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Welcome To The Room, A Staggeringly Bad Movie

I got hooked on bad movies as a young teenager, anxiously waiting to see the bumpers for Movie Macabre, as much to enjoy the sight of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark in her revealing gown as to enjoy her wisecracks about the terrible, awful, bad, very not good horror movies featured on the show.

So now, Elvira may be off the air, but Bad Movie Night continues to be a tradition with several of my friends and I. We gather at someone’s home — usually a particular friend with an exceptionally good setup for watching movies — and use state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment to watch amazingly bad cinema. There’s potluck food, beer and wine, and usually some catcalling of the movie itself. It’s also a chance to exercise the thesaurus as one quickly depletes the available synonyms and superlatives for the word “bad”.

Recently, I saw what is surely a king among these, which is relevant to a movie hitting the theaters this very weekend. More about that in a few paragraphs. For now, know that among many of the stinkers I’ve enjoyed in this fashion include, in chronological order:


A Sampler Platter of Enjoyably Bad Cinema

Robot Monster In 3D (1953). Very much false advertising, because the movie was very definitely in 2D only. What’s more, this oddly Freudian tale’s purportedly “robot” monster is a guy in a gorilla suit with a diving bell’s helmet on top. The so-called “robot monster” is scouting ahead for an alien invasion which only the child star of the film can prevent, though he spends a lot of time mooning over a pretty blonde girl and for some reason there are dinosaurs involved. The entire movie seems to have been filmed near the quasi-famous Bronson Canyon cave near the Hollywood Bowl. An absolutely impenetrable plot, terrible dialogue, and very creepy brother-sister relations highlight an early example of Bad Cinema.

Frogs (1972). This deadly un-scary “horror” movie is distinguished as Sam Elliot’s first feature film, in which frogs appear to be the telepathic ringleaders but never the actual killers (they get insects and alligators to do their dirty work) of a family of deranged, wealthy, swamp-dwelling, croquet-playing, romper-wearing Louisianans. Elliot is nearly unrecognizable without his trademark cowboy facial hair though quite handsome. Cardboard cutout characters, a costume department that was obviously not told anything about the filming location before showing up, and a weirdly regressive take on race relations are standout facets of an otherwise prosaic “the real monsters are we humans” creature feature. Ray Millan is the character actor to watch if searching for a redeeming feature, for his seemingly sincere attempt to render an homage to Humphrey Bogart in The Caine Mutiny but cruelly, the writers deny him any good material to do it with. It won’t take you very long before you’re rooting for the gators instead of the humans.

Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw (1976). One in a long tradition of early-to-mid 70’s “freedom means defying the Establishment and embracing your dark side” films. Carhop, country-music wannabe, and future Wonder Woman Lynda Carter teams up with some Random Blond Dude (the actor in real life was a child preacher) for a roll in the hay that without any real explanation morphs into an aimless tri-county killing spree. We watched this one for the one and only reason that it is the only movie in which Lynda Carter ever was filmed topless and if you’ll excuse me for being crude for a moment, we received the reward we’d hoped for. Ms. Carter can also sing quite enjoyably, as players of the video game Fallout 4 will attest, though the song she’s given here is not particularly memorable. I counted three boom mic sightings, and at least a dozen overexposed outdoor shots along with heavy reliance on the Inexcusably Stupid Police trope.

Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus (2009). There’s a giant prehistoric octopus, and a giant prehistoric shark, frozen in an iceberg, you see. The Navy accidentally frees and revives them. So it’s up to Lorenzo Lamas and Deborah Gibson1 to save the California and Japanese coasts the only way possible: by getting them to fight each other! The production values are pretty good on this one and fortunately (?) most the cast can actually act with some degree of skill. The hilarity comes from the fact that neither sea monster has any sort of mass constancy throughout the film, so as the needs or whims of the SFX department vary, Mega Shark variously is the size of a school bus, a submarine, or a 747. It peaks, of course, when Mega Shark breaches the surface of the ocean to take a jetliner down for a snack. This became something of a cult favorite and I think there are four or five sequels to it, all featuring the adventures of Mega Shark.

Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2010). I remain unconvinced that this wasn’t intended to be Bad Cinema all along.2 It hits so many of the marks of the genre — wooden acting, unstructured script with scattered ends of unused “B” plots strewn about, minutes-long pad shots of cars driving, Mary Sue protagonists, and a principal story that does not resolve so much as it merely ends because, one imagines, the producer simply ran out of film. But the standouts here are the sessile CGI “bird” monsters which are literally repeating image sprites of a 16-bit image of a vulture, such as one might find on a casual game on a cell phone, and the I-kid-you-not thrice-repeated sixty-second dialogue-free pan shots of the interior of a Vietnamese restaurant which I’m absolutely convinced was a condition of the producer’s parents paying money to make the movie. It’s not clear to me that Birdemic: Shock and Terror was intended to be a serious movie because it hit so many Bad Movie Tropes. Seriously, the bird monsters are laugh-out-loud bad.


Why Bad Cinema Is Fun

As you can gather, a Bad Cinema specimen almost always has a very bad script. The script usually relies heavily upon well-known tropes, cardboard cut-out characters, and hackneyed themes. Monster movies, for instance, always fall into easily-discernable and era-centric categories: Woe Arising From Secrets Man Was Not Meant To Know in the 1950’s and 1960’s; Nature Fights Back Against Man’s Overreach was popular in the late 1960’s and most of the 1970’s; and then we got Humans Are The Real Monsters in the 1970’s and 1980’s.3

So it’s an exercise in storytelling: how did this story go wrong? That’s the real enjoyment of Bad Cinema for me: realizing that the people who made the movie were trying to make something worth watching, and something went wrong, and they did the best they could to see it through.

Often, it’s a bad story with bad film editing. Sometimes it’s not enough time or crew to do the scenes right. More often than seems excusable, it’s terrible acting. Or a lack of resources to do SFX or sound, or unskilled crew. But for whatever reason, somewhere in the course of making the movie, something bad happened but they have to come up with a product or else all that money just gets burned up with nothing to show. So in a way, it’s a riddle: you try to figure out just what went wrong (typically, “Oh, crap! We’re almost out of money!”) and how it is that the filmmakers wound up coming to market with whatever solution they could improvise.

But really, it’s reveling in something that was supremely poorly executed. Which can make you feel a little bit dirty and guilty if you stop to think about it. For instance, the acting is usually bad, though not always. In a way, you can’t know what good acting is until you see bad acting, but the bad acting itself is fascinating.

By analogy, you may recall three was a fellow named William Hung who attempted to audition with Ricky Martin’s “She Bang” on American Idol back in 2004:

American Idol – William Hung sings She Bang

I used to feel guilty about laughing at Hung’s audition, but I don’t anymore. Hung appeared, and to this day continues to appear, to have no concern whatsoever that his audition was simply terrible. He had fun with it, he took joy out of trying it, and that joyfulness alone propelled him to become a ladies’ man when he went back to school at UC Berkeley, to make not one but two albums that sold over 200,000 copies, and to spend seven years of his life pursuing a self-effacing career in entertainment.4 I no longer feel guilty about Hung because he caught a clue about the joke, became aware of what was going on, and decided to run with it and have fun for as long as it was fun. Now, I say, good for him.

That’s kind of what I think of with Bad Cinema. These are people who tried their best, really didn’t get it put all together (because, in fact, putting together a good movie is difficult) but saw it through anyway. So we can at once admire them for seeing it through, and at the same time marvel at just how risibly bad something got along the way to making that happen.


