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CanFilm Five: B-Movie Critic Allan Mott

“CanFilm Five” is the Canuxploitation blog’s ongoing guest column, which brings together prominent filmmakers, bloggers, critics and programmers to discuss their most loved offbeat Canadian films.

Allan Mott is the Edmonton-based writer responsible for such books as URBAN LEGENDS, GOTHIC GHOST STORIES and HAUNTING FIRESIDE STORIES. His least embarrassing literary achievement is his 2005 book, SCARY MOVIES, which documented the creation of six of his favourite horror movies—including David Cronenberg’s THE FLY. His reviews appear weekly on the B-movie blog FLICKATTACK.COM, and he attempts to update his own blog, THE HOUSE OF GLIB (now in its second—less content filled—incarnation), as often as inspiration allows.

For this CanFilm Five, Allan catalogues the five best (and worst!) performances by American actors caught slumming it in Canuxplotation cinema. 

BEST PERFORMANCES

 

1. Adam West – ZOMBIE NIGHTMARE (1986)

Much like a world without George Bailey, a world without ZOMBIE NIGHTMARE would be a very different place then the one we know and love today. Just try and imagine a world without ROCK & ROLL NIGHTMARE (GASP!) or CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN (MEH!). More importantly, imagine a world without Adam West onscreen sporting an awesome mustache, reading his lines in front of the camera while smoking a cheap cigar. For any other actor this might be considered the nadir of a tumultuous career, but for our man Adam, it’s proof that he’s the best around (ain’t nothin’ gonna keep him down!).

2. Dyanne Thorne – THE ILSA TRILOGY

While there’s no doubt that Ms. Thorne’s portrayal of Ilsa in all her various guises and professions is one of the most iconic in the storied genre of exploitation-movies-so-offensive-most-people-refuse-to-admit-they’ve-seen-them, I lack the courage it takes to single out one performance above the others. Based purely on its canuxploitabiliness, I should pick the Montreal set ILSA, TIGRESS OF SIBERIA (1977) (it was directed by a guy named Jean Lafleur for cryin’ out loud!), but my heart belongs to the less overtly canuck co-production ILSA, HAREM KEEPER OF THE OIL SHEIKS (1976), which—unlike the original ILSA, SHE WOLF OF THE SS (1975)—manages to present its loony brand of over-the-top misogyny with such individual flair you only feel the need to take two showers after watching it.

3. Peter Weller – OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN (1983)

Before Buckaroo Banzai or Alex J. Murphy (that’s Robocop to you, bub!) Peter Weller displayed his own brand of American exceptionalism in George P. Cosmatos’ classic tale of Man Vs. Rat—the best version of MOBY DICK to ever be set in a Montreal brownstone. As the film’s Captain Ahab, Weller’s descent into mindless obsession is not only credible and compelling, but also moving and tragic (in the classic Shakespearian sense of the word). Surrounded by a great Canadian cast that includes Louis Del Grande, Shannon Tweed, Keith Knight and Jennifer Dale, Weller dominates the film and helps make it far greater than it has any right to be based on premise alone.

4. Timothy Van Patten – CLASS OF 1984 (1982)

I’ll say this up front, if Roddy McDowall hadn’t been born in Jolly Ole’ England, he’d be here instead of the guy everyone assumes is Dick Van Patten’s son, but is actually his half-brother (google it!). Life, however, isn’t fair so we gotta make some lemonade. “What about Perry King?” some of you are wondering. Well, there’s only room for one moustache on this list and Adam West already took it, so Perry’s s.o.l. Besides that, a great revenge film is nothing without a villain you truly want to see dead, and there’s no revenge film villain you want to see deader than Van Patten’s brilliant but sociopathic high school delinquent.

5. Melissa Sue Anderson – HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (1981)

Attempting to escape the wholesome image of LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE’s blind Mary Ingalls, Anderson surely leapt at the chance to play Virginia Wainwright, the final girl in what would turn out to be one of the era’s best slashers. It’s a meaty role and Anderson does it justice, alternating between sweet, psychotic, confused and—dare I say it?—sexy throughout the picture. According to a recent book by her LITTLE HOUSE co-star, Alison Arngrim, Anderson was apparently a crazy-evil flaming bitch on wheels during this period, which may explain why her excellent work here didn’t allow her to go on to bigger and better roles.

WORST PERFORMANCES

 

1. Willie Aames –PARADISE (1982)

Clearly “inspired” by 1980’s THE BLUE LAGOON, PARADISE stars Aames and Phoebe Cates as a pair of beautiful period teens who hide from white slavers in the film’s titular oasis and proceed to learn from a pair of chimps how to get down like two horny monkeys. They’re both pretty awful, but Cates’ presence is redeemed by the fact that she’s NAKED PHOEBE CATES, which in 1982 was a legally justifiable reason to commit homicide. The same cannot be said for Aames, who manages the nigh impossible trick of making Christopher Atkins look like Christopher Plummer in comparison.

2. Amber Lynn – THINGS (1989)

Throughout the past few decades, adult performers as diverse as Marilyn Chambers, Traci Lords and Sasha Grey have proven that a history of doing “it” onscreen need not indicate a dearth of actual talent. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for Ms. Lynn, whose “performance” as a “reporter” in Andrew Jordan’s 1987 no-budget horror flick THINGS clearly suggests that Ron Jeremy’s engorged member an inch away from your face is less intimidating than a cue card full of those terrifying “word” thingies. To say that she lacks credibility in her role is like saying Linda Lovelace had a throat of modest, but invigorating depth.

3. Chuck Mitchell – PORKY’S (1982)

The late Mr. Mitchell belonged to that not-often-celebrated class of character actor known as “The Gross Fat Guy”—a class that should never be confused with that of “The Fat Guy”. The distinction is easy to see, “Fat Guys” are talented actors who frequently find work playing rotund, but fully developed characters, while “Gross Fat Guys” are gross fat guys who get lucky and find themselves playing a gross fat guy in a movie that doesn’t require them to be anything but gross and fat. It says something about the level of his acting ability that Mitchell is still only barely credible in PORKY’S, despite how perfectly he was cast in the role.

4. Sally Kellerman – MEATBALLS III (1987)

Nearly two decades after being nominated for an Oscar for MASH (1970), and just a year after romancing Rodney Dangerfield in BACK TO SCHOOL (1986), poor Sally Kellerman found herself playing Roxy Dujour, a dead porn star forced to help virgin nerd Patrick Dempsey get laid before she’s allowed to enter the gates of heaven (as guarded by The King of Kensington). It’s a terrible role in a terrible movie and it  doesn’t help that Kellerman’s best porn star years were so very clearly a decade behind her.

(P.S. While Googling MEATBALLS III, I discovered that the busty young miss who memorably played the winner of the film’s disappointingly brief wet T-shirt contest went on to become a Los Angeles “life coach” and self-published mystery novelist. Isn’t the Internet a wonderful thing?)

5. Vince McMahon – HITMAN HART: WRESTLING WITH SHADOWS (1998)

YOU SCREWED BRET!! YOU SCREWED BRET!! YOU SCREWED BRET!! YOU SCREWED BRET!! YOU SCREWED BRET!! YOU SCREWED BRET!! YOU SCREWED BRET!! YOU SCREWED BRET!! YOU SCREWED BRET!! YOU SCREWED BRET!! YOU SCREWED BRET!! YOU SCREWED BRET!! YOU SCREWED BRET!! YOU SCREWED BRET!! YOU SCREWED BRET!! YOU SCREWED BRET!! YOU SCREWED BRET!! YOU SCREWED BRET!!

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