Rupert Pupkin Speaks: "Bad" Movies We Love Guest Post: Jon from The After Movie Diner ""

Monday, August 20, 2012

"Bad" Movies We Love Guest Post: Jon from The After Movie Diner

Jon hosts the wonderful After Movie Diner Podcast and can be found on twitter at @aftermoviediner.

I want to state before I start my list that I love each and every one of these films for a variety of reasons despite public opinion being that they are less than good. Also I wanted to point out that laughing at films ironically and with an arrogant air of detachment is not my thing. I find it perplexing that someone would waste their time doing that.

If you are watching a film over and over to laugh at it then I would put it to you that actually there's something you love about the characters, the camera angles, the special effects or whatever it is that is inducing the mirth. Also, if you're like me, then maybe you find the back story of how B, cult, rare, weird or low budget films even get made and get out there intriguing, possibly you are able see the heart, determination, hard work and ingenuity that went into creating that random 'man in a rubber suit' monster movie and maybe you just downright love them for inexplicable reasons, popular theory and opinion be damned!

Other films on the following list are what some might dub as 'guilty pleasures' which, in my mind, is a word people use for films or music they like that were panned by critics who sometimes, lets be fair, take everything way too seriously.

Satanic Rights of Dracula (AKA Dracula and his Vampire Brides)
The famous British horror film studio Hammer made 4 Dracula Movies in the 70s - Scars of Dracula, the infamous and campy Dracula AD '72, The Satanic Rights (or in the States, Vampire Brides) and finally the somewhat strange experiment of pairing Hammer with the Shaw Brothers Studio for 1974's The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires. Out of the two overtly 70s and ludicrous stabs Hammer studios had at re-vamping Dracula (pun intended) for a modern audience (the middle 2) it is the lesser known "Satanic Rights" that, for me, is the most satisfying. It's the last one to feature Cushing and Lee as Helsing and Dracula respectively and they relish their roles like two hungry actors happy to get another go round at the crazy buffet. It's a fantastic mix of Dracula and James Bond featuring some truly hilarious disco hench-men and there's a nice underlying 'Dracula as metaphor for blood sucking capitalist' theme. Add to all this the funky soundtrack, the outrageous fashions, a young Joanna Lumley and some embarrassing 70s hair and this is stiff-upper-lip gothic horror studio Hammer doing something closely resembling a 'what the hell?!?' Grindhouse flick.

Massacre Mafia Style (AKA The Executioner)
Gone With The Pope
When pube haired, loud, big-collared shirt wearing, ex-comedian, crooner and self proclaimed 'King of Palm Springs', Duke Mitchell went to that great velvet and formica lounge in the sky in 1981, the world was robbed not only of a pair of cashmere tonsils but of a damn fine film maker. He started his career in a Martin & Lewis style cabaret double act with rubber faced goon Sammy Petrillo and, through a series of odd legal related events, they wound up making one movie together, along with the former Dracula star, 'Bela Legosi meets a Brooklyn Gorilla'. After that, Duke obviously decided cinema was in his blood and in the 70s he wrote, directed, produced & stared in two epic, typically Italian-American films. 
The first, 1978's Massacre Mafia Style, was a bold independent gangster film in which Duke indicates that HIS family's life story and not that of the Corleone family (from The Godfather series) would be a fascinating, compelling and ultimately a more realistic depiction of what it's like to be an Italian imigrant with ties to 'the family'
Sadly, despite going on to clearly influence scenes in Pulp Fiction, along with every other crime genre film in the history of cinema, this remains a little seen masterpiece and also would be the only one of his 2 films completed in his life time.
Gone With The Pope is a fantastically 70s piece of gonzo cinema like no other. The plot, such as it is, features Duke and a group of his ne'er-do-well palls kidnapping the Pope with a plan to ransom him off for 1 dollar from every catholic in the world. Well, you can't fault their impeccable logic.
The reason this film was ever seen at all was because of the wonderful folks over at Grindhouse releasing, including oscar winning editor Bob Murawski, who restored the original footage, edited it as best they could from Duke's old notes and sent it out there to do the indie theatre trail.
While Massacre is available on a Mitchell family issued 3 disc boxset online, Gone With The Pope remains a cinema only experience for the moment. Bob Murawski himself has said that this is intentional but it's bullshit pretension and pure cinema snobbery on his part because this is an absolutely fantastic, joyous, exploitation, Pope-heist picture with some great music, faces and clothes that demands with every moment of every scene to be viewed as much as possible. So either stop being a mammoth dickcheese Bobby ol' sport and release this classic by my favourite literal lounge lizard on DVD or don't wait 2 years (maybe more) between screenings. Check your local listings and, if you can, SEE THIS FILM!

