My Favorite Turkeys

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image3609002In recognition of the holiday, I want talk about my favorite turkeys—box office turkeys, that is. This slang word for box-office failure goes back to about 1927 and was first applied to Broadway productions, but it was soon adopted for movies that failed to draw sufficient audiences. You don’t hear the word much these days, but I thought it was fitting to resurrect it this week.

I rarely agree with movie reviewers, and truth be told, I have stopped reading a lot of reviews, especially from online sources. While reviewers like to call themselves “critics,” true film criticism does not revolve around personal taste.  I loathe reviewers who jump on a flawed film that may still be worthwhile viewing and dub it “the worst film ever made,” which sometimes affects the box office for that title. Reviewers seem to lie in wait for an imperfect film, so they can exaggerate its poor points, giving them an excuse to poke fun in that snarky style I loathe.  Ugh! Don’t get me started.

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MAURICE & GREGORY HINES PLAY THE WILLIAMS BROS. IN ‘THE COTTON CLUB.’ THEY WERE PATTERNED AFTER THE NICHOLAS BROS.

For most of my movie-going life, I have found myself liking films that are considered critical failures or box office bombs. While I won’t claim them to be masterworks of great filmmaking, I think they deserve better than they got. Like Man Ray once noted: There are at least 10 good minutes in any bad movie, and that is about all there is in any really good movie. I tend to agree, at least with the first part of his provocative statement. Here are a few of my favorites in no particular order. I would love to hear if other movie-lovers have a taste for turkey!

THE REAL SANDMAN SIMS PERFORMS IN THE HOOFERS' CLUB.

THE REAL SANDMAN SIMS PERFORMS IN ‘THE COTTON CLUB’.

The Cotton Club (1984).  Francis Coppola’s genre-busting mix of the musical and gangster genres supposedly cost $58 million but grossed only $26 million its initial release. Critics complained about everything from a shallow plot to muddled storytelling to the odd mix of genres. But, I have always loved the show-biz lore surrounding the real-life Cotton Club, which was owned by New York gangster Owney Madden, so Coppola’s mix of music and gangsters seemed logical to me.  The plot is not muddled; it just relies on a doubling structure. The romance and family problems of the white characters are mirrored by those of the black characters, which helps to bring out the irony of the whites-only policy of the era’s most famous black club. Gregory Hines’s tap numbers, and the inclusion of tap legends from the Prohibition era, are icing on the cake.

RYAN O'NEAL REFERENCES BUSTER KEATON FROM 'COPS' IN 'NICKELODEON.'

RYAN O’NEAL REFERENCES BUSTER KEATON’S STUNT FROM ‘COPS’ IN ‘NICKELODEON.’

Nickelodeon (1976).  I love movies about the movies, and Peter Bogdanovich’s comedy about the earliest days of the American cinema –before Hollywood was Hollywood—covers a period very few knew about in 1976. His references to early film history, such as the Motion Picture Patents Company, likely meant little to audiences and reviewers at the time, but I was thrilled to recognize the homages. Bogdanovich not only included specific bits of film history, he also asked his actors to reference silent-era tropes and archetypes, which likely alienated viewers and reviewers. But, I found Burt Reynolds’s interpretation of a Broncho Billy type charming and funny, while Ryan O’Neal exhibited the comic timing that was his greatest strength.

The Last Movie (1971). Dennis Hopper’s follow-up to his financially successful and critically acclaimed Easy Rider was this highly personal take on the film industry. The story is about a production company that travels to South America to shoot a film on location, employing and then corrupting the local Indians. Instead of using the conventions of narrative filmmaking, Hopper made an experimental film. The fractured narrative, home-movie sequences, and homages to Hollywood of the past not only blew the minds of the audience but reviewers as well. The film even threw Roger Ebert, who wrote, “Dennis Hopper’s ‘The Last Movie’ is a wasteland of cinematic wreckage.” Hopper came of age as an actor just as Old Hollywood faded and the New Hollywood ran roughshod over what was left of the old-style studios. The film is a dark valentine to Old Hollywood as the corrupt Dream Factory, which was nonetheless capable of creating such poetic masterpieces as The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, referenced in The Last Movie.

THE VIKINGS IN  '13TH WARRIOR' ARE A HELL-RAISING LOT.

THE VIKINGS IN
’13TH WARRIOR’ ARE  BONA FIDE HELL-RAISERS.