The New King of Bad Cinema

Nearly everyone has a favorite bad movie. Plan 9 From Outer Space enjoyed notoriety for a long time. Leonard Part 6 was execrable even before we learned all those icky things about Bill Cosby. IMDB periodically updates its “bottom 100” list, which includes the aforementioned Birdemic: Shock and Terror as well as its sequel. (Yes, I know.) It also includes the astonishingly awfully-written Gigli, the inspid, ill-conceived, and unfunny It’s Pat: The Movie, and the specially-dishonored Laserblast. Laserblast for some reason was the lead-in movie for all of the double-features at every cinema in town for at least a year and a half during my pre-teen years, so I’ve memories of repeatedly suffering through its inexplicably dialogue-free scenes of bad SFX, bad blocking, bad filming, and general tedious badness while waiting to get to the movie I’d actually wanted to see.5

Nothing I have seen yet compares to The Room (2003), a movie of truly abysmal awfulness. There are tribute pages and it’s a cult favorite, but perhaps nothing really captures the blissfully clueless spirit of the movie so well as its official home page, itself seemingly a throwback to the GeoCities era of web design. A glance at the page will show you a close-up of the producer, director, writer, actor, and pretty much every other production and crew role you can think of, Tommy Wiseau. Possessed of a vaguely eastern European accent he cannot shake and bizarrely long unkempt black locks of hair he refuses to trim (or, seemingly, groom) Wiseau’s film is visibly bad from the poorly-digitized, overly-long, and hilariously ponderous intro bumper.

The signature scene of the movie happens about halfway through its Betrayed-By-A-Lover plot, which distills Wiseau’s acting and writing abilities into forty-five agonizing seconds of random, tone-deaf dreck:

The Room – 'I Did Not Hit Her!' – 'Oh, Hi Mark!' – 🍆 See Film 👑THE DIANA CLONE 🌹on Amazon 👸

A relatively simple story of Romance Gone Bad is strewn with the remnants of B-plots and B-characters that would have all been better left cut out entirely. Will the B-plot be about breast cancer? Financial chicanery? The protagonist adopting a teenage boy as his son? The romance between two B-characters? No, none of these, and ultimately there is no B-plot at all. But there are lots of shots of male characters throwing a football at one another, well after it’s been established that they are friends. There are lots of establishing shots to remind the audience that the movie is set in San Francisco — three-quarters of the way through the film.

And more footballs. Wiseau uses that football prop until the leather is worn out.

If you’re familiar with the rule of Chekhov’s gun, just go ahead and set that lesson aside. Wiseau doesn’t have any use for no Chekhov. You’ll be looking at MacGuffins the whole time and wondering how they’re going to circle around the plot and get used again later. They’re not.

But another lesson Chekhov teaches aspiring writers is one Wiseau has taken very much to heart: repetition. Wiseau, however, crafting his script with blissful freedom from any understanding of how it was that Chekhov could make repetition work to enhance his narrative. The same points repeat in heavy-handed dialogue. “He’s my best friend!” “You’re my best friend.” “We are best friends, you and I!” “Let’s go play some football, we’re friends!” Or, as featured in this next scene, “What kind of money?” Just imagine, if you will, what kind of thought process went in to crafting dialogue like this:


As an aside, I’ll note that the drug dealer who was in the scene immediately before this was, by far, the most talented actor in the movie. I believed that he wanted his fucking money back. Here, finally, was a character whose motivations were understandable and projected with emotional conviction. Alas, we only get one scene with him because Wiseau abandons the B-plot about the drug deal gone bad after this scene and never addresses it again.

There are four sex scenes, none of which are in the least bit sexy, and three of which are set to the same very bad and anachronistically 80’s-sounding song.

The movie was shot with two cameras: one digital, and the other using film. The quality of the shots are visibly different from one another and sometimes show up even in different angles on the same scene, making something that really was shot at the same time look spliced together afterwards using body doubles.

Some of the audio got lost somewhere or somehow between principal photography and the final edit (as I recall, this included one of Wiseau’s barely comprehensible monologues) and was overdubbed later as best they could manage, but the sync just isn’t perfect. To the crew’s credit, this was the only technical flaw I could spot: there are no boom mics intruding on the shots and the green-screening of San Francisco scenery seems skillful. Why they needed to green-screen at all is beyond me — almost all the scenes are, or could easily have been, set in much more affordable-to-stage interior locations or better yet, cut entirely.

