Rupert Pupkin Speaks: "Bad" Movies We Love Guest Post: Ivan Lerner ""

Sunday, August 12, 2012

"Bad" Movies We Love Guest Post: Ivan Lerner

Ivan Lerner is a friend of RPS and can be found at:

LERNER INTERNATIONAL’s “Bad Movies I Love” for August 2012

Loathsome consensus reality, in thrall to the hideous propaganda-machine whores, has decreed that these following films are bad. That is, not worthy of your time, of being of no redeeming value whatsoever.
Then why did I enjoy them so much?

One big problem with the films from the last 12 years (if not longer) is that they never had a chance: If they were given bad reviews, nobody went to see them, they were pulled from theaters toot sweet, DVDs went directly to the bargain bins, and any analysis beyond a percentage rating or a simplistic icon was denied—especially when the movie in question was never conceived as anything other than major-studio blockbuster-potential “product,” precisely the stuff uptight snob critics despise.

2009’s Land of the Lost really should have been titled “National Lampoon’s Land of the Lost,” then audiences would have expected the poop & boob jokes, and all the absurdist sexual behavior. The flick is essentially a spastic remake of The Wizard of Oz, with elements of Moby Dick and Beneath the Planet of the Apes thrown in—all of which is crudely stapled-gunned to Will Ferrell and Danny McBride’s take on a Hope & Crosby “Road” movie: low-brow, goofball humor that gets very “meta” often. It would be remiss of me to omit that I am a total sucker for expensive, breathlessly-paced, special effects-laden action flicks—like this one.

Honestly, I thought Land of the Lost was a wonderfully perverse laff-riot tribute to the old show—that I know true believers would probably hate. But it I think it’s a more genuine continuation of the stoner aesthetic that helped create the original Sid & Marty Krofft series (let’s mess with goofball sci-fi tropes), as opposed to slavish imitation.

The Ringer (2005) is just wrong, wrong, wrong—the boundary-pushing PG-rated-movie of very questionable taste that John Waters never got to make.
To pay off a mess of debts, Johnny Knoxville lets his corrupt gambler uncle (a deliciously sleazy Brian Cox) talk him into entering the Special Olympics. Cox figures Knoxville will beat all the mentally challenged and developmentally disabled participants, and he’ll clean up.

But while the Special Olympians may have problems, they’re not morons and see through Knoxville’s ruse almost immediately—and proceed to torture the living shit out of him, like an episode of Jackass on crank. It’s great.
Watching this from my easy chair, I had to stand up so many times to stop the pain from my being doubled over with laughter, my wife thought I was having a heart attack!

The film’s Special Olympians are all genuinely disabled individuals and they are very funny playing off people’s expectations of the “tards.” None of them are stupid, and they all become individualized characters, much like a “team” from an action flick. In fact, the “challenged” of this flick are the most sane and least unhinged characters: they exercise, eat right (mostly), are polite, and most importantly respect each other.

BTW, the flick actually makes even more sense if you imagine that love interest Katherine Heigl’s character (she’s a relative of one of the athletes and a volunteer at the Special Olympics) is mentally challenged, as well. Because otherwise her empty eyes and blank expression are otherwise intolerable.

The Island (1980) Now this is a flick in need of (re)discovery. Only recently available on DVD, The Island has long suffered from the scathing reviews it got back in the day.
Although available on VHS, it was a poor pan&scan version, which did nothing to improve The Island’s reputation; the flick uses the widescreen well, and important visual information was lost.

Not that the picture maybe didn’t deserve some of those bad reviews (the flick is often a mess), but I think much of the hatred came from how much it was hyped to be “the ultimate in suspense,” based on a novel by Peter Benchley, and produced by Universal and Zanuck/Brown—
So yeah, if you’re expecting another Jaws, then you will be disappointed.

However, if you can settle for director Michael Ritchie trying to channel Michael Winner, you get a gorehound’s delight as 17th century pirates (led by David Warner) cut throats and smash open skulls with axes in the modern-day Caribbean.
There’s some nonsense about the Bermuda Triangle, man’s innate savagery, and unpolluted “pure” indigenous peoples, but it’s all just an excuse to get some of Australia’s ugliest stuntmen to go completely apeshit and slaughter everything that moves, to the music of Ennio Morricone and Richard Strauss.
And despite the flick’s reportedly then-high budget ($22m by some estimates), The Island often looks extremely cheap and fake—especially around the plane crash and schooner sinking scenes. So cheap, in fact, that I can’t help but wonder that it was done very much on purpose, with a cocaine addict’s obsession to detail—but concentrating the wrong way.
And for such a FUBAR premise, it’s also a little disappointing that The Island’s attempts at sick humor fall so damn flat. But counter-intuitively, that adds to the flick’s sleazy layer of cheap; this movie feels sordid, even putrid, with lots of weird and nasty goings-on, including torture and joyless sex.

There’s a very Peckinpah-esque aura of resigned, rotten disgust about The Island, as well. Did director Ritchie pick this film only as opportunity to express his anger and frustration at the modern (Hollywood) world (much in the same way Sam P. used The Killer Elite [URL below] to call out his own “selling out”)? I mean, why the hell did Ritchie take this job? And what made Zanuck/Brown think that he was the right helmer?
Best known for the excellent Smile and The Bad News Bears, as well as the popular Fletch, there was nothing in Ritchie’s resume to indicate that blood-splattered buccaneers were on the horizon.
Meanwhile, star Michael Caine must have really been on a bender that year; he was also in De Palma’s Dressed to Kill and Oliver Stone’s The Hand. Whew!