The 13th Warrior (1999). I always tell my students I would pay to see Antonio Banderas read the phone book, and I would pay double if he were nude, so I had no problem racing to see this action-adventure tale in the theater despite the poor reviews. The 13th Warrior was one of those films that experienced trouble on the set between creative parties, which reviewers love to gossip about. Director John McTiernan’s interpretation of Michael Crichton’s book Eaters of the Dead so angered the author that he took over the direction of the film. A novelist directing a film is rarely a good idea, but honestly, it was better directed and edited than half the Hollywood movies released this year. Banderas stars as a 10th century Arab poet and nobleman who travels to the barbaric north as an ambassador. He unwillingly becomes the 13th Warrior of Viking legend and ends up helping the pagan warriors fight against a tribe of half-men, half-beast cannibals who terrorize the villages of the Northland under the mist of night. I liked the 10th-century time frame and the Viking story. The Vikings are seen through the eyes of Banderas’s character, who is cultured and literate compared to the Northmen, whom he—and the audience— disdain for their lack of sophistication. By the end of the film, they are presented as the last of a dying breed of larger-than-life mythic heroes.  I also liked the aura of mysticism surrounding the Vikings and their homeland.   This story represented the tail end of an era in which there was only the slightest of distinctions between the natural and supernatural.

THE RECREATED ALAMO FOR THE MOVIE ADDED A GREAT DEAL TO PRODUCTION COSTS.

THE RECREATED ALAMO FOR THE MOVIE ADDED A GREAT DEAL TO PRODUCTION COSTS.

The Alamo (2004). I love all interpretations of the fall of the Alamo, because it is one of my favorite stories in American history. This version, written and directed by John Lee Hancock, cost $107 million and grossed only $25.8 million worldwide. The Alamo was another film with a troubled production, which became the focus of most of the reviews. I don’t think reviewers, who seem to get younger and younger as the Web drives the discourse on contemporary movies, knew how to describe or interpret the film, so they fell back on behind-the-scenes gossip. Some called it a western, which it is not; others thought it was a remake of the 1960 version by John Wayne, simply because it was the same subject matter. I wonder how many of them knew it was an actual historical event. The pacing and structure are definitely weak, probably because so much of the film had been cut out. One reviewer blamed the badly organized plot events on “a sluggish script”—whatever that is—and another dubbed these narrative problems “jerky editing.” I have been a fan of Billy Bob Thornton since One False Move, and he made for a wise, intelligent, non-traditional Davy Crockett. Crockett is the key to this pared-down Alamo, and the scene in which he harmonizes his fiddle tune with the Mexican military music suggests the blend and clash of cultures that is Texas.

BRANDO, REDFORD, AND HOPKINS IN 'THE CHASE'

BRANDO, REDFORD, AND HOPKINS IN ‘THE CHASE’

The Chase (1966). Two years before his ground-breaking Bonnie and Clyde, Arthur Penn released this torrid melodrama starring Marlon Brando, Jane Fonda, Robert Redford, and a cast of terrific character actors. An honest and honorable sheriff in a small town in Texas is pitted against his community when a local boy escapes prison to return home to see his best girl. The town’s leading citizens harbor many secrets, which are revealed as they try to get the sheriff to “do something” about the escapee. I bet you are envisioning Redford as the sheriff and Brando as the fugitive, but you would be wrong. The casting is part of the problem: Redford is too attractive and simplistic in his interpretation of the fugitive, Bubber, while Brando can’t get a handle on playing a hero. However, I love the pure melodrama of this film, which pits trashy outcasts against dishonorable rich folk. Formerly blacklisted Lillian Hellman must have had an ax to grind with hypocrites and prejudice, because her interpretation of Horton Foote’s play includes infidelity, sex, violence, bigotry, racism, hatred, and corruption. The Chase is only surpassed in trashiness by Otto Preminger’s Hurry Sundown. The near-assassination of Brando at the end of the film echoes the assassination of Kennedy, which has haunted the directors of the Film School Generation. Look for everyone from Miriam Hopkins to Robert Duvall in this glorious mess.

STREISAND PERFORMS THE TITLE TUNE WITH THE HEEL-KICKING WAITERS IN 'HELLO DOLLY.'

