I’ll be the first to admit it... I adore bad movies. Whether I’m renting a film from the local specialty video store, digging through the discount bin at my local closeout emporium, streaming them from my online service to my HDTV, or catching them on the hundreds of premium or small system cable channels, I love bad movies. So much so, that I get giddy when I share them with my friends. Sharing is caring, and there’s no better gift than seeing their reaction as they discover the humor and sheer ridiculousness that this industry has to offer.
Sometimes when a great film seems to have all the right elements, it can still be downright wonderfully awful. In Phil Hall’s new book, "The Greatest Bad Movies of All Time," that theory is put to the test. At the onset, Hall coins the phrase "anti-classics," referring to films that have become "part of the popular culture, yet their popularity is based on their ability to demolish cultural protocol." That’s a rather valid assessment of the more than hundred examples he provides throughout this masterstroke of bad movie history.
With encyclopedia-esque alphabetical fashion, Hall provides a crane-shot-like bird’s eye focus on a bevy of titles, some extremely well known, and some rarely explored. All of them span numerous time periods and genres, paying even and fair homage across the board. Although the reader may not absolutely agree with Hall’s selections, he makes no apologies for his choices. Hall makes it clear his "loose framing" of films are not a be-all/end-all exam of god-awful cinema, just a fair representation of the best cross-section of craptastic movies that he feels are equally loathed and loved, yet are fascinating and exciting.
Film buff Hall provides an extreme close-up of well known films; "Airport 1975;" "Butterfly," with disastrous actress extraordinaire Pia Zadora; Jacqueline Susann’s pill-popping film "Valley of the Dolls;" and infamously awful auteur Ed Wood’s "Plan 9 from Outer Space." Then there are the more obscure films; animated abomination "Alice in Wonderland in Paris;" Hitler-influenced musical video filled "All This and World War II;" "Black Devil Doll From Hell;" "The Fat Spy;" the canine porn "Dogarama;" and "Sh! The Octopus." While reading "The Greatest Bad Movies of All Time" I paused to hit YouTube and other outlets, looking to discover film clips or film trailers as a great point of reference for Hall’s research. His work is so jam-packed, I encourage the reader to focus on a few films at a time.
Let’s face it. There have been thousands of bad movies since the first director called "Action!" over one hundred years ago. There is a lovable camp value to celebrate when considering these films. That admiration, for me, comes with understanding that these films all share a visible honesty in storytelling inside their execution. Whether it is realized from when they first came onto the scene, or much later in hindsight, their importance in cinema history is duly acknowledged with Hall’s book. They share ingenuous qualities of their planning and accomplishments. Did the filmmakers think what they were making was to be a fast-bucker or did they genuinely feel their work would be the next award winner from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences? These films got made and they put food on peoples’ tables, so if above nothing else, they served some purpose. Hall’s book helps us not take that for granted.
"The Greatest Bad Movies of All Time"
$21.95 Book or PDF format
by Phil Hall