Rupert Pupkin Speaks: "Bad" Movies We Love Guest Post: Brett Gallman ""

Saturday, August 25, 2012

"Bad" Movies We Love Guest Post: Brett Gallman

Brett Gallman watches a lot of movies and sometimes writes about them at Oh, the Horror, Balls Academy, and EFilmCritic.  You can follow him on Twitter @bg_ohthehorror, where you can find him talking about all the movies he watches, bad or otherwise.

Pauline Kael once wrote about needing “great trash” to appreciate “great art,” but I hold that we really need to appreciate the disgusting, watery seepage that ends up at the bottom of a garbage bag. Only then can we really say we’ve bathed in filth and start to appreciate the finer things in life. It’s kind of like the compile’s equivalent to dumpster diving: it’s gross and it stinks, but, sometimes, you emerge with a barely-eaten hamburger, kind of like Clint Howard’s hobo did in Silent Night, Deadly Night 4 (which just missed the cut here).

Malabimba: The Malicious Whore (1979)

Unlike his more infamously bad Burial Ground, Andrea Bianchi’s smutty Exorcist riff isn’t grossly incompetent. For the most part, it’s a well-dressed gothic horror movie that has the always great (and great-looking) Mariangela Giordano hanging around as quite possibly the sexiest nun of all-time. It just so happens that the movie is also about a sixteen year old girl who gets possessed by the spirit of a raging whore of an ancestor which, in turn, transforms her into a raging (and malicious) whore.

While the possession itself offers a hint of pseudo-incest by having poor Bimba’s body being inhabited by a long-dead ancestor, the real deal also eventually shows up as no grimy stone is left unturned in Italy’s ultimate attempt to one-up The Exorcist to the tune of profanity, masturbation, and death via oral sex. Whatever restraint this one possessed was eventually exorcised when a distributor got a hold of it and tossed in some hardcore inserts, as if the deal needed to be sealed any more sleazily.

Bruce Lee Fights Back From the Grave (1976)

Bruce Lee (or someone who looks kinda like him) does indeed fight back from the grave in the opening sequence of this one. Okay, he doesn’t so much fight back as much as he leaps out of his grave with an assist from a lightning strike, but it doesn’t matter anyway because, in true Bruceploitation form, this “Bruce” disappears and is never heard from again.

Instead, this movie (which may or may not have been ghost-directed by crappy movie maestro Umberto Lenzi) is about a Korean guy investigating his brother’s death. He discovers a seedy underworld of criminals and gangsters and proceeds to kick the living shit out of all of them, even when they’re hiding behind glass. Seriously, this fake Bruce Lee jump kicks his opponents through the windows of their cars and giant panes of glass. Not to be confused with The Dragon Lives Again, which finds another faux Bruce literally fighting through hell (and meeting everyone from Dracula to Emmanuelle), Bruce Lee Fights Back From the Grave is one of the most egregious Bruceploitation cash-ins.

You can’t say it doesn’t live up to it’s name, I guess, but it sure doesn’t live up to that poster (sadly, there are no serpents or bat-men to be found).

Meatballs III (1986)

The spirit of a dead porn star coming back to aid a kid in popping his cherry probably seems pretty wild for this summer camp series, at least until you remember that the first sequel involved an alien and a smarmy John Larroquette. So, in comparison, part 3 might seem a little quaint. It, too, is a bad movie, but it’s a much better one since it seems to have been made by people with a functioning IQ level. Plus, it has Shannon Tweed instead of Paul Reubens, so advantage Meatballs III.

Part 3 goes back to the roots by picking back up with Rudy (now played by Patrick Dempsey), the lonely kid turned camp hero in the original; having passed the awkward voice-breaking stage of adolescence, he’s now in the sex-addled stages, and he’s so hopeless that recently deceased porn star Roxy Dujour (Sally Kellerman) has to give him a helping hand. She only gets into heaven if he loses his virginity, so imagine It’s A Wonderful Life by way of Private Lessons.

Not appearing: Bill Murray, whose distaste for part threes has been obvious since 1986, so quit asking him about Ghostbusters 3 already.

