8/20/09

After One Year, The Secret of The Lightning Bug is Revealed in J-Men Forever (1979)


It’s a red letter day here at the Lair because One Year Ago today I made the first post. It was only a short little note from the Bugg, and I had no idea what and if I was ever going to do anything further. The next day I started reviewing in earnest, and the rest, as they say, is history. The first thing I want to do today is thank everyone who’s ever checked out, read regularly, supported, or contributed to the site. Without all you folks, I would be just yelling into some empty corner of the internet. So thank you all, really and sincerely, from the bottom of my heart.

When I started the blog, it was on a lark. I had been listening to a lot of pod casts, and without the technical know how to do something like that, I thought I would write. This was not my first stab at writing reviews. In fact when I was about 13 or so and first discovered Horror films beyond Universal’s classics, I used to sit at our ancient DOS computer and type out reviews of the films I watched. When I was about 15 or so I started my first zine, The Horror Show, which lasted one issue and was printed on a dot matrix printer and full of clip art. In some ways, the LBL started way back then.

To start a blog, I knew I needed a name, and if I had thought anyone might ever see it, I may have chosen a little differently. I chose The Lightning Bug’s Lair because of a film that had been part of my life since I was about eight or nine years old and really shaped the person I would become. When the site started taking off, I decided not to watch the film for a whole year which was longer than I’d stayed away from it since I was a youngster. So this week, I finally got to see what I have to admit is my favorite film of all time, J-Men Forever a.k.a The Secret World War a.k.a The Day the Earth Got Stoned.

Right about now you’re probably already scratching your head wondering if you’ve ever heard of this film. Chances are you haven’t. I first discovered it when my Dad recorded it off USA’s Night Flight sometime in the early eighties. My parents let me watch and re-watch and re-re-watch this flick as many times as I wanted. After Saturday morning cartoons were over, and then it was time to check out the adventures or Rocket Jock and The Caped Madman as they fought off the invasion from the moon and the evil Lightning Bug.

Little did I know that the film was a subversive masterpiece helmed by two of the stars of the comedy troupe The Firesign Theater. The Firesign Theater is nearly forgotten now, but in the late 60’s and early 1970’s they rivaled Cheech and Chong for the stoner comedy album dollar. One older fellow I met once told me, “Oh yeah, those albums were great. I loved to listen to them and clean weed on the covers.” The Firesign Theater had a stream of consciousness style with rapid fire jokes and skits weaving in and out of each other, and they also had a few running characters like the fiendish Rocky Rococo and Nick Danger, Third Eye. The group made a few short films and wrote the script for the 1970 freak out western Zachariah, but they were primarily known for their classic albums such as their 1968 debut Waiting for the Electrician or Someone like Him and 1969’s How Can You Be in Two Places at Once when you’re Not Anywhere at All. They enjoyed success throughout the hippie era, but by the late 1970’s the group split and Phillip Proctor and Peter Bergman went out on their own.

One of the first things they did was begin work on a new film project which would make its debut at the 1979 Houston Film Festival. In the vein of Woody Allen’s What’s Up, Tiger Lily? (1966) Proctor and Bergman intended to re-dub several classic Republic serials and cut them into a single storyline. The film combined pieces from Captain Marvel, Radar Men from the Moon, Captain America, S.O.S. Coast Guard, Undersea Kingdom, The Mysterious Doctor Satan, The Fighting Devil Dogs, Spy Smasher, The Crimson Ghost, and Zombies of the Stratosphere. The superhero titles are the most recognizable titles among them, but fans of the band The Misfits may recognize The Crimson Ghost as being the film that featured The Fiend which became the band’s logo.

The plot of the film (which is negligible) concerns an invasion of Earth being waged by The Lightning Bug, the evil leader of the moon. With his chief weapon, Rock N’ Roll, he intends to destroy all the decent people of Earth and rule the planet. From their office in the J-Men headquarters, The Chief (Phillip Proctor) and Agent Barton (Peter Bergman) dispatch waves of heroes to combat the Rock N’ Roll menace. When The Lightning Bug finds his plans being thwarted he breaks out his new secret weapon, Hash Bombs, to bring down the pesky J-Men.

Before anyone calls protective services on my folks, let me just say that at my young age I had no idea that the film concerned drug use. In fact, I had no idea what the Hash bombs were about. As the film aged with me, I found more of the humor accessible to me, but in my youth, it worked for me on a purely superhero basis. Now I revel in the one liners and rapid fire jokes that the film contains. It is basically impossible for me to even describe the events of the film much further. It’s something that has to be seen to be believed, and thankfully the film is in its entirety on YouTube and linked below.

