The loneliness of the long-distance 'B'-movie fan
|FEATURES - MOVIES|
To those who loved the 'geek' long before the 'chic'...we salute you.
Like many families, I grew up in one that enjoyed nothing more on a Saturday night cozying around the television and watching a movie. We’d make up a nice meal, then we’d whip up some popcorn, mom would buy us some soda as a treat, and then it was time to turn off all of the lights and sit back and enjoy.
But we weren’t most families.
Where most families would go out and rent the new releases, usually picking from the ones that were most popular, my familial group would haunt video stores, second hand shops, and bargain bins to find the worst movies out there. Now, I don’t mean bad movies like Twilight or Dirty Dancing, I’m talking about the movies that are so bad that film critics give them negative stars. Movies that can quite possibly cause cancer in lab rats, and be labeled as torture by the Geneva Convention, so that public viewings could cause picketers to show up outside, demanding you cease and desist in the name of human rights. Basically, if it’s been ridiculed on Mystery Science Theater 3000, someone in my family probably has a copy of it.
I grew up on old movies. Saturday nights were great when I was a kid, because somewhere on a local station, someone was showing movies. PBS used to show classic films, which is where I learned to love old movies. For a few years, they would show two movies, the first being an old Vincent Price movie. The best of these, of course, were the “loosely-based-on-a-work-by-Edgar-Allan-Poe” films that Roger Corman made. I would sit and eat these movies up. I couldn’t get enough.
Then a local station started showing a program called Dr. Morbius. Morbius was a heavy set, balding middle aged man dressed in black and wearing a cape, and he was the late night horror host. While other hosts got cool sets, Morbius didn’t. And the films he hosted were some of the best – and worst – that Hollywood had to offer. For years, this seemed like the coolest job on the planet: Sit up late on Saturday night and bring the schlock to the people, all the while making bad puns and dressing up goofy (hell, for the right price, I’d still love to do that for a living).
I couldn’t fathom how someone couldn’t get the same enjoyment out of these movies that I did. Sure, we sat around and made fun of them, laughing at wobbly sets, cardboard tombstones, and cheesy dialogue, but there was something more for me. There was an admiration for the filmmakers, because someone out there believed in what they were making. They really sat and made this film and told themselves that this would be the next big thing. In Ed Wood, Ed tells a young lady that he’s just like Orson Welles. He writes, directs, produces, and gets to do what he loves: Make movies. I have to believe that this is what most of these guys thought. Sure, they were doing it to someday make their mark in Hollywood, and get paid the big studio bucks, but they did it because they believed in themselves, and damn it, for that, you have to respect the films.
I have to admit, when I started tooling around the internet back in the nineties, it was a little disheartening to learn that not everyone had the same opinion of film that I had. True, there are those folks who have banded together and proclaim their love for cult movies, but on a whole, people don’t have the same love for bad cinema. Movies that I had always thought of as good fun were slammed by many in the film community, and critics skewered them, tearing them apart and spewing forth poisonous reviews. It made me angry, and a little sad. And it really made me question what I’d always thought about movies. But then I realized that my love for movies made me just as much of a non-conformist as everything else I did in life. And soon, gone were the anger and sorrow, and I was solid and unbending in my love for these films. I pity the man that can’t watch Plan 9 From Outer Space and see cinematic gold. I can’t imagine someone sitting down and watching The Beast of Yucca Flats and not seeing it for what it is: A classic.
"I’m talking about the movies that can quite possibly cause cancer in lab rats, and be labeled as torture by the Geneva Convention"
I guess it’s a little funny that there are more and more folks out there everyday that are jumping on the cult film bandwagon. I don’t know if it goes hand in hand with the 'geek chic' movement that seems to be all the rage, but more high-end video stores have cult sections, and a quick search on Ebay or Amazon will take you to a treasure trove of DVD bundles, box sets of anywhere from five to fifty movies, and all of them a gem. Over the years I’ve filled totes and boxes with VHS tapes from rental shops’ clearance bins, and picking up second hand DVDs from garage sales and thrift shops. And I wouldn’t trade them for anything. These are my movies, the ones that I have been ridiculed for and teased about. Usually it’s a man, a camera, a cast and crew of loyal friends, and little else, much less a budget. But they all begin with one thing: A dream.
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