MST3K and bad movies in general

I’ve shown Megaforce at my BFF. It’s a keeper. The fact that it has Barry Bostwixck and Persis Khambatta along with the bad plotting, writing, and acting just makes it perfect. Ironically, the stuntmen reportedly loved this film – the stupid dirt bikes actually worked, and worked well. They couldn’t really fly, though, as th bad FX prove.

How the hell do these movies get made? Well, often the answer is two words: “tax shelter”. Apparently the contemporary career of Uwe Boll can be explained as a natural consequence of Germany’s tax code.
I also love supremely bad movies, but for a reason that hasn’t been mentioned yet: for their educational and empowering effect on children. Just as MAD magazine encourages critical thinking in its mocking satires of advertising, movies and ordinary behavior, so do lousy movies prod skepticism and doubt in the minds of generally gullible kids. And in my experience, the pleasures and lessons of cheesy movies remain life-affirming well into adulthood as well.

The first so-bad-it’s-good flick I remember watching with a dawning appreciation of that quality (i.e., the camp sensibility) was the 1976 straight-to-TV The Last Dinosaur, when I was seven or eight (with my brother two years younger). No aspect of that film holds up to scrutiny, even that mustered by two elementary-school-age kids. And I remember thinking, probably around the point when Joan Van Ark’s character was giving the prehistoric women makeovers, or maybe when the expert game tracker was caught off-guard by a T-Rex suddenly towering right over him, but certainly by the time the fake boulder was catapulted off the dino’s obviously rubbery head, leaving a momentary dent (which popped back out in super-slow motion):

“Hey! This movie’s really bad! It’s so bad it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen! And yet it was made by a bunch of grown-ups! Didn’t they know what they were doing? These jokers apparently couldn’t do anything right and still managed to make a movie… and get a big network to broadcast it… but does this mean it’s easy for adults to do things badly, or that it’s really hard to do them well…?”

It’s easy to forget one’s juvenile mentality as one ages, but in many ways the world of adults is the original terra incognita. Cheesy movies offer an insight into the fractured realities of that grown-up world, a fundamental truth that’s both dismaying and reassuring: that grown-ups are the same mix of kids you’ve known since pre-K, only older and bigger, and while some are brilliant and do great and important work, most are mediocre (or worse) in their careers, and yet they too generally manage to get by. Even no-talent hacks manage, somehow, to get their lousy movies made and seen, if only to critical pans and raspberries.

A thornier challenge remains in articulating just what it is about camp that’s so pleasurable and enduring. There are times when I shirk the avowedly good in favor of the shallow, half-baked, poorly executed and formulaic – and I daresay that everyone experiences these moods. But why should that be the case? Why isn’t it considered a form of mental illness even, to be willfully perverse in this way?

Without taking the trouble to revisit Sontag’s famous essay “Notes on Camp,” and speaking just for myself, I think I’ve figured it out. I tend to watch movies in a binocular frame of mind; seeing the movie as it is, certainly, but also trying to see it in an idealized perfection, as it could’ve or should’ve been. And perfection in the works of others, as in oneself, is always lacking. In a [self-]critical frame of mind, at least, I’m as likely to be sunk by spotting the flaws in a good or great work as I am to be buoyed by the joys to be salvaged from the dreck of cinema. To use a gastronomic metaphor, the former is akin to a case of food poisoning after dining at a top-rated restaurant, whereas the latter is like a pig rooting through muck and decay to uncover… a truffle.

There is something soul-crushing in being disappointed by a film by Welles, Lubitsch or Sturges; likewise, the cheesy and exploitative schlock artists offer unexpected transports. For if the former realization reinforces the unpleasant realities and challenges of adulthood, the latter conjures, if only fleetingly, the childish joys of discovering the promise that the real world can be unexpectedly expansive and accomodating to the lesser and even least of its denizens – and that art, even very bad art, can possess a redemptive and sublime quality all its own.

“So may glory from defect arise.” – Robert Browning

[theme song]

He is the last
There are no more
He is the last

[/theme song]

Loved that movie. Loved it.

