We here at Psycho Drive-In know what’s what. We know the good shit and we let you know about it. And when the critics and audiences feel the urge to tear down and destroy those things we know in our hearts of hearts are glorious and great, we will be there setting things right, walking the walk and talking the talk. For we Psychos have the sight. We know greatness when we see it, even if the world around us cries out to the heavens and dismisses us outright. We are never wrong. Here are seven examples that prove we know better and you should all be keeping an eye out for what we love next. Here’s a Psycho 7 list of the Greatest Films to Flop at the Box Office. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai (1984) When it comes to the wild and wonderful world of Buckaroo Banzai, there is only one rule you have to remember: Just go with it. Banzai is a daredevil test pilot. He’s also a world famous physicist. And, on top of everything else, he’s also a rock and roll star with his own band, the Honk Kong Cavaliers. Just go with it. There are aliens in the movie called the Red Lectroids that escaped from the Eight Dimension and have been living in New Jersey since 1938 when Orson Welles reported their arrival, and then denied it, in his War of the Worlds broadcast. And they’ve all got the same first name, John. Just go with it. And there is a watermelon in the research lab. Just go with it. You see, what makes Buckaroo Banzai a great film is that it is fully defined and its cast of characters are already in place when the movie begins. This is a fleshed out universe with story arcs that are already playing out and the viewer is dropped in the middle of it. Everyone who watches this movie is only getting a hint at the bigger picture and all the marvels Buckaroo’s world holds. Imagine coming into a show like Babylon 5 or Farscape in one of their later seasons. Watching Buckaroo Banzai is just like that, only there are no previous films to refer back to. There is no build up, just momentum. So, you can either shake your head and say, “What the heck is this nonsense?” or you kick back, relax and just go with it. It’s very easy to buy into this world because while the situations are so trippy, all the characters take the dangers seriously. There is no tongue-in-cheek here and no winking at the camera. The cast just goes with it. And what a great cast there is. You have Peter Weller, a Doc Savage for the 80’s, who plays Buckaroo with all the gravity the character needs to make him work in the lunacy that is going on around him. At his side is Ellen Barkin as Penny Priddy, who is the long-lost twin sister of Buckaroo’s deceased wife; Clancy Brown as Rawhide, Buckaroo’s most trusted assistant and Jeff Goldblum as the newest member of Banzai’s team, New Jersey. Facing off against Buckaroo and his crew is John Lithgow as Dr. Emilio Lizardo, possessed by Lord John Whorfin and he is nuttier than a squirrel dropping. Still, but he is a major threat to the Earth and he’s backed-up by Christopher Lloyd as John Bigbooté and Vincent Schiavelli as John O’Connor. All of the actors here are talented, many of them were on the cusp of stardom and it is clear they are having a ball in their roles. The masterminds behind the world of Buckaroo Banzai were director, W.D. Ritcher, and screenwriter, Earl Mac Rauch. What they brought to the screen is one of my all-time favorite movies. I always tell people it is the first half of my Perfect 1984 Double Feature (the second half is The Last Starfighter) and the only bad thing is, after 30 years, I’m still waiting for the sequel, Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League that was announced at the end of the film. Every now and then a rumor pops up on the internet and hope springs eternal that I’ll get to see a new Buckaroo Banzai adventure. With luck, any follow-up will be just as exciting, just as wonderful and just as brilliant as the original movie. One thing is for certain, if the sequel ever happens, I plan to just go with it. — Dan Johnson Big Trouble in Little China (1986) By 1986, indie-film iconoclast John Carpenter had hit the mainstream; first with the Stephen King adaptation Christine (1983) and then with the critically-acclaimed Starman in 1984. Before these two films, Carpenter had taken a beating at the box-office with his adaptation of The Thing, so he had been trying to rebuild that Hollywood cred that helps get films made. And while the initial script he read for Big Trouble in Little China was a supposedly “outrageously unreadable” western, but there was something there he liked. After an extensive rewrite by W. D. Richter (the director of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai) and some final tinkering by Carpenter himself, Big Trouble in Little