Showgirls, Teen Wolves and Astro Zombies (2009)
By: Paul Ryan on January 16, 2010  |  Comments ()  |  Share 
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Author: Michael Adams
Pages: 352
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If you've ever read an issue of the Australian version of Empire magazine, or watched an episode of SBS's second revival of The Movie Show (the one that had Lisa Hensley as a co-host), then you'll likely be familiar with film reviewer Michael Adams. A knowledgeable film buff with an amusing turn of phrase, Adams took it upon himself to watch a bad movie a day for a full year in order to try and find the Worst Movie Ever Made. And he did this whilst working two jobs, attempting to get a screenplay produced, raising a toddler and keeping his missus happy. The full tale of Mr. Adams' year-long adventure in the world of dodgy cinema is chronicled in Showgirls, Teen Wolves and Astro Zombies.

Taking recommendations from friends, family and various interviewees (including John Landis, Edgar Wright, Razzies founder John Wilson, and MST3K's Kevin Murphy and Michael J. Nelson), not to mention the Internet Movie Database's questionable Bottom 100 list, Adams builds up a massive collection of DVDs and videos – along with an ever-expanding credit card debt – to wade through, aided by a dinky home bingo set to randomly pick the films by grouping (teen flicks, gorilla movies, superhero duds, and so on) . Chaptered by month, and divided into subsections, Adams explores the idiosyncratic oeuvres of Al Adamson, Jerry Warren, Andy Milligan and Donald G. Jackson, among others. There are also sections on the myriad star fiascoes of Madonna, John Travolta and Bo Derek. Australian cinema doesn't escape unscathed either, with looks at such homegrown oddities as nudist saga Maslin Beach, MUFF founder Richard Wolstencroft's early 90s epic Bloodlust (in which a young Adams had a small acting role), and the poverty-row cyberpunk flick Narcosys.

What's particularly pleasing about the book is the genuine affection that Adams has for schlock film. Adams rarely gets angry or vitriolic in his dissection of each film. Commendably, in his interviews with the likes of Scott Shaw (producer of Rollergator, and proponent of "Zen filmmaking") and Bill Cowell (director of 2004's Dark Harvest 2: The Maize) and the ever-contentious Uwe Boll, Adams speaks honestly about how he saw their films, resulting in some equally candid responses. While the exploitation ethics of Sam Sherman (Al Adamson's regular producer) and husband and wife schlockmeisters Michael and Roberta Findlay (Snuff, Shriek of the Mutilated) are probed with amusement, it's only in exploring the work of director Ulli Lommel – moreover his recent series of direct-to-DVD films based on real-life serial killers, such as 2005's BTK Killer and 2007's Curse of the Zodiac – that Adams' really gets angry. While he reels at the amateurish filmmaking in 1985's I.F.O. and 2004's Daniel: The Wizard, it's the dubious ethics that Adams sees in Lommel's serial killer films that really raise his ire. Contrasting this is Adams' interview with Ted V. Mikels (Astro Zombies, The Corpse Grinders) a man who clearly loves doing what he does. However, having been ripped off on some of his most financially successful films, Mikels speaks bluntly about the pitfalls of independent filmmaking.

Amid all the Z-film commentary and trivia, Adams fills us in on his year outside of schlock (including that ill-fated Movie Show stint), which gives the book an added –and very interesting – dimension. This is an enormously enjoyable and frequently hilarious read, very highly recommended to films fans of all persuasions. And like me, don't be surprised if you find yourself trawling YouTube for a gander at the likes of Ax 'Em, Ultra Warrior, or any of the other 400-plus films covered in this book. Great stuff.
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