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Bad (Full Version)

Bad (Full Version)

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Description: The never-before-seen 18-minute long version of Bad (with 2 minutes lost forever!?) starring Michael Jackson, Alberto Alejandrino and Paul Calderon.

Director: Martin Scorsese
Writers: Richard Price
Stars: Michael Jackson, Alberto Alejandrino and Paul Calderon
Year: 1987
Tags: 18 minutes full film, music, bad

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Bad, Film Background & Talk:
Its Michael Jacksons birthday. Wouldve been his 51st, and if all had gone perfect he wouldve been 17 shows into his run at the 02 in London. Hard to picture. It really feels to me like this country is going through a time of massive change, like the tectonic plates are shifting beneath us. It figures that the same year we have our first black president we also have to lose Michael and the last Kennedy brother. All earlier than I expected, but maybe were ahead of schedule. The big live news events of the year: an inauguration and two memorial services. And both Kennedy and MJ instantly reborn as beloved legends.

Now youre really gonna think Im a weirdo (though Ive never owned a chimp) but the truth is I wouldve known it was Michaels birthday anyway. For some reason its a date I always remember, so I usually watch at least a little bit of MOONWALKER. But this year, during all the mourning and memorializing, I picked up the MICHAEL JACKSON VIDEO GREATEST HITS HISTORY dvd. I had been obsessing over the dancing in his videos. MTV had a marathon, but they kept showing the shorter versions. I was jonesing to see that scene they cut out of Black Or White where he smashes the car while grabbing his crotch and yelling. Its on this DVD (the cover calls it the controversial Panther version).

But the highlight for me was the never-before-seen 18-minute long version of Bad.

I bet you remember this Martin Scorsese directed dance extravaganza in a New York subway station. Michael, dressed in strap-and-buckle-covered black leather like on the album cover, leads a gang of dancers/street toughs in a face off with rivals. They jump the turnstiles, run around hollering like lost boys, one guy roller skates. BAD is spraypainted on a wall, a wanted poster of Scorsese is torn down, a vent cover is torn off so their hair can blow around and look cool. Michael does his best bad face and even works some old school kung fu taunts into his routine a come here hand gesture, a wipe of his lips as if rubbing off blood? Sweat? Drool? It all fits in well with the whoosh sound effects that happen every time they whip their heads or flail their arms or spin around, which is many times. Another subtle use of sound effects: they actually add in the sound of all those buckles rattling around as he dances. Maybe thats to match up with the later acappela part where you hear their real stomping and shifting along with his improvised singing about the other guys doin wrong.

And at the end you keep seeing Wesley Snipes (looking like Tupac in JUICE) and two other guys standing there watching, their faces showing that theyre not amused.

Im not sure if you even see Wesley in the shortened version, but I remembered it from 80s MTV, that hes the one Michael wants to ask once again whos bad. What I didnt remember, and it sounds like maybe Id never seen, was the full ten minute intro that sets up this whole conflict between Michael and Wesley.

In this version its not as surprising that its directed by Scorsese. Its like the start of a lost 80s gem, a real movie with opening credits and a keyboard score. Its shot in gritty B&W like RAGING BULL (same cinematographer, in fact) and its written by Richard Price, the novelist and screenwriter who did THE COLOR OF MONEY, CLOCKERS, five episodes of THE WIRE, etc. Its inspired by the true story of a private school kid who was shot while mugging a plain-clothes cop. (I might have to review the TV movie of that.)

Michael plays Darryl, a kid going to a predominantly white private high school called The Duxton School. The other kids are nice to him, but condescendingly so. One kid tells him hes proud of how well hes been doing, and gives him a high five.

We see his long subway commute back to his neighborhood. All the white kids get off long before he does. A Latino kid whos also in his class asks him, How many guys proud of you?


Shoot. Four guys proud of me.

