So here I am, midnight approaches, and I am watching one of the biggest disasters ever financed by Warner Brothers, one of the oldest studios that still exists today. I am watching no less a turkey of a film than Superman IV: The Quest For Peace. Superman IV is a classic example of when a franchise has gone on for too long without any real creative input or the money to pull off the ambitions of the creative staff. In the mid to late 1980s, Christopher Reeve was making it public knowledge that he was tired of playing Superman. After the debacle that was Superman III (or Stuporman ZZZ as Mad Magazine correctly dubbed it), one can hardly blame him. But all of this is beside my actual point.
Adonis Kyrou was a Greek filmmaker and writer. Whilst residing in France, he published a great tome entitled Le surréalisme au cinéma. One statement made in this volume that has been quoted multiple times by aspiring filmmakers the world over. The most prominent of these quotations is in Flying Saucers Over Hollywood: The Plan 9 Companion. The quotation in its fullest form runs, “I ask you, learn to go and see the “worst” films; they are sometimes sublime”.
Comedy is a bit like attraction between two Humans. No two people will respond in exactly the same way to the same material. Films that are promoted as being the funniest thing since a child molester being sodomised to death in prison, for example, can often turn out to be as funny as being told one has a melanoma that is so far gone that removal is going to be physically impossible. But the funniest films are often so poorly made on a technical level that one stops taking the intended story seriously and starts laughing at the filmmakers’ collective inability to get any part of their story to work. Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, is just one of many, many examples of this. So in this spirit, I would like to share some examples of the worst films that I have ever seen in my lifetime.
A note here: When I say the worst films, I do not merely mean “boring” or “not cool”. I mean that these films stuff up so badly on every level you can possibly imagine that laughing at the incompetence on offer is far more entertaining than anything else the film offers.
- Eegah (1962)
Look very hard at the image on the left. I could honestly stop this write-up right there, in case the title did not already tip you off. Eegah, or Eegah!, or Eegads! (as more discerning types call it) is a “star vehicle” for the young lad shown in the still capture, one Arch Hall, junior. And the film was written and directed by one Arch Hall, senior. Act as if you are surprised. Finding Eegah on DVD is actually pretty easy. The “best” version on that format is the Rhino version that includes both the unadulterated version that Arch Hall, senior intended his audience to see, and the version that resulted from Mystery Science Theatre 3000 deciding to give it their trademark treatment.
Now, as far as Arch Hall, junior‘s acting abilities go, let us just say that they match his looks. Not that Arch Hall, senior is any better, but at least senior manages to come across as something other than a complete and utter arrogant cock when he speaks. In a film where the hero looks and sounds like he has been smacked in the face one too many times with a rubber mallet, it is pretty easy to come across as a good guy.
Also worth mentioning is that Eegah is the feature debut of one Richard Kiel, a giant of a man who, due to acromelagy, stood at least a foot taller than the rest of the cast. Kiel has since gone on to play such great roles as Jaws in a “James Bond” film and a rather mean boss character in Happy Gilmore. I am pretty sure anyone can tell which of those I consider the more dignified role. Kiel is the one thing in Eegah that does not come across as a complete insult to the audience. He does not escape with his dignity intact, but he does retain at least some small measure of it, which is more than the rest of the cast.
Especially poor Arch Hall, junior. When your first shot in the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 version is accompanied by one of the bots calling out “sorry about my face!”, you know you are not going to get very far in the film industry.
- Prayer Of The Rollerboys (1991)
Again, I could just show you the capture from the film, and leave it there. One of the biggest unspoken rules of filmmaking is that when you want to make a film about a future in which America has reverted to a third world country and the main villains are a bunch of teenage boys who go around rollerblading in white trenchcoats (don’t ask), you do not go out of your way to make these villains look like complete and utter nonces. Not only do the makers of Prayer Of The Rollerboys manage to not follow that rule, they pretty much openly flaunt that.
