Welcome to the next CHUD List.
tackled our our disappointments, our essentials list and slowly exhumed
our Kills List from 2003, and now that we’ve begun the beguine, we must
The CHUD.com Top 50 Guilty Pleasures.
all got those little flicks that we know are wrong, but feel so right.
And after our preceding list of disappointment, we decided to cleanse
the palate by honoring our favorite guilty pleasures. These are films
that are flawed and often completely indefensible, but we can’t help but
love them anyway. As before, from a master list of over 100, the
involved parties (Devin, Jeremy, Micah, Russ, and Nick) all killed
off a choice for each one we claimed. As a result, we’ll run a big list
at the end of this of the ‘ones that got away’. So, here are the Top 50
Guilty Pleasures. Two a day, every week day for five weeks. In no
(1997, Dir. Albert Pyun)
It’s a Guilty Pleasure: Are you kidding me? Albert Pyun fucking defines the very concept of a guilty pleasure. You pick the title in his legendary filmography, and I’ll tell you what enjoyable crap it is. Like a certain Dr. Boll, Pyun is a man who succeeds through force of will rather any sort of discernable skill or talent. He has all of the right intentions and proper influences (Amazingly, he was a one-time student of Akira Kurosawa), but somewhere between the impulses in his head and the way he physically executes them, it all gets fucked up. It’s like the guy has celluloid aphasia or dyslexia.
Still, his sickness is our pleasure, as no one can pack so much unrealized ambition into such meager budgets. For proof positive, you need look no further than this late 90s actioner, which initially appears to be little more than another generic Pulp Fiction clone with talky hitmen having quirky conversations in the midst of harvesting souls. The premise is that a crimelord (Ice-T) has somehow bought out a soon-to-open brand new prison for one crazy night in order to hold a competition between his least trustworthy associates and freelancers. Instead of absorbing lead for their myriad betrayals of The Man, Ice decides to let them kill it out for the first prize of…oh, life. And millions of dollars. But Pyun hooks you bastards in with that conceit and then pulls the ole’ switcharoo by giving you a rather odd remake of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, featuring Ice-T and Lambert alternating as the latter two-thirds of that equation.
The “good” – such as it is – comes in the form of underappreciated Z-lister Michael Halsey’s Marcus, an increasingly rare breed of honorable hitman who simply wants to do his best to square his karmic debts before he shuffles off to Hell. While Christophe “Heh Heh Heh” Lambert hams it up all around him, cackling the whole way through, Halsey actually turns in a genuinely nuanced performance with little dialogue, and it’s his shred of dignity that keeps the whole thing from flying off the rails amidst swarms of gunfire.
The gunfire’s actually pretty funny, too. See, Pyun just didn’t have the budget to do a large-scale action movie, so he just rounded up all the prop guns he could and let the actors have at it. You’ll see muzzle flares and hear lots of gun shots, but there ain’t a squib to be found, so the movie looks like a stage play of the concept rather than a genuine action film. Upping the fun factor is the fact that the entire opus is set to mambo music from the firing of the first shot to the last, except when the climax boils down to the central trilogy of characters squaring off, Leone-style, and we get a final taste of a recurring Morricone-esque nylon guitar theme for our troubles.
It’s a bizarre, but endlessly entertaining little gem of a movie, and while you can quibble with a stylistic choice or two (I’ve seen episodes of The Smurfs that had less blue than the excessively-filtered shenanigans here), you can’t deny a guy that consistently tries (and fails) to transcend his limitations.
Signature moment: The film’s final gun duel promises to bring lightning, and given what we know of the three participants (and their respective placements, or lack thereof, above the title), it seems like Lambert is the odds-on favorite to prevail. But he naively accepts a brand-new weapon from Ice-T for the occasion only to find it’s lacking a certain something….oh, yeah,…BULLETS. That’s the final thought he enjoys before suffering a squibless, blood-free shooting death. Lambert. Dies.
