Zaat (1971)

Zaat (1971) movie poster

director Don Barton
viewed: 03/04/2018

Was ist Zaat?

“Filmed enitrely on location in Florida.” Florida trash is the best trash.

It takes a truly mad Nazi scientist to transform himself into a half-human half-walking catfish creature that doesn’t look a bit like a catfish. And then to look in the mirror and recognize that he doesn’t really look how he thought he would but to be still okay with it and then go and try to mutate all aquatic life into something new with his formula.

Of course, it’s a lonely life for the world’s only walking catfish-man, so he needs to abduct pretty girls to try to mutate into a mate for himself. And kill people at random as well.

Zaat is a notoriously bad movie, a “best worst” movie truly among the pantheon of bad. From concept to execution, it’s super silly and strange, in an utterly Floridian sort of way.

Myra Breckinridge (1970)

Myra Breckinridge (1970) movie poster

director Michael Sarne
viewed: 03/04/2018

Myra Breckinridge is a hot mess, maybe the original hot mess.  Hot, however,  like an unevenly microwaved potash might be.

In its day, it was a spectacular car wreck of a movie, a big budget adaptation of a touted novel by Gore Vidal, called at the time a novel that could never be filmed. This no doubt had more to do with its story about a man who undergoes a sex change operation and then comes back to Hollywood to upend the traditional male identity in as many ways possible.

In the film, Rex Reed becomes Raquel Welch (a scenario that if medicine to actually perform, a lot more folks would be up for sex changes). It plays out as knowing modernist comedy, arch, though not really camp, or maybe it’s more of an imitation of camp?

More than anything, it’s a mess. I don’t know how the novel plays out but in the film, Myra’s politicized and erudite criticism of the movie industry, patriarchy, sexism, a whole spectrum of topics, culminates in her raping a bland, good-looking actor with a strap-on. That scene is pretty horrific and played for laughs?

Most people wound up blaming director/co-writer Michael Sarne for the box office bomb. Sarne was thrown into the deep end on the picture, a cavalcade of drama and craziness on set. But he manages some interesting stuff as well, using classic movie images and sequences to comment comically on the story.

To my mind, Myra Breckinridge is indeed a mess, but an interesting one. For one, I thought Raquel Welch was great. Mae West’s rendition of “Hard to Handle” might be second place in the nadir race next to the rape scene.

An interesting spectacle and a hot mess.

The Creeping Terror (1964)

The Creeping Terror (1964)

director  Vic Savage
viewed: 07/05/2017

The Creeping Terror has been on my bucket list for I don’t know how long. It appeared somewhere early in my life as an example of “worst movies ever made”, describing the monster as some sort of carpet thing.

It’s interesting that one of cinema’s worst-looking monsters gets so much screen time. As a kid, I was always very disappointed if the monster only showed up in hints and then maybe for two minutes on screen at the end. But The Creeping Terror creeps and terrorizes throughout quite a bit despite looking like garbage glued to a carpet with some number of people underneath.

Of course, now reading up on it, the back story of Vic Savage and The Creeping Terror sounds more bizarre and terrible too. I’ve been torn about watching The Creep Behind the Camera (documentary/biopic), but maybe I’ll have to give it a go. Curiosity is a beast.

Given the salvaging and completion of the film, its lack of theatrical release, it is a mess of many hands.

Is it terrible? Indeed so. Is it marvelously so? Yes. Yes it is.

Monster a Go-Go (1965)

Monster a Go-Go (1965) movie poster

directors Bill Rebane, Herschell Gordon Lewis
viewed: 07/03/2017

For those who would call Monster a Go-Go the worst film they’ve ever seen, I would say you need to get around a little more.

True, it’s classically bad. It’s on the Wikipedia “Films Considered the Worst” list, which is a pretty legit list through the 1960’s. But just look, ye, around the rest of that list. There is some good, bad shit on there. And yes, I am only too glad to watch them all.

I will say that it’s maybe a little less joyful than some of those others. But some bad movies are just the BEST bad movies: Robot Monster (1953),  Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), and The Horror of Party Beach (1964) to name but a few of my personal favorites.

Interestingly, or not, it seems to be a no budget remake of First Man into Space (1959), science fiction horror parables about space travel just as mankind was finally actually doing just such a thing.

To be fair, I love this kind of thing.

Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)

Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) movie poster

director John Boorman
viewed: 11/03/2016

From its release, John Boorman’s Exorcist II: The Heretic was thrown under the critical bus, mashed on as one of the worst films of all time.  Anyone who knows me or reads my film write-ups should know that I like me the worst films of all time.  I’ve been meaning to see this for some time.

Boorman made Exorcist II hot of his hot mess Zardoz (1975).  How is Zardoz not on the list of worst films of all time.  It’s way more insane than Exorcist II.

