JOHN OSTRANDER: Perverse Pleasures
We all know what a “guilty pleasure” is – some movie, book, song, whatever that we are ashamed to say we actually like – nay, sometimes love. While we may be embarrassed by our affection we should, at the very least, be able to claim, “Well, anyway, I like it.” Even if nobody else does. I have my list of those and I suspect you do as well.
This is not the same as the strange, little known things that you love that are, in fact, pretty good. I have my list of those things also and it might be useful to talk about these odd delights at some other time.
Neither of the above are the same as what I call my “perverse pleasures.” I’m not talking about sexual kinks and peccadilloes. I’m talking about music, books, movies and so on that I know, in fact, are awful and that I don’t like but feel a weird compulsion to own them anyway.
On to confession.
The first item is Pat Boone’s 1997 CD In a Metal Mood; No More Mr. Nice Guy wherein the King of White Bread Music decides to do his covers of Heavy Metal songs. We’re talking songs such as Stairway to Heaven, Smoke on the Water, Love Hurts, Enter Sandman and plenty of others. Oh, my ears! He doesn’t do them as Heavy Metal, of course; his arrangements turns them into Big Band tunes. When Mr. Boone sings, he’s usually off the rhythm, flat, or just speaks the lyrics. I have yet to get through a complete cut.
This is completed with a cover shot of the aging Mr. Boone in leather pants, leather vest, and no shirt, fixing the buyer with a steely stare that defies said buyer not to purchase the CD. I, of course, succumbed.
To top it all off, I was doing a guest shot on my friend Bill Nutt’s radio show, The Nutt House, on WNTI. I decided to play a cut of the CD on his show. Hey, they’re not my ratings. My better half, the lovely and talented Mary Mitchell, was listening in. I should explain that Mary is a heavy metal fan. Most people wouldn’t suspect it to look at her but she’s pretty knowledgeable and has her criterion: a good heavy metal band should look and sound like trolls. Pat Boone comes nowhere near that ideal.
Mary asked me what was on my mind to play that track. I explained that none of us at the radio station actually listened to it; we turned off the monitors about thirty seconds into the song so we didn’t have to listen to it. I think that’s where I lost Mary as a regular listener to my radio hijinks. She did listen to the track all the way through.
This is one of my definitions of love – despite having trick-bagged her into listening to something that I couldn’t, she still cares about me.
If Mary hasn’t found the CD, I probably still have it around somewhere.
Wandering over to the DVD section, I find my copy of Barb Wire. I knew the Dark Horse comic on which the movie was based and stumbled on the movie starring Pamela Lee Anderson while channel surfing late one night. I, like millions of Americans, ignored it in its theatrical release but I thought it was worth pausing long enough to see if Pam popped out of whatever she was wearing. It was late night and my standards of viewing are pretty low after midnight.
To my mounting horror, as scene followed scene, I realized that this was, in fact, a re-make of one of my all time fave movies, Casablanca, with Pam in the Humphrey Bogart role. It turned a bad movie in which I had little or no interest into an appalling one which I absolutely had to own. Not to watch it; I just had to own a copy.
Going from bad to worse while staying in the DVD section, there’s The Return of Captain Invincible. The films features Alan Arkin, in tights, as the title character with Christopher Lee as his nemesis, Mr. Midnight. It is a satire, of sorts, of superheroes, filmed largely in Australia, about an alcoholic former superhero who has to stop his arch-foe who has stolen an American super-weapon.
Did I mention that it also has musical numbers? Some of the songs, not all, were by created by Richard O’Brien who also wrote The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Christopher Lee sings one of them. Mr. Lee has said somewhere that, had he not been an actor, he might have been an opera singer. I don’t think so.
My apologies if, in any way, I have made this film sound like something you might want to see. I do own a copy and have been known, on occasion, to play scenes from it for some poor unsuspecting visitor just to watch the life drain from their eyes. My friend, Joe Edkin, who introduced this film to me (and I will some day get you for that, Joe) has said that the film “goes a long way to convincing me that Australians shouldn’t make musicals.”
It is, however, light years superior to our last DVD for this column – Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter. The title, if it has not offended you and driven you away, may intrigue you enough to think of buying this film. Don’t let it fool you; it’s not that good.
This is the text from the back cover of the DVD as it appears on Amazon: “The second coming is upon us, and Jesus has returned to Earth. But before he can get down to the serious business of judging the living and the dead, he has to contend with an army of vampires that can walk in the daylight. Combining kung-fu action with Biblical prophecy and a liberal dose of humor, the film teams the Savior with Mexican wrestling hero El Santos against mythological horrors and science gone mad and also manages to address contemporary sexual politics. And did we mention that it’s a musical? This sure ain’t Sunday school.” No, it’s a bit more of cinema hell.
Shot on weekends over a two-year period, it has lots and lots of clumsy and inept martial arts, lesbian vampires, more cheese than in the state of Wisconsin and, lest I forget, one musical number that comes in out of nowhere and promptly returns there. It ends with a new Sermon on the Mount (well, in a park) and you just know that the crowd listening to it is every single person who invested a dime in the movie. It’s not good enough to be blasphemous. That’s how bad it is.
There are, of course, others but I think that’s enough for one column. There’s always others. There are plenty of movies that I think are unwatchable or drive me nuts – Independence Day and The Untouchables, by way of example — but I don’t have the urge to own a copy of them. I suppose that, on some level, it’s why these cited examples are perverse pleasures. The others just annoy me. It may be the concept, the title, the execution or some combination of these ingredients that push my “buy” button but I’ve not just bought these items, I keep them. I don’t need to see or hear them; I just like having my own copies. Mary says that it’s the li’l kid in me that likes to gross people out.
“Hey, Susie, watch me eat this worm!”
And I run away giggling.
Like I said, these discs are not recommended but – who here feels like sneaking a peek or a listen to them, hmmmmm?
My job here is done. Heh-heh-hehhhhhhh. . . .
Writer / actor / playwright John Ostrander is man behind the typewriter at such vaunted comics as GrimJack, Suicide Squad, Star Wars: Legacy, Munden’s Bar and Batman. His own personal blog is at http://www.comicscommunity.com/boards/ostrander/