China began filming for a breakneck speed 15 week shoot, utilizing every penny of the film’s $25 million budget – because you see, Eddie Murphy’s The Golden Child was also on the schedule and 20th Century Fox wanted to beat it to the box office. With Kurt Russell on-board as the bumbling meathead Jack Burton, Dennis Dun as Wang Chi – the guy who actually does all the fighting – and Kim Cattrall signed as the brainy love-interest Gracie Law, our heroes were lined up and ready to team up with Victor Wong’s Egg Shen to battle the ancient sorcerer Lo Pan, played to perfection by James Hong. There was kung fu fighting, magical warriors, crazy monsters, and Chinese gang fights in the streets. The test screenings numbers were great, execs from Fox told Carpenter it was going to be the biggest movie of the year, and he was promised a big ad campaign to sell the film. And then it bombed, only bringing in $11 million total before all was said and done. The biggest movie that year was actually Top Gun, which brought in somewhere around $160 million more than Big Trouble. This is why we can’t have nice things. As with most of the films on this list, Big Trouble in Little China was simply ahead of its time. Hell, it’s time may not have actually even come yet. There may come a day when a double-feature of Big Trouble and Buckaroo Banzai wouldn’t be the coolest, most amazing three plus hours you could spend in a movie theater, but that day has not yet arrived. If there was ever any two movie universes that actually NEED to crossover these are the ones, as they both share that same crazy energy and willingness to go anywhere the story wants to go. Kurt Russell totally inhabits the role of Jack Burton in such a non-self-conscious way that no matter what stupid megalomaniacal self-aggrandizing statement escapes his mouth, he’s such a purely innocent and good-hearted dipshit that you have to love him. It’s not even a question. Yeah the effects are cheesy and the story is silly, but it’s not winking at you or pretending to be something it’s not. Big Trouble in Little China is so unpretentiously obsessed with being entertaining that it’s a crime more people didn’t love it right out of the gate. But history has been kind, and Big Trouble has become a cult favorite thanks to HBO and home video. And if you ever want to hear a fantastic audio commentary, check out the Blu-ray and listen to Carpenter and Russell have more fun than should be allowed. So to the critics and audiences of 1986, just remember what ol’ Jack Burton does when the earth quakes, the poison arrows fall from the sky, and the pillars of Heaven shake. Yeah, Jack Burton just looks that big ol’ storm square in the eye and he says, “Give me your best shot, pal. I can take it.” And Big Trouble did just that. — Paul Brian McCoy Blade Runner (1982) Blade Runner is not about the cities of the future, but about the human race of the future. This probably seems like heresy when talking about a film which has become to visions of the urban future what J.R.R. Tolkien’s works have become to visions of a heroic past. Thirty-plus years on, it’s easier than ever to see the film for what it always was under its dark and glittering skin. We are all, in our own ways, both more and less than human, and life is matter of compromising between both extremes. Even if the film’s moody cityscapes make it hard to think about anything else in it — a big part of the reason the movie improves so on repeat viewings, as the initial shock of the visuals gives way to the real story — Blade Runner’s still not so much about the details of what the future will hold, but about how it’ll look and feel. It’s no coincidence that the definitive book on the making of the film is named Future Noir— noir, after all, is about attitude and atmosphere, not forensic precision. Times Square today looks a whole lot like the ad-splattered urban supersprawl depicted in Blade Runner; that part was easy enough to see coming. What strikes me most about the film now is how its idea of “the future” seems timeless, because it’s rooted not in technical details but mood and emotional color. The future’s always gonna be a sad and beautiful place, no matter what century you’re growing up in. To say audiences in 1982 were taken aback by Blade Runner is a polite understatement. Audiences expecting a redux of Ford’s smug and cocky Han Solo or Indiana Jones personas were taken aback by his glum, detached character and winced at his thuggish voice-over delivery (which Ford recorded several instances of to no avail). The graphic violence — trimmed for an R rating, but still potent and disturbing — and ponderous pace of the movie didn’t help either, and a spate of mixed (Roger Ebert) to negative reviews (the ever-acerbic Pauline Kael) served