Doug Tilley is a frequent contributor to DailyGrindhouse.com, co-host of the No-Budget Nightmares podcast(www.drunkonvhs.podomatic.com), and a burly, bearded Canadian. He loves kung-fu movies, ultra low-budget shot-on-video nonsense and long walks on (deserted) beaches. He spends most of his time battling ennui by detailing the minutia of his day-to-day life on Twitter(@doug_tilley).
These kinds of lists are always difficult for me to write, and - in fact - I've pretty much ignored the listed topic entirely. The sorts of movies I write about are of the ultra low-budget variety, so the likelihood of them being terrible is already quite high; but I have no interest in going into watching a film with a great deal of cynicism. For me, if a film is entertaining on any level - then it's already accomplishing something that most can't. So, here's my tribute to some films that are not strictly good, but that I still get a lot of enjoyment - or at least fascination - out of.
The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin (1967)
I can't really explain my fascination with THE ADVENTURES OF BULLWHIP GRIFFIN, an entirely forgettable Disney family picture from the late 1960s directed by James Neilson, who also helmed the atmospheric Doctor Syn adaptation THE SCARECROW OF ROMNEY MARSH. There's nearly nothing to distinguish BULLWHIP from any of the dozens of other films being produced by Disney at the time, but still.. There's something about the wild west setting and Roddy McDowall's stiff-upper-lip performance that I found enchanting as a kid. And I still do. It's not strictly "bad", but it's certainly forgettable.
Honeymoon in Vegas (1992)
Now, I think in 2012 the general consensus on HONEYMOON IN VEGAS has shifted towards the positive, and it's certainly not strictly a bad movie. It's just entirely different than the sorts of movies I usually enjoy, thanks to the truly bizarre tone set by Andrew Bergman's script and, especially, the completely unhinged Nicholas Cage performance. Yes, strange Cage performances are a dime a dozen, but it was the first time that I remember seeing an actor intentionally subverting his own role, and a director just letting him run with it. The supporting cast is great, too. Peter Boyle, Pat Morita, Seymour Cassel and especially James Caan; but Cage plays every moment as if he's entirely fueled by rage and frustration - in a romantic comedy!
Tintorera: Killer Shark (1978)
I experienced TINTORERA on 35mm at the first SHOCK & AWE all-night Grindhouse marathon in Toronto, and it wasn't quite love at first sight. I was hopped up (literally and figuratively) on cold medicine, and the 3AM showing was accompanied by noise-makers being distributed to the crowd for them to "scare" the shark whenever it appeared on-screen. My memories are of a hyperactive mix of (real) fish death and group sex, which a second viewing confirmed to be actual elements of this fantastically misguided JAWS rip-off. Hugo Stiglitz (yes, that guy) stars, with René Cardona Jr. - who had quite a run in the late 70s - directing, and there are so many strange sub-plots and tangents that it's difficult to ascertain who the movie was made for. There are many versions out there, but try and seek out the full 126(!!!) minute version for maximum insanity.
Hip Hop Locos (2001)
Here's a surprise. Regular listeners of the NO-BUDGET NIGHTMARES podcast will know HIP HOP LOCOS as the movie which all terrible movies are compared against. I hesitate to use the word "unwatchable", because there are certain people who see that as a challenge, but it's such a wrongheaded, terrible viewing experience that it eventually transcends being bad entirely - your brain simply won't believe what it's seeing. "Love" is a difficult word to use to describe it, but in terms of knowing the depths to which no-budget film-making can sink - this is a great measuring point.
North Korean kaiju movie. Or, at least whatever the North Korean equivalent of kaiju is. Fiercely political, and - notably - directed by kidnapped South Korean director Shin Sang-ok, it's quite a poor, often tedious film to watch. But the scope is magnificent, with the influence of the "great leader" leading to thousands of on-screen extras, and the monster being gleefully silly looking. It's all a fairly transparent rallying cry against capitalism, but when else are you going to see such a thing wrapped up in a big, dumb monster movie?
Redneck County Fever (199X)
Here's another one from the No-Budget file, but with a twist. A film that barely exists - with no IMDB page, no credits, and apparently stuck in some sort of time vortex. Two (Texas-based) surfer dudes are coming home from college for Thanksgiving break, but have a series of comedic adventures after breaking down in REDNECK COUNTY. Apparently lensed in the early 90s - the zubaz pants are a dead giveaway - it's braindead, goofy, and alternately entertaining and confusing. But it holds a special fascination for me, since a group of people obviously cared enough at some point to devote weeks of their lives to making it.
The Guy From Harlem (1977)
I wish I could get across just how awesome the theme song to THE GUY FROM HARLEM truly is. Beyond that bit of funky gold, there's still plenty to enjoy in Rene Martinez Jr.'s late-era blaxploitation film as long as you like retina burning decor and action scenes featuring characters hurling themselves awkwardly at one another. The truly awful performances are a beautiful thing to behold, while the weirdly episodic plot jumps around almost as much as Loye Hawkins as P.I. Al Connors. I can only hope we'll someday see THE GUY FROM HARLEM 2!
Italian rip-offs of American movies were an accepted part of 70s and 80s film-making, but making a killer sea-creature copycat of JAWS was simple compared to re-creating the blockbuster special effects in STAR WARS and ALIEN. But don't tell that to Luigi Cozzi, who followed his unforgettably weird STAR CRASH with CONTAMINATION, which replaces ALIEN's expert pacing, character development and special effects with GLORIOUS GORE and FANCIFUL NUDITY. It has a great Goblin score, and they even throw in a James Bond-ian climax for some reason, but this is truly poor film-making and I absolutely love it. There's a scene with a rat that had the teenage version of me practically jumping for joy.
Fantasy Mission Force (1983)
JACKIE CHAN in FANTASY MISSION FORCE. Well, not really. Jackie only shows up for about five minutes (as a favor), while the real star is notorious dickhead Jimmy Wang-Yu and the fucking INSANE plot which involves Wang-Yu trying to rescue Allied Generals from a Japanese-run Military camp (which is apparently somewhere in Canada). There are cannibals, hopping vampires, NAZIS, and lots of really strange comedy - but if you give yourself over to the randomness it's a sublime acid-trip of a movie.
Yeah, we all know DOLEMITE, but how could I not include my favorite bad movie ever? And - let's not mince words - it's a terribly made movie. But it's also definite proof that you don't need quality production values or even passable acting to make an endlessly entertaining and quotable film. You just need a charismatic lead and TONS of quotable dialogue. Rudy Ray Moore carries the whole thing on his back, while the continuity errors, errant boom mics, hilarious foul-mouthed dialogue and lengthy "rap" breaks just add to the threadbare charm. Moore realized the joke by the time he made THE HUMAN TORNADO - which is entertaining in its own right - but DOLEMITE is the great because of how serious it (sometimes) wants us to take it.