From the mind of someone severely demented comes Bad Manners, a wacky, outrageous, over-the-top comedy film from 1984. The film centers on four troubled adolescent friends who escape their crazy orphanage and set off on an adventure to save another friend whose been adopted by weirdo yuppies. The film more than lives up to its title with the kind of crass and borderline-tasteless humor one could only find in an 80’s movie. Featuring plenty of kick-ass music, funny one-liners, naked breasts, fighting, cursing, beer-guzzling and general madness, Bad Manners is a truly entertaining and endearing 80’s cult comedy.
I recently rediscovered the film after several years of searching for it with no luck. My parents had rented it on VHS when I was a kid and the movie stuck with me not only because it was so funny and outrageous, but because I felt a real connection to the characters. I got a real sense that their friendship was genuine, and I felt the same way after finally re-watching it ten years later. Quentin Tarantino defined these types of films as ‘hang-out’ movies, as in movies that make you feel as though you are friends with the characters, like The Big Lebowski for example. A ‘hang-out’ movie is a perfect way to describe Bad Manners.
|Future voice-actor Pamela Adlon as 'Girl Joey'|
The beginning of the film is mostly episodic, focusing on how the main characters spend their everyday lives causing havoc and mayhem in the “Home of the Bleeding Heart” Catholic orphanage. They have declared war on the gung-ho head mistress Sister Serena and ex-Nazi Mr. Kurtz, who zaps misbehaving children with a cattle prod. The place is turned upside down when the eternally cool and antisocial badass Piper arrives to stir things up. Intent on escaping, Piper reignites the rebellious spirit of his peers and befriends the tall and lanky Whitey, the token black kid Blackey, the rude problem child ‘Mouse’, and a tomboy named Joey played by a young Pamela Adlon who would later go on to voice Bobby Hill.
Mouse is soon adopted by a psychotic couple of yuppies played by Karen Black and Martin Mull with absurd campiness. As Mouse wreaks havoc on their home and life, Piper and the gang manage to escape the orphanage and set out on an adventure to rescue him. Their journey leads to several hilarious scenes including mayhem at a bus station and being threatened by a taxi driver with a pick-axe.
|Left to Right: Sister Selena, Martin Mull, Karen Black|
The acting of the kids is actually the high point of the film, which is surprising considering the great majority of child actors suck. Like I said before, their friendship seems genuine and fun, which makes for a very entertaining viewing experience. Maybe the only reason I felt a connection to the kids is because I saw it when I was a kid and could relate to them. I could understand how an upstuck adult could see this film and consider it complete garbage. Let’s just say this movie is for the young and the young at heart.
I hesitate on calling this a cult film, because as far as I can tell it doesn’t have any following at all. For some reason this film has slipped through the cracks into near-obscurity, but it deserves so much more. It is a truly funny unique film full of personality and a spirit of rebellion. I love this movie.