Rupert Pupkin Speaks: "Bad" Movies We Love Guest Post: Laird Jimenez ""

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"Bad" Movies We Love Guest Post: Laird Jimenez

 About Laird Jimenez:
The last decade I have worked for movie theatres and video stores, including the mighty Scarecrow Video where I still can be found from time to time, and when not making making music for friends' comedy videos, I work for a film and comic book archive. I also just launched Our Movie Is Like That Movie, a blog conceived with Tommy Swenson (Badass Digest/Alamo Drafthouse) about those wonderful movies that gleefully and shamelessly wear their influences on their sleeves. I've written reviews for a few local publications and for the Scarecrow Video blog, where my proudest achievements are the list of Inglourious Basterds references and the Klaus Kinski gallery.


If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horsemen Do? (1971)
Of all of the movies on my list, this is the only one I would say is truly “bad” in any universal meaning of the word. Bible thumping, Commie-fearing Reverend Estus W. Pirkle’s vision of a Russian and Cuban invasion of the U.S. is littered with terrible accents, non-actors, and enough hyperbolic fear-mongering to fill 10 Red Dawn remakes and an Invasion USA TV series. And it has a scene in which a Communist official proves the superiority of Fidel Castro over Jesus Christ to a classroom full of children by pointing out that Castro can provide the children with candy, while praying to Jesus cannot. But what makes Footmen especially noteworthy (and revolting) are the numerous set-pieces that devolve into pure, gory exploitation.  Co-writer/Director Ron Ormond’s background as an exploitation filmmaker surely helped him with the technical aspects involved in staging a scene in which, for instance, a 10-year old boy is decapitated for refusing to step on a picture of Jesus Christ. People are tortured and mutilated throughout, and though none of the effects are particularly good, when combined with the non-stop ramblings of an evangelical madmen and ever present, blaring library music, the resulting experience can be rather unpleasant. If it all weren’t so artless, homemade, and absurd it could have been the American Salo. Instead it’s kind of a hoot, and one that I love to share with unsuspecting friends (one of whom purchased one of the last 16mm prints from Reverend Pirkle’s widow. He had to lie to her and say he was a youth minister before she would agree to sell to him).

Drunken Wu-Tang (1984)
Essentially a comedy peppered with some decent fight sequences, it features an old man with a rat face who drives around in a little go-kart and a gential-chomping “Watermellon monster” that looks like it could be from the kind of low-budget international children’s fantasy that kept K. Gordon Murray in business. I consider it a classic, but I think kung-fu purists might be quick to label this as “just bad.” I have a high-tolerance for Hong Kong comedy and a love of absurd effects and make-up, though, so I will continue to defend this one.

Six Thousand Dollar Nigger (1979)
A bum is given an injection that gives him super-powers. Zack and Lars from the Alamo Drafthouse brought this one through Seattle on their Cinemapocalypse tour. If I had to guess, I would estimate that it was shot on half the budget of Dolemite. But it’s twice as charming (even with a name that you wouldn’t want to say around polite company). If you believe that great art requires contrast, then bear witness to and admire the gulf between the very real inner-city settings (clearly just someone’s real apartment and office) and the fantastical elements of the story. I guarantee you will look up lead actor Wildman Steve after watching this one.

She (1982)
An early and especially silly riff on the post-apocalyptic/barbarian movies of the 1980s. It reminds me of the almighty Spookies (1986) in its relentless, arguably nonsensical piling on of bad guys. The bizarre menagerie of foes includes mummy-lepers, totalitarian-psychics, a self-replicating hydra-man, and a Frankenstein (because, why not?).  It’s someone’s very silly vision of what a movie should be, which makes it infinitely more interesting to me than the dime-a-dozen Conan carbon copies that are  far more common.

Rats: Night of Terror (1984)/Strike Commando (1987)
Italian director Bruno Mattei, often collaborating with writer Claudio Fragasso (Troll 2), made a consistent stream of mediocre genre movies throughout the 80s, many of which were riding on the coattails of American hits. Some of his more notable contributions were unlikely “mash-ups” such as RoboWar, a movie that dares to recreate Predator en masse but replaces the antagonist alien hunter with a Robocop (okay, a Robosoldier, but he looks just like Robocop). This was followed closely by Shocking Dark, which manages to shoehorn a Terminator into the Aliens plot. My favorite of these mash-ups, however, is Rats: Night of Terror, which contains the just-as-inexplicable combination of Road Warrior stylized post-apocalypse with a killer animal movie and just a hint of Night of the Living Dead. So you get motorcycle punks, warring factions, and wardrobe that looks like it was selected by, as one of my friends put it, the director saying, “We’re making a post-apocalypse movie, everyone bring your own costume!” And then the rats attack. European animal safety standards at this time were not the highest, so don’t watch with this one with your PETA friend. And please make it to the end, because it has one of the most perfect shock ending freeze frames of all time (somewhere between Dark Forces and Sleepaway Camp).
Strike Commando seems to draw its inspiration from the Missing in Action, Delta Force and Rambo series. As I tend to appreciate “absurd” far more than truly “bad,” this one delivers in spades. Reb Brown (the first First Avenger?) runs around the woods killing guys and fights a giant bald Russian. When a dying child requests that he describe Disneyland, he says, choking up, “They got tons of popcorn there. All you gotta do is go climb a tree to go eat it. And there's cotton candy. Mountains of it. And chocolate milk, and malts. And there's a genie. A magic genie. And he can't wait to grant your wishes.”