Oh, and the title of the movie has nothing to do with anything that happens in it. Wiseau’s explanation for choosing the title makes as little sense as the bulk of the movie’s dialogue.

This movie’s poor quality sort of… lingers. I was thinking about how seriously crappy this movie was for days afterwards. Like a persistent drip of phlegm in the back of the throat, the distressing awfulness of The Room just wouldn’t leave me and may well require antibiotics to fully resolve.


Filmmaking As Therapy Gone Very Wrong

I can’t help but think that The Room is autobiographical in some meaningful way. In an interview available as one of the DVD extras, Wiseau seems to deny this but his phrasing is weird and as with his acting, his interviews are kind of off. The movie shows all sorts of signs of being the product of having been intended to serve as Wiseau’s grand rebuke to a former lover. The protagonist, played by Wiseau, is a Mary Sue whose only “fault” is trusting his lover too much. The lover-cum-antagonist, in turn, is relentlessly deceptive, sociopathic, and uses the protagonist for his money.6 Wiseau very evidently poured huge amounts of his own money, effort, and willpower into delivering this unsubtle and clumsy rebuke of lovers who cheat.

Why would he do this to us? There simply must be something more here than Wiseau’s desire to “make it” in Hollywood. The pain of discovering one’s lover has cheated is deep and lasting. Wiseau engineered a way to elaborately expound illustrating being in that sort of emotional pain, positively wallowing in overly-long scenes acting out exactly those emotions to the full (but alas, limited) extent of his thespian abilities. “Performance as therapy” is itself something of a trope in Hollywood, and so The Room may be “performance and writing and direction and production and set design and prop placement and lighting as therapy.” This viewer’s heart goes out to him. But his writing lacks the focus to channel that pain to good dramatic use; his direction lacks the perspective of an audience that would see the story with fresh eyes; and his delivery of the character is so unconvincing that even if Wiseau really did live through a painful personal experience as depicted in The Room the viewer simply can’t believe it.

The man can’t even buy flowers for his girlfriend with emotional conviction or narrative focus:

The Room – Flower Shop scene.

And while you’re all still wondering “What the hell was that?”7 I’ll point out perhaps the most distressing detail, at least to anyone who has ever attempted to write fiction themselves. New characters are introduced during the climax. Writers, just savor that for a bit: no matter how bad you think your own fiction might have turned out, did you do that?

It’s pretty clear that the fundamental problem with the movie was Wiseau’s ego. The promotional poster of the movie is Wiseau’s head shot. Wiseau is in nearly three quarters of the scenes. He apparently self-financed the entire six million dollars that were somehow spent making this movie. Wiseau’s magnum opus is the subject of a book by his co-star Greg Sestero, The Disaster Artist. In this book, Sestero makes clear that everyone on the set (except for Wiseau) knew very well that the movie was going to be not just bad, but astonishingly so. However, paid work is paid, and Wiseau was paying for it all. He would not hear any criticism or suggestions from anyone, and envisioning himself the auteur whose singular vision would somehow craft a masterpiece, he disregarded suggestions to seek any sort of emotional continuity from moment to moment. Which is how we got scenes like this one:

The Room- You are tearing me apart- Full Scene


The Disaster Artist: The Film

James Franco has made Sestero’s book into a movie of the same name, which is going to be in theaters this weekend. This promises to be at once absolutely hilarious and, at the same time, to offer a look into the heart of the filmmaker. Like “singer” William Hung, Wiseau appears is at once winkingly aware of, and simultaneously earnestly unable to admit, his utter lack of talent. But at least he seems to be in on the joke fashioned at his expense. He’s running with it because it’s still fun for him. Despite an ego that apparently ran out of control during the making of this movie, it’s hard not to be sympathetic to Wiseau. Here, after all, is a man who wanted very very much to be someone of note, who wanted to make a movie — a movie sharing his deepest pain, if I’m right about why he made it — more than anything else in the world. And even if the movie utterly sucked (and make no mistake, this movie does indeed utterly suck), he saw it through. That’s admirable.

