The View From Down Here – For Your Viewing Pleasure

Something about me: I have a strange fascination with bad films. I can sit there and watch films that are truly awful and be entertained most of the time. I especially love the awful films from the 1940s through 60s, the horror and sci-fi films that I used to watch on a Sunday afternoon when I was a kid. And now in this day of instant media and DVD I have been able to indulge this fascination to the hilt.

In the mid-1980s an old friend who shared this strange delusion bought me a book cancelled by his local library called The Fifty Worst Movies Of All Time (1978) by Harry Medved. I read it through in two days. To date I have seen 40 of them, even forcing myself to sit through the dullness that is New Moon all the way through to its bitter end. Worse than that, I own 10 of them on DVD or VHS. And then there are the films that are considered even worse that did not make the book. Plan 9 From Outer Space (voted the worst movie of all time in their follow up book… and I own them, book and DVD), any of the Rocky Johnson space series (I own 2 titles)… you get the picture.

Now, you may also have guessed that I may possibly admit to at times tolerating and even viewing a few minutes here and there of professional wrestling. (As a 40 year old scientist and teacher, that’s as much as I am allowed to publicly admit, apparently.) And so the theme of today’s column is for me to look back in very brief terms at some movies that feature wrestlers. These are based only on those I actually own. And this list also includes the film I consider the worst movie ever made (although lately I have been almost inclined to add the phrase “that doesn’t include sparkling vampires” as a rider… no, even then, it is the worst).

We’ll get to that piece of celluloid waste. Oh, yes, we’ll get to it.

Now, I think 10 should just about do it for a column like this because it’s a nice round number and seems standard for lists. These are in order of what I consider the better to the least of these cinematic treats. And while I’d love to include The Princess Bride (1987) with Andre the Giant, he’s only a bit player so I can’t really do it… So some rules. No wrestling films (like Grunt: The Wrestling Movie which I also own, or No Holds Barred which I refuse to own), but films in which wrestlers attempt to be actors. And The Wrestler (2008), one of my favourite movies, cannot be counted either. Also the wrestler has to be dominant in the film… so Jesse Ventura’s many roles where he is a supporting actor are likewise not included.

Anyway, let’s get watching!

They Live (1988)
            Wrestler: Rowdy Roddy Piper
            What can I say? A very good piece of science fiction from the 1980s, a decade where original (and non-sequel) sci-fi became cute (E.T.), or seriously deranged (Xtro), or combined more with horror (The Terminator). John Carpenter directs and brings his usual touch of brilliance to the film. To summarise: George (Piper) finds some sunglasses that enable him to see the true forms of the aliens in our midst, and through his efforts, their attempts to conquer the world are thwarted. And don’t let anyone tell you differently – this is a Roddy Piper film. He carries it on his back and does a remarkable job. After watching this I would say Piper is an actor. Not some one acting, but an actor. So not only a good film featuring a wrestler, They Live is a good film, period. Well worth your time, especially if you enjoy science fiction.

The Condemned (2007)
            Wrestler: Steve Austin (also featuring Nathan Jones)
            This was a vehicle designed to turn Steve Austin into the latest incarnation of the über-hero as portrayed by Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Essentially, Austin the actor just played Austin the wrestler on the big screen. He was clearly upstaged by Vinnie Jones… but then again, so was everybody else. However, Austin does not do a bad job in what is a standard thriller/sci-fi formula: the old ‘deadly game’ scenario with a few modern twists. I liked this film. It’s not too bad, but it certainly doesn’t make you think too hard. Not a bad way to waste a Saturday night with a six-pack, a few mates and a large bowl of corn chips.

Welcome To The Jungle (2003)
            Wrestler: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
            This film was designed to show that The Rock was more than just a meathead actor (see Schwarzenegger, Arnold) and it worked. While it did lead to crap like The Tooth Fairy and other assorted rubbish, this film had a sense of humour, and The Rock did not take himself deadly seriously. The standard buddy film formula, with an ending that I did not see coming the first time I saw it. I like this one as well. Again, not a bad beer film.

The Scorpion King (2002)
            Wrestler: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
            Rock’s attempt to be Arnold v2.0, with a sand and sandals epic following on from a CGI-dominated bit-part in The Mummy Returns (2001). All up, it’s not a bad film, but it certainly has been done better. The first Conan film is a case in point. But for what it was, the special effects were great, The Rock is certainly an impressive specimen when wandering around in the swords-and-sorcery setting of some pseudo-historical Egypt, and its plot was the tried and true revenge motif. Harmless fun, really.

Santa’s Slay (2005)
            Wrestler: Bill Goldberg
            This film has been condemned in many quarters as a poor horror film. But when I first watched it I had the very distinct impression that it was designed as a spoof on horror films. It was meant to be funny. Although many of the jokes fall flat, I still find it a mildly entertaining diversion. And, surprisingly, Goldberg plays the bad guy, and does it well. He is upstaged in the scenes he shares with Robert Culp, but apart from that holds his own remarkably well. In the film Goldberg plays Santa, a demon who has been tricked into being the giver of toys, but his time is up and he wants revenge. Oh, and the climactic scene involves curling (the sport). How can people say this was meant to be taken seriously? So sue me, I didn’t mind this one.

Hell Comes To Frogtown (1988)
            Wrestler: Rowdy Roddy Piper
            Unfortunately Piper followed up his triumph in They Live with this. The special effects are second rate (though, to be fair, I have certainly seen worse, but having a safety mat appear in one falling scene was a little much) and the story is a cliché. Piper is Sam Hell, one of the few fertile men left, who must go and find some fertile women held prisoners by the humanoid frogs. Oh, and he has a bomb attached to his private parts. And to be fair to Piper, his acting is certainly fine. He does not just go out there and play versions of his wrestling persona on film. This film is let down more by clunky direction and editing and a story that a drunken sixth-grader could have knocked up in an hour. And let us not forget the frog-men. However, it is still a watchable effort. No, really, it is.

Suburban Commando (1991)
            Wrestler: Hulk Hogan (also featuring The Undertaker)
            Now we get to that part of the list where the films become a little tougher to sit through. Now, any film with Christopher Lloyd cannot be considered a complete loss, and there are some amusing scenes here (Hogan telling the crickets to be quiet and they listen to him amused me for some reason), and the plot is certainly no sillier than many other sci-fi films over the years. It’s just that Hogan’s acting range is twofold – grunting and groaning. The special effects certainly weren’t that special, which does little to help proceedings. Harmless, but I really would not be going out of my way to catch this one.

The Marine (2006)
            Wrestler: John Cena
            Okay, I admit it – I really didn’t like this film. I found it dull and clichéd and I was second-guessing it all the way through. Cena was not a convincing actor in his role, and, let’s face it, the role was not that demanding. Explosions and noise and attempts at emotion were par for the course in this one. I’d skip it, personally. Having said that, of course, certain of my female relatives actually quite like this one, but I think that has more to do with adoration of Cena than any cinematic qualities said film may (or may not) possess.

Mr Nanny (1993)
            Wrestler: Hulk Hogan (also featuring Ed Leslie and Afa Anoai)
            What can I say? Hulk Hogan in a tutu. A screaming man with a plate in his head. Rockets. Non-acting children. Kidnapping. The humour of a fifth grade stand-up comedian. Did I mention a screaming man with a plate in his head? This film was dire. It is the sort of movie that makes you squirm with its unfunniness. There’s not much more than can really be said here, except that the moral of the story seems to be if you verbally abuse children they will love you all the more. And yet… and yet. This ain’t the worst of the bunch.

So now we come to the film I consider the worst ever made. And, yes, I bought it on DVD. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched it. It stuns with its awfulness. It’s train-wreck bad, you can’t stand it, but you can’t look away. And it once more features that greatest of all wrestlers-turned-actors, the man, the hero, the legend…

Santa With Muscles (1996)
            Wrestler: Hulk Hogan (also featuring Ed Leslie)
            Where to begin? Hogan plays Blake, a millionaire who is decidedly not a good guy. However, he gets amnesia and believes he is Santa Claus. But he is only recognised by a garbageman. It turns out some bad guys want an orphanage, the same one where Blake was brought up, as well as the head bad guy. The non-acting children find a cave beneath it with exploding crystals, lots of things happen, Blake and the bad guy have a sword fight with the exploding crystals that then don’t explode, however, then everything does blow up and they all live happily every after in Blake’s mansion. That’s the story and I’ll give them this much – it was unique. No rip-offs here. Only because it is retarded, but no rip-offs. The acting here makes No Holds Barred look like a watchable movie. It is simply excrementous. There is not a single redeeming feature about this movie. And yet… and yet… I own it, I watch it.

All right, there you have it. Ten films featuring wrestlers.

So, let’s start some sort of comment thread here – what are your favourite films featuring wrestlers? What are the worst you’ve seen? Has Hulk Hogan been snubbed by the Academy Awards? Or is his snubbing by the Razzies more of a shock?

And that’s another view.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,