Jack Frost (1997)
Apex video always had the most eye-catching VHS boxes on the New Release shelves circa  the late 90s. Jack Frost with its lenticular cover was maybe not as exciting as Bleeders with its pocket full of fake-blood, but it’s the only movie they put out that I actually liked. A homicidal convict headed for death-row mutates into a giant snowman and goes on a killing spree in a small-town. It’s one of the few movies from this period (and later) to get the horror and comedy tonal mix just right so that it never tilts too far in either direction. That special tonal quality should be measured in “EC’s” because Tales From the Crypt the comic and the show often maintained that dark humor throughout.

Jimmy The Boy Wonder (1966)
A children’s fantasy film that Herschel Gordon Lewis directed between Color Me Blood Red and A Taste of Blood. A little boy wishes to stop time and in the ensuing chaos gets involved with a wizard’s daughter and harassed by an imp of a man. At one point they come upon a tribe of Indians (white guys with painted skin) and the wizard’s daughter makes it rain jelly beans. An interminable song about beans is sung, and a dubbed Mexican cartoon is inserted to pad it out to feature length. Filmed in what looks like backyards in Florida somewhere.

The Seventh Curse (1986)
Chow Yun Fat and Maggie Cheun star in this cheap Hong Kong supernatural action movie that in its climax unabashedly rips-off Temple of Doom and Alien. Some of the action scenes are actually well choreographed, but the effects are laughably bad in the end.

Bad Manners (1984)/Oddballs (1984)
Both are 'not-for-kids' comedies that feature children saying and doing things that most movies would not dare to let child actors say or do. Neither one is really bad, but neither one is particularly consistently good enough to be held in any canonical esteem. Bad Manners cast includes Martin Mull, Karen Black, Pamela Adlon, and Kimmy Robertson (Lucy on Twin Peaks) and features a great soundtrack by Sparks, who quickly became one of my favorite bands after watching this absurd “problem children on the run” comedy. Oddballs is a Canadian summer camp comedy that has enough surreal jokes in it to make up for its otherwise completely unoriginal set-up. I’m a sucker for a let’s save the blank from the greedy corporate blank scenario, and I love jokes that seem straight out of a cartoon. For instance, in one scene a boy opens the “Mens” room door and sees a bunch of men hanging out in the bathroom. Displeased, he changes the door sign to read “Women” and opens the door to a bunch of babes. Love it.

Future Hunters (1986)
Filipino director Cirio H. Santiago made a few Road Warrior knock-off movies. I threw this on expecting that, and got so much more. A quest for the Spear of Longinus sends a post-apocalyptic hero back through time where he hands off the sacred relic to an unsuspecting couple. Adventure ensues, and many popular movies from the time are not so subtly borrowed from, including Temple of Doom and Return of the Jedi, the latter in an especially amusing way by substituting a tribe of pygmy warriors for Ewoks. Santiago’s movies tend to be full of action and highly entertaining, and proving the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, this movie is strangely original even though it steals from so many others.


Grady Hendrix said...

Okay, I'm speaking up in defense of DRUNKEN WU-TANG, which I agree deserves to be on this list, but there's more to the story.

It's actual English title is TAOISM DRUNKARD and it's a Yuen Clan film from 1983. Directed by and starring Yuen Wo-ping (action choreographer for CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, THE MATRIX, both KILL BILL films, as well as a boatload of Hong Kong movies, it also features his brothers - an awe-inspiring array of talent. These kids were trained ruthlessly by their dad from an early age and grew up to unleash some incredibly bizarre movies. But none are quite so weird as MIRACLE FIGHTERS, SHAOLIN DRUNKARD, TAOISM DRUNKARD, and the dark, gothic masterpiece, DREADNOUGHT.

Seek these movies out. They are fast and furious and will boil your brain.

Rupert Pupkin said...

I am sold! Will be looking for them!

James said...

You must always listen to Grady, because he knows batshit insane films. DREADNOUGHT is amazing stuff. I need to see these other ones he's listed and I know I will enjoy the hell out of them.

laird said...

Thanks Grady. I almost put "AKA Taoism Drunkard" in the title. I saw it first on VHS as Drunken Wu-Tang,so that's the name I think of first.

I've got to check out those others! One thing, though: are you positive that Yuen Woo-Ping directed Taoism Drunkard? IMDB (not always reliable, I know) lists his brother, and at Scarecrow Video we've always just filed it in the Hong Kong section as opposed to the shelves dedicated to the films directed by Woo-Ping. We could easily correct that if that's wrong.

I'm a big fan of weird, fantasy kung-fu, particularly the Shaw Bros stuff like Holy Flame of the Martial World and Buddha's Palm.

noahphex said...

So happy that you included Oddballs on this list. I just recently saw it and fell in love with it's quirky humor. I hope more people keep checking it out.

InkieCat said...

JACK FROST was on repeat at my college dorm. Me and my pals watched it way too much!