The pretentions of directors and especially the screenwriters are sometimes the funniest aspects of these films. Coleman Francis must have really thought it was cool when he uttered, “Flag on the moon. How’d it get there?” But the line and it’s delivery is so lame as to produce groans of disbelief and misery in the viewer. Ed Wood was the same way. He wrote screenplays that to him were hard-boiled, totally cool, Raymond Chandler-esque film noir. But his actors (and his directing) couldn’t pull it off. The Violent Years and **The Sinister Urge **show this perfectly. The sets are fine and the cinematography is not bad. But the plots and dialog just can’t live up to Ed’s dreams (or delusions).

Yeah, you guys remember “Troll 2”, right? I saw it when I was seven, and it was the first time in my life that I can recall watching a movie and thinking, “…this is bad. This is really, really bad. This movie makes no sense. I, Hen, at the age of seven, could write a better movie than the makers of this movie did.” You know what? Maybe I could have. I think I had enough common sense at that age to know that plots have to tell a story, and not just show stuff happening at random.

I know how movies like this get made. They’re made by people with enough drive to do it, and enough arrogance to believe they don’t have to know how. My mother is a little like this. She gets these project ideas – “I’m going to photograph nature and make posters!”
“Okay, that’s great mom. Are you going to take a photography class?”
“I don’t need a photography class! Just a good camera!”

Another: “I’m going to write a novel!”
“Okay, but you don’t read very much fiction, mom. Want me to recommend some good books?”
“I don’t need to see how they do it! I can do it better than them!” :smack:

Then they’re funded by people with enough money to pay for it, and not enough backbone to follow through.

I liked Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, actually. I can see it being called “cheesy” and such, but I never understood the full-out ridicule.

The MST3K of it was funny. If you remember, the villain had an odd emphasis of Puma Man, pronouncing ‘Puma’ as ‘pyew-mah.’

I read Roger Corman’s autobiography, and basically he could get distribution and make money on almost everything he filmed - so long as he filmed it cheaply enough.

The reason for bad movies back then is the same as the reason for bad porn today - there was a great demand, and anything remotely watchable had a market. There were tons of drive-ins which showed three movies a night to people not really watching. There also wasn’t a big gap between the SFX in higher budget movies and lower budget ones.

I suspect people who made films in Wisconsin could get them shown locally either from regional connections or from undercutting the studio distribution system.

As for Overdrawn - I haven’t read the story for a while, but given that it had reasonable acting talent, I think the problems were that they cheaped out a bit too much on the sets, the effects were too obviously what they could do cheaply and what they could fit into the story, and the script was way padded. I didn’t much like Lathe of Heaven either, but it was better than this. The Fat Guy, by the way, went on to play Nero Wolfe on A&E, and did it very well.

Reasonable acting talent, but not reasonable acting. Everyone is terrible in that movie, Raul Julia included. Not that it’s his fault - I’m sure he had NO idea what the hell was going on. What is that movie even about, anyway? I swear, the first person to properly explain “I’m interfaced!” to me gets a free cookie.

You know, I never hear any love for “Time Chasers”, my favorite MST3K movie and riff. Horribly cheesy, unappealing lead, bad acting - but at least the plot makes sense. I’ve seen far worse, even outside of the MST universe.

“Hi, I’m Bob Evil!”
“And now, for some good old fashioned 50’s heavy petting.”
“Ah! So it’s bicycles then! We accept your challange!”
“Hey Nick. There were a’ stairs on the other side of the tree.”
“Oh! Well thank you movie!”

Small Hen: Horrors of Spider Islands line of “Hi, I’m Bob Box Body” was as hilarious as the line of Bob Evil. :wink:

Bryan Elkers…are you serious…Its 1 AM here so I gotta go to bed…but if no else bothers I’ll try to list the probs with OatMB tomorrow.

I rented “I Blame My Parents” with the 3K treatment and couldn’t get more than halfway through it. Again, even the MST3K guys couldn’t make it bearable. I guess there’s a lot of 3K movies that aren’t watchable even with the jokes.

