Rupert Pupkin Speaks: "Bad" Movies We Love Guest Post: Mark Steiner ""

Thursday, July 5, 2012

"Bad" Movies We Love Guest Post: Mark Steiner

Mark is a buyer at Scarecrow Video and a frequenter of their podcast. A man with good taste!

I've been buying movies for Scarecrow since 1993, and have written short bits for various defunct and still breathing local rags as well as the Scarecrow website. I am on a lifelong quest to be able to find the time to watch movies during baseball season, and am a proud native of the Motor City.
Making this list was a little weird for me because every time I sit down to watch a film, pretty much my only request is "please don't be bad." I never want to be bored by bad filmmaking or bad scripts or uninterestingly shot films when I know that there are huge amounts of really good films out there that I've never seen. It's by no means a snooty thing. At least that's not my intention. I just want everything to be good all the time, and obsess over finding out how to do that. Which is probably why I stick with directors I dig, and finding gems buried in the nether regions of their careers is one of my very favorite things about watching films.

The Insipids #1:
Hugo The Hippo (1975)
Sometime in the late '70s/early '80s when VCRs first started entering middle class homes, we got one, and each of our family members got to choose a tape to buy with our new machine. My mom chose The Betsy, I chose M.A.S.H., and my little sister chose Hugo The Hippo. We watched it endlessly, and I think even then I knew how insipid it was. Songs bleated by Marie & Jimmy Osmond (really? Jimmy? Not even Donny?!) should have sent me away instantly, but instead they grew on me like a friendly boil, as did the primitive, psychedelic Hungarian animation, Burl Ives' narration, Paul Lynde's dastardly baddie, and Robert Morley's moronic Sultan. Eco-friendly Eastern fabulism never got better or weirder than this.

The Insipids #2:
Yolanda And The Thief
South American peasants boys and junior nuns dressed in crimson croon "This Is A Day For Love" amidst flocks of sheep while con-artists Fred Astaire and Frank Morgan set out to swindle doe-eyed princess Lucille Bremer. Bremer never looked lovelier. Minnelli dresses her in red in the nunnery and later green glowing bubbles in the palace bathtub. Who in the hell dreamed this up? Ludwig Bemelmans & Vincente Minnelli, of course.

Wild Side (1995)
I saw the director's cut of this at the Palm Springs Film Festival. In attendance was director Donald Cammell's friend and editor Frank Mazzola, who was either totally lucid or completely whacked out of his mind. I couldn't determine which, and in thinking about that night, I'd say the same exact thing about the movie. The actors & performances are completely absorbing, as is the glowing art direction and hypnotic mood. But then all hell breaks loose and you have things like "the bend-over scene," (Frank's words, not mine) wherein Christopher Walken spanks Steven Bauer's naked butt with a pistol while chanting, "Are you feeling fucky?!" after Bauer forces himself on Anne Heche. All kinds of crazy, this one.

Auteur Theory #1:
Kansas City (1996)

Kansas City's a movie that everyone else thinks is bad. I love it from top to bottom. Altman's my very favorite director, and I'll defend most of his indulgences while admitting that they go off the rails at times (O.C. & Stiggs) or are sometimes just plain boring (Quintet.) Kansas City is an indulgence, in that he said "I'm gonna make a picture for ME and throw everything I love into it," but it's completely engaging and lovely to look at and hear. Yes, Jennifer Jason Leigh's character can sound like nails on a chalkboard sometimes, but she's doing a part of a star struck gun moll acting, very poorly, like Jean Harlow, so that's the point, and the other 99% of the movie is filled with the ghosts of Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins. What's not to love?

Auteur Theory #2:
Reindeer Games (Director's Cut)
Again, I find myself defending this movie a lot, and I love it, but don't think it's "bad." I love John Frankenheimer and I think he made a gritty film noir that 50 years too late. Think about it. It's a bullshit caper film with seedy, slimy badguys & gals (Gary Sinise & Charlize Theron) and a stiff-as-hell lead actor (Ben Affleck standing in for Frank Lovejoy) who's just an "innocent" ex-con caught up in a heap of trouble. When people say they hate Ben Affleck, I tell them "you should watch this movie, because he gets the living shit pounded out of him for about a hundred and twenty five minutes."

Auteur Theory #3:
The Day Of Reckoning (1990)

For years, this was my holy Fuller grail. Never thought I'd see it. Then one day, I discovered it on the Anthony Perkins-hosted, "Chillers" dvd set (full of Patricia Highsmith adaptations) and promptly watched it that evening. By far the weirdest and, at times, worst thing Fuller's ever done. Yet there are flashes of Fuller brilliance replete with chicken eyeball reaction shots, black & white musical fever dreams, and grain suffocations.


Robert M. Lindsey said...

I liked Kansas City. It wasn't great, but it wasn't wasted time either.

highwayknees said...

I have that Chillers set! I couldn't even be bothered to watch the whole thing...but it seems weird a black n white Fuller would be in there with all the 70s Brits?!
Now I gotta go dig it out!