“Andy Warhol’s Bad” is a black comedy crime saga soap opera that satirizes the banality of evil

By on July 15, 2019

Andy Warhol’s Bad — directed by one-time Factory floor-sweeper Jed Johnson — is a black comedy crime saga soap opera that satirizes the banality of evil, designed simply to shock unsuspecting movie-going audiences.

You’ll find this twisted sick joke of a film, full of social deviants and absolute sickos, streaming in our Midnight Movies & Mondo Docs section on Night Flight Plus.

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Celebrated Oscar-nominated Baby Doll actress Carroll Baker stars as “Hazel Aiken,” a perpetually pissed-off hairdresser operating a small electrolysis business out of her home in Queens, NYC.

She shares her home with her husband (Gordon Oas-Heim), her elderly mother (Mary Boylan), and her bewildered tragedy-magnet daughter-in-law, “Mary Aiken” (Forbidden Zone‘s always-excellent Susan Tyrrell, whose performance won her the Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress).

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Hazel’s hair-removal beauty parlor is actually a front for her real business: providing the services of an angry murder-for-hire hit-girl squad to housewives with pesky pest problems they’d like to be rid of even more than their stray chin hairs.

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For the right price, these bad girl assassins — including bleached-blonde bombshell “R.C.,” played by Cyrinda Foxe, ex-wife of both the New York DollsDavid Johansen and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler — will eliminate just about anyone.

Their specialty, however, is killing off annoying small children and irritating house pets.

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One example involves “Estelle” (Factory regular Brigid Polk) hiring trashy assassin duo “Marsha” and “Glenda” — played by the Smith sisters, Maria and Geraldine — to kill an ex-cop’s beloved dog (the ex-cop is played by Lawrence Tierney).

Bad‘s main story concerns the studly “L.T.” (Perry King), Hazel’s dull-eyed drifter nephew, who comes to live at Hazel’s, where he sneaks around stealing pills and perfume, as well as bedding “P.G.,” played by Stefania Casini (memorable from Dario Argento‘s Suspiria).

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Hazel doesn’t like to hire men to do her dirty work, but then a rich client offers her $10,000 to kill her autistic son, and L.T. seems like he might be the perfect person for the job.

If he can accomplish the task, his half of the payment will cover part of his rent for awhile.

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Hazel is also being shaken down by a crooked “Detective Hughes” (played by Charles McGregor, “Charlie” from Blazing Saddles).

Det. Hughes not only demands his regular shakedown payments, but he also wants Hazel to double-cross one of her girls, offering her up for arrest.

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We should mention that Bad features one of the blackest black comedy scenes in cult film history, when a woman (Susan Blond) decides she no longer wants her baby because it cries so incessantly.

She can’t afford to pay Hazel’s high fees so she decides to solve the problem herself by dropping the little nuisance from her five-story high-rise window. Splat!

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King, Baker and Tyrell had all threatened to leave the project if Johnson went ahead with this scene as it was scripted (he later filmed it anyway, after they’d wrapped and left).

Read more about Andy Warhol’s Bad below.

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Andy Warhol and lover Jed Johnson (photo by Francesco Scavullo)

Director Jed Johnson and his twin brother Jay (b. December 30, 1948, in Alexandria, Minnesota) both moved to Manhattan NYC in 1967.

After first accepting a job offer to sweep the floors of Andy Warhol‘s studio, Johnson soon became Warhol’s live-in lover/companion, and he was ultimately trained to be a skilled film editor, working on Heat and L’Amour (both 1972), Flesh for Frankenstein (1973) and Andy Warhol’s Dracula (1974).

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In 1976, Johnson accepted the challenge of directing Andy Warhol’s Bad — from a screenplay by Pat Hackett and George Abagnalo — which seemed like a blatant attempt to out-trash John Waters, decades before the Pope of Trash mined similar territory for 1994’s Serial Mom.

The production was shot in NYC, over an eight week period that summer, and it premiered in May 1977, initially with an “X” rating before being edited to an “R.”

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Vivian Vance (“Ethel Mertz” on TV’s long-running “I Love Lucy” ) was originally cast as Hazel, but she later decided against appearing in the film.

Shelley Winters was briefly considered but the role finally went to Baker, who’d been off in Europe appearing semi-nude in films after leaving the U.S. in 1965.

Bad was her first American film in eight years.

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Fifties teen idol Ricky Nelson, and Factory actors Joe Dallesandro and Jackie Curtis — who’d appeared in Flesh (1968) and Paul Morrissey’s Women in Revolt (1971) — all declined the role of “L.T.”

It ultimately went to ruggedly handsome Perry King, who later said that Warhol told him he’d “…wanted to make a film about evil women and incompetent men.”

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Several of the film’s lead actors have said that Johnson didn’t really know what he was doing, and Warhol may have actually directed much of the film (longtime Factory director Morrissey had already moved on).

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Andy Warhol’s Bad was advertised like a cheapo adult film, and it was even promoted with a quote from a negative New York Post review: “A picture with something to offend absolutely everybody.”

Bad was Warhol’s first film produced with a Hollywood-sized budget ($1.5 million) and it was the final Factory project produced by Warhol prior to his death in 1987.

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Bad was Johnson’s only credit as a director. He went on to become a celebrated award-winning interior designer, hired by clients like Mick Jagger and Richard Gere.

On July 17, 1996, Johnson was killed — along with 229 other passengers and crew members — when TWA Flight 800 exploded shortly after takeoff off the coast of Long Island, New York.

Watch Andy Warhol’s Bad and other Midnight Movies on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.