Rupert Pupkin Speaks: "Bad" Movies We Love Guest Post: Brian Salisbury ""

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"Bad" Movies We Love Guest Post: Brian Salisbury

 Professional critic Brian Salisbury is a writer for Spill,, and author of Film School Reject's Junkfood Cinema-also a Member of the Austin Film Critics Association.
Read his recent Junk Food Cinema column on STAY TUNED, cause it's awesome:


New Year’s Evil (1980)
The Mayans can say whatever they want, to me the real portent of our impending doom is that slasher films now proudly populate every holiday on the calendar. This 1980 entry ruins the year right from the start when a sadistic killer torments Roz “Pinky Tuscadero” Kelly as she hosts a party for a group of punks and new-wavers from Dimension Freak. Packed to the gills with 80s horror camp and boasting a raging theme song, New Year’s Evil is a dirty, grimy gem that deserves celebration more than just once a year.
Buy NEW YEAR'S EVIL on DVD from Warner Archive!

 Boss Nigger (1975)
Though uttering the title in polite company will surely land you in hot water, Boss Nigger is possibly the greatest blaxploitation film ever made. Yeah, I said it, come at me, Shaft. The story of pair of bounty hunters, played by Fred “The Hammer” Williamson and D’Urville Martin, who stumble upon the position of sheriff and deputy of a small, shitkicker town, it’s basically Blazing Saddles; if less intentionally funny. The table-turning dialogue, the cigar-chomping Williamson’s firearm proficiency, and, again, a killer theme song elevate what could have been just exploitation to a phenomenal underground film that straddles two genres.

2019: After the Fall of New York (1983)
International copyright law was never more glorious ignored than in 1980s Italy. An entire industry grew around the bankrupt recreating of successful American genre fare. When John Carpenter’s Escape from New York made a splash in the states, the Italians released After the Fall of New York with a just-dissimilar-enough-to-not-invite-actual-litigation plot and a hilarious, dumpster-diving production design. Our lead character, I’m hesitant to use the word hero given his teenage girl fashion sense, searches through the ruins of New York for the last fertile female. Snake Plissken is unquestionably one of cinema’s most badass badasses, but he never had to tangle with ape-men, flamethrowers, and creepy-ass clown robots.

 Street Fighter (1994)
One of the greatest traditions of failure is possessed of the videogame movie genre. Of the dozens attempted, only a handful manage to achieve the dizzying heights of passable. 1995’s Street Fighter seemed well aware of this problem and saw fit to proudly aim far, far lower. A plot is draped around a series of randomized fights like a trench coat two sizes too big. Jean-Claude Van Damme is as American as apple strudel in his portrayal of Col. Guile and the scenery-devouring Raul Julia turns in one of cinema’s most unfortunate swan songs that nevertheless pleases to the core.

 Battle Beyond the Stars (1980)
Roger Corman didn’t want to simply capitalize on the monumental success of Star Wars, he wanted to do so while also cribbing the plot of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. John Saxon plays a planet-consuming d-bag who sets his sights on the obnoxiously peaceful world known as Akir (yup), whose dopiest dope must then gather warriors from all over the cosmos to fight for them. Ships crafted from melted garbage, popular character actors who should have ridden off into the multiple sunsets long ago, and battle sequences that could only be rivaled by a game of laser tag in a failing strip mall, Battle Beyond the Stars is a week-old sci-fi casserole reheated on an engine block. Sidenote: This was the first ever effects job for a young James Cameron.

 Night Train to Terror (1985)
One bad movie in your bad movie is the standard. Several bad movies in your bad movie is like finding an onion ring in your French fries…as well as a pork rind, a corndog, and a bowl of pudding. Christ, I’m hungry. 1985 anthology horror film Night Train to Terror was cobbled together from three pre-existing horror films, two of which star Night Court’s Richard Moll, cut down to fit within their respective vignette runtimes with no regard to reason or logic. The wraparound story, thrown together in a fit of lunacy, involves God and the devil engaged in a storytelling contest the prize for which is the souls of a terrible rock band doomed to perish, but not soon enough, in a train accident. If you’re confused, it’s only because you’re really paying attention.

 Blackjack (1998)
Giving your action hero a crippling fear is a bold move, but exposing that vulnerability can engender a sense of empathy in your audience. Now, if that crippling fear is of the color white, you should hire a new screenwriter. But such is the psychological malady facing Dolph Lundgren in John Woo’s made-for-TV miss Blackjack. He is a nose-breaking, gun-toting, trampoline-bouncing ass-kicker undone by the terrifying sight of…milk. While the film features some of Woo’s best stateside stunt work, its harebrained conceit is stifling. Can’t wait to see the sequel…about the bodyguard hampered by his pathological fear of precipitation.

 Vampire’s Kiss (1988)
Nicolas Cage is insane. You know it, I know, everyone knows it. However, there are a few movie producers laboring under the delusion that audiences can be fooled into thinking he’s a regular Joe. When this fallacy is at the heart of his films, they are miserable chores. When, on the other hand, he is allowed to be suitably insane, we get treasures like 1988’s Vampire’s Kiss. In the film, Cage plays a publishing executive convinced that he’s been bitten by a vampire and quickly descends into total psychosis by way of dime store Halloween trappings and Max Schreck impressions. His every line is drenched in ham and his physical presence in the movie will make you legitimately want to call a doctor. No one, and I mean no one, has ever recited the alphabet with more authority.

 Demons (1985)
Arguably even more impressive than their knockoffs of American genre movies were Italy’s horror films. In 1985’s demons, director Lamberto Bava, son of holy triumvirate member Mario Bava, proved that sometimes the apple falls exceedingly far from the tree…and then rolls down a hill and gets swept away forever by the ocean. He crafted a sticky, neon kill craze wherein images on the screen of a horror film begin to leak out into the audience, turning them into zom-demons from planet Ooze. The plot makes about as much sense as trying to eat a bowl of rancid oatmeal with broken chopsticks, but it features some fantastic gore, a surprisingly strong metal-heavy soundtrack, and one of the best ancillary angry black men in moviedom. Say what you want about his fashion sense and misogyny, he’s one of horror’s best crisis management coordinators; by best, I of course mean worst and most awesome. 

 Danger: Diabolik (1968)
From one Bava to another, my final pick for my favorite beloved bad movies is 1968’s Danger: Diabolik. Straight from the yellowing pages of Italian pulp, Danger: Diabolik stars John Phillip Law, a penetrating stare masquerading as a fully formed human, as a master thief whose sole motivation for thievery is to impress his hot-as-a-solar-flare girlfriend. The whole movie is batter-fried in the chewy, Technicolor sex of the 1960s while seeming a weird sort of amalgam of James Bond, Batman, and…well…a bondage fetish. Diabolik’s schemes are delightfully camp, as are the car chases, mod score, and fondue cheese of an ending. 



Dusty said...

This is an excellent list over all. However, I give you special credit for NIGHT TRAIN. It's stunningly terrible...yes, like a train crash you can't look away from.

Saw it in my early '20s and never forgot it. Always happy to see it make its way out into the ether from time to time. For those of you interested in finding it, Believe it's still available on a number of different public domain compilations.

Robert M. Lindsey said...

I had Danger: Diabolik in my NF queue and it became "unavailable" so I don't know when I'll get to see it.

I'm surprised Battle Beyond the Stars isn't in more of these lists.