Success has many fathers, while failure is an orphan. But “Troll 2” — a 1990 schlock smorgasbord of filmmaking ineptitude combining inexperienced actors, an English-deficient Italian director and a generally ill-conceived looniness — is one cinema foundling with a healthy foster care existence.
The so-bad-it’s-good love it gets from trash cultists spurred the documentary “Best Worst Movie,“ directed by Michael Paul Stephenson as an act of good sportsmanship for having starred in “Troll 2” himself as a child. We’re shown fan-rabid screenings (including at West L.A.’s NuArt), testimonials, key participants re-creating scenes, even a peevish defense of its merits by director Claudio Fragasso. But the main focus is square-jawed Alabama dentist George Hardy, whose acting bug led to one regrettable outbreak, playing “Troll 2’s” dad hero.
Hardy vacillates between enthusiasm for his newfound idoldom (re-creating his cheeseball line-readings to anyone/everyone) and, during a snit at a convention, open disgust at horror obsessives. Sometimes the effect is a little too mercenary, as if Stephenson were a victim working too hard to buddy up to his persecutors. (“Troll 2” mom Margo Prey, now a shut-in caring for her mother, comes in for especially pointless freak show-gazing.)
But in its more amusing and accepting moments, “Best Worst Movie” captures the geek-joy fizz when fame morphs into notoriety, and artlessness becomes its own art. Copyright © 2010 Los Angeles Times
In 1962, while attending USC Cinema Evening School, my professor Herbert L. Strock asked me to work on a feature film he was going to direct. That feature was “The Crawling Hand,” shot on 35mm in B&W, and cost $99 thousand dollars. My credit is Production Assistant. It has been shown continually on TV, home video and DVD since its initial release almost 50 years ago. Some years ago, it played along with “Santa Clause Conquered the Martians,” with Pia Isadora, on an ersatz TV film festival, “The Best of the Worst, which I believe was on KHJ-TV, sponsored by Dr. Pepper.
In my future Blogs, I will write more about the very talented Herbert L. Strock, who taught me much that I know today about the art and technology of film editing, and who would become my partner in the film business in my formative years that prepared me for the long creative journey that would lie ahead.