Wiseau is apparently still laughing along with everyone else at The Room. Which is good. I’d feel more than a little bit guilty about reveling in the festival of clumsy writing and wooden acting on top of deep personal pain if he weren’t in on the joke too. We can suspect this with a high degree of probability because he took a small part in the James Franco film about making it. That gives us license, as it does with William Hung’s audition, to gawk in slackjawed amazement at the assertively bad The Room, so I’m looking forward to the new movie about it quite a lot.

I’ll be particularly interested to see how well James Franco can imitate Tommy Wiseau’s impenetrable accent.


Image by daryl_mitchell Welcome To <i>The Room</i>, A Staggeringly Bad Movie

  1. You might remember her as Debbie Gibson if you’re old enough. If not, please think twice before clicking that link because you are NOT prepared for what you’re going to see. []
  2. I don’t count Intentionally Bad Cinema for these events; it’s less enjoyable when you get something like Mars Attacks! or Attack of the Killer Tomatoes where it’s supposed to be campy and trope-reliant all along. []
  3. Perhaps the actually best Humans Are The Real Monsters movie was Alien — you’ll recall that the crew was sent to be sacrificed by an evil corporation looking to weaponize the terrifying xenomorph. Except Alien was a good movie. []
  4. For some reason there are rumors that he committed suicide, but they’re false: he is currently employed as a crime analyst for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. []
  5. I’m assured by a colleague that Suicide Squad (2016) is very competitive in this league, but I’ve not seen it yet and so cannot attest to whether it’s just a not-good movie or can be relegated to the pantheon of Bad Cinema. []
  6. Wiseau’s dialogue tells the audience this about her, repeatedly, explicitly, and using the same words and phrases, in a relentless repetition of near-identical scenes, well after we figured that out for ourselves. []
  7. It was poorly dubbed, for one thing. []

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47 thoughts on “Welcome To The Room, A Staggeringly Bad Movie

  1. I thought the Species series was supposed to be bad. Its only draw was that it featured Natasha Henstridge prancing around naked or nearly so.

    PS. Its astonishing how many bad movies (or maybe just mediocre movies) Ben Kingsley has acted in.

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  2. ‘You’re tearing me apart, Lisa!’

    One terrible movie a couple friends and I have made a semi-tradition of watching around Halloween is Spookies. It is in fact two movies spliced together and got a lot of circulation on USA networks Up All Night. I’d recommend it for your gathering, Burt, if you haven’t seen it.

    My favorite show to feature bad or strange fare was Joe Bob Briggs’ Monstervision. Ah the days before cable matured.

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  3. They aren’t exactly bad cinema but I have a soft spot for the Hammer Horror movies, especially Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter. Once DVDs hit the market, a lot of bad cinema of both the schlocky horror/science fiction variety and the non-Hollywood family entertainment variety. That represented a revival of sorts. The Eighties seemed to be a remarkably bad time for true bad cinema as opposed to the Hollywood failure variety because of the disappearance of the matinee and B-movie. A few like the Beast Master and some others got made but not as much as in the past. Or they got made but were harder to find. The move to streaming seems to have killed off a lot of bad cinema in its’ entirety.

    Movie making in general has gotten to the point where there isn’t really a market for true bad cinema. Special effects are much more affordable than before because of CGI, so non-big buck productions can appear more polished than previously even if they can’t reach Hollywood standards. Audiences seem to want better acting and better scripts to compared to the past. Plot holes and questionable acting were part of bad cinema. The dominance of the block buster thanks to the globalization of cinema also hurts bad cinema. One reason why it existed was because Hollywood didn’t make many science fiction or horror movies before the 1970s and 1980s. They were seen as kiddie in a bad way. Now that you have top talent involved, the market niche for bad cinema disappeared.