STREISAND PERFORMS THE TITLE TUNE WITH THE HEEL-KICKING WAITERS IN ‘HELLO DOLLY.’

Hello Dolly (1969). Directed by Gene Kelly, this cinematic version of the long-running Broadway musical was considered anachronistic during the politically tumultuous 1960s. Another criticism is the casting of 27-year-old Barbra Streisand as the middle-aged match-maker Dolly Levi. Not surprisingly, she had no chemistry with costar Walter Matthau. During the 1960s, there were several attempts to produce old-fashioned, large-scale musicals, but only The Sound of Music proved a success. The $20-million Hello Dolly tends to bear the brunt of the criticism for the industry’s attempt to keep this very American genre alive, but I learned to appreciate this film when I researched Kelly’s strategy for directing dance. Kelly held specific ideas about the art of dancing on film, which he variously called cine-ballet, cine-dancing, and cinematic ballet in interviews. Dance is a three-dimensional, kinetic art form, in which the live performers exude energy and vitality, while the cinema is a two-dimensional art form that essentially robs the dancers of that energy. In a live performance, audiences relate directly to the dancer onstage, but in film, viewers are a step removed. To Kelly, the best approach to compensate for the distance between dancer and viewer was twofold: The dances should grow out of the plot or further the plot, so viewers can relate to them, while a mobile camera should track, crane, and follow the performers to re-capture the kinetic quality of dance. The fluid camerawork in the large-scale production numbers of Hello Dolly, particularly the crane work, infuses the dances with energy and grace. The dance of the waiters in Harmonia Gardens is a flawless example of his strategy.

Space prevents me from listing all my favorite flops. Perhaps a second post of terribly-treated turkeys is in order for the future.

 

52 Responses My Favorite Turkeys
Posted By Commander Adams : November 25, 2013 6:27 pm

CONQUEST OF SPACE. Whenever I offer a contrary view, I always feel the need to qualify it by saying “then again, I also like CONQUEST OF SPACE.”

Posted By maybeimamazed02 : November 25, 2013 6:35 pm

As a theater critic, I tend to avoid fellow critics because so many of them are jerks. They’re more in love with their own snarkiness than thoughtfully assessing the material. And most of them don’t think a woman has anything valuable to say. Ugh.

This was a great post! I LOVE Hello Dolly. Love it. I don’t care of Streisand’s too young. It’s such a cute story and “It Only Takes a Moment” is wonderful, as is (as you mentioned) the Harmonia Gardens scene. Plus, Michael Crawford!

Posted By Ben Martin : November 25, 2013 6:46 pm

If Turner Classic Movies had a suggestion box, I’d drop one in that said “please start a weekly program (similar to the one for Underground Movies or Guest Programmer) called “Bad Movies We Love.” It could use the tone of the book by the same name by Edward Margulies and Stephen Rebello. They, like you Susan, and like so many of us, have favorite films that frankly are pretty indefensible, yet have champions who love to tout their unique charms and find the humor and sometimes insight into movies that pass few critical litmus tests. Not bad-bad movies like Plan 9, good-bad movies like Female on the Beach or Kitten with a Whip.
One comment on one of your films above – The Chase has always been a major favorite of mine. Grim and overwrought though it is, it bubbles with swampy paranoia and angry Lillian Hellman’s politics – a far cry from Horton Foote’s original play which I once produced at the Barrow Theater. But I think Brando is perfection – amazing as the quiet, decent, defender of what’s right eking a living as a sheriff in this moral quagmire of a Texas town. Sure its kind of a mess – but a fascinating one.

Posted By ‘My Favorite Turkeys’: Box office failures that aren’t all bad : November 25, 2013 6:52 pm

[…] Susan Doll writes that many “turkeys” have at least 10 or so worthwhile minutes, even… Hello Dolly. […]

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : November 25, 2013 6:58 pm

Love this post, Susan! I would go to bat for THE COTTON CLUB, THE CHASE, THE LAST MOVIE and especially HELLO DOLLY, which has been one of my favorite musicals since I first saw it as a kid. I’ve always been baffled by its poor reputation. I think it’s a spectacular looking film with a great cast and the musical numbers are just terrific. Streisand and Matthau supposedly came to hate each other during filming but I think that actually helped foster the unusual love/hate chemistry they have on screen. Such a fun film.

