Tag Archives: So bad it’s good

Movie Review: Baaghi (2016)

BaaghiEntertainment Factor: 3.5 Stars (out of 4)
Quality Factor: 1 Star

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Baaghi‘s sheer ineptitude is its greatest asset. It assembles a hodgepodge of movie cliches into something inadvertently hilarious.

Right off the bat, the movie hints at the stupidity to come. A henchman, Biju, enters the lair of the villain, Raghav (Sudheer Babu). “We found her,” Biju declares, handing his boss…a magazine with a woman on the cover?! Either Biju is the world’s worst detective, or this woman is the world’s worst at hiding.

Probably the latter. The woman is Siya (Shraddha Kapoor), who has some sort of disorder the film chalks up to spiritedness. Siya giggles whenever it rains, and she yells at the clouds when it stops. This is her entire character.

Despite being a mental lightweight, Siya’s beauty charms two men for whom nothing must matter but looks: Raghav and Ronny (Tiger Shroff), a standard issue Bollywood man-child brat whose overwhelming character flaws are forgiven because he’s cute.

In a flashback, we see Ronny fall in love with Siya on a train journey south to Kerala. She’s visiting her grandmother, and he’s joining a martial arts academy. He arrives at the academy bearing a note from his dad, who’s basically Chappy from Iron Eagle: “By the time you read this, I’ll be dead.” The head of the school is Chappy’s former comrade, and the note begs the headmaster to turn butthole Ronny into a decent human being.

There is no indication that Ronny knows or cares that his father is dead.

Raghav falls for Siya on the same train trip, despite never actually talking to her (which explains everything). She has no clue who he is. In addition to being the head of an international crime syndicate based in Bangkok, he’s also the headmaster’s best student… and son!

While Ronny romances Siya and gets Miyagi’d into shape by the headmaster, Raghav bribes Siya’s piece of crap dad (Sunil Grover) for her hand in marriage. A bunch of stuff happens that drives all the characters apart and out of Kerala, leading us back to the start of the film, with Raghav “finding” Siya and kidnapping her.

Siya’s piece of crap dad pays Ronny to rescue Siya, a job Ronny only agrees to because he needs the money to — I shit you not — pay for surgery to help a mute little boy speak again. The mute boy can only say, “Ya ya,” which he does all the freaking time. The surgery is only mentioned once, with zero followup.

During a fight scene, the boy gets thrown about in the best cinematic instance of child-tossing since Gunda‘s Shankar tossed his adopted daughter to a monkey. There’s also a shootout at a quarry, again evoking Gunda imagery (as does all of the terrible acting and plot construction).

Speaking of evoking other movies, director Sabbir Khan and writer Sanjeev Datta boiled down the entire plot of The Raid: Redemption into one 14-minute-long action sequence. They did it so ham-handedly that the producers of The Raid took the producers of Baaghi to court. Make no mistake, the sequence is a total ripoff.

But that’s all Baaghi really is: a collection of elements of other movies awkwardly stapled together into an amateurish scrapbook. At times, the formula yields unintentionally hilarious results. Siya and Ronny make it onto a descending elevator seconds before Raghav, so what does Raghav do? He grabs a firehose and John McClanes it out the window to beat them to the ground floor!

There are many other golden moments that need to be seen to be believed, and the climax is a thing of botched beauty. Watching Shroff struggle to emote is likewise entertaining. Kapoor — who has it in her to be better than this — does nothing to help him.

Baaghi‘s worst moment is an alleged comedy sequence in which a blind cabdriver played by Sanjay Mishra molests a woman because she is Thai and wearing a miniskirt. It highlights a nasty strain of ethnocentrism in the film, which repeatedly belittles East Asian cultures. Another example is the atrocious wig the filmmakers force upon Kazu Patrick Tang, Bollywood’s all-purpose “East Asian bad guy.”

Still, it’s hard to take anything too seriously in a movie this dumb. If you’re delighted by misguided failures, Baaghi is for you. If you want to see an actual good movie, watch The Raid: Redemption.

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Movie Review: MSG — The Messenger (2015)

MSGTheMessengerEntertainment Factor: 3.5 Stars (out of 4)
Quality Factor: 0 Stars

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It is not possible to be prepared for the sensory assault that is MSG: The Messenger. It is vastly more bizarre than the mind can fathom. It must be seen to be believed.