Killing of Satan (1981)

I think someone else already covered this one in their own bad movies praise, but I think it bears repeating that this Philippine cocktail of bushy mustaches, denim jackets, and dime-store devils approaches like a slowly approaching boulder that you could totally avoid if not for its magnetic, insane allure. As such, it barrels right over you, leaving your brains and your guts busted as you watch an epic showdown between good and evil unfold between a Halloween costume Satan and the Chosen One, a Canadian tuxedoed savoir named Lando San Miguel. ‘Nuff said.

Witchtrap (1989)

With Witchboard and Night of the Demons well on their way to becoming cult classics, Kevin Tenney was poised to deliver another video store staple in Witchtrap; instead, he delivered a semi-forgotten hunk of cheese that’s probably now best known as simply not being a Witchboard movie (I believe an old VHS tape even carried such a disclaimer). At any rate, it’d kind of be hard to tell that considering it shares cast members with that earlier film and is similarly setting around raising hell, this time in the form of a witch’s ghost that haunts an old house.

Both a team of paranormal investigators and loudmouth, wise-cracking ex-cop-turned-security guard Tony Vincenti (think an even more likeable Andrew Dice Clay) are on the scene before most of them are offed one by one. The witch’s spirit possesses various aspects of the surroundings, like shower heads, and one poor guy’s car that revolts against him in violent fashion. One of the familiar faces here is Linnea Quigley, which means there are also familiar boobs. No lipstick trick this time, but that’s not really necessary when Vincenti’s around to hurl insults and words of wisdom at every turn (“You're going up there to take on Casper the fucking ghost. You don't need a detective... you need Bill Murray for Christ's sake!”)

American Shaolin aka King of the Kickboxers Part 2 aka Karate Tiger 5 aka No Retreat, No Surrender 5 (1991)

I don’t even have to tell you how awesome this is; here’s a movie that’s so bad that it got pawned off to not one, but at least three other titles in the hopes that it’d dupe some unsuspecting bastard (though you have to wonder just who would perk up at the thought of a fifth No Retreat, No Surrender--well, besides me and other awesome people).

Anyway, this is pretty typical early 90s martial arts movie crap, as an American kickboxer gets pantsed by a pony-tailed Tong Po wannabe in a tournament before getting his ass handed to him. Vowing to avoid such humiliation in the future, he does the only logical thing and heads to China, where he acts like a typical entitled American jackass tourist until the Shaolin temple grants him admission. After all, the ways of Shaolin are synonymous with learning how to gain revenge by humiliating your opponent.

As it turns out, it kind of blows trying to be a monk, but it’s nothing a little American ingenuity can’t fix, as he imports all sorts of shenanigans and pranks to liven up the joint. It’s sort of like summer camp invades the Shaolin temple, so I’m not sure why they didn’t also call it Shaolin Meatballs.

A pivotal moment comes when the monks truly embrace the great American tradition of rock and roll with an impromptu dance number for “The Shaolin Temple Blues” (set to the tune of “Summertime Blues”), which is something Gordon Liu would have probably learned if he ever stumbled across the 37th Chamber of Shaolin. 

Lemon Popsicle IV: Private Popsicle (1983)

The first three films in Cannon Film’s epic teen comedy series are right up there with the greatest things mankind has ever accomplished. There’s the moon landing, pizza, and then the first three Lemon Popsicle movies. They’re truly delirious gut-busters that thrive on both intentional and unintentional laughs resulting from the complete disregard for logic and tone; the adventures of Benji, Hughie, and Bobby are marked by heartbreak, gangbangs, betrayal, STDs, assault, incestual overtures, and more--sometimes within minutes of each other.

However, if the holy popsicle trinity is like nitrous-fuelled drug trips, part four is the inevitable, sobering crash, as the boys head off to the army in what must have been a Stripes inspired turn. Despite the presence of the same creative team that helmed the first three (anchored by director Boaz Davidson), part four falls flat with a lame attempt to ape Some Like it Hot, as the guys often find themselves cross-dressing their way in and out of trouble with their commanding officer.

This was certainly not the franchise’s finest hour, though it somehow spawned something worse in Private Maneuvers, a spin-off that furthered Hughie’s solo adventures in the military. However, it is worth noting that Maneuvers does feature one of the series’ most inspired bits since it captures what must be the most absurd gang bang ever caught on film--fictional or otherwise.

