Some years back, Mr. Peel, aka Peter Avellino, an Los Angeles writer, took a wonderful look back over on his aptly named blog, Mr. Peel’s Sardine Liqueur, at the “…pretty ridiculous” Sylvester Stallone and Sharon Stone actioner that is The Specialist. I recommend it as the piece had me in stitches the morning I read it. Moreover, Peter’s post began a reminiscing of the films that would constitute my list of bad movies.
Specifically, we’re talking about the ones that…when we care to publicly acknowledge it…are admittedly both defective and supreme guilty pleasures to watch whenever we catch them on cable.
Or, tee them up in our disc players because we happen to own a copy…even if we keep them hidden in some out of the way closet for fear that someone will see them and begin to question our judgment when it comes to cinema. The so-called, They’re So Bad They’re Good …and strangely fun… category of movies. So, off the top of my head, I’ve come up with my howler masterpieces of truly mixed blessings for your perusal:
- The Specialist – Mr. Peel covered it all in his review — especially actor James Woods’ unique contributions to it.
- Anaconda – A comment by Arbogast on Film quickly added that this film he guessed was his The Specialist. Can’t say that I blame him. It has the same director, Luis Llosa. But, at least you have Ms. Lopez (looking pretty good in the Amazon) and a near re-creation of the old B-movie creature pictures of the ’50s. Remember the Beginning of the End with its giant grasshoppers? This one is almost as good.
- Commando – I think Arnold kills the most people ever in this one movie of his. It is a prime example of Schwarzenegger in his “old school” period…before he married a Kennedy. Most of the plot strictly scripted to achieve the highest of body counts, along with some of the dialogue. But, in between the one-liners and over-the-top stunts, it does manage to entertain (those of us genetically inclined, that is).
- Clash of the Titans (1981) – There were quite a few great actors (foreign and domestic) slumming in this one; and I’m going out of my way to not include Harry Hamlin from L.A. Law in that group (there’s your 6 Degrees of Robert Crais clue right there). But, even in its mash-up of Greek mythology, there are some genuinely fun sequences within that make use of the marvelous effects by the great Ray Harryhausen, in his last contributions in a feature film.
- The Punisher (1989) – This the very first movie for this Marvel comic hero — and one that the studio quickly dis-owned. However, Dolph Lundgren didn’t make a bad Frank Castle, and the action wasn’t badly staged either. Arguably more faithful than the 2004 version with Thomas Jane, and not as dour and carnage-soaked as the 2008 War Zone version. Besides, any movie that has Kim Miyori (Dr. Wendy Armstrong of St. Elsewhere fame) as the villain is aces by me.
- Showgirls – How could I not include this camp classic; the gratuitous nudity not withstanding, of course. Plus, if you’re a fan of the old Save By The Bell TV series, after checking this out you’ll never look at those re-runs the same way again…ever. And ladies, if a guy ever tells you he’s a fan of Gina Gershon because of her brief role as the corporate lawyer in Michael Mann’s The Insider, he lying. It’s really because of this movie.
- Queen of Outer Space – And if we’re mentioning bad and camp in the same sentence, I’ve got to include this gem from my childhood. There’s a reason Zsa Zsa Gabor never earned acting accolades — and this movie is evidence exhibit A. However, I have a warm place in my heart for her stilted interplay with Eric Fleming (of Rawhide fame) on the planet Venus…and no one in film history can utter dialogue like, “I hate zat qveen!”, like her.
- Road House – Few films ever attain a level of entertaining and knuckle-bruising hammiest like this one — with all due respect to the late Patrick Swayze (at the height of his good looking movie mystique, here). It’s so earnest in its attempt at telling the simple story of a philosophy major just trying to make a living as a professional bouncer. Like Showgirls, it’s moved beyond being just a bad movie, and has achieved high cult status.
- Deep Blue Sea – Yes, director Renny Harlin has had a lot to live down: Die Hard 2, Adventures Of Ford Fairlane among others in his filmography. Although, I’ve turned the corner on Cutthroat Island and I don’t count The Long Kiss Goodnight because it’s an underrated Christmas-action classic (thanks to writer-director Shane Black). But, he attained a so bad it’s good mention here for this, chiefly for one quintessential scene with Samuel L. Jackson.
- Mommie Dearest – I’ll quote Michael Adams of Rotten Tomatoes as he nailed it: “Faye Dunaway does Joan Crawford, with the volume (and eyebrows) turned up to 11. This outrageously campy biopic, based on the best-selling biography by Crawford’s daughter Christina, is justifiably famous for its excesses, particularly the “No wire hangers!” scene. But it’s also genuinely compelling, and Dunaway’s performance is gripping and not a little terrifying.”
- The Giant Claw – I would have included this on the list for just the jaw-dropping (as in totally awful, unconvincing, and ridiculous) special effects alone, but what other grade-Z movie in film history could get away with this kind of absurd dialogue and still keep you watching despite your disbelief:
“That bird is extraterrestrial. It comes from outer space. From some godforsaken antimatter galaxy millions and millions of light years from the Earth. No other explanation is possible.”
Special Mentions – I know for some, Batman & Robin (1997) has achieved this honor and then some. I hate the movie for just about ending the iconic DC comic book hero on film. George Clooney even apologized for it. Some reviewers think Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers should join Showgirls in this category, but I think they miss the point. Finally, I’ve seen not any Sharknado film or sequels, but people keep trying to convince me they’re worth it. Hmm…