I Accuse My Parents is one of my favorites. I listen to a lot of old radio shows on and the plot of IAMP is taken straight from the fear-mongering of the day (1940s for those who haven’t seen it). “Your sweet innocent child is going to fall victim to gangsters without a Strong Moral Upbringing”–hence why the parents were partying drunk parodies. The sausage-roll-hair singer is just another version of the Hooker with a Heart of Gold and the greasy guys are greasy.

The very last part after the credits explains the whole thing. “This movie was sent to Our Boys Overseas, fighting for our freedoms!” Supposedly it was to remind them what they were fighting for. :rolleyes:

I have to admit, I’d probably enjoy the MST3K treatment of Overdrawn, but it’s not going to change my opinion of the film or my view that it gets criticism it doesn’t deserve.

I’m also very fond of “I’m Bob Jackass” from Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders. A joke so nice, they used it thrice.

Anyone seen the Rifftrax for “Over the Top?” We rented the movie just to watch the riff, and it was so hilarious, we went out and bought the thing (for a whopping $5.99) “There’s a 13 year old girl here to see you. Says you’re wearing one of her baby tees.” :smiley:

So you’re telling me you understood it? I’m dead serious when I say *please *explain it to me! What is “interfaced”? How is making the hero live as a baboon going to cure his love of cinimas? What the HELL was going on!?

Well, I haven’t seen the movie in a couple of years, but I don’t recall being confused by it. In the future, the population lives in clean, sterile cities ruled by corporations and pacified by virtual-reality fantasies. One man, Aram Fingle, dissatisfied with being a faceless cog and helped along by discovering an old data file of Bogart movies, begins escaping into fantasies not approved by the overseers. They force him to undergo an approved fantasy which in some technobabble way involves mindmelding him with an animal. If I was going to speculate, I’d say these “furry” fantasies are considered safer than something more cinematic involving good guys fighting bad guys (and perhaps encouraging individuals to fight the overarching conglomerate itself). Through the actions of a mischievous brat, Fingle gets lost in the system. Since the corporation fears a lawsuit almost as much as they fear rebellion, they take steps to get Fingle’s mind back in his body, including dispatching one of their techs, Appolonia Jones. Over time, Fingle learns how to manipulate the computer system from the inside, unleashing small bursts of chaos, all while Jones tries to reign him in.

As for what “interface” means, I just shrug that off as the jargon of a heavily computer-integrated society. In watching Overdrawn, it’s no more necessary to know how an “interface” works than to know how “subspace” (or for that matter, “mindmeld”) works when watching Star Trek. It’s sufficient that the characters know.

Anyway, as individual-against-the-machine stories go, Overdrawn is a lot less pretentious and far more coherent than, say, THX 1138.

I take “I’m interfaced!” to mean that he had finally hacked all the way into the system and could fully control it from the inside. Hence why the computers started shooting out what I assume were credits (aka “I’m fartin’ Monopoly cards!”)

Clearly, I have thought about this movie too much.

Thanks Bryan. Your explanation makes sense, although there are massive segments of the movie that I still do not (and perhaps never will) get. Since I am not a stupid person, and I have seen the MST3K of Overdrawn probably half a dozen times, I’m going to fault the movie (or the editors of MST3K).

If you like MST3K, this one is worth your time, even if you like it! I actually find, thanks to Rifftrax, that the more I love a movie, the more I enjoy watching it mocked (please let them do an Iron Man riftrack, please let them do an Iron Man riftrack, please…

I got him being in the mind of an animal a standard vacation destination, nothing special about him. In fact he didn’t seem to be a menace until after his body got lost. Why he was a menace to the PTB was beyond me also. Plus, the way he guessed the password was pure Ed Wood territory.

The writing struck me as done by people who knew just enough about the internal workings of computers to get it all horribly wrong. I don’t remember anything by Varley being so feeble.

Don’t forget, Michael Beck was in it as well. Didn’t he and Barry Bostwick look darling in their silver lame jumpsuits?:smiley:

As evidenced by the fact that it was shot with a wind-up 8mm camera, which is why no scene is longer than 20 seconds.