It’s an unfortunate act to spend time and money making a bad movie. What does it mean, then, to make a bad movie out of an existing bad movie? Does anyone have time for that, given the amount of movies released each year?
Refried Flicks thinks so and has found a niche reviving bad movies (one so far) through the addition of new dialogue. They took a B movie from the public domain (an expired copyright speaks to how bad it was), recorded new dialogue and added a few scenes, and released it as their own. In this case, Killers From Space (1954) was reborn as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (2002).
If someone had sent me a YouTube link featuring a few select scenes from this film, I may have found it brilliant, especially if it were under ten minutes. But Refried Flicks made their re-creation longer than the original film’s already lengthy 71 minute running time. And while I do appreciate a good act of subversive art, I want it to rise above fart jokes and stereotypes about gay people for over an hour.
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) did make me laugh out loud a couple times, but the original movie may have had the same effect in a “it’s so bad it’s almost good” way. DADT, however, had potential to be much more than a sophomoric retelling of the original. While the premise works as a commentary on the military’s idiotic policy toward homosexuals in the armed forces, their addition of tired jokes about the current administration did not flow with the original footage. They could have taken a few lessons from Todd Haynes’s Far From Heaven and kept the focus on the period of the original movie, letting their message about today’s policies speak on their own, while still maintaining the humor. DADT was released early in Act I of the current administration, before most of us started suffering outrage fatigue, so maybe the Bush-Cheney jokes were fresher then.
The main character, Doug Fartin (Martin in the original) who is played by Peter Graves, is abducted by aliens and transformed into a gay man as part of a plot by the aliens to turn everyone into a homosexual. The primary gay-determining factor is that he uses the word fabulous all the time. There is one scene in the original film that has strong gay overtones, but it is overshadowed by the flimsy use of cheeky dialogue and accents.
DADT’s added scenes also detract from the film’s potential. Aside from being way over the top and poorly acted, the new scenes don’t hold up on their own and are not matched well with the original. It also doesn’t help that one person plays almost all the characters in the added scenes, and he’s no Eddie Murphy. The film does include some added gratuitous nudity here and there, which signals a last-minute move by the filmmakers to keep some people interested.
The filmmakers surely didn’t intend this piece as a reel for their sound work. On top of the poor sound, the music was annoying. Sometimes, good sound or a few decent tunes can fill in gaps in the acting or story. They only dug themselves a deeper hole.
Having said all that, any serious film geek needs to watch this movie. The filmmakers broke new ground with their use of blueberry pancakes. It is one of the few added scenes worth keeping, and, while poorly shot, it is a scene that you need to be able to reference in your film history and theory repertoire. Imagine being at a party with a bunch of film buffs and one says, “I’m so hungry I could eat blueberry pancakes off your butt.” As they’re laughing, you’re trying to figure out what film they’re referencing. Actually, now that I’ve told you, you needn’t watch the film.
Refried Flicks had a good idea but not enough time nor money to spend on the execution. If you want a better idea of what the movie is like without adding it to your Netflix queue, download Killers From Space from archive.org, invite some friends over, and watch it with the sound off. Every time you see Peter Graves and any other character on screen, use a funny voice to say, “Hey, Mr. Fartin” and then use a regular voice to say, “It’s pronounced far-tayn!” From there, make up your own dialogue. Turn it into a drinking game. Whatever you end up with, it can’t be much worse than Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
This review is part of the Second Annual White Elephant Film Blogathon.