Bad Movies I Love (Part Four of Four)

This is yet another post that has been inspired by Bob Freelander and his wonderful blog Rupert Pupkin Speaks. Check it out, if you haven’t already.

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:

Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977)

For almost any of these selections, as for the most part it was just racking my brain seeking ideas, the story of how I saw it plays role. This was actually a film I only found out about recently, then as I learned things about it; such as the fact that Patton Oswalt included it in comedy bit of his and encouraged audience members to look it up to prove that it exists, I knew I had to see it.

I wanted to know as little as possible going in, aside from what the very blatant title already gave away. In my mind the killings this bed would make was something akin to a mechanized hospital bed gone amuck. Oh, how hysterically wrong I was. How you come up with the idea to imagine the gastrointestinal workings of a mattress I’ll never know.

Also, while the film is very low-rent using such techniques as jump cuts to indicate things “moving” on their own or positioning the camera low and using the bedding as an obstruction, it has a lot of story too it. Too much, and most of it conveyed by voice over. Also, while some scenes have trouble being lit, in others the camera swoops about like a half-drunken attempt to emulate Last Year at Marienbad.

However, it’s really the ancillary gaffes that make that affectation bothersome. The subject matter is treated seriously enough, but certain basics are just so lacking you either have to laugh at it or risk madness. Had the chronology been different, the tale been made more visual, and the idea put into the hands of another director; would it have been better? I can’t say for sure, but I can say that people would likely laugh with it more frequently than at it.

The Garbage Pail Kids Movie (1987)

I recently made the observation that the saga of my friend attempting to find The Garbage Pail Kids Movie, a film he dearly loved, was likely part of what sparked my loathing for the fact that things can and do go out of print.

I don’t like the film on his level, but after having seen it a few times and acquiring it myself, it’s the kind of film I’m a little surprised gets mentioned at times amongst the worst films ever made. Firstly, one should clearly never see this film accidentally. The Garbage Pail Kids are gross. Anyone who has seen the trading cards will know that and so to translate those drawings to the big screen in a live action film, you’re going to have to make a gross movie. The reason it ends up here as opposed to a list of films I really do like is its half-bakedness mostly.

Yes, on the surface basing an entire movie on a comedy skit, a board game, trading cards or any other silly product is ludicrous, but all it really is, is a call to action. In many of those cases, you have to do a bit more to flesh out those vague concepts, grasp the essence of what said thing is and dramatize it. An example, would be either Battleship, wherein the cinematic emulation of the game was the best part, or better yet, the forthcoming Candyland. Candyland, could and should be, a visually striking and compelling, dark film aimed at kids. The kind of stuff that used to fall into your lap as a kid in the ’80s. Instead, it’s being developed as an Adam Sandler project. With Garbage Pail Kids, there’s also a sort of misfire I feel, which is why I can’t genuinely like it.

Mac and Me (1988)

As much as I tried to avoid films I’d seen on lists multiple times, by the time I decided my list would be 20 films long, I knew there’d be some films where I’d need to give my own take on. I would also be hard-pressed to make a Bad Movies I Love list that didn’t feature one movie that borrowed liberally from a film I genuinely do love, E.T. Aside from the similarity in plot, there’s also the fact that MAC is an acronym, which quite a few other ’80s films/shows employed (like D.A.R.Y.L. and ALF to name two). The puppetry in Mac and Me is not good. The acting isn’t helped out in the direction, editing or production value. As many have noted, the product placement is rampant (I’m fine with products appearing, but when it starts emulating that Wayne’s World gag it starts to become an issue). However, the movie is odd, hard to predict and does feature a protagonist whose a bit more of an underdog and outcast than the better film similar to it does.

The Quest (1986)

While we’re on the subject of E.T. that brings me to my next choice The Quest, which is a film that starred Henry Thomas a few years after that role, such that the film is even cited on the poster. It has a good set-up, which is a boy loses his parents and his guardians live in Australia. So most of the audience can identify with feeling like an outsider in a new place. He then observes some unusual happenings at Devil’s Knob National Park, which have something to do with the aboriginal myth of Frog Dreamings (which is part of the Australian title).

It’s the mechanics of the film that let it down: the pacing, editing, some casting and writing decisions. The idea is interesting, the aboriginal angle has me and I’ve used the term Frog Dreamings on occasion, and it does get pretty odd (it was the ’80s it had to, didn’t it?).

Pepito y la Lampara Maravillosa (1972)

Here’s one I caught at first on TV while in Mexico, both through the visuals and my limited understanding of Spanish I was able to follow along, and what I found I was watching was so weird it refused to be ignored. The more I learned about this unlikely comedic duo the more intriguing it became. The adult in the picture is Chabelo, while seemingly always employing the same comedic facade (as this is part of a series of at least three films) in this film he is a genie. In some ways, this reminded me a bit of the comedic troop Os Trapalhões from Brazil whose style is broad and geared towards youth but there is a certain oddity to this one, not that dissimilar from what the Bee Guy on The Simpsons lampoons, that makes it uniquely Mexican. The tandem being an adult and a youth performer also makes it unique, and there’s plenty of weirdness abound in the plot, even more so in another film from the series called Pepito y Chabelo Detectives, where Chabelo plays a kid and they uncover a very strange plot.

I’ll spoil no surprises, but will say that this film indicates another criteria was that after finding this film on DVD I have told some friends about this movie and how off-the-wall it is.

Spielberg Sunday- E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (Amblin)

Owing to the fact that I have decided to honor Steven Spielberg this year with my version of a Lifetime Achievement Award I figured it was an appropriate time to dust off some old reviews I wrote when I took a course on his work. The remarks still hold true, he is an amazing filmmaker.