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    • You can find the soul of the schlocky b-movie on youtube; there’s a few channels that feature semi-pro filmmakers and acting troops giving their best with limited (and sometime patreon augmented) budgets

      There’s also a cadre of (mostly Eastern) European filmakers where since everyone speaks a different language natively, they do the movie in lingua franca of heavily accented English.

      (To be sure, on the spectrum of schlock-scream queens-exploitation-pornography a lot of the stuff unapologetically veers to that last thing)

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  4. I don’t get the “So Bad, It’s Good” school of liking or watching things. Perhaps it is the snob in me but I don’t enjoy camp* (which Sontag defined as “failed seriousness”). Life is just too short for it. Why spend your time watching something like the Room when you can watch something that is actually good?

    But lots of people seemingly love camp above all and would rather watch really bad movies all the time instead of good stuff. We know have huge markets dedicated to making “bad” movies like the Sharknado franchise which is full of knowing and seemingly really popular for reasons that defy comprehension.

    I don’t even really get the appeal of Rocky Horror.

    Camp doesn’t just appear in movies. It can appear in the performing arts. Swan Lake is a horrible ballet and was defined as an example of camp in Susan Sontag’s essay on the subject. I think Sontag is right. The music and plot in Swan Lake switches too quickly from the comedic and light to the overly dramatic and “serious.” The plot, as it exists is, risible.

    But lots of people think Swan Lake is pretty and they don’t want an overeducated graduate school influenced opinion on the ballet.

    Still, why watch bad or “bad” movies when you can watch Truffaut? Though the development of interest in bad or “bad” movies or arthouse movies seems to occur in the teenage years depending on the person.

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  5. some Random Blond Dude (the actor in real life was a child preacher)

    That’s Marjoe Gortner. If you can, track down 1972’s Marjoe. It is an amazing documentary about how the Evangelical preaching racket worked. Not much has changed, apart from slicker production values. I warn you, though: Marjoe is actually good. Indeed, very good. It won the Oscar for best documentary, then promptly went down the memory hole.

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  6. Re note 2 – I’m curious where you think Sharknado fits in this classification system, as well as what the people that made it thought of what they were making and had made.

    (It’s clear that the suits on the television network knew what they had and aimed to steer into the skid – which they were successful at)

    Eta also did Attack of The Killer Tomatoes know it was bad? I wasnt aware of that.

    The problem with Mars Attacks is that it tried to send itself up as a parody of the genre, but wasn’t consistently over the top enough nor took its own premises seriously enough to pull it off. (Compare it a successful genre parody/subversion like, say, Scream) (or for that matter Airplane and the Princess Bride)

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    • I’m curious where you think Sharknado fits in this classification system, as well as what the people that made it thought of what they were making and had made.

      According to my son, the Sharknado movies have the higher purpose of providing climatologists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research with a basis for viewing parties and drinking games. Each new home release is eagerly anticipated.

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  7. I remember how Season 8 of MST3K had some interesting contrasts.

    There were bad movies like The Mole People and The Thing That Couldn’t Die which… well, as bad movies go, they were actually pretty good. A handful of problems, maybe. At the end of the day, though, they were movies that you didn’t mind watching in the first place and the gang cracking jokes provided the icing on the cake.

    And, later on, they gave us The Giant Spider Invasion which was, I suppose, cynical dreck that wasn’t good in the first place but was (barely) saved by the gang cracking jokes.

    And then there was The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies. This was, seriously, the longest movie I’ve ever seen. It created some sort of weird time-field… when we turned off the television, only two hours or so had passed in the real world, even though about a year had passed in our own lives.

    Not even the jokes helped. They couldn’t have. Nothing could have.

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  8. Great piece, Burt, I really enjoyed it.

    A couple weeks ago I was sitting in a movie theater waiting to watch Blade Runner and a preview for The Disaster Artist came on. There was this moment of confused weightlessness in my brain as it slowly dawned on me that I was watching James Franco as Tommy Wiseau.

