Rupert Pupkin Speaks: "Bad" Movies We Love Guest Post: Paul Corupe ""

Monday, June 25, 2012

"Bad" Movies We Love Guest Post: Paul Corupe

 Paul Corupe writes about movies for RUE MORGUE magazine, Fantasia Festival's official webzine SPECTACULAR OPTICAL and my own site, CANUXPLOITATION. From the CANUXPLOITATION site:
"Since 1999, has been exploring and documenting the murky world of Canadian "exploitation" cinema. With an emphasis on the past, our dedicated review team digs into dusty VHS deletion bins, combs through dollar store DVD racks and braves the wasteland of late night TV to investigate and reclaim Canada's once forgotten B-movie tradition with style and humour. "


Top 5 Bad Movies I Love

Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster (1965) 
Less a cohesive film than the musings of a child trying to create a story for action figures from incongruent toy lines, Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster is perhaps my favourite kind of so-called "bad" film--an unapologetically moronic concept that still wields enough manic, genre-defying fun to lodge itself in your brain forever. In the film, invading alien Dr. Nadir shoots down a moon rocket over Puerto Rico only to discover it's piloted by an experimental robot named Frank (he's "like a Frankenstein," we're told, probably so we don't feel too cheated by the misleading title). The crash scrambles Frank's circuits (and face) and sets him off on a murderous rampage. Luckily NASA is on the scene and fixes Frank in time to square off against Nadir, who has turned his ray gun-happy minions loose on nearby bikini go-go babes in an interstellar kidnapping scheme. It all concludes with a final reel showdown between Frank and Nadir's Space Monster (looking like the offspring of the Robot Monster and a yak). Whether shamelessly pandering to a pre-teen audience, shoehorning in NASA stock footage or cranking out UFO-rattling garage rock by The Distant Cousins and The Poets, the film is a complete mess, but there's a loopy DIY energy to Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster that makes it—and, to me, all these kinds of films—irresistible.

Oddballs (1984)
Sometimes a “bad” movie can win you over from just sheer force of will. Longtime Canadian cinematographer Miklos Lente got his only crack at the director's chair with this eager-to- please camping comedy that shamelessly rips off one Canadian classic ( Meatballs) and infuses it with the balls-out anti-authoritarian humour of another ( You Can't Do That on Television). It's another "lost virginity wager" film from the Roger Corman stable, this time complicated by the fact that these kids look to be about 11 and spend much of their time kicking themselves in the balls so they can have a pretense to ogle the college-age camp nurse. Canadian comedian Mike MacDonald does his best Bill Murray impression as a sleazy counselor unconscionably enabling his campers with fake IDs and make-out tips, while guest star Foster Brooks is the perpetually drunk owner fending off a rich mall developer who is trying to trick him into selling off the camp. As with most Canadian comedies of its time, Oddballs is rife with amateurish acting, contrived twists and offensive characterizations. And, of course, the jokes are thoroughly terrible—puns and slapstick silliness like a promised “stag” movie that's really a nature film about deer, cars driving through oversize cakes, Day-Glo cafeteria food, broad movie parodies, slide whistle pratfalls and gross-out gags. Most of these affronts to comedy wouldn't even pass muster at Mad Magazine, but Oddballs is so absolutely relentless in its onslaught of dumb jokes that I always get overwhelmed by its deluge of base, juvenile humour and surrender to the steady stream of stupidity. There's something charming and admirable about Oddball's commitment to its own crass ridiculousness that keeps it in my rotation of favourites.

The Corpse Grinders (1971)
You never forget your first loves. As an impressionable teen, I was thrown through a loop when I initially caught this Ted V. Mikels film on Buffalo station WKBW's late night B-movie showcase Off Beat Cinema. It was quite different from the campy 1950s fare the show often ran, so I wasn't prepared for the stark griminess of this film, scripted by Arch Hall Jr.’s dad, about a disreputable cat company that turns snoopers into Fancy Feast. I was familiar with Hollywood’s poverty row, but this degree of impoverished production values and clear disregard for taste was startling. Shot with only a light or two, here were uncomfortable scenes of an unscrupulous boss pushing around mentally and physically crippled employees in a dingy basement. It felt dirty and it felt wrong, but most importantly (at the time anyways), it felt dangerous—like any minute the ramshackle production might descend into chaos. The film's laughable cardboard meat grinding machine would collapse, a cat would bite someone and the director would emerge from behindthe camera to tackle one of the actors whose performance was going off the rails. Someone once said that no matter what time you watch Plan 9 From Outer Space it feels like midnight, and the same can be said for The Corpse Grinders. It’s one of the more watchable entries of this particular "bad" film style , though, thanks primarily to its outlandish plot and eccentric actors, rising just above similar bottomfeeders like The Undertaker and His Pals, Queen of Blood and The Creation of the Humanoids—all hazily plotted, bewilderingly garish films that you recall as though you’ve half dreamed them.

