First, there was Full Moon Features‘ Dollman, then Demonic Toys, and now Bad Channels culminating in the Dollman vs. Demonic Toys crossover event. Ted Nicolaou’s 1992 direct-to-video sci-fi, T&A spoof stars Paul Hipp as Dan O’Dare, a 1990s planet-saving shock jock and takes place in the small town of Pahoota. Here, Dan O’Dare finds himself chained to his DJ booth as part of a car giveaway/polka marathon for his radio station, KDUL 66.6 FM.
Dan cannot leave his chair and return the station to its heavy metal music format until a listener can give him the correct combination to the chain’s lock to win the car. In comes marginalized news reporter Lisa Cummings (Martha Quinn), who was assigned to shoot a profile piece on the DJ but insulted that he ignores her over the publicity stunt. In fact, Dan conspired with her boss to have her show up so Dan could meet and ask her out.
Upset by the proposition, Lisa storms back to the television studio. On the empty highway home, she witnesses an alien ship fly overhead and land near KDUL. Her reporter instinct kicks in, and she goes back to the studio, only to be mocked by Dan and her boss. When Lisa leaves again, the shock jock returns to his booth to find a big-brained visitor from another planet and its pet robot installing gooey alien gear at the controls. After attacking the station engineer, Corky (Michael Huddleston), the alien demands the shock return to the mic and spin some tunes.
“…the extraterrestrials begins to abduct sexy, young women by entrancing them with the tunes of Blue Oyster Cult.”
The alien plan is now in place. Using the upgraded radio station, the extraterrestrials begin to abduct sexy, young women by entrancing them with the tunes of Blue Oyster Cult. The victims then hallucinate that they are dancing in the song’s music video. Instead, they’re shockingly shrunken and transported through the radio frequency into 13-inch high glass containers at the station. These mysterious disappearances alert the attention of the local sheriff and the military. But, while Dan is able to describe precisely what the aliens are doing, the entire town thinks it’s another publicity stunt.
Not that Dollman or Demonic Toys took itself seriously, but there’s nothing serious about Bad Channels. Say what you will about the plot: it’s basic and designed to include every B-movie sci-fi trope imaginable. It is just plain parody fun that only the 90s could produce. We’ve got a boy-meets-girl story, a very tame Howard Stern in Dan O’Dare, 80s MTV icon Martha Quinn, hapless cops, buffoonish military generals, a guy in a giant alien head, puppet robots, lots and lots of slimy goo, the Blue Öyster Cult, and hot girls dancing. Dear God, I missed the old days of guerilla-style indie filmmaking.
If you watch other Full Moon productions, what makes them work/passable is that each film never lets on that it’s cheesy as cheddar. A better way to say it is everyone on set believes they’re putting on a Shakespearian production while at the same time knowing this is not Shakespeare. Also, by bringing a great deal of fun, you can attract the likes of Martha Quinn and Blue Oyster Cult — who might otherwise pass on a very thin story.
In the end, I wish I could say there’s something truly unique or groundbreaking about Bad Channels. In terms of production values, make-up, costume, and puppet monsters, Puppet Master and Demonic Toys do it so much better. Still, Ted Nicolaou’s film is worth watching as a homage to and probably one the last of true B-movie.
"…believes they're putting on a Shakespearian production while at the same time knowing this is not Shakespeare."