Saturday, July 15, 2017

Nothing but respect for....The Ghastly Love of Johnny X

DISCLAIMER - My blog is an attempt to show respect to films some small minded, intellectually dishonest hipsters automatically label "bad". There is no film I discuss here that I believe to be bad at all.  The title of the blog comes from a discussion that took place some years ago when I was trying to explain the appeal of these films. The title is not meant to suggest I think these films are bad in the least.  Remember - ART IS ART!

I remember distinctly the first time I ran across Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K).  I was in Grad school (in my beloved hometown of Cape Girardeau.  See I said something nice about it kinda...geez) and after finishing up some school work I decided I needed a break and flipped on Comedy Central.  There they were - Joel and Bots.  I have to admit, I don't recall what film they were riffing on but I remember my sides hurt from laughing and it was a great respite from the Russian history I was  painfully making my way through.

MST3K would become a Saturday night staple.  Take out Chinese food from Chang's, MST3K then round it off with Ren and Stimpy.  Good times in my quaint, ever pleasant home town.  I enjoyed how Joel, Mike and the bots would pick apart the movies, all the while, giving some films, like Manos or Mitchell an entirely new life and cult status as they encouraged fans to "circulate the tapes!"

I only mention this because, although I feel compelled to defend, or at the very least, promote some films that are considered by the cinematic culturally elite to be poorly made, I've had my laughs at "bad" movies too.  I understand that Monster-a-go-go can in no reasonable way be considered "good" but, I am drawn to defending it because it managed to get made and released during an era where that wasn't shooting something on your phone and uploading it to YouTube.

And speaking of YouTube, a YouTube channel I do enjoy very much is Brandon Tenold's channel called Brandon's Cult Movie Reviews.  The videos are nicely done, he has a great sense of humor ("Do you know what it feels like to fist your own dick hole?" made coffee come out of my nose) and, generally, he is on point.  For instance, in his video about Raw Force he mentions (many times) the fact that Warrior's Island, which is forbidden, has a travel brochure.  He is so correct - WTF?  Do I love that film?  More than I love my own life (although that may not be saying much).

I noticed he had uploaded a video about a favorite of mine, The Ghastly Love of Johnny X.  One thing I enjoy about his videos - they are not brief.  Some of his videos run about 1/3 the run time of the movie itself.  In any event, as he is closing out the video, after giving this amazing film about 20 minutes of grief, he circles back and praises the film as the flawed (and it is) but sometimes successful (and it is) homage to 50's Sci-Fi movies.  And that is where I'd like to pick up because although he was sincere at the end of his video, I feel like additional praise for this film is warranted.

So here goes.

Fact - the film is listed as the lowest grossing film of 2012.  Boxoffice Mojo reported "The Ghastly Love of Johnny X earned just $117 — yes, that’s $117, with no zeroes behind it — playing in just one theater starting October 26."  Okay, sure.  No promotion, a cast of mostly unknowns, and a limited demographic.  Not surprising.  But, if you are reading this blog you can probably easily name two dozen films that were not successful in their initial release but have gone on to become cult classics in the time since.  Anyway - just wanted to throw that out there in the spirit of full disclosure.

 This film marks the final film performance of one of my favorite actors.  An actor who should be well known to any 80s film geeks because of his work with both Joe Dante and Weird Al Yankovic - Kevin McCarthy.  McCarthy, as you might recall, first came to prominence as the lead protagonist in the original, Red Scare based Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  Because of his age, the budget, or his right to have had a huge ego, he called of just phoned in his performance as the Grand Inquisitor.  But, that was not his style and he does a great job in this film.  There is certainly no shame to be had in this being his last performance.

This film also features two other favorites of mine - Reggie Bannister and Will Keenan.  Bannister, of course, has spent much of his film career fighting of the Tall Man and his minions, and if you've ever had the chance to speak with at a con or special event, you'll no doubt realize he is not only a great actor but one of the most down to Earth people you'll ever meet.  In fact, I had the chance to talk about meeting Bannister when I spoke at my Dad's memorial - I kid you not.

And, of course, if you are familiar with Troma films at all, you'll know Will Keenan from such classics as Terror Firmer and Tromeo and Juliet.  Both brilliant films.  But, Keenan is not only a great actor, but a writer, producer and even a casting director.  His performance in this film is nothing short of brilliant.  He is able to provide both a sadness and a rage in each and every scene of the film.

Need another reason - two words.  Paul Williams.  His Cousin Quilty character is one for the ages.  His comment on space aliens attempting to impregnate him?  "Enjoyable, but fruitless".

This film was a labor of love by writer and director Paul Bunnell.  It literally took years to complete the film.  After running out of funds, shooting was suspended for six years before production could begin again.  If Michael Bay could show that kind of dedication to a film....  Additionally, it was the last film to be shot on Kodak Plus-X Black and White film.  This is no digital wonder, this film was shot on some of the last film of its type ever manufactured.  Again, I can't say enough about that degree of dedication.

I find the story of the film a moving tribute to both 50s Sci-Fi, musicals and morality plays.  Not every song in this film hits the sweet spot - but no musical does.  I don't enjoy "Damn it, Janet" that much from Rocky Horror Picture Show (although I do think every song in the sequel is great). La La Land is a great flick, but not every number is something I'm humming on my way to work.

In any event - Track down the Ghastly Love of Johnny X and check out Brandon Tenold's YouTube channel.  You'll be glad you did in both cases.

Miss you Pops