The impact of iconic American artist Andy Warhol on today’s art, film, fashion and music can’t be overstated. Google his name alone and you’ll get more than 2 million results. He has his own page on Amazon. In fact, calling him a mere “artist” seems an injustice. He was so much more than that.
Film theorist and writer Peter Wollen described Warhol as “A filmmaker, a writer, a photographer, a bandleader (if that’s the word to characterize his involvement with the Velvet Underground), a TV soap opera producer, a window designer, a celebrity actor and model, an installation artist, a commercial illustrator, an artist’s book creator, a magazine editor and publisher, a businessman of sorts, a stand-up comedian of sorts, an exhibition curator, a collector and archivist, the creator of his own carefully honed celebrity image, and so on. Warhol, in short, was what we might loosely call a ‘Renaissance man,’ albeit a Pop or perhaps post-modern Renaissance man.”
It’s hard to imagine any other artist living or dead with such an imposing resume. And Warhol didn’t just dabble in his many professions. For example, as a filmmaker he’s credited as director on almost 100 films, albeit many of them shorts or screen tests. But he did produce a number of feature films that became part of his filmmaking legacy, “Chelsea Girls,” “Heat,” “Flesh,” “Trash,” and his final film, “Andy Warhol’s Bad.”
“Bad” benefitted from a million dollar budget and a fairly known Hollywood cast, but suffered from a bizarre, over-the-top script and a neophyte director (who happened to be Warhol’s companion at the time). Critics savaged the film at the time (The Los Angeles Times film critic called it “morbid and depressing”), but it has raised its status over the years. It is a piece of Warhol art, after all. Warhol’s Brillo boxes and Campbell soup cans didn’t sell well at first either.
The film review website rottentomatoes.com gives it a 71 out of 100 rating, while IMDB rated it 6.7 out of 10.
Critic Dennis Schwartz, writing in Ozus’ World Movie Reviews, describes “Bad” as “This sicko black comedy is a near masterpiece in outrageous schlock shock.”
Directed by Warhol companion and film editor and Jed Johnson, “Andy Warhol’s Bad” is the story of Hazel Aiken (Carroll Baker), a New York housewife who, in order to support herself, not only operates an electrolysis service out of her home. On the side she also operates a hitman-for-hire business using only women, all of whom have no hesitation in killing children and household pets.
Because of the unsavory business she’s in, she has to deal with a corrupt cop (Charles McGregor), who wants her to sacrifice one of her hit-women and arrest her so he can show that he’s actually doing something on the job.
Enter L.T. (Perry King), a good-for-nothing layabout who wants to join Hazel’s hit squad. The bodies pile up, L.T. is assigned to kill an autistic boy and a crying baby is tossed out of an apartment to splatter on the sidewalk below and Hazel realizes, too late, that her bloody business has a high price to pay. As in art and other pursuits, Warhol liked to push the envelope.
King and Baker, being professional actors, unlike the amateurs and other hangers-on of his other films, were concerned with the script (or lack thereof) and the freewheeling, improvisational nature of the shoot.
King, told the Los Angeles Times that Warhol “makes no effort to communicate his concept of the film, but it’s a strong concept. You begin to feel it. There is a short-hand among these people. There is a very special Warhol world view here and it’s hard to define. But it will lose its edge in the professional technique.”
King went on to say, “It sounded insane to me, but you know, she was absolutely right. If you’re working on an Andy Warhol film you can’t approach it like it’s a conventional film with a beginning, middle and a end. You had to forget about the character arc. This was an Andy Warhol movie. You had to give yourself over completely to that world. You had to embrace that world and one of the things you did was to improvise everything. They didn’t want to do anything conventionally.”
Baker told Le Cinema Dreams that appearing in a Warhol film it was “like working on the moon,” and King told the Times, Warhol wanted to make a film about “bad women and incompetent men.” At this he was wildly successful.
Watch “Bad” on MovieZoot.com here.