For the first Tie-Ins That Bind this year, I was going to cover a truly wild one and will next week, but there’s one I’ve been meaning to get to and it’s time to clear it out. And it’s a crazy one because it’s not actually a tie-in.
Stinker Lets Loose by Mike Sacks (as James Taylor Johnson from a screenplay by Willard Katz and Geoff Rodgers) is a simulated novelization of a non existent drive in movie. It’s an attempt at capturing the distinct 1970s cheapie feel by the extremely talented Sacks. To call it an oddity with a limited audience is an understatement. However you’re reading this column so you know I’m the precise audience.
The book follows good old boy Stinker, a transporter of random goods in the style of The Bandit, as he tries to hand a six pack of Schlitz to the president. Yes that’s the entire premise. Along the way he tries to get his rowdy pet chimp laid, encounters a high society woman on the run from her restrictive world, and of course runs afoul of the police.
To say Sacks gets the cliches he’s dealing in is an understatement. He understands the southern exploitation movie in his soul. He doesn’t miss a single expected beat of the good old boy movie to the point I half think I’ve seen this movie. This reads exactly like the real thing down the spare descriptions you’d expect from a 70s novelization.
There’s just one difference: Sacks has created a film so ridiculous it couldn’t exist. At every possible moment he chooses the most absurd choice. It’s not enough Stinker has an orphan he takes care of, the orphan has to only speak in profanity. It’s not enough for there to be a chimp, it has to be the most violent chimp. Stinker can’t be a folk hero the audience likes. He has to start a movement as the country stops dead to cheer him on. And he isn’t hauling a load of beer like the Bandit. Just handing a six pack to the president. It’s truly a thing of absurdity.
The book is also laden with the wildest, most absurd phrasing. Every line is a bizarre image that feels like a bored writer trying to entertain themselves as they turn a b-movie into a book. I’ve run into these books repeatedly and the desperate amusement outright sings in this book.
So what you have is something often attempted and very rarely executed: the attempt at making a so bad it’s good work. Sacks crushes this task. This is the one time someone actually created the bizarre thing we picture as existing but never did. Reading this and watching Machete would be a perfect double feature in other words.
But I’m overlooking the best part of this work only to review the book. See there’s an audiobook that gives us music and voices to put to the film. And what voices! Andy Daly, Andy Richter, Paul F. Tompkins, James Urbaniak, Rhea Seehorn, John DiMaggio, Phillip Baker Hall, and as Stinker himself, Jon Hamm. This is a killer experience. I can’t recommend listening to it enough. It’s really like sitting through an absurd b-movie.
This one is easy to find. Seek it out!