Ah yes, the peculiar phenomenon that is the cult bad movie. Despite the core of atrocity, some bad movies give off a primordial scent that lures a unique breed of us watchers. Like observing a face plant in slow motion, we know that what is executed in motion is not what the victim intended, we acknowledge it is the inverse of art, and we realize that we perhaps should be ashamed for encouraging attention to the event. As the pack of sadists (and possibly masochists) that we are, we cheer to the dribble that is the cult bad movie. I have had my fill of many such titles, 3 of which accelerated to the status of the most requested encore presentations during bad movies nights I had hosted for several years. In order of least to most requested, those polished gems are as follows…
Once upon a time there was this estranged man of questionable origin who accumulated 6 million dollars—some of which was allegedly acquired via savvy import sales—to fund the entirety of a film comprised of the star power and staff talent that couldn’t even compete with a high school class project. That man is Tommy Wiseau, responsible for conceptualizing, writing, directing, producing, executive producing (yes, he really did credit himself twice for essentially the same job), and starring in the persistently confusing wreck that is The Room (2003).
Wiseau plays as Johnny, who we know is greatly beloved by his good friends because he reminds us often that this is the case. Johnny seems to have it all, buddies who like to play sports with him in the alley while wearing dress suits, challenging employment in an unspecified career field, and of course he has his own room. Not all is peachy in Johnny-ville however. Calamity looms from all angles and tests Johnny’s powers of naivety. Johnny didn’t get recognized for his promotion that again he would like to highlight that he worked hard for, and what’s worse, the love of his life Lisa, played by then barely legal actress Juliette Danielle, has been cheating and scheming against Johnny while ignoring the advice of her breast cancer stricken mother praising Johnny to Lisa as though he was the messiah himself. Despite neighbors who break into Johnny’s place to randomly have sex on his furniture, or being burdened by an idiotic drug troubled college kid name Denny, it is Lisa who plays as the villain whose nature that Johnny is oblivious to until strategically placing a tape deck that somehow managed to record days of treacherous audio on what essentially is a 45 minute per side magnetic mini-tape. The truth forced out leads to an epic clash that costs the life of an overpriced television set and the anguish of many household items.
From front to back, The Room is marred with oddities that keep the appeal of the movie fresh and becomes the sort of ordeal that one feels eager to find a friend to share it with. The actors wore faces of obligation as if trying to work off the debt of indentured servitude while Johnny himself lugs around with a stoic expression like he just killed a brontosaurus and is expecting Lisa to cook it for his primate clan, Johnny buys red roses to present to Lisa at a frequency so repetitive that I wondered if The Room was just a drawn out flowers commercial, the same gratuitous sex scene is replayed in its entirety multiple times and to a poorly written music track, and many of the daytime outdoor scenes make use of blue screen digital imagery that resembles the backdrop from a 90’s computer game. Poor Wiseau, when he premiered his movie to limited audiences, he did such in the belief that he had a solid product that told a dramatic story of love and betrayal. To his surprise, the tale invoked laughter from those who saw it and this outcome coerced Wiseau into reconsidering how to market The Room, as a “dark comedy.” No, you thought your movie was legit Wiseau. Stop pretending otherwise, you aren’t fooling anybody.
Before Comedy Central hired the superior hilarious talent of Jon Stewart to host The Daily Show, the helm was stationed by Ken doll look-alike, Craig Kilborn. During Kilborn’s reign, a segment called 5 Questions was routinely exercised when interviewing guests of the show. The intro for this segment was met with a clip of a man crushing another man’s skull with his bare hands. Many curious onlookers requested the identity of this clip which was revealed to be from the rare underground movie, Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (1991). Based on a Japanese manga (comic periodical), Ricki-Oh’s Chinese envisioned live action movie fuses extreme adult violence with childish slapstick acting.
Riki-Oh (Siu-Wong Fan) is a man incarcerated for kicking a drug dealer to death to avenge his stupid sober girlfriend who committed a suicide leap off the roof of the dealer’s stories tall hideout. Several chest absorbed bullet souvenirs later, Riki-Oh is acquainted with a maximum security prison that is notorious for the gangs that rule the 4 not so cleverly named regions: north, south, east, and west. The gangs are ruthless, enforcing their own law at the blessing of the prison’s assistant warden left fully in charge while the head warden is predisposed on outside business. Riki-Oh doesn’t respond kindly to gangs breaking the wooden toy trains of other prisoners and he lets the gangs know such by killing them with his deadly fists. It turns out that punching people to death garners a lot of attention in this prison, as Riki-Oh is quickly petitioned for recruitment into one of the gangs. Riki-Oh isn’t the least bit interested. He is a freelance murderer who feels that gang activity is wrong and that the true guiding light of justice is a good old fashion exploding death punch. This lack of cooperation with the shady element has hurt a lot of feelings and made Riki-Oh a prime target. Can Riki-Oh survive the onslaught prepared for him by the corrupt assistant warden? Will Riki-Oh become exhausted from killing people with his hands? Did the assistant warden really just eat mints he retrieved from his fake eyeball?
Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky is difficult to classify. It brandishes all the signs of being a bad movie: horrendous acting, plot holes, ludicrous ending. Yet the movie also is streamlined with constant random action and staging so inexplicable that the entertainment factor maintains momentum. Dare not to blink, lest you will certainly miss a random act of exaggerated violence. The fighting choreography isn’t typical to most of the Chinese kung fu flicks that you may be accustomed to, with most every strike being executed with the force of a pissed off Decepticon. Riki-Oh’s training consisted of desecrating a cemetery by fighting his way through hurled headstones, the signature of a guy who doesn’t give a shit about anybody living or dead. Watching Riki-Oh do his thing is pure eye candy. Finding a copy of this movie is a difficult and possibly costly task considering how few copies are in circulation, but it is a romp that doesn’t disappoint if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on it.
Winner of the fictional covenant This Shit Was So Whack That I Have To See That Again award, is Samurai Cop (1989). Matt Hannon makes his acting debut and thankfully also his acting grand finale in this movie chock full of 80’s action clichés and wrapped with a bargain bin bow. Don’t adhere too much attention to the movie’s cover or else you might be fooled into believing it is an engaging tale about a former samurai turned law enforcer who is on a mission of vengeance against the city’s inner crime syndicates, which respectfully is only partially correct, if that story were told from the perspective of someone trying to gurgle the details while swallowing Pop Rocks.
Samurai Cop delves around the exploits of the nefarious Katana gang. Due to the gang having a mullet fashioned pseudo-Japanese leader, it is obvious that law enforcement needs to bring in a subject matter expert to help topple this dastardly syndicate. The local detectives recruit Joe “Samurai” Marshall (Hannon) from another police precinct, a long haired Chippendale’s looking white boy whose reputation precedes him as having been “trained by the masters of Japan.” Presumably, all of them. Joe arrives equipped with invaluable resource data that helps the cops to develop a better understanding of their adversaries, such as informing everybody that katana means “Japanese sword.” Apparently worthy of the detective badge he got from mailing in his Muscle Milk proofs of purchase. This hard hitting insight from Mr. Joe Samurai aids in the development of a strategic plan to foil the Katana gang by walking into the restaurant that the leaders are eating at to harass the gang and insist that the cops have plenty of evidence and that it is just a matter of time that they acquire enough to initiate the arrests. This exchange upsets the Katana gang, whose large round-up of thugs that certainly weren’t all on the lunch tab for the afternoon, follows Joe and company into the parking lot. Fist fights, uzi gunfire, swordplay, and even a fucking grenade are all on the menu during this unscheduled standoff. Joe remains unscathed and resumes his duties as an upstanding sharp detective trying to acquire criminal evidence against the Katana gang, I mean, aside from the gunfire, swordplay, grenades, so forth. When Joe isn’t modeling in his speedo, flirting with ornery nurses, bringing a sword to a gun fight, or dodging bullets with his car, he is matching wits with his token black partner. His partner is a man of few words but of many close-up whimsical facial expressions and apparently a “gift” of endowment. Together they are an unstoppable force that will somehow, someway, get around to arresting or killing everybody in the Katana gang, whichever comes first.
Samurai Cop is a marvel in editing. It doesn’t take someone with film knowledge to notice the obvious editing snafus and filler, including stock footage of a helicopter slowly circling a building that has absolutely no relevance to the plot or even the immediate scene. Later Joe desperately tries to escape an ambush, unknowingly moving in the direction of a well planted gunman, as the gunman takes aim of his mark, the scene cuts to Joe safely at home attempting to have sex as soon as he figures out how it is done. Seriously, you would think the guy received sex education from watching Looney Tunes. I’d say the appeal of Samurai Cop lies heavily in the “why” inquiry. Why was this movie conceived, why is the dialogue written by garden gnomes, why did they need Joe for anything other than to fetch coffee? The answers may never be known, but you’ll have fun thinking them up while watching Joe Samurai pretend to know what he is doing.