MSG is the vanity project of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, spiritual leader of the religious order Dera Sacha Sauda (DSS) and self-proclaimed saint. Singh takes credit for the following roles in MSG: actor, director, writer, director of photography, music director, singer, lyricist, choreographer, action director, costumer, and art director.

MSG is a highly stylized recruitment video for DSS. Despite a note at the film’s open and close that reads, “This is a work of fiction and no claim is made of any individual possessing any miraculous power,” you’re obviously supposed to believe that Singh has miraculous powers.

He’s super strong. He can fly. He’s telepathic and telekinetic. He shoots electricity from his mind. He’s got a drink that cures everything from blindness to AIDS. He has a flying lion.

More importantly, Singh is cool as heck: “the youth icon of our country.” He raps, and he wears a giant diamond encrusted “1” pendant. He has a fleet of garishly customized vehicles that he never rides more than once.

Yet Singh’s defining characteristic is his fashion sense, which is a cross between hip-hop and circus performer, only more flamboyant. My favorite is a crocheted rainbow-striped shorts outfit that looks like a swimsuit from the 1920s, topped off with a flowery headband. Singh goes through more outfit changes in this movie than an entire troop of Rockettes.

The minimal story concerns a plot to kill Singh after he gets everyone in India to stop doing drugs. Who does the international drug cartel call for a job of such importance? Mike! Just… Mike. Daniel Kaleb plays the succinctly-named bald assassin, who at one point rips open his t-shirt to reveal…another shirt!

If there’s anything that keeps MSG from being completely enjoyable in its absurdity, it’s Alice, an annoying foreign reporter who wants to film a documentary about Singh, despite not having a video camera. Alice is the product of the combined efforts of Olexandra Semen — the Ukranian actress who plays her onscreen — and an unnamed American woman who dubbed Alice’s voice.

Semen’s exaggerated facial expressions prompt the voiceover artist to respond with similarly weird enthusiasm. Awkwardly written dialogue makes matters worse. Alice’s English is mostly fine, but then her brain shorts out, leading her to respond to a question about where she’s from with, “Me Ukraine!”

The murder plot is tangential to the film’s primary purpose of letting the world know about all the great things Singh has done for society. He rescues injured people, frees women from forced prostitution, and cleans up the city streets. There is a sequel to MSG, though I can’t imagine what’s left to address that wasn’t covered in the original.

Singh explicitly mentions how DSS features in the Guinness Book of World Records for achievements like the World’s Largest Blood Drive, but then he unironically chides reporters for asking him questions about it, saying that records aren’t important. He likewise scolds Alice for praising his wardrobe. Dude, if clothes aren’t important to you, than why do you have so many?

MSG‘s purpose as a propaganda film limits its potential for so-bad-it’s-good greatness. Something like Gunda is a classic because its creator was trying to make a real movie and failed at it so spectacularly. Singh doesn’t really care about MSG as a work of art, but rather as a vehicle for spreading his message. In that regard, it succeeds, and success is anathema to the so-bad-it’s-good movie.

I can’t believe I’ve gotten this far without mentioning the music. There are a ton of songs in MSG, and they are all horrible in the best way. Because Singh insisted on writing and performing every song himself — and allegedly choreographing them, although he personally dances without moving his feet — they all share the same lack of musicianship and craft. The performances are a delight to watch.

Likewise, all the action scenes are over-the top and impossible by the laws of physics. Inept editing enhances the hilarity, such as when Mike runs at Singh only to appear suddenly floating horizontally into the frame, feet first.

MSG is a testament to what one man can achieve when given seemingly limitless amounts of money and manpower to execute his ridiculous vision. Something tells me a guy who calls himself a saint doesn’t have a lot of people around him to tell him “no.” That might have resulted in a more competent film, but would that have been better? Of course not. MSG is only watchable because of how clumsy it is.

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Streaming Video News: October 9, 2015

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with one new addition to the catalog. 1994’s Hum Aapke Hain Koun — starring Salman Khan and Madhuri Dixit — is now available for streaming. For everything else new on Netflix, check Instant Watcher.