Posted By Susan Doll : November 25, 2013 7:07 pm

Ben Martin: I like your idea about a Bad Movie We Love series. I once proposed an adult education class on Flops, but the director of the program thought I was crazy. She did not promote the class well, or describe the spirit of the course in the schedule, so not enough people signed up for it.

Posted By Susan Doll : November 25, 2013 7:09 pm

Kimberly and Maybei’mamazed: I am glad there are other Hello Dolly fans. The scene with Louis Armstrong almost makes me cry as he was such beloved show-biz entertainer, and I love the “Elegance” number.

Posted By Maryann : November 25, 2013 7:39 pm

For me the turkey would be Ishtar

Posted By Doug : November 25, 2013 7:49 pm

If Morlocks had a suggestion box, a good subject might be the ‘Gatekeepers’-casting agents, those who sift through hopefuls and decide who might have that ‘something extra’ which translates well to the screen.
Just as baseball has scouts to evaluate talent, casting agents seek out stars; some few are known for having discovered this or that actor, filled a role which became a ‘break-out’, been the first to see the gold hidden within a novice actor.

Onto the actual post. I love some really grand flops-looking at my shelves, I find Nora Ephron’s “Bewitched”-(Nicole Kidman is absolutely charming).
“Goin’ South” Jack Nicholson’s fun ‘western’ which introduced Mary Steenburgen.
“Hudson Hawk”-I’d love to see a sequel bringing back Sandra Bernhard. Maybe playing twins. Both evil.
Just one more: “One From The Heart”.

Posted By robbushblog : November 25, 2013 7:52 pm

I am embarrassed to say that I’ve only seen two of these: Nickelodeon and The 13th Warrior. I found Nickelodeon a chore to get through. It seemed overlong and the gags seemed to be telegraphed from miles away. It seemed sluggish. It certainly lacked the energy of many of the silent that it attempted to emulate. The 13th Warrior was just bad. It just seemed like a bad 80′s fantasy movie, but not even that good.

Of course, I wrote all of the above with the knowledge that I may be greatly criticized for liking John Carter. I actually liked John Carter a lot. I also thought that Speed Racer wasn’t bad. I’m not typically a fan of that overly kinetic style of filmmaking, nor am I a fan of the cartoon series, but it was just fun. I also really liked the live-action version of Peter Pan that came out in 2003.

Posted By george : November 25, 2013 8:40 pm

“Reviewers seem to lie in wait for an imperfect film, so they can exaggerate its poor points, giving them an excuse to poke fun in that snarky style I loathe.”

Actual film critics don’t do that so much, at least not these days. Now the snark usually comes from fanboy bloggers on the Internet, who are eager to pronounce this or that movie as “Worst. Movie. Ever.”

It was much worse 50 years ago, when magazines and newspapers hired snobs who loathed movies to write reviews. The pre-Pauline Kael New Yorker is Exhibit A.

Posted By george : November 25, 2013 8:46 pm

I’ve always liked NICKELODEON. Not a great film, but charming and entertaining. Its box office failure was another example (one of many) of the fact that movie history is not of great interest to the average moviegoer.

THE CHASE has always gotten a bad rap — even before its release, when Arthur Penn disowned the film after Sam Spiegel allegedly locked him out of the editing room. It’s not perfect, but it’s much better than its reputation would suggest.

I regard THE CHASE, along with Preminger’s BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING, as one of the most underrated films of the ’60s.

Posted By Gene : November 26, 2013 1:40 am

“While reviewers like to call themselves “critics,” true film criticism does not revolve around personal taste. I loathe reviewers who jump on a flawed film that may still be worthwhile viewing and dub it “the worst film ever made,” which sometimes affects the box office for that title.”

Susan, thank you for saying this. While there may be films (including a few overly-lauded ones) that I don’t like I wholly agree that criticism is much more than personal likes or dislikes. There are many great films out there, and as you say many films that may be flawed but have something worthwhile about them and there’s nothing wrong with expressing your like or dislike of something but to pass that off as anything more is disingenuous. As to Bunny Lake is Missing – I heartily agree that it is underrated. What an incredible gem of a film!

Posted By Richard Brandt : November 26, 2013 2:11 am

THE LAST ACTION HERO: Flawed, but brilliant. I guess the audience for Schwarzenegger-style action flicks didn’t like seeing their movies of choice mocked.