Its kind of a shock to see Michaels face on the body of a regular person. No armbands, badges or shoulder pads, no sequins. Just a grey hoodie and gloves two gloves, to keep his hands warm. He never couldve pulled that look off later on, after more surgeries, but here it works. Its like yeah, what if? What if Michael were an inner city youth? Never became a star. Moved from Gary to NYC. This couldve been him. And hes doing more acting than in anything else, and it works.

Ive read that Michael always wanted to be a movie star, and was disappointed that it never came about. Hes such an icon, such a superstar, such a unique physical specimen, that at first it seems funny to imagine him trying to be different people. But if you think about it, why not? Elvis did it. I wish Michael made a bunch of crazy musicals where his unique personality was put into different jobs and eras and situations. A GI, a sailor, an Egyptologist, whatever. A cop. He used to talk about an Edgar Alan Poe biopic, I was always excited to see that, even though I think he wanted to do a serious drama and not a musical. I never was sure.

But oh well. Wouldve been great to have movies like that, but instead he made these. He got to be directed by John Landis, David Fincher, Francis Ford Copolla. And, uh, the guy who did TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES. But here hes directed by Scorsese, and you can tell. Scorsese brought out the natural actor in Michael. I mean, Michael did so much acting in his life: as a little kid he was singing about relationships, on stage he was acting happy, later acting tough. In this ten minute intro he gets to do more traditional acting: he stares out windows thoughtfully, he laughs, he tries to fit in, he gets upset.

When Darryl gets back home its a rough neighborhood a drug dealer (Paul Calderon from PULP FICTION and PISTOL WHIPPED) pulls a gun on him and his friends for staring. He hangs out with Wesley and the fellas from the neighborhood. They welcome him back from school and seem like they genuinely like him, but underneath theres a hostility. They tease him, call him Joe College. They imply that hes uppity for spending most of his year living with those rich white kids.

In real life, especially around this time, people were getting upset at Michael for lightening his skin and shrinking his nose. He started to look different and alot of people took that as him denying his black heritage, hiding it, wanting to be white. Its a justified fear but at the same time, looking at this video, how can you say hes hiding his blackness? He went out of his way to give himself this rough inner-city upbringing that he never really had. And you could say the same of Beat It and The Way You Make Me Feel (which also has a slightly extended cut on this DVD).

I think the video shows how he felt about his race: he was stuck between two worlds, not feeling like he fit into either one. The white kids cant forget Darryl is black, but his black friends think his life is too white. And he tries to be friends with both but neither understand what hes going through.

Wesley (whose character is named Mini-Max according to IMDb) especially resents Darryls education and tries to make him feel bad about it, pressuring him to go for a walk to mug people in the subway. Michael decides to prove hes bad and takes the lead in mugging an old man. Either he almost goes through with it and changes his mind or he just wants to interfere with Mini-Maxs plan. He tells the old man to run away. Mini-Max feels betrayed, they get into an argument and Darryls way of proving that hes bad is it switches to color, hes got the leather and a crazy mullet, and he dances in the way we all remember.

At the end, after observing all of this, Mini-Max gives a long, unimpressed stare. Then he says, So thats the way it goes down, huh? and gives Darryl a pound. He raises his eyebrows as he walks away as if to say what the fuck was that!?, but the point is that he has decided to accept Darryl who we now see standing there in black and white with the hoodie.

So it changes the whole meaning of the video, at least from how I remembered it. I always thought Wesley was some bully and Michael had to prove to him that he was bad. Enemies, like the guys in Beat It that Michael had to come between to break it up. But in the full length version you know that theyre actually friends. They have differences, but theyre working them out here. Hes earning Wesleys respect.

See, the color part didnt necessarily literally happen, its a fantasy or a metaphor or something. It shows Darryl/Michaels true self, the tough guy with the Peter Pan face, the dancer doing James Brown and ballet moves, the guy reinventing dancing and videos and film and music and himself. Instead of going along with the fellas and doing something he believes is wrong he has to stand up for himself, show them his true self. And they may not think its cool, they may not understand it, but they will be overwhelmed by its badness and be forced to accept it. And then theyll just shake their heads and beat it.

I like you, Michael! And will Remember you!

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