Hello, fellow Plotaholics! Joe Compton, the 3rd Plotaholic, here with another blog of Indie films. This summer, The Plotaholics are taking a look at all-time so-bad-they’re-good films, and both Bryan and Shane are picking a handful of which the other hadn’t seen before and discussing them on the podcast. I love this idea, so here are 4 Indie films that follow this theme.
GLEN OR GLENDA (1953)
Now, most people pointing to the Godfather of “Bad” Indie productions, Ed Wood Jr., would steer you to the more popular (and crowded with D-list celebrities) Plan 9 From Outer Space. There is no denying that might be the benchmark for what to never do in a movie. But Glen or Glenda is not without Wood Jr.’s wild style. For example, there is the randomness in which Bela Lugosi appears at the beginning for no good reason other than to have Bela Lugosi in the movie. It’s badly shot (the opening dolly shot going way too far and then wobbling because it hit the end of the track is just one example), its editing is even worse (jump-cuts galore), but it has its merits. I know, I know, that might be crazy to say, but the social issues that get tackled in this film and taboos for its time make this more interesting in my humble opinion.
Additionally, it does have Bela Lugosi. Sure, he was high as the sky and way past his prime, and doing–even for him–a bad Dracula impression, but the words he says and the way he says them are still chilling and still interesting. He might be the first person every actor needs to study when learning how to act for the camera. He gives a masterclass every time and this is no exception.
You have to appreciate a film wherein, during the opening credits, one of the few credits listed is for “Medical Advisor.” There are so many missing details and little things overlooked, but the medical knowledge shared was spot-on. At least we know there was someone there. Now, whether Dr. Nathan Bailey was sleeping during production, or this was a fancy title for Bela’s pusher, I can’t say.
Then there’s this….
Yes that is the opening salvo to the film. Read it and enjoy it.
How can you dislike any film that starts with that beautiful sentiment?
Of course, this is not for everybody. You may even have to be a film lover or filmmaker to appreciate the nuances and what Ed Wood, Jr. was trying to do and what appeared in its place. This is actually less riddled with mistakes and problems than most of his films. I also know from all that is out there about Mr. Wood, that this was as near to his heart as any movie he ever made–that it was somewhat autobiographical, to a point.
This movie has a heart, has Bela as Grandpa Dracula, and has Cashmere. As I give this a 2 shot rating simply because I am not a fan of voice-over narration and would have preferred a more avant-garde approach to the subtext and visuals.
Starring Stephen Spinella, Roxane Mesquida, Wings Hauser; Written and Directed by Quentin Dupieux
Rubber is a movie about a Killer Tire. You heard me right. The Antagonist, or maybe the Anti-hero, depending on your point-of-view, is a rubber tire. Does this movie break all the rules? YES.
Three-act structure be damned; character development be damned; a rubber tire effect that looks a lot like a 10th-grade science project, be damned. I dare you to tell me you could turn it off–that you could pull your eyes away from it. I dare you to tell me that, by mid movie, you weren’t rooting for the Tire.
I am not usually one for a movie like this. Okay, maybe I am exactly the one for a movie like this, but it does have a lot of things that I tend to judge other films on bad merit for, but the movie doesn’t sell itself like it was supposed to be believable.
This is an acquired taste of a movie. It may be too much for some, for me it’s a 1 shot rating only because the asshole I wanted to die took too long to get there.
MEN AT WORK (1990)
Is it a stretch to call this an Indie movie? Maybe, the division that distributed it was with Sony but this was a Blockbuster/Cable TV special release if there ever was one and the budget was minuscule at best.
This was the second film that Emilio directed, and while his first was heralded as a triumph (1986’s Wisdom), this movie was touted as one of the worst of 1990. It holds a 30% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a worse reception among the critics. In short, Men at Work is a movie about 2 garbage men who encounter a scandal and get intertwined with the conspiracy as they court a young woman they were stalking from the apartment building across the street.
Yes, it’s full of juvenile humor. Yes, it’s terribly structured and riddled with inaccuracies in many cases (a Daisy air rifle able to shoot from more than 100 feet away and be accurate), but it has its charms. Those charms consist mainly of Keith David, who plays an inspector of the boys doing their garbage routes while still dealing with the after-effects of being in Vietnam. In many ways, David’s role makes it all worth it. Oh, and I shouldn’t forget to mention a scene of revenge on a couple of local cops that has quite a bit of mileage for me on it, too.
This movie is ridiculous and just so stupid but that is not always a bad thing. There is actually some good editing in this movie even with badly-lit shots that drove me crazy (you can actually see a light fixture that would be uncommon for the scene in one of the shadows, along with the boom mic). The acting is pretty decent, too. I know, I know. But in the context of itself, it really is not bad.
I just watched it again for the first time in a few years, and I still laughed at spots I laughed at before, and I even think I gained a little more appreciation for its ridiculousness. This is a 2-shot movie. I can’t give it zero or 1 if for no other reasons than the damn boom mic and light fixture in that one scene for like 10 seconds. Honestly, though, my heart might drift toward 1 shot.
LOST HIGHWAY (1997)
Here is a case where most people would probably make the case for a more well-known but misunderstood film, like Eraserhead or Blue Velvet. However, those films lack the B-movie quality, the almost disregard for filmmaking norms, that you get with Lost Highway.
Of course, it’s strange and hard to follow (at least the first couple times through). Of course, it’s cynical and irreverent–it’s written and directed by David Fucking Lynch. This movie has some moments where the story is badly woven into an interesting plot, and those can tend to take a viewer out of the experience. Almost every Lynch film has these moments, and while the debate can rage that he is doing it on purpose, in those earlier films–like Blue Velvet and Eraserhead–he didn’t know any better and they are actually mistakes. However, because this film needs max concentration, most of the fans of his filmography and his critics would say this is the one that bothers them the most.
It’s about a musician, played impeccably by Bill Pullman, who starts getting these VHS tapes that lead to him being arrested for a murder he doesn’t remember, and he goes on a journey to figure it all out.
This, in my opinion, is the most complete Lynch film there is. While I love his films, they do tend to peter out, and the faster they do, the less I tend to like them. This is the rare exception that actually gets better as it goes along.
It is superbly acted and as always the cutaways and sharp edits lend to the confusion but also to the absolution. This film is creepy, funny, and outright engaging at every turn. If nothing else, it foreshadows the creepiness of Robert Blake because it’s not long after his demise and murder accusation plot which are both eerily similar to this film. It may be the greatest example ever of art imitating life.
This is for sure a zero-shot rated film, my favorite of the Lynch filmography.
Bad movies have a place in cinema history. As someone who has made 3 of them, I can say that they all teach the artists involved something. Also, they all have an audience. I would think that given that these are 4 examples of that bad movie philosophy depending on your own sensibilities, you would find one of these or already agree that one of these fits you as an audience member. I would love to hear in the comments which one of those you think it might be or is.
Thanks, everybody for reading and remember It’s Always Time to Go Indie Now.
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