Boorman made some good movies (Point Blank (1967), Deliverance (1972), Hope and Glory (1987), The General (1998)), but you never live down shit like Zardoz and Exorcist II.

Is it really so bad?  Yes and no.

How do you follow up a movie like The Exorcist (1973) anyways?  You can’t.  You never could.  And Boorman didn’t exactly try to.  Instead we’ve got some super-weird mashing up of psychology and hypnosis, telepathy and succubi, flashbacks and James Earl Jones in a locust costume.  Linda Blair as a young adult tap dancing, Max von Sydow looking decades younger in flashbacks reminding you how amazing his make-up was in the original film.

And yes, the set designs are cool, if sort of insane.

But it doesn’t have Sean Connery in a red loincloth or a giant flying head.

The Apple (1980)

The Apple (1980) movie poster

director  Menahem Golan
viewed: 07/05/2016

The Apple is bananas.

It’s one of those you’ve either seen it or you haven’t kind of movies, and for the most part, I’d say that if you haven’t then you should because…well, it’s bananas.

Directed by Menahem Golan, The Apple is a science fiction musical set in the future of 1994, where music is managed by corporate figures who are literal devils in disguise.  It’s a musical parable with an amazing amount of conviction and a near lethal amount of tackiness and cheese.  Watching it is like mainlining camp.

I’d like to imagine an alternative universe where The Apple is not just a cult classic hit like Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) but more like a total mainstream classic like The Sound of Music (1965).  That would be an alternative reality with some major weird and lots of fun.

Can’t even begin to imagine how much cocaine was on set.

Zabriskie Point (1970)

Zabriskie Point (1970) movie poster

director Michelangelo Antonioni
viewed: 03/18/2016

Michelangelo Antonioni’s only American film, Zabriskie Point, is a portrait of a churning, volatile modern dystopia in contrast with the natural beauty of the Arizona desert.  Themes of industrial spoilage of the natural world are evident in other works of Antonioni, most notably to my mind as in Red Desert (1964), maybe because that was the most recent of his films I’ve seen.

But America is wasteland extraordinaire.  With its ubiquitous billboards and signage, industrial build-up, the overflowing metropolis of Los Angeles.  And the people there are in full foment, radicalized against authority, weaponized but still ineffectual.

When a young radical (Mark Frechette) gets into trouble at a student protest, he escapes by stealing a plane and heading east.  He meets up with the free-wheeling assistant (Daria Halprin) of an industrialist bent on converting open space into suburban tracts.  Her research in the outer reaches of civilization have her also questioning her role in the world.  They connect at Zabriskie Point to the sounds of the Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd (among others) in a psychedelic freak out of rebellious surrealism and free love.

The film was criticized upon release for Frechette and Halprin’s amateur skills.  Antonioni is drawing on the counter-culture ideals of the time, tapping into youth culture and attitudes that are in step with his own critiques of America and industrialization.

The film is beautifully shot.  One shot in particular struck me so much.  It’s just a view of an old man sitting at a bar, but the camera comes in through the window in a very unusual way, depicting perhaps another side of America and what America is?  I don’t know.  Zabriskie Point may not be my favorite Antonioni film, but it’s very interesting.

Gigli (2003)

Gigli (2003) movie poster

director Martin Brest
viewed: 12/02/2015

At this point in time, I don’t know why anybody would watch Gigli.

I guess, unless like me they are working their way through the worst films of all time.  Or, more accurately, “films considered to be the worst.”

Because frankly, Gigli is not that bad a movie.  It was a huge box office bomb, sure.  But that is a different kettle of fish from a genuinely terrible movie.  And sadly, Gigli just isn’t nearly as bad as the best terrible movies ever made.  So, in that sense, it’s not really worth watching as a terrible movie.  It’s not worth watching as a decent movie either.  It’s bad but all lower case bad.  Though the ending, that last scene or set of scenes on “The Baywatch” almost push it to the grandiose of badness.

Martin Brest, who both Beverly Hills Cop (1984) and the well-appreciated Midnight Run (1988) delivered this Ben Affleck/Jennifer Lopez stinker to the rave hates of the world in 2003 and went down in movie bomb history.  And bomb it did.  Bad it is.  But its level of bad is mitigated with moments of good, qualities, and simply by the fact that it’s nowhere as bad as any film that belongs on the true list of all time bad movies.

Jennifer Lopez is hot and sexy and has one of the film’s best scenes, doing yoga and touting the qualities of ladies everywhere and the sexual appeal of women in general.  And Affleck, who I don’t really like that much but also don’t hate as much as I maybe could, they are both at the heights of their early 2000’s sex symbolism.  And he’s funny and okay.

The film bewilderingly features an all too brief cameo by Christopher Walken.  Has Christopher Walken ever not been worth his screentime?  And then there is Al Pacino at his Al Pacinoish.  Okay, I really hate Al Pacino.  Maybe Al Pacino in the 1970’s is good but Al Pacino ever since is just absolutely over-the-top atrocious.