as that many more nails in the coffin lid. Worst of all, though, was the timing. Blade Runner landed in theaters the same month as E.T. and was eaten alive by what proved to be one of the biggest hit films of all time. Even its Oscar nod for visual effects was lost to Spielberg’s fairy tale from space. It was home video that gave Blade Runner its new lease on life, and helped cement its reputation as a classic of both SF and modern moviemaking generally. Each successive generation of home video has been nothing but a boon for the movie; with each leap in resolution and fidelity, there’s that much more of the movie to be see in the first place — especially after a painstaking restoration process that finally put to bed all the nagging postproduction issues that had dogged the movie for so long. If Warner Brothers doesn’t put this out as one of their first 4K UHD releases, I’ll be shocked. Nobody plans for a movie to achieve timelessness. It’s something that by and large just happens, a happy accident of fate. Science fiction movies in particular rarely achieve this — they’re all too often limited, like any film, by being a product of their moment in time. The few that do transcend, do so because they have something to say about us that simply doesn’t age. I worry about a day when a movie like Blade Runner becomes irrelevant, because that might well mean the humanity meant to receive it as an audience no longer exists. — Serdar Yegulalp Dredd (2012) At first glance, it might seem easy to explain Dredd’s cult status post-box office. After all, the character has a 38-year history in comics and a previous film, 1995’s Judge Dredd, (starring action-mega-star Sylvester Stallone) under his belt. Dredd is a widely recognized and beloved character with a rich ass-kicking backstory, existing in a brutal and comically absurd totalitarian dystopia. The fact that Stallone’s Judge Dredd was a spectacular flop, that fans felt the character was entirely underserved by the film, combined with Dredd’s own enduring legacy of badassitude serve as the perfect primer for someone to finally come along one day and do the whole thing right. But it’s not just this stage-setting and latent fandom that make Dredd a cult film tour de force. It’s the fact that they didn’t just do it right, they did it goddamn near perfect. The approach eschews a few of the more irrational elements of the source material while delivering on the heart of the matter; brutal and unrelenting violence served in the name of the law. And it does so in such a sublimely stylized fashion that seeing it all play out is as much a work of art as the ink and color of the character’s comic book roots. This film is careful and considered at all the right moments, brilliantly cast and capable of engaging themes of fascism, guilt and innocence while still providing a hardcore action thrill ride. We are given the perfect intro to the world of Dredd via the character of rookie Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), insuring that even if you aren’t a hardcore fan you’ll be able to follow along. There’s no pedantic hand-holding or over-explaining, the story is essentially a classic siege and it’s not difficult to choose sides. The film’s villain, Ma Ma, played with casual yet profound menace by Lena Headey (yes, Cersei Lannister of Game of Thrones herself!) makes for a fascinating and deplorable character study, the chaotic feminine evil to Dredd’s neutral masculine law. And this is to say nothing of what a gorgeous film Dredd is. The film’s central effect, the use of a hallucinatory drug called Slo-Mo, allows for scenes of balletic violence to play out in crystalline beauty. A scene involving bullets passing gracefully through the cheek and open mouth of a user induces an almost blissful nirvana before slamming back into harsh real-time. Violence that may otherwise have appeared merely gratuitous is transformed and given meaning. Yes, I’m gushing. Frankly I haven’t seen a better translation of comic to film, and by not over-promising this film is able to over-deliver in rather spectacular fashion. Despite falling just short of earning its budget back at the box office, Dredd found new life and a legion of fans on home video, rumors of a sequel have run wild ever since. Though it may never happen, there is certainly enough promise here to warrant it, and a reason to hope that further comic properties can be transitioned so effectively to the big screen down the road. — Adam Barraclough Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) “Few people understand the psychology of dealing with a highway traffic cop. A normal speeder will panic and immediately pull over to the side. This is wrong. Make the bastard chase you.” – Raoul Duke, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) Johnny