So what if the only Scorsese movie Netflix Streaming offers is Last Temptation of Christ? Who cares if their Spielberg collection consists of Amistad, Hook and 1941? What Netflix does have in abundance is garbage. It’s time to surrender and celebrate it. Forbidden pleasures and strange delights of so bad it’s Netflix await you! This isn’t so bad it’s good.. this is so bad it’s Netflix.
When it comes to “so bad its good,” Netflix does not fuck around. How bad can life be when three of the greatest disco disasters of all time are available 24/7 with a snap of the fingers? Ok, so Netflix doesn’t offer the whole catalog; you at least need Xanadu (1980), Roller Boogie (1979) and Thank God it’s Friday (1978) to complete this cocaine-encrusted “boxed set.” However, Netflix does have the balls to offer the holy trinity of the genre. Now, I know too much ink has been spilled already on Sgt. Pepper’s, Can’t Stop and The Apple but attention simply must be paid. These movies will never go away and Netflix is daring you to partake. With my handy So Bad it’s Bullet Points!™ format, you’ll see clearly why you should check them out.* Today let us honor the most disco fabulous of the three.
The massive success of Saturday Night Fever and Grease made the musical genre viable again after a decade long slump. Between 1978 and 1983 a minor flood of glitzy, gaudy disco-flavored musicals were dumped on the public. None of them were successful but strangely enough it took Fever’s sequel, Staying Alive (directed by Sly Stallone) and Grease 2 to put the final nail in the coffin of the disco movie genre. Directly after producing Grease, former talent agent Allan Carr was clearly delirious with success when he teamed up with Village People’s creator and main songwriter, Jacques Morali to create Can’t Stop the Music. The film tells the not exactly true origin story of the Village People. Alas, by the time Can’t Stop hit theatres the world had had enough of disco and the film instantly disappeared. Let’s go to the So Bad it’s Bullet Points!™
… were created precisely because of this movie (with a little help from Xanadu)
How do you keep a whole movie in the closet?
Trying its darndest to pass as innocuous Hollywood entertainment, Can’t Stop makes a valiant effort to stay in the closet. Thankfully, every so often the movie lets loose highly concentrated hits of gay. The strongest dose best being at the big audition scene when a petit, mustachioed fire juggler in golden tight shorts jumps on the table and shouts “I’m James and flames my game!” Oh, and I almost forgot, the YMCA sequence somehow gets away with plenty of male full frontal action.
Veteran TV/stage/film actor Nancy Walker might be most famous for her Bounty paper towel commercials and for playing Rhoda Morgenstern’s mom, Ida for eight years on the Mary Tyler Moore Show and then Rhoda. At age 58, after directing a few Rhoda episodes, Walker caught the bug and somehow managed to land the director’s gig on Can’t Stop. At not even five feet tall, I can imagine Walker being tossed around like a medicine ball from Village person to Village person in between takes. I used to think the idea of Nancy Walker as director was the single weirdest thing about Can’t Stop. Now, considering all the psychotic ingredients that went into the whole mess, choosing Walker to lens it all just seems to make good sense.
Can’t Stop features Jenner’s first film role and for the next thirty years it was his only film role. However, the siren song of garbage overpowered the decathlete in 2011 when he appeared in Adam Sandler’s Jack and Jill. Wouldn’t ya know it, just like Can’t Stop, Jack also managed to win worst picture at the Razzies. Is it safe to say Jenner chooses film projects like he chooses noses? No? Ok. To be fair, Jenner works very hard at being the comic leading man here and let’s be honest; the dude is no worse than the production itself. There, I said it.
Sure, a locker room filled with nude boys was special, but that’s not Can’t Stop’s strangest naked moment. Sassy Valerie Perrine plays Samantha Simpson, a newly retired super-model who plays den mother to young Jack Morell (Steve Guttenberg) and his flamboyant pals. In the YMCA sequence she appears topless in a hot tub for about one second in what seems like more of a bad editing mistake than a real shot in a real movie. As she frolicks in the bubbles with the V-Peeps, the scene could not be more innocent or less sexual.
As Jack Morell (think Jacques Morali), a young composer dying for a break, Guttenberg has energy to spare. Say what you want about his acting style; the Goot is always completely psyched to be invited to the party. I swear he spends half his screen time hugging people and yelling, “That’s fantastic! Great tune! There’s no stopping us now!” Guttenberry’s unbridled spirit is captured in the opening credits sequence where he shows off some impressive roller skating skills on the streets of NYC, happily gliding along to the music on his tiny transistor radio and dreaming of pop stardom. The life force emanating from this Jewish Adonis’ pecs alone is overpowering.
Hard Hat Guy’s Solo Number
The Hard Hat guy (David Hodo) is the only Village Person to get a solo song and dance number, not counting the Leatherman’s a cappella rendition of Danny Boy. Hodo shakes his cute little working class butt to the dramatic and naughty number, “I Love You to Death.” The fantasy sequence has a light S&M feel, with Hodo writhing and prancing across the floor like a… well, like a lady kitty cat, surrounded by devilish femme fatales. I suppose we’re to believe that Mr. Hard Hat wants to indeed “fuck” these ladies to death. Alas, Hodo can’t help but give off a distinct “I’d rather die than fuck you” vibe.
Though it’s shot through a thick Hollywood filter, Can’t Stop captures the spirit of late-70’s New York City; where hilarious homeless people assault you and you get lightly mugged every day and it’s all just a part of the magic. Certainly to Carr and Morali, NYC meant freedom. The old timey and hopelessly hokey “let’s put on a show” feel of the story is mixed with a definite pro-sex, pro-drugs, do what you feel and be who you are agenda. As we watch Perrine and the Villagers get down at a trendy club to the catchy Morali tune, “Samantha,” there is a genuine feeling of celebration there and it deserves to be savored.
“Corporate thinking sucks!”
… blurts out Guttenberg’s goofy mom (June Havoc) and for a second I’m ready to re-evaluate the entire film as a leftist manifesto. Unfortunately mom’s just mad at Big Dairy for not liking her son’s psychotic milk commercial starring The Village People.
Perrine’s Samantha and Bruce Jenner’s Ron get married in the end of Can’t Stop but on the night they met, wouldn’t ya know it; they just could not stand each other. On that night, Jenner’s uptight lawyer crashes a wild dinner party at Perrine’s house and is instantly disgusted with the loose morals on display. Perrine shows him to the door and gives him what for in what might be the best moment of Can’t Stop.
I don’t judge people, I accept them.
There isn’t a person who breathes who
doesn’t have certain peculiarities.
As long as it doesn’t hurt anybody
it’s alright with me.
Yeah, but where do ya draw the line?
With uptight squares like you!
Then she slams the door in his stupid god damn face. A truly righteous moment in a movie that’s not at all right. *(author’s note: Please don’t check any of these movies out. I’m begging you.)
Allan Carr’s next film, Grease 2, was also labeled an instant disaster even though it made its money back after just two weeks in theatres. According to my calculations, Can’t Stop still has about $1537 to go before it’s in the black.
Next Week: A schlockmeister producer shows his sensitive side and the world is worse off for it with The Apple (1980)