Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Defining The Crap Film Experience By Example


Everyone has seen bad movies. Admittedly, one's definition of what is "bad" can vary widely. I've actually heard people try to defend Xanadu, and if you haven't seen that movie to understand why they would defend it, let me offer this bit of advice: Some things are best left undisturbed. But then a lot of people thought Jurassic Park was great, and I personally thought it was the lowest point in the career of everyone involved, and, yes, I have seen Goldblum in Vibes.

We aren't here to discuss who is right about this film or that film. Our topic is "crap" films. What is a "crap" film, you might ask? What makes it different from a bad movie? Well, there are a lot of factors to consider here. Yes, they are all mostly subjective, but when I finish with you, I think you'll be able to scan your video rental shelves and be able to find a fine piece of "crap" to piss away your evening. And be aware that "crap" is not the same as shit. The film version of The Da Vinci Code is shit, but it will never be crap.

We shall use one of my all-time favorite "crap" films to make our point in this discussion. The film is Blood Mania, a twisted flick from the early 70's with Pete Carpenter leading us along as he does most of the work behind and in front of the camera.

Titles -- Okay, when I told you the name of the film we would be using as an example, you probably cringed or flinched or groaned. That is the first way to pick out a "crap" film. Titles can be very useful in figuring out what you are about to get yourself into. Now, a title like The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie really tells you little more than you are most likely not going to be watching car chases or large amounts of bloodletting. A title like Snake Eater pretty much tells you that your girlfriend/wife/gay lover will most likely refuse to sit in the same room with you as it plays across the screen. Blood Mania, Blood Freak, This Is Not A Test, Fury Of The Wolfman, They Saved Hitler's Brain, and Twisted Brain all pretty much set the tone for you before you even watch the first scene. So if the title has its own Cheese Factor built in, you may well have a "crap" film on your hands.

Budget -- This varies from film to film. Expect to see things happen in out-of-the-way places or deeply confined inside of a house. You won't see a car chase through the National Mall and you won't be seeing a gun fight take place on a busy sidewalk on Wall Street. You won't find yourself wondering where they spent the film's budget, but you might be wondering, "Couldn't they afford to crop out that damned boom mike?" No, they couldn't. Really. In Blood Mania, watch for the claustrophobic nature of the shots. You really don't see the actors doing a lot of exterior shots. And the few that were done look very, very crappy.

Stars -- Don't look for them. Oh, if you go back a few years, you'll find a handful of people who might be currently famous, but if they are in a crap film, you can bet they were young enough to jump at anything that offered two bucks an hours. And if you see a "star" from a few years ago (*cough*William Katt*cough*) in a crap film, you can bet their career has come full circle and they'll jump at anything that will keep them from Dumpster diving for dinner. Blood Mania sports the then-lovely Maria De Aragon. Wait, you claim you've never heard of her? But she went on to play Greedo in Star Wars IV: A New Hope. Yeah, I thought you'd remember.

Story/Plot -- You really are asking for a lot, aren't you? Oh, pray for something that actually makes sense. Legacy Of Satan had a great idea -- a woman targeted by a demonic cult as the perfect bride for its leader. Lots of potential. Just try to keep up with the randomness of the events in that film, and forget the ending. But they started with a great idea, which is usually the case with a lot of these films. Either that or they have a great image in their heads and decide to build a story around that one image. With Blood Mania, that one image seems to be in the scene in which Ms. De Aragon shakes her two major assets for the camera. Wait, that was one of my favorite images. Maybe it was the painting revealed in the climax. That image certainly sticks in your head. It has been stuck in my head since 1978 when I originally saw the film. Even now, after multiple viewings, that one image sticks and the rest fades

Coolness/Cult Factor -- You remember the kids in your high school who always seemed to be sitting alone at lunch and acted happy as clams to do so? That will be you when you start watching crap movies. You'll find no one will value your opinion on anything, except, maybe, junk food. Even fans of horror films tend to ignore these things as being beneath them. Even if they have no idea who Andy Milligan is, they will curl their collective nose up at the thought of watching one of his films. You are on your own and all alone. Do yourself a favor: Stop showering -- you can save money, and there will be no one to complain.

By now you should have a vague handle on what a crap film is. Just keep in mind that once you start down this path, you often become lost. You'll know you have joined the rest of us when you find yourself discussing the merits of anything made by Roberta Findley. You don't know who she is? Heh Heh Heh. Step this way, and I'll show you.

(Look for information on any of these actors and/or films at the wonderful Internet Movie Database http://www.imdb.com. It is the best friend of us crap movie fans because it never questions our film choices, and it never, ever asks for our Doritos.)

1 comment:

Elliot said...

I had the good fortune to see the Peter Carpenter double feature Blood Mania and Point of Terror in 1970 in a real grindhouse theater. I was a sophomore in high school. Both were skimpy as theatrical movies. Today they would be classified as made for cable fare, mainly because of the nudity. Maria De Aragon's character in Blood Mania predates by 37 years the psycho artist chick in Dexter. Hot brunette with a fantastic, slim body. Murderer. Likes kinky sex. Has a candle fetish. Does artwork that's "necro" in nature.