Thursday, June 2, 2011

Book Review: SHOWGIRLS, TEEN WOLVES, AND ASTRO-ZOMBIES by Michael Adams (It Books, 2010)

This book should have been titled An Updated, Robot-Free Version of Mystery Science Theater 3000 in Highly Concentrated, Statistically Unbiased Form. Author Adams spent an entire year watching terrible movies in an effort to discover THE worst movie of all time. For such an onerous task, Adams went about his dirty business in an impressively well-organized way. He used the Internet Movie Database's Bottom 100 as a starting point, got additional suggestions from the likes of John Landis, Leonard Maltin, and the MST3K crew (though, oddly, not from Michael Medved, one of the pioneers of the study of cinematic stinkers), used a 100-point rating system to compare films, and used a lottery to select the order of movie categories that he would watch. It still seems overly convenient to me, however, that he just happened to fall upon what he judged to be THE worst movie of his long, arduous odyssey right at the end of the trail.

Adams' book is pleasantly written, and I didn't really mind the occasional digressions regarding his family life and struggles to land a job and/or sell a movie script. These asides gave the ordeal a certain realism that a low-budget puppet show set on a satellite simply couldn't have matched. Inadvertently, Adams also opens up a whole topic for discussion among bad-movie buffs regarding what, exactly, should be counted as a "movie." MST3K, which went off the air over a decade ago, concentrated most of its satirical fire on movies that were shown theatrically, with the occasional TV-movie offering thrown in. Most of the really wretched films discussed by Adams, however, came later and are essentially glorified home movies that, for some incomprehensible reason, were released on DVD by distributors. Even some of the better-known long-term producers of terrible movies, such as Ted V. Mikels, appear to have radically dropped their already-modest standards when the direct-to-video market opened up. Should a movie be required to have "meaningful" theatrical play in order to make the cut for books like this? Then what do you do with a "movie" like Ax 'Em (1992/2002), an amateurish mess which got ultra-limited release in Baltimore only because its director was the son of NAACP head Kweisi Mfume? There are questions here that may be far beyond the capacity of a mortal, un-addled mind to answer.

I recommend this book to all MST3K fans, readers of Medved's GOLDEN TURKEY series, and anyone with a perverse interest in lousy movies. If ever a book needed a "don't try this at home" disclaimer, however...


Mark Lungo said...

I'm definitely going to check this book out. BTW, how recent are the films Adams includes? I ask because two films that have become notorious among bad movie fans, "The Room" ( )and "Birdemic" ( ), are relatively recent. Is either of them included?

Chris Barat said...


I recall "The Room" being mentioned, but not "Birdemic." The latest films I recall seeing listed were from 2007 or so.


Michael said...

Hey Chris,
Thanks for the review. Glad you enjoyed the book. I didn't include the Medveds because I thought their books pretty much defined what they thought were the worst.
When it came time to publish the book, I sent it to both Michael and Harry. Michael declined to comment, as I think he wants to distance himself from his bad-movie origins, though Harry kindly provided an endorsement.
All the best,