B-movies arent for everyone. Lovers of obscure French cinema, opera buffs and Nick at Night fans might cringe at these cockroaches of moviedom. No matter. B-movies keep breeding, and no amount of self righteous indignation over their deliberate bad taste will ever exterminate them.
If youre as old as me (which is just slightly younger than the fossils from Mars), you remember the hey-day of drive-in movies and the tasteless treats that were hurled upon the sweltering summer night screen like a rancid hotdog. In between the gropings of zippers, buttons, belts and brassieres that seemed more difficult to maneuver than a soft lunar landing, we looked up to see John Bloom with his head planted on the massive shoulder of LA Rams linebacker, Rosey Grier in The Incredible Two Headed Transplant. Of course, it was obvious that Bloom was standing behind the very stout Grier throughout the entire film. Forget special effects. We just wanted to see the two heads arguing with each other, and mad scientist Bruce Dern, about who to kill next.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre probably rates as the zenith of drive-in movies. I first saw this film at an open-air theatre in Kingston, Jamaica (sort of like a poor mans drive-in without the cars), and the all Jamaican audience (save me) reacted to the film like they were watching The Three Stooges. Which brings me to my point: no one is ever supposed to take these movies seriously. (Bob Dole, please take note.) Sometimes a movie is just a movie. And especially the B-movie begs you to turn your mind off and binge on the empty, fat- filled calories of cinematic junk food for 83 minutes. Its rotor rooter for the brain.
Just as the movies gave birth to television, TV begat cable and cable begat the VCR. Now-a-days the drive-in movie has become the straight-to-cable/straight-to-video-release competing for your money and attention right alongside the major and minor theatrical releases. But the defining elements remain the same: low budget, bad acting, Swiss cheese plot and please dont take this film seriously. According to a friend whos acting her way into the B-movie market, your typical straight-to-video release is written in three days, shot in seven on a budget that wouldnt cover catering for a major theatrical release. And the most popular theme for straight-to-video is erotic suspense, leading the way over action-adventure and horror.
Unlike the major motion picture making world, where male actors grab the lionshare of the spotlight and salaries, the erotic suspense B-movie revolves around the female lead. B-movie queens like Shannon Tweed always take the top billing and top salary. The film is their vehicle from start to finish, even if they cant act their way out of a paper bag or their acting range is two notes on the scale: Im scared, Im sexy.
A truckload of movies have been made about strippers or feature an exotic entertainer in a supporting or minor role. And in practically every other action/adventure or cops and criminals movie, the hero invariably winds up in a strip club because its time for some gratuitous nudity or its assumed that this is where all criminals spend their free time. (This same assumption must be responsible for the frequent presence of Portland police in this towns strip clubs. Just waiting for a crime to happen.) Recently, Demi Moores Striptease, which fell flat on its silicone chest with a chump change gross of 31 million, threw up a ridiculous, hack-kneed portrayal of strippers, strip clubs and their get-a-drool-bucket customers. If only it had been a B-movie, not trying to be funny, not trying to mimic life, not trying to be a serious, mainstream, summer movie contender; maybe that film on a $500,000 budget could have been easily forgiven and forgotten.
But on the same shelf where you can rent Showgirls and where you can soon rent Striptease, you can plop a couple bucks down for Maria Ford in Showgirl Murders, or Stripteaser and see someone working twice as hard as Ms. Moore for a salary that wouldnt cover Demis dance coach. And Miss Ford can actually dance. Heck, she even choreographs her own numbers. Not to mention, she performs like a stripper you might see in a local club. And her ultra hard, no silicone body makes Demi Moore look like her money was wasted on her fitness trainer.
Can Maria Ford Act? Of course not! But she can deliver I m scared, Im sexy, Im stripping better than Dominoes can deliver pizza. Showgirl Murders is not about showgirls and no showgirls or strippers ever get murdered. Instead, Maria Ford, as the stripper with the heart of lead, does almost all the killing, and not just with her body of doom. She kills with guns, rat poison, arson, lamps and lines of seduction like, You know, she doesnt really appreciate you, cooed to the co-dependent club owner whos married to the alcoholic wife; so if we just got her out of the way, permanently...
Like many B-Movies that actually have a plot, Showgirl Murders mimics a major studio release in Body Heat. Except, were not watching Kathleen Turner and William Hurt. No matter. Maria Ford puts the hurt on you with her steamy and elaborate dance numbers. The rest of it is deliberately bad and we like it that way. Next.
Stripteaser features Maria Ford as the actress wannabe from Oklahoma who winds up as a stripper at a club called Zippers Clown Palace. (Think about it: a zipper, a big bald clowns head, the joke is in your hand, etc.) To make a short story shorter, Clown Palace is held hostage by a maniac who blames his bad brain chemicals and loves to ride the bus all day. The maniac, whos given more existential monologues than Hamlet, terrorizes the handful of patrons, strippers and staff until the lid blows off the pressure cooker in a blaze of carnage. Its sort of like the twisted, psychological tension of an Anthony Perkins film mated with Sam Peckinpahs The Wild Bunch. We dont get to see Maria dancing as much in Stripteaser, but at one point the maniac forces her to get a rise out of the stuttering, nerd customer and fuck him or they both will die.
As a sidebar, two vice cops go around shaking down snitches for drugs so they can cop a buzz, and wind up at the Clown, stoned on their furry butts, planning to bully the barkeep out of his stash. When they smell trouble at the Clown, opting for the John Wayne bit over a couple of glazed ones is a tough decision for them. The outcome of their choice should be a lesson to law enforcement everywhere. When in doubt, take a donut break.
A very special, very black comedy award, goes to the guy knocked unconscious early in the film, who wakes up just in time to stand up in the middle of the hellacious crossfire.
A B-movie on a hot summer night can make you forget you ever had a brain in the first place. Rent it, watch it and remember: its supposed to be bad. And maybe your life is just one notch above a senseless B-movie. So how can you take life so seriously?
These videos can be rented at Movie Madness. And yes, I actually paid to watch them. (And paid more than you will ever know.)
Those of us who live in the state of Oregon can show our appreciation for Lenny by saying `fuck the government in November and voting No on 31 and yes to free speech. For more information call the No On 31 Committee at (503) 229-0132. Satyricon will be hosting a special Lenny Bruce Com-memorative Sunday, August 4th. Call (503) 243-2380 for more information.