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Movies That Witness Madness Part VII


Ian Watson

Copyright 2012 Ian Watson

Published At Smashwords


Introduction to Part VII: “Hollywood Horses#!t!”

Whether salaried or of the armchair variety, critics are mostly interested in big-budget (or at least high-profile) releases and will gladly trounce any film that doesn’t live up to, say, Vertigo or Citizen Kane, without bothering to separate the enjoyably bad from the just-plain-bad. Howard The Duck may be a movie critics love to hate but it’s also a film audiences hate to love, and for a good reason: it’s unlovable. It recalls Leonard Maltin’s review of the Demi Moore vehicle Striptease (1996): “Not funny enough, or dramatic enough, or sexy enough or bad enough to qualify as entertainment in any category.”

Anyone seeking pleasure from movies that are “bad enough” need look no further. These productions may have cost millions, utilized name actors and received national theatrical distribution, but for all that they’re as bone-headed and mirth-inducing as a picture that uses wire-supported hubcaps for alien spacecraft. They’re a little slicker, a little pacier and the make-up a little better, but the effect of watching one is the same.

The Manitou (1978)

A director who graduated from fast-and-cheap drive-in horror pictures (Asylum Of Satan, Three On A Meathook) to fast-and-cheap knock-offs of The Exorcist (Abby) and Jaws (Grizzly), William Girdler’s steady output is often attributed to his stated belief that he wouldn’t live past thirty (which proved uncanny – he died three months after his thirtieth birthday). One of the most prolific directors of the 70s, he was in production on The Manitou, his swansong picture, less than four months after first picking up Graham Masterson’s novel. Though typically rushed, it was Girdler’s most ambitious and expensive production to date, sporting widescreen cinematography, a Lalo Schifrin score and a cast that included Tony Curtis, Susan Strasberg and Burgess Meredith. Several of the performers look uncomfortable throughout, perhaps detecting the underlying sense of the burlesque that makes the movie such a laugh-riot.

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