gamera. You probably know already if that’s your cup of tea.


Seth Finkelstein 05.03.06 at 7:25 pm

Walt Crawford has reviewed them. He’s reviewed every movie in the whole set in various posts on his blog, search the posts.


ben alpers 05.03.06 at 7:31 pm

But John, follow the links on the 100 Cartoons page to the Mystery Classics: 50 Movie Pack and the Comedy Classics: 50 Movie pack. While I’m sure the SF films are… interesting, a good deal of what’s in the comedy classics is genuinely good, and some of the mystery classics are….better than interesting.

The 50 Horror Classics pack includes Night of the Living Dead, the original Nosferatu, Carnival of Souls, Dementia 13, Metropolis, the John Barrymore Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, White Zombie, the Lon Cheney, Sr. Hunchback of Notre Dame and Phantom of the Opera,and the original Little Shop of Horrors (as well as scads of crap). I’m sure the prints suck…but there are a lot worse ways to spend $16.47.


harry b 05.03.06 at 7:43 pm

Yes, I saw the Horrors after making that comment — some are excellent (though as you say, probably lousy prints). The reviews for the Action boxed set are deeply unpromising, though.


joel turnipseed 05.03.06 at 8:07 pm

I bought the 50 War Classics set, just to get The Battle of San Pietro by John Huston (great, great war documentary from 1943 that was very controversial at the time, as it showed what a horrible blood-bath war could be–and did so with considerable artistic power). I think I remember seeing International Historic Films or someone selling just the Huston doc for more than the cost of this set.

Else, haven’t explored too much: an inexplicably incomplete set of the Capra “Why We Fight” documentaries (hilarious for the Disney-animated propaganda about the “Tanaka Plan”) as well as Jimmy Cagney’s “Blood on the Sun” (in which an American journalist in Tokyo is persecuted for trying to bring the “Tanaka Plan” to light). William Wyler’s “Memphis Belle” documentary is also here–another classic.


Steve 05.03.06 at 8:25 pm

The 50 Historic Classics set has Our Daily Bread and Becky Sharp (and Myrna Loy’s not-terribly-good Vanity Fair and a Sabu the Jungle Boy movie!). As Ben noted, there are a half-dozen classics in the horror set. How bad are the prints, intrepid Amazon shoppers?


Matt W 05.03.06 at 9:11 pm

I own the Horror set. I haven’t had a chance to watch all of the films, but, of the films I have seen, the print and sound quality varies quite a bit by movie. In some cases, the print and sound quality isn’t too bad–at least, it doesn’t detract too much from the movie. In other cases–I’m thinking specifically of the version of Metropolis–the print was terrible. The picture was out-of-focus and large portions of the intertitles did not even fit on the screen. I couldn’t even finish it.

The Horror set was dirt cheap, so, for your money, you probably end up with some decent films, but don’t expect consistent quality.


Rob Rickner 05.03.06 at 10:09 pm

I own the 50 Horror movies.

As for value, you can’t beat the price. However, the transfers are awful. They clip the sides of the shot, bad sound, etc. They have 4 per disk, 2 on each side. Also, they pad out the classics to get to 50. I’d have taked 25 of the good ones, with better sound and single sided discs.


Ben 05.04.06 at 12:25 am

Of course you can download Santa Claus Conquers the Martians at the internet archive.


Brett 05.04.06 at 8:28 am

I’ve got the 50 War Movies set (well, it’s the Australian release, but it’s got the same films). I’ve watched about 3/4 of them by now, I like to put them on as background noise while I am studying late at night (I’m a history student, helps set the mood I guess). Most of the dramatic films were pretty bad, and some have only a very tenuous claim to being war films — Escape from Angola qualifies on both counts. Some had a novelty value — The Mark of the Hawk had early starring roles for Sidney Poitier and Eartha Kitt (again, not much of a war film). The 1940s films were on the whole much better than the later ones (which are mostly ultra-low-budget flicks). Best of all are the WWII propaganda films, though as a previous commenter noted, why they have most but not all of the “Why We Fight Series” (and in a jumbled order at that) is quite mysterious.

But you can’t beat the price, and it’s served its purpose for me! I had been planning to buy the SF and horror versions, at least (where crappiness is much more endearing than with war movies), but haven’t seen them in the stores. So thanks for the tip, I may just order the US versions from Amazon instead.


Richard Bellamy 05.04.06 at 8:56 am

I have the 50 SF Pack, although I haven’t watched all of them yet (gotta pace myself.)

So far, the best part is that the description blurbs of the movies frequently don’t match what the movie is actually about.

Also, as far as I could tell, nothing in “She Gods of Shark Reef” actually qualified as Science Fiction. It was just a movie about a guy who got shipwrecked on an island of female pearl fishers.


serial catowner 05.04.06 at 12:44 pm

That’s funny, we had the same problem when the films were in theaters.

Usually billed at three-for-a-quarter, that’s 12-for -a-dollar, or about $5.50 to watch your 50 movies in 1960. Few of us had the time.


vlorbik 05.04.06 at 12:45 pm

I know it seems terrible that I’m always flogging stuff from Amazon. But is it?

why, yes. thanks for asking.
do please consider flogging stuff
from powell’s instead. the union
gets a piece of the action.


walt 05.05.06 at 12:14 pm

The intrepid/damned soul speaking: Actually, I haven’t finished reviewing the SciFi (not science fiction, and they’re even pushing the definition of SciFi) 50-pack: I’m only through disc 9. That’s partly because I’m alternating discs from the SciFi pack and the “Hollywood AllStars” pack (which is all TV movies).

The back story may help: I watch these movies 25 to 30 minutes at a time, on a neat little Apex 13″TV/DVD combo that was briefly available for $80, while I’m working out on the treadmill. (Using wireless headphones, since the treadmill’s noisy.) It keeps me on the treadmill 5 days a week (too tough to read with all that motion), no mean feat at 60 years old, and these movies are best enjoyed in small doses. (I’d already gone through the first megapack, Family Classics, and a 40-pack that the not-so-dearly-departed Inside DVD used as a gimmick to get people to renew before it went under.)


Flaffer 05.07.06 at 10:41 am

A note: I would highly suggest getting the MST3ks of whatever movies they have done. Of the list I have seen, they have done:

Robot Monster starring George Nader
The Atomic Brain starring Bradford Dillman
Horrors of Spider Island starring Harald Maresch
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians starring Pia Zadora
Teenagers From Outer Space starring David Love
Crash of the Moons starring Richard Crane
Hercules Against the Moonmen starring Alan Steel
Hercules and the Captive Women starring Reg Park
Hercules Unchained starring Steve Reeves
The Phantom Planet starring Dean Fredericks
Eegah starring Arch Hall, Jr.


Comments on this entry are closed.