However, I do want to talk a bit more about The Lightning Bug. Voiced by radio DJ “Machine Gun” Kelly, the Bug is a master of disguise. This was actually just a good way of explaining his different looks over the film which were pulled from several of the serials I talked about above. The Bug is a cool customer and has most of the best lines in the film. My favorite of which is when he’s recruited Earthlings to be trained as DJ’s and tells his goons to “take them in the back and teach them how to talk like me, real sexy.” Of all the characters in the film, he had long been my favorite and many of his lines pop up to this way in my everyday speech.

So this really brings us back around full circle now. When I started the site, I intended to write under a pen name which initially was The Lightning Bug, but as you folks well know I have shortened that now to T.L. Bugg to make it my own. In the early days I even referenced being the Ruler of the Moon and my Flying Wing, but I could never really get into doing the character posts so after a few months I dropped the pretense. I was also inspired by The Lightning Bug to use many disguises for my appearance, the first of which was the character from The Flying Devil Rays that was used as the Bug in J-Men Forever. Today though is a new beginning, and anyone who checks my bio will actually be greeted with a picture of my glorious mug.

I’m not going to give J-Men Forever a rating because to me it will always be the ‘5’ of all ‘5’’s. Realistically, I know this film will not appeal to everyone and has some serious flaws in both pacing and the rapid fire joke machine. I just wanted to talk about this film today so you folks might not think that the title of the blog was just crazy.

J-Men Forever is the film that really put me on the path to loving genre films. Combining elements of campy humor, science fiction, horror and thrillers, the film has informed every step of my life as a movie viewer, and without it, this site never would have been. I deeply encourage you folks to at least check out a bit of it just to see what it’s like. If you don’t like watching on your computer, it is now finally available from Netflix. If anyone does check it out, please, let me know what you think.

Before I sign off for the night there are a few people I want to thank for making this year a wonderful one. First off, my mom. There’s very few mothers out there who would serve as the spelling and grammar editors for their thirty three year old son’s genre website, but Mom stepped up and has done a great job all year in a thankless role. Secondly, my loving wife. Ms Directed has been an angel for giving me time to do my thing and supporting me anytime I felt like I was up against a brick wall. Thirdly (?), my good friend Fran Goria has shared my love of offbeat cinema for as long as I’ve known her, and she has sat through many duds with me because I had to review them.

I also want to thank Cinema de Bizarre for believing in me and my site so fervently that they would allow me to write reviews for their newest films. Then there’s all my great blogger friends. I listed many of them the other day, and I won’t take time to list them all now. Just know if you appear on my blog roll, it’s because I think you rock and are great friends of the Lair. Last, but surely not least are the 32,000 plus visitors I’ve had to the Lair. Even if you happened to come here by accident because you were looking for information on actual Lightning Bugs, or pictures of Great Granny Gi Gi, or however you got here, thanks so much for visiting. This last year has been an incredible journey, both through films and through writing, and I look forward to being here for years and years to come. Thank you all again, and goodnight from T.L. Bugg.


10 comments:

  1. A review like that could get me pregnant!

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  2. I've been reading your blog since the first week of October, and it's been fun to be along for most of the first year ride. Thanks for the cool "origin story" too. Keep it up, you are always my blog-friend.

    (I like that people looking for info on actual lightning bugs would end up here. Maybe I should re-title my blog "Capybara's Casino" or something like that and capture some extra traffic from the zoologically-minded.)

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  3. You have quite the history, m'man. Congrats on your year.

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  4. the sneering (homo-phobic) snobAugust 22, 2009 at 6:37 AM

    Here`s to another 20 years of lusting after hot chicks from horror movies.

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  5. Congrats on the 1 year annivesary. I know how hard it can be to keep a blog going sometimes, so my hat goes off to you. I got my start blogging on a group horror blog called Skullring.Org back in 2006. It eventually went under and I couldn't shake the writing itch, so I started my own blog. Going to have to watch J-Men Forever. Sounds good. I had no idea it existed.

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  6. That was quite interesting, Bugg--and congrats on your 1 year anniversary. This movie sounds like something I would like, I will definitely take the time to check out the YouTube version.

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  7. J-MEN FOREVER is one of my all time favorites. It combined two things I would still love almost 30 years after I first saw it; The Firesign Theater and movie riffing.


    Happy Anniversary!

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  8. I am so glad that some of you folks have seen this film, and to those of you who haven't seen it please let me know what you think after you check it out!

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