Depp’s portrayal of iconoclastic, Gonzo journalist, Raoul Duke, in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas offers a timeless account of chasing the American Dream, on drugs. On lots and lots of drugs. The brilliant screenplay written by Terry Gilliam is based on the same-name book, written by Hunter S. Thompson in 1971. Thompson is known for his substance-fueled retrospectives on counterculture movements, featured in works such as The Rum Diaries and Hell’s Angels. And while The Rum Diaries made an awesome movie too, no Thompson-based film will ever be as epic as Fear and Loathing. From Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Hunter S. Thompson to Benicio Del Toro’s version of Dr. Gonzo the lawyer, Fear and Loathing is an amazing movie. In addition to stellar acting, we’ve got badass psychedelic effects and music, and one of the funniest comedies you’ll ever watch. Fear and Loathing is a timeless masterpiece, because unlike Pineapple Express, you’ll keep laughing, even when the drugs wear off. Anyone who is a fan of Depp’s drunk pirate, will really be impressed by his high AF writer. Sure rum makes a man stumble, but the cocktail of drugs these men are on, turn every day citizens into slithering reptiles, and beautiful clouds into dangerous bats. On top of that, there are remarkable cameos by Tobey Maguire, Cameron Diaz, Gary Busey, Flea, and Hunter S. Thompson himself. The year is 1971 and the two “professionals” are en route to covering the Mint 400 race in Las Vegas, Nevada. Duke and Dr. Gonzo barrel down the highway in a cherry red Chevy Impala convertible, with a trunk full of drugs. Duke’s personal pharmacy leads to a series of adventures that makes the party scenes in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) look family-friendly. Because if Duke gets anything, it’s that road trips require a variety of substances. “We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a saltshaker half-full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers… Also, a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of beer, a pint of raw ether, and two dozen amyls.” Though the focus of the film is on the colorful experiences of trippy drugs like mescaline and LSD, one of the funniest scenes features good old-fashioned cocaine. Benicio Del Toro, with his crazy hair and mustache, plays an excellent, psychotic, coked-up lawyer, Dr. Gonzo. Dr. Gonzo, who is usually more reasonable than Duke, tries to do coke in a speeding convertible with the top down. Spoiler alert, the coke goes everywhere. “Jesus! You see what God just did to us, man?” Dr. Gonzo shouts in his defense. The ether-binging Duke may not be able to interact with humans, but would never do something that stupid. The two go on two have badass mescaline trips in a hotel lounge full of lizard people and even make it to a district attorney’s police convention on dangerous drugs. Who wouldn’t want to trip balls and sit in a room full of cops? It’s like Duke says, sometimes you just have to go out and “represent the drug community.” — Dory Hoffman Heathers (1988) There are films that you watch that impact you in such a way that you will never forget where you were when you saw them. I was in my bedroom watching my wood-paneled TV one Saturday night when HBO premiered a little high school comedy called Heathers. And it blew my 13-year old mind away. Watching it again, all I could think was how fresh Heathers still feels. It’s chock full of whip smart dialogue, edgy characters, and insightful commentary on high school life. If The Breakfast Club is the poster child for 80s high school dramadies, Heathers is its trenchcoat-wearing, foul-mouthed cousin that the family tries not to mention at gatherings. It’s also a film that COULD NOT get made in today’s social climate. The film had a limited release and barely grossed over $1 million. By all accounts it should’ve been forgotten. But thanks to HBO and home video, Heathers found a following. It was the film that all of us who were shunned in junior high/high school could relate to – even more than the John Hughes flicks (which I love). It didn’t sugar coat the high school experience. It held up a cocaine-caked mirror to it. Heathers was also laughing at it as well – the absurdity of popularity polls, of idolizing the captain of the football team or the prom queen, of thinking that your parents are idiots and couldn’t begin to understand you. The cast was perfect as it took up-and-coming young stars and showcased them at their finest – and darkest – hours. Winona Rider is brilliant as Veronica, a girl on the cusp of being among the most popular group of girls in school, the Heathers. However, she can’t quite commit to what that entails – ignoring older, less