Super Soul Brother (1979)
Not as well known as other "party record" comedians like Redd Foxx, Blowfly or Rudy Ray Moore, Wildman Steve made a cameo appearance in Moore's The Human Tornado before breaking out as the star of this ineptly produced movie released in the wake of the Salkind's Superman. Totally bungled by Guy From Harlem director Rene Martinez Jr., the film stars Steve as a homeless drunk who is tricked by gangsters (including a midget scientist named Dr. Dippy) into taking an experimental, ultimately lethal serum that gives him amazing powers. Steve may be temporarily super-strong and indestructible, but he's still none too bright—after setting him up in a swanky apartment with a live-in nurse, the gangsters have him to lift a gigantic safe out of a jewelry store. Eventually, Steve and the nurse realize what's happening and try to find an antidote to the poisonous effects of the drug. Though shot in Florida with an even tinier budget, Super Soul Brother (AKA The Six Thousand Dollar Nigger) feels apiece with Moore's films, but where Rudy played out loosely plotted tales in the guise of one of the larger-than-life personas he created in his act, Super Soul Brother is mostly showcase for Steve's questionable night club comedy skills, as he repeats awkward observations about personal cleanliness, toilets, oral sex and smoking marijuana while the other non-actors look on blankly, stumbling over basic responses. You’re in trouble when you fall short of the competency level of something like Avenging Disco Godfather, but Super Soul Brother is also lighter, avoiding the dark twists favoured some of Moore’s more outlandish entries; a ribald bully revenge fantasy with a mostly likable and sympathetic lead.

Robo Vampire (1988)
I'm a sucker for the steady stream of martial art-themed sewage that once flowed mightily from Filmark International's ninja film factory. Re-editing two existing Asian films (and occasionally adding a few minutes of new footage) Filmark figureheads Godfrey Ho and Tomas Tang created an entire poverty-strapped industry of redubbed ninja movies tailor made for the Western home video market, largely predicated on tricking viewers with awesome VHS cover art. These budget- minded gentlemen knocked out what must be hundreds of unremittingly cheap films, each inhabiting the same off-kilter world where ninja masters named Gordon and DEA agents named Tom fight heroin dealers (always heroin dealers), rollerskating ninjas are decked out in clothing apparently purchased in a dollar store toy section, and everyone is always on the phone, as characters from one plotline must constantly communicate details over to the second story in a half-hearted attempt at basic logic. Though Ho has denied involvement, Robo Vampire is one of the most enjoyable and memorable features made in Filmark's interminable cut-and-paste style, an appropriately simpleminded Robocop rip-off in which a cardboard armour-clad robot blows away Chinese hopping vampires, spliced with the usual drug smuggling antics. Like many of Filmark's works, it's continually exciting to see Ho scramble to try and connect the stories, but the wild robot sci-fi action gives this an edge over Fimark’s more interchangable ninja movies. But even despite increased interest in these oddities, little is known about ROBO VAMPIRE, Filmark, Ho and Tang—their stories are littered with pseudonyms, denials, unsubstantiated rumours and lost films. Somebody write a book on Ho, please.


btsjunkie said...

I recently watched and was floored by ODDBALLS. There is so much going on in every frame. The next time I watch it I'll just be paying attention to the background gags.

Thomas Duke said...

I just posted a review for Oddballs as a matter of fact. it took me 2 viewings to really "get" (to the extent that it can really be gotten). I think it has potential as a cult movie if more people catch wind of it.

Canuxploitation is one of my favorite spots on the web. I may have originally heard of Oddballs from that site.

Indiephantom said...

ODDBALLS is a fantastic film. I would encourage anyone who hasn't seen James Wong's TEEN LUST to seek it out. Another forgotten gem from the period.

Dion Conflict's Personal (for now) Blog said...

Good call on ODDBALLS (One of my pics at the Canux website). When I showed films for FESTIVAL CINEMAS, the guy who would "approve" my screenings was the one that produced ODDBALLS! I had a screening of ODDBALLS which had the guy who played Francois. He told some great stories about the film.