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Showgirls, Teen Wolves, and Astro Zombies: A Film Critic's Year-Long Quest to Find the Worst Movie Ever Made Paperback – January 19, 2010
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
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“Michael Adams’ book is great fun! No one intends to make a truly bad movie, but when they do, Michael Adams will be there to watch it...and make it entertaining.” (John Landis, director of Trading Places and The Blues Brothers)
“Michael Adams is the Peter Biskind of really crappy movies. I thank him for watching these films so I didn’t have to claw my eyes out myself.” (A.J. Jacobs, New York Times bestselling author of The Know-It-All and The Year of Living Biblically)
“Like many of the bad movies it celebrates, this book is addictive, mesmerizing and endlessly amusing.” (Harry Medved, co-author of The Golden Turkey Awards and The Fifty Worst Films of All Time)
“Reading Michael Adams’ entertaining and disturbingly comprehensive book is like being dragged through the fun parts of Hell in a flame-proof suit. Having had both hands in the cesspools of cinema for over twenty years, I can say with confidence that this book is the best of its kind: a joyously critical, deeply personal journey through a medium we love to hate almost as much as we love to love.” (Kevin Murphy, co-star/writer of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and author of A Year At the Movies)
From the Back Cover
Showgirls or Spice World?
Reefer Madness or Robot Monster?
battlefield Earth or The Black Gestapo?
One reviewer's relentless search for the most appalling abomination ever to disgrace the screen—at the rate of one movie a day . . . for a year!
For every cinematic classic the studios have released, there have been dozens of cheesy monstrosities, overpriced flops, and schlocky epics. Rampaging robots, bouncing bimbos, moronic martial artists, vapid vampires, troubled teens, barbaric bikers, and idiotic infants—all of these, and more, have been foisted on us in the name of "entertainment." And entertaining they are—for all the wrong reasons!
Featuring a cast of thousands, including A-listers like Brad Pitt and Sandra Bullock in their Z-grade origins, and firsthand interviews with bad-movie aficionados, from Leonard Maltin and David Sedaris to John Waters and Eli Roth, this odyssey charts one intrepid critic's attempt to maintain a normal family life and two day jobs as he watches hundreds of dreadful tapes and DVDs in every conceivable genre. Even movie buffs will be surprised by what they can learn as they laugh out loud at the worst of the worst.
With a foreword by revered Night of the Living Dead director George A. Romero, Showgirls, Teen Wolves, and Astro Zombies is an unforgettable journey deep into film's forbidden vault of irredeemable crud. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
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So when I found "Showgirls, Teen Wolves, and Astro Zombies," about a brave man who vowed to watch one bad movie a day for a year, I knew I had to experience his journey with him, and see what sort of gems he could find in the dregs of the worst films of all time.
Michael Adams, an Aussie film critic and screenwriter, decides to embark on an ambitious, possibly crazy goal -- to watch at least one bad movie a day for an entire year, and to take notes during each viewing in order to rank each movie and, hopefully, find the worst movie of all time. He divides his movies into subcategories, mostly by genre but occasionally by star or director, and tries to find the best and worst of each group as he goes (the worst giant ape movie, the worst Uwe Boll movie, the worst John Travolta movie, etc.). And as he suffers through late-night viewings of garbage cinema, he also tries to balance his quest with a job, a family, and interviews with such names in the film industry as Michael Bay, Paris Hilton, John Waters, Mike Nelson of MST3K, and even the ex-wife of the infamous Ed Wood.
Rather than being an encyclopedic list of bad films, this reads more as a narrative -- Michael's life doesn't go on hold while he goes on his bad movie marathon, after all, and he has a family and a job as well as a quest. The sub-chapters of the book cover specific genres of films, which is quite handy and makes for "bite-size" reading -- one can easily read a section and then set the book down to return to later. He often goes into the history behind a film, making for a more fascinating reading experience, and interviews people behind the films when he can. And he points out the so-bad-it's-good along with the so-bad-it's-horrible, and describes some of the loonier films with such zest that he almost makes me want to watch them.
And wow, does Michael go above and beyond with his quest. His range of films covers not just big box-office flops (Gigli, Battlefield: Earth, Showgirls), but the cult classics of bad film (Manos: The Hands of Fate, Reefer Madness, The Room), obscure Z-grade films (Da Hip Hop Witch, Roller Blade Seven, Axe 'Em), and such "auteurs" of bad films as Uwe Boll (Alone In the Dark, BloodRayne), Ed Wood (Plan 9 From Outer Space, Glen or Glenda), and Ulli Lommel (Daniel: Der Zauberer, Green River Killer). He even covers some movies that were such shames to the studios that made them that they never saw a home media release and so can only be watched via bootlegs (though the remake of "Lost Horizon" has since seen a DVD release and "At Long Last Love" can now be found on Netflix -- no word on whether "Inchon" will ever see the light of day, though...).
I am slightly disappointed that such bad films as "Myra Breckenridge," "The Conquerer," "Heaven's Gate," "Bio-Dome," and "Caligula" didn't bear mention in this book, but maybe they weren't memorable enough to make the lineup. I also wonder what Michael might have thought of "Delgo" or "Birdemic: Shock and Terror" had they come out in time for him to include in his quest... but maybe there'll be a sequel that will include some of the films he missed.
Entertaining, informative, and at times wildly funny, "Showgirls, Teen Wolves, and Astro Zombies" is a must-read for any movie buff, especially those that don't mind a delve into the darker side of cinema.
Written in an easy, conversational style that implies an ongoing conversation, Adams chooses to contextualize his experiences with his bingo hopper of doom (read the book) and his day job covering current blockbusters. This adds to the fun. Adams analysis is pretty spot on, as well (I have minor quibbles, but when he's right about Uwe Bolle, boy is he right. A great reference and a fun archive of one year of the best of the worst.
If you like these kinds of psychotronic movies like me, you'll enjoy this book. Adams has a knack for synopsizing films in a paragraph or two. The book also has a lot of interviews with filmmakers and actors. (But I am beginning to wonder how much more study shlock cinema needs.)
Movies like those of Ed Wood (which Adams discusses in detail) are famous because they're interesting despite their cheapness. But a lot of the movies Adams watched are famous only for being bad. And some of them aren't famous at all and should stay that way.
We also learn about Adams's new career as a movie reviewer on Australian TV and his new family life with his wife and baby daughter. Adams strikes a good balance between talking about movies and his family. It's clear his life is at a turning point and that this project is connected to it.
We get some film history, too. Thomas Edison was the first American exploitation filmmaker with The Kiss (1896, remade in 1900).
Adams is very generous in mentioning others who've written on this subject, like Kevin Murphy from Mystery Science Theater 3000 (A Year at the Movies: One Man's Filmgoing Odyssey) and film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum.
Doris Wishman, one of the first female film directors in Hollywood (who directed Nude on the Moon), said, "All movies are exploitation movies." (For an interesting essay on Doris Wishman, read Science Fiction America: Essays on Sf Cinema.)
These movies are never going away. As a character in Evil Brain from Outer Space said: "It's imperative that we destroy it. But to do so won't be easy--it's indestructible."