Worst Movies Ever Made

Scraping the Bottom of the Cinematic Barrel

Worst Christmas Movie Ever Made: Santa Claus Conquers The Martian (1964)

Title:  Santa Claus Conquers The Martians (1964)
Directed by:  Nicholas Webster
Starring:  John Call, Leonard Hicks, Vincent Beck, Victor Stiles, Donna Conforti, Bill McCutcheon, Leila Martin, Pia Zadora
Buy Here:  Amazon UK

Christmas may be the season of good will to all men, but the makers of this particular oven-ready turkey were just taking the p!$$. Filmed in an old aircraft hanger, it’s the kind of movie that Ed Wood might have made at the start of his career, before he learned which end of the camera to look down.

The film opens on Mars, where the poor Martian kids are really down in the dumps because nobody showers them with unnecessary gifts once a year. They sit around in a zombie-like state watching TV shows from Earth about good old Father Christmas and wishing they could get an old geezer with white hair climbing down their chimney too – though obviously not one who is clad in a shell suit and muttering, “Now then, now then…”

01-1_cropThe rulers of the Red Planet call an emergency meeting and consult an 800-year-old wise man who lives in a cave with no chimney. He comes up with the genius idea of kidnapping Santa Claus from Earth and installing him on Mars, rather than just finding their own fat little man in a red suit and paying him minimum wage.

A raiding party of Martians set out, employing a cunning plastic “radar screen,” available from Woolworth for 3/6d, to fox our planetary defences. Kidnapping two annoying American kids, they threaten them with roles in the sequel unless they take them to Santa’s home at the North Pole, a Winter Wonderland which looks a bit like a typical department store Christmas grotto.

It soon becomes apparent that Kris Kringle himself – as played by rotund John Call – would never have passed the sobriety test to work in such a place. He’s definitely Christmas pie-eyed and his ‘Ho! Ho! Ho!” sounds much to lewd for our liking. Did the filmmakers do a CRB check on this guy?

After turning their freeze rays on Mrs Klaus and a few stray elves, the green-skinned meanies head off to Mars with Bad Santa and the irritating Earth kids. But their lives are in danger from the main baddie of the piece, a character called Vulgar (Vincent Beck) with a Frank Zappa moustache and the screen presence of a lump of balsa wood. He tries to bump Santa off but is foiled at every turn by good Martian kid Droppo (Bill McCutcheon), who must be sweating his cobs off under that ridiculous rubber mask.

Santa2_1024x1024_cropWhen the cardboard spaceship lands, the Martian kids immediately burst into peals of laughter. Well, it is a rubbish bit of special effects, that’s for sure. Santa is given a workshop and starts making crystal meth… sorry, wrong show, cheap consumer goods for the children. Vulgar is not happy and kidnaps Santa to finally settle his hash, but in an amazing plot twist we discover he’s really kidnapped young Droppo, who has dressed as Santa for a bet. The Martian kids attack Vulgar with ping pong balls and toy tanks, and tears stream down his face, either from being repeatedly hit in the goolies or suddenly realising he’s never going to get that Oscar now.

The Martians realise that Droppo makes a convincing Santa, and one who doesn’t need vodka on his cornflakes every day, so they fly the original back to Earth just in time for Christmas as the end titles come up to the inspirational song, Hooray For Santy Claus.

All together now:

“You spell it S-a-n-t-a C-l-a-u-s

Hooray for Santy Claus!

Hooray for Santy Claus

Yeah, yeah, for Santy Claus

He’s fat and round, but jumping jiminy,

He can climb down any chimney,

Why do we hear sleigh bells ring?

Our hearts go ding-a-ling!”

Yule never believe how bad this is, despite the fact that it has attained some sort of bizarre cult following, probably because it marks the acting debut of Pia Zadora, later a winner of a Golden Raspberry Worst Actress Award for the film Butterfly. Kids who are not yet old enough to cut up their own food might get some fun out of this but for older viewers it’s a bit like Christmas itself: it goes on far too long and you’re glad when it’s all over.


