There are plenty of people who take enormous pleasure in hooting through terrible movies. The so-bad-it’s-good crowd.
I must admit I enjoy The Exorcist’s craptastic sequel, a flick that regularly ends up on lists of the worst ever made. I also heartily respond to the mammalian madness of Orca: The Killer Whale, a seafaring venture that sets sail for the port of insanity and nimbly manages to dock there ninety minutes later.
I guess I’m a fan of clueless flicks that have talent both behind and in front of the camera. I like a decent budget, well-known actors and a daft script. This type of setup usually results in floundering A or B-listers who really should know better, as opposed to the no-budget ineptness of celebrated dogs like Reefer Madness, Glen or Glenda and The Creeping Terror. Well, sorry, I don’t get the appeal of terrible acting, lifeless direction and dreadful special effects. Indeed, laughing at the talentless Ed Wood’s stuff just seems a bit mean, akin to sniggering over adolescents with learning difficulties putting on a school play.
For me, the enjoyment derived from a bad or whacked-out movie is little different from a good one. Both have to flow. They can’t be dull, the worst crime a movie can commit. Here are a few stinkers that make me smile.
One Million Years B.C. (1966)
A squabble-heavy, almost dialogue-free mix-up of ape men, superimposed live animals, stop motion animation, warring tribes and volcanic eruptions that illustrates little more than the old adage cavemen prefer blonds. What’s not to love?
The story: Not much, really. A macho bloke gets kicked out of his unenlightened tribe and bumps into the statuesque, much more civilized Raquel Welch. Some might call that a stroke of luck.
Tumak (John Richardson): A born thief and fighter. Somewhat lacks people skills, although handy if you need a warthog killed in an enclosed space. Hates his dad. And brother. And everyone else. Unsurprisingly, it’s not long before the Rock Tribe ousts him. Gets taken in by Raquel’s Shell Tribe, whose members appear to have come up with the world’s first hippy commune. Tumak struggles to adapt to the good life. Hell, laughing is an alien concept to this dude, let alone hospitality. Bemused by cave paintings and jewelry-making, he’s noticeably unimpressed by their artistic temperament. How long before this off-kilter bunch light joss sticks, serve herbal tea and charge him for a bout of New Age crystal healing? Suffice to say, he receives another eviction notice. Raquel tags along as he wanders through a monster-dominated landscape that’s even more forbidding than the Welsh Valleys after chucking-out time.
Loana (Raquel Welch): A goddess in a fur bikini. Perhaps bored of all the Shell Tribe’s nice, respectful boys, she opts for a bit of rough. And with his dreadful table manners, mistrustful stare and penchant for theft and violence, Tumak’s obviously the one. Not that she’s beyond flexing her claws. Watch out for her victorious catfight, although those annoyingly well-made fur bikinis stay in place.
Why it’s bonkers: I actually feel a bit bad starting off with this childhood favorite, especially as it contains some of the best work of the master, Ray Harryhausen. There’s an awful lot to enjoy, such as its casual brutality, effective score and a scintillating fight between a Ceratosaurus and a Triceratops, but you can’t get away from its disregard for sticking dinosaurs and mankind together. Not only that, but its title doubles down on the blatant error. Dinosaurs had been extinct for 65 million years before Jesus popped up, although their existence (unlike the Son of God) has amusingly never been in question.
I Don’t Want to be Born: AKA The Devil Within Her: AKA Sharon’s Baby (1975)
How on Earth did Dynasty star Joan Collins survive the 1970s to become a worldwide star?
During this decade she notched up movies that included an ill-fated Alfie sequel, derided, erotic money-spinners like The Stud and The Bitch (which are not so much soft-core as mushy-core), the amazingly bad Empire of the Ants, and about fifteen others that made very little impression whatsoever.
Still, I have a soft spot for Ms. Collins, a woman who clearly paid her dues, kept herself in fantastic shape and has obviously led a colorful, interesting life. Part of my affection rests on her yen for the macabre, as exemplified by her handful of horror movies. Hard to pick a worst, but the nonsensically titled I Don’t Want to be Born might be the one.
The story: An amorous, dancing dwarf is rejected by a middle-aged stripper and so curses her womb(!) Somehow this outpouring of bile works, and she gives birth to a possessed, super-strong baby who’s invariably decked out in a cute jumpsuit.
Lucy Carlesi: In a cinematic first, Joan plays a rich woman. She’s the aforementioned stripper, having moved on from a less than saintly past after meeting and marrying a wealthy Italian. Childbirth doesn’t prove much fun and her first attempt to cuddle her hefty newborn results in a scratched face. Things go steadily downhill and it’s not long before she’s intermittently seeing the dwarf’s face instead of her baby’s.
Gino Carlesi (Ralph Bates): I’m not sure why Ralph Bates was contractually obliged to have the same side-parted hairdo in every movie and TV show he ever made, but at least he tried to danger things up here by attempting a European accent. Not that he uses it too much. It just comes and goes, a bit like his wife’s clothes. As Lucy’s hubby, he blandly does his best to reassure her about their ‘very violent’ offspring so it’s not much of a surprise he ends up stepping into a dangling noose in the garden and being hauled up to his doom. That’ll teach the bastard for not once reading a bedtime story or singing a lullaby.
