Hazel Aiken (Carroll Baker in a role that Shelley Winters turned down) is a middle-aged woman who runs an electrolysis business out of her home in the suburbs of New York. But Hazel’s real income stems from a murder-for-hire business that she operates on the side.
Hazel’s clients are horrific people who give absurd reasons for wanting their enemies killed. One slob of a woman, Estelle (Brigid Berlin), wants a neighbour’s dog murdered because the neighbour (Lawrence Tierney) had the temerity to say that Estelle looked ugly in shorts.
Hazel (pictured at left) never does the killings herself, enlisting hustlers and junkies and the main drama of the movie stems from Hazel’s tense relationship with L.T. (Perry King), the first man Hazel has ever hired to complete an assignment.
A slovenly drug addict, L.T. loafs around Hazel’s house until she’s so sick of him that she sprinkles broken glass on the floor the minute she sees him walking around barefoot. Hazel also employs a pair of loudmouthed prostitutes who burn down a movie theatre for kicks one evening, killing 14 people (a journalist comments that it’s fortunate the film being shown was a Hispanic release with limited appeal, otherwise the number of victims would have been far greater!)
And then there’s Mary (Susan Tyrrell), Hazel’s simple-minded daughter-in-law (pictured at right). Hazel spends inordinate amounts of time telling Mary that Hazel’s son will never return to be with his dowdy wife and their ugly infant son.
The most memorable scene – and easily one of the most deliberately repulsive images Warhol’s troupe ever captured on film – involves a depraved woman tossing her infant out a high-rise window. The baby cascades through the air before hitting the street headfirst with such an impact that blood and viscera splatter onto bystanders. The scene, it should be noted, is played for laughs . . .
There isn’t a solitary character in Bad that isn’t either evil or miserable. Even the cop has bad intentions. Everything in the film revolves around money, revenge, or simply causing someone misery because it’s funny.
Director Jed Johnson – working with Andy Warhol’s biggest-ever production budget and benefitting from the presence of several legitimate Hollywood actors – gives the film a much more polished look than the average Warhol effort. Nonetheless, the material and the attitude are just as punk as everything else Warhol made in the 1970s.
John H. Starke