Monday, January 3, 2011

the future of negative pleasure...

Ugh, so, I see myself in danger of neglecting this blog again where it's my actual intention to keep it vital and in fact do more with it that I have in the past. It's always seemed like a pipe dream, but one ambition of mine has been to take the Negative Pleasure aesthetic and turn it into a book of some kind, chronicling a mix of overlooked, under-seen and generally so-bad-they're-brilliant kinds of films, keeping a particular eye cocked to the gutter. My main obstacle in doing this so far has sadly been myself, I simply haven't worked on the project enough, haven't been writing enough and subsequently don't feel terribly confident in my words. Anyway, I suppose I should make it my New Year's Resolution just to write, here on the blog and also on the book, push my way through the awkward, non-confident phase back to the time when I felt like I could turn a phrase with some kind of finesse, if such a thing is possible. Can I do this? I don't rightly know, but I know I need to try, so I guess that's what I'm going to do.
In the meantime, here is the proto-list of films I'm interested in covering in Negative Pleasure book. I'm open to suggestions and additions, and to any reliable sources about information on these films, be they books or websites or people I can talk to.
Anyway, the initial list is as follows:

1. Murder in the Blue World

2. Last House on Dead End Street

3. Lemora- a Child’s Tale of the Supernatural

4. The Witch Who Came from the Sea

5. They Call Her One Eye

6. Criminally Insane

7. Linda Lovelace for President

8. Kidnapped Coed

9. Fat Girl

10. Dead End Drive-In

11. Class of 1999

12. Hardware

13. Boarding House

14. Meet the Applegates

15. The Pit

16. Fade to Black

17. Evilspeak

18. Messiah of Evil

19. Secret Ceremony

20. The Todd Killings

21. Out of the Blue

22. Times Square

23. Miami Blues

24. Love Me Deadly

25. Walker

26. Last Summer

27. Nightmare

28. Equinox

29. Crucible of Horror

30. Deep End

What works for you? What doesn't? Anything not obscure enough? Too obscure? Not good/bad enough? Post your comments here or email me a

Also, for you reading edification, here is my initial proposal:


As much as we all love a good movie, be it simply an effective entertainment or a transcendental masterpiece, most filmgoers hold a nearly equal place in their affections for certain less-than-wonderful cinematic treasures too. Bad movies, b-movies, exploitation movies and all flavors in-between have stoked the imagination of many a viewer throughout the years. Now, bad can mean more than one thing here. There are of course films that are bad on a technical level, with crummy sets and lighting. There are films that are poorly written or that feature bad acting. There are films that fail to stretch the suspension of disbelief required to appreciate most entertainments. There are films that feel cheap and others that are gaudily extravagant. Then there are films that combine any or many of these perceived flaws. Beyond all of this, however, there are films that simply exude an aura of, not even necessarily badness, but incorrectness. Films that confuse the senses, inspire discomfort, films that go too far, or that take the viewers somewhere they never wanted to go. These films need not be “bad” in the conventional sense, though they often are. Defined by more than mere quality, this is a cinema sublime. This is the cinema of Negative Pleasure.

Negative Pleasure the Book seeks to make some kind of sense out of these so-bad-they’re-good-and-then-some kind of movies. As movies such as these have so often fallen into relative obscurity, Negative Pleasure aims to mine the relics of outcast cinema for 30 of the strangest and most striking films that never really got their day under the sun. Rather than trotting out familiar cult items like “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” or “Donnie Darko,” Negative Pleasure plunges into the depths of cinematic oddities and excavates the oddest of the odd, 30 films that will confound, perplex, infuriate, at times even disgust but ultimately edify and enlighten adventurous moviegoers. This last part is central to the notion of Negative Pleasure. These films aren’t just trash, and this book not just a cinematic freakshow. Negative Pleasure films are all art in their own way, they reward the viewer who can see past their cheapness and exploitation elements to the essence of cinema within (even, perhaps, when some of the makers of these films couldn’t).

Bad or strange movies have long been the topic of popular books, from the Medved Brothers’ Golden Turkey Awards (which ignited public interest in the films of Ed Wood), to Danny Pear’s Cult Movies series, which tracked the progression of left-of-mainstream films from the silent era through the 1980s, to the more serious criticism found in J. Hoberman and Jonathan Rosenbaum’s Midnight Movies. Indeed, the cult movie is alive and well today, be it mainstream films that get a second life on video or at midnight screenings, such as “The Big Lebowski” and “Office Space,” or camp classics like “Showgirls,” and oddities from other eras, like “Troll 2” or “Teen Witch.” There certainly is an audience other there right now for the strangest, worst-best obscurities of cinema than can be unearthed, and few are more qualified to do the celluloid excavation of these anti-classics than author Harris Smith. A humanities professor at School of the Visual Arts and graduate of the Masters in Media Studies program at the New School, Smith is a lifelong cineaste and a critically acclaimed film and video maker, as well as a publisher of underground comics and a longtime online radio personality and DJ. He has been researching the world’s most obscure movies for decades, writing extensively about them on his blogs and, and as a contributor to the film criticism anthology Captured- a Film/Video History of the Lower East Side (Seven Stories Press). In addition, he has experience in the film industry, having worked on films by Jim Jarmusch and Hal Hartley, among others. In researching this book, he has selected 30 of the strongest, strangest, most mind-bendingly bad and bizarre titles he could find, focusing as much as possible on films that are obscure yet available to the public on DVD or Blu Ray. Each film will receive its own chapter with description, meticulously researched historical information, and expert analysis, and will feature, as much as possible, poster art and stills from the films."


ULAND said...

I'd really love to hold such a book in my hands. I wonder if trying to contribute to zines, or doing your own, wouldn't be a good next step. It's got a lot of the same demands that a book would have, but without some of the pressure.
I do art zines myself, and do layout for print and some design otherwise. If I could offer any help, drop me a line at my blog.

Ben said...

Hey, just for the record, I think this sounds like a really excellent outline for a book, and your shortlist of movies is second to none - a really intriguing mixture of some films I love/am fascinated by, and some I've either never heard of or would never think to watch. Safe to say, if I saw that list on the back of a book, I'd buy - no question.

It's difficult to define quite what, say, "Boarding House" or "Dead End Drive-In" have in common with "Deep End" or "Secret Ceremony", but I think the first paragraph of your proposal nails it; brilliant bit of writing.

Best of luck in overcoming the obstacles that I'm sure stand in the way of making a thing like this a reality, and dumb as it may sound, I'd be happy to help out if you ever need any grunt-work assistance in research or proof-reading or whatever...

harris smith said...

Thanks all, the encouragement for this writing project has been great, now all I gotta do is actually do it, the thought of which is pretty terrifying...