Cinequest – The Ghastly Love of Johnny X: gum-chewing greasers bring fun from Outer Space

You gotta like a movie whose tag line is: “They sing! They dance! They’re juvenile delinquents from outer space!”  I saw The Ghastly Love of Johnny X at its world premiere at Cinequest 22, and writer-director Paul Bunnell said that he was primarily inspired by the teenage delinquent movies of the 50’s.  But it’s also clear that Bunnell has seen more than his share of sci-fi movies from the 50s (and maybe a Russ Meyer film or two).

Bunnell evoked the genre by shooting in a crisply beautiful black and white (on the last of Kodak’s 35mm black and white Plus X film stock).  Ghastly Love is about some space aliens in the form of T-bird driving hard guys.  Having been exiled to our planet,  they grease their hair and snap their gum, and occasionally break into a musical number.

Before I saw it, I was concerned that Ghastly Love might be trying too hard to be the next The Rocky Horror Picture Show cult classic, but, not to  worry, Ghastly Love definitely stands on its own.  The cast and crew evidently had fun making this picture, and the fun carries over to the audience.

This was the last film for the late Kevin McCarthy, who was enough of a good sport to don a Devo hat and play the Grand Inquisitor.  McCarthy, whose Oscar-nominated performance as Biff in Death of a Salesman was 61 years ago, brought some sci-fi cred from the 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

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