Ask a hundred film buffs what their favorite cult film is, and you’ll get 500 answers.
Because nobody wants to limit that pick to the obvious — “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “Harold & Maude,” “Eraserhead” — to admit how many times they’ve watched “The Evil Dead,” or to interrupt their latest trip to Lebowski Fest to give the question more serious thought.
So it’s no wonder that Quiver and director Danny Wolf couldn’t limit themselves to a single documentary, rounding up stars, directors, academics and critics to swoon over and deconstruct their favorites.
“Time Warp: The Greatest Cult Films of All Time” is a three-part mini-series, covering everything from “Freaks” to “The Warriors,” “Spinal Tap” to “Valley Girl.”
There are lots of opinions about the definition of a “cult” film, taking into account its “edge,” forbidden fruit “danger,” rejection by the mass movie audience (many were bonafide “flops” that found their audience over decades) and that ineffable “something” that makes you want to call your best friend and yell, “Friend, you have GOT to see this.”
I think John Cleese comes the closest to getting that definition right.
A cult film, Our Lord J.C. (of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”) says, is one “that you think is much better than it is.”
“The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)” is celebrated as the greatest cult film of them all, a movie that opened to little notice, but which “never ever left the cinema,” as Patricia Quinn, one of several members of the cast speaking here, declares. Fans and critics and cult director John Waters (“Pink Flamingos”) talk of its impact on the culture, putting a “transvestite transexual” on screens where isolated, closeted fans could see someone that might be closer to their own sexuality than anything mainstream Hollywood was putting out.
Tod Browning’s still alarming “differently-abled” thriller “Freaks” (1932) is titled “the scariest movie ever made” by the likes of comic writer Bruce Vilanch and others.
Pam Grier talks of her glory days in Blaxploitation cinema like “Foxy Brown” and “Coffy.”
Gary Busey goes hyperbolic over “Point Break,” which has gained stature via a growing online fandom.
“Harold & Maude,” “The Decline of Western Civilization” punk documentaries, the films of the cleavage-cultist Russ Meyers and the down and dirty noir classics of Sam Fuller (“The Naked Kiss”), John Carpenter’s “Assault on Precinct 13” — a lot of ground is covered just in “Volume One: Midnight Madness.”
Everybody here is an enthusiast, and director Danny Wolf got Jeff Bridges and John Turturro to talk about “The Big Lebowski,” Rob Reiner and several others to speak about “Spinal Tap” and David Patrick Kelly to reminisce of the glory that was and remains “The Warriors.”
Those big names missing (Tim Curry, Keanu, Kathryn Bigelow, Tarantino, David Lynch, seen only in a ’70s interview) are barely missed.
Not all of it works. The conceit of having a “panel” consisting of directors Joe Dante (“Gremlins”) and John Waters, actress Ileana Douglas (?) and comic and actor Kevin Pollack (!?) could have left the hosting to Waters — the real authority, the Cult King.
There’s a whole subgenre of “revolting cult films” that aren’t so labeled but show up here. “Eraserhead” and any of the early warped Waters movies could turn your stomach.
Later installments will dwell on everything from masterpieces like “A Clockwork Orange” and “Blade Runner” to the obscure “Liquid Sky,” bonafide hits (no “cult” to them) like “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” to the zombie genre — “Living Dead” movies no longer having any cult appeal.
What, no “Stunt Man?” Well, they got to “Show Girls.” That’ll have to do.
But that’s the fun of it all, the arguments it starts. Because what really defines this sub-category of cinema is movies that have taken on a life of their own, taken over by fans.
And if the fans prefer “The Warriors” (popular, enduring, classic) to “Streets of Fire” (a lot more “cultish” for my money), they’re the arbiters.
“Time Warp,” in three installments, shows up via VOD and digital streaming, April 21 (ep. 1), May 19 (ep. 2) and June 23 (ep. 3).
Tune in. All the cool kids will be there.
Here’s where you can Stream “Time Warp: The Greatest Cult Films of All Time”
MPAA Rating: unrated, violence, nudity, grotesque imagery, profanity
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Pam Grier, John Waters, Penelope Spheeris, Amy Heckerling, Gary Busey, Jeff Goldblum, John Turtorro, Joe Dante, Ileana Douglas, Sid Haig and David Patrick Kelly.
Credits: Directed by Danny Wolf. A Quiver release.
Running time: Three episodes at 1:30 each.