If you’re a fan of movies you’re probably already familiar with the work of Phil Hall. A contributing editor to the on-line magazine, “Film Threat,” Hall is also a well respected author of such film books as “The Encyclopedia of Underground Movies: Films From the Fringes of Cinema” and “The History of Independent Cinema.” His latest book, recently released, is entitled “The Greatest Bad Movies of All Time.” Mr. Hall recently took the time to answer some questions for Media Mikes:
Mike Smith: What makes a movie “Bad?”
Phil Hall: We need to clarify what “bad” means. I am not writing about the mediocrities that you forget about after the closing credits have rolled. My book celebrates what I call the “anti-classics.” These are the films that inspire wonder – they are so profoundly misguided and egregiously off-target that you have to wonder how they ever got made. These bad films are the cinematic equivalent of narcotics – you get hooked by their toxicity and you become a happy prisoner to their crashing awfulness. It is a wonderful addiction, for sure.
MS: What inspired you to write the book?
PH: A few years ago, I was an actor in a film called “Rudyard Kipling’s Mark of the Beast,” and while on the set a number of people were talking endlessly and enthusiastically about the Tommy Wiseau film “The Room.” I recognized that people tend to become animated and involved when talking about the so-bad-they’re-good films, going to the point of quoting the screenplays verbatim, and I thought that I would bring together my choices for 100 of the best of these anti-classics.
MS: You have some critically popular films, “Mystic River” among them, on your list. Any reservations on labeling films like this “bad” when they were well received?
PH: My book is not a be-all/end-all text book. My book is an expression of my opinion as a film critic and film scholar. Remember, the appreciation of films (or any art form) is strictly subjective. I know people who loathe “Citizen Kane” and “Gone with the Wind” – that is their opinion. And remember, opinions are like a certain lower body cavity – everyone has one and most of them stink! Whether you agree or disagree with me is strictly your call. This book is my vehicle to share my opinions.
MS: Have you received any feedback from any of the filmmakers?
PH: The book covers the full spectrum of the cinematic experience, from the silent era to the present day. Thus, many of the filmmakers cited in the book are no longer with us. As for those that are still active, I don’t know if they are aware of their inclusion in the book.
MS: Do you have a favorite “bad” movie?
PH: That’s sort of like asking if you have a favorite child, isn’t it? Some of the films cited in the book — the musical version of “Lost Horizon,” “Chariots of the Gods,” “Airport 1975” – have a special emotional tug because I saw them in the theater when I was a little kid. Others hold a special meaning because I shared the viewing experience with friends and/or family. And I am always discovering new films, so today’s favorite could easily become yesterday’s corny memory.
MS: Are you planning another book?
PH: This is my sixth book that has been published since 2004. I think I am overdue a long rest!