– by Cecily Knobler, Live From Hollywood –
When I was a freshman in high school, I was obsessed with a senior named Andy Dean. Literally, anything Andy wanted to do I was game, because I so badly wanted to impress him. Buy plastic fruit from a drugstore and then pose with it in a mall photo-booth? Sure. Steal the giant Bob’s Big Boy statue and bury it in a nearby field? Okay. Drive around in a turquoise Suzuki 4×4 for hours around a duck pond until 3:00 am? You bet. So when he suggested that he, some of his goofy friends and I get together to watch one of the worst sci-fi films ever made, I was on board from the get-go.
The film, which I’ll get to, was awful. But to be fair, I spent most of it trying to figure out when to fake-laugh, fake-scream, fake-everything. (I was so desperate for his approval!) Thinking back at time in my life has inspired me to put together a “so bad, they’re fun” movies to watch. And what better film to start with than Andy Dean’s favorite?
Originally entitled The Superman Infra-Man, this was reportedly the first superhero movie in China. I googled this title to refresh my memory and the following description came up on IMDB: “Princess Dragon Mom and her mutant army have arisen, and only Infra-man can stop them!” Is there really more that needs to be said here? Any film in which the antagonist is “princess dragon mom,” and said PDM has a mutant army is aces in my book. Or at least I think it is. I really wouldn’t know, as I was too busy gazing into Andy’s small blue eyes to be sure. I can say for certain that everyone was laughing at the movie’s awfulness so I think it’s perfect to lead this list.
So, back in the early 1980s, L. Ron Hubbard [both famous sci-fi writer and creator of the so-called religion Scientology] wrote a novel called Battlefield Earth, of which I can’t speak to because I’ve never read it. I’m sure it’s wonderful. But the movie! Oh dear, the movie. John Travolta, in some of the most ridiculous makeup I’ve ever seen, stars as Terl, who is some kind of Earth-related security guy. To be honest, the plot was lost on me within the first seven minutes. Something about aliens and being 1,000 years into the future and I feel like maybe there was some kind of radioactive bomb? I couldn’t tell you for sure because I was too busy laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. But before you think I’m a Travolta hater, please note that I had a poster of him as Danny Zuko from Grease on my bedroom wall for six years. And more recently, I’ve sung his praises in the quite excellent TV docudrama The People vs OJ Simpson, which you must watch on Netflix.
If you’ve yet to discover the pure magic that is Neil Breen, I’d like to be the one to introduce it him you, particularly this movie. Never in my life have I seen a film this awful in terms of production value, writing, acting, and all-around madness. The plot is essentially this: a man gets hit by a car and discovers that not only does he have mystical powers of insight, he is going to take down the government. Plus, I’m pretty sure there are porn stars in this film, but I can’t prove it. It’s so bad that you will laugh until you cry.
This one is a bit tougher to find, as the writer/director/lead actor/ producer Tommy Wiseau prefers that people buy it straight from his website, although you can sometimes find it on Netflix or Amazon. If you don’t live in a town where this is often screened (as it is where I live in Hollywood) it’s worth buying and/or renting if possible. There’s no point in explaining the plot as it’s so convoluted and nonsensical, but I did find this gem from IFC who described the lead as sounding like “Borat trying to do an impression of Christopher Walken playing a mental patient.” Yes, it’s that bad and that good all at once. Trust me on this one.
My friend and her husband watch this movie every year on Christmas as a tradition. Why? Because it’s so terrible, it cancels out any holiday stress or real problems they may have. Often when Joe Esterhause pens a screenplay, it’s in immediate contention for the “so bad, it’s good” category. (There are exceptions to this, as I personally thought Basic Instinct was fun and Jagged Edge was downright awesome.) But this one fits the list. Elizabeth Berkeley, fresh off of her stint as Jesse on Saved By the Bell, plays a drifter stripper type (in Vegas, naturally) with dreams of making it to the big stage. (By “big stage,” I of course mean a super tacky Vegas production where she is also scantily clad.) There’s so much more to this but you’ll just have to gather some friends, make martinis and see for yourself!