Dr. Finch (Donald Pleasence): Supposedly the voice of cool scientific reason, this is a pediatrician who advises against breastfeeding and doles out drugs to sedate a newborn. Helpfully explains that a baby bloodily scratching its mother’s face is the result of cuddling it ‘too tightly’. Tasked with offering explanations for the baby’s increasing aggression, he toys with the possibility of epilepsy and psychiatric intervention. It’s a shame the latter wasn’t utilized. For in a movie of this stature a baby lying on a leather couch being quizzed about its, er, childhood would’ve fitted in just swell.
To be fair to Dr. Finch, reasonable solutions do seem to be in short supply, especially as the malicious mite has even begun throwing its toys out of its pram. For as he wisely states: “A doctor can’t write prescriptions against evil and violence.”
Tommy Morris (John Steiner): A Cockney Sean Penn lookalike who used to employ Lucy at his none-too-classy strip club/cabaret joint. Talks tough but has no answer when punched in the face by a baby.
Hercules (George Claydon): They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but what about a portly, sarcastically-named dwarf? “Maybe I egged him on,” Lucy confesses to a friend at one point. “I thought it was just a game.” Well, no, Joan Collins, the heartfelt emotions of little people are not ‘just a game’. There can be serious consequences in failing to let them down gently or declining a request for a handjob.
Mind you, perhaps Hercules needs to polish his seduction technique as it seems to involve wearing a jester’s three-pronged hat, looking manic and pawing the scantily-clad goods from the rear. He does have a novel response to rejection, though, and one I’m willing to try the next time I’m passed over: “You will have a baby, an evil monster conceived in your womb, as big as I am small, and possessed by the devil himself.” Then again, I’d probably skip the colorful language and offer the protesting chick a tenner instead.
Where there’s a will and all that.
Nicolas the baby: Nicolas. Geddit? As in Old Nick. Or in this case Very Young Nick. The star of our shit show. Weighing in at almost twelve pounds (5.4 kilos), he’s a ‘lovely big boy’ with a yen for spitting, hair-pulling, biting and nursery-wrecking. He will put a dead mouse in your mug of tea, but I have to admit this suggests a fondness for pranks rather than a desire to establish a satanic kingdom on a cowed Earth.
On the plus side, he does hate nuns. See below.
Sister Albana (Eileen Atkins): Lucy’s sister-in-law, a nun that works in animal pathology at a ‘medical research unit’. Huh? Since when do these Catholic whackjobs get up to this kind of malarkey? I thought their jobs tended to involve filling school kids’ heads with garbage about guilt and sin before rapping their knuckles with a ruler. Sister Albana, however, prefers torturing animals in a lab. Bless her. Well, presumably this scientific stuff has got something to do with the plot then?
No, not in the slightest.
Unsurprisingly, she goes up against our evil, eighteen-inch-long foe armed with a bible, a crucifix, a bad Italian accent, and a steely willingness to confiscate every diaper in sight. Somehow, though, a baby’s grizzling is not quite as unsettling or memorable as a pubescent, heavily scarred, levitating girl demonically bellowing: “Your mother sucks cocks in hell!” Instead of a violently shaking bed we get a wobbling crib. Amazingly, Very Young Nick opts not to puke in Sister Albana’s face, even though it’s well-known all babies do this, whether possessed or not.
Why it’s bonkers: I Don’t Want to be Born was obviously a knockoff designed to cash in on the success of Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist and It’s Alive. Everything from its directing and editing to its script and score are amateurish, yet this London-based tale of a brutal bambino has an easygoing charm with a decent body count. I can’t abide bad acting, but that’s not the case with the likes of Pleasence and the blind psychic from Don’t Look Now onboard while Joan certainly does her best. Apart from that, we also get a Vaseline-smeared dream sequence, some T & A, a suggestion that the baby’s anti-social nature might be down to ‘mafia blood’, and a wonderfully whacked out strip club/nursery room exorcism finale.
Of course, it’s never explained, or even hinted at, how Hercules has the power to throw a curse. Can all dwarves do this? And why would he hex Lucy’s future baby anyway? To be a bit nitpicky, this doesn’t seem fair as the (not yet conceived) baby hasn’t wronged him.
Anyway, the kills are terrifically funny, particularly an unsuspecting nanny getting shoved into a lake. And because the villain’s a baby we never get to see him do anything, such as wield a spade or smash through a window, which is a bit of a problem in a horror movie. We just have to take his violence and murderous actions for granted. Not that the director doesn’t try. There’s always a close-up of Nicolas after each bout of mayhem, but I’m afraid I was unable to detect a malevolent glint, a cackle or a gleeful rubbing together of hands. Instead it’s one shot of a sweet little face after another.
No wonder this kid’s acting career fizzled out. Couldn’t even do the fucking basics.