Prime in the Dustbin: Three Movies in the Miasma of Meh

It’s a question often asked by philosophers late at night, sucking back vessels of absinthe as they wrestle with the great problems that face mankind. Which is worse: a film that is truly awful or a film mired in mediocrity? Perverse pleasure can be derived from a movie that simmers in its own stink. Inept sequences and outlandish dialogue can become bywords for fans of bad movies. But a film that is nothing more than okay? Those are almost more difficult to process.

With a lurid title like Blood Slaughter Massacre, one would expect a good ninety minutes of gory, over-the-top action. Make no mistake: there is plenty of bloodshed and silly young adults do take their clothes off. That doesn’t sound like a boring evening at the movies, but it is. Blood Slaughter Massacre is almost two hours long. That’s an excessive running time for a slasher flick. The lack of creative kills bog the movie down, as does the excessive amount of plot. Solve that mystery, alcoholic cop stuck in a dead-end relationship! Be tenuously connected, victims of the killer known as the Ripper! You’ve seen it all before, so don’t be fooled by the cool name. Blood Slaughter Massacre feels like an Ion Television show, except there are nipples.

There are a lot of things to draw lovers of obscure movies to One Away. How often does one get to see Bradford Dillman and Dean Stockwell share the screen? The story involves a big plot to spring their brother out of a South African jail. There are motorcycles, a tenacious policeman, and difficult terrain to traverse. Elke Sommer even shows up! All the ingredients for an action extravaganza are present. So why does it feel like nothing happens? Episodes of CHiPs are more exciting. There is however, a lot of talk about “gypsies,” which is not the greatest term in the language. Pervasive racism has never been more yawn-inducing. And did you know that the word gorgio means “house-dweller?” You will before this movie is over, because the characters both say it and define it multiple times. I am not sure if that is a non-English language term or some kind of vagabond lingo, but it will get continuously hammered into your brain The title, One Away, refers to an escaped convict. You may find that it means you’re one scene away from resting your eyes for just a minute.

David Warner was born to take the lead role in a movie called The Devastator. After all, he has the tall lanky British villain thing down to a science. He played Jack the Ripper! He played the Evil Being! He was the voice of animated Ra’s al Ghul! It makes complete sense for Warner to be the Devastator, the guy who takes an office hostage with guns and chains. However, there only three other people in the office and Warner has no demands. The negotiator asks Warner what he wants. He orders dinner. This is no devastator. He’s a milquetoast. So what the hell are we doing here? His co-workers begin to act out, but Warner sits placidly and watches it happen, all the while quoting T.S. Eliot. It’s all rather pointless. Michael Ironside plays one of the hostages and, well, he’s Michael Ironside, and he’s always worth watching. There’s just not much for him to do. The Devastator is almost a drama, but there isn’t enough conflict to warrant a resolution. There’s not much devastation on display here, regardless of the expectations set by the title. If you like watching four people eat baked potatoes and tell stories about their pasts. you’ll really get into this.

Movies like these represent the joys and the terrors of streaming video. Prime Video is an excellent example, with their willingness to forego a modicum of quality control and throw damned near anything out there. You go by the description and the cover art, click a button, and hope for a good entertainment experience. Sometimes you win, even if it’s a bad movie. In my experience, this happens especially when it’s a bad movie. But most of the time, what you end up with is something somewhere in the middle. These aren’t horrible movies, but they’re not outstanding either. They just float, somewhere out there in a cloud of grey, generating their own miasma of meh.

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