I sat down last Sunday morning hoping to find a movie to watch on my daughter’s X-Box via Netflix. This endeavor is usually in vain, but, this time, I stumbled upon a movie called The Ghastly Love of Johnny X (2012). The synopsis intrigued me, so I marched over to my PC, and watched the trailer on YouTube. I was instantly taken by the film’s retro-50s B-movie vibe; and, then, on IMDb, I learned that the movie grossed $86 on its opening weekend. Yeah, you read that right – $86. And, it went on to amass a staggering $2,436 with an estimated budget, according to IMDb, of $2 million! I knew I had to watch this movie! In fact, I started to write this post before I even pressed play, because I was already feeling the movie’s awesomeness taking me over …
The Ghastly Love of Johnny X, directed by Paul Bunnell in glorious “GhastlyScope” B&W, is an out-of-this-world blast! This inspired B-movie is a musical homage to ’50s sci-fi, horror and juvenile delinquency with a cleverly-written script that’s overloaded with snappy retro dialogue delivered with sincere enthusiasm by the entire cast. It’s like real cool, daddy-O! Campy, kitschy, and all that!
Johnny X (Will Keenan) stands, with his ne’er-do-wells, before The Grand Inquisitor (Kevin McCarthy), on his home planet, accused of theft and civil disobedience. “I have no choice but to sentence you … to Earth!” the judge says, and, only an unselfish act will bring them home.
One year later, on Earth, circa the 1950s, Johnny and his delinquent gang, The Ghastly Ones, emerge from a cave, in the desert Southwest, as a Link Wray meets Ennio Morricone theme plays. They head out in vintage automobiles in search of … something. Meanwhile, at a diner, in the middle of nowhere, soda jerk Chip (Les Williams) listens to a TV broadcast informing him that Johnny-Cash-meets-Elvis-like rock star Mickey O’Flynn (Creed Bratton), “the Man With the Grin,” is missing. Producer King Clayton (Reggie Bannister), who lured O’Flynn out of retirement, confirms that the reclusive rocker failed to show up for a rehearsal. Clayton, and his girlfriend Lily Raquel (Heather Provost), by chance, are patrons in the diner. Soon, Johnny X‘s ex-girlfriend Bliss (De Anna Joy Brooks), a sexy vixen in a tight black dress, pulls up to the diner in a convertible. She enters, hops up on the counter, and begins to seduce Chip. But, then, Johnny X and The Ghastly Ones show up, snapping their fingers, and, suddenly, everyone breaks into an elaborate West Side Story-esque song-and-dance (“The Rumble”)!
Johnny, it seems, has stolen a resurrection suit which allows him to control anyone. But, Bliss has taken it from Johnny, and Johnny wants it back. Bliss takes off into the desert with Chip, and convinces him to help her via a Nancy Sinatra-esque song (“These Lips That Never Lie”). He tells her his uncle can help them. Back at the diner, King Clayton tells Johnny he can find Bliss if he helps him resurrect Mickey O’Flynn, who actually died in his club, for the comeback show he promised. Mickey O’Flynn is the reason Johnny‘s on Earth. As it turns out, Clayton is Chip‘s uncle; and, Chip, unaware that Clayton has made a deal with Johnny, takes Bliss to Clayton‘s club. Now, with his suit back, Johnny prepares to resurrect O’Flynn per the deal with Clayton, as The Ghastly Ones are left to wonder via song, “What’s Up With Johnny?” Well, O’Flynn is actually Johnny‘s father – that’s what’s up with Johnny!
Johnny “resurrects” O’Flynn, as promised, but, Tor Johnson look-a-like Sluggo (Jed Rowan), who is fed up with being Johnny‘s lapdog, increases the voltage and O’Flynn comes back to life for real, as a rock ‘n’ roll zombie! Sluggo kidnaps Bliss, and, he and O’Flynn, with cute groupie Dandi Connors (Kate Maberly), take off into the night. O’Flynn stops by the Cousin Quilty (Paul Williams) show to tell the world he’s back, while Sluggo calls Johnny, demanding the resurrection suit in return for Bliss. They meet at Damnation’s Hole for the final showdown.
The Ghastly Love of Johnny X is awesome retro coolness!
Watch the trailer here:
So, who’s who? Well, let’s see Will Keenan starred in Tromeo & Juliet (1996); Kevin McCarthy starred in the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956); Reggie Bannister played Reggie in Phantasm (1979) and it’s sequels; Creed Bratton was in the ’60s folk rock group The Grass Roots and played Creed Bratton in NBC’s The Office (2005-13); and diminutive Paul Williams was diminutive singer/composer Paul Williams as well as Little Enos Burdette in Smokey and the Bandit (1977).
The score, by the way, with orchestration, twangy guitars and theremin, by Ego Plum is fantastic, and the songs, by composer Scott Martin, are addictive, for sure; but, “Ghastly Love Theme” by The Moon-Rays is the real gem. The Moon-Rays are from Chicago, IL, are “Americas Halloween band,” and, have released 5 albums [well, 4 and a best of]. I had to download more of their music!
Note: I initially grabbed a bio line for a different band called The Moonrays, but, it’s all fixed now!