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

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

"Bad" Movies We Love Guest Post: Paul Freitag

Paul is the man behind the sensational Psychotronic Netflix Facebook group. Go there, like it and watch as the great Netflix Streaming film recs start rolling in!


The only truly bad movie is a dull one.  This batch I will gleefully throw into the DVD player as soon as someone suggests I pick out something to watch.

Cool World (1992)
Backed by a clever premise and a talented oddball director diluted by budget cuts and studio interference, Cool World has gotten the reputation of being terrible. It is, in fact, a tough film to defend, as it’s undisputedly a mess, but I’ve always thought of it as more a skeletal framework of an amazing movie rather than the bloated disaster that most remember it as.

The biggest problem with Cool World is that the characters are completely inconsequential. Writer/director Ralph Bakshi clearly didn’t give a crap about the role of “leading man” Gabriel Byrne, who is given so little to do that you could completely eliminate his dialogue and end up with the same film. The Holly Wood character, a sexy Marilyn Monroe wannabe with the voice of Kim Basinger whose sole characteristic is self-absorbed sex appeal, isn’t given much to do either, but at least Bakshi cared about animating her well. Only Brad Pitt, playing a stoic detective type, manages to have something resembling a personality.

But why the heck was this unexpected? Nobody goes into a Bakshi film actually expecting sincere character development and compelling plotting, do they? I would hope not. You go to a Bakshi film because of the batshit animation. And that’s where Cool World excels.

The look of the film is impressively unique, as actors parade around intentionally flat sets as random bits of clever animation pass over the proceedings without actually affecting them every thirty seconds or so. The effect is a bizarre headpiece of a film that somehow manages to look simultaneously impossibly cheap and intricately detailed. It’s clear that the little animated snippets are the moments Bakshi cared the most about, as the mini-cartoons give the feel of Tex Avery animating bits of an unrelated movie, like a cinematic translation of Sergio Aragones’ margin gags in Mad Magazine.

No, Cool World isn’t the movie that the excellent teaser suggested it might be. It’s also not the movie that Bakshi wanted to make, though to be fair, even if Bakshi was given an unlimited budget and the freedom to have an R rating, it would just be a more insane mess rather than a great film. It’s still a compellingly odd movie that I can’t help but get sucked into.

Nukie (1988)
While Mac and Me has been mentioned by one of my esteemed predecessors, proper credit has not been given due to Nukie, a bolt-headed midnight thud of a movie that is do Mac and Me what Mac and Me is to E.T.  The title character, a lost-on-Earth little alien with a constantly running nose, looks like the results of a tryst between Mac and E.T. after being ritually aborted before fully developing.

Nukie is the sort of movie I play for people as a test.  A normal human being will quickly realize what a train wreck this is, as the title being wanders around the African desert with two native boys and an occasional pilot (Steve Railsback, at what I hope is his lowest point) in search of his brother Miko. By the time the opening credits finish, every neuron in your brain should logically tell you to turn this thing off and never speak of it again.

But for those of us who seek this sort of thing out, Nukie is an insane treasure.  A narrator informs us that nothing is happening.  Some animals speak English, but others don’t.   Small children are used inappropriately.  Nothing makes a damn bit of sense, and it seems to come from a culture that not only never saw E.T., but has never seen a movie at all and only has the vaguest understanding as to how they work.  It’s confusing, annoying, and outright hostile to the senses, and I can’t turn away.

It’s Pat: The Movie (1994)
Why the heck has It’s Pat: The Movie become the easy joke that it has?  It’s certainly no dumber than most “Saturday Night Live”-based films.  I’d be willing to bet that most people who use a quick mention of It’s Pat as a reference point to awful movies has never even seen it.

Julia Sweeney’s Pat character is mostly remembered as an androgynous joke, as each sketch (and indeed, the premise of the film) is essentially the same as some person tries to get clues to Pat’s real gender.   However, Julia Sweeney’s portrayal of Pat wasn’t just about androgyny – the character was a repugnant, awkward, conceited troll of a human being, one that could still be funny even if it weren’t for the gender confusion.

The film follows Charles Rocket as the neighbor next door, and his creepy fascination with Pat borders on stalker territory, and there are plenty of gender-based jokes based off of this, but the movie’s strengths lie in the scenes between Pat and Pat’s love interest Chris, played expertly by Dave Foley.  These are the most painfully hilarious moments, as Pat is such a self-centered douchebag to everyone around them that it reaches “Curb Your Enthusiasm” levels of awkwardness.

Also, Ween shows up.  Ween!  I don’t know why everyone else on the planet hates this movie.  They are clearly wrong.

 Demon Wind/Project Shadowchaser 3000/Howling V
As great as classics like Evil Dead or Alien are, I’ve found that when I’m in the mood to just watch a movie to pass the time, as opposed to watching something that’ll absorb my attention completely, I’ll ditch the originals and go for the cheap knock-offs.  All three of these movies are copies of other, clearly better movies, and yet, I know I’ve seen each of them more often than I’ve seen all of the films they rip off put together.

Demon Wind is a quickie Evil Dead clone that ups the ante of the original because it has a lot more characters.  The plot is essentially the same --  a bunch of overripe young people go up to a cabin in the woods and get possessed by demons that kill them off.  Instead of building up suspense, however, Demon Wind just packs on the deaths and possessions, and has a lot of characters randomly get offed for no real rhyme or reason.

There’s also homoerotic magicians, characters getting turned into dolls, and new characters that show up towards the end just when they’re about to run out of cannon fodder.  It’s so ridiculous that you could dub it and convince people it was Italian.

Similarly, Project: Shadowchaser 3000 is an Alien wanna-be with a lot more characters.  Ostensibly the third in the Project: Shadowchaser series with Frank Zagarino as a homicidal android who kills everyone in his path, this entry finds a space ship that crashes into another vessel carrying him and inadvertently relaunching his kill mode.  Does this have anything to do with Night Siege: Project Shadowchaser 2?  I have no idea, and I don’t care.

While the android is responsible for a fair share of the body count, a good portion is just done by general incompetence, with crashes, oxygen loss and the like, as the double-digit cast (including Musetta Vander, Sam Bottoms and Christopher Atkins) gets picked off as they run around both ships.  It’s dumb as hell, but it’s never dull, and isn’t that what great “bad” movies are about?

The Howling franchise was already driven into the ground by the time of Howling V: The Rebirth, a standard rip-off of Ten Little Indians… but with a werewolf!  Again, the plot is well-worn territory, as a group of varied people are invited to a castle and get picked off one by one as the host tells them that one of the group has werewolf blood in them.

 The acting is fairly bad and everyone sounds dubbed, but it’s still got that “a bunch of people running around a single setting getting killed off” that I’m a sucker for.  Like the two films above, it fits these qualifications:  (a) It’s not boring and (b) you can tell the characters apart so you can keep a running count as to who’s still alive.  It’s really all I ask for in an evening’s entertainment.


James said...

My problem with Pat was I just straight up never was a fan of the character even in short sketches on SNL. Still, I give you props for sticking up for it.

deadlydolls said...

Whenever I see a tuba, I still put on my Pat voice and cry "I'm with WEEEEEEEEN!"