So Bad, It's Good
October 22, 2013
I've watched a lot of movies, and over the years, I've come across some real clunkers. But once in a while, I come across a film that transcends mere badness. This type of film is so entertainingly bad that it becomes a kind of masterpiece. Ed Wood's 1959 sci-fi catastrophe Plan 9 from Outer Space is the Citizen Kane of this genre, which can be summed up as "so bad, it's good." Over the years, I've become a connoisseur of these films, and I've noticed that most fall into one of two categories. Let's take a look at some films available here at MCPL from each category.
- The self-aware B-movie, where the film-makers know that they are making something inherently silly and decide to go for broke. If you've seen the recent SyFy Channel phenomenon Sharknado, you know what I'm talking about. D-list actors (and sometimes big names slumming it for a quick buck), comically overwrought dialogue, and over-the-top scenarios are these film-makers' stock-in-trade.
- Batman the Movie (1966). Nowadays, Christopher Nolan’s dark and gritty Batman films are considered by many to be the pinnacle of superhero action films. However, Batman wasn’t always so serious. This movie takes the camp silliness of the 1960s Batman TV show to new heights. You’ll learn that you should always carry a canister of shark repellent handy for those situations when a shark attacks you while you’re climbing up a ladder being dangled from a helicopter. I hate it when that happens.
- Flash Gordon (1980). I saw this movie in the theater as a 13-year-old kid and loved it. I love it even more today. Much scenery is chewed (Brian Blessed steals every scene he's in as Prince Vultan, leader of the Hawkmen), the special effects are deliberately retro, and the soundtrack by Queen is just frosting on a cupcake of campy deliciousness.
- Congo (1995). I think the following clip speaks for itself.
- The work of a singular visionary whose ambition is only exceeded by their incompetence and/or questionable sanity. Ed Wood is the patron saint of this school, and his greatest modern acolyte is Tommy Wiseau, the writer, director, producer, and star of the relationship melodrama/train wreck The Room.
- Dragon Wars: D-War (2007). Where to start with Korean auteur Shim Hyung-rae's big-budget FX epic? Dinosaurs with rocket launchers versus Apache helicopters! An ancient Korean wizard who looks and sounds like he came from New Jersey! A tragic love story involving reincarnation! Something to do with good dragons versus evil dragons! Just overlook the atrocious acting and incoherent plot and enjoy the impressive CGI madness.
- Battlefield Earth (2000). John Travolta had returned from the wilderness after his career-reigniting star-turn in Pulp Fiction, and then he decided to bring his pet project based on the novel (ironically, a tribute to the pulp SF of the past) by L. Ron Hubbard to the big screen. What Travolta envisioned was the new Star Wars. What we got was the new Plan 9 from Outer Space. Travolta stars as the main villain, a 9-foot tall dreadlocked alien middle manager who spouts ludicrous dialog about "puny man-animals" and "leverage." The special effects are decidedly un-special, and the constant use of a tilted frame will make you wonder if your house is level.
- The Best Worst Movie (2009). Not technically a "so bad, it's good" movie, but rather a documentary about the second life of the infamous sequel-that's-not-actually-a-sequel Troll 2 as a cult-classic of trash cinema. If you want to see how a perfect storm of "so good, it's bad" happens, this is the film for you. I won't spoil too much for you, but just wrap your head around the fact that there are no actual trolls in Troll 2.
And finally, something that's not available at MCPL, but I'd be derelicting my duty as a "so bad, it's good" movie buff if I didn't share it with you. If you have a Netflix account, you really need to gather a few friends, pop some popcorn, and watch A Talking Cat!?! When a director makes the choice to have Eric Roberts provide the voice-over for a magical cat that helps families in need, you know you're in for a real treat.
Yes, that was Jody from A Family Affair all grown up, and that trailer was the very definition of "so bad, it's good,"