07 April 2016

Thursday Movie Picks: So-Bad-Its-Good

I am a failure. I have failed in that I have seen so few of the Classics. I mean that in two ways. While I'm lacking in many of cinema's masterpieces (aren't we all?), I am even further (by a country mile) lacking in the worst of the worst, the Troll 2s of the world, if you will. I even Googled on this one to get a list, realizing I'd never seen most of these movies because, well, they sound....bad.

My search led me to one of the more fascinating, hilarious things I've ever encountered. All these websites, every single damn one of them, champion a 2003 film called The Room as the "best worst movie of all-time," "the Citizen Kane of bad movies," and so on and so forth. As I write this, I am coming off of a hour-long bender fueled by YouTube clips and Google searches. I want to read the book about its making. I want to see the James Franco film of the book (The Disaster Artist) about this film. Have any of you seen this thing? Please tell me you have and that I should watch it... If you haven't, please do what I just did. I'm telling you...fascinating.

Excuse the tangent...it's Thursday, our day, and it's time of another entry into Wandering through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. This week it's bad movies. The kind you tell people, "It's So-Bad-It's-Good."

Here are my picks:

Road House
dir. Rowdy Herrington, 1989

Few movies are as compulsively watchable as Road House, the 1989 Patrick Swayze vehicle about a night club "cooler" named Dalton, also a Ph.D. in Philosophy and a firm follower of the martial arts. He drinks his coffee black, smokes Marlboros, woos the local ER doctor (Kelly Lynch) with his sage intellect, and carries the mantra..."Be nice." The absurdity of this film already evident, enter Ben Gazzara as a local millionaire extortionist named Brad Wesley hell bent on keeping the scum thriving at the Double Deuce, the "road house" in question. Shirts come off...a lot, always Swayze's, organs are actually ripped from bodies, yet somehow this movie never once laughs at itself. In fact, it takes itself seriously and is honestly a slickly well-made piece of late-80s cant-turn-away greatness. FACT.

Ernest Goes to Jail
dir. John R. Cherry III, 1990

There's a scene in Ernest Goes to Jail that will forever go down as one of the greatest discussion pieces in the history of my immediate family. Jim Varney, fully embodying the lovable fourth wall-breaking goofball, Ernest P. Worrell, goes through a series of at least a dozen riffs on Cagney's misquoted "You dirty rat" line. He does it in multiple characters, personalities, filters it through other classic movie lines, even throws in some Bogart a la Casablanca. The rest of the movie is absolute unforgettable garbage, but that scene, that one scene stands as a masterpiece of comedy in my mind. It makes this movie one of the greatest movies I've ever seen.

*Note: Ernest Goes to Camp and Ernest Scared Stupid are actually not bad movies, in my opinion. Alas, I was a child then, too.

Varsity Blues
dir. Brian Robbins, 1999

When Varsity Blues came out, I thought it was the shit. I was 14. A freshmen in high school. I loved football and cruisin' in pickup trucks and hot girls (I, myself, could never bag) and the WB television program Dawson's Creek (an odd mix, I know...). And though I loved Katie Holmes way more, I also had a bit of thing for James Van Der Beek (in a he-plays-an-unusually-attractive-kid-on-TV-who-is-also-a-dork-who-loves-Spielberg-movies sort-of way). Back to the motion picture at hand...A huge group of us met at the movies the night it opened. MTV had been shoving this thing in my face for weeks, the Foo Fighters' "My Hero" and AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" going along with it. Here is a film that really has the best intentions and is honestly pretty well made, but it is also a film that features a young actress (Ali Larter) in a "whipped cream bikini," shifting her choice of boy with the QB1 position, a ride to college. Also, a film that has the Sex Ed teacher as a pole-dancing stripper at an establishment that basically follows no laws. In which a high school football coach (Jon Voight) willingly shoots up Paul Walker with steroids and pain killers, so he can get his 23rd district championship. I took all of this as cold hard fact. Then, a few years later, I saw Friday Night Lights. I had finally come of age. The End.


  1. A giant yes to Roadhouse for exactly the reasons you gave. Same for Varsity Blues. Finally I just can't, with the Ernest movies. I hated the TV commercials that started his career, and I was a kid when they came out. Never bothered with the movies.

    1. Glad we're good on two of the three, at least. I love Ernest! I think he just works for me.

  2. Varsity Blues is so terrible lol. I actually picked The Room for one of mine, and I highly suggest getting drunk and watching it. I've read the Disaster Artist too, it's a fascinating book. I think I blew through the whole thing in about 3 hours.

    1. Varsity Blues is also so watchable though. What is that!? Oh, I'm watching The Room. I put it way up on my Netflix queue. And I'm reading that book.

  3. Terrific picks! Road House is such a self serious comic mess. I liked Varsity Blues but I haven't seen it in years and I think the points you've brought up would give me pause now. Like Dell I just can't with Ernest.

    I've been looking forward to this week and couldn't stop at just three!