In other streaming video news, Creature 3D is now on Spuul. This is one of my favorite So Bad, It’s Good movies. Everything about it is hilarious, including the ridiculous creature and a hero who seduces his lady-love by casually lounging against a tree in the hopes that she’ll notice him while driving by. It’s brilliant.

Hey baby, you drive through this forest often?

Movie Review: Creature 3D (2014)

creature2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Hindi horror movies are few and far between, and monster movies are rarer still. Taking into consideration the largely nonexistent infrastructure of screenwriters, directors, and visual effects artists that specialize in monster movies, my expectations for Creature 3D were low. While it lived down to my expectations, Creature 3D is so bad, it’s good.

Here’s an example of how Creature 3D qualifies for “so bad, it’s good” status: the humanoid monster’s roar is literally a guy saying, “Roar.” Not making a roar sound, but saying the word, “Roar.”

The creature’s victims are primarily guests and employees of the Glendale Forest Hotel, a place that sounds more like a rehab clinic than a mountain resort, according to my brother (with whom I watched the film). The hotel belongs to Ahana (Bipasha Basu), who left Delhi following her father’s death. Her hopes of a fresh start in the hinterlands are dashed when a monster starts eating her clients.

The monster also interrupts a budding romance between Ahana and Kunal (Imran Abbas), one of her guests. Kunal is supposedly a famous author, but he gets mysterious phone calls asking if he’s done what he came to the hotel to do.

Do Kunal’s mysterious phone calls or the events that drove Ahana from the city have any connection to the creature? No. Unlike American horror movies in which a supernatural attack is often a response to a sin committed — why do you think the teens making out in a car are always first to die? — Ahana’s encounter with the creature is just a case of bad luck. So says Professor Sadanand (Mukul Dev), a zoologist familiar with the creature.

If there’s a moral to the story, it’s that one can’t run from one’s problems. However, the problems that drove Ahana from the city aren’t the kind that can be fought. She’s just grieving her dead dad. Kunal guilt-trips Ahana for taking anti-anxiety medication, which he considers a moral weakness.

Ultimately, Ahana decides to stay and fight the creature, because there wouldn’t be a second half of the movie if she didn’t.

As for the hybrid man-lizard creature itself, oh, boy. It’s entirely computer generated, so it lacks the physical presence of a man in a suit or even a puppet. Some of its movements are neat, but it feels fake and never scary.

In fact, it’s almost like writer-director Vikram Bhatt — who probably has more experience with the horror genre than anyone else presently working in Hindi cinema — went out of his way to make Creature 3D not scary. There isn’t a single frightening moment in the film.

There’s no payoff in scenes where you expect a jump scare. When Ahana and Kunal stand in front of a window, the creature doesn’t pop up on the other side of the glass. Instead, the camera cuts to a window on the other side of the room, and we see the creature’s hand reach over the windowsill before he slowly pulls himself over it. Several shots are just pans across a blank wall with growling sounds in the background that end with the monster coming into the room through an open door.

Far scarier than the monster is Kunal, who spends the bulk of the movie leering at Ahana. One of the film’s song sequences — “Hum Na Rahein Hum” —  is just Kunal staring at Ahana while she goes about her day. Whether she’s buying flowers or driving through the woods, he’s always lurking. I’ve included a link to the hilarious music video below the review.

Mukul Dev is the real hero of the film, providing most of the unintentional comedy. Even though the professor saves a dining room full of people by scaring the monster with fire, his elaborate plan to kill the creature doesn’t involve flames. Instead, it requires “an old bus” and a human dummy covered in meat.

When that plan doesn’t work, the professor must rescue Ahana and Kunal using — you guessed it — fire. This sets up the single greatest shot in the whole film. Instead of soaking his jacket in gasoline, running to the old bus, setting the jacket on fire, and throwing it into the bus to give Ahana and Kunal a chance to escape, Professor Sadanand lights the jacket on fire first and then starts running. The sight of Mukul Dev running down the road trying not to get burned by his flaming sport coat is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

Despite a tremendously boring final twenty minutes, there are abundant reasons to watch Creature 3D: Kunal lurking seductively in the woods. The creature’s “roar.” Mukul Dev’s flaming sport coat. Meat dummy.

