Quick question — what do you do when you’re flat-ass broke? Watch TV? Read a book? Take a walk down to the park? Daydream? Or maybe something truly pathetic, like sit in front of your computer screen and write at length about movies almost no one gives a damn about on your blog?
I’ll tell you what Nick Millard used to do when he had no money. He made movies. In the 60s and early 70s his output consisted mainly of 16mm softcore “nudie” fare shot primarily in and around his then-hometown of San Francisco, but sometime around the middle part of the “me decade,” he got the idea to expand his horizons and shoot a few horror(ish) and action flicks on 35mm — then all was silent for a good few years until the SOV mini-craze of the mid-to-late-80s hit and the ever-enterprising Mr. Millard realized that he could make stuff for even less than the couple-thousand-or-so-bucks he had been spending on his previous “features” by just breaking out his commercial camcorder, getting some friends and family together, and shooting everything right in the confines of his own home! As a matter of fact, making movies like this wouldn’t even cost him a dime! What’s not to love about a set-up like that, I ask you?
Oh, sure, chances are the end result wouldn’t be anything too great, but Millard still had enough industry “connections” to get these things distributed, and unlike today’s “hey look what I made!” attention-seeking backyard Spielbergs polluting YouTube by the thousands, these flicks were actually available for rent at most video stores — in other words, people were willing to pay money to watch his zero-budgeters, an accomplishment that today’s amateur auteurs could frankly never even conceive of.
Okay, fair enough —the “quality” of Millard’s product insured that it required the type of hype-filled packaging necessary to oversell what was basically a home movie and effectively relied on hoodwinking people into thinking they were getting an actual, professionally-made horror film rather than, you know, something shot over an afternoon or two in a guy’s Monterey condo that starred his mother, but whatever — that’s just carrying on the old “carny” tradition of the great exploitation moviemakers like Herschell Gordon Lewis or the Mishkins, and if you’ve got a problem with that sort of thing you’re probably not the kind of person that reads my reviews in the first place.
And so, my friends, with that little bit of background info in place, let’s go back to that decidedly un-magical year of 1987, and take a look at a little something our guy Nick came up with called, depending on which video store you found it at and what title the management there purchased it under, either Criminally Insane 2 or Crazy Fat Ethel 2 —
In case you hadn’t guessed, this particular slice of entirely-accidental Millard (working here under his frequently-used pseudonym of Nick Philips) genius is a sequel to the closest thing he ever had to an actual hit, namely 1975′s Criminally Insane or Crazy Fat Ethel, which we’ve reviewed on these pages previously, but if you’ve never seen that film (and yes, that is an actual film), don’t worry — just over 20 minutes of this barely-sixty-minute movie is comprised of footage — presented in the form of “flashbacks,” of course — directly taken from the first one, so you won’t be too lost for too long. So, with just over a third of his “new” movie’s runtime taken up with stuff he’d already shot 12 years previously, what’s Millard got left for the other 4o minutes?
Well, as it turns out — not much. The wonderfully deadpan Priscilla Alden is back as plus-size homicidal maniac Ethel Janowski, who’s been released from the funny farm, along with everyone else who hasn’t committed an infraction within the past ten years, due to state budget cutbacks and finds herself transferred to a halfway house out in the “real” world (actually it’s Millard’s condo) that’s run by — Millard’s mom. Not that the credits will tell you any of this, of course, because Nick just re-uses the opening titles from the first Criminally Insane flick which tells me that either the (very few) people “starring” in this one either didn’t get paid, or just got cash on the barrel-head at the end of the day (and I’m thinking it was one day, since everything here appears to have gone “in the can,” so to speak, after one take — hey, videotape’s expensive, ya know?) for their “work.”
Anyway, there are two other patients/residents at the halfway house (one of whom is played by Millard regular Albert Eskinazi), and there’s some orderly-type guy who runs the place while Nick’s mom is away and feeds his charges canned dog food, but Ethel kills ‘em all when they stand between her and her snack food. Then she kills poor old Mrs. Millard and takes over the house for herself. The end.
If you’re thinking I’m giving short shrift to the proceedings here, I assure you I’m not — okay, she hangs one of the guys over the stairwell and stabs her other victims, but honestly, that’s it. The entire film is more or less just an exercise in padding. We’ve got extended shots of Ethel sleeping on the couch, sitting in front of her TV, and walking around the house, but seriously — more or less nothing happens in the 2/3 of this movie that isn’t just recycled material from the first go-round.
And that’s the beauty of Criminally Insane 2, my friends. This is a flick that got made for the purest and most noble reason of all — simply because Nick Millard could. The new material features no soundtrack music and the “flashback” scenes aren’t faded into and out of at all which leads me to believe this sucker was probably edited in the same place it was shot, namely right in Millard’s house, on two VCRs, and once he was done he packaged up the tape, sent it in to Z-grade distribution outlet Video City Productions, and the rest is history. 25 years later here we are, still talking about the most upfront and honest complete time-waster in the history of all cinema (not that Millard himself didn’t come awfully close to “winning” that “award” all over again with his next couple of efforts, Death Nurse and Death Nurse 2, but we’ll get to those over the course of the next several days).
Criminally Insane 2, against all odds, is actually available on DVD as part of the Nick Millard triple-bill from Shock-O-Rama that also features the original Criminally Insane as well as Satan’s Black Wedding. The disc has plenty of extras, but since none of them specifically relate to this movie I’m not going to spend any time dwelling on them. Suffice to say that it’s worth purchasing simply for this alone — even though the other two films are, by any and every stretch of the imagination, better than this one in all respects, they don’t achieve the almost zen-like quality of complete and utter nonexistence that Crazy Fat Ethel’s second “adventure” does. It’s complete and utter nothingness that plays out before our eyes. I honestly don’t think it took much more time to make than it does to watch. You might call that half-assed, or incompetent, or worthless, but I call it fucking poetic, man. This is a movie that has no actual reason to exist, and in fact can barely be said to actually exist on its own at all given that nearly half of it is composed of “archival” material taken from another film, yet exist it does, and said existence is proof of — nothing other than its existence.
Godard, Jodoroworsky, Antonioni, Bergman, etc. spent their entire careers laboring to come up with something this deep. Nick Millard did it without even trying. How galling must that be to every Euro-film art snob out there?