Printed Perversions: Showgirls, Teen Wolves, and Astro Zombies

There do exist, on occasion, times when I actually sit down and read an actual "words-with-no-pictures" book for nothing more than the sheer enjoyment of having something pleasurable to partake in during my pre-dawn morning rituals (which usually consist of me checking emails, writing Twitter updates and trying to drag my immobile carcass into the gym). One such recent tome, Michael Adams' Showgirls, Teen Wolves, and Astro Zombies, happens to be one of those inadvertently happy finds during a recent visit to my local Books-A-Million.

In preparation of the upcoming Halloween season I always like to visit bookstores so that I may pilfer last year's discounted wares in search of any lost passages from my misspent youth such as The Berenstain Bears: Trick or Treat. Though I did manage to find a decent copy of Alvin Schwartz's More Stories to Tell in the Dark, the real treat proved to be a singular copy of Adams' aforementioned chronicling of his insane, year-long journey to find THE worst film ever made. What follows is a tale interwoven with brief reviews, interviews, personal tragedies and triumphs all ultimately leading to the film critic's selection of "the worst movie ever made."

While Adams admits that bestowing the title of "the worst" could be determined differently based on one's personal tastes, the system by which he scores each film seems reasonable enough to grant credence to his claim. The author also takes suggestions from other directors (both mainstream and Z-grade schlockmiesters), not to mention like-minded cinephiles who share a common bond in their love for the numerous low points cinema has to offer. Its in this inclusion of these outside perspectives mixed with tidbits of Adams' personal life that make Showgirls, Teen Wolves, and Astro Zombies such as phenomenally great read. Not to mention the fact that Adams' comes across as a real amiable sort of fellow, but once you crawl down the rabbit hole with you become just as addicted reading his exploits on bad films than he confesses to have been watching them.

While the beginning is fast and fun, you can feel Adams' sense of excitement, the book admittedly slows down a little after the halfway point at which it becomes less about how ridiculously (aka entertainingly) bad the movies are and more about making it all the way through. Its fun to relish in the foolishness of well-known "autuers" like Ed Wood, but much more banal to hear the non-summaries of Donald G. Jackson's rollerblade-laden attempts at "Zen Filmmaking" (basically just showing up and doing stuff in front of a camera with no regards to plot, characterization or much of anything). I will admit to liking Jackson's Hell Comes to Frogtown if for no other reason than it features Rowdy Roddy Piper as the last human man on Earth kicking mutant frog ass and getting busy with Sandahl Bergman's sexy nerd scientist, but otherwise his films come across as an incoherent bore.

Otherwise, the book only singles out a hand-picked selection of Adams' 365+ movies viewed during his year-long excursion into the depths of film-making's murkiest waters (which in my mind is plenty given the undeniable mind-numbing hours of film watching Adams must have suffered). Besides being warded away from a good portion of these duds, there are some guilty pleasures to be found such as a crazy penis-strangling blaxploitation film entitled Welcome Home Brother Charles or Dead Heat, a late 80s action/comedy/horror with zombies, stilted humor and a re-animated turkey dinner. If you're anywhere near as "strange" as me, by the book's end you will have amassed a rather nice list of forgotten films that deserve tracking down.

Having reached the end of the book, and thus at least this part of Adam's epic journey, I can't help but it was a little anticlimactic, though to be fair that wasn't the intention behind his search. I won't spoil the ending by revealing which flop earned the title of "the worst movie ever made" (you'll have to earn it as I did) suffice to say that it's an unexpected entry and one that doesn't hold even the slightest interest for me to see. If you're any kind of fan at all of Hobgoblins, Street Trash or Robot Monster you're sure to find Adam's insights to be both entertaining and informed. I would rank this book up there with David Skal's The Monster Show as one of my favorite film-oriented reads of all time.


  1. I definitely need to check that out. The Monster Show is ridiculous. I absolutely LOVE and cherish that book. Danse Macabre is another one that I'm addicted to. Did you ever make it through that one? I know King tends to be long winded ha ha.

  1. Strange Kid said...:

    It's a wicked awesome read indeed, one that I highly recommend to any fan of schlock cinema. Still have yet to make it through Danse Macabre yet, haha. King's writing is so "deep" it's like trying to run through syrup... slow and sticky.

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