Stream This? is a feature devoted to exploring and reviewing some of the lesser known and often-times weirder films that can be found on various streaming services. Today, Roy Buckingham examines the 2015 retro horror film Danny Johnson Saves The World.
When it comes to undiscovered treasures, Amazon Prime has developed quite a collection to choose from. Instead of going with what I have watched so far for this feature (i.e. traditional horror or gay-themed cheesiness) I decided to look for something unique. Something uncommon and most likely ignored by the masses of streaming subscribers. This is how I stumbled upon the films of Saint Euphoria Pictures.
Filmmaker Christopher R. Mihm has created a cinematic universe known as The Mihmiverse, where exists films that seem to come from a bygone era. An age of films one most likely watched with either your parents or grandparents, who would tell you how they once paid a whole shiny quarter to see that same movie on Sunday afternoon in a real theater. The cheesy old sci-fi and horror films where the flying saucers are pie tins, the monsters are paper mâché, and the acting is questionable. All of Mihm’s films are a love letter to this kind of shlock cinema.
Each film stands as its own story, but longtime followers of Mihm’s work (The Mihmiverse has a massive cult following that relies on old fashioned word-of-mouth and touring campaigns) know that the movies are connected. Most of the movies are set in the town of Phantom Lake, Wisconsin, and you’ll see the same characters at different points in time in different films. Despite this, you can usually just pick up a random Mihmiverse movie and watch it without knowing this or needing to see them in any particular order. The references to the other movies are just there to entertain those who have ventured deep into this universe. Knowing this, I decided to just throw a random mind dart at one of these titles. It landed on Mihm’s most family-friendly film – Danny Johnson Saves The World.
This film is definitely inspired by the kind of movies that were made for matinees, to give parents something safe for the kids to watch for an hour or two while they’re running errands. With a cast made up mainly of child actors, the film tells of a young boy (Danny Johnson, of course) who must save his friends (and the rest of the world) from an invading alien queen, her dimwitted king and the various robots and dinosaurs they control. At the same time, he is enlisted by an alien we come to know as Steve to help free his race from the evil queen’s clutches. With a run-time of only 1 hour and 7 minutes, this film is a perfect length for not only for watching a movie with young children (who are honestly the target audience of this particular movie) but also for dipping your toes into the Mihmiverse.
One fun element of this film that helps to capture the feeling of an old-school matinee is that we are treated to a cartoon featuring two men in a canoe before the main story begins. These are Sven and Gustav, The Canoe Cops, who have appeared in several of the earlier Mihmiverse movies. It is a brief short that gets to the punchline fast, setting the mood for how absurdly fun and funny these films can be. It’s a perfect way to get the party started.
The story is told via flashback form (at Christmas of all times) by an older Danny Johnson to his grandchildren, in the same fashion as The Princess Bride. The grandchildren constantly stop Danny to question the story he is telling and this adds to the cute hilarity of this film. So does the cast of children in general, who have a Little Rascals meets Scooby Doo vibe to them. However, it is the various aliens who steal the show.
In films like these, budget restraints usually led to creative ways of depicting fantastical creatures. Christopher Mihm parodies this, and pays tribute as well, by making the entire race of conquering aliens felt hand puppets. It adds humor and charm to the film, especially with the banter between the Evil Queen and her dimwitted king. Their bickering while enslaving the children of Earth is a finely-executed piece of comedy even ignoring that their dialogue is coming from two puppets.
Mihm went all-out in replicating the low-budget look of the classic movies to which he pays tribute. At one point, we are inside the queen’s UFO, and the advanced paneling of the ship is clearly nothing more than Tupperware Lids and aluminum turkey roasting pans taped to the wall. It is touches like this that add to the fun of the film.
If you have Amazon Prime, it is definitely worth giving this film a look. I would also venture further into Mihm’s filmography to have a lark or two. I promise once you enter The Mihmiverse, that you won’t want to come back.
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