A year has passed since Johnny X was sentenced to live on Earth to understand what he has done. He has to chase his girlfriend through the desert because she has stolen the resurrection suit, a suit that gives Johnny the power to control people. When trying to get the suit back he also stumbles upon a man who is very important to him.
I'm not sure why I have been so interested in watching "The Ghastly Love of Johnny X", but I suppose the reasons are many. My interest started because it had Will Keenan in the lead role as Johnny X, which is as good of a reason as any to wanna see a film. But then I just fell for the style it seemed to have. A very retro style of the 50's, but one that didn't seem to be a simple homage. And then of course it just seemed like a fun movie that needed my attention. And now that I have seen it I know it was all well-deserved.
Will Keenan plays Johnny X. He comes from another planet, but was sentenced to live on Earth because he seems to enjoy the destructive life-style we clearly have down there. Our story continues one year after he came here, and he's the leader of a gang called the "Ghastly Ones" (I don't think they have anything to do with the real band of the same name). Johnny X is a powerful man because he has stolen a resurrection suit, and this suit gives him the power to control people in any way he chooses to. But now his girlfriend has stolen it from him, only leaving him the glove, and he has to chase her down to get it back. On the way, several Earthlings are thrown into the story, most importantly a "Soda Jerk", an old talent agent and a famous musician. These three become very involved in one way or another, and ultimately become big parts of the story that is unfolding as it is revealed that the musician that Johnny X has been looking up to for so long, actually is his real father. The only problem is that by the time he meets his old man, he has died. Now he needs his suit more than ever.
There is a lot going on in the story of "The Ghastly Love of Johnny X", and that's probably the reason why the length of the film works. I do feel that it could've been slightly shorter, but at the same time I wasn't bored with it so there's might not be a reason to cut it down. What's so good with the film is that it mixes comedy, drama, sci-fi/horror and musical numbers, and usually it's all planted well enough for it to work.
Not being a musical fan myself, I might have to say that a few of the musical numbers weren't needed as the story could've rolled on without them. But at the same time they really worked with the 50's style of the movie, as they are all in the veins of that era. They're fun, up-beat, and actually performed quite well.
Will Keenan is obviously multi-talented, but everyone in the film did their part great so it's far from a one-man-show. And there are some very note-worthy actors and cameos in the film as well. Like how Kevin McCarthy has a cameo, and this was his very last film before he died in September 2010. But we also have Reggie Bannister as the agent, and none other than Creed Bratton as the musican, which was fun considering he's in a big show like the American "The Office". It's fair to say that the cast is swell.
Beyond the story and the acting, we're left with a very stylistic throwback that works well simply because it's stupid, yet in a well-crafted manner. There are no silly effects for the sake of being silly, nothing really over-the-top at all actually, but there are some excellent moments that really felt like you were watching something from the 50's, but those were usually because of how the sets were constructed. The film looks great as it was shot on an old Kodak film (Eastman Plus-X Negative Film 5231, to be exact), and was apparently the last film to use it as the director bought all of the available stock. It definitely shows in this beautifully show black and white flick.
The film overall is extremely quirky and off-beat, which is what makes it worth watching for the most part. It reminds me a lot of the film "Flick" in the way that it's taking a 50's theme, and working with a lot of the old methods and styles, but does in a modern way without needing to worry that it's not "true" to the old films. They're not, because they are new films and they know it. They use the old style as a way to tell a story set in that time, and it's quite great, actually. I can't think of a lot of movies pulling it off as well as both this and "Flick" did, since even a film like "El Monstro Del Mar!" (which is fantastic) comes off as more of a homage than these two do. That's a very important aspect of "The Ghastly Love of Johnny X". It might pay tribute to a few classics, but it's not ripping them off or trying to cash in on what they did.
There is a lot to talk about when it comes to this movie, no matter what you think of it. I think it's extremely charming and quirky, and it definitely has the heart at the right place. It adds some dramatic moments which always help, but it knows where to put the focus. The musical numbers are many and sometimes long, but they're never repetitive or boring. I might've felt a few of them could've been shorter, or maybe even left out, but that's coming from someone who doesn't really like musicals. If you have that in mind, then "The Ghastly Love of Johnny X" is certainly doing it right, even if not as great as "Cannibal! The Musical". It looks excellent and makes the style part of the story and not just another gimmick. The sets are carefully planned, and even though the film could've been set at any time and worked, having a 50's style to it definitely works when you think of all the crazy sci-fi films of that era. "The Ghastly Love of Johnny X" comes highly recommended if you want to watch something fun that manages to be old but new.