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Although Andy Warhol's association with this movie was merely nominal, the late Jed Johnson and his screenplay writers produced, (whether consciously or not hardly matters), one of the truly subversive masterpieces of American cinema. It is a more devastating critique of capitalism than any film ever produced by the so-called communist countries, and it forces us to face so many different issues, and ask ourselves just what we have collectively allowed our society to become. (Britain, by the way, is rapidly catching up in this respect; we usually trail the US by about five years in such matters!). It is too, one of the most strangely MORAL films, peopled, (with one exception), with characters so hideous, or selfish, or self-seeking, or ruthless, or just plain cruel, that empathy is thin on the ground, and yet the exception, (the docile, trusting, slightly naive, and conventionally "plain" and "square" Mary; was that name deliberately chosen for its symbolic value I wonder?), emerges as the true survivor, whose basic humane values are so cogently reflected in her closing line of the film, "Looks aren't everything". All the values that we are brainwashed into believing are "sharp", "hip" or "cool" are turned on their head, and even more amazingly, one of the ultimate messages that this remarkable film delivers, edges very close to an anarchist philosophy, that meaningful change and revolution has first to start with the individual, and that conventional "values" are hollow and riddled with hypocrisy if those espousing them are secretly pursuing hidden agendas of their own. (Step forward all the various "gate" participants of the last few decades..!). Certainly not a film for the squeamish, (how could the American ratings board or any caring parent allow children to watch such a movie?), but a film which I am sure the passage of time will show to be one of the most important American films ever. It really is that good! Technical credits are all outstanding too, (a brilliant score by the late Mike Bloomfield which fits the sleazy overall mood like a glove), and a performance from Carroll Baker that is worthy of an award. Approach this film with an open mind and some lateral thinking, and you too might discover that it is an unexpected revelation. A masterpiece!
"Andy Warhol's Bad" is probably one of my top ten favorite comedies. Imagine
a John Waters movie and make it ten times more offensive! Great stuff! This
is quite a turn from director Paul Morrissey's underground improvisation
opuses, but isn't a bad change.
Carroll Baker is great as Hazel Aiken, a lady who runs an electrolysis clinic in her home and a murder-for-hire business on the side, utilizing only female killers (save for new employee Perry King). Baker is fabulous and reminded me of Kathleen Turner in "Serial Mom", just without the constant happiness. Susan Tyrell is great as Hazel's daughter-in-law Mary, who spends her life residing in Hazel's house caring for her baby. Always looking frumpy and whiny, Tyrell is hilarious! I see now why John Waters seeked her out for a part in "Cry-Baby"! Perry King is a painfully obvious Joe Dallesandro replacement. Reportedly Dallesandro turned down the part for work in Europe, which unfortunately didn't lead to anything that helped his career. He would have been perfect here and would have acted with/had another sex scene with one-time girlfriend Stefania Casini (they had worked together in "Blood for Dracula"). Casini's Italian accent is thankfully left intact and is very sexy as a redheaded assassin. Also making an appearance is early Warhol regular Brigid Polk as Estelle, a bitchy fat lady who wants cop Lawrence Tierney's dog killed for something he said about her weight! Jane Forth is almost unrecognizable as a screaming passerby who is splattered with blood when a woman throws her baby out the window! As you can tell from these examples, "Andy Warhol's Bad" is not for everyone. For those with a very broad taste in humor and those not easily offended.
"Andy Warhol's Bad" concerns a rapacious middle-age housewife in NYC who runs an electrolysis business and a murder-for-hire (with only female employees) business out of her home. There are various subplots, involving her hired assassins, their clients, and her mentally dull daughter-in-law who lives with her (and whom she cruelly exploits). Although often considered "camp", a la the films of John Waters, "Bad" is in reality more of a satire in the vein of "Gulliver's Travels". The critique is presents of contemporary, capitalist values in American society is right on target, so that the thoroughly unrealistic plot seems all too real. Even more, this film has perhaps the funniest, most original dialogue of any film ever made - you'll never forget the dangerously paranoid Brigid Polk (a.k.a., Brigid Berlin) and the two amoral sisters she hires to kill a dog. The acting, by both pros and Warhol superstars, is excellent. It even manages to successfully pull off the few moments of poignancy that are allowed in the bleak world it depicts (the assault on the dog and his owner, the final epiphany of L.T. when his empathy prevents him from killing an autistic child and his subsequent confrontation with Hazel). This is not a film for most people - it is far too pessimistic, brutal and graphic - but if you can stomach that, it is more than worth your while to see.
