Every week, my friends and I get together for what we affectionately call “Shitty Movie Night.” I won’t always be talking about the movies we watch in here, mostly because a lot of them are way too terrible for me to even muster the energy to write about them. But last night was a fun batch, as we celebrated the work of former Lois & Clark star, Dean Cain. This was actually the second Dean Cain themed night in as many weeks, with a third in the works. So that should tell you quite a bit about the kind of thinking behind Shitty Movie Night.

First up last night was The Perfect Husband: The Laci Peterson Story, the somewhat infamous TV movie starring Cain as the way-more-infamous Scott Peterson, who was convicted of the murder of his wife and unborn child in 2004. Except, you wouldn’t know about that conviction from watching this movie, which was quickly rushed into production while media attention of the case was at its height, and was actually finished and aired before the trial even started. This of course means the movie can never really present Scott as the actual killer, which renders the whole thing pretty pointless. I mean, you can tell the filmmakers believe he’s guilty (as did most of the world), and there are a number of scenes that walk right up to the edge of either having him confess or otherwise showing he did it. But the movie can never quite take that last step and come out and say it, since nothing had actually been settled yet.

So, instead, we get a movie that strangely focuses on Scott and Laci’s best friends, another young couple that wrestles with their feelings on whether or not Scott could actually be guilty. It’s about as thrilling and well-made as a rushed TV movie starring Dean Cain could be, but there are two reasons to mildly recommend it. One is the hilarious visual of Cain as Peterson after he grew a goatee and bleached his hair, while allegedly getting ready to flee to Mexico. The goatee here looks like one of those cheap ones you buy as a last-minute purchase at a Halloween store after realizing you have no ideas for a costume. The other thing I liked about this movie is that the lead detective on the case is played by G.W. Bailey, better known as the bumbling Captain Harris from the Police Academy movies. While watching Perfect Husband, I just imagined it actually WAS Harris, finally promoted to Detective after years of putting up with Mahoney’s nonsense.

As a buffer between films, we watched the final episode of Cain’s main claim to fame, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. This was never intended to be the final episode, but sinking ratings and subsequent cancellation turned it into a de-facto series finale – obviously not the plan, as evidenced by the episode’s weird cliffhanger where somebody leaves a baby at Lois & Clark’s home, with a note saying it’s a gift for them. The main story of the episode involves a villain known as Dr. Fat-Head Mensa, played by Harry Anderson, who sports a gigantic head and telepathic powers. If you have any nostalgic feelings about this show, you might as well throw them out the window, because it is awful. How awful? Did I mention that Harry Anderson plays a villain named Dr. Fat-Head Mensa?

Yeah...that happened.

And finally, the main event: Dragon Fighter. Now THIS is the kind of movie that makes Shitty Movie Night all worth it. Cain stars as a highly-intelligent helicopter pilot who ends up stuck inside an underground facility with a team of scientists who have unwisely cloned an actual, fire-breathing dragon. Cain is forced to take charge and lead the others to safely, aided only by a) his smarts, and b) the fact that he’s Dean Cain. I’m not really sure why anyone would think to make a dragon movie where 90% of the action consists of the dragon stumbling through cramped hallways, but here you have it.

This one has everything that makes a “bad” movie into a “good-bad” movie – questionable science, stupid dialogue, atrocious acting, hilariously bad effects, and lame action (not to mention Dean Cain, in case you missed it). It did, however, miss out on a great opportunity for an awesome twist that would have actually forced me to proclaim it a minor masterpiece. Throughout the film, Cain keeps taking one character after another out into the facility’s tunnels, where that other person is always inevitably killed by the dragon. Cain then runs back to the main room, informing the others that their friend has been killed, and then eventually asking who wants to join him next. At this point, none of these other characters have even seen the dragon. My friends and I talked about how, if we were them, we would probably be starting to think Cain himself was just killing everyone, and just making up all this stuff about a dragon. I really wish the movie had gone that route, revealing Cain to be a schizophrenic serial killer, suffering visions of a dragon, but actually murdering the scientists himself and not even realizing it. Oh well, a missed opportunity, to be sure, but I still have to highly recommend this one to any lovers of cheesy, B-movie awesomeness. You know who you are.

I know I’ve been goofing on Dean Cain a bit here, but the truth is I sort of respect him. He’s exactly the kind of “star” that should be honored on something called Shitty Movie Night, and not in an overly mean-spirited way. Obviously, his career didn’t go the way he had probably hoped. It’s telling that all four Dean Cain movies we have watched so far were made-for-TV. His highest profile movie is the mostly forgotten Denzel Washington shit-fest, Out of Time. Even during the height of his Lois & Clark fame, he never headlined a major theatrical release (which is actually pretty surprising). But unlike other actors with this sort of unfortunate career, Cain has mostly avoided becoming a total joke. That’s not to say he’s respected or anything, but you never hear anything bad about the guy. He has never been in the headlines for punching a girlfriend, or getting high and trashing a party, or assaulting a fan. He seems like a decent fellow, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he has simply accepted his place in the Hollywood pecking order and is having a blast making all these stupid movies. And, hey, at the end of the day, he still gets to say he was Superman. That’s sure as hell a lot more than any of us can claim.

This was originally posted on March 14th, 2011 at Trevor Likes Movies.

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