Like a high school prom queen who just can't resist the bad boys, most cinephiles cannot resist bad movies. We know they're flawed, thoughtless and will probably abuse us at some point, but we can't help it - they're bastards but we love them anyway. And at the end of the day, there really are no such things as bad movies, only enjoyable and unenjoyable. With that in mind, here are my top ten enjoyable bad boys:
10. The Young, the Evil and the Savage (1968) aka Naked You Die
Directed by the underrated Antonio Margheriti (as Anthony Dawson), this is a relatively light, demure, early entry giallo with little sleaziness or explicit violence. I actually like the heavy borrowing from other thrillers and horror films that takes place and the near-cartoonish, Nancy Drew-like lead character of Jill (Sally Smith). To add to the fun, there's the always welcome Luciano Pigozzi and the oddly cast Michael Rennie as the chief detective. Best of all, there is a solvable mystery, which isn't always the case in this genre.
9. The Giant Gila Monster (1959)
Long before Joel and the 'bots joked about the 'raised knee' method of shot blocking, I was enjoying this 50's, low budget, forced lizard perspective schlock directed by Ray Kellogg and produced by Ken Curtis (Festus of Gunsmoke). The lead actor, Don Sullivan, is so earnest, as the not-so-young teen heartthrob Chase Winstead, it's impossible not to love him even when he's singing his annoyingly repetitious songs. The film also has an amazing amount of drunk driving (that's played for laughs!), an unintelligible, eastern european love interest, a sheriff named Jeff and white people attempting to dance. How could I not like this? Jim Wynorski has done a remake called Gila! for television that's set for release in September in which Don Sullivan has a cameo. I'm so in.
8. Sisters of Death (1977)
Robert Rodriguez had a school bus, a guitar and a turtle. Joseph Mazzuca had a tract house, some wire mesh fencing and a gatling gun. What tickles me most about this is not the gatling gun, but the fact the movie was shot in Paso Robles which is like a not-quite-as-classy, more remote version of Bakersfield. A less likely place to hold a college reunion does not exist. When the former sorority sisters receive their invitations (hand-written in magic marker) to the swanky affair, presumably to be held in the convention room of the Paso Robles Ramada Inn, I could not stop laughing. There are many enjoyable moments of bizarre inexplicableness in the movie such as, how can a killer hide from a large group in what is essentially a four-bedroom house; who in their right mind would use a gun for a sorority initiation, and why would one enter a suspiciously remote property surrounded by an electric fence in the first place. Save for one sister, who was having paranoid attacks early and often, the rest of the ladies seemed to have no danger barometers. But it's the last ten minutes where the film is at its most jaw-dropping and enjoyably bad.
7. Heartbreak Hotel (1988)
Chris Columbus brewed up some treacle, put on his kneepads and paid tribute to The King in this nauseatingly sweet bit of fluff that Roger Ebert "hated, hated, hated". Poor Rog, he doesn't know good candy corn when he sees it. The premise of kidnapping a celebrity to "give" to the kidnapper's mother has to be one of the oddest (and disturbing) concepts ever. What makes it even more surreal is that the kidnapped celebrity is Elvis as played by David Keith. In other hands, the idea could have been played for edgy laughs and worked, but Columbus plays it without irony - straight, sincere and sacchariney. But despite it all, I still got sucked in by this wildly overly sentimental homage. "Wise men say only fools rush in..."
6. Human Animals (1983)
Spanish post-apocalyptic movie featuring just three actors directed by Eligio Herrero who had only this film and one other to his credit. The story, written by Herrero as well, is quite simple, after the world is destroyed, only two men, one woman and a dog survive. The two men vie for the woman... and so does the dog. The main reason I like the film is that it's dialogue-free. It comes close to being a halfway decent piece of art house cinema, but the dopey dog angle sinks it. I still enjoy it for its strangeness though.
5. Sloane (1986)
Meet Philip Sloane, the most obnoxious, fratboy-like, action hero of all time. He's the kind of man who will kill his enemies, blow up their dead bodies, then yell at them. He's just that much of a douche. Say his name. Now say it again. Now say it 58 more times and you still will not have said it as much as the other characters did in the movie. Sloane! Neither cobras, pygmies or inappropriate liaisons with young girls in Manila brothels can stop him. Sloane! He likes playing with toy trains and a B.A.R. Sloane! He may mess around with a woman one night, but it don't mean anything. Sloane! He'll kill without warning or reason. Sloane! He'll jump on top of his love interest and scream in her face. Sloane! ....
This is one I have trouble explaining my love for, even to myself. It reminds me of The Boogens as it has a decent set up, believable characters (especially the ladies) and a spooky remote location. The problem is the creature, and latter part of the film, are both kind of weak and wildly under lit. Still, I really like character actress extraordinaire, Janit Balwin, who plays the preppie sister, along with Janet Julian and Joy Boushel as the girlfriends. Julian looks and acts like a better version of Jessica Harper and Boushel is, um, very healthy indeed.
3. Young Lady Chatterly (1977)
A so-called "soft X" film from the late 70's, Young Lady Chatterly was in heavy rotation on Cinemax for what seemed like most of the early 80's. The women in it are naturally beautiful especially Mary Forbes who plays Lady Chatterly in flashback. The lavish estate setting and UK actors like Ann Michelle kick the film up a notch and give it an English feel even though it was shot in America. The humor is heavy-handed at times which probably earns the film its bad movie reputation but it accomplishes the goal of being innocently erotic quite well. There are certainly better adaptations, but none so fun, naughty and bad.
2. Survival Quest (1988)
No one can ever accuse Don Coscarelli of being unoriginal and Survival Quest is another unique offering from the guy who made Bubba Ho Tep and Phantasm. The Outward Bound-type group led by tough, (but gentle!) Lance Henriksen is a likable, if predictable, bunch. If the film had focused only on these characters, it would have been like an old Disney, or Sun International picture - a light, breezy trip where everyone learned a lesson about teamwork at the end. However, it is the always enjoyable bad-ass Mark Rolston and his near-fascist, fanatical crew that make the difference and send the film over the top for better or worse. Rolston's Jake Cannon character is so hardcore, he makes Martin Cove's Kreese from The Karate Kid movies look like a class-I, Earthday-loving puss. Needless to say, at some point, the paramilitary, testosterone-filled, warmongering teens Rolston is leading go off the rails and after Henriksen's group of peacenik, environmentalists. It's ridiculous fun and I'm getting the urge to watch it again just from writing about it.
1. The Lonely Lady (1983)
First off, all Pia Zadora movies are bad. And by bad, I mean fantastic. I only wish she'd made hundreds more most of which based on Harold Robbins novels. Every aspect of this film is campy, horrible and great. Pia looks too old to play her teenaged character and too young to play a seasoned writer. The fact that she's playing a writer by itself is so, so wrong. Her wardrobe and hairstyles are pretty off-kilter, confusion-inducing creations as well. The story felt wildly dated back when it was released and it's only aged like fine, moldy cheese since then. Everything about this movie, including the faux Oscar set, screams tacky. Which is why I love it most of all.