I’ve moved my long-running movie club from the house to Zoom, and I pick a film from YouTube to share with the group.
Our group specializes in Good Bad Movies: Films that are so bad, they’re great. We glory in the escapist joys of exploitation, trash and unbridled auteurism, and that journey into silliness is truly helping us get through these dark times.
Based on my experience, here are the dozen most enjoyable Good Bad Movies you can watch free on YouTube.
When your daddy-in-law happens to be an exorcist who’s studied pagan rituals and freed a sex demon, you’re definitely at risk for possession.
And that’s what happens to poor marriage counselor Abby Williams (Carol Speed) in this completely over-the-top horror film inspired by “The Exorcist,” featuring an all-Black cast.
As she screams and cusses in a weird dubbed voice, it’s amazing how long it takes some of the other characters to wonder, “Hmm, is something wrong with Abby?”
“Beverly Hills Madam” (1986)
In this well-appointed TV movie, Faye Dunaway is uncharacteristically understated as the shoulder-padded, champagne-drinking madam of the title.
Dunaway’s Lil Hutton has to deal with her girls falling in love with clients, getting murdered and doing other dumb stuff that inconveniences her. Hutton learns glamorously that it’s hard out here for a pimp.
“Chained For Life” (1952)
Long before Paris and Nicky Hilton, there were other Hilton sisters who were even closer: Conjoined twins Daisy and Violet, whom you might know as the subject of the Broadway musical “Side Show.”
In this low-budget flick, the Hiltons play conjoined twins — duh — who sing in an all-star revue, only for one to fall for a gigolo who’s been set up to romance her for publicity.
That leads to murder, and the question becomes: How do you imprison the guilty sister without punishing the innocent one?
The movie veers between kitsch exploitation and a sincere study of unwanted attachment. It’s fascinating, and as actors, the Hilton sisters are … good singers.
“Criminally Insane” (1975)
Newly released mental patient Ethel Janowski (Priscilla Alden) likes her food so much that anyone who gets in the way will find themselves killed and covered in what definitely looks like red paint.
This modestly produced shocker revels in Ethel’s love for potatoes, bacon and Nilla Wafers while detailing the dangers of being a little too attached to a high-calorie diet.
The Nick Millard-directed cult item made me hungry — for more. (And indeed there are two sequels, though the second cheesily contains a lot of footage from the original film. Yes, cheesily.)
In this lurid, Pittsburgh-set remake of the classic 1955 French thriller, Isabelle Adjani is the wife and Sharon Stone the mistress who conspire to off the brutish headmaster of a Catholic boys school (Chazz Palminteri), but their plan goes off the rails, along with the whole movie.
Still, your basic instinct could tell you that the scenes with the bathtub and the rake might be good bad classics.
“Go Ask Alice” (1973)
This TV movie about a teen girl’s descent into drug abuse was supposedly based on the real-life diary of a 15-year-old addict.
But it turns out the diary was actually a fraud that was written by an adult woman who knew precious little about drugs! Add to that weirdness the fact that the girl is played by 25-year-old Jamie Smith-Jackson.
Still, “Alice” is engaging enough to get you hooked on good bad TV movies — and for extra camp value, William Shatner plays dad.
“The Gossip Columnist” (1980)
Before “Porky’s” — and way before “Sex and the City” — Kim Cattrall starred as a reluctant gossip columnist who tries to expose the way a faded singer (Martha Raye) has been exploited by a ruthless businessman-turned-politician (Robert Vaughn).
This TV movie is a scream, with appearances by Sylvia Sidney (as a former gossip queen), comic Rip Taylor (throwing confetti and making cracks about his wig), two washed-up pop stars named Bobby (Vinton and Sherman) — and Betty White!
When the climax of the plot hinges on an old W2 form, you know this is a misbegotten flick worth gossiping about.
A bunch of pesky mosquitos feed off dead aliens and grow to human size. Don’t you hate when that happens?
There wasn’t a lot of buzzzz about this giddy cheapie when it was released, which makes it even more of a find right now.
Typical line: “I don’t think this is a bird, Ray. It looks more like … some kind of bug!”
“The Plug Lady” (2004)
I would argue that this is the worst movie ever made, which is high praise indeed.
Writer/producer/star Anthony Saladino plays Shawl, a New York City arrival who gets a job as a drag comic called the Plug Lady, endlessly playing on the use of “plug” to refer to his private parts.
In a weird sort of Cajun-by-way-of-the-Bronx accent, Saladino tells “jokes” like, “Once you get past my plu-u-g, you won’t be worrying about my baw-awls.”
More seriously, Shawl meets a dangerous beau named Skunk, reveals he killed his abusive father in a tub and watches as his mom kills herself — also in a tub — upon learning the backstory about her late husband’s demise.
This one didn’t even look good on paper.
“Survival Island” (2005)
If you thought “Gilligan’s Island” was gruesome, this “erotic thriller” has a trio of fools shipwrecked after their cruise ship sinks, who proceed to fight, make love and try to stay alive on a lovely island bedeviled by voodoo demons.
The main star is Billy Zane, who is no stranger to sinking ships (“Titanic”), though this watery tale was ignored by the Academy Awards.
“The Swinger” (1966)
Vampy Ann-Margret plays a nice journalist who pretends to be a “swinger” to get the attention of the Hugh Hefner-like publisher of “Girl-lure” magazine (Tony Franciosa).
It’s all as thin as the paper the mag is printed on, but it’s zingy and very ’60s, and Ann-Margret performs the title song on a trampoline — and, yep, a swing — in one of the most memorable opening sequences in good bad history.
“The Thing With Two Heads” (1972)
A dying white racist surgeon who runs a transplant institute has his head attached to the body of a death row inmate, and now they’re stuck together — chained for life, as it were. And the inmate is Black!
This cheapo twist on “The Defiant Ones” is the height of good bad, with Oscar winner Ray Milland squirming as the transplanted bigot and football-pro-turned-actor Rosey Grier as the guy who tries to take control of their shared body to clear his name.
I’m not of two minds about this one: I say see it for a laugh!