Monday, February 16, 2009

Love is in the Air. And it Reeks: Ghosts Can't Do It Review

This was supposed to be ready for Valentine's Day, but I suck so it's late. Oh well. In honor of the supposed day of love I thought I'd take a look at a movie about love which I myself love, made by a pair of talentless morons who's love for each other was topped only by their love for themselves. In short:



I LOVE the Dereks. That would be World's Worst Actress Bo and her late husband, World's Worst Screenwriter and Director John. Perhaps the most narcissistic couple in showbiz ever, and without doubt the most hilariously inept filmmaking duo ever, the Dereks specialized in making softcore porn home movies celebrating the physical beauty and mental nonexistence of young Bo, and the sub-Ed Wood directing, writing, and producing anti-talents of John that were so softcore they made the Snuggle bear look hardcore. And yet somehow they kept getting them into theaters nationwide. Because, ya know, everybody cares what Bo does. And if they don't THEY SHOULD. Why? Because Bo Knows, and we all need an education.

Together they produced what has been called a Trilogy of Terrors; possibly the worst – and least sexy – so-called “erotic” movies of all time. Quite famous were the first and second entries: 1981's Tarzan, the Ape Man (a retelling of the old legend from Jane/Bo's perspective as she just gets nekkid in the river a lot and Tarzan wanders through the background) and 1984's Bolero, the one where Bo repaired a man's severed penis just by being Bo. Because apparently human males can regrow their genitals like starfish regenerate appendages so long as you just turn them on a little first. Lesser known, but unquestionably the Worst (and thus Best) of the trilogy, one of the most insane, absurd, perplexing, bizarre, and Godawful-ly funny movies of all times, was 1990's Ghosts Can't Do It.

Now I know what you're thinking. They can't possibly mean what you think they mean by “Do It”. They just can't. That would be stupid. Well that is what they mean, and it's far more stupid than you think. It's also one of the greatest laugh-riots of the 1990's, a well-deserved multiple-Razzie “Winner”, including Worst Picture, Worst Actress, and Worst Director. A veritable orgy of stilted dialogue, lifeless delivery, confusing smash-cut editing, and bewildering chapeaus, all in the service of a ridiculous plot, Ghosts Can't Do It can hardly be called a lazy last-gasp from aging filmmaker John, presenting here his valedictory work. Oh no. He worked really, really hard to make something this epically bad.

Call it an err before dying, maybe.

But if the general ineptitude and otherwise baffling existence of Ghosts Can't Do It can be explained by the Dereks being complete twits with their heads up their own asses, what I can't for the life of me explain is how Anthony Quinn wound up in this movie. Yes, you read that correctly. THE Anthony Quinn. Zorba the Greek. Zampano the Strongman from Fellini's La Strada. Double Oscar Winner. In a Derek movie. Granted, he may just have enjoyed the idea of being around Bo, who you have to admit is easy on the eyes (if hard on the ears and the brain). Or maybe he said “Hey, free vacation to Wyoming!”. I dunno. All I know is I'm always kinda sad to see him in this until he starts hamming it up like a total moron. Then I just laugh, because so is he. He knew he was in a turd and just had fun as he collected his paycheck.

But enough BS: TO THE MOVIE~!

I love how the opening credits feature pictures of Bo and Anthony apparently screaming in horror, like they knew their careers were soon to die in a fiery crash.

Anyway, the film opens with Kate (Bo) and Scott (Anthony) wrangling horses on their Wyoming ranch. Scott falls from his steed and insists he is having a heart attack. Kate refuses to believe: “Oh Great One, this isn't the real thing!” A ranch hand says a shot will help, but it has to go in the belly, which makes Scott ornery. He has his own alternative cure: his and Kate's signature kiss, which involves Kate sticking her bottom lip out in a fashion that makes her resembles a monkey, followed by Scott biting said lip as hard as he can. They find this tremendously sexy. I find it rather silly and wonder how it's not, you know, painful for poor Kate.

Scott takes the shot anyway, inspiring a discussion of how “awesome” rabies shots are. I don't know if “awesome” was redefined to mean “excruciatingly painful” recently...Scott asks Kate to remember the “rules” she must follow in the case that he dies: No crying, no wearing black, and live life to it's fullest. Actually, those are pretty decent things to ask for. What's not so decent is Scott asking Kate to top herself so they can pass on together. Live life to it's fullest... but not for too long, I guess. At the hospital, the doctor (clad in his finest Gold's gym t-shirt and Zubaz pants, like all great physicians in the heart ward would be), says Scott's days of “playing King Kong” are over. Methinks the idea of Anthony Quinn scaling the Empire State Building holds great potential.