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Movie Review: Roar — Tigers of the Sundarbans (2014)

roar2 Stars (out of 4)

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“I am unnecessarily putting all of you in danger,” says Pandit (Abhinav Shukla) to his soon-to-be-dead commandos. Yes, you are, Pandit. But if you didn’t, we wouldn’t have Roar: Tigers of the Sundarbans — an inept killer animal flick that is nevertheless tons of fun.

Pandit imperils his army buddies to settle a personal vendetta against a tiger. His photographer brother, Uday (Pulkit), rescued a white tiger cub from a poacher’s trap in the Sundarbans. Instead of just leaving the tiger alone, Uday brought the cub to his house, where it was collected by the rightfully pissed forest warden (Achint Kaur). The mother tiger followed her child’s scent to the house and killed Uday.

Neither Uday or Pandit ever comprehend why what Uday did was wrong. When a human steals a tiger cub from the forest, how exactly is a tiger supposed to differentiate between a poacher and a well-meaning photographer?

Armed with an unwavering sense of his own righteousness and a helluva lot of guns, Pandit heads into the forest to kill the tiger that killed his brother. (Never mind that killing tigers is illegal.) Pandit recruits a gaggle of fellow commandos, none of whom is given any meaningful character traits.

The exception is the lone female commando, CJ (Nora Fatehi), whose distinguishing character traits are her breasts. Her battle gear consists of a fishnet glove, skimpy shorts, and a camouflage bustier.

Lest the crew run short on cleavage, Pandit hires a sexy tracker, Jhumpa (Himarsha). She echoes the female warden’s warnings to Pandit that Uday’s death was merely the act of a mother protecting her child. Pandit brushes off their suggestion as womanly sentimentality. However, when a male poacher named Bheera (Subrat Dutta) says that Uday was killed because of the tiger’s protective maternal instincts, Pandit believes him immediately.

This unwillingness to believe the women is a good example of Pandit’s dominant trait: he’s an asshole. He shouts a lot and is mean to the people who try to help him on his pointless, fatal quest. He doesn’t do a single heroic thing in the movie.

After the tiger escapes Pandit’s first ridiculous trap — which involves suspending some of the gang up in the trees by jock straps — his team follows the tiger’s trail downriver, into some misty, mystical tiger homeworld. Legend has it that no one who has ever ventured past the mist has been heard from again. Yet the second CJ is separated from the group, some dudes try to rape her.

The acting in Roar is abysmal. The camerawork is terrible. The story is beyond stupid.

But that’s not why people like me pony up for absurd killer animal movies. It’s all about the bad CGI action, and boy, is there a lot of it in Roar. Though the movements of the white tigress were motion-captured from actual tigers (orange-colored ones), her coloring is painted on, making the whole creature look synthetic. The tigress swims through deep water, yet manages to find purchase and leap onto the team’s boat.

Most of the action consists of the crew posing while holding guns, but not moving much. That’s because the trees of the Sundarbans have to send their roots up through the ground in order to get oxygen during high tides. The ground looks as though there are 6-inch-long sticks poking out of it every few inches. As a result, chase scenes are laughably slow as the actors tip-toe through the woods trying not to impale their feet.

Roar‘s funniest quality is the morality governing Pandit’s quest. The theme of almost every recent killer animal and disaster movie that’s aired in the United States in recent years — primarily on the Syfy channel — is that humans have tampered with nature, and now nature is fighting back.

Pandit’s view is that nature is freaking dangerous, and we’d better nuke the Sundarbans to save us from the man-eating tigers, flying snakes, and bloodthirsty flamingos. The movie’s theme is so hilariously stupid that it can’t even be called irresponsible. The key to enjoying Roar — which I certainly did — is not to take it remotely seriously.

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Movie Review: Gunda (1998)

GundaEntertainment Factor: 4 Stars (out of 4)
Quality: 0 Stars

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Gunda was brought to my attention by a reader named Harry in the comments about my review of Boom, a movie I considered to be so bad that it’s actually good. Turns out Boom has nothing on Gunda: the ultimate So Bad, It’s Good movie.