Loved NICKELODEON, although have to admit it drags a bit towards the end. HELLO, DOLLY would perhaps have been better off if Kelly hadn’t followed several of the song-and-dance numbers with a ballet, which bloats the film’s already interminable running time.

I have a soft spot for the opening-night theatrical version of EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC, as laughably awful as it wound up by the end (Rosco Pallenberg’s making-of book gives plenty of clues to how I ended up such a mess). I liked a lot of 1941 even though it was in the confusing-big-with-funny mode of IT’S A MAD, MAD etc. Some movies were flops because they hardly got shown in theaters…such as KING OF COMEDY, which was almost painful to watch but brilliant (especially Bernhard, again), and I’ve never even been able to catch another of Bogdanovich’s, ST. JACK.

Posted By Richard Brandt : November 26, 2013 2:13 am

Oh, and I liked William Friedkin’s SORCERER, enough that I was waiting in line to see it instead of STAR WARS on their mutual opening night, a masterstroke of bad timing which helped to seal its fate right there, I’m sure.

Posted By Susan Doll : November 26, 2013 2:42 am

Richard: SORCERER almost made my list but I have not seen it in a long time, so I decided to leave it off. I may do another round of Turkeys in the future, because there were others that almost made the list.

Posted By george : November 26, 2013 3:22 am

I don’t know how much power critics have to hurt the box office of a film. Negative reviews haven’t impaired the careers of Michael Bay and Adam Sandler, and they didn’t stop all those POLICE ACADEMY and FRIDAY THE 13TH sequels.

The only films critics can really help or hurt are art-house films. Foreign and independent movies usually don’t have huge advertising budgets, and they don’t open in 6,000 multiplexes on the same day. Reviews can help people find these films. Whereas “Iron Man 3″ was going to make money regardless of what critics said.

Glad to see the shout-outs for SORCERER (not as good as WAGES OF FEAR but still worth seeing) and especially GOIN’ SOUTH (show it to anyone and watch them laugh).

Posted By Susan Doll : November 26, 2013 4:02 am

George: I think reviewers do influence the box office for certain films, as does the reporting of the opening weekend grosses. If a film doesn’t make its projected box office, or if it suffers from poor reviews on the Friday of its release, it discourages viewers who might have given the film a chance. This is particularly true for smaller Hollywood movies that might get a wide distribution but don’t have a high profile or a large marketing budget, though fewer and fewer of these movies are getting made in Hollywood.

Posted By george : November 26, 2013 4:56 am

Susan: Most of the box-office obsession comes from bloggers and reporters who cover Hollywood as a business, not from professional film reviewers.

JOHN CARTER, one of the most famous flops in recent years, got positive-to-mixed reviews from critics. The reviews didn’t matter, because the media decided months before the film’s release that it would be a megabomb. Fanboys were blogging that JOHN CARTER would be the biggest flop since BATTLEFIELD EARTH. (They might have mentioned ISHTAR and HEAVEN’S GATE, too, but a lot of bloggers are too young to remember the ’80s.)

I’m also not crazy about the reporting of box-office figures. As Martin Scorsese and Leonard Maltin have said, the idea that people would base their decision to see (or not see) a movie based on how much it made at the box office is mind-boggling. “It’s a different world,” Scorsese said.

He should know. If box-office numbers had been widely reported in the ’70s, Scorsese — and Robert Altman — might not have had careers. Because most of their movies were at No. 15.

Posted By Sally GW : November 26, 2013 6:17 am

I love the idea of a “Bad Movies We Love” theme night – maybe late on a Friday or Saturday night. There are so many movies I can think of that have been labeled as turkeys because they cost so much to make and didn’t make that back – but expensive flops aren’t necessarily awful, and sometimes can be real gems. I love Ishtar, have watched it several times and still find it extremely funny (the blind camel! the awful songs!), and really think that had there not been so much press given to how much the movie cost, the reviews and box office would have been much better. Another one that I love is “Honky Tonk Freeway”, which lost a huge amount of money and got awful reviews. It’s actually very funny, with a great cast (Jessica Tandy playing a woman who is convinced she’s not an alcoholic because she only has mixed drinks – “I’ll have 6 old-fashioneds” – and Hugh Cronyn as her husband the adman who ‘invented’ bad breath); for anyone who has ever been a tourist in Florida or a resident who’s lived through tourist season here, it’s even funnier.

