February 12, 2003

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'Valentine's Double-D Double Feature'
Thurs/13, Parkway Theater

NOW THAT BOTH Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau have gone to that place where there are no sequels (well, how do you define heaven?), I guess we'll have to live without Odd Couple 3 or Grumpiest Old Men. In any case, Thrillville is offering two cinematic geezer-reunion fests of a far more intriguing kind. Attorney turned nuevo exploitation director (now there's a career trajectory worth high-fiving) William Winckler's first feature, The Double-D Avenger, is a campy, Z-budget superhero spoof that reunites several of Russ Meyer's most bodacious female talents. Cured of her breast cancer by a magical South American "crockazilla" plant, bar hostess Kitten Natividad (Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens) finds she's also gained superhuman strength, which comes in handy when thwarting some rival bar-owning, major décolletage-sporting assassins with names like Hydra Heffer, Pirate Juggs, and Ooga Boobies. The cast is rounded out by veteran exotic double threats like Haji (Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!) and Raven de la Croix (Up!), with several new-generation beneficiaries of nature and surgery. The dum-dum humor ("Holy hooters!," "Shiver me titty timbers!," etc.) and rote if good-natured aging-female empowerment message are elevated somewhat if you know the very game Natividad actually had a double mastectomy a few years back – the fully plastique set she boasts here is gleefully even more absurdly scaled and gravity-resistant than her prior "real" ones. Somewhat funnier for being deadpan about its own ample absurdities is Mark of the Astro Zombies, the latest effort from undiminished 1960s and '70s exploitation auteur Ted V. Mikels (The Corpse Grinders, Bloody Orgy of the She Devils, The Doll Squad). A sequel to 1969's notorious sci-fi surreality The Astro Zombies, it brings back none other than the great Tura Satana to reprise her role as a witchy earthling taking wicked advantage of an alien invasion. (Ex-dancer Satana is somewhat more rotund at age 67 but still in fine fettle – she spends much of her screen time slapping men around.) This movie has everything, and then some: alligator-head "bad" aliens; fish-faced three-eyed "good" aliens; Santo-masked, black turtleneck-clad Astro Zombies hacking their way through Las Vegas minimalls and parking lots with lethal scimitars; a decapitated (but still conscious) brilliant scientist's head; mucho cheesy gore and fantasy FX; 1980s scream queen Brinke Stevens (now boasting the Betty Page look) as a reporter; and platinum blond, erstwhile scandal queen Liz Renay (glam, dotty, and a riot at age 77) as, well, herself, more or less. Mikels must be the world's most charming guy – not only is he famous for keeping seven common-law wives at a time, but also this rather sprawling movie has a bigger cast than some mainstream Hollywood productions (and I doubt any of them did it for the money, if they got paid at all). Double-D director Winckler and actors G. Larry Butler and Mimma Mariucci, plus Mark of the Astro Zombies cast member Scott Blackshur, will be on hand. 7:30 p.m., 1834 Park Blvd., Oakl. $8. (510) 814-2400, www.picturepubpizza.com. (Dennis Harvey)