cover image Junk Film: Why Bad Movies Matter

Junk Film: Why Bad Movies Matter

Katharine Coldiron. Castle Bridge Media, $16.99 trade paper (276p) ISBN 979-8-9872083-1-1

Essayist Coldiron (Ceremonials) delivers an entertaining ode to cinematic duds. “Bad movies are teaching tools for making and studying good movies,” she contends, exploring what such films and television shows as Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958), Staying Alive (1983), and Showgirls (1995) accidentally reveal about the techniques of quality filmmaking. The standout opening essay examines Edward D. Wood’s 1959 Plan 9 from Outer Space (“the Citizen Kane of bad movies”), suggesting that the film’s unintentionally disorienting editing demonstrates how “lighting, location, and landmarks” establish continuity between scenes in better movies. Other dispatches dissect the forced musical numbers in ABC’s short-lived police procedural/musical mash-up Cop Rock (1990), and the campy “surrealist sensibility” of the 1977 horror flick Death Bed, which, she asserts, elevates its premise about a people-eating bed by recognizing its own absurdity. Not all of the pieces convince; Coldiron’s claim that the “transparent disposability” of the low-budget 1940s Teen Ager film series makes them “intriguing, even unique” is a bit too generous. However, her analysis of some of the stranger footnotes in cinematic history unearths unexpected wisdom about how movies work. Cinephiles will enjoy digging into this. (May)