As for “Goin’ South” – how can anyone dislike that movie? Great cast, great dialogue, really really funny…

Posted By joes : November 26, 2013 8:09 am

I think COTTON CLUB is quite a remarkable film in many ways. Coppola is, if anything, underrated outside the GODFATHER I & II and THE CONVERSION trio.
And, THE LAST MOVIE is one of the greatest examples of Art Direction I’ve ever seen (particularly when one considers the budget, location and circumstances of how the film was made). It’s insane – but, so was Hopper!

Posted By Lamar : November 26, 2013 11:47 am

TNT did have a short run “Bad Movies We Love” series, not too long after the book came out.
http://articles.philly.com/1993-08-14/entertainment/25968621_1_bad-movies-notorious-duds-bmwl

Posted By swac44 : November 26, 2013 12:58 pm

I agree The Cotton Club is a film worth revisiting, especially since the ground it covers is revisited in (mostly) fictional form in the latest season of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire which just wrapped this past weekend. Even before this article appeared, I’ve been considering rewatching the Coppola film.

I remember enjoying The 13th Warrior when I saw it in the theatre, on the level of a fun, pulpy adventure film. Also, put me down in the pro-Speed Racer camp. It’s way too long for the kind of film it is, I remember feeling exhausted by the end of the IMAX screening I saw, but it’s a candy-coloured visual orgy I don’t mind delving back into every now and again.

Posted By CitizenKing : November 26, 2013 1:37 pm

I definitely love turkey. To me it can be a badge of honor. The unfortunate thing is that the box office performance will determine the future of the director, actors and even the viability of the source material. Little chance we will see more JOHN CARTER movies, but I would pay to see them.

Of the above, I will support THE COTTON CLUB most. Plot, schmot, the dancing is worth the price of admission alone. I can’t quite get enthused about HELLO DOLLY, though Louis Armstrong is always a sentimental favorite.

I love SORCERER, and I also enjoyed the Burton/Taylor CLEOPATRA. I have never understood why “troubled” production or losing money had anything to do with film criticism. News, yes. But not criticism. Assess what is on the screen, that is a critic’s job.

Posted By The Morning Read: ‘Animal House’ Disgrace, Quadrant Problems and Turkeys : November 26, 2013 2:00 pm

[…] “My Favorite Turkeys” — Susan Doll at Movie Morlocks celebrates movies that, arguably, underperformed. How’s that for synergy? […]

Posted By The Morning Read: ‘Animal House’ Disgrace, Quadrant Problems and Turkeys : November 26, 2013 2:05 pm

[…] “My Favorite Turkeys” — Susan Doll at Movie Morlocks celebrates movies that, arguably, underperformed. How’s that for synergy? […]

Posted By The Morning Read: ‘Animal House’ Disgrace, Quadrant Problems and Turkeys – Noticiarium : November 26, 2013 2:07 pm

[…] “My Favorite Turkeys” — Susan Doll at Movie Morlocks celebrates movies that, arguably, underperformed. How’s that for synergy? […]

Posted By Pablo : November 26, 2013 2:24 pm

“During the 1960s, there were several attempts to produce old-fashioned, large-scale musicals, but only The Sound of Music proved a success”

My Fair Lady and Mary Poppins both came out in 1964 and were the #2 & #3 movies of the year. Then Sound of Music was a mega smash in ’65. After that the musical genre started to flop for the rest of the 60′s.

Posted By Jenni : November 26, 2013 2:50 pm

Turkeys, I always thought meant “bad cinema”. Many years ago, my late father-in-law, a huge movie fan, held a Turkey-Thon, where we watched bad movies over a Thanksgiving break. The only turkey film I remember watching then was The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes-as wacky as it was, it was quite funny, and I loved the San Diego chicken at the end, stomping on tomatoes! Put me in the pro-John Carter camp. Saw it and really liked it. 13th Warrier, Sorcerer, haven’t heard of those before, might need to add them to my holiday viewing list, to break up the Christmas fare, a bit.

Posted By robbushblog : November 26, 2013 3:34 pm

Oliver! also did very well in 1968, didn’t it? I know Doctor Dolittle was a big bomb, but I kind of liked it when I saw it some 20 something years ago. I wonder if I would now.