9 Deaths of a Ninja
Mel Brooks meets the far east in this 'what on earth is going on' entry in one-time screen legend Sho Kosugi's career. While the plot maybe vague and feature some real head-scratching moments and while the fighting maybe decidely wooden and lacklustre (well unless Kosugi is, for reasons known only to him, disguised as an old man and then it's rather good, fluid and watchable) there is still an absolute ton to enjoy in this film:

The title sequence. Where Sho demonstrates his sword handling abilites while women in black leotards do express dance around him.

The dwarf/midget/little person fight where Sho takes on what look like some happy-go-lucky, toothy, midget hobos in a church... again for reasons known only to Sho

 The wheelchair bound, outrageously hammy, thick German accented villain complete with all lesbian fighting squad and nazi monkey.

 Brent Huff. That's it, just Brent Huff.
The underwater fight/chase where instead of harpooning, stabbing or fighting his female pursuers Sho just rids them of their bikini tops.
and The performance of Emilia Lesniak/Crow who seems to be permanently high and/or drunk the entire time. All this and so much more make this a real treat.

Blazing Magnum (AKA Shadows in an Empty Room)
Of all the Dirty Harry/Bullet rip offs to come out, this Italian production, shot in Canada and staring Stuart Whitman, John Saxon and Martin Landau is one of the very best. Not only does it feature one of the most legitemately exciting car chases ever comitted to the silver screen but the soundtrack is truly fantastic.

K-911 & K-9 P.I.
I am just going to come out and say it. James Belushi gets a bad rap. Unfairly compared to his brother at the start of his career and having fallen into middle-of-the-road mundane TV stuff of late, there was a time where James Belushi was my straight to VHS/DVD star of choice and there was a moment in his career where he had a new bargain-bin favourite film out very 8 months. Traces of Red, Separate Lives, Retroactive & Angel's Dance were all better-than-they-had-any-right-to-be thrillers and his films in the second half of the 80s, starting with Salvador, were all great! Real Men and K-9 being a stand out.

I don't know where you, the person reading this, fall on cop & dog movies. It has become an odd little sub genre of the buddy-cop movie, with a few stars taking on their own variation of it but K-9 was first and remains my favourite. Yes Turner & Hooch made more money that same year but K-9 is the better film, being as it is an actual fairly-gritty buddy-cop/actioner as opposed to a Beethoven type slobber-is-funny family friendly affair.

A decade later Belushi dusted off the character of Dooley and returned to the genre with K-911 and 3 years after that K-9 P.I.
While they lack maybe the 80s-acceptability of such cop-dog films and while they are certainly played more for laughs and re-hashing cliches from the first film than before, these two sequels are actually pretty damn decent. Well I get a kick out of them anyway. They are comfort viewing. Ridiculous, silly and childish certainly but if you liked the first one, can shrug off your critical corduroy jackets and get over your illinformed prejudice of Belushi then I believe you'll have a good time!

Blood Massacre
Alien Factor
I couldn't write a list without including some Don Dohler films, he is the king of the Baltimore B-movies. For anyone who is a regular listener to my podcast, The After Movie Diner, I am a huge devotee of The Dohler. For those not in the know I want to make one thing very clear: I don't care what you have read or what you've heard, there are no BAD Dohler films. I include them on this list for 2 reasons, firstly because I never miss an opportunity to educate folks and wax rhapsodic about the man's work and secondly because they are very low-budget, home grown films, a lot of the time made in a Baltimore back garden and therefor, I think, people may look down on them or sneer at the acting, effects etc. but not me, I think they are incredibly innovative, creative, chock full of heart and talent when watched considering the time and the various constraints the filmmakers were under. What they attempted and achieved was nothing short of wondrous.

While I urge everyone to check out as many Dohler films as possible (Alien Factor, Fiend, Galaxy Invader, NightBeast and Blood,Boobs & Beast, a documentary on his life, are all available free on YouTube)
I picked Blood Massacre because of all his films it is the one that you wish had made it. It has a cracking original horror plot, great performances, is well made and never stops amping up the scares, twists and turns right up to its last frame. It's good enough and fits the genre that it wouldn't look out of place on your shelf alongside The Hills Have Eyes, Re-Animator or Brain Dead/Dead Alive but unfortunately due to a distribution deal gone south it eventually limped onto the video market in 1991 and got lost in the shuffle. This is a real shame as it is an endlessly inventive, fun scripted and eccentrically acted, weird, little, wonderful horror/crime film. You can pick it up on a box set of 6 films called Serial Psychos for less than $6

I picked Alien Factor because it was his first film, it's one of my very favourites, it aptly introduces you to his regular stable of actors and it shows the other side of Dohler. Yes Don could make gory exploitation thrillers like Blood Massacre, that if marketed right could've been a big bizarro mid-80s hit, but he also spent a lot of his early career making 50s throw back, men-in-rubber-suit-alien-invasion pictures in his back yard and that makes him something of a genius. Who does that?
I mean, yes, people are starting to do it now because stuff can be drawn on a computer and you can explode things without actually exploding things but who does that in the late 1970s in Baltimore of all places? Most of these new alien/monster invasion/attack movies are usually those tedious mass-invasion plots with no real story, character or development and underwhelming, out-of-date CGI. Just some guy doing a showreel of what he managed to master on after-effects. Don, on the other hand, would craft interesting stories, give everyone a sort of take on a 50s B-Movie character but with a Dohleresque twist and when it came to unique looking Aliens, Don wouldn't disappoint. He threw his time, energy, soul, passion and know-how into these films and, with the right eyes, you can see all that up on the screen. All for what you'd spend on the TV to watch them on these days... If you're still not sold watch Blood, Boobs & Beast on Hulu or YouTube and I defy you not to want to watch them all then!

Terminal Invasion
Man With A Screaming Brain
I also couldn't go through the list without mentioning Bruce Campbell and really I could list 2/3rds of his filmography here but I picked these two 'made-for-sci-fi-channel' films.
Terminal Invasion is basically The Thing in a snowed in airport with Campbell as the roguish crook with a heart of gold and code of a hero, dropped into its midst and despite the 'filmed on a cheap soundstage' production values it actually makes for a watchable engaging film in places, mainly whenever Campbell is doing his thing (see also Icebreaker)
Man With A Screaming Brain though is a deeply flawed film, where Campbell came very close to biting off more than he could chew, but it's also a startlingly bizarre film when you stop and think about it. Part Steve Martin's 'All of Me' and 'Man with Two Brains' and part Frankenstein/Mad Scientist film from the 30s, Screaming Brain features enough slapstick, enough out-dated humour and enough Ted Raimi to keep even the casual Bruce/Raimi fan happy while it also shows Bruce as a guy willing to make something weird, out there and a little different rather than yet another Alien rip-off. (see also My Name Is Bruce)

The Man Who Knew Too Little
Quick Change
or as I like to call them the underrated Bill Murray movies. Both are far funnier and better than you remember them, I guarantee.


Ivan said...

Hooray for the shout-out to The Man Who Knew Too Little!

Anonymous said...

One correction, the king of Baltimore B movies would still be John Waters.
But, I have to give it to Dohler. His ALIEN FACTOR made it to nationwide syndication on Sci-Fi movie shows right next to legit studio releases.