Scott turns away a kiss from Bo, leading to a bewildering smash cut to a man screaming “SHUT THE HELL UP!” At first you'd think it's the doctor or maybe a neighboring patient, but in actuality we've suddenly jumped ahead in time. Scott is at home having a rather hostile conversation with neighbor...person he may or may not know? I don't know who this is. “I don't wanna listen. You're saying a lot of shit!”, Scott says. His...person agrees: “Unfortunately, it is shit”. Well then stop talking about it! Pick a more pleasant subject! Hey, ain't Bo a cutie? Expound on that! Anyway, I guess it is the doctor, or a doctor, as he informs Scott that he needs a heart transplant, but cant have one because he's too old for the procedure. Are there really age limits on that kind of thing? It seems unfair and slightly nonsensical. Doc chalks it up to “common sense”. How so? Wouldn't the elderly be most likely to require that procedure? Scott asks if Kate knows the score. Doc says she ain't no dummy, which is ironic because at the same time, we see a shot of Kate standing outside looking like a big frickin' dummy, staring vacantly and smiling mindlessly. AKA Bo Derek's natural state of being. And then a dog barks and she points at it like “Ooh, doggy! Look, a doggy!”

Later on, doc says he hates seeing Scott “like this” which makes no sense because he seems fine. He's even putting up a fight against the nurse on hand and kicking shit around the room. He seems perfectly strong and healthy. And then he gets another monkey kiss from Kate and this, of all things, prompts him to suddenly feel weak. THE POWER OF BO DEREK'S SEX APPEAL.

Moving right along, Bo goes on a fancifu-

Good God, she's wearing an entire Fox skin, head included, on her head. And it appears to be the real deal. That poor creature, reduced to keeping the most empty head on Earth warm. Anyway, as I was saying, Kate goes on a fanciful wintry horse ride through the woods as Scott follows in his truck using his car phone (ASTOUNDING 1989 TECHNOLOGY!) to handle some businessy-sounding crap. Scott asks Kate to take a lap and then ditches her when she's not looking. Such love in this relationship. Finding a car of her own, Kate catches up with Scott on a bridge somewhere in their national park-sized estate and they have a rather silly conversation (all set to melodrama strings, mind you) that only establishes that they're going to take a walk.

Said walk (cross-country skiing, actually) comes to a rather abrupt end when they come to...I dunno, a crevasse or something else that Scott can't make it over. He randomly asks Kate to remember all the good times. She respon-

Is that some weird Dutch pottery on her head? What is it? She responds by saying every second is a good time. Aww. Jump cut to bed, where Scott can't get it up. Boy, I bet this doesn't make the “Good Times” list. They both agree that it's no big deal, but later that night Scott draws up a suicide note and the next morning he promptly blows his head off with a shotgun. Lovely. THE POWER OF BO DEREK'S SEX APPEAL! Reading the note pinned to the door, Kate overacts magnificently while Scott's ghostly voice reads the note aloud for us, comparing Kate to a cake of all things and insisting his death was necessary. Meanwhile, Scott finds himself in what must be Hell, as he is greeted by World's Most Annoying Person, Julie Newmar, AKA the worst version of Catwoman to ever disgrace any Batman TV show or movie, AKA the blueprint for drag queens everywhere, AKA the titular character of To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, a film in which she barely even makes a cameo because we needed more time for Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes, and John Leguizamo in drag discovering the meaning of life by getting stranded in a hicktown. In other words, the cinematic scum of the Earth.

No wonder so many people fear death, if that's what's waiting on the other side. It's actually limbo, where Angel of Death Julie will let Scott stay for a few days so he can watch his wife's grief and suffering, a thought that makes her all giggly and bubbly. Lovely. Then again, grief and suffering are two things I've always associated with Julie Newmar. And she makes me wish for death. So this is actually a case of excellent casting. Good work, John Derek!

Down on Earth, Kate breaks the rules by both crying and wearing black at the funeral. She also wears the skin of an entire Black Bear on her head.

Scott appears to her in that old movie way that allows only her to see and hear him, so everyone thinks she's crazy and talking to thin air. Scott's ghostly manifestation appears to have been achieved by filming Anthony Quinn in front of a black backdrop while someone shook a pantyhose in front of the camera. You really have to see it in motion to grasp how hokey and cheap it is. And so our star-crossed lovers have a conversation establishing nothing except that Scott's back (No shit!?). And then he disappears again to take care of some heavenly business, but he promises to come back again.

