Friday, October 5, 2012

Homage to Fromage

Can a bad movie be a good time?

When I was in college, my friends and I would hit up the local video store and rent movies that promised to be bad, merely to view as unintentional comedy. I can remember one time in particular, we were watching "Don't Go in the Woods" (the original 1981 version) that opened with a girl running in the woods. At this point, one of my friends exclaimed to the on-screen character, "Oh no! Didn't you listen to the title?!?" This brought everyone else low with laughter and the good time had begun.

Movies can transfix us. They can wring tears from our eyes and wrench our hearts. They can make our breath catch and make us lose it again. They can also make us laugh: either through sharp and witty dialogue, a comedic plot juxtaposition, or simply by a terrible script, plot, effects, etc.

Films that are downright atrocious in their original intent to be taken seriously can be offered a new lease in life if they're viewed with an amused eye, an open mind, and a modicum of patience. It is possible for a bad film to offer a good time if it affords you an opportunity to laugh and enjoy yourself. We have a couple titles in our DVD collection here at DPPL that fall under the description of a bad movie offering a great time (at least in my experience).

The first is a 1971 flick that I can never say the title of with a straight face: Werewolves on Wheels. It is a portrayal of a motorcycle gang that runs afoul of a creepy monk and his Satanic cohorts, causing the cult to transform the bikers into werewolves. Add in the sounds of early '70's psychedelic rock and you have yourself a masterpiece of cheese film. I stuck with it and managed not to lose interest until about an hour and 15 minutes into the film, which is great because it turned out to be only 79 minutes long. I thoroughly enjoyed the simplicity of the plot and recognized the effort the film's creators had put into the concept, but ultimately the reveal of the werewolves was a bit disappointing: they looked someone wearing a ski mask with teeth glued to it, which was in itself pretty funny. What made me pick it up? Well, I could not resist the tagline above the title on the cover: "IF YOU'RE HAIRY YOU BELONG ON A MOTORBIKE!"

The other film that I recommend if you're a fan of B movies is Bubba Ho-Tep. This one has Elvis and an African-American John F. Kennedy living in a nursing home in West Texas where an ancient Egyptian mummy comes calling to devour their souls. The outlandish concept is what places this movie in the "bad movie" category, but overall it was actually a decent comedy. Mystery author Joe Lansdale wrote the screenplay and Bruce Campbell completely nails the part of Elvis, giving it a feel of quality, but the effects were inferior and the story line may be too preposterous for some audiences (i.e. my wife). Bubba Ho-Tep is unique because it is a bad movie and it knows it! (Bruce Campbell has made a living of not taking himself seriously). This movie had me within its first ten seconds, when the definition of "Ho-tep" came on the screen, followed by that of "Bubba".

Does anyone out there agree that bad films still have value? Tell us a few of your favorites!


Tracy G. said...

Absolutely Joel. It goes without saying all fans of unintentionally bad movies should see Tommy Wiseau's The Room (available at DPPL!) and Boo (2005)

Interestingly enough, my friends and I spent many Fridays in high school and college finding the most awesomely bad movies at the store and renting them. Two movies I found through this method that were really good included Jenny McCarthy's Dirty Love and Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Roberta said...

I am a fan of movies that take innocent animals and turn them into ravening monsters. Night of the Lepus does this with bunnies - "How many eyes does terror have??" Frogs is another good one - starring Sam Elliott! Or all the giant insect movies where the special effects consist of someone taking a handful of grasshoppers and tossing them on a photo of the Empire State Building.

Joel said...

Tracy - Yes! "The Room" has attained Casablanca status amongst horrible films!

Roberta - A film on my to-see list fits your category, a movie about bloodthirsty sheep running amok in New Zealand: Black Sheep.

Linda K. said...

Don't want to jump the season but one of my favorite bad movies is Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Cheesy settings, dialog, and Pia Zadora! Hooray for Santy Claus!

Anonymous said...

I don't know if Rookie of the Year fits this category as it's a kids movie with an intentionally outlandish plot, but after having seen it as child I tried in about a hundred different ways to break my arm so I could pitch for the Cubs, and I still really enjoy it. It's part of my opening day ritual along with Major League and a league of Their Own.

Joel said...

Anonymous - That sounds like an excellent way to gear up for a season of America's Pastime. You've mentioned another way films can mean more to us than just the sum of their parts: the anniversary film. Yearly movie traditions are unwritten law, and liable to get messy if anyone interferes with them!

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