Now Showing at:
Review by: Larry Thomas
Everyone has his or her “guilty pleasures,” be they food, books, music or movies. Having a “guilty pleasure” is being really fond of something that you may be hard-pressed to admit in public you enjoy. For example: a four-star chef who loves fried Spam for breakfast.
When it comes to movies, you can recognize a guilty pleasure when (a) you watch a film every time it comes on TV or cable, no matter when it may have started; (b) you do this even though you own the DVD and/or the video tape; and (c) when the title comes up in polite conversation, everyone else makes fun of how awful it is.
Having a “guilty pleasure” does not mean you are a bad person, or of lesser intelligence. All it means is there’s something about that particular movie that speaks to you, even if on a visceral level, that is intriguing.
Here’s a quick peek at five films that are qualified “guilty pleasures.” If you’ve seen them, you’ll understand. If not, you may want to run right out and rent them. They are listed in no particular order.
Bar fights, bimbos, and dumb thugs are to be found everywhere in 1988’s Road House. Patrick Swayze plays the ultimate “cooler” (that’s the head bouncer in a rowdy bar) who is so low-key and Zen-influenced that he carries around his own needle and thread in order to stitch up his injuries. Ben Gazzara gives an eye-rolling, over-acted performance as the uber bad guy. However, the kick-butt music of The Jeff Healey Band, the presence of the always-terrific Sam Elliott, and more fights that you might imagine in one movie make this an action flick standout.
Another in the action movie genre that qualifies is 1983’s Lone Wolf McQuade, about a Texas Ranger in hot pursuit of an arms dealer. Chuck Norris is the ranger; David Carradine is the baddie; and the supporting cast features such western stalwarts as L.Q. Jones and R.G. Armstrong. Music by Francesco di Massi is shamelessly cribbed from Ennio Morricone, but still good. Lone Wolf McQuade was also the inspiration for Norris’ long-running TV series Walker Texas Ranger.
Sci-fi and horror films also provide much fodder for “guilty pleasure” lists. It Conquerd the World, made by producer-director Roger Corman in 1957, offers up one of the cheapest, silliest-looking aliens ever created. It’s sort of like an upside-down gumdrop with eyes and teeth, two long arms with claws, and obviously moves on wheels. If you ran into this thing in a dark alley, you’d probably die…from laughing. But, it still has the omnipresent Corman style, and one of the ultimate B-movie casts: Peter Graves, Beverly Garland, and Lee Van Cleef.
The horror movie genre was turned upside-down in 1990 when Ron Underwood, soon to be the director of City Slickers, gave us Tremors. It’s a goofy tale of huge, smelly, carnivorous earthworms causing havoc in a remote area of the southwest. Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward, as two constantly bickering handymen, are terrific, as usual. Country singer Reba McEntire turns out to be a good actress too. It’s fast-paced, funny, and features excellent special effects.
Do-it-yourself moviemaker Russ Meyer made a name for himself churning out low-budget, soft-core sex films in the 1960s and 70s. A former Army combat photographer in World War 2, Meyer generally photographed, edited, directed, distributed and co-produced his films. His 1968 film Vixen was seized and banned in Cincinnati by then-prosecutor Simon Leis, and the film has yet to be shown in our town. But Meyer’s magnum opus was made for a Hollywood studio, 20th Century Fox, with a bigger budget, crew and cast than he had ever used before. 1970’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls was a sequel in name only. It offered up a whacked-out blend of sex, drugs and rock-and-roll, plus plenty of violence and nudity, and was released with an “X” rating. Meyer’s cohort, and scriptwriter, in creating this over-the-top masterpiece was none other than Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert. Although Ebert will no doubt be best remembered for his movie-reviewing thumb, his real claim to fame should be the creation of such lines as “This is my happening, and it freaks me out!”
Hopefully, this trip down “guilty pleasure” lane will encourage you to revisit your Netflix queue and expand your movie horizons. It might be most enlightening…and pleasurable.