And so we just cut to when he comes back a day later to tell Kate to go on the vacation they had been planning. And so it's off to some tropical locale where Kate takes in some scuba diving and then starts talking out loud to Scott while some locals look on confused. Kate wanders onto the beach and randomly strips naked, which would be delightful except for the fact that she immediately lies down on the beach and then stands back up to show us how all her lovely bits are now coated in sand. Uh...yuck. She insists that life without Scott “SUCKS!!!” (think of the loudest, shrillest scream imaginable. Now imagine something a million times worse. You are not yet anywhere near the level of of this scream she just let out.). And then we get the moment in the film where Ken Jennings would politely clap, as Kate works the film's title into conversation when she reminds Scott that Ghosts Can't Do It. Because why should they be satisfied to be together at all if they can't fuck? Love is just an excuse for sex anyway, I guess. Scott suggests he could try possessing another body so they can boink again, but Kate's not so sure. “That's kinky stuff!” No, that's necrophilia, technically, which isn't kinky – it's just gross. The locals ride by on a boat and ask if everything is okay.

“I wah juht twying to remembuh a po-hum” Kate insists, suddenly sounding like she has Down syndrome or some other such impairment. Seriously, I can't figure out Bo's bizarre line delivery here. It's just so...weird. Did she have food in her mouth? Was Anthony Quinn sticking his invisible ghost penis down her throat? What? Scott takes the kindness of strangers poorly and howls “Fuck off, kid!”. Of course, only Kate hears him, so why he would bother is beyond me. Later, in town, Kate wanders into an outdoor cafe talking to Scott and somehow not garnering stares from the other people all around. The mayor or judge or something else that gets him the title “Your Honor” wanders over to offer condolences for Scott's death. The way he tells it, everyone on the island practically wept blood with sadness and Scott says he likes that. Egotistical much? You really need an island of Sri Lankans gnashing their teeth at the Gods because you topped yourself? The guy from the boat, the deliciously improbably named Fausto Garibaldi, walks up. Scott thinks his would be a lovely body to inhabit. Unfortunately, Fausto is a womanizing prick who knows nothing in the way of subtlety and just flat out demands Kate go to bed with him. Kate slaps the taste out of his mouth, while the once-seemingly gentlemanly judge/mayor does nothing to even try to defend this woman's honor. Not even an annoyed “Hey!”. What a fella.

At the vacation house, Kate and Scott drool over their priceless pearl collection for no other reason than Fausto is at the window listening and we've now given him an excuse to keep trying to seduce Kate. But he'll have to work fast because Kate has arranged for some folks to come in and bid on the whole collection. Flash forward Christ knows how long to Scott informing Kate that she is suddenly the chairman of the board of his entire corporation, which is worth Two Billion dollars. Twooooo....BEELYUN! The combination of Anthony Quinn's accent and Anthony Quinn's hammy acting is magical sometimes, and his insistence on saying Two Bill-un every which way he can with varying emphasis is one of those moments. It's like he either forgot how we say that in English or he wasn't sure Bo would get the point and had to drive it into her head. Anyway, how'd she become chairman? Dunno. Why? Dunno. Kate asks why Scott hasn't gotten a body yet. He says he doesn't want to leave Kate alone with that Fausto prick around while he goes corpse shopping. Like anyone would, she asks why he doesn't just take Fausto's body. That night, Scott watches Fausto skinny dipping and somewhat homoerotically extols the virtues of his, um, assets. “The question do I kick him out?”

Literally one second later...

“Ha! I've got it!”

John Derek had no use for dramatic tension. God bless bad filmmakers and their insistence on instant gratification. Scott's plan is to...possess him. THAT EXPLAINS NOTHING. Then he says “we need to...ZAP HIM!” Kate asked you to do exactly that a minute ago. What, exactly, have you gotten? Fausto swims up to Kate's bizarre floating house in the middle of the sea. Kate explains how she's talking to the ghost of her husband, and how he wants to steal Fausto's body. Fausto reacts with obvious disbelief, yet doesn't go off to find the men with the butterfly nets to haul this woman off. Scott makes a quip about how he'd like to have a full head of hair like Fausto...which he actually does. Anthony Quinn does not appear the least bit bald. Gray, sure, but not bald. Kate suddenly flips and tells Fausto off for no apparent reason. And then she starts telling Fausto he has to die. Again, he doesn't consider this insane, just amusingly off-beat and quirky. Fausto would fit in well in a Wes Anderson movie. He handles Kate the same way Mrs. Cross handles Max in Rushmore, if that gives you any idea.