Worst Women-In-Prison TV Soap – Prisoner Cell: Block H (1979-1986)

41ahCEFkrpL_cropTitle:  Prisoner: Cell Block H (1979-1986)

Starring:  Elspeth Ballantyne, Betty Bobbitt, Sheila Florance, Maggie Kirkpatrick, Val Lehman, Patsy King,

Buy here:  Amazon UK

I love a bit of “chicks in chains” action myself, you know, those women in prison movies where every inmate looks like a Playboy centrefold and the shower facilities are in use 24/7. The wardens are usually raving lesbians, but good looking with it, and the sex mad male governor has a working hot tub in his office.

Please put all of these things out of your mind when you come to watch Prisoner: Cell Block H, though. Prisoner: Cell Block H is an Australian soap produced by The Reg Grundy Organisation which was originally devised as a 16-part mini-series. It proved so popular, however, that it ran for 692 episodes between early 1979 to late 1986.

Okay, now I know that this website is all about bad movies and TV shows, but just as there’s a thin line between love and hate there’s also a very narrow margin between what’s brilliant and what’s abysmal. Prisoner: Cell Block H may be one of the worst women in prison shows ever made, or one of the best. It’s certainly a programme that has inspired a cult following, and Sammy Davis Jr reportedly loved it, even asking to visit the set one time.

Unlike many soaps, the show was first broadcast in the U.K. late at night to reflect its adult content involving lesbianism, bullying, sadistic guards, prison gangs, drugs and even terrorist sieges. It actually made perfect post-pub viewing because viewers really needed a few pints inside them to cope with the scary look of the inmates.


Initially produced by Reg Watson, who was also responsible for Crossroads, The Young Doctors, Sons and Daughters and Neighbours, the series was set in Wentworth Prison, a grim institution whose walls seemed to be made out of cardboard.

One of the main central characters – at least until episode 400 – was stocky, ginger-haired Bea Smith (Val Lehman), aka ‘Queen Bee”. She didn’t give a monkey’s right from the first episode: “Yes my name is Beatrice Alice Smith, yes I killed my husband – he deserved it. Yes I’m gonna be here for the rest of my life. Now why don’t you just check through this lot, give me a form to sign and throw me into a cell.”

Bea had a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp and was top dog at the prison, which meant she always got the biggest portions in the canteen. Anyone who got in her way was informed: “You’re history, bitch.” She shot one of her enemies in the head with a homemade zip gun and drowned another in the sink in the shower room.

Joan “The Freak” Ferguson (Maggie Kirkpatrick) was Queen Bea’s opposite number among the wardens, a nasty lesbian who loved putting her trademark black gloves on for some intimate frisking. Another warder who enjoyed sadistically tormenting the inmates was Vera Bennett (Fiona Spence), who became one of the show’s most iconic characters under her highly appropriate nickname of “Vinegar Tits.”

Of course for every bad warder there’s a good warder, and that was kindly and compassionate Meg (Elspeth Ballantyne), always trying to talk prisoners out of hanging themselves in their cell – with varying degrees of success. Elspeth was the only actress to appear in every single episode of the show.

While the majority of passing through inmates fell into the categories of raging lesbian, tarty nymphomaniac hooker or both, the regulars were slightly better developed. A viewer favourite was feisty, institutionalised old-timer Lizzie Birdsworth (Sheila Florance), who looked like Methuselah’s mother. She appeared to have been left in the sun since puberty, and smoked sixty coffin nails a day while out there. Lizzie was inside for poisoning four sheep shearers who complained about her cooking, so they stuck her in the canteen.

Patsy King was also notable as snobbish upper class Prison Governess Erica Davidson, a part originally offered to – and turned down by – Googie Withers, who had played a similar role in the UK show Within These Walls. Erica was a firm believer in rehabilitation, even after getting shot in episode 82.

41G-vCy7NnL_cropHer second in command was Jim Fletcher (Gerard Maguire), better known as “Fletch the Letch” because of his habit of perving on inmates. He was known to be firm but fair though, and especially the former when up to his Peeping Tom larks. At one point he had sex with an ex-prisoner, but in his defence he was trying to help the police solve a robbery case, and he was in it for the reward money.

Of course you’ll already know all this if you’re a fan of the show, and chances are you’ll also have splurged on Prisoner: Cell Block H - The Largest Box Set On Earth. Digitally restored, it features 174 DVDs across 40 volumes and tons of extras and is the ultimate collector’s edition for those who can’t get enough of Australia’s most controversial soap.

512RFB5YR0L_cropIf you haven’t tried the show before but this brief look at it has piqued your curiosity, you may want to start by checking out Fremantle’s box set of The Best of Prisoner: Cell Block H. Do get your beer goggles on before viewing though, it definitely helps.


Space. The final frontier. Who knows what lies beyond the barriers of our universe? Don’t ask me – I can hardly navigate my way through the drive-in at my local McDonalds. It’s a subject that has fascinated moviemakers for many years now (space, not Maccy Dee), and particularly those who deal in the area of what we at this website might fondly refer to as the low-budget quickie.

These enlightened souls believe that man will one day travel among the stars, where he will probably discover a race of big-busted Amazon ladies, who will immediately strip off their clothes and jump all over them. This is nice work if you can get it – but is it enough justification for spending five thousand billion dollars on the space programme? We say yes, actually.

91BJmC3sKWL_SL1500_cropThe first space girl to make an impact on me was Jane Fonda, working out in zero gravity to some really groovy 60s music under the main titles of Barbarella [Buy HERE] Piece by piece she removed her space suit until you could see bits of her that film stars weren’t supposed to have. The sight gave me such a thrill that I almost put my name down for the space shuttle there and then. The film itself wasn’t so hot; it was a silly comedy directed by Roger Vadim (then Jane’s husband), and told of 41st Century bimbo Barbarella’s various misadventures rescuing scientist Duran Duran (yes, the group did take their name from this character) and saving the universe from a fate worse than a sequel.

51MKBH0BHWL_cropOne of the most memorably lusty space voyages was undertaken in 1953′s immortal cinema classic Cat Women Of The Moon [buy HERE], where intrepid rocket ship commander Laird Grainger, played by Sonny Tufts (now there’s a name to conjure with), crash-landed what looked like an intergalactic dustbin into a moon made of cardboard rather than green cheese. There he discovered a large amount of pussy…cats, so he blasted off a bit smartish and the titles came up as he went into a wholesome clinch with navigator Helen Salinger, played by Marie Windsor.

71XYc0-cOsL_SL1500_cropThe male fantasy of visiting distant worlds populated exclusively by gorgeous, man-hungry females also served as the basis for the unforgettable Fire Maidens from Outer Space [buy HERE] a film so bad that people have been known to walk out when it’s shown as an in-flight movie!

This time, it was instant has-been Anthony Dexter who pranged his tinfoil spacecraft on the surface of the planet Jupiter and found a number of hotcha starlets wearing skimpy bathing suits and dancing to the music of Borodin. When not doing this or casting lusty glances at Dexter, the fire maidens lay around in pools of lava getting all steamed up – these chicks were really hot stuff. Fortunately, a lumpy faced monster in tights appeared to create a diversion and let the lads escape back to earth, where they all had a jar in the pub and no doubt slagged their agents off something rotten.

5195DK9F4EL_cropAnother version of this plot turned up in the sexy sci-fi spoof Amazon Women on the Moon [buy HERE], which saw the usual bunch of blundering astronauts getting drawn into the clutches of a well-endowed Amazon queen (the bounteous Sybil Danning) and being subjected to her lustful advances – a prospect that seems to me to be far from daunting. This one tried to be funny but, surprisingly, turned out to be a lot less of a giggle than the unintentionally hilarious movies it set out to parody.