Posted By Doug : November 26, 2013 5:16 pm

If this post is morphing from turkeys to when did musicals go bust I would suggest that “Fiddler On the Roof” did pretty good in 1971. Of course, right before that we had a real gobbler of a musical in “Paint Your Wagon” so my answer is 3:00p.m.

Posted By B Piper : November 26, 2013 5:26 pm

“It was much worse 50 years ago, when magazines and newspapers hired snobs who loathed movies to write reviews. The pre-Pauline Kael New Yorker is Exhibit A.”

Actually, Pauline Kael was the epitome of that sort of snob.

I tracked down JOE VS. THE VOLCANO precisely because so many people told me how bad it was (including the manager of the video store who almost refused to let me rent it). Loved it.

Posted By Ben Martin : November 26, 2013 5:45 pm

Well a couple more thoughts for the Bad Movies We Love show (yes, Friday nights at 11:30 is perfect I think.)
Remember, unlike a lot of the examples we mention above – these should NOT be movies we think are good and everyone else thinks are bad.
Even YOU have to consider the movies bad – but you like them in spite of, or even because of, that fact.
They should be pre-1975 (this is TCM after all).
And don’t shy away from box office successes either!!
If I were programming director, my first season would include:

Interval – Merle Oberon, 1973 – (I saw it once and oh-my-good-golly)
The Shanghai Gesture – Gene Tierney, 1941 (And Victor Mature’s finest hour)
Female on the Beach – Joan Crawford, 1955 (In fact, you could almost have a Joan Crawford festival from this period, ending in the wonderful Straitjacket.)
Myra Breckenridge – Raquel Welch, 1971 (or is this too obvious)
The Beat Generation – Ray Danton, 1958 (If i were ever a guest programmer, i would pick this remarkable film – i know its bad – but its also kind of spectacular)
Sign of the Cross – Charles Laughton, 1932 (Oh Cecil you magnificent hypocrite)
And maybe a Jacqueline Susann double feature:
Valley of the Dolls and
The Love Machine.

There you go – sign me up and I will be happy to host along with a wide variety of colorful guest hosts including the Morlock team.
Ben

Posted By Susan Doll : November 26, 2013 6:15 pm

Ben: Your idea is terrific and fun. Don’t know if I could get through Love Machine though! LOL

Posted By John Mundt, Esq. : November 26, 2013 9:53 pm

I’m just old enough to remember going to films “blindly,” having absolutely no idea of what I was about to see, other than from the posters in the lobby. I was surprised to later learn that some of the films I loved when I saw them – maybe in spite of flaws, maybe because of flaws – were widely considered “turkeys.” Ghost Story, Into The Night, Lifeforce, and The Black Hole come to mind. Man, I REALLY loved Into The Night, and find myself quoting lines from it still today!

Posted By Christine Lowe : November 27, 2013 1:19 am

Kids, I belong to another generation — but my nominee would be SINCERELY YOURS which starred Liberace, and is loaded with unintentional hilarity. It is a treasure.

Posted By SergioM : November 27, 2013 3:46 am

God help me I love The Chase and The 13th Warrior. I have both of them on DVD. The scene alone in The Chase where Brando gets beaten up always puts me in stitches. It’s supposed to be “shocking” but produces guffaws instead especially when Bichard Bradfors sucker punches Brando with a swing that completely misses him by at least half a foot.

And I would give anything to see McTiernan’s original version of Warrior. In fact I still remember seeing the trailer for the film in the theaters under it’s original title Eaters of the Dead. Then I had to wait at least another year before I saw it.

And Socerer is GREAT film. I saw fantastic print of the film with Friedkin in person back the past spring and it’s finally coming on on Warner blu-ray DVD in April 2014

Posted By tdraicer : November 27, 2013 5:20 am

>Oliver! also did very well in 1968, didn’t it?

It was, quite deservedly imo, a smash.

Posted By ’58 Classic : November 27, 2013 5:13 pm

Richard Brandt: Saint Jack has a wonderful performance by the always magnificent Ben Gazzara. And Denholm Elliott! Worth trying to find for sure.

Susan: It would be FANTASTIC if TCM would program a Bad Movies We Love. MST3K being gone has left a hole that needs filling.

As for BO bombs I love, The Conversation tops the list, followed in no particular order by Tap (tons of old-school tappers and Gregory Hines), It’s a Wonderful Life (distinctly unsuccessful on 1st release in 1946), Rumblefish, Heaven’s Gate, and a bunch more that aren’t coming to mind at the moment.

