I just went to see The Mads Are Back (Trace Beaulieu and Frank Conniff) of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame. They are doing live shows where they riff to low budget films. Last night it was The Choppers — the film Arch Hall Sr made before his more famous Eegah.
As can doubtless be guessed, it was a bittersweet event. The riffing was pretty funny. And the movie itself is quite good. But it is annoying to hear the film referred to as “bad.”
Idiot Hates This Island Earth
To make matters worse, This Island Earth (1955) came up during the Q&A after the film. It was used for MST3K: The Movie. Beaulieu noted that they had to do things to it. (For example, they removed an entire reel so that the film didn’t make much sense.)
The guy sitting next to me muttered, “It still sucked.” I wanted to punch him. This Island Earth is a science fiction classic — well received when released and even better regarded today. As usual, the MST3K crew didn’t like various aspects of it that were intentional like its lack of a standard hero’s plot.
Pandering to Idiots
But this idiot is the target audience for low budget films. It would be trivial to grow this website if my attitude was that these films were bad and only good for a laugh. But I’ve never been interested in writing for idiots.
And there is something that bothers me about anyone involved with MST3K referring to “bad” films: have they ever watched their hosted segments? They are embarrassing — generally worse than any film they riff to.
Show Some Respect
I’d really like it if the people who are using these films to create a different piece of art would show a little respect for the art that they would be nothing without.
But alas, they don’t. I’m not even sure that they know what they mean by bad. It seems to be nothing more than films that aren’t professionally produced dreck.
Toward the end of The Choppers an out-of-focus shot came on and Conniff riffed, “Look, Ed Wood’s taken over.” It got a big laugh because everyone “knows” Wood was a terrible filmmaker. Except his films were always well shot. William C Thompson was usually his cinematographer and he was quite good.
After that shot, there were several minutes of similarly bad coverage. This is almost certainly due to the print and not the way the film was released.
Support Art Especially When Riffing
I know this all sounds very petty, but it does matter. It isn’t that they are making fun of the films. But these films aren’t bad. And I’m really tired of complaints about films that are based on ignorance. (For example, not realizing that Death Bed: The Bed That Eats is a comedy.)
Worst of all, calling such films bad makes artists less likely to try to do anything but the same old thing. And it props up big budget films over personal and exploitation films.
I would gladly watch The Choppers again. I can’t say that of the $50 million Bohemian Rhapsody. Sadly, very few people agree with me. We are a society that cherishes mocking failure, even when there is none to mock.