Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Michael Paul Stephenson's BEST WORST MOVIE: the making of a camp cult classic

"If you're unhappy, watch Troll 2!" That's the advice of one of the many talking heads in Michael Paul Stephenson's funny/sad/rich documentary about a film in which Mr. Stephenson played the youthful hero: number two of the Troll franchise (and this was back in the days before the F word was even in circulation).  Now considered to be among the chosen few of the worst films ever made -- movies so uninten-
tionally bad that they become hilarious camp classics -- Troll 2 does look, from what we see in BEST WORST MOVIE, like it deserves its place in history.

Twenty years after the making of that movie, and even then, only after the film began cultivating a cult fan base, Stephenson (shown, left) decided to explore why and how the movie happened, and what happened to its cast and crew in the two de-
cades since that time.  Our main man, glad-handing Dr. George Hardy (who played the dad in T2), has become a very successful Alabama dentist, and he takes to his new celebrity status like a woodpecker to a tree trunk.

Hardy and Stephenson start looking up other cast members, as well as T2's director and writer (a bizarre Italian husband/wife team). Pretty soon they're making personal appearances at screenings of the film (above) here, there and everywhere (especially in the town in which T2 was filmed), meeting fans (below) and finally going to celebrity/collectible conventions.  It's during this final go-round that our Dr. Hardy begins to learn the difference between being famous and being a joke.

Initially, Best Worst Movie seems like a sweet dream of a documentary: funny, real, silly and sweet.  How can you not love all these crazy people?!  And you can.  But not before you've come up against some very big and damaged egos, as well as one sad lady who just might be certifiably nuts.  It would seem as though Stephenson could not possibly have known what he would find going into this documentary. In fact, one wonders if he knows, even now. (There are a number of times throughout the movie during which the people on screen approach the clueless.)

When we meet that Italian director (above) and his screenwriter wife, reality begins settling in like cement shoes.  These two appear to read the late acclaim for their film as some sort of critical judgment passed on a masterpiece, rather than some easy laughs had at the expense of a unwittingly awful mistake.  We also see the fellow who took the role of Grandpa, admitting that he has pretty much frittered away his life.  And that sweet lady who played mom (below, left)?  She is now the saddest case of all.

Those collectibles conventions pretty much nail it, however.  It is here that our Dr. Hardy learns, where movies are concerned, "the hits make it -- not the flops."   Still, Troll 2 was shown to and appreciated by our boys in Iraq, and it's probably playing this weekend at the midnight movie near you.  And Best Worst Movie -- which opens this Friday, May 14, in New York City at the Village East Cinema (you can find other playdates across the country here) -- catalogs it all: behind the scenes, in front of the camera, and a lot that went on in between.

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