Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Simply the Worst - Monster A Go-Go

How do you define the term, "a bad movie"? Is it something that doesn't entertain or enlighten you? Is it a movie that failed in it's objective (a comedy that wasn't funny, a thriller that was dull)? Is it a movie with bad acting? A movie that had a story that was told poorly? A movie with grand objectives but without the power to pull it off (usually because of budget)? Or was it a movie that did a combination of all these?

I've always enjoyed movies that just didn't quite measure up. The more ridiculous the result the better. When I was a kid I would often rent "Yor - The Hunter from the Future" or "Ator the Fighting Eagle". I have a place in my heart for "Tron" and "The Black Hole" as well as some of those overblown historical epics from the 60's, especially the goofy Italian sword and sandal ones. Sure most of my favorites were the fantasy and sci-fi movies, but that just feeds into love of genre story telling.

Then I discovered Mystery Science Theater 3000 and my perception of bad movies changed. Sure they did movies like "Pod People" a goofy Spanish/French co-production that tried to rip off E.T. and a slasher movie (yeah it makes about as much sense here as it does to see it). It was 80's and extremely odd and I loved it. There was "Cave Dwellers" the sequel to "Ator - the Fighting Eagle, with an even smaller budget and worse acting. Loved it! But then I started to see other things. Movies so poorly made that I was in awe of their power. The most famous of the bad is "Manos - The Hands of Fate". Yes it's pretty horrible but there are worse.

For me the nadir of filmmaking is something called "Monster A Go-go". The name is great, and promises a certain type of entertainment - maybe a 60's dance comedy with some kind of stupid monster chasing kids around. That would imply that some kind of entertainment was present. But this movie actually sucks the entertainment from everything around it - kinda like The Nothing in "Neverending Story".

What makes this film worse than the others? Well there are so many things wrong with it, I find it difficult to know where to start. There is a plot. A man goes into space, comes back as a monster and kills people. Scientists and the military try to stop him. In the end the universe corrects itself, time and space warp, and the man is OK and nothing really happened. Yeah, the old "reset button" cheat. Strike one! This is about as deplorable a storytelling device as "And it was all a dream".

Next, the movie is filmed in, what can be described as, grey and lighter grey (as opposed to black and white). There is a blandness to the shooting, the angles and the execution that actually makes the film duller. Even a few scenes that provide slight moments of unintentional humor (the murdered scientist's painful mug, the pitifully small space capsule, the party scene) are nearly wiped away by surrounding scenes of endless talking about the plot and what the characters are plotting to do about the plot. It's these scenes that are the killer. A perfect storm of dullness catches you and drains the joy from anything around it.

The "a go-go" part of the film never occurs. The film never goes anywhere. Even in the exciting finale the director manages to slow everything down with endless stock footage shots of some kind of fire department exercise. There is more talking and talking and talking - dialogue that is so banal it is nearly indescribable.

Then there's the ending. Nothing really happened, the monster (what little screen time he does have) never existed. Sorry to bug you folks - our bad. Um yeah, bad is the word.

I think the major issue is that this movie has no soul, no fire to be made. Even a horrible film like "Red Zone Cuba" has some spirit behind it. There was a message there. "Pod People" tried to be entertaining with its cute alien and murdered teens. Even "Manos" tried to be frightening. "Monster a go-go" maybe started life as a monster film, but it was never finished. Then when some producers need a second feature for a drive in, they picked up this footage, filmed some more and slapped the title on. They didn't care, and I wonder if the original director cared either. The overwhelming apathy fills and coats the movie and runs off it in waves. The effect is complete boredom for the viewer and possibly a desire to slip into a world where something like this doesn't exist. My wife has never ever seen the whole movie. She falls asleep every time and when I ask her about it a week or two later - she can't remember a thing about it. And she enjoys bad movies too!

Well that's all well and good Roman, but you said Mystery Science Theater introduced you to this film. So they must be there mocking it, making it safe to view. And that is the most horrible part of all. Try as they might - it's not enough. This is one of the least funny episodes of the show I've seen. It has it's moments, but there is so little for them to work with that the quips don't seem to hit, the riffs fall limp and the energy is drained from them. I never thought any film could defeat them - they attacked "Red Zone Cuba" with relish and did a wonderful job with it. I used to consider that the worst movie I'd seen. But this "Monster a Go-go" did it. Nothing can stand in it's way to either drive you to sleep or make drain you of all desires and leave you an empty shell.

It's almost fascinating in it's badness - if you can stand to watch the whole thing.

What is your candidate for worst movie you've ever seen? Have you seen "Monster A Go-go"? What did you think of it? Do you not understand the lure of the bad movie? What makes a movie really, really bad?

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