Saturday, 24 October 2009

Movies: The Worst of All Time

It takes a special combination of horrible writing, wooden acting, uninspired directing, and misplaced intentions to create a truly bad movie. Sometimes, illusions of grandeur or super-inflated egos contribute. In other cases, a total misreading of the public's mood, a misunderstanding of the fans' affection for a star, or a disconnect with the ever-changing cultural landscape, result in a memorable mess. And it always helps to have a runaway, out of control budget.

Here is a brief description of 10 of the all-time worst.

At Long Last Love (1975), directed by Peter Bogdanovich. Stars like Burt Reynolds, Cybill Shepherd, and Madeline Kahn were somehow convinced by director and writer Bogdanovich that they could sing - live - in this homage to the 1930's style Hollywood musical. Instead, they just embarrassed themselves and delivered one of the clumsiest movie disasters of all time. The poor reaction may have also been prompted by a backlash against the off-screen relationship between Bogdanovich and Shepherd.

Gigli (2003), directed by Martin Brest. Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez so over-exposed themselves as a glamour real-life couple, and so over-hyped this on-screen pairing, that the film's failure was both spectacular and well-deserved. The movie cost $54 Million and recouped $4 Million. The story reportedly involved Affleck as a low-level mobster involved in some sort of kidnapping, but the few people who saw the movie were so stupefied by the overall incompetence in front and behind the cameras and the shocking lack of star chemistry to really care.

Heaven's Gate (1980), directed by Michael Cimono. One of those movies that got trampled under it's director's ego. In an era where directors considered themselves visionary artistes, Cimono had one good but over bloated film to his name in The Deer Hunter, and proceeded to put together this massively over bloated and certainly not good western that may have had something to do with the Johnson County War. It cost $42 Million and earned back less that $3 Million, and sunk its studio, United Artists. Arriving soon after the Watergate scandal, this film ensured that "Gate" become the added descriptive noun of choice for any man-made scandal.

Howard the Duck (1986), directed by Willard Huyck. Probably the only disaster on the resume of executive producer George Lucas. A lame story about an unfunny duck from another planet (Duckworld) who arrives for an adventure on Earth. Disagreements over whether this should have been a live-action or a cartoon (it would not have mattered), and various production difficulties ballooned the budget to $36 Million, and this disaster grossed no more than $10 Million. The film destroyed the careers of many who worked on it, in front of and behind the camera.

Inchon (1982), directed by Terence Young. This supposed war movie was intended to depict the battle of Incheon during the Korean War. Natural disasters, natural deaths, sheer incompetence, the shady financial involvement of the Unification Church (otherwise known as the Moonies), not to mention the participation of the US Military in the production resulted in a $46 Million disaster that was laughed out of theatres after recovering a paltry $5 Million. Somehow, talented actors such as Sir Laurence Olivier, Jacqueline Bisset, Ben Gazzara, and Toshiro Mifune were among those involved; thankfully, none of their careers suffered permanent damage.

Ishtar (1986), directed by Elaine May. Teaming up Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty as two lousy lounge singers who end us in an unanticipated desert adventure must have seemed like a good idea -- in the 1940's. Fans of the 1980's wondered why there was no humour, no charisma, and no trace of how the $30 Million production budget was used. Beatty and Hoffman have enough quality on their resume to be given a pass for this flop.

Moment By Moment (1978), directed by Jane Wagner. After Saturday Night Fever and Grease, John Travolta was the hottest star on the planet. Removing him from singing / dancing roles and teaming him with Lily Tomlin in a Spring / Winter romance quickly put an end to all that, as fans groaned at the insipid plot, witless script, and stultifying boredom. Wagner never directed another movie, Tomlin's career never recovered, and Travolta's career took a dive that required a generation to correct.

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959), directed by Edward D. Wood Jr. Aliens who look exactly like humans hover menacingly in saucers that look exactly like paper plates, and hatch a plot to destroy earth by re-awakening the dead. The zombies then walk around a single cemetery looking for other humans to kill. It all comes to an end with a good old fashioned fist fight. Before his death the once great Bela Lugosi filmed a few scenes apparently for a whole other movie with director Wood, and these somehow got inserted into this gem.

The Postman (1996), directed by Kevin Costner. When it comes to overblown egos, few could compete with Kevin Costner. After the huge success of Dances With Wolves (1990) catapulted him to the A-List, he came up with not one, but two epic post-apocalyptic failures: Waterworld (1995) and The Postman. But while Costner's name saved the horrible Waterworld from financial ruin, there was no saving The Postman: An $18 Million return on an $80 Million budget is the best equivalent to burning money. The plot, by the way, has something to do with a loner hero taking on a future neo-fascist army.

Showgirls (1995), directed by Paul Verhoeven. Overhyped as a sex-and-nudity epic, audiences just laughed at the cliched script (by the pompous Joe Eszterhas) in which every character was borrowed from some other movie and every wooden line of dialogue was recycled and delivered by actors who seemed to take it all seriously. The story has to do with the mysterious girl dancer who lands in Vegas and wants to be a star!

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