What It’s Missing: Having you been paying attention? SQUIBS! Well, that, and a coherent narrative. There’s a loose backstory with Lambert bringing his young daughter to the throwdown and leaving her outside, but it’s never really fleshed out. She just sits out there being cute and avoiding death until the very end when Marcus’ grand plan for the day is revealed.
My Personal Connection to It: This is why cable is exists, and I wouldn’t care a whit for premium channels if I couldn’t catch fare like this.
Watch It With: People who only know Ice-T from Law and Order. This is a great way to ease them into his direct-to-video canon.
- Micah Robinson
Heavy Metal (1981, Dir. Gerald Potterton & Jimmy T. Murakami)
Why It’s a Guilty Pleasure:
no film that whispers to the horny 14 year old boy in all of us quite so knowingly as Heavy
Metal. Even if you’re a woman. It’s the Spencer’s Gifts of movies, packed with
violence, weird fantasy, aliens, stupid jokes and (cartoon) tits. Not quite the
prototypical ‘adult’ cartoon, this is still the essential piece of
pseudo-underground ’80s animation. I’ll take it over Akira or anything from
Japan without thinking twice. (The work of Miyazaki excepted, of course.)
typically not a fan of the anthology film, but here it’s the only possible
format. As written and acted, none of the many adapted stories from Heavy Metal
magazine are particularly compelling, even if they’re entertaining, which is
often the case. Most of the good stuff (Harry Canyon, the prototype Fifth
Element; DEN; Captain Sternn) knows just how stupid the movie is. You don’t
hire John Candy to voice DEN’s inner monologue merely for the Oscar potential.
And he, like so many of the other voice actors (Richard Romanus, Eugene Levy,
Roger Bumpass) uses the perfect tone to work around the fact that the scripts
are often total shit. Since the individual character animation is completely roughshod, delivery sells every joke in the flick.
the first hour, the movie is diverse and weird and sophomorically stupid enough that it flies right by. Even with the idiotic and frequently boring
framing sequence (which does boast a fantastic opening, as the Corvette lands
and drives to the house) the movie cooks along like a Milwaukee meth lab.
it hits the dismal Taarna segment. Thirty minutes of miserable Moebius
adaptation and the movie goes straight into the toilet. (Incidentally, Moebius
is the A-1 overrated artist of the ’70s and ’80s. The guy does a couple of
decent conceptual designs, is branded a genius and coasts for thirty years.)
All the fun humor and violence is flushed and we’re left with a fucking
oversized alien canary and a prototype for Julie Strain. And things were going
Signature Moment: There’s
one every thirty seconds for the first hour. That’s what makes it so much fun.
Pretty much every line in the DEN and Captain Sternnn segments count,
especially Hanover Fist’s breakdown on the witness stand.
What It’s Missing: Actual
heavy metal. This soundtrack is full of pussies. A guy from Steely Dan? A guy
from the fucking Eagles? The movie may have been made just as the New Wave Of
British Heavy Metal was gaining traction, but they could have done a lot better
than glomming together those chumps and Riggs, the friend of a producer who never went anywhere
beyond this soundtrack. (Admittedly, ‘Radar Rider’ is a fun opening track.) At
least there’s some Sabbath on there, and while the Blue Oyster Cult song is
hardly metal, ‘Veteran of the Psychic Wars’ is an atmospheric tune, especially
as it’s used.
My Personal Connection to It: Music
licensing issues kept the film off video for years. I don’t remember if I
bought the bootleg at a tiny Texas comic book convention or if it was one of my
friends, but somehow my group had a video tape that got thrown into the VCR
pretty much every time we got together to hang out. I’ve never kept count, but
that probably puts Heavy Metal close to the top spot of the list of movies I’ve
seen far too many times. And though I’ve got fully founded gripes about the soundtrack, it was a staple in the car for years.
Watch It With: Canadians,
but not French ones.