by Rita F Amer
There is a certain tier of bad movie that can enhance your life, as the devotees of The Room (2003; dir. Tommy Wiseau) and Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959; dir. Ed Wood) are well aware. This tier of bad movies has a something beyond mere incompetence. These filmmakers have a special artistic blindness and deep sincerity that amounts to inspiration.
The oxymoronic good-bad movie is not cynical or purposely camp. The filmmaker may be a naive auteur or a seasoned professional, but either way their films radiate their love of cinema, their joy at being part of it, and their pride in the production. I think it’s this joy and pride that makes us both laugh at and love these films.
The Room, Plan 9 From Outer Space, and a few others are well-known good-bad movies but there is a deep well of excellent, little-watched choices awaiting the curious. Here are few of my favorites. Each can be found for rent at Scarecrow Video.
Laser Mission (1989)
This action/spy/thriller/romance stars Brandon Lee, who is acting his ass off. Brandon was never anything but sincere and his willingness to go with whatever nonsense is thrown at him is so charming that it’s unintentionally funny.
Laser Mission defies logic, reason and even sanity. Geographic boundaries and cultural characteristics are fluid to point of hallucination. Physical limitations are swept away to the point that Lee and his lady love don’t even sweat at high noon in the desert.
Accept the nonsense and revel in the quotable bad dialogue.
This is so re -watchable that I had to buy it. My daughter bought it twice.
This romantic drama about a blind man (Alec Baldwin) “recovering his passion for life” easily passed the six-laugh test. It contains scenes like this:
The room where Alec Baldwin and his co-star Demi Moore are is hot. Since Baldwin can’t see, Demi Moore unbuttons her blouse ALL THE WAY. Baldwin perks up immediately, nostrils twitching, and says, “What happened? Your pheromones just got stronger.” Oh, the delight! And then later, they do the face touching thing so he can “see” her with his finger palps. Oww, I held my sides!
Anyway, Baldwin’s competent performance with cliched material is the keystone of this movie’s badness. He plays the magical blind man with such sincerity. He delivers unplayable lines in all seriousness. Don’t miss it.
Succulent B-horror starring an 18-year-old Drew Barrymore. This movie is funny because her role, her performance, and the script come together to form a perfect whole of camp deliciousness. Adding to the kitsch quotient, Christopher Dennis purposely delivers a priceless performance by knowing just when to raise the emotive temperature.
There are so many delights here, including Barrymore standing up with her dress in an unintentional wedgie that she handles like a pro.
Hard Target (1993)
This ridiculous action movie is packed with improbability to the extent that it blows the circuits of the logical mind and lets the fun flow. Running faster than bullets? Sure, why not. Unfazed by a baseball bat to the head? Fuhgedaboudit.
Director John Woo uses his camera with the wit of a raconteur. The extreme close-ups of Jean Claude Van Damme’s face that open the film ignites an effervescence in your funny bone that will bubble over by the end. Woo is matchless at creating lethal mayhem and murderous cleverness with the glee of a 12-year-old setting off illegal fireworks.
Note that a young Kasi Lemmons plays a small role as a police officer. She has written and directed a number films, including Eve’s Bayou which is worth watching because it is good.
The Naked Jungle (1954)
A completely awesome colonial, sexist, febrile romance adventure flick.
Charleton Heston is Christopher Leiningen, a virile virgin, who is ready to burst from sexual frustration. He strides; he leaps onto and off of horses; he orders, leads and brings civilization like every good colonizer.
Eleanor Parker, as the fine full figured object of Heston’s fulminations, is married by proxy but when she treks into the jungle to meet Heston, she is at first rejected due to her status as widow (aka she is “used goods”) but she shows such mettle that she proudly obtains the title “Leiningen’s Woman”, enunciated with a rolling W in Heston’s basso.
Watch MARABUTA (horrid killer ants) swarm the unlucky plantation worker, watch Heston fling perfume onto Parker’s creamy bosom, listen to the jungle drums beat like the hot blood coursing through their veins, and hear the cry of MARABUNTA! MARABUNTA!! MARABUNTA!!!
If you want to see more of Heston’s finely wrought chest, just check out Ben Hur or The Ten Commandments.
Amo. (Latin for I love it.)
Pompeii is the analog of 1949’s Samson and Delilah, had it been made 70 years ago Victor Mature and Hedy Lamarr would have starred – in technicolor. If you love (amet) a good/bad movie, ignore the 27% on Rotten Tomatoes and kick back with some vino and enjoy.
For part one of the double feature, watch the terrific documentary Pompeii: The Last Day (2003).
All of these fims and more are discussed at length on this episode of Foibles: A Podcast-
Rita F Amer began the Amer dynasty of Scarecrow employees in 1998. After her tenure with Scarecrow, Rita’s daughter Xoe took up the mantle. Mother and daughter are lifelong cineastes and often discuss film and filmmakers on their podcast Foibles http://foibles.podbean.com .