Monday, April 15, 2013

Bad Movie Night Recap (Part One)

 A big chunk of my time away from the ABCs of Movie Masochism has been putting together a feat of REAL movie masochism. I haven't had a proper "Bad Movie Night" in several years, but the basic idea is to put together some of the best of the worst, get some nearest and dearest to come over, and subject them to an all day marathon of movies you would never choose to watch of your own volition.

Sometimes I've been known to cheat - the first Bad Movie Night began with a "field trip" to see Crank 2: High Voltage, but we immediately followed it up with The Giant Claw. Perhaps you've read about The Giant Claw somewhere on this blog. The following day we watched Batman and Robin, Mac and Me, Troll 2, Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky, and the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special. So, uh, the bright spot was clearly the worst subtitles ever on the super-violent Riki-Oh. And I like The Story of Ricky.

 Actually, I like The Giant Claw too, and in some twisted way, anything else that makes it into Bad Movie Night. On some level you have to be able to enjoy these movies, or there's no point in watching them. The trick to why Ed Wood movies and Mystery Science Theater 3000 are so successful isn't that the movies are bad and easy to make fun of - it's that the films are charmingly dumb in their own right. There are plenty of terrible movies I'd never show because we'd all be bored and grow angry at the movie, like when we tried to watch the remake of The Wicker Man at Summer Fest, or any time I've tried to get through The Room.

 With that in mind, I had to program this year's Bad Movie Night with schlock that had gaping plot holes, unfortunate sidekicks, gratudity, and wooden line delivery. Would you like a brief run down of eleven hours worth of terrible decisions? Let's look at the first half of the "night"...

 We started with She Devil, which is not the Roseanne movie but a much better (relatively speaking) film from 1958 about the dangers of tinkering in God's domain. Scientist Dr. Scott and his benefactor physician Dr. Bach live together in Stately Wayne manor like an alternate version of The Dark Knight Returns starring Adam West and Burt Ward. Anyway, Dr. Scott has been experimenting with fruit fly serum to cure well, all diseases. It worked on mice, a rabbit, a cat, a dog, and a cheetah. Well, the cheetah looks suspiciously like a panther, but they work that into the plot.

 Dr. Scott talks Dr. Bach into letting him try the serum out on a woman dying of tuberculosis, and it turns her into Wolverine. Well, Wolverine minus the claws but with the ability to change her hair color at will, which comes in handy because her newfound lease on life comes with the desire to kill people for no good reason. Despite being literally the only other people on Earth who know what this "She Devil" can do, our intrepid men of science can't put two and two together for most of the movie, but it doesn't stop Dr. Scott from hooking up with her (in front of the panther!).

 She Devil is filled with "SCIENCE!" in the best possible way, a rambling, semi-coherent plot, and the most improbable car crash you'll ever see, unless you normally see cars driving backwards over cliffs. From the era where all you needed was a "science"-y gimmick to sell a B-Movie, She Devil is exactly the way to start something like this.

 After that, because bad acting and incomprehensibility aren't unique byproducts of the 1950s, we watched 1987's Hard Ticket to Hawaii, from skin flick auteur Andy Sidaris. If you didn't frequent USA Up All Night or late night Skinemax, I guess there's a chance you missed out on Picasso Trigger or Return to Savage Beach, but Sidaris specialized in pointless nudity, an over-abundance of plot threads, and truly bizarre plot twists.

 I could give you the breakdown of what happens in this film that involves two Playboy Playmates / DEA agents / Travel Guides / Witness Protection Program members / Super Spies, but it would take up the rest of the post. It involves diamonds, espionage, drug dealers, remote controlled helicopters, not knowing how to use nunchucks, a quad-rocket launcher, and a "contaminated" snake that ate "cancer infested rats" and is loose on the island. Also a sportscaster with four names (Jimmy John Jim something or other) that ended up being the bad guy in a movie we watched later, a transvestite bartender, and a quad-rocket launcher. Oh, and a guy doing skateboard tricks with a blow up doll.

 And that's the truth. For the highlights, watch Red Letter Media's breakdown of Hard Ticket to Hawaii.

After pointless nudity and excessive plot, it was time for the "kids movie" portion of Bad Movie Night, and I selected a movie I'd never heard of, A Gnome Named Gnorm. It turns out there's a VERY good reason I'd never heard of it before, despite a cast of well known actors and a director that any fan of sci-fi and horror will recognize by name: Stan Winston.

 Yes, the Stan Winston that designed the Predator, the Terminator, the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, as well as The Monster Squad, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, Galaxy Quest, the Penguin in Batman Returns... yeah. The same one you thought I couldn't possibly be talking about. A Gnome Named Gnorm wasn't his first film - it turns out Pumpkinhead was - but it was the last full length feature he directed, and now I know why.

 A Gnome Named Gnorm (or Upworld) is... uh... well, it's a "buddy cop" movie starring Anthony Michael Hall and a partially animatronic gnome that's the creepiest goddamned thing you'll ever see. It's as though Winston saw The Dark Crystal and thought, "I could make a Gelfling look more realistic" and nobody told him what a horrible idea that would be. Because it is. The first fifteen or so minutes spent with Detective Gallagher (Hall) and Gnorm are cringe-inducing because of how creepy that thing is.

 Now, I'm no expert on children's movies, but I did grow up in the 1980s so I saw a LOT of movies with dumb kid humor. Mac and Me may well be a 90 minute commercial for McDonald's and Coca-Cola, but it knows its target audience and goes for the saccharine plot at every opportunity. A Gnome Named Gnorm can't possibly be for children, but I don't know who the hell would want to watch it, even in 1990.

 To wit: the film begins with an undercover sting operation involving a drug lord name Zadar (not played by Robert Z'Dar, although the Maniac Cop himself IS in the film*)  where Hall ends up being knocked out and the other cop is BLOWN UP in a playground. In fact, Gallagher is only interested in Gnorm because he's a MATERIAL WITNESS TO MURDER. Seriously. All the crap about Gnorm and the "lumen" that people keep stealing or the fact THAT HE'S A GNOME doesn't seem to factor into most of the story. Nobody seems to notice or at the very least care that Gnorm isn't human.  For a while I was convinced that Hall's character was insane and that Gnorm didn't really exist.

 But he does and there's a lot of wrangling between Gallagher's old partner (Claudia Christian) and his chief (Jerry Orbach) and his new partner (Mark Harelik) who Gnorm somehow gets to strip naked before the gnome makes his escape (I must have looked away because I honestly don't know how that happened). There are more murders, a car chase involving a hearse (with full funeral procession behind it) a good samaritan trying to revive the corpse, crotch biting, implied sexual favors, hooks up the sphincter, and a fist fight that wouldn't be out of place in A Christmas Story.

 You know - for kids!

 It's worth mentioning that the plot is coherent enough that Blogorium regular Cranpire was thanking A Gnome Named Gnorm for at least making sense after the last two movies. But then it was time to hit them with the whammy bar...

 Join me tomorrow for the second half of Cap'n Howdy's Bad Movie Night. It only gets better... well, depending on how you look at things.

 * Okay, not AS the Maniac Cop, but considering where this movie goes, it honestly wouldn't be THAT surprising.

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