I’ve ruminated on this list long enough I believe. In the spirit of my recent post about lists not really being finished, I’ll just go with what I have at my disposal currently and spitball it. For the mutual convenience of myself and whomever may read this, I will split the list into four posts.
Now, I did, as most who have compiled this list recently, have to examine what makes a movie both bad and one I can enjoy because of that. There were a few different directions I could’ve gone with this list. I could’ve picked some films universally considered to be bad that I like and I don’t care who knows it (Many of those can be found here). I could’ve picked the rare film that’s so bad that it’s good, which in my mind are few and far between, but I do have a few that come to mind, and I also won’t argue if you believe there’s no such thing.
What I decided to do instead was to pick movies that I find to be bad, however, that I still enjoy certain things about them (badness included), and in many cases I have given them more than one viewing due to their uniquely awesome badness.
Now, without much further ado, my continued elections:
Overdrawn at the Memory Bank (1983)
Here is the third and final appearance of a film with some connection to Mystery Science Theater 3000, it in essence highlights one of the better more overlooked aspects of that show; there are many of these movies that people would not be aware of were it not for its being lampooned there. Another odd note is that this TV film has, for reasons I don’t yet understand, been stuck from the IMDb.
As for the film itself, the story is quite out there. It concerns a futuristic dystopia wherein arts are prohibited. There are many other weird facets to the story that, if you would like to know them, can be found on the film’s Wikipedia. However, beware, as is often the case, it is rife with spoilers. Perhaps if the film the protagonist was obsessed with, and that this one cribs from, were not Casablanca my take on the film would be somewhat different, as Casablanca is too often referenced, lampooned and cribbed from. It’s also a very high-concept idea with a seemingly rather low budget. Something else I learned about this film was that is was shot on VHS, which I was not aware of, so that is a mark of distinction as older formats are having a renaissance, most notably as featured in Super 8 and the upcoming V/H/S.
The Beastmaster (1982)
“Born with the courage of an eagle, the strength of a black tiger, and the power of a god.” With a tagline like that you know what you’re getting from The Beastmaster, do you not? Essentially, it combines sword-and-sorcery precepts with a dash of Tarzan and there you have it. Plus, it’s another one wherein if you read any synopses you can see how it would end up on a list such as this one. One thing that has occurred to me is that aesthetically this is rather more like what Masters of the Universe would have been had they not employed the-fish-out-of-water element in their telling.
The Redeemer: Son of Satan! (1978)
I love distributors like Code Red, who not only specialize in rare, hard-to-find titles but are also fairly honest about them. I recall the box to this one mentioned something about the opacity of its plot, and boy is it ever opaque! Another way a film can end up on this list is if I thought it could use a remake, and this one could, if anyone wanted to tackle it. There are elements in place that work, and some that come into play that serve to obfuscate what could be a really effective film. It feels longer than it is; it’s confounding at times; gets slow but it never really loses me, which is pretty hard for any bad film to accomplish. An interesting editing experiment comes to mind as I think on it, edit it down into an effective short. In it’s current state it either needs a bit of expansion or contraction to work as a proper good film.
The Nutcracker in 3D (2009)
All credit for this selection making the list goes to Emily Intravia who wrote a guest post on Bob Freelander’s blog that jogged my memory. What really makes this film stand out is that any of the decisions taken in isolation wouldn’t be completely insane, but they all occur in the same film: Involving a thinly veiled Einstein; casting Nathan Lane to play him; making it a musical; having the Rat King and his minions symbolic of Nazis. However, I must say that it is a prime example of the fact that a film does not represent a crystalized version that has to adhere to everyone’s vision of a tale, which is something I’ve written of before. A film adaptation of a tale represents a version of a narrative, the director’s, writer’s and the production. This is why there have been so many adaptations of some of the most popular works in literature, film and cover songs in music and so on.
I have seen myriad versions of the Nutcracker. In fact, in the world of dance interpretations of narrative and choreography differ. As a director, I truly do appreciate Konchalovsky’s uncompromising vision, and some of the elements do work. I saw it upon its initial release and in 3D and that was a good element. The music, as I recall, the instrumentals that is, are pretty good whether Tchaikovsky’s or otherwise. Charlie Rowe, who would later appear in a very different and good interpretation of the Peter Pan myth in, Neverland is also good. As is Elle Fanning, who truly broke out with two amazing performances last year.
It also underscores another common element in the films I tend to choose for this list is that there’s something so unique, an intent so honest that I could never fully disparage the film without some qualifier. It’s one I haven’t revisited yet, but definitely will.
The Chuck Norris joke as a cultural phenomenon is rather dead in the water, aside from the rare soul who hears one for the first time and then builds a newfound obsession with them for a time. I’m not sure anyone ever traced the exact source of that phenomenon, and if that would serve any real purpose, but this film may have something to do with it. The reason is, of course, that in this film Chuck Norris plays himself and the idol of a downtrodden kid. At this point Norris had already been in enough bad movies where he improbably beat the crap out of everyone that it made sense and this just adds to his odd mystique, and, of course, up until The Expendables sequel was announced he was the most one of the most notable action star who wasn’t in the club.
Come back tomorrow for the conclusion!