The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking (1988)

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve arrived at the sobering truth that my childhood was lined with the undead corpses of bad movies, and revisiting them is sometimes akin to shooting them in the head and laying them to rest forever. This was perhaps most apparent when I sat down with Ken Annakin’s final film about a year ago and was horrified to stare its abject badness right in the face. It came at me with grating songs and inane food fights, all in the guise of a freckled-faced girl with absurd pigtails. Beneath that innocent fa├žade is the calculating, heartless monster of cinematic ineptitude attempting to scar your soul with sunshine and rainbows.

Maybe this one technically doesn’t belong since it’s a bad movie I used to love, but let it serve as a warning for the next time you decide to take a trip down memory lane--as it turns out, there’s probably a cinematic graveyard lying on the roadside, waiting to be filled with the things you once loved.

Christmas Everyday (1996)

A staple of the Family Channel during their annual holiday programming, Christmas Everyday borrows the Groundhog Day conceit and forces selfish teenager Billy Jackson (Erik von Detten) to relive a fateful Christmas day over and over again until he gets it right. Getting it right involves not watching kung-fu flicks that inspire him to beat the crap out of a bully (and steal his girlfriend!), nor does it involve learning how to shoot a basketball worth a damn. It doesn’t even involve stopping a horrific house fire that ruins a family’s Christmas.

Instead, getting it right means being nice to the local cat lady and making sure his fat-cat uncle doesn’t come to wreck the small town economy by building a mall, thus bringing peace and harmony to his family. Since it first aired back in 1996, this one’s been in my holiday rotation every year, at least as long as ABC Family plays it; it seems they’re a bit ashamed of it, what with their remaking it as Christmas Do-Over ten years later (too soon!) and perennially shoving it into some unannounced early morning graveyard slot on their programming. When you’ve embarrassed the station that’s made not one, but two Santa Baby movies starring Jenny McCarthy, you’ve really managed to accomplish something.

Cruel Jaws (1995)

Great White is infamous as being the Italian Jaws cash-in that was so brazen that Universal successfully sued to get its release blocked in the United States. However, Italy’s true crowning achievement in shamelessness came about 15 years later when Bruno Mattei had the ultimate say in this matter. Not only does Cruel Jaws borrow elements and/or footage from each Jaws movie, it also culls footage from Great White itself. Even Joe D’Amato’s Deep Blood goes up on the chopping block, making Cruel Jaws the Avengers of Italian Jaws rip-offs.

As the Italian horror industry was drawing its last, labored breaths at the time, I like to think that Mattei was making a self-reflexive comment with Cruel Jaws, a film that literally would not (and could not) exist without the success (and infamy) of previous films. It might be a story about a Hulk Hogan lookalike and his ragtag gang fighting off the mob and a killer shark, but it’s really like a monument left behind in the wasteland of a disintegrated empire, a crumbling Ozymandias that hints at faded glory. Look on and despair, indeed.

Zombie Bloodbath (1993)

No bad movie list complete without a shot-on-video selection, and Todd Sheets is arguably that medium’s most incredible auteur. Over the course of 15 years, he directed over 25 movies, with much of his pre-Zombie Bloodbath oeuvre amounting to him and his cast of buddies pissing around in front of a camera. Sort of like dry runs for the real thing, movies like Goblin and Nightmare Asylum are truly bad to the point of nigh incoherence, like fever dreams committed to 7 different rolls of three-quarter inch tape that somehow got stitched together in an editing bay.

Zombie Bloodbath, however, marked Sheets’s true arrival, as he introduced the world to his own special blend of meat market gore and pounding metal riffs. Lacking just about everything except ambition and incredible effects work, Sheets crafted this unrelenting gore-fest about a nuclear meltdown that turns a small town’s inhabitants into the ravenous undead. The film often exhibits legitimate panache with its overpowering disembowelments and eviscerations, which don’t come without some Romero-style sermonizing in the film’s atomic and governmental paranoia.

The first of the only shot-on-video trilogy that I’ve ever encountered, this first Bloodbath is the finest by virtue of being 70 minutes long. When bloated out to a 90 minute runtime, the shtick feels less like a sledgehammer to the brain and more like being tossed down a flight of blood-soaked stairs while trapped in a steel drum with the contents of an entire butcher shop in there rolling around with you.


dfordoom said...

Malabimba: The Malicious Whore is great sleazy fun, although I haven't seen the hardcore version.

Kev D. said...

I just picked up "Bruce Lee Fights Back From the Grave" for like a buck... I probably over-payed.

George White said...