    It was awesome.

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  9. Troma Entertainment’s Toxic Avenger (1984). Which despite being truly awful on many levels, got sequels, a novelization, a comic book, a cartoon series, and a musical stage production based on it. Who says you can’t make a living off of bad art? Although I understand the musical had a run of over 300 performances, got passable reviews, and was nominated for some Off-Broadway awards — the people who did the musical must not have gotten the memo.

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    • The off-broadway awards are called the Obies.

      I remember the cartoon show from when I was a kid. I knew about it before I knew about the movie. It had a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle vibe. But isn’t Troma one of those outfits that tries to make schlocky movies on purpose? Ed Wood thought he was around the cinematic genius of Orson Wells and Jean Renoir, I don’t think the Troma people see themselves that way.

      My brief wikipedia research shows that the musical was meant to be funny.

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      • I believe Troma also goes around buying up the distribution rights to bad movies that now-famous actors and actresses were in before they were famous. I’ve always wondered if there was a business opportunity in a service for celebrities of acquiring such properties in order to suppress them. Someone seems to have done a pretty good job of suppressing Deadly Twins (released overseas as Deadly Trigger), a horribly bad 1985 movie starring Judy and Audrey Landers. The sisters were/are at least casually famous, but internet mentions of the movie are few and far between, and are absolutely minimal. Someone named Joe Oaks is credited as producer, director, and writer, but seems to be a total mystery man otherwise unconnected to the movie business.

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    • Of course the interesting part about the musical is how good art can come from bad art* or even pornography.

      There was also an musical based on Debbie Does Dallas from the early or mid-aughts that was successful and commentary at the same time.

      *Bad art can also come from good sources. When I was in grad school, there was a play off-Broadway which was basically “The Peanuts characters as dysfunctional teenagers.” I hated it but the production had a bunch of TV celebs in it and was being done for profit (most theatre is non-profit). Lucy was a pyromaniac. Charlie Brown discovered he was gay and started a doomed romance with Schroder (who was sexually abused by his father). Etc, etc. Charles Schultz or his estate eventually sued to shut it down.

      There was also a play based on Three’s Company that was supposed to act as pointed satire but was shut down by the copyright holders of Three’s Company. This one became a free speech cri de ceour.

      Brad (Jake Silbermann), a cooking-school student like Mr. Ritter’s Jack Tripper, solves the problem by agreeing to move in. If you recall the winking premise of the original, Jack defused the landlord’s disapproval of this unorthodox arrangement by pretending to be gay, which occasioned several seasons of naughty double entendres and farcical goings-on.

      Mr. Adjmi’s play veers maladroitly between lampooning the dopey style of the original and thrashing through dank psychological waters. Were these Plasticine sitcom types actual human beings, “3C” suggests, they would be deeply damaged souls, the products of an uptight society trying to maintain rigid ideas about sexual roles in the face of social change.


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      • I’d figure that the parody/satire exception to copyright would apply to both productions, especially the latter because it has the numbers of filed off. I guess they just didn’t want a prolonged legal battle, especially the first one because that would lead to a lot of really bad publicity. You don’t subvert something as beloved as the Peanuts without expecting hell from the public.

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        • 3C was ruled fair use by a Judge in 2015 but that is a long and expensive court fight.

          The Peanuts play came to some kind of arrangement but was also less obviously hidden than 3C. The author of 3C changed the names of the characters and was making more obvious commentary. The Peanuts play was “What if the Peanuts characters were modern American teenagers?”

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  10. If you don’t think Birdemic is sincerely bad you need to search out his other flicks. They are just as earnestly bad. The hallmarks of his “style” are present in all of them.

    I used to be an on line riffing group. Every Saturday for many years we would riff one or two or multiple terrible flicks. Very fun times. The group fell apart which is sad but while it lasted it was a hoot. There are so many movies out there of various genres that are forgotten or a zillion foreign films that there really is an endless supply of dreck.