Director Kanti Shah’s Gunda is a B-movie with blockbuster aspirations. By failing to allocate the obviously modest budget for optimal use, the quality of every aspect of the movie suffers. As a result, not a single component of the film bears even a hint of competence. And that’s what makes it so great.

To call Gunda a revenge movie is to underplay the role revenge plays in the story. It’s the whole plot! Someone kills a member of someone else’s family or entourage, which precipitates a retaliatory murder, which precipitates another retaliatory murder, and so on. That’s it. That’s all the story is about.

The presumptive lead character, Shankar (Mithun Chakraborty), doesn’t appear until about twenty minutes into the two-hour-long movie. By that point, there have already been five murders committed at the hands of warring dons Bulla (Mukesh Rishi) and Lambuatta (Ishrat Ali). Also by that point, Lambuatta and the man who hired him to kill Bulla are dead, making their inclusion in the movie totally unnecessary.

Unnecessary, but not worthless. Lambuatta is my favorite character in the film. He repeatedly shouts Bulla’s name while hanging out on an airport tarmac. Why an airport tarmac? Who knows?

Lambuatta provokes his own death when he rapes and murders Bulla’s sister. More accurately, Lambuatta rips open her shirt in public, killing her. In Gunda, rape — or the PG-rated, fully clothed version presented — is always fatal to the woman. Always.

Shankar enters the story when he stops one of Bulla’s goons from fleeing the police after committing a murder, prompting Bulla to “fix a date” for Shankar’s death. But first, Shankar and Bulla have to kill off everyone else associated with the other party.

Bulla merits a place in the American cultural lexicon as one of the greatest villains of all time. He pronounces every line of dialogue with an extended enunciation of the last syllable. He and his crew are prone to speaking in couplets that make no sense when translated from Hindi to English. Take Bulla’s catchphrase, for example:

“My name is Bulla, and I always keep it open.”

I read somewhere online that Bulla may be indicating that he’s not wearing underwear, but who the hell knows? Does it even matter? It starts to sound pretty awesome after the thirtieth time he says it.

The majority of Bulla’s scenes are shot with him and his femmy brother, Chutiya (Shakti Kapoor), sitting two-feet from the camera in the living room of their mansion. There are only a handful of sets in the whole movie, most notably Bulla’s living room, the airport tarmac, a quarry, and a dock. All of them are apparently located right next to one another.

The rest of the scenes are shot in public places, usually in parks or in the middle of busy streets. A fun drinking game would be to take a drink every time a bus tries to plow its way through the middle of a shot or is forced to skirt around a huge crowd of spectators.

Shoehorned in between all the revenge killings is a romance of truly awkward proportions between Shankar and Ganga (Verna Raj), who navigates the world with a pair of basketballs stuffed in her bra. Shankar and Ganga engage in several stiff, goofy dance numbers in which the then 51-year-old Chakraborty appears to be actively trying not to dance.

Scenes go on far too long, especially the dance numbers. Much of the film can be fast-forwarded through, but I found something charming in the relentless dullness of many of the scenes.

Many of the events in the second half of the film are beyond ridiculous, and it would be a shame to spoil them for those new to Gunda. The less prepared one is for this movie, the better. I will point out that the climactic battle in Gunda — which, again, takes a really, really, really long time — is one of the best, wackiest things I have ever seen. Ever.

And then the movie just ends. It’s brilliant.

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Movie Review: Boom (2003)

Boom_movie_poster1.5 Stars (out of 4)

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2003’s Boom was brought to my attention by Shah Shahid of Blank Page Beatdown as an example of a movie that is so bad that it is actually good. Shah Shahid is absolutely correct. This is a terrible movie that is a lot of fun to watch.

Let me clarify what, in my opinion, makes a movie “so bad, it’s good.” The movie must be entertaining or funny in an unintentional way. “So bad, it’s good” movies can never be made ironically or with any kind of self-awareness. They result from the earnest efforts of a filmmaker that fall woefully short of competence and quality.

There also has to be a sort of inevitability to the failure, as though anyone reading the script would think, “This will never work.” And yet the filmmaker manages to secure the money to make it and convinces people to participate in the filming, in spite of what should be glaring flaws. My best Bollywood example — before having seen Boom — is Jism 2. Birdemic and The Room are my favorite American examples.

