In 1979, a little film called J-Men Forever came out and the world was…completely the same. Because the movie wasn’t really all that big of a hit and is little remembered today. Too bad, because it was a hilarious movie. The film is a mash-up of several old serials (Captain America, Captain Marvel, Flash Gordon, Spy Smasher and a few others) redubbed into the story of a villain called The Lightning Bug and his plan to conquer the Earth via sex, drugs and Rock & Roll. All the while the villain, rather than talking like a typical movie villain, patter like a mid-20th century radio DJ (which only makes sense as he was voiced by M.G. “Machine Gun” Kelly, a noted DJ of his time).
From the first scene in which record producer and purveyor of “Schmaltzy Waltzes” Lawrence Milk gets his car taken over by Lightning bug and run over a cliff (“I got the sound that’s gonna make you tap your feet. But don’t tap the brakes, baby, ‘CAUSE THEY DON’T WORK. AHAHAHAHAHAH!”) to the ending in which both the Moon (where the Lightning Bug is based out of) and New York City are destroyed, an event heralded as a double victory, it’s good for a lot of laughs.
It’s also fun on another level, seeing how many similarities there were in a lot of these old serials. The film makers were able to splice together a big fight in the Lightning Bug’s “Secret Broadcast Cave” with footage from several serials. But they all looked so similar that it really does give a convincing illusion of one big fight in one location. And a couple of times people in the film fell victims to booby traps at the mouth of the ‘Secret broadcast cave’, and of course these were from separate movies, but they looked like the same cave, so it was believable. And cars going off the sides of cliffs. SOOOOO many cars going off the sides of cliffs.
Some parts of the movie don’t hold up so well today. A lot of the humor derives from “hee hee, we’re smoking pot and sticking it to The Man” sort of jokes. Which might have been hilarious in 1979 but seems kind of quaint in an age where pot is increasingly legalized and The Man is getting a 15% cut on it in the form of taxes. ‘70s pothead humor just doesn’t hold up so much in 2018. And there is a scene set in Tokyo that is kind of cringe inducing, though probably no more than the original WW2-era footage they dubbed over. But if one takes it for what it is, it’s still a funny movie that I really recommend everyone check out.
Of course, there IS a problem with that recommendation, in that the movie is not only a bit on the obscure side, but also very hard to find these days. I have al old DVD of it, but I can’t find it on any streaming service at all. I found a badly chopped up copy that was recorded when the movie was a popular choice to show on USA’s Night Flight back in the 80s, complete with commercials which has a nostalgia appeal of its own. But if you can find it, well worth the search.