I could go on all day about how bone-headed the screenplay was, or how idiotic the compositions of shots still are, but I think the introduction does it all for me. Although the spiel about how the economic meltdown of the “present” was caused by the present generation’s parents borrowing more money than they could ever repay is a very pertinent one, the economy depicted here is not something any sane Human being could ever imagine any generation of Americans tolerating. Say what you will about PlayStations and plasma televisions, but let one generation have free access to them and then ask a subsequent generation to make do with living in a tent on a communal park of some kind, and look out. But leaving out all of these things, when you ask an actor to finish a speech about joining up with his merry band of imbeciles by putting up his clenched fists for the audience to see, give him a few lessons in how to look like he knows how to fight.
Oh yeah, and for god’s sake, if a sex scene happens to be necessary to your story for whatever reason, at least try to make it possible to mistake the participants for adults. This means that Corey Haim and sex scene do belong in the same universe, leave alone the same script, or the same sentence. Even viewers who pick out the strange by habit are going to be shuddering for years about that one.
- Highlander II (1991)
I remember the first time I saw Highlander II on VHS. It produced a lot of reactions in me, the most powerful of which was basically along the lines of “what in the hell did I just watch?”. But as a miniseries like V: The Final Battle, and films like Total Recall or Scanners demonstrate, you just cannot keep an awesome man like Michael Ironside down. Ironside has recently had a bit of a battle with cancer, and was given the all-clear by doctors. But this is not quite the accurate way to describe it. In all likelihood, Ironside took a good look at the cancer, sneered and snarled at it some, and it meekly told him it would go away now.
Ironside does not simply chew scenery in Highlander II. He devours it. He gorges himself on it. He hoovers it up like he is Charlie Sheen at a cocaine factory.
People will tell you that there are good and bad versions of Highlander II. For instance, the original cut of the film, subtitled The Quickening, was to director Russell Mulcahy‘s distaste to such an extent that he walked out of the premiere after twenty minutes. That is just someone covering Mulcahy‘s ass. Truthfully, I have seen no less than four films on which Russell Mulcahy is credited as the director, and Highlander II happens to be one of the best of them. When your other credits include Resident Evil: Extinction and The Scorpion King: Rise Of A Warrior, you know that protesting about having been creatively circumvented is a useless exercise. Simply put, Highlander II sucks so much irrespective of what cut you see that Michael Ironside is literally the only reason to watch it.
Unless you count the two psychotic birdmen that Christopher Lambert dispatches early on in the film. They, much like Ironside, decided that if they were going to be in a shitty Russell Mulcahy film about people chopping each other’s heads off, they may as well go for broke and at least attempt to be remembered in a positive light.
- American Ninja (1985)
One of the most important rules of making any film in which Ninjas and Ninjitsu are a prominent feature is to make damned sure that your actors are capable of pulling off the kinds of physical feats that audiences expect.
I am not going to offer any comment on Michael Dudikoff‘s ability to carry an action role. I have never met the man, and he at least manages to convince me that he knows something about being a soldier, so he has that much going for him. But the manner in which the martial arts sequences of this film are shot are so incomprehensibly incompetent at times that one just has to wonder. In the climactic martial arts extravaganza, the enemy Ninjas literally start exploding for no readily apparent reason. Making matters worse is a moment of exposition in which dates are read out that make the character’s current age or age at enlisting in the army to be no more than six years. This effect has been described by one commentator on the IMDB as the “Ninja time warp paradox”.
Another important step in making a good action film of any sort is to present the demises of villains, or indeed any kind of character, in a credible fashion. American Ninja might as well be called Ninja Holocaust, as there are some sequences in which Dudikoff only needs to give an enemy Ninja a funny look in order to kill them. And as mentioned before, during the climactic point of the film, Ninjas literally start exploding for no readily apparent reason. It is one thing when you have Ninjas dying from Michael Ironside snarling at them, or dying from Michael Dudikoff looking at them funny, but when they start to explode spontaneously, you might as well throw in the towel, claim that you were trying to make a comedy on purpose, and save what little dignity you have left.
If you are new to the sport of watching the “worst” films, then this short list will give you some idea of where to get started. If you are a moderate in this sport, then you might have found one or two in this list to complete your own list with. If you have been around the block in terms of watching bad films as many times as I have, you have doubtless already seen these films at least once. Whatever your level is at, hopefully this list has given you some idea or made for an entertaining read.
If you have read this far, then thank you for taking the time.
Powered by Qumana