The Legend of Lylah Clare (1968) is best described as “Ed Wood’s Vertigo.” It’s an AWFUL movie literally saved in the last two minutes by a plunge into subtextual context so blatant it’s mind-blowing (I can say no more, but I love how this movie ends: it’s perfect! Warning: the finale will be utterly meaningless if you do something like fast-forward past the bad acting, turgid script and massive scenery chewing. You must suffer to appreciate the picture’s conclusion; then after the first viewing, like me, you can always skip right to that scene).

Don’t worry, the flick’s never not completely fascinating, like the best (worst) auto crashes, but it does often reach new heights of patience-trying insufferability, only to quickly recover the viewer via a cheeseball optical effect, or a grotesque piece of major “acting.”
Director Robert Aldrich was burning up his H’wood goodwill after the smash hit The Dirty Dozen—the failure of Lylah Clare and The Killing of Sister George (very recommended, though) pushed him back into grim testosterone-packed action, with flicks like Too Late the Hero and Ulzana’s Raid, and later Emperor of the North.

Zardoz (1974) Folks cite 2001 as the major influence on the Big Z.—and I can see that, but I really think it was Alejandro Jodorowsky’s equally mystical El Topo (1970) that inspired this flick, at least structurally, and in relation to production cost.
I have never agreed with any of the negative things its critics have said about Zardoz, that the film is dull, pretentious (well, a little bit), nonsensical, and so on. From the first signs of that Big Stone Head floating in the sky, to the last handprint next to the rusted gun, I have been with the film completely.

With no budget, Zardoz’s director John Boorman took a page from Jodorowsky and made his film a metaphor about man’s quest for self, using action movie tropes. Jodorowsky used the Western, and Boorman used a variation of Arthurian legend, part of sword & sorcery. Then shot it in his own backyard, partially at and around his estate in Ireland.

Zardoz is impossible to take literally, aided by the unintentional (and thus perfect) campiness of the dialog, sets and costumes—but no matter what, the movie is earnest. That is a great part of its charm; Boorman believes in what he’s doing, this isn’t an attempt to make some bucks…And I appreciate the director’s attempt at creating a new mythology off of the old.
When regarded in the whole of Boorman’s career, and the themes which have been constant (man struggling; water as transformer and purifier; magic; knightly quests; nature good, technology bad; etc.), Zardoz is a perfect piece to the puzzle.

A Dirty Shame’s parts—heh, heh—may be greater than its whole, but I can’t help but like the movie.
The dialog all sounds like it was gathered through eavesdropping on drab Baltimore housefraus (“Lemme tell ya, hon, I’m viagravated!” grumbles one harridan about her horndog hubby); Tracey Ullman throws herself into her role with wild abandon (her dance to “The Hokey-Pokey” is a mind-roaster); tons of wonderful in-jokes (to keep up “appearances,” before visitors come over, a mammary-enhanced stripper pops out her DVD of Michael Powell’s The Red Shoes and replaces it with porn); and Waters’ fearlessness gives the flick a real jolt at times: I’ve just been introduced to a sexual fetish I had no idea existed!
And John Waters’ crush on Knoxville is very obvs, the way the film is shot and framed (awwww…)

Released in 2004, A Dirty Shame is Waters’ politest and rudest film—a porno-sex farce channeled through a Doris Day-Douglas Sirk haze. Given an NC-17 not so much for any specific nudity, but for an unrelenting atmosphere of sexual perversity—
But everyone is so nice and excessively non-judgmental, it’s more than kind of sick—it’s a perverse joke on a perverse joke. It’s Waters continuing on his theme (usually brought up in interviews and his “stand-up”) that while every consenting adult should be able to do whatever they want with another consenting adult in their bedroom, there’s no need for “bears and otters,” or “fisting” to become mainstream—all the while celebrating the right!
Similar to Cronenberg’s Shivers, A Dirty Shame ends in happy, proto-Reichian, sexual apocalypse—but so damn sweet and pleasant, it’s maddening! Like a smug religious epic almost, but I laughed a lot.

The Killer Elite (1975)


Alison said...

Zardoz fo' life!

Ivan said...

Thanks for letting me participate!
And it looks like I'll be "Bad Movie"-ing this week at my site.

Alison: John Boorman, FTW!!!

Thanks all,

Franco Macabro said...

Zardoz is pretty bad in deed! It was like trying to be philosophical and deep, but it did it in such a campy, cheesy way. I do love those images of the floating stone head though.

Mike said...

I love The Legend of Lylah Clare. It’s so gloriously campy and over the top, especially the contradicting flashback scenes and the bit where Elsa tells off Molly Luther.

And you’re right about the ending (by which I mean the VERY ending, the final minute of the film before the closing credits roll). It is shocking and perfect, and I’m convinced that Aldrich had that idea first and just loaded up the rest of the film with every “Hollywood on Hollywood” cliché imaginable, with everything cranked up to 11.

Seriously, I have been preaching the Lylah gospel for years but the movie has been forgotten after years of unavailability (it never even got a VHS or laserdisc release!). But now that the Warner Archive collection has made this film readily available, there’s no excuse, watch Lylah yesterday!

Ivan said...

Mike, Your years wandering the desert are over! Now is the time to spread the gospel!