Boom meets all the criteria. Writer-director Kaizad Gustad clearly envisioned making a sexy, edgy crime flick to push the boundary of what passes for good taste in India. It fails miserably.

Setting the action within the fashion industry allows Gustad to cast his three main actresses for their willingness to don revealing outfits, and not for their acting ability. In the film’s opening scene, a bra-less Padma Lakshmi struts the catwalk in a see-through shirt, the opening salvo in a barrage of breasts that continues throughout the film.

Lakshmi plays Sheila, one of a trio of model friends that includes Katrina Kaif (in her film debut) as Rina. The group is led by Anu (Madhu Sapre), who’s presumably in charge because she’s the only native-born Indian. The foreign-born status of Sheila and Rina — who speak primarily in English in the film — is mentioned often, seemingly to justify their wearing skimpier outfits than Anu.

The friends find themselves in trouble when Anu fights with another model in the middle of a fashion show, and dozens of stolen diamonds spill onto the runway from their hiding place in the model’s hairdo. The other model flees, leaving the three ladies to account for the missing diamonds.

The diamonds were supposed to make their way to Dubai, home of crime boss Bade Mia (Amitabh Bachchan) and his brother, Medium (Gulshan Grover). Bade’s co-conspirator in Mumbai, Chhote Mia (Jackie Shroff), sends his muscle, Boom (Javed Jaffrey), to force the trio of models to cooperate. Things get complicated when Boom starts making his own plans, with the help of the models’ maid, Bharti (Seema Biswas).

The plot doesn’t make a lick of sense. Boom’s scheme to get out of debt to Bade involves stealing Bade’s own diamonds from him, then selling them back to Bade. This is the same Bade who snaps one of his employees necks because the toilet paper in his hotel was folded incorrectly. Sending a bunch of inexperienced models in to negotiate with Bade and Medium seems phenomenally stupid.

Also stupid: getting the models high before forcing them to rob a bank, although the mass-hallucination dance party that they experience mid-robbery is spectacular.

Predictably, the film’s ending makes no sense. Turns out Bharti and Bade’s oft-humiliated secretary, Alice (Zeenat Aman), are criminal masterminds in their own right. Apparently, they schemed for years in the hope that, one day, Anu would accidentally pick a fight with the one model who happened to be smuggling diamonds, thereby providing them with a means to ascend to the top of the underworld.

But plot irregularities are the least of Boom‘s problems. The performances are crazy, across the board. Kaif and Sapre are almost unbearable in their big screen debuts, making Lakshmi look like Meryl Streep by comparison. Aman and Biswas are fine, given the odd tasks that are required of them, including Aman doing a table dance in a conference room.

All of the male characters — apart from Medium — are completely wacky, and bless the actors for playing them as such. Bachchan sports a white wig and drives around a Toys R’ Us in a child-sized motorized car. Shroff growls through his dialog while sitting behind a desk that his female assistant lives under. He also licks a newspaper photo of Bo Derek.

Did I forget to mention that Boom features Bo Derek in the world’s most under-utilized cameo? Besides having her photo licked and having Bade bark to Alice, “Get me Bo!”, Bo — who’s in either Mumbai or Dubai (or both?) for a book signing — is only seen in Bade’s dream sequence, emerging from the ocean in a gold saree. She has no dialog and doesn’t interact with anyone else in the cast.

While the model characters dress rather butch when they’re not sporting bikini tops, Bade and Chhote wear outfits that even Liberace would consider garish. Bade dresses in all white (to match his wig), favoring lacy shirts with flouncy sleeves. Chhote wears black hot pants with a shirt that appears to actually be a lady’s sheer, fur-trimmed robe.

Jaffrey’s Boom is equally over-the-top. His giant handgun is an obvious metaphor for his penis, made that much more obvious when he lays it on his lap, barrel pointed toward his face, and strokes it for a good two minutes. When he’s not stroking his gun, he pokes the models in the breasts with it as a way of emphasizing his conversational points.

As is always the case with “so bad, it’s good” movies, a written account of Boom‘s oddities does not do it justice. It must be seen to be believed. It’s awful, but it’s always entertaining.

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