The Joy Of Bad Movies


Bad movies are easy to come by. Indeed, opinions on cinema vary so widely that one person's masterpiece can be someone else's agony.

In my personal rulebook, a bad movie is one that fails to achieve its artistic intent.  A bad horror movie is not scary, a bad comedy is not funny and a bad anti-drug film inspires people to take as many drugs as they can get their hands on.  A Good Bad Movie is one that fails in such a spectacular way that its very flaws become entertainment.  Anybody who has giggled their way through Plan Nine From Outer Space will know exactly what I mean.  A Just Plain Bad Movie, on the other hand, is one that fails in a way that is merely painful to watch or just downright boring.  I have generally avoided the latter, while enthusiastically hunting down the former.

I therefore cast my votes in both potential categories, tabulate as you will.

In the category of Good Bad Movies:

1. Glen or Glenda Okay, picture one of those stagy educational films from the 1950s, only instead of Our Friend the Atom, the subject is transvestism and transexualism.  And it's directed by Ed Wood, the same guy who gave us the aformentioned Plan Nine from Outer Space.  Oh, and narrated, sort of, by Bela Lugosi, who mostly sits in a spooky library and rambles a lot.  Plus lots of stock footage stuck in for makeweight.  Completely incoherent and yet brilliantly surreal.

2. Beyond the Time Barrier Filmed on location at the Texas State Fair, Dallas, Texas.  Really.  There was some sort of exhibition on what a City Of The Future (circa 1960--the future looked different then) would look like, and they shot this film in about a week using the exhibition hall for sets of, well, a city in the future.  A test pilot breaks the time barrier and lands in the future where a cosmic plague has destroyed most of humanity and rendered most of the survivors mute (presumably to keep costs down by having fewer speaking roles.)  Typically cheesy sci-fi speak with the usual Twilight Zoney twist ending.  MST3K could have a lot of fun with this one.

3. Arena This may not count, since it was never actually released theatrically in America.  Thank heavens.  It was released on video and most if not all of the copies are safely in the hands of us hardcore Duranies.  Yes, folks, we're talking about Duran Duran, The Movie.  Make that, Duran Duran, The Truly Bad Movie.  Basically it's a concert film from 1984 conmangled with some weird plot about the REAL Duran-Duran (the evil scientist from Barbarella, another fine GBM) exacting his revenge on the band for stealing his name by kidnapping and torturing girls from the audience.  Like Simon le Bon himself, this film has not aged altogether gracefully.  If you're in the mood for some major 80s nostalgia, this should probably cure you of the notion.  Watch as a double feature with Barbarella for maximum weirdness.

Runners Up: Split Second, Phoenix the Warrior, Plan Nine.

The Three Just Plain Worst Films I Have Ever Seen:

1. Virus I only saw this movie because I was visiting someone in L.A. and his tradition during the Super Bowl is to go see a movie instead and this was about the only one we could find that he, his friend and I could all assent to.  Hoo-boy.  Could have almost made it as a GBM, but played things way too safe and sludged into mediocrity.  Mysterious alien force picks off a group of people one by one.  Seen it a million times.  Go rent Alien instead.

2. Batman Forever Look, it was a drive-in, it was there.  I think there's some contract stipulation that each Batman film must make the previous one in the series look good by comparison.  This is why I gave up here and didn't even bother to see the next one.  Indeed, I'm so scared off by the Batman franchise I haven't even bothered to see Batman Begins.

3. The Man Who Fell To Earth I'm sorry.  I'm so sorry, David, but I must be honest.  I'm not even saying this to pull your chain or anything.  My sister gave me the movie poster for Christmas so I rented the film.  Took me three days to get through it.  While the pale redhead look suits you beautifully, I found the film itself to be ponderous, pretentious, incoherent, implausible and just plain boring.  A few brilliant bits, (you were most of them) but otherwise just a mess.  (I ask anyone who wants to flame me on this to rent the film out and watch it--in its entirety and with no chemical assistance--BEFORE taking me to task on its artistic merits.)

Runners Up: Bram Stoker's Dracula, Wild Orchid, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.

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