Monday, March 26, 2007

The Pros and Cons of Bad Movies

This past week I watched a few bad movies, but none of them on our weekly movie night(which, this week, contained no movies). Still, a few words should be said about each of them.

The first film I watched was Soul Vengeance, a film that even my heartiest bad movie watching friends would be daunted by. I had to view it alone because no one would consent to watching it with me. Soul Vengeance(also known as Welcome Home Brother Charles) is pretty typical of mid-70s blaxploitation; Charles(Marlo Monte, in his only film credit) is arrested, beaten(nearly castrated) by the cops, and sent to prison for 3 years only to come out with the unexplained ability to hypnotize white women and kill their husbands with his penis, which he can now grow to several yards long.

Wait, what was that last part?

Yes, the sole attraction of this movie is a shocking couple of scenes involving Charles exacting his revenge by choking white dudes with his penis. The problem, if that's all your after, is that the scenes don't appear until over an hour into this hour and a half long movie, and they're so truncated(shut it!) and the movie ends so abruptly that your left... oh god... unsatisfied. Look, I'm really trying to avoid sexual euphemisms here, but there's only so much I can do. But yes, the scenes(actually, one in particular) are jaw-droppingly(shush!) outrageous, and thoroughly disgusting even if they aren't very realistic looking.

However, as I said, the scenes are short(timewise, anyway), and don't appear until the end of the movie, so how does the rest of the film fare? Well, good and bad. I know it's a cop-out, but it's true. If your a fan of the genre, the movie is nothing new, but pretty well done anyway, as these things go. If your not a fan of the genre, you may want to just fast forward until the points of interest come up. The movie begins with a more complex flashback structure than you may expect, showing Charles threatening to leap from a rooftop while the cops bring in a woman to talk him down. It then jumps back to show Charles being arrested and nearly castrated, where it jumps back again to show just why the cop is so angry at him. It then jumps forward to show Charles in prison(a montage of mainly black and white photos showing Charles thoughtful and tortured, psychologically speaking), and then moves fairly chronologically. There's more than a few instances of the director trying to be artsy in this film, and doesn't all work, but it's a welcome addition nonetheless.

So why is the cop so mad at Charles that he'd try to castrate him in the back of his police vehicle? On a stakeout observing the drug dealing habits of our hero, the cop witnesses a beautiful white woman arrive for a booty call. The problem is it's the cop's wife! And here ensues one of the most ridiculous scenes in moviedom. On his way to beat down Charles, the cop is called away by a bomb threat at the airport. Here the director intercuts a sex scene between Charles and the cop's wife with shots of the cop defusing a bomb in a suitcase on the tarmac. At just the right climactic moment we see the woman orgasm, the cop fall over, spent from defusing the bomb, and planes take off symbolically. Genius. Pure genius.

I have to admit a fondness for mid-70s exploitation flicks. They offer a rarefied example of filmmakers working on their own terms. As crappy as a lot of these movies are(and they can be AWFUL crappy), they represent people scraping together movies that they want to do, on their terms. I have to admire that no matter how bad the result. And, to be honest, this one isn't too bad. Or maybe it is, and I'm just good at finding the entertainment value in crap.

A movie that is too bad to admire, despite being another example of people scraping together a movie on more or less their own terms, is the 1982 shocker Parasite. Parasite is a post-apocalyptic film about a scientist fleeing a corrupt government with a pair of parasites he created. One in a container, the other in his chest. He can't kill the one in the jar because he needs it to find out how to kill the one in his chest without killing himself in the process. He holes up in a nearly deserted town to do his research, but finds himself pursued by a government agent. It sounds promising, but it's actually fairly standard and exceedingly boring, directed by Charles Band, son of Albert Band, who I mentioned before when discussing Zoltan. Charles Band is a director of such talent that he took a film with Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man and the Mummy, and cast them all as midgets, and managed to suck almost all the fun out of the proceedings. I know I usually don't do this, but I'm warning people to stay away. There is absolutely nothing to recommend Parasite. There's nudity, but no real attractive people. There's gore, but nothing that looks like anything more than raspberry jelly. There's a Stan Winston effect, but it's pretty weak considering this was the same year he worked on The Thing, and nothing here matches even his earlier work.

The best example of the quality of this film I can make are a pair of bloopers. At one point a character mentions he's going 'out back' to turn on the generator, but then goes downstairs to the basement. And when a gang member is infected by one of the parasites, they refer to it as 'that thing on his arm' despite the fact that it's clearly on his chest. Maybe they aren't the biggest mistakes ever made, but they are indicative of the feeling that no one, not even the filmmakers, can gather the energy to care about this piece of crap. Maybe if the DVD was in 3-D, as it was shown in the early eighties, there would be something to recommend this film. As it stands, steer clear.

No comments: