What are the new cult classics? You know what a cult classic is, don't you? It's a film that no one at the studio knew how to market, and through of years of word of mouth, spread by fans, has become something of an iconic film. The biggest cult classic of all time being The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a film which is such an icon, that it was added to our National Film Registry, meaning that it will be preserved by the library of congress for as long as we can watch film. We live in an era where Hollywood has zero interest in taking chances. Everything is either a remake or a reboot, or a rebook of a remake, or a remake of a reboot.
So with Hollywood not willing to take chances, where will the next crop of films that are bound to be cult icons come from? We have a few, and they all are from the indie outsider directors. The biggest of the past few years has been The Room, a film that...you know what? Google it and thank me later. Some of the new cult films are born out of a love for the early crop of weird 1950s and early 1960s exploitation drive in B movie fare. Larry Blamire's The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra comes to mind as a new cult classic of that elk. Now we have another film that, in a few years, I fully suspect will be one of the new breed of Cult Classics.
The film is a movie that was sent to me, and is a movie that is called The Ghastly Love of Johnny X. Granted, with a title like that alone, my ears were gonna perk up. Right off the bat, Paul Bunnell's film is not one that is easy to sum up in a quick sentence or two, but I'm gonna try. It's a black and white musical about juvenile delinquents from outer space who were sent to Earth as a punishment. Think of it as if someone convinced Rogers and Hammerstein to make a musical for American International Pictures in 1959.
You did read correctly that this film was shot in black and white, it was photographed on the last of Kodak's 35mm fine grain black and white film stock. If anything, it means that Johnny X might be the last film to be truly photographed in real black and white. In addition to this, the film was made in that modern day miracle known as “GashtlyScope,” a fun riff of 20th Century Fox's “CinemaScope” banner that appeared at the start of so many of their late 50s and early 60s films.
These are the details in full: Johnny X and his gang of “Ghastly Ones” have been banned from life on their home planet, and sentenced to be exiled on Planet Earth. It seems that Johnny stole this little thing known as a “Resurrection Suit” from his people, and it's a suit that can...well...do things. As Johnny X's main squeeze—a femme fatale named Bliss—wanders away from the group with the suit, things happen. Bliss gets mixed up with a Soda Jerk, and Johnny and his suit crosses paths with a concert promoter.
This concert promoter is proud to announce the great return of legendary rocker Mickey O'Flynn, the man with the grin. However, there's a little problem with the plan for a wildly successful concert with the former rock star. Mickey O'Flynn is suffering from a slight case of death. You can put two and two together, and with the Resurrection Suit, the dead rocker comes back to life—only with a slight side effect of decomposition. All of this wrapped up in a song laden fun spectacle that is a love letter to a type of Hollywood that doesn't exist anymore.
The Ghastly Love of Johnny X is a wild ride, and a fun one too. It's the type of film that was made just to be purely enjoyed and if you're game for something entirely different than what's playing at your local movie house, then this film is most definitely worth a look. It's available on DVD, and currently streaming on Netflix. Don't let the fact that this film is in black and white prevent you from watching it. The black and white cinematography is absolutely beautiful, and a reminder of an art from that we may be loosing as everyone switches over to digital. Johnny X might confuse or confound you but on the other hand, you may just find it's one of the most enjoyably creative films to have come down the pike in a long time.