The Most Famous Films I've Never Seen...Until Now (Part 10 of 10): When bad films go bad

How could I have written a whole series of posts this fall on psychotronic film without ever having seen the essential Reefer Madness (dir. Louis Gasnier, 1936)?  It’s the quintessential drug scare film; I particularly liked its suggestion that, when high, you may be driven to play classical piano at a maniacal speed (see above). 

But Reefer Madness is one of those cult movies that raise the question: when is a movie so bad it’s good as opposed to being just plain bad?  Even at a scant 63 minutes, it’s a hard film to get through without recourse to some mind-altering substance, even for someone like myself who goes in for this sort of thing.  It seems to me that Reefer Madness isn’t necessarily any more badly made than any other preachy, hysterical cautionary tale (like, for example, the 1960s sex scare film Teenage Mother); it’s just that its subject matter has lent itself to becoming a kind of stoner classic.  As a flat-out bad movie, Reefer Madness is bad in that rather leaden, plodding way that makes it a chore to watch, as opposed to the more ornately zonked excesses of something like Lady TerminatorReefer Madness may be a classic, but it’s hard to love—or even enjoy.

Thus ends my attempt to cross ten famous films off my “to see” list.  This week, I’ll begin taking a look at six films as reviewed by the great and terrible Pauline Kael. 

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