Movie Review: ‘Jabberwalk’ — Brillig, It Twasn’t

Jabberwalk movie posterI love bad movies. Stupid story, bad acting, lack of continuity, zippers showing on the monster’s costume: To me, these are all assets, as long as the movie itself is entertaining. A good bad movie is much more enjoyable than a bad good movie.

On the surface, 1976’s “Jabberwalk,” AKA “This Is America,” an ITM (International Talent Marketing) production, has all the ingredients for a classic bad movie. The film is a series of vignettes about the American Way, with footage of NYC from its grimiest era, female wrassling (featuring the Fabulous Moolah), demolition derby, geriatric prostitution rings, junk food addictions, drive-in churches and other assorted weirdness. There’s plenty of nudity and explosions, and, most importantly, it has a few seconds of priceless footage of the Dictators circa 1975. This thing should rock, right? So how come it’s such a stinker???

There are a couple of reasons. First off, it’s never been released on DVD, my copy is an 8th-generation dub to VHS, and it’s just tough to watch. The clarity is so poor that I feel like I’m wearing my mother’s glasses when it’s playing. The only copy on eBay is listed at $189, so there’s no chance of an upgrade any time soon.

The other, bigger reason is that Romano Vanderbe, the visionary writer/producer/director of this dreck, seemed to be a graduate of the Academy of the Incredibly Obvious. The narrator does his best Commander McBragg impression and drones on and on and on, in the most condescending of tones, about stuff we already knew. “Americans are fascinated by big breasts and loud noises.” Gee, what a revelation. In other breaking news, Tuesday will be followed by Wednesday this week.

The best thing in the movie, by a mile, is the footage from the Ms All-World Nude America contest from the Beacon Theatre in NYC from 1975, which features a quick and tantalizing glimpse of the Dictators on stage. Hey, there they are, blasting through “Two Tub Man”! It continues with a long bit of the contest itself, with the band vamping the riff to “America the Beautiful” while the girls walk the walk. The band breaks into the tune to serenade the winner, and the scene ends in the middle of another unknown Dictators song. Great stuff!

Our boys show up again, very briefly, playing “Too Much Fun” while acting as the backing band at the Eros Awards. I think that’s a Dictator standing there next to the naked guy in glitter paint, but who the hell is it? Is that Scott? Andy? Dick Destiny? I can’t tell.

Vanderbe went on to make 3 more movies of similar content. “This Is America Part 2” and “America Exposed” seem to have gotten even less attention upon release than “Jabberwalk” did, since there are no copies to be had or reviews to be found. His reign of mediocrity should have ended there, but in 1984 Prism Studios released Vanderbe’s 4th and final flick, “The Sex O’Clock News.”  This last film is simply a collection of the clips from the first 3 movies. A pre-Newman Wayne Knight is one of the announcers here, and I bet he doesn’t brag about it.  “Steppin’ Out” is listed in the final credits as being part of the soundtrack, but shows up nowhere in the film itself.

— Salvi C.

My ratings:

Movie rating: 2 Tors out a possible 5
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Dictators content rating: 5 RTBs out of a possible 5
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Filed under Dictators Assembled, Movies

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