May 23, 2012
Andy Warhol’s Bad (1977) directed by Jed Johnson is indubitably a bad movie. Not bad in the banal or unwatchable sense, but a sincerely mean-spirited work that contains some of the most repellant, deplorable, and eclectically appalling people ever captured on celluloid. Warhol (or at least his hired filmmakers) was no stranger to depicting human depravity and emotional disfigurement, but out of all the films he was involved with, Bad is easily his most callously misanthropic and pessimistic work and one of few X-rated films that is conspicuously anti-erotic in nature, but like most of his previous efforts, such seedy and surly portrayals are executed facetiously with a most biting satire. Indubitably, Paul Morrissey was Warhol’s greatest director, Danny Williams is all but forgotten, and pop-art capitalist himself seemed like nothing more than an uninspired mentally-defective dilettante while in the director’s chair, but Jed Johnson – a man who never directed a film before (nor would after) – assembled what would prove to be the Warhol Factory’s masterpiece. Before directing Bad, Johnson had helped with the editing on Andy Warhol's L'Amour (1973) and Blood for Dracula (1974) aka Andy Warhol’s Dracula and even interior decorated a townhouse that he and the Factory dictator would call home. Of course, Bad features a different sort of domestic living than the ever so dainty and urbane homophile sort probably shared by Warhol and Johnson, as one might describe the film as somewhat misogynistic, but it is most certainly a wanton work of exceedingly eremitic extremes and sardonic snipes. Bad centers around a beauty salon owner named Hazel Aiken (played by Carroll Baker of Giant, Baby Doll) who also happens to be a slumlord that supplements her income by pimping out ferocious criminally-inclined white trash girls that rent rooms from her. Hazel also hires these boorish broads to carry out extremely profitable contract “hits” on everything from pet dogs to seemingly retarded school children. As a supremely ballsy bourgeois bitch and bottom-feeding capitalist who virtually enslaves the more debauched members of the fecund proletariat, Hazel even makes Martha Stewart seem like less of a soul-sucking cunt.
Hellish Hazel has a variety of dejected human-garbage gals and jaded Jezebels staying with here, including a humble (if mentally-feeble) and aesthetically displeasing daughter-in-law named Mary (and her equally annoying infant child), two wopesses R.C. and P.G., and a duo of bitchy brawling sisters named Marsha and Glenda. On a trial basis, queen harlot Hazel also takes in a wop bohunk named L.T. (Perry King) who acts as a hustling Joe Dallesandro-clone of sorts (apparently, the real Dallesandro declined to be in the film as he was working on pictures in Europe). Although Hazel is an eristic nag that treats most of the girls as emotional punching bags, she seems to hold her most marvelous malice towards L.T., probably due to his flagrant handsomeness and her seemingly sexually-repressed disposition. Undoubtedly, L.T. is a delinquent philistine who does not think twice about stealing and selling odious Hazel’s expensive perfume, but at least he is an unintentionally humorous fellow whose petty criminality and lack of manners acts as a haphazard stand-up comedy routine of sorts. Whatever the true merit of their acting abilities, all the actors featured in Bad certainly get the job done as I indubitably found myself anticipating their much warranted downfalls, but I fond Hazel’s delightful descent – which involves an emotional Negro who does not take kindly to the word "Nigger" – to be the most comical and befitting. Essentially, Bad is one of the finest cinematic documents depicting the innate despitefulness of the fairer sex and the assets of such female viciousness and coldness within a domestic criminal network. The film also highlights the intuitive materialistic nature of the female gender and how such mercenary behavior is all the more evident in our unspiritual post-modern Capitalist world, especially in New York City of all places; the home of Wall Street and the world capital of international bloodsucking capitalism. Ultimately, it is from L.T.’s selfless empathy for a helpless autistic boy that leads to the much deserved demise of she-bitch Hazel’s smutty and intrinsically amoral enterprise. Had Hazel remained the cold gutter baroness that she always was and characteristically resisted the charismatic charm of suave con-man L.T. from the get go, she probably would not have gotten herself into such an unbecoming and easily avoidable situation that would inevitably lead to her demise.
For a man who directed a scene of an infant falling to its death from a 12-story building, barefaced animal cruelty, and a toilet overflowing with what seems to be a couple gallons worth of feces, it is almost fitting that Bad director Jed Johnson himself would die tragically in the Trans World Airlines TWA Flight 800 plane explosion of 1996. Not since the brutal murder of Pier Paolo Pasolini in 1975, shortly after directing his final and startlingly self-prophetic film Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) has a filmmaker’s art so tumultuously and appalling imitated his death. Bad may also be the only film featuring a scenario where a number of filmgoers are burnt alive in a movie theater, so to say the film also pokes fun at the viewer would be a glaring understatement. I find this scene to be awfully farcical when I consider that fact that out of all of Warhol’s films, Bad had the most lavish and celebrity-celebrated film premiere as actors as famous as Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, and Jack Nicholson attended the film’s debut screening in May 1977. In reflection, Bad was not a bad way for Warhol to end his career in filmmaking, particularly when considering that he was the same man behind the all but unwatchable A Clockwork Orange adaptation Vinyl (1965). As Vinyl demonstrated, Warhol may not have understood male violence nor masculinity, but he was certainly savvy about what makes women tick as so candidly, if venomously, portrayed in his completely worthwhile masterpiece Bad; a sordid cinematic spectacle of screwy spite.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 8:40 PM
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