This is one of my favorite films. Such a great parody about "good" and "evil". Carroll Bakker is outstanding. It also gives some great insights as to what it was like to live in NYC in the late 1970s. Fantabulous! It's a story about a mom who does odd jobs for the mafia. She "opens the channels between you and a client." The jobs range from messing up a bathroom in a diner, to killing a dog for a vicious lesbian. In the end though, her karma catches up with her. She always uses women to do her dirty work, and the one time that she uses a (hot) male who she's sexually attracted to, her entire world falls apart. Women are easier because they are inherently more vicious. Please watch this film. It's an outstanding slice of life movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
**SPOILERS** ANDY WARHOL'S BAD is not as disgusting or outrageous as, say
John Waters' PINK FLAMINGOS or Pasolini's SALO, but it still ranks up there
among the most disturbing and unpleasant movies ever made. While usually
referred to (and marketed) as a comedy, it's a satire along the lines of
Todd Solonz's HAPPINESS--there's humor, but of the extremely dark variety,
the kind you laugh at only because you'd otherwise scream.
The story itself is as sleazy as they come. A bored housewife (Carroll Baker) runs an electrolosis business out of her Long Island house. In addition to that, however, she occasionally hires young women to commit various acts of vandalism, assault or murder for paying clients. The movie opens with a relatively mild example of this, when a girl enters a scuzzy midtown diner, overflows the toilet and trashes the place.
However, the darker side of Baker's business slowly surfaces as we soon witness acts of cruelty which are difficult to watch: a man's legs are crushed underneath the gears of a garage lift, a dog is stabbed repeatedly, and, in the movie's infamous highlight, an incessantly crying baby is hurled from a high rise window. This scene is chillingly grotesque, yet is followed immediately by a goofy joke (a mother yells at her son as they walk by, "That's what I'm going to do to you if you don't shut up!"). Whether or not you find that funny will pretty much determine your feeling about the whole movie--either it's a devilishly clever satire or a hideously immoral sick joke. Maybe it's both.
A subplot involves Baker hiring her first male hit-person (Perry King, in one of his best performances) to kill an autistic boy of whom the mother has grown tired. There's also an interesting scene between King and hit-girl Stefania Cassini (from SUSPIRIA and BLOOD FOR DRACULA). Also in the cast is Susan Tyrrell as Baker's dim-witted and clueless daughter-in-law, whom Baker treats like garbage. More sensitive viewers may find the use of a down-syndrome baby in the role of Tyrrell's child unsettling.
Overall, ANDY WARHOL'S BAD is as sick and depraved as it's reputation would suggest, but it's well-written and well-acted, with some clever and biting satirical elements. It's more similar in tone and theme to Warhol's early underground films than the in-name-only FRANKENSTEIN and DRACULA films by Paul Morrissey. BAD was also the first "Warhol" movie in several years in which Warhol was actively involved in the production. While there's lots of sex talk, there's very little nudity (although we do get a nice look at Cassini's bare buns). But there's some graphic violence and rough dialogue that will likely turn off even jaded viewers.
Like Joel Reeds vastly inferior BLOODSUCKING FREAKS or Carl Reiner's cult classic WHERE'S POPPA, ANDY WARHOL'D BAD has actually grown MORE shocking and disturbing than when it was initially released. While it's certainly not for everyone, it's worth checking out for those who enjoy the occasional sick movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Andy Warhol's final factory film production caused quite a hoo-hah when
released in the UK back in the seventies, with the tabloid press
running shock-horror stories about its content, especially the scene
where the baby is thrown from the tower block window. Yet Bad is more
than an exercise in bad taste - although it was clearly influenced by
the work of John Waters - it's rather an anatomy of the social and
ethical consciousness which Capitalist society creates in its citizens.
Hazel (a stupendous performance from Carroll Baker) is a middle-aged woman with a daughter-in-law on welfare who runs her own business: she gives electrolysis treatment as well as running a hit firm from her kitchen! What makes the film's portrait of Hazel and her milieu so extraordinary is that her money-making schemes are shown to be perfectly ordinary, reasonable and even morally equivalent; there's little difference between removing someone's unwanted body hair and removing a person who irritates or annoys them from their life. The most striking aspect of Hazel's routine of hit jobs - effected mostly by dumb young women, task-orientated as the Protestant work ethic has trained them to be - is that so many of the hits involve parents disposing of their unwanted offspring because there's something wrong with them, they get in the way of their comfortable lifestyle. The film shows the final product of late Capitalism's insistence on the consumer's right to their own lifestyle just as they want it once they've fulfilled their task of being a productive, money-earning citizens.
