Thursday, March 08, 2018

The Films of Christopher R. Mihm

For at least 5 years several of my fellow podcasting friends have been telling me that I really need to check out the work of independent Minnesota filmmaker Christopher R Mihm. I've never taken the plunge before simply because I knew I was going to probably have to purchase the various films and, without getting a chance to see one of them, I wasn't sure if they would really be my cup of tea. A couple of months ago almost all of Mr. Mihm's films popped up on the Amazon Prime streaming service. So I guess I no longer have any excuse and it was time to dive in.

I've now watched the first three of his movies - THE MONSTER OF PHANTOM LAKE (2006), IT CAME FROM ANOTHER WORLD! (2007) and CAVE WOMEN ON MARS (2008) and I thoroughly enjoyed each of them. They show just what an inventive and very creative team of people can do with a little money and a strictly defined goal in sight. The films are set in the 1950's or - in the case of CAVE WOMEN ON MARS - as if they were made in that decade while imaging a distant future (1987!) as seen from that time. They are filmed in black & white to emulate the look of the classic 1950's movies they are striving to reproduce with an eye toward mimicking the style and quirks of those movies. But, happily, Mihm's pictures do a good job of getting the most important thing right by not taking the idea too seriously. The attitude seems to be one of doing the best possible job while keeping a slightly winking tone but never insulting the wonderful science fiction films they are imitating. There are genre in-jokes from both the 1940's and 1950's with a sprinkling of smart dialog lifts from some very recognizable hits from the 1980's as well. The scripts are slightly silly, very cheesy but also just serious enough to make fellow fans of this type of cinema glad to take the ride. Or amble, to be more accurate to the pacing of these movies.

The feel is similar to the excellent comedic productions of Larry Blamire such as THE LOST SKELETON OF CADAVERA (2001) and DARK AND STORMY NIGHT (2009). Mihm's movies are operating on much more limited budgets and use a small cast of rotating actors most of whom double up by working on the productions as camera assistants, makeup people or special effects techs. This group effort seems to rub off on the films giving the entire thing a 'let's put on a show' air that makes even the occasional failed or clumsy moments all the more forgivable. These folks really are putting their hearts into these movies! Even the choice of using old library music tracks to score the films shows a cleverness. What could be seen as a cost cutting measure also evokes a sense of warm nostalgia from fans familiar with these repurposed tracks playing under new, tweaked variations on older stories.

Having now seeing some of Mihm's films I can honestly say that they are quite enjoyable. Quite. In fact I can say without any doubt that I wish I had already watched most if not all of them. They are most entertaining. Indeed! 

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