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ho ho ho

godfrey ho, not exactly as pictured
when it comes to films, dom can best me on just about every subject. the man has forgotten more about movies than i'll ever know, even if i dedicated the rest of my life to studying them. so it's always a blue-ribbon day when i can actually introduce him to something. and it was a particularly great day when i was able to introduce him to something so completely bloody awful that it pushed his b-movie loving brain beyond places it had ever conceived and caused his world to tilt on its axis. it was a wonderful feeling. which is why i want to share this with you.

let me explain that this was not easy to accomplish. first of all, dom has a collection of bad, bad movies so vast that there are probably entire studios that can't compete with him. he has a whole subcategory of giant spiders from venus movies. [ok, no, he doesn't, but there are a lot of movies set on venus, from back before we knew it was an uninhabitable toxic cesspool, films often from eastern europe, so their communist governments were probably just trying to persuade all the americans to go there.] so when he talks about the worst movies he's ever seen, he's talking about watching things that could likely net you charges under the geneva convention.

second, i am really not good with remembering names of films. i have an awesome, slightly freaky memory for things like phone numbers and birthdays and other stuff that no one ever needs to remember now that we have smart phones, but a lot of movies i just remember from particular scenes. [dom is very appreciative of this when, partway through a movie he's excitedly showing me for the first time, i suddenly announce that i've seen it before and that i know what's about to happen.] so, when we'd have this discussion about the worst movie ever, for years, i kept babbling about this ninja thing with american actors spliced in and a plot that made no sense, but i couldn't tell him what it was called. and he tried to figure it out. he named every ninja movie he'd ever heard of and showed me trailers until we were both ready to pass out. i'm fairly certain he thought i was making things up, but i was quite sure i'd seen this film, because it's the kind of thing you don't forget. ever.


to be fair, when people ask me what i think the worst movie ever made is, i generally cite brian de palma's massacre of "the bonfire of the vanities", not because there aren't much, much worse movies out there, but because it takes a book that bursts with imagery perfect for the screen, uses a budget that would bail out most european countries and comes up with a real cleveland steamer of a production. i name it as the worst because no film that costs that much money has any right to be as bad as it is. the movies that are worse tend to be those that have no resources, so i can kind of forgive them. plus they actually have some entertainment value, which "bonfire" certainly doesn't.

but if i have to think about atrocities committed on the body of film-making, i really have to take my hat off to director godfrey ho, because no one director [maybe david fincher, but in a totally different way] has ever discombobulated my brain in a way that made it impossible to view the entire art and craft of film the same way. godfrey ho, although i couldn't remember his name when i was ranting to dom about this thing, did that. i saw one of his films and it was like someone opened up my head and started jabbing it with a ballpoint pen they'd fished out of a dirty toilet.

of course, i couldn't really make dom understand this, because i couldn't remember the name of the movie or anything else about it that would help us figure out what it was. i tried googling every combination of terms i could think of for years without success. and then god intervened.

in this case, god's intervention came in the form of dom watching a youtube clip of "worst fight scenes ever", the kind of thing that people often send him because they know he'll appreciate their inner beauty. all in all, he seemed kind of surprised when i suddenly started screaming and gesticulating wildly [i can't imagine why]. after calming me to the point where i could utter whole words again, he managed to get from me that one of those scenes was from the movie. the worst movie [low budget] i had ever seen. fortunately for us, god had also tagged his video with the names of the films featured and dom was able to grab a certainly completely legal download for us to watch.

of course, this was a little bit stressful for me, because i'd built up the film's unbelievable awful quotient so much. what if it wasn't as bad as i remembered? what if it was just boring? as we began to watch it and the credit for scriptwriting was given to "aav creative unit", i felt reassured. this movie was going to be every bit as terrifyingly bad as i remembered.

i usually give people about a half hour before they start to holler "what the hell is going on?" i was a little surprised to see a plot summary given on imdb, because anyone who's actually seen the film would attest to the fact that there is no plot. there are just a bunch of spliced together scenes, some of them featuring the same actors and/ or character names and in the end, a couple of guys who look like they were trying to earn some coin between gay porn gigs have a fight. usually by about the fifty minute mark, people crawl under the furniture and assume the fetal position. i give dom credit for hanging tough until the end and then turning to look at me to ask "what the fuck was that?"

writers: prepare to meet thy doom
"that" was "american commandos 4: angels blood mission", which was followed about a year later by its apparent sequel "american commandos 3". thus was i introduced to godfrey ho, generally considered to be the ed wood of hong kong cinema, except that ed wood's films look kind of oscar-worthy by comparison.

his technique [and no one was more surprised than i to learn there was technique] is to shoot a whole bunch of scenes, which are then edited together into different movies, spliced with bits of unknown or unreleased films from china, the philippines, thailand or basically anywhere else that had films sitting in bins that no one cared about. his films start off by giving you a sense that there's a plot unifying all the different elements, but once you've embarked on the journey, it quickly becomes apparent that "aav creative unit" is about as good as those first generation on line translators that used to translate things like "kiss my ass" as "you have married my donkey" or something. by the time it dawns on you that you're down the rabbit hole, however, it's probably already too late.

in fact, godfrey ho made over a hundred films, which is incredible even when you consider the fact that he was basically making those films out of cuttings he found waiting on the curb for trash pick-up. i used to find furniture that way. i'm not going to judge. as far as i can tell, "american commandos 4" is about par for the course, with other features titled "thunder of gigantic serpent", "catman in boxer's blow", "robo vampire" and my personal favourite "concentrational camp for girls". [note: if you try to search for that, you make google's brain weep. it desperately tries to correct the typo and convince you that you really wanted to look at sombre holocaust documentaries. because google doesn't believe you're an insensitive asshole with a sick sense of humour.]

i really think that this man's work belongs in some kind of museum, but that would actually involve finding his work, which, as it turns out, is tricky even when you know his name. it's not like he's on netflix. or available through amazon. in fact, the whole world seems to be conspiring to hide the fact that godfrey ho ever existed or that it is important that future generations be exposed to his specific type of genius alongside hitchcock, kubrik, fellini and others. all this because his movies could be used as a tactical weapon to drive enemy combatants insane.

anyway, there's nothing i'm going to say that's going to compare to the experience. here's a taste [enjoy the riverdance bit in the first one]:

and here's a look at another piece of his oeuvre:

youtube is, thankfully, a great resource for this. oh, and apparently you can sometimes order vhs copies of his films that crop up on amazon, so i wasn't being entirely honest when i said they didn't have them. of course, it's entirely likely that many of you don't know what i mean when i say "vhs". whatever you do, please spread the love for godfrey ho. the world needs more things that scramble our collective brain.


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