Posted By Bogey1965 : November 28, 2013 5:11 pm

Great thread. On a newer note, my family wanted an adventure film that they had not seen. Pulled out one of my favorites that usually gets ripped: The Phantom starring Billy Zane. Bright, colorful, and almost a throwback to the Saturday matinee serials. Over the top fun with biplanes, pirates, submarines, volcanoes, etc. etc.

Posted By george : November 29, 2013 9:00 pm

B. Piper: I watched JOE VS. THE VOLCANO without reading any reviews or hearing any word of mouth about it. I found it unwatchably awful.

Posted By george : November 29, 2013 9:04 pm

“The scene alone in The Chase where Brando gets beaten up always puts me in stitches.”

I’ve read that Brando asked the other actors to really hit him, and that some of the blood on his face and shirt was real. It’s actually one of the most painful-to-watch beatings in movie history … much more so than the cartoonish punch-outs in the average Hollywood action flick.

Posted By george : November 29, 2013 9:42 pm

B. Piper said: “Actually, Pauline Kael was the epitome of that sort of snob.”

Give us some examples.

Kael was a fan of violent pulp (as long as it didn’t star Clint Eastwood). She championed great directors like Altman, Peckinpah and De Palma. She found greatness in BONNIE AND CLYDE when Bosley Crowther and most “establishment” critics were trashing it.

But Kael didn’t like STAR WARS or RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, and some people will never forgive her for that.

Posted By Richard Brandt : November 30, 2013 10:21 am

According to Ebert, TOMBSTONE was another movie that suffered from production problems and the studio’s subsequent neglect of its promotion and distribution; Ebert thought Val Kilmer lost out on a well-deserved Oscar nomination as a result. I love the movie in any case, from William Fraker’s gorgeous cinematography to that look in Powers Boothe’s eyes (as leader of the gang of villains) that make it clear he knows he barely has these guys in check and could lose control of them at any time; it’s a brilliantly subtle performance.

Posted By Cris : November 30, 2013 5:32 pm

My favorite bad movie has to be Halloween 3. I’ve watched it a couple times now and enjoy it more and more each time. Kinda like a visit with old friends. Thanks.

Posted By george : November 30, 2013 8:53 pm

THE BIG BOUNCE (1969), with Ryan O’Neal and his then-wife Leigh Taylor-Young, may be my favorite bad movie.

Produced by William (“Batman”) Dozier, it’s just relentlessly trashy … and endlessly fascinating. The Muzak score by Mike Curb uncannily recreates the experience of being in a department store in the late ’60s.

Best scene: Taylor-Young asks O’Neal if he killed anyone in Vietnam. When he says “I suppose so,” she asks: “Was it fun?”

Posted By the vin man : December 1, 2013 3:19 pm

did you forget,. at long last love. major dry heave

Posted By B Piper : December 1, 2013 3:58 pm

“B. Piper: I watched JOE VS. THE VOLCANO without reading any reviews or hearing any word of mouth about it. I found it unwatchably awful.”

That’s funny! I liked it literally from the first shot, and found parts of it actually brilliant. Well, that’s the way it goes. The Academy named Cameron’s TITANIC best picture of the year and I found it a bloated piece of crap. Somehow I take a certain satisfaction in that.

Posted By Susan Doll : December 1, 2013 7:30 pm

RICHARD: I often show Tombstone in my classes. It gets a good response every time.

Posted By george : December 1, 2013 10:32 pm

Re PAINT YOUR WAGON:

I like this comment from former USA Today movie critic Mike Clark. Talking about the 2001 film MOULIN ROGUE, he said:

“If I’m going to watch a musical where nobody can sing or dance, I guess I’ll stick with PAINT YOUR WAGON, because Clint Eastwood singing ‘I Talk to the Trees’ is funny.”

He added that if MOULIN ROGUE had won the Best Picture Oscar, it would have been the most hated winner of all time.

Posted By david hartzog : December 3, 2013 2:55 am

I liked the underrated The Chase, would add Heaven’s Gate and Sorcerer to the turkey list.

Posted By Sergio : December 3, 2013 2:59 am

HELL NO! Sorcerer are Heaven’s Gate are GREAT films. They may have flopped at the box office, but both of them are truly fantastic film sadly misunderstood

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