Movies so bad, they're good
B-rated sci-fi and horror films are the stuff of Ashland's Bad Film Society, a group that provides an alternative cultural outlet for those who love bad movies. For more than 10 years, the society has met monthly — with an irregular schedule — to watch some of the worst films in the world in the basement of the Ashland Elks Lodge.
"Most people who attend are culturally astute," says Ed Polish, founder of the society. "They may be the same people who attend the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. They like the best 1 percent of good and bad culture. They just don't like the 98 percent in the middle."
Bad-movie lovers Polish and John Javna founded the Bad Film Society just to see if there were any like-minded people in the community.
"It was an experiment," Polish says. "It turned out that there are a lot of people who love this stuff. Bad movies are unintentionally funny and entertaining, and we encourage people to provide commentary in the manner of 'Mystery Science Theater 3000.' "
Up next with the Bad Film Society is a film Martin Scorsese calls the 'Citizen Kane' of alcoholic clown movies, Polish says.
"Shakes the Clown," written, directed and starred in by Bobcat Goldthwait, along with appropriately weird shorts and cartoons collected by film archivist Steven Mayerson, will be presented at 6 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12.
The movie is a satire about a depressed, alcoholic birthday-party clown who is framed for murder. The cast is made up of clowns — clowns drinking in bars, rodeo clowns beating up other clowns — and features Julie Brown, Adam Sandler, Kathy Griffin, Tom Kenny and Robin Williams. Florence Henderson has a cameo as a drunken clown groupie.
Critics thought the movie was in bad taste. " 'Shakes' might be on the edge," Polish says.
The group always runs a serial from the '30s or '40s at the showings. On Sunday, an original 'Batman' serial will be presented.
Polish says he likes presenting the films at the Ashland Elks Lodge. "It has a certain kitsch factor," he says. "I'm still thankful that the lodge puts up with it.
"Compared to bigger cities, the Rogue Valley is devoid of alternative entertainment. The only interesting cultural activity in Southern Oregon is the Bad Film Society. Maybe OSF is second," Polish says with a laugh.
"Groups like ours have sprung up all over the country," Polish says. "There are conventions that specialize in B-rated and horror movies, and there are B-movie film festivals."
In April, during the Ashland Independent Film Festival, the Bad Film Society will offer its Ashland Codependent Film Festival.
Visitors to the Ashland Elks Lodge should use the entrance on Will Dodge Way (the alley between East Main Street and Lithia Way and First and Second streets). Look for the Elks Dining sign. Parking is available in the Elks' lot. Admission is $4. Bring some food for the potluck dinner before the main feature. See www.badfilmsociety.org for more information.