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The Strange Things Boutique




DVD . Cheezy Flicks.

Andy Warhol's BadIn an interesting turnabout, the final film to have Andy Warhol’s name attached to it is very much under the influence of John Waters, who of course was inspired by the films of Warhol and Paul Morrissey when he began his career. In fact, Bad sometimes seems like the film Waters would’ve made had he made a movie with a slightly starrier between Polyester and Hairspray. That said, the film ultimately fails to match the gleeful bad taste of Waters’ work – while cheerfully offensive, Waters was rarely mean-spirited, and the nastiness in Bad sometimes seems rather too cynical and grim to be entertaining.

Carroll Baker plays Hazel Aiken, a beauty therapist who runs a die line in hit jobs carried out by women – anything from petty vandalism to murder. When L.T. (Perry King) arrives looking for work, she is reluctant, but finally agrees to take him on, setting him up wit a job killing a retarded child who’s mother is tired of looking after. As L.T. waits for the go-ahead on his job, other employees carry out assorted tasks, while Hazel’s daughter Mary (Susan Tyrell) struggles with her Downs Syndrome baby and a corrupt cop puts the squeeze on Hazel.

Ostensibly directed by Warhol’s boyfriend Jed Johnson, Bad was allegedly shot mostly by Warhol himself – another amusing turnaround given the number of films credited to him that he had no involvement in (notably Flesh for Frankenstein and Blood for Dracula) – and mixes solid production values and strong performances from the leads with the weird, flat, emotionless acting you might expect from Warhol’s films by everyone else. It’s a curious result, though one that generally works if you are familiar with those early films. King is a passable Joe Dallasandro substitute (and has a tame sex scene with Dallasandro’s real-life girlfriend Stefania Casini), but although a better actor, doesn’t have the striking screen presence of Little Joe.|

The moments of bad taste often seem self-conscious. The infamous scene of a woman tossing a baby out of the window of a high rise, the infant splattering on the pavement on screen, is certain shocking and offensive, but it has no real connection to anything else happening in the film and seems there just for shock value – a moment that every outraged critic would mention. It’s a prime example of the difference between this and John Waters’ work – I can’t think of anything so mean-spirited in the whole of his oeuvre. Equally, the kicking and beating of a dog seems there just for the sake of it. The result is that the film seems to be trying too hard, which is a pity, as the grubby, sleazy story was enough in itself, without these self-conscious distractions.

If you are attracted by the shock reputation of Bad, you might well be disappointed. For all the outrage, and the scenes mentioned about, it’s surprisingly tame – no nudity, no sex, little violence and characters who are not as wildly outrageous as you might hope. The resulting film is a mixed bag of restrained excess and awkward edginess. Bear that in mind, and there is much to admire in the film, which has been long overdue a new DVD release.





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