And I’d be remiss to overlook the Rain Man (1988) stylings of Justin Bartha, the kidnapee who loves hip hop and plays a lot of comic relief.  I don’t know if we’ll ever have a social uprising for people with various either mental illnesses or mental deficiencies or syndromes, but it would be easy to imagine him as a Steppin Fetchit of a kind, an amazingly lame-ass version of someone with a mental disability or what-have-you.  I don’t blame Bartha.  It’s a role.  But it’s a very sad role and a super silly and annoying one.

So, yes, Gigli is bad. Gigli. “It rhymes with ‘really’”. It really rhymes with ‘really’. As in “really not worth your time or effort” for the heights of quality or the depths of terribleness. It is neither. And still a waste of 2 hours. So, again, I don’t know why in this day and age anyone would watch Gigli. At least, let me save you the effort.

Things (1989)

Things (1989) DVD coverdirector Andrew Jordan


Things (1989) started percolating on my horizons in a number of different contexts. Independently produced horror has a wonderful tradition, and Things pays tribute to films such as George A. Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead (1981), other almost DIY productions that became cinema legends. Released as part of the great “direct to video” deluge of the late 1980’s-early 1990’s, made obscure by its independent nature, I’d not heard of it until seeing it culled in lists on the subject. But also, it finds its way to me via another list that has tantalized and entertained, Wikipedia’s List of “Films considered the worst”.

It’s obscurity and unavailability was suddenly evaporated by Fandor, who just added it to their wonderful cult film section along with a couple other formerly “video only” flicks. Hooray and kudos to Fandor, you made my day!

Nothing could really prepare one for Things. It transcends the “so bad it’s good” level of badness and moves into a realm of outsider art and surrealism in its mixture of naivité and outre weirdness. It’s so far out that it’s utterly and completely brilliant.

It’s not unlike watching a film by Mark Borchardt and Mike Schank, the subjects of Chris Smith’s hilarious documentary of would-be filmmakers, American Movie (1999). Only this is a decade earlier and in this case: Canadian (not that Wisconsin is all that far away in both physical space and cultural mores.)

Frankly, I don’t feel that I could take this all in in a single viewing. It’s so amazing and “out there”. I have a hard time assigning a “star ranking” to the film because it’s either 1 star or maybe it’s 5 stars. Maybe it’s both. I need to watch this again.

An American Hippie in Israel (1972)

An American Hippie in Israel (1972) movie poster

director Amos Sefer
viewed: 05/21/2015

My ongoing journey through cinema has many roads, pathways, asides, spur of the moment outings, trajectories and landing spaces.  One particular trajectory that I’ve been following for about a year now has been a sojourn through the worst movies ever made.  I’ve used two primary lists as the guideposts, the original 1978 book The 50 Worst Films Ever Made by Michael and Harry Medved with Randy Dreyfuss, which was one of the first attempts at such a listing (though it’s amazingly inconsistent.)  But also, a more active and contemporary list, Wikipedia’s List of films considered to be the worst, which is a bit better, though there is such a heavy focus on films of the last 20 years that it does lack some perspective.

An American Hippie in Israel, had Medved and co. known of it in 1978 might well have been up for consideration, but it seems that this film languished in some obscurity until the internet came along and offered places for such cinematic turds to shine.

If it wasn’t for TCM Underground offering this one up, I’m not sure that I would have gotten around to trying to land it.  Considered the worst Israeli film ever made, it’s a wayward semi-political parable about hippie culture, imported from the States, though carrying with it an ideology that many of the flower children and others of that generation related with considerably.  Peace, love, sex, and drugs, man.  Vietnam is a bummer, War is a bummer, government is a bummer.  It’s freedom, man, freedom, that’s what we need.

Oddly the barefoot American traveler of the title hooks up with a rich gal and they screw and get real with one another, trek around and find other people who share their hippie vision.  Only the hippie, Mike (Asher Tzarfati) is hunted by two pale, gun-toting weirdos in oddly non-sequitur murder attempts that are apparently metaphorical as well as making no sense.

But in the film’s ultimate moments of truth, it turns out that all these visions of peace and paradise are a sham.  Once isolated by sharks on a small desolate island, Mike and hist girl and another couple devolve into warfare and chaos.

The beginning of the film is weird and slow but it builds up in the last third to some moments of utter hilarity.  I laughed out loud at the bizarre conversation between Mike and Komo (Komo, who doesn’t speak English, Mike who doesn’t speak Hebrew).  It’s very funny.  The sharks are also pretty hilarious.

It struck me as funny, too, that at a time when so many more successful counter-culture films were made (late 1960’s – early 1970’s), how tone-deaf and misguided this comic caper really is.

Definitely enjoyably bad.