An Overview of the B-Movies of Christopher R. Mihm
By Sid Korpi
I first learned of Christopher R. Mihm through a story about his movie "Cave Women on Mars" published in the Southwest Journal in Minneapolis. His motivation for making B&W 1950s-drive-in-style B-movie homages was to honor his deceased father, who'd instilled in him from childhood a love of charmingly crappy cinematic works. He named his production company "All for George Productions."
I then attended the world premiere of "Cave Women on Mars" (2008), and I was sucked into the Mihmiverse forever.
The plot, and there actually was one, which is always a bonus, involved a handsome astronaut (Dan Sjerven) who is stranded on, you guessed it, Mars, surrounded by primitive warring Amazonian beauties. Oh, the cheesy sets and costumes…the purposely stilted line delivery ala Shatner…the overacting of the villainesses (who were, it turns out, tinier than Alan Ladd and just filmed to look imposing this I learned at the after party where I towered over chief baddie, Rachel Grubb, thinking I could have vanquished her simply by sitting on the waif)... What was not to love?
"Cave Women" was Mihm's third film, and from the aforementioned article, I knew his first movie was "The Monster of Phantom Lake" (2006)*. I assure you, the gang at "Mystery Science Theater 3000" would have been ecstatic to watch this one.
There were literally times in watching this film I guffawed so loudly I scared my dog, Mortimer! I'm a '50s-ophile and adore most things created at or about that time. "The Monster of Phantom Lake" had it all. It featured hormone-driven/twist-dancing teens, a crazed war veteran turned urban legend thanks to toxic waste, inept but lovable Canoe Cops, awesome cat-eye glasses, and a lake creature Roger Corman's special-effects crew would have coveted, adroitly played by Mihm's teenaged stepson Michael Kaiser.
Also memorable, and truly hilarious, was the campy song Professor Jackson launches into: "A-Rockin, A-Rollin, All the Way A-Ramblin'." (A quadruple threat in the talent department, apparently Mihm's not just a writer/director/producer, he's also an accomplished musician who performed all the musical tracks for the song).
Next, I bought "It Came from Another World" (2007), Mihm's second film, and did it ever send me! Professor Jackson (a recurrent role of a sort for Mihm's best bud/co-producer on most of his movies, Josh Craig) has to go searching for a colleague, Dr. Frasier (Mike Mason), who's gone missing in the woods where a mysterious meteorite has been seen crashing to Earth.
Enter our favorite Canoe Cops, Sven (M. Scott Taulman) and Gustav (Mike Cook), to help him with the tracking. I'll not be a spoiler, but there's a certain scene involving an oar and a mushroom you'll need to be wearing Depends to safely watch.
Mihm masterfully uses public domain footage and music to set the mood, as well as ping-pong balls to create the alien-possessed creature's fiendish googly-eyed visage. A highlight of the film is a fabulous campsite sing-along featuring the infectious song "Paddlin' Along," performed by Echo Driver.
More than any of Mihm's movies to date, his most recent release, "Terror from Beneath the Earth" (2009), was truly a family affair, with his lovely spouse Stephanie, son Elliott, stepdaughter Liz Kaiser and stepson Michael Kaiser taking prominent roles. Dan Sjerven returns, this time as a frantic father searching caves** made radioactive by local atomic testing, naturally for his two lost children (Liz and Elliott).
Mike Cook, otherwise known as Canoe Cop Gustav, is Dr. Vincent Edwards, renowned geologist and all-around brainiac, who is called in on the search with his assistant Rosemary Bennett (Stephanie). The mutant bat creature (Michael, the inveterate Mihm-monster portrayer) the search party discovers is one of the best film monsters ever devised. (Check out the corn-cob holders that have been used to make its teeth!)
Mihm's films have racked up the cult-movie accolades, including Best Science Fiction Feature 2007 ShockerFest International Film Festival; Best of Fest Award Big Damn Film Festival, Kansas City; and Audience Choice Award Big Damn Film Festival, Cincinnati and Indianapolis; and many others.
Thus, the B-movie-loving world now anxiously awaits the premiere of Mihm's fifth film, "Destination: Outer Space" at 7 p.m. on May 25, 2010 at the historic Heights Theater in Columbia Heights, Minnesota. I know I wouldn't miss it for all the world(s) in the Mihmiverse!
Sid Korpi is a Minneapolis-based writer and former film studies teacher.
* I now own framed pieces of the Monster of Phantom Lake's actual scaly hide (i.e. painted-on bits of plastic lawn and leaf bag).
**Ever generous to his fans, Mihm bestowed upon me one of the original papier-mâché stalagmites from the bat cave, which is proudly displayed in my basement.