I admit it. I giggled.
Like a schoolboy who'd just gotten the head cheerleader's phone number, or at least been asked to do her homework, I received the news of Cheezy Flicks' re-release of Andy Warhol's Bad
with absolute, unrestrained glee.
First released in May, 1977 Andy Warhol's Bad
is either one of those films that's so bad it's good or, alternatively, it's an underrated masterpiece of experimental cinema. The film did pick up a Saturn Award for Susan Tyrrell as Best Supporting Actress and became an even bigger hit in Europe than it did in the United States. The $1.5 million film, no small sum now but a semi-decent budget back in 1977, is about a kick-ass Queens housewife named Hazel (Carroll Baker) who operates a home-based electrolysis business in a rather crowded home she shares with her ailing mother, unemployed husband and his perpetually whiny wife (the aforementioned Susan Tyrrell) and a grandson.
Oh, and there's one other thing she runs out of the home - an all-girl hit squad.
Have you ever watched a film where you sat back saying to yourself "Oh man, that's just wrong?"
You'll say that a lot in Bad,
a film that feels partly like a prelude to Natural Born Killers
but lacks the Oliver Stone hyper-stylized cinematography and set-ups. Hazel's life is relatively calm, as calm as it can be, until she gets a call from K.T. (Perry King). K.T. is a bit of a bumbler, but Hazel decides to go ahead and give him a try he joins her all-female hit squad.
Andy Warhol's Bad
was, in its earliest days, actually slammed with an X-rating, a remarkable fact when you consider that these days it might very well survive with a PG-13 and certainly wouldn't get anything stronger than a mild "R" rating. The film is subversive, funny, honest, challenging, thought-provoking and everything, quite honestly, that Warhol was without a doubt hoping it would be when he agreed to finance the Jed Johnson directed film.
Carroll Baker is terrific as Hazel, delivering a deadpan, straight-on performance with equal parts Harriet Nelson and Big Bad Mama.
Her scenes with Susan Tyrrell are awkwardly hilarious and filled with loads of family dysfunction and the sort of maternal advice that you might find in a 50's sitcom plus a few homicidal comments here and there as she makes her "hit" arrangements straight away from her kitchen telephone.
Susan Tyrrell is also fantastic as Hazel's bewildered daughter-in-law, who can't fathom why a woman would have baby killers living in a home where she has a baby (and, yes, there is a "baby" killing involved in the film). It should go without saying that anyone who's hyper-sensitive shouldn't be watching the film. The most comparable filmmaker would likely be John Waters, though I'd dare say that this film has quite a bit more gravity to it than the majority of Waters' films.
If we're being honest, the production values on Andy Warhol's Bad
aren't the greatest but they do fit the theme and material. Technology has improved greatly over the last 30+ years, and I could comfortably say now that if I saw even a $10,000 film that looked like this one it may very well end up with a scathing review.
But, what can I say? Andy Warhol's special.
Obviously, the fine folks at Cheezy Flicks agree and have given Andy Warhol's Bad
a re-release. While the DVD is devoid of extras, they've put together terrific packaging that massively improves upon my own VHS (Really!) of the film. For more information on getting your copy of Andy Warhol's Bad,
visit the film's Cheezy Flicks page.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic