There is a fine line that separates a movie from being so bad that you can't watch it and being so bad that it's a joy to watch. Movies that often fall into the latter category are many early attempts at science fiction movies or more recently, disaster movies. From the penultimate classic, Plan Nine From Outer Space, to the fourth or fifth in the Airport series where Karen Black's stewardess character has to land the plane, they have a certain je ne sais quois about them that elevates them beyond awful. (What the makers of Airplane, the supposed spoof of the Airport franchise, failed to realize was the impossibility of looking more ridiculous then the original movies.)
Perhaps it is the cheesy special effects that make them so great. Not only are the flying saucers made out of aluminum pie plates, but you can also see the "invisible" fishing wire that's suspending them against the painted backdrop that is obviously moving. Or how about the great acting where all the women sound like they're on respirators they're so breathy in their delivery, and all the men talk in earnest monotones?
The scripts aren't in any danger of winning Pulitzer Prizes, of course, with the plots being simplistic and filled with scintillating dialogue like, "Damn aliens" or the ever popular "We come in peace". Of course what really makes these films are the little things, like a complete absence of continuity and camera operators who seem to be suffering from such severe delirium tremens the movies seem to have been shot during an earthquake.
While the majority of the movies that are so bad we love them were meant to be taken seriously, occasionally a modern filmmaker will see fit to pay homage to the genre and try to make a movie that captures all the things about them that we loved. Unfortunately, modern equipment is almost too good and it's hard to make a movie complete with jerky shots and unsynchronized dialogue.
In order to make one of these paeans to B-movies successfully, filmmakers have to have genuine affection for the genre and the ability to do something on the cheap. But most important is to make sure the movie is shot in all seriousness and let the idiocy of the script and the scenario speak for itself. If it is played for laughs then it no longer has the same appeal and becomes merely another silly comedy.
Back in the 1980s a husband and wife team got it together to make a perfect homage to all those movies that were so bad they were good from days gone by. The Revenge Of The Teenage Vixens From Outer Space could have been made by any of the "great" directors of the fifties. The fact that they were able to do this deliberately speaks volumes for their affection for the genre.
Long unavailable, Teenage Vixens has now been released on DVD for the first time by Sovereign Distribution and will be on the bottom shelf at your video store in early November. It's everything you could hope for in this type of movie. The cast are all neophytes, the special effects are simplistic to the point of silly, the dialogue is clichéd, and the story is absurd and (dare I say it) anti-climatic.
Technically speaking I didn't notice any glaring errors in continuity (well, the moon was full and in the same place in the sky for about a week), but the dialogue was so out of sync with the actors at times that it was like watching a badly dubbed kung fu movie. The sound effects and music that was used for the Vixens, when combined with their hair and clothes, made them look like the femme fatales in 1980s rock videos. Big hair, dry ice, stiletto heels, and black dresses make them look more like hookers for hire from an escort service than high school students, but that's the point.
For the majority of the movie the adult world doesn't exist aside from one teacher who gets victimized by a Vixen. It turns out he knows a lot more than he initially lets on about where they come from and who they are. When it all starts to go bad, and the Vixens set out to exact their revenge on the boys for being so disappointing, the adults finally enter the picture.
Aside from the fact that their children have disappeared (they were turned into vegetables with googly eyes), what really gets to the good people of small town America is that their sons died with their virginity no longer intact. The morals of a nation are at risk and the President calls out the army to deal with the threat.
What allows this movie to work so well was that everybody plays it completely straight. From the high-school students to the Vixens themselves, it's almost totally naturalistic. The only deviation from this is when a character will occasionally direct something to the audience as an aside, but that works too at the points in the movie where it happens.
The cast, although inexperienced, looked just like small town high school students and acted like them too. There was none of the false glamour you get in Hollywood movies about teenagers, and even the Vixens aren't really that drop dead gorgeous, more like heavily made up girls with lots of attitude.
The DVD comes with a few special features, a short interview with one of the Vixens, a deleted scene that's talked over by the directors, and an optional commentary track. I like the fact that nobody tried to fix up the original grainy print or the audio track — it adds to the overall effect of the movie and gives it part of its charm.
The Revenge Of The Teenage Vixens From Outer Space is a wonderful homage to all the movies we loved because they were so bad they were good. The filmmakers have managed the amazing feat of making a film just like them, with only the occasional hint to let us know they are in on the joke. It's not often you get a chance to own something this bad and be glad you do, so don't pass up this opportunity to own what will surely go down in the annals of cinema as a classic.