popular friends or being cruel to those who are different. Her journal entries show us that Veronica has a conscience and is struggling to make the choice. Then enters J.D. Christian Slater channels his inner Jack Nicholson and creates one of the great anti-heroes of 80s pop culture. He could be Travis Bickle in his high school years. J.D. doesn’t believe in the hierarchy of high school popularity and spits in the face of it every chance he gets. Slater chews up the scenery with every line he utters and is nothing short of awesome in the role. The two bond almost instantly and from there the anarchy ensues. From poisoning the top Heather to murdering two star football players, J.D. and Veronica decide to fight back against the system. But Heathers are like HYDRA – cut off one head and two more take its place. The two other Heathers begin their mad dash to being the top dogs in school. Veronica begins to believe that you really can’t beat the system. J.D. believes you can, but only by destroying it and starting from the ground up, which he truly intends to do with explosive results. It’s a film that remains bold, daring, and – yes – funny. Darkly funny. But, again, there is a timeless quality to it. I feel that if you showed it to teenagers today that it would still have an impact and, for many, may be their favorite movie. Especially those of us who were on the outside, which as Heathers reminds us, is the majority. The geeks and the misfits actually outnumber the popular kids, but we let their opinions control us. We need to stop that line of thinking completely. So, deranged mind or not, J.D. was right definitely right about that. — Kevin Pauley Scott Pilgrim vs The World (2010) I remember reading the Scott Pilgrim comics and thinking that if they made a film Edgar Wright would be a perfect choice of director. His TV series Spaced has a similar sense of unreality, of strange things happening to normal people leading normal lives, where officers of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs are presented as the agents from The Matrix but Daisy still needs to get a job to pay the rent, and where stuff like this happens on a night out: Then they did make a film! Edgar Wright did direct it! No one went to see it! Perhaps people just don’t like romantic comedies inspired by computer games and indie music that are structured like musicals except with the songs replaced by martial arts battles. Looking at that summary, I can see that perhaps it would be a bit of a hard sell. I can’t think of another western film that ticks all those boxes; maybe Kill Bill is a similar mongrel, although the specific genres and influences are different; perhaps that’s why it’s everyone’s least favourite Tarantino. It is of course my favourite. The thing is that it’s not difficult to make a film that draws on such a range of sources, but it’s easy to make a mess of it; all those disparate elements could clash, resulting in a jumbled tone and haphazard pacing, but I think Wright manages to avoid that. He blends things well, as he did in Spaced, so while, yes, there is a transition from a bunch of young twentysomethings hanging out at a gig to a punch-up, it is a transition rather than a jarring jump. That’s not to say that the film is sensible. It’s not; it’s bold, and colourful, and more than a bit silly, but it works because that’s presented as the reality of the world we’re seeing. There are no knowing winks to the audience when Scott’s defeated opponent turns into points and coins; Wright is confident enough that his audience will know what that’s about without going “DO YOU SEE IT IS LIKE YOUR NINTENDOES AND THAT.” Scott Pilgrim vs The World should have been a massive success. It’s got a great soundtrack, impressive visuals, good acting, a strong script, and it’s not shy about its influences, but for some reason, that wasn’t enough. Perhaps it was too strange for conservative cinema audiences. Perhaps there wasn’t enough Simon Pegg and Nick Frost — although that did Spielberg’s Tintin atrocity no favours — for conservative Edgar Wright fans. Who knows? I suspect that I’m supposed to know, and to provide a rigorous examination of the reasons for the film’s failure, but I don’t understand that failure, because it’s packed full of brilliant, unpredictable stuff, just as Spaced was. I was surprised when it bombed, and I still can’t work it out, but one day I am sure the film will find its audience. — Kelvin Green Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related One Response John E. Meredith December 18, 2015 Haven’t seen DREDD, but a few of these others are some of the best movies ever. BLADE RUNNER, BIG TROUBLE, and HEATHERS rule the world and only a few of us know it. Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.