The people in Bad are stupid, petty, vindictive and, when they can get away with it, lazy. This form of consciousness is epitomised by Perry King's L.T., a wandering hunk who Hazel (who would prefer to employ women) promises a hit job. L.T. lolls around Hazel's house, masturbating over porn mags, laughing over the cruelties of daily life, arguing with Hazel and generally just waiting for someone to give him something to do; he's eye-candy but seemingly completely without any volition to create a life of his own. Yet at the moment of crux, when he is called upon to kill an autistic child whose mother wants to share more quality time with its father, L.T. refuses the job, his humanity somehow re-asserting itself. Elsewhere in the film, Hazel's mentally challenged daughter-in-law has mouthed protests against the immorality - but her dumb Cassandra act and L.T.'s sudden sense of revulsion against the prevailing nihilism are merely jerks of a dead human spirit, barely registering as more significant on the level of narrative-importance than someone committing an act of pyromania at a cinema, attacking a neighbour or getting some hair removed from your back.
Bad underplays its nihilistic scenes - the evils portrayed are banal and quotidian. It's horrifying portrait of a humanity reduced to spite, casual violence and idiot babbling is all the more shocking for it feeling, as a filmed portrait of daily life, more accurate a depiction of how people are than most Hollywood films ever achieve. It also feels very now - the people who populate Bad have multiplied throughout the Western world. Andy Warhol's final film makes you wish that more crazed, sarcastic, bitchy, ironic millionaire artists would plough their money into making films of their vision...
"Bad" speaks to those of us who like to voyeuristically revel in wickedness for its own sake. This film is filled with abuse that good people everywhere proclaim they are incapable of fathoming. It is the realm of sick people with evil imaginations that prey on the weak, homely, helpless. However, because it is cinema, "Bad" should be viewed with a discerning mind. It is very funny at times to watch human folly in all its excesses. This film takes "bad" human behaviour to the extreme. It is camp that very much resonates in the same spirit as "Pink Flamingos" and "Meet the Feebles". This film will upset those who take themselves far too seriously. Without a sense of humour, the prospective viewer will be lost in a self-righteous fever.
I've just watched the DVD of "Andy Warhol's Bad" manufactured by
Cheezyflix. Their Statement of Purpose, before the film begins, informs
us that they specialize in films with only the poorest of production
values, direction, acting, scripts, etc.
I have always considered "Andy Warhol's Bad" to be a film of considerable merit; an indictment of our sick society that was ahead of it's time, with strange performances befitting the characters, a literate script with the darkest humor I had ever encountered, fine direction, cinematography, and production design. In the Spring of 1977 I first saw this film at the Filmex Film Festival in Los Angeles. This festival was hardly the type to show the caliber of trash Cheezyflix specializes in. (Filmex premiered Woody Allen's "Annie Hall" the same year.) I also recall that Vincent Canby, in his New York Times review, was very respectful of "Andy Warhol's Bad".
I am appalled that Cheezyflix has this film in their inventory. How unjust that the typical Cheezyflix audience, that takes pleasure in ridiculing inept, inane films, is now being encouraged to regard "Andy Warhol's Bad" as something to demean.
Andy Warhol's Bad or should it be Jed Johnson's Bad, is fascinating for
the very fact that the film was released. Also for Carroll Baker's
performance as Mrs. Aiken, a woman who runs a hair removal business out
of her kitchen.
Baker's performance makes Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest look like a harmless little kitten. What fun it would be to see the two of them in a fight! The film seems to be made to appear as a low budget film but in fact is probably the most sophisticated of Warhol films. Baker's acting is superb and she probably has the best dialogue.
The other characters you won't forget for a long time. Oddly, Perry King's performance and character is the most bland. In fact, all of the males here are bland. It is the women that stand out.
Here is a harsh, brutal look at life in Queens when a woman or women have to come up with creative ways to make a buck. This is about mean people who no longer care about law or anyone who tries to adhere to law or impose any moral code whatsoever.
Kill or be killed. One of my favorite films but certainly not for everyone!
It's fair to say that "Bad", the final film produced by Andy Warhol's
studio, is not for everyone.
Hazel Aiken (Carrol Baker) is a New York housewife who runs an electrolysis clinic from her home, as well as running an all-female "murder for hire" business. Her life is complicated by the arrival of boarder LT (Perry King), who is waiting for the call for his first contract killing.
The film is loaded with offensive scenes, including a mother throwing her unwanted baby out of the window of a skyscraper. However there is a strange morality to the film, which explores a world completely without morality, where life is completely meaningless. The film is full of deeply dark humour. This was the most expensive of Warhol's films, and may be his most accessible. If you're a fan of cult film-maker John Waters, you'll probably love this. In fact, this is one of the great cult movies. Recommended to people with strong nerves and stomachs.
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