Why We Love Bad Movies – Part One: Poorly Made Films
There are some bad movies that are worth your time, if you’re in the right frame of mind of course. They are just poorly constructed. B-Movies, Cult Classics, and crap that absolutely can’t be defined in any conceivable way can be a valuable part of our movie experience. Quentin Tarantino, for instance, is a notable proponent of the Poorly Made category, and if that horrible “my first movie experience” montage at the Oscars this year has any redeeming value, it at least goes to show that the movie stars we pay to see often have the same crappy taste in movies that everyone else does. Let’s break down this category into the aforementioned sub-categories:
e.g. Robot Monster (1953), The Killer Shrews (1959)
When I first explained the classic TV series “Mystery Science Theater 3000” to my parents, my dad responded, “Oh, those were the crappy movies at the drive-in that no one stuck around for.” Often shot on a shoestring budget and in two weeks or less, B Movies were a staple of the Hollywood Studio System and kept fake blood manufacturers, costume shops with poor supply chains, and horrible singer after horrible singer employed in Southern California until the 1980’s. While television rendered the double feature obsolete, it also rescued the B Movie genre from the dustbin with its endless, succubus-like need to fill hour upon hour of dead air with schlock. Even the old B Movies were saved to a certain extent by MST3K by becoming objects of endless humor.
We love B Movies because we can’t take them seriously, but they were thrown together so fast that I doubt the filmmakers really cared one way or the other. For instance, can anyone be expected to take an “alien” seriously that is clearly a guy dressed in a gorilla suit with a diving helmet on (Robot Monster), or a “monster” that is clearly a dog with some stuff glued on it (The Killer Shrews)? Of course you can’t – but it’s so ridiculous that it’s funny.
B) Bad Cult Classics
e.g. Reefer Madness (1936), Showgirls (1995),
They’re so bad they’re good. Usually a bad cult classic develops a following because it does something it wasn’t supposed to. The term “Cult Classic” can also be applied to brilliant but overlooked films like Blade Runner (1982) or Office Space (1996) which flopped at the box office but became popular later. Those aren’t the movies I’m talking about.
Take Reefer Madness for example. Here was a film that was designed to teach teenagers the terrors of marijuana use, but it was so over the top that it became a favorite of, guess what, marijuana users. Showgirls was actually an honest attempt at serious drama, but instead inspired endless laughter and almost as many drinking games. These films are different from B Movies because the makers of the films actually spent some time on them, and but they did such a crappy job anyway that the movies did the exact opposite of what was intended.
C) Total Crap
e.g. Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)
These may be the worst-made movies of all time. They’re so bad that I had to separate them from the other two categories. Maybe there’s a obvious attempt to replace an actor who passed away halfway through production (Plan 9), or maybe it contains an endless montage of empty landscape and an antagonist who gets massaged to death (Manos). Whatever the case, it seems that chimpanzees could be trained to make better movies than these.
By any objective standards these films fail in every conceivable way. But we love them anyway. Is it the the fact that we can sit down with a group and make joke after joke at their expense? Does it take a special, morbid talent to fail so spectacularly? Or is it simply because we could probably make better movies ourselves? Who knows, but more importantly, who cares? Just sit back and enjoy the train wreck!
Next Post: Failed Blockbusters
(c) 2012 D.G. McCabe