Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Short Take: Andy Warhol's Bad

This review was originally published on Pol Culture.

The 1977 film Andy Warhol’s Bad, directed by Jed Johnson, is a cult movie in the worst sense of the term. Like many so-called cult pictures, it’s a broad social satire, punctuated by moments of grotesque violence, that congratulates itself for its quirky outrageousness from the first frame to the last. The script, credited to Pat Hackett and George Abagnalo, centers on a middle-aged New York grandmother (Carroll Baker) who runs a hair-removal business out of her kitchen. It’s not enough to make ends meet, so she also manages a team of hit women who specialize in taking out pets and unwanted children. A hunky layabout (Perry King) joins up and spends his time getting to know them while waiting for orders on a job. The film chortles over how appalling the various characters are, and the only consistent moral voice is the grandmother’s insufferably whiny daughter-in-law (Susan Tyrrell). It's quite a freak show. The most obscene moment is when a young mother, tired of waiting for the hit woman to arrive, throws her baby out the window of her high-rise apartment. The sensibility at play is a smirky, adolescent misanthropy. It’s the sort of thing a smart-alecky teenage boy might think was brilliant satire. The film was the last one produced under Andy Warhol’s aegis.

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