Scott and Kate's old pal Winston magically appears and Kate rudely tells Fausto off so she can go for a boat ride with Winston. Win (as everyone calls him) says Kate has to step up as chairman and save Scott's empire from being gobbled up by rivals. Off to Hong Kong for a meeting with...

The Donald. Donald also has some random Japs with him, who are aggressive and annoying overacting little bastards. Kate simply parrots everything Scott says to her, which leads to that old comedy standby of parroting something you weren't supposed to when Scott gets pissed at the Japs and says “Who the fuck are you!?” Oh ho ho. Kate refuses to yield to the mighty power of the Donald, saying he's just “too pretty to be bad” anyway. If this were a print publication, you'd see little brown spots on this page because the thought of anyone finding The Donald cute caused me to vomit a little bit. And then the thought of Bo Derek boinking The Donald caused me to vomit a lot. Like that one Family Guy gag when everyone drank a bottle of ipecac. In fact, come to think of it, I think you can apply all the things they say in that segment to how I felt about Bo Derek and The Donald copulating.

That night, Kate and Win have a rather cold “romantic” dinner on a boat which gets awkward when Win decides he wants to Tango. Kate says she can't dance because Scott hates dancing, but Win convinces her to try. Scott mimics the dance, so I guess he changed his mind. Also, now he not only has a pantyhose wiggling in front of him, there's also a bright red gel just to obscure him even more. The tango ends in ha ha-larity when Win slips and falls and drags Kate down with him. And then, randomly, he tells Kate she'll have to move on someday. Kate responds with “Let's go swimming!”. Win doesn't want to, so Kate goes alone. Some thug watches on from the...well I would say the shadows but he's in broad light. And he's rather befuddled by Kate talking to the invisible man.

And so now some nefarious plot is in action as Win's room is invaded by gun-toting suits and the thug corners Kate in the shower. It takes her a while to realize he's not in there by accident. She assumes he's a rapist, but in actuality he wants her to take some sleeping pills so she'll miss the next meeting, allowing the Donald and his slanty-eyed pals to cut Scott's empire up or something like that. There's an incredibly amateurish moment where Kate is in the pool begging off and Bo clearly forgets her line for several moments, but instead of cutting John just shifts the zoom in and out a few times. Home movies are shot better than this scene. Anywho, Scott comes back, having heard Kate scream, and thug is confused again by Kate talking to thin air. Scott actually has to explain to Kate how to fake taking a pill, which he does with great overacting gusto. Of course, Kate repeats it all out loud so thug knows she's faking it. But then she screws up faking it and the thug says she has to swallow or “I'll give it to ya like a suppository!”

Suppository it was, I take it. And so it's the next morning and Kate is out like a light. Scott is begging her to get up and escape the room. She'll have to climb out through a vent. Kate says she can't. Scott says that's bullshit and it's really simple. I guess it was too, as there's suddenly a smash cut to Scott chuckling over not only a successful escape, but a successful meeting. We skipped everything we just spent ten minutes building up to. Unfuckingbelievable. Win congratulates Kate and takes the chance to say he's always loved her, “You know that!”. Ugh. Let's get that cliché in there too. Scott wants Win to back off, but Kate thinks he's sweet and decides to be nice and let him come back to the island with her.


Win looks on ever more befuddled as Kate tries to calm Scott down about the whole love thing. Flash forward the island where Win and Kate have another romantic evening at a restaurant. Let's dance again~! Kate is reluctant again, but Scott is all into it and ANTHONY QUINN CUTS A MOTHERFUCKING RUG. Well, as much as a man in his sixties can. Kate is so inspired that she does a big sexy dance routine, bringing on a random Michael Jackson reference from Scott (?). An onlooking priest is downright disturbed by Kate's dance and even says she must be possessed by the Satan. Kate stops dancing long enough to placate the douche, who manages to cop a feel when he “takes the devil away” with one of those faith healer touchy-feely things. Wow, the one realistic thing in the movie: a perverted priest. The Mayor/Judge/whatever takes on the part of Sam to Kate's Rick when he gets on the piano to play a slow dance for her and Scott. And then the movie defies it's own rules to send Kate off to limbo so she can actually share the screen with Scott for this dance. How that works, I know not. I don't think the director cared, anyway.