When a movie is a hit it’s sometimes called “home run.” But Steven Spielberg doesn’t hit home runs he hits Grand Slams. If there is any film that absolutely defines Spielberg in my mind it’s this one. This film is a complete and total success both as entertainment and within the framework of the director’s objectives.

It’s very odd to look at these films in retrospect after most of them have already gone on to become world-wide phenomena and see that many studios rejected not only this film but many other successful Spielberg ventures. Oddly enough Hollywood insiders have always viewed him as a risk-taker. This film’s success, however, shouldn’t have surprised anyone at all. In E.T. we have a wonderfully structured story that seamlessly crosses over from fairy tale to comedy to drama without ever missing a beat. It always keeps you emotionally involved both through the story and with the assistance of the score.

One of the most impressive things about this film is the dialogue. It is often humorous and insightful. The thing that makes it stand out is how succinct it is and how perfectly adept to the situation. A prime example of this is during the emotional good-bye between E.T. and Elliot. They meet each one points to their heart and says “Ouch” then they exchange pleas “Come” and “Stay.” Four lines of dialogue, four words exchanged between the two of them yet that says it all; can it get any tighter than that? The best part is that it works so brilliantly. The comedic dialogue is just as effective Elliot is asked, “Did you explain school to him?” and in response Elliot says “How do you explain school to higher intelligence?” There have been entire films on the subject of how futile public education is and in that one line everything has been said.

Another great detail in E.T. is the use of inside jokes. First, we see Elliot introducing E.T. to the characters from Star Wars and later in the Halloween sequence we see an homage to that film as well as to Night of the Living Dead and The Creature from the Black Lagoon. One thing that makes E.T. special is that it uses situations that all of us can relate to from our own childhood even if it’s only there for a second. There’s bickering amongst siblings, the use of comics, adults that just won’t listen to what you have to say, Halloween, being caught daydreaming by a teacher and many others. Spielberg implemented enough shared experience that even if we didn’t feel that Elliot was a snapshot of our past we could identify enough to get lost in the story. What also aids the story a great deal is the almost supernatural connection that E.T. and Elliot form. It’s akin to what identical twins are supposed to have according to parapsychologists. The connection of their emotional and physical states leads first to some very comedic moments with Elliot sharing E.T.’s drunkenness and also the magical mimicry of the John Wayne film. Later on it leads to some of the most emotionally wrenching scenes where E.T. and Elliot are sharing an illness. Everything is so beautifully set up in this film that you might even stop and consider, “Hey, didn’t that come out of nowhere?” but upon examining the film you’ll find there really are no holes in the narrative. An example of this being the bike flying one of the most brilliant moments ever recorded on film. It still catches me off guard but it was set up when E.T. levitated the balls in the kid’s room to demonstrate where he came from.

To measure a film’s impact it is probably best to look at landscape of the entertainment industry a few years later as opposed to just looking at initial box office returns. In both regards E.T.’s impact was enormous. There was a cheap copy-cat film a couple of years later called Mac and Me along with a very successful television series that took a different angle called ALF. Even scenes in E.T. had an impact, for example, the anti-dissection episode is now another staple in the sitcom book of ideas. The reason that this film epitomized Spielberg so well is not the emotional intensity although that has a lot to do with it and it’s most definitely not the fact that there are aliens involved. What makes it such a trademark in my mind is that it is such a resounding success.

This film is also timeless, it will never, ever, ever seem dated no matter how much magic computers can conjure up you’ll never be able to put aside a story as involving and touching as this one, it’s a classic and it’s quite hard to imagine someone making a film this beautiful, one of the best films ever made.


61 Days of Halloween- Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers

Danielle Harris in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (Universal)

So here you have the return of Michael Myers to the Halloween series. For my opinion of the nomenclature issues that faced Part III and how I loved Part III regardless go here.

One thing that is worth noting about the Halloween series is that their pace of production has frequently fallen behind that of the Friday the 13th series and perhaps event the Nightmare on Elm Street films, which has allowed I believe for a greater consistency. In fact, I heartily applaud the recent decision to postpone plans for Halloween 3D due to scheduling so it can be done right as opposed to fast.

What is interesting is that this film marks the beginning of the Jamie Lloyd section of films. Much like the Friday the 13th films had their Tommy Jarvis sections.

This edition starts with Michael being transferred anew. More precautions are taken but adding to his legend this does do any good and he manages to get out.

Typically, the Halloween films worked hard to give Michael legitimate reason to get out and go on a rampage. Sometimes they worked a bit too hard trying to explain and you wonder how he knew but at least he was given motive and is not merely a killing machine.

This also begins the section of the films where Loomis starts fighting wars on two fronts. One with the medical establishment who does not take his warnings seriously enough and with the cops who place blame on him for being Myers’ doctor.

While it may strike some as a little convenient that Loomis hitches a ride with a preacher it is an interesting little interlude that lends some depth to the film. While in any other context the preachers warnings and admonishments might seem a little absurd in the context of Michael Myers they make perfect sense.

While we do see Jamie teased some at the beginning there is not enough of a connection established to her such that we identify enough with her. So we want for her to escape from Michael’s clutches only because she is an innocent and not because we know her.

This film also tries to create this E.T.-like symbiosis between Michael and Jamie that doesn’t quite work. It’s a bit of a leap of faith.

This is also where the series starts to make cross-film tricks. In the first Halloween you knew he got away. That was the shocking twist at the end. Here there was little evidence to suggest survival except that you knew there’d be another movie.

The twist here will be lightened in the next film. Of the pair this is clearly the better film as this chapter of the tale doesn’t close as successfully as the previous one.