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Wild World of Ted V. Mikels, The
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by Jay Seaver

"Maybe a maker of bad movies doesn't deserve a good one."
2 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2011 BOSTON SCIENCE FICTION FILM FESTIVAL: It seems like cult and B-movie directors get more documentary features than their more mainstream counterparts. There's a Roger Corman one coming out this year, William Castle had one, as did Herschell Gordon Lewis. It makes sense, I suppose - these are often the guys who have lived colorful lives, and, hey, they've got a cult. It seems, though, that Ted V. Mikels is toward the bottom of the barrel, and director Kevin Sean Michaels doesn't do great with the scraping.

Ted V. Mikels got his introduction to show business at a very early age, cast as a child in a film set to star William Powell that never got off the ground. The bug bit him, and he eventually had a magic act before he got started making films as a writer/director, working in Oregon, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas, mostly making schlock, notably horror flicks - his best-known (most infamous?) titles being The Corpse Grinders and The Astro-Zombies.

Mikels seems like a nice enough guy, who in his forty-plus years of working in the shadowy parts of the film industry has accumulated his share of stories and friends, and many of them are on display here. Most are fairly amusing, but even for non-fans, they have the sound of tales that they have told more than a few times. These anecdotes don't build into something larger, though - it's like one of those DVD commentary tracks that are filled with mere description of what's on-screen with a smattering of on-set stories and tangents that don't actually provide much insight. There's never an "aha!" moment, or even some indication that Mikels is getting better at making movies - the clips of his recent pictures have the same bad acting and writing, but actually look worse for being shot on low-end video with awful CGI.

Not that you'll see the filmmakers bring that up, though - Kevin Sean Michaels seems much too taken with and fond of Ted V. Mikels to bring some things up. There are awkward moments when one might wonder if he's going for some sort of ironic juxtaposition (stories about how many scenes Mikels shoots in a day followed by scenes that could have used some reshoots), but there are no indications elsewhere that he's anything but sincere. He actively seems to steer the film away from areas that may cause Mikels embarrassment - we see Mikels brag about the grosses of one film and talk about how he was living the good life, but when he later points out that he's had to sell off every house he's ever owned to keep making movies, there's nothing about how he got to that point. And there's got to be some interesting stories about the women in his life - his (first?) wife is mentioned in passing, it's kind of vague what his relationship with muse Wendy Altamura is at times, and in between he lived in a mansion with dozens of young girls who came and went as houseguests - but Michaels shies right away from that, accepting Mikels's claims that nothing untoward went on more or less at face value.

Plus, Michaels occasionally makes some confusing choices in putting his film together. For instance, at one point he mentions that Mikels would occasionally use gimmicks to promote his movies along the lines of those used by William B. Castle, then, a few minutes later, he uses the term "Castle girls" without context, causing the audience not familiar with Mikels's history to wonder what the connection there is. Then he mentions that for a period in the 1970s, Mikels lived in a "castle" which he shared with girls looking to get their start in show business. Forget the weirdness of the arrangement, that's bad writing and editing, scattershot and confusing.

Maybe a shoddily-made documentary is fitting for someone like Ted V. Mikels, but it doesn't exactly serve him well. "Wild World" is neither an interesting showbiz story, likely doesn't tell his fans much they didn't know, and won't make non-fans more interested in its subject. There may be an interesting movie in Ted V. Mikels's life, but it's not this one

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originally posted: 02/23/11 08:46:16
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  DVD: 31-May-2010



Directed by
  Kevin Sean Michaels

Written by

  Ted V. Mikels
  Tura Satana
  John Waters

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