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    • IIRC the Birdemic director put a picture on-line with a line about how he was “discussing” filmmaking with David Lynch. The picture was him clearly at a book-signing where you have about 1 minute at most with David Lynch.

      I just feel sorry for these people, I don’t know how to laugh at them.

      I did theatre. I wasn’t the best director in my school and I am probably not as talented as I want to be or imagined myself as being but I was okay. I knew enough to get out of the industry. But there is something about the kind of delusion above that just makes me feel sad and pity, not mirth and merriment.

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      • Its kind of especially sad when you see middle aged or older people keep on to these delusions. With young people, people in their late teens and twenties, you know they have time. When they reach their thirties, fame is still plausible. George Clooney didn’t really make it big until well into his adult life. Same with Gene Hackman. Those are the exceptions. By the forties, you just feel like your looking at a potentially wasted life. I mean, maybe they are happy but there is an element that wants to scream give it up and live a normal life.

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    • Birdemic didn’t quite have me begging for death because I was really too busy laughing at the birds. The fact that this fellow made two sequels, and you’re telling me even other movies than this, makes me wonder if he is truly deluded about what kind of product he’s turning out. I probably can’t stop laughing at the awfulness of it, but at the price of feeling a bit cruel.

      In mitigation: no doubt people have told him that it’s bad, but that message must simply not be registering, which is not the fault of the bearer of this bad news.

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  11. A couple of recommendations:

    1) I’m betraying some close friends here, people who had major production roles in this, but “Blood Hook” (serial killing while fishing for Muskies in Wisconsin) is pretty durn bad. Directed by Jim Mallon. I have stood in rooms and used every creative bone in my body to not make friends feel bad. But it’s pretty grim — and in that weird way, funny as well.

    2) There were hundreds of Italian westerns made. About half a dozen are worth watching. Most of them are complete dreck, but one that is almost psychedelic in its other-worldly badness is “Keoma.” Words fail me. But it is, shall we say, uniquely bad. Wait until you here the title song. (!)

    I don’t judge. A producer (who made at least two movies that were massive hits, near brilliant, quite influential, and are most likely in your library) once hired me to re-write his “Ransom of Manson,” a wacky comedy about, yup, Charlie himself. I needed the money. It’s not on my resumé…anywhere. But if it had been made — it would be a definite favorite for your gatherings.

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  12. Big Trouble in Little China is generally about as bad as I’ll tolerate. I think it’s in the intentionally bad category, but you never know with Carpenter.

    I’m of a like mind with Saul when it comes to entertainment. There is so much unwatched good stuff, why seek out the bad.

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    • I consider Big Trouble to be high camp and not truly bad. Yes, it’s ridiculous and over-the-top, but it’s consistently entertaining, and the acting and production values (by the standards of the time) are too good for it to qualify for genuine badness. It lacks the pervasive awkwardness that characterizes truly awful cinema.

      Of course, whether an artwork qualifies as camp almost always depends on the taste of the viewer.

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      • Big Trouble in Little China is definitely high camped. It has very good production values for the time and acting is good. Everybody knew that they were just make a fun action-adventure with Chinese mythological motifs and that this wasn’t supposed to be a serious movie. This brings up a point, you can sometimes have camp in the sense of failed seriousness within a movie that isn’t camp because an actor took it too seriously. Famously, Groucho Marx said that the woman who always played the matron in the Marx Brothers movies never really understood what type of movies they were making.

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  13. So, an edited version of The Room has been an April Fools staple on adult swim for years, one that my wife and I fell prey to when first aired. You can see a trailer of the bumps here. They start off blacking out iffy bits, seemingly due to being broadcast/cable but they end up blacking out 90% of the screen, mostly from being The Room. Great fun.

    I have also seen the Bobbie whatever movie, but that was when I was a kid and it had just come out.

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  14. On Jimmy Kimmel, Tommy Wiseau admitted that he is originally from Europe, although he won’t say where experts believe Poland, but he has been in the United States for so long that he considers himself an American.

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