“Bad” Movies I Love (for Brian Saur)

Straight to Hell (1987)

Straight to Hell (1987): Norwood (Sy Richardson, center) confesses to his pals Simms (Joe Strummer, left) and Willy (Dick Rude, right) that he loves them.

My last post in December was inspired by and dedicated to Mark Johnston of the now defunct Shocking Videos. Shortly afterward I cut together a video to celebrate the twentieth anniversary reissuing of John Zorn’s Elegy, and then began writing a review of Microcinema’s DVD release of Highway Patrolman (1991). But I couldn’t concentrate when it came time to working on the latter. I suddenly became overwhelmed with new ideas for a screenplay I’ve been developing for quite a few years now, and so I just decided to resume working on it. Almost immediately, I was provided by a mutual friend with a talented new artist to handle the illustrations and storyboards, and the project quickly got bigger and better than ever.

What went wrong? Frankly, the story got too big. There are so many scenes and characters which seem to belong to different kinds of movies that I have yet to find a satisfactory way to sew it all together, without having to reconstruct it as a mini-series. Perhaps it needs to be, although I’m still not convinced of that yet.

So, upon having been inspired by the music in a video directed by Aki Kaurismäki back in November, along with discovering that cartoonist Vaughn Bodé performed his most famous character’s voice in a fashion similar to W.C. Fields’ (as does a leading character in a Western I cooked up early last year), and being recently offered the opportunity to contribute to a series of posts on a favorite film-related website, I’ve decided, despite months of reluctance, to shelve The Superkiller for a third time and do something both fun and which could be quickly done.

I first stumbled across Brian Saur’s Rupert Pupkin Speaks (named after Robert De Niro’s character in The King of Comedy) a few years ago while searching for a movie poster. I clearly remember being instantly taken by his series of lists consisting of an expansive appreciation for different grades of film—an eclectic mix which I also enjoy—and so I quickly saved it to my Favorites folder and have been going back there ever since. Brian may be the online maestro of compiling film lists consisting of both classic and cult titles; some widely respected, others less so. What I’ve always found particularly interesting about some of those less popular works is that even when they suffer from a lack of quality or simply just fail to be appreciated with the general public, there are so many of them with good ideas beneath the surface. And Brian’s website is a fellow film enthusiast’s resourceful guide (as were the books and Psychotronic Video magazine edited by Michael J. Weldon before him), which leads toward obtaining more unique film experiences than even by those to be found written by the more popular film critics; which isn’t a call for completely dismissing them.

Since June 12th, Rupert Pupkin Speaks began a series of posts written by special guests titled “Bad” Movies We Love. As the title suggests with the quotation marks, the author’s task is to list and comment on any reasonable amount of movie titles that are either poorly crafted or heavily  flawed and/or generally frowned upon, but which he or she finds entertainment value in. (The first one was appropriately written by Brian.)

I’ve had the great pleasure this year of briefly communicating with Brian, along with many other interesting cinephiles and bloggers on Twitter. And during one of these brief exchanges he offered me the chance to contribute to the series, which resulted in my becoming obnoxiously happy amongst friends and family, as my head swam with images of one movie I’ve been saving commenting on here.

Straight to Hell (1987)

“Strangers, Frank.” From left to right. Spider Stacy, Fox Harris (in the background), Shane MacGowan, Sue Kiel, Biff Yeager, and Elvis Costello.

What is it I love about Straight To Hell so much that made me hang it on my muse’s wall? I’m delighted to say that you’ll find my thoughts on that film, and three others I chose to talk about, at Rupert Pupkin Speaks. But I’d like to add here that now that Brian has prompted me to discuss this 1987 movie months before I planned to do so, I’ve decided it’s time to dive into the Western screenplay I outlined early last year before my first post on My Kind of Story; and which I honestly thought was going to be the first writing project I was going to tackle then.

Named after the Mexican restaurant in my last story, Bandit Country is to be an homage to Straight to Hell, as well as to cartoonist Vaughn Bodé. Having said that, the actual idea for this humorous adventure came to me after my first viewings of Dirty Little Billy (1972) and Mixed Blood (1985), which is why I’ve written about them.

One of my favorite plots in film history can be found in director Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits (1984). If there’s one story I wish I could have written, it’s that one. I love a story that can be both fun and inspiring with a treasure chest full of ideas to play with. (I should note that the title for my own project actually came from a line by actor Walter Huston in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.) While Bandit Country may not be as urgent or as epic in scope as The Superkiller, it’s got the themes I’m most interested in that I’ve yet to see explored.

I’ll be back soon for a few more commentaries. After that, Bandit Country “is where [I’ll] be going”. Hope you enjoy my post on Brian’s website, as well as the links provided below. Glad to be back.

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