With ‘No Depo$it’, the ‘Flop House’ Gang Unearthed an Instant Camp Classic of Canuck Craziness
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As a connoisseur of bad movies, and someone who has made them the core of his career, I am forever looking for the thrill of discovery. I am perennially on hunt for movies so bad, so ridiculous and so utterly preposterous that I’ll want to evangelize on their behalf, the way I have with other such glorious exemplars of unselfconscious awfulness as The Room, Neil Breen’s Fateful Findings, A Talking Cat!?!, The Apple and, really, too many to mention.
The gentlemen at The Flop House have similarly seen a lot of terrible movies and while they work in an audio rather than a written medium, they are similarly fixated on the thrill of discovery. They’re forever looking beyond the terrible, high-profile flops that everyone knows about and finding weird, misbegotten little treasures so wrong they’re borderline transcendent.
The Flop House has even set aside an entire month to low-profile, under-the-radar cult monstrosities and given it a name worthy of other such theme months as Shocktober (horror-themed flops for episodes that run in October) and Cagemas (episodes devoted to Nicolas Cage’s films that run in December): Smalltember/Smallvember.
Granted, Smalltember/Smallvember doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue like Cagemas and Shocktober does, but it does provide a great vehicle for the next generation of cult favorites. The Smalltember/Smallvember pick I am writing about here even has a superhero-style origin story. A Blu-Ray of No Depo$it was given to the podcast by an intense fan (the podcast doesn’t seem to inspire anything but fierce, obsessive fandom) who wanted them to work their magic on a tiny little Canadian movie as obscure as it is batshit insane.
The Flop House took a chance on this weird Canuck oddity. I am glad they did, because listening to the episode it’s obvious that they experienced that giddy thrill of discovery watching this wonderfully misguided passion project. It’s clear that they found something so unhinged and unintentionally hilarious that they had to share their discovery with the world.
As with a lot of the best worst movies, No Depo$it is what could very generously be called a labor of love and less charitably be dubbed a deranged vanity film from a man wealthy enough to personally finance an acting, directing, and screenwriting vehicle the established film industry has the good sense to want nothing to do with. Vanity projects are perfect for podcasts like The Flop House because their inherent lack of professionalism makes them unpredictable and erratic. They’re deeply personal in ways that speak volumes about the people who made them and their need for not just attention and validation but something closer to deification. Guys like D’Angelo, Tommy Wiseau, and Neil Breen don’t just make movies so people will pay attention to them. They make movies so that people will worship them, and tremble in awe before the genius and strength of their onscreen alter-egos. That is both funny and kind of sad.
Who exactly is Frank D’Angelo, and why on earth did he get to write, direct, and star in a movie? That is a good question, and one that The Flop House takes no small measure of joy in answering. Like all great filmmakers, he is a successful energy drink (Cheetah Power Surge) mogul, a gentleman who hosts a show he then pays to air on Canadian television (named The Being Frank Show, of course), the lead singer of a band named after his failed brewery (oh, he has a brewery also), a ubiquitous presence on Canadian television after starring in commercials for his brewery, as well as a solo artist with a CD that comes bundled with No Depo$it.
He is, in other words, exactly the kind of unselfconscious eccentric, egomaniac, and attention hog that has historically enlivened the world of Z movies since Ed Wood was taking his angora fetish sweater fetish to the big screen. And in No Depo$it he set out to make a movie that, like Neil Breen’s Fateful Findings, would address all of the problems in society while simultaneously depicting its star, writer, director, and financier as a figure who is Christ-like, only better, because they know about computers and money and stuff.
The podcasters were originally convinced that the deeply middle-aged D’Angelo, who is described as having less a belly than a “cauldron,” was playing a mobster, since he’s wearing such mobster accessories as platinum, gold chains, and a pinkie ring. This leads to a hilarious riff where Kalan imagines the only non-mobster man he can think of who loves to wear rings — Ringo Starr — touring Kalan’s native New Jersey. The film ostensibly takes place in Brooklyn, but it’s the part of Brooklyn that looks exactly like D’Angelo’s native Canada for reasons you can probably imagine.
For the supporting case of No Depo$it, D’Angelo whipped out the pocketbook and assembled a veritable who’s who of whoever was available. On one level, it’s remarkable that this small-timer with no apparent talent was able to rope such familiar, if sagging and wrinkly faces as Daniel Baldwin, Peter Coyote, Margot Kidder, Robert Loggia, Michael Madsen, Doris Roberts, Tony Rosato (whose name may not ring a bell but who had the honor of being on both Saturday Night Live and SCTV in the 1980s), Eric Roberts, and Dominique Swain. Then again, the Flop House men aren’t entirely sure it’s the Lolita star, because, in a miscue that perfectly embodies the film’s low-grade but star-obsessed sensibility, her name is misspelt in the credits, so it very well could have been Swain’s non-union Mexican equivalent and not the fading starlet herself.
On another level, of course people like Margot Kidder, Michael Madsen, and Eric Roberts are in No Depo$it. That’s what they do with their lives now when they’re not signing autographs for nerds at science fiction conventions. It’s not that remarkable for a b-movie to feature has-beens, but in this episode the revelation of celebrity cameos is like a crazy clown car in a circus: just when you think it’s over, another kooky d-list celebrity pops out in an increasingly random role.
The craziness starts with a President Obama soundalike solemnly pontificating on the housing crisis and doesn’t end until end credits displaying the entire cast in the least flattering possible poses, with the exception of D’Angelo, whose monstrous ego made this whole ridiculous farce happen in violent defiance of God’s will.
It takes its sweet time to get going, despite running more or less the feature-film minimum 80 minutes, but No Depo$it eventually takes the form of a bank heist drama with pretensions to social commentary pitting D’Angelo’s king of a man against anti-Semitic bank robbers and all-around no-goodniks, including one-time Michael Pare and Daniel Baldwin, who apparently plays the most anti-semitic character in film history.
Early in the podcast, Stu Wellington says, “This is an example of why we do this podcast” and while it sounds like a joke, he’s ultimately not really kidding. There is a palpable sense of joy coursing through the episode, as these three mavens of the misbegotten take infectious delight in delineating the film’s myriad absurdities and impossibilities, including lines like, “Bring a stretcher for this good man. Bring garbage bags for these pieces of shit!”
Stuart Wellington, Dan McCoy, and Elliot Kalan make No Depo$it sound like an incredibly amateurish, tone-deaf, ineptly written love letter to self from a man pathologically unaware of his own shortcomings. In other words, the the best kind of trash. I cannot wait to see it for myself.
Nathan Rabin is the author of five books, including Weird Al: The Book (with Al Yankovic) and the recently released Ebook “Short Read”, 7 Days In Ohio: Trump, The Gathering of The Juggalos And The Summer Everything Went Insane.