    *The Best of the Worst*
    Valley of the Dolls (1967)-“You've got to climb Mount Everest to reach the Valley of the Dolls.” And when you do you face plant right into this hooty mess based on Jaqueline Susann’s notorious best seller. A roman a clef about the messy backstage lives of three career girls looking to make it in showbiz in NY and Hollywood is scuttled by leaden direction and absurdly overdone or somnambulant performances. Susan Hayward is terrific as vicious stage star Helen Lawson, based on Ethel Merman and Sharon Tate touching as the doomed Jennifer but everyone and everything else is a shambles. The worst offender and therefore the most fun is Patty Duke (RIP Patty, you’ll be missed!) as Neely O’Hara, an amalgam of the tortured souls of Judy Garland, Betty Hutton and Frances Farmer, there is no scenery left unchewed when she’s done with it. The hairspray and makeup costs alone must have taken up half the budget!

    *Getting In Touch With Your Inner Bad Movie*
    Skidoo (1968)-Crime boss “God” (Groucho Marx) forces retired mobster Tony Banks (Jackie Gleason) to perform a hit on an incarcerated prisoner by kidnapping Tony’s daughter and holding her on his yacht. But the plan goes awry when Tony unknowingly drops acid and goes on a mind-blowing trip. Things go downhill from there! What begins as a silly but not dreadful generation gap comedy devolves into an incoherent mess capped by the horrifying sight of Carol Channing, playing Gleason’s wife Flo Banks (no, really), in long platinum wig, admiral's hat and red hot pants singing the title tune. Just when you think it can't get any worse Frankie Avalon sings the credits! ALL OF THEM! It's as ghastly as it sounds and yet hilarious at the same time. A great many respected actors, Peter Lawford, George Raft and Mickey Rooney among them, shred their reputations for a paycheck.

    *The Frightfully Atrocious Big Star Debacle*
    The Conqueror (1956)-John Wayne is GENGHIS KHAN!!...battling the Tartar armies where he takes redheaded (?) Tartar princess Susan Hayward and her servant, an equally Caucasian Agnes Moorehead prisoner. I repeat John Wayne is Genghis Khan! Yeesh. As absurd and ridiculous as the film is it has a somber aftermath. It was filmed in Utah near a nuclear testing site and about half the company, including all the principal players, died from cancer linked to fallout exposure.

    *Screamingly Awful Runner-Up*
    Scorchy (1976)-This tacky turkey is bargain-basement claptrap starring Connie Stevens as Seattle narc Jackie Parker aka Scorchy, with a voice one octave below Minnie Mouse, a frosted wing hairdo that is both a marvel and a testament to the bad taste of the 70’s and a wardrobe straight out of Frederick’s of Hollywood. She’s about to blow the lid off an international heroin ring but when she’s not chasing bad guys down in a high speed-dune buggy or chopper she finds time for a long steamy shower or a nooner with a lover who is harpooned on top of her as she screams like Fay Wray! AIP exploitation flick is cheesy beyond belief all the way up to its self-important finale…but don’t worry “Scorchy” is on the case!!!

    *The Abominably Infamous Bonus*
    Can’t Stop the Music (1980)-This musical purporting to tell the story of how The Village People formed starts with Steve Guttenberg getting his boogie on by roller-skating under the credits down a New York street in ultra-short shorts and only gets wackier from there. Includes a performance of Danny Boy in full cop drag, a production number devoted entirely to milk and other jaw dropping items including a rendering of Y.M.C.A., part of which takes place in a packed men’s shower! Ya gotta see it to believe it!!

    1. In all honesty, there is nothing really that unlikable about Varsity Blues. It just plays like an over-the-top, unrealistic comedy in the skin of a high school football drama. I was charmed by it the last time, but I saw its flaws, which I didn't when it first came out. Part of that is the power of Friday Night Lights, both the film and the TV show, both of which are just so perfectly raw and real and FEEL like Southern high school football (which I know so well, as a small town Tennessean). And Road House...such a fun mess! I literally can't stop watching it anytime it comes on cable, which is a lot.

      I'm sure there's a reason I haven't heard of four of your five picks, but they all sound crazy fun (or strange) in one way or another. Valley of the Dolls is a title I've heard, and I think I really need to see that one.

  4. Oh, please watch The Room. It is the most delightfully terrible film ever made. It is terrible. I was going to see it at a midnight showing a few weeks ago (& the director/producer/writer/star of The Room, Tommy Wiseau was there), but sadly, I contracted laryngitis that week & I couldn't go. But please watch it. It is the worst movie ever, & it is hilarious.

    1. I haven't seen any of the other films, but I do own Varsity Blues. And my dad will watch Road House any time it's on. My mom wonders why he watches it so much.

    2. I can't wait to watch The Room. Seriously. And please watch Road House!

  5. Great choices! I saw Road House and Varsity Blues, but I barely remember them. I do remember appreciating how gloriously awful Road House was.

    1. Thanks! Road House is one of the most fun bad movies ever. It takes itself so seriously. That's what makes it so funny, and I'm serious...great!