…funk for the old soul…

Some Great Bad Movie Recommendations

Posted by crowbiz on June 23, 2009

Let’s face it, the list of good bad movies could go on and on.  I’ve chosen a mere handful today, not because they represent the pinnacle of good badness, but just because I thought of them.  It’s also important that I’m clear on my criteria:  forbidden are purposely campy films meant to be bad and/or that have developed a recognizable cult following because of this (e.g., “Plan 9 From Outer Space” or Ed Wood movies, etc.)  The ones I adore are efforts that were earnest to begin with and just plain cornball.

Now then, I’m something of an old movie aficionado.  You’ll never find me filling the guest critic’s chair opposite Robert Osborne, dapper host of Turner Classic Movies, but I do know my way around 1920-1960s cinema.  As I’ve always felt I was somehow stuck out of time – born too late, that is – I have a natural affinity for the old stuff.  The habit developed when I was a carefree 15-year-old and enjoying the last summer before the awful realization of the working world.  Back then, of the few channels available on our pre-cable era television, several aired old movies starting after the 11:00 pm news and ran all night.  The first movie started at 11:30 pm, then the next at 1:30 am, and the next at 3:30 am, and dang if I didn’t sometimes stay up for all three, usually drifting off after 4:00 am.  (Mr Crow will be shocked to read this and learn that I ever stayed up past midnight.  Guess I got it all out way back then.)

The following summer, I was a beleaguered working girl in the summer, and dragged myself home from my hellacious restaurant kitchen job usually between 12:00-1:00 am, in that tired but wired way.  After a long shift of sweat, safety hazards, hot water, noise and endless sexual harassment, it felt good to crash in front of a comforting old movie or two with a big iced tea.

These days I only catch an oldie now and then, usually in pieces if the kids are abed and Mr Crow happens to be out.  But it’s still in my blood.  In fact, Mr Crow refers to any maudlin string music as “weee weee music” that signals sappy old-time films, and he sometimes serenades me if he catches me mid-movie; his high-pitched sequences of “weeeee WEEE wee weeeee WEE we weee…” is both a sentimental tweak and a direct mock.  Good thing I’m tough.

Now then, to today’s list, in no particular order:


Fluffy and light

Fluffy and light. Couldn't they at least center the band name on the drum?

Cotton Candy  (1978)  Made-for-TV gold!  Ron Howard’s early directorial effort features his bro Clint Howard, Charles Martin Smith, and a host of lesser knowns in a Troika Treat:  tried, true and trite.  A magical cheesefest. Underdog uber-nerds form a band – including a chick drummer! – and struggle to make it to the battle of the bands.  The eponymous Cotton Candy faces their evil rival Rapid Fire, who thrill the high school crowd with their cover of “I Shot the Sheriff.”  Friendships tested, young love, divided loyalties, etc, etc.  Awesome climactic moment in which Clint Howard, as Corky, is barred from the competition and watches, bawling, through the little glass window as the bands rock on.  Exactly two people on this planet have seen this movie:  me and my friend Lisa, whose friendship with me was instantly cemented upon her revelation that she, too, had seen it back in the 70s when it first aired.  Here is the ABC promo, which sounds like it’s narrated by the guy who used to do the Smucker’s jam commercials.  Note – the rival dude is super hot, 70s style – wings of perfection!  If you can stand a 12:30 clip, here’s another sample, including a segment of a Colgate toothpaste commercial at the end.  



So who applies her lipstick and eyeliner?

So who applies her lipstick and eyeliner?

The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962)  Classic B-movie horror in B & W.  The budget must have been somewhere in the $7.00 range for this gem, what with its wavering audio, cardboard sets and “night” scenes.  Wacky doctor keeps his fiance Jan’s tightly wrapped head alive in what appears to be a roasting pan, with tubes, clamps, and circulating “blood.”  As he searches for the perfect body to re-attach to her, she grows increasingly bitter about her situation.  In her low, breathy, but unsexy voice, Jan communicates with the “monster” kept locked in the basement closet nearby.  After a steady stream of nagging and moralizing from the pan, the doctor tapes her mouth shut, but she manages to telepathically command the grotesque cone-headed creature to break out and attack him.  Way creepy, no matter how you slice it.  This has gained a little bit of a following such that Mystery Science Theater spoofed it, and the head/brain is commonly nicknamed “Jan in the Pan” among devotees, but this doesn’t dim it’s good-badness.  You can’t tell me that the makers and actors of this movie weren’t trying their best.  At the risk of being a spoiler, the final moment is my favorite; as the lab in consumed by flames, Jan hisses through her clenched and now-untaped mouth, “I told you to let me die!”  The lo-fi 1962 trailer.   You can watch the whole darned thing at


Bad photo, but a must-watch clip

Bad photo, but a must-watch clip

The In-Crowd (1988)  *Not to be confused with a 2000 movie “The In Crowd,” which may well be a good-bad movie, but I’ve not seen it.*  My first accidental stumble on this was while recovering on the couch from a bad stomach bug.  It’s just the kind of mindless comfort you need after a night of vomiting.  I’ve stumbled a couple more times, but not in years, alas!  Yet another music-themed bad movie, which teaches us that if a problem can’t be settled with a dance-off, it probably wasn’t important anyway.  In 1965 Philadelphia, Del, played by Donovan Leitch, Jr. (yes, son of Mellow Yellow himself), yearns to break out of the predictability of goody-goody suburbia and get on a popular teen dance show.  He succeeds beyond his wildest dreams, but at a cost; he must re-evaluate his old and new friendships, allegiances and life goals, and a lot of the usual teen yada yada.  Trailer here. Don’t for one second deny that you secretly wish you could dance like these kids.  Way hokey premise and “script,” but a fabulous early 60s soundtrack with many lesser known tunes worked in (Jerry Butler’s version of “Moon River,”  “I Had A Wonderful Dream” by the Majors, and many more).  Hep clip (Del is in the brown suit and blue shirt):  Del’s surprise debut on the dance show! 

You’re welcome.


One Response to “Some Great Bad Movie Recommendations”

  1. JD said

    Don’t forget Carnival of Souls – low budget, but seriously creepy. Directed by someone named Herk Henry, who I believe is working as a town employee in Va or something. Then there’s the original Day the Earth Stood Still. I mean, a classic of the genre, but a saucer lands dead smack in the Mall and it only warrants two guards with rifles? and they turn around and smoke?

    Then, for camp, there’s The Robot vs the Aztec Mummy, “filmed in Hypnoscope” woooooooooo

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