To the editors:
Jonathan Rosenbaum asks, when commenting on “The Worst Film Festival” at Harper College: “Why are genre films of the 50s automatically considered to be worse than those of the 70s or 80s?” (Reader; Feb. 3, ’89) Well, Mr. Rosenbaum, let us look at some of the talent that came from that era: We have Roger Corman (Not of This Earth and countless others), Edward D. Wood, Jr. (Plan 9 From Outer Space, Glen or Glenda?) and Samuel Z. Arkoff and James H. Nicholson (the founders of American-International Pictures). I think the appeal of these type of movies is that one can laugh at them because of their ineptness, whereas the bad movies of the recent decades are just so stultifyingly bad. As an example, compare the badness of the 1959 Plan 9 From Outer Space to, say, 1980’s Friday the 13th. I guarantee you would leave the former film with an unintentional smile and the latter with a look of disgust.
Also, I think the 50s movies are constantly booked at “Worst Film” festivals because of (though sometimes wrongly) their titles. Would you really take seriously a movie called Invasion of the Saucer-Men or It Conquered the World or Robot Monster? I, however, have my own question: How come the staples of “Worst Film” festivals always seem to be the horror and science fiction movies? Movies like The Oscar starring the late Stephen Boyd and the original Valley of the Dolls are pretty rotten, too.
Meanwhile, on the “Batfront”: Though it was said more out of anger, I think the man with the earring at the auto show [Our Town, February 3] may be correct when he says the upcoming Batman movie will kill the careers of Adam West and Burt Ward. West is a mediocre actor, at best (check out his performance in the “classic” One Dark Night, 1983). Ward, who didn’t do too much acting after the Batman TV series went off, gained notoriety, of sorts, for photographing (that is, he was behind the camera, not in front) a celebrity fantasy layout for Hustler magazine back in ’82 (the layout, however, featured a pink and blue costumed Robin rolling in the catnip with the Catwoman). A comic book fan magazine had an article that chronicled, through quotes, West’s career after Batman. First, from West’s joy at not having to wear cape and cowl anymore, to his disappointment at not being able to get other roles because of his identification with the Batman character, to, finally, his begging of the producers of the new movie to cast him in the lead (The editor’s comment: “Get real, people!”).
The new movie about the Caped Crusader (starring, of all people, Michael Keaton as Batman) is going to be closer to the original concept of the character’s creators, Bill Finger and Bob Kane. Given Batman’s origin (Nine year old Bruce Wayne witnesses his parents’ murders), the character would be more of a “Dark Knight” (as Batman is sometimes referred to) rather than West’s overgrown Boy Scout (although this was more the fault of the show’s producers, who had the option of playing it straight or for laughs, and opted for the old “camp”-grounds). If the scenes shown from the movie are any indication, come July, the question everyone will be asking is “Adam Who?”