It seems like a new instant “bad movie classic” is unearthed every new year and released to a waiting army of bad movie cultists raised on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Sometimes you get a genuinely entertaining oddity like Miami Connection but more often you get brain-deadening badness like The Room that is more fun to talk about than it actually is to watch. The truth is the best bad movies are the bizarro world version of good movies: they need to be fast, inventive and inspired in their pursuit of badness, always coming at the viewer with an array of surprises.
Dangerous Men is a new entry in the bad movie classic sweepstakes – and unlike a lot of its competitors, it actually delivers the goods. It was made by auteur/one-man-crew John S. Rad over a period of a couple of decades and it’s not easy to describe. It begins with the travails of Mira (Melody Wiggins), a woman who is driven mad when her fiance is beaten to death by a biker. She becomes a one-woman extermination force devoted to killing predatory men. Meanwhile, the cop brother of her fiance tries to track her down – and the activities of the sinister bikers happen to involve a kingpin named Black Pepper (Bryan Jenkins).
Like the best bad movies, Dangerous Men challenges all ideas you have about what proper filmmaking is by breaking every accepted rule. The dialogue sounds like it was created by aliens trying to emulate human speech patterns and the performances all follow suit. Major characters are thrown aside at a moment’s notice but a predatory truck driver gets an extended subplot and monologue after the heroine forces him to strip and abandons him in the desert. Fight scenes are reminiscent of kids pretending to be tough guys, inappropriate music stops and starts at random and the finale is driven by a set of characters who have been in the film for thirty minutes or less.
However, none of these apparent flaws derail Dangerous Men. Instead, it makes the film a hypnotic and beguiling experience for the true bad movie aficionado. Like a virus, it keeps changing its shape and rules every time you think you’re about to get a handle on it. It might be demented and unreal but its consistent unpredictability helps it stand apart from the bad movie pack and ascend to the level of outsider art.
Dangerous Men might be best summed up by a scene where Mira reveals she has a murder weapon hidden in a totally inexplicable and implausible place on her person. Schlockmania won’t reveal where that place but once you see it, it is likely to inspire this response: you won’t believe it’s possible for a second but it’s so oddly inspired you have to appreciate the demented inspiration behind this choice. That response applies to the rest of the film and the topsy-turvy feeling you’ll get in that moment lets you know you’ve picked up the virus of killer cinematic outsider art.
Blu-Ray Notes: Drafthouse Films picked this title up for home video and has put together a lovingly crafted blu-ray/DVD set for it. The transfer is taken from the original negative: there’s a decent amount of speckling and some light scratches but it looks shockingly good for a low-budget effort cobbled together over several years. The original sound recording and mix is full of bizarre quirks but it gets a lossless treatment here that makes it sound as good as the eccentric recording can.
There’s also a full package of extras. First up is a Zack Carlson/Bryan Connolly commentary: it’s mainly a comedic affair but there’s the occasional bit of info about how audiences respond to different parts of this oddity. More substantial are the video-based extras. An interview with cinematographer Peter Palian (10:34) includes some fun stories of what it was like to work with Rad on a set and an episode of a show called Queer Edge (47:55) includes a brief interview with Rad. He doesn’t do too much talking but he manages to upstage the self-consciously campy host with his own deadpan brand of eccentricity. As a bonus, it also includes Sandra Bernhard and Colleen Camp!
However, the key draw in the extras is “That’s So John Rad” (26:44), a featurette that explores how several Los Angeles-based film lovers discovered the film during its short theatrical run. The documentarians also do some research into Rad’s life, even securing an interview with his daughter and grandchildren: they have some very interesting things to say about what it was like to have him as a paternal figure. It’s an excellent companion to the film, answering a lot of questions you’ll have after watching it.