LOOK OUT, IT'S THE PLOT! Scott tells Kate that rat poison is the easiest way to kill a man, so get the fuck to it! Just to confuse us, the movie introduces two random women on a train discussing Kate's black pearl, which I guess makes them the people coming in to bid on the pearl collection? Kate greets the train astride an elephant. Why? I dunno. Hey, stickball! This is ADD: the Movie. Kate and one of the train women, Sabine, are taking part in a stickball game with the islanders. Sabine notices Kate talking to the ghost and says she knows there's a ghost because she's a WHITE WITCH. Now forget she ever said that because it never, ever comes up again. Sabine imparts the trivia tidbit that possession can only occur at the exact instant of death. She asks how exactly Fausto is going to die to facilitate this, and when Kate says “rat poison”, Sabine just smiles and says “OK!” rather than, you know, questioning the morality of murder for personal gain. At home, Kate is all torn up about killing Fausto (well at least someone is!), which offends Scott. Kate goes over the complicated process of pouring rat poison into a drink. This is difficult stuff for someone like Bo, folks. Too bad Fausto walks in on her SAYING THIS STUFF OUT LOUD. Plot foiled.

Like a total idiot, Fausto ignores Kate's warning not to step within the security perimeter around the black pearl, setting off alarms that draw Sabine and Win's attention. So while those two rush over from the other side of the Earth, seemingly, Kate and Fausto have an epic standoff. Kate gets a gun, but doesn't have the guts to fire it. Fausto just casually takes it away. Kate breaks out some wacky karate shit when she jumps over a table with a wacky kick. Elsewhere, Win and Sabine toddle along on a moped that travels at half the speed of smell. They could walk faster than this thing and they have to when it runs out of gas. Kate has Fausto pinned down and clubs him, but ultimately can't bring herself to pour the poison down his throat. Scott is so upset that he finally just gives up and leaves Kate. Everyone arrives at the house and the Mayor/Judge proclaims that Fausto is under arrest.

In Limbo, Scott begs Julie Newmar for permission to speak to God but the rotten bitch denies him. And then she tells him he's on his way to Hell if he keeps inciting violence. And then she mocks the whole possession thing like a total fucking whore. I know it's wrong to say you'd beat a woman, but if I ever meet Julie Newmar she will know my wrath. She's the most annoying person EVER.

The next day, Scott comes back. Newmar tells him he has to at least give Kate a choice in the whole murder thing, and of course she's ecstatic now. She hops on a boat to visit the mystical floating prison in the middle of nowhere. Seriously, did it get it's own island? So she makes the epic trip...and Fausto isn't there because that two-timing mayorly judge snuck him out. Kate immediately goes back to the island via plane (?) to confront the mayor (as they finally confirm, with ten fucking minutes left). He denies it at first, but the appearance of a girl screaming about the pearl beds clues Kate in that Fausto must be diving for pearls in some kind of vague scam. Kate heads out there with Win in tow, and finds that Fausto has gotten tangled down below and drowned. Obviously, it's too late, but Kate does CPR and brings Fausto back to life...with Scott inside! Moment of death, moment of life, what's the difference, really? This is where things get really creepy, as Fausto's body speaks with Scott's voice and Christ it's a terrifying thing. Especially when they go for a literal roll in the hay at the ranch and Kate says she'll die if she takes anymore cock, and Scott/Fausto says “PREPARE TO DIE!” in a most diabolical fashion. And doesn't anyone notice Fausto's sudden vocal change? To wrap everything up, Kate and Scott go for another horseback ride and he falls off again, but now it's just because Fausto's body is a total clutz. Ho ho ho.

Well, that was...bizarre. Confusing. Repulsive. Inept. And undeniably Dereckian. If you ever get the chance to snatch up a copy of this movie, take it. Even if it is only available on a scuzzy ancient VHS (or if you're really lucky, a nearly impossible to find laserdisc), it's just glorious. Ghosts Can't Do It is what terrible movies are all about: capturing the stupid dreams of stupid people on celluloid so future generations can look back and say “Boy, that sure was stupid” and laugh heartily. And it is. And I did. Thank you, John and Bo. Your love of each other and, most of all, yourselves will live on forever in infamy.


The Cheap-Arse Film Critic said...

I don't think there's ever, EVER been an actress who's owed her entire career to her looks more than Bo Derek. The only possible exception in Melenie Griffith, who I wrote about in my review of "Fear City" last week. And I would actually say Melenie brought more to the table than Bo with regards to her talent level.

Redunbeck said...

Everybody brings more than Bo does in regards to talent. Bo is seriously the worst actress I can think of.

Anonymous said...

funniest review i've ever read. thanx