91d5QXKW0IL_SL1500_cropOur exploration of some of the steamier spots in the galaxy continues with the intellectually stimulating Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity [buy HERE], which has its protagonists out riding among the stars in a chintzy spacecraft manufactured from egg cartons and silver paper (complete with furry dice on the dashboard and a nodding dog in the back). And what will we find out there? That’s right: Big paper mache monsters that look like bizarro universe Teletubbies, and plenty of big-busted babes just raring for a spot of ‘hide the salami’.

This film may not be 2001, but it’s certainly a space oddity. It opens with the two luscious heroines of the title (played by sassy New Yorkers Elizabeth Cayton and Cindy Beale - didn’t she use to be in Eastenders?) chained helplessly to the wall of a slave galley as an offering for a randy android. Fortunately the chains are made out of the same flimsy material as the script, and before you know it they’ve kicked their captors just below their Darth Vader lunchboxes and have made good their escape in a rickety spacecraft. ‘It says here we need a glove to start it’ says Cindy. ‘Well, look in the glove compartment’ says Liz. Brainpower is not this kid’s strong point – in fact she has to take her bra off to count to two.

Not long afterwards, their flying Kellogs box piles up on one of those remote planets at the far end of the galaxy that serves as a magnet for every low-on-fuel space wreck around. Having lost their bearings (and most of their clothes) in the prang-up, Cindy and Liz don fetching chamois leather bikinis and begin to explore this strange, extraterrestrial garden centre, stumbling across a mad hunter called Zed, and a plot that’s as old as 1932’s Most Dangerous Game. It’s all great fun in a daft way, and just the thing to put on when you invite a few mates back from the pub on a Friday night. If you want them to leave early, that is.

Of course, the other problem we may have to face in the future is sex-starved alien females coming down to Earth to capture we hunky fellahs for erotic experiments. It’s certainly made me think about taking the mortise lock on the front door, I can tell you.

Sexy extraterrestrials are among us in the Troma release Dr Alien [buy HERE], which has bulbous-headed creatures grabbing hold of nerdish, sex-starved teen Billy Jacoby and giving him a big prick in the bum (no comments please) which causes this funny sort of penis thing to grow out of his head – a cosmetic addition that proves fatally attractive to all females who cross his path.

Before long, all the cracking crumpet on campus are tearing off their clothes and throwing themselves at Billy. But is our hero happy? Not a bit of it. He is, in fact, what we describe in the trade as ‘cream crackered’ or ‘completely shagged out and not at all ready for the libidinous attentions of Dr Alien herself (played by the gorgeous Judy Landers). The moral of this story is clear; if a big plonker grows out of your bonce then start wearing a hat, pronto!

51FXC9P46EL_cropA more sinister extraterrestrial invasion can be seen in Not Of The Earth [buy HERE], a re-run of a 50s cheapie which features the lowest budget alien invasion in many a moon: just one guy in dark glasses and a 50s-style business suit who comes to earth to raid a few blood banks. This film is primarily of interest to film scholars because it stars a certain Miss Traci Lords, better known as the notorious hardcore porno star who rocked the industry in the late 80s with her confession that she was underage when she first started bonking on celluloid.

In fact the film was made as the result of a wager between the legendary producer Roger Corman and his youthful protégé, Jim Wynorski, that the latter couldn’t turn out a reasonable remake of Corman’s 50s quickie in a period of twelve days. Wynorski managed to do it, winning a brand new Porsche in the process. But it’s easy to see where the corners were cut: in one scene you can see the whole film crew reflected in the shiny surface of a sports car! It’s fun though, in a corny sort of way, and Traci does get to take her clothes off a few times.

91S4L513YAL_SL1500_cropOther bad but sexy sci-fi spoofs well worth tracking down include Femalien [buy HERE], Bad Girls From Mars [buy HERE], Prison Planet, Space Sluts In The Slammer and the inevitable Beach Babes From Beyond Part 2. Perhaps we’ll return to this intriguing subject at a later date, but now we’ve run out of, er, space.

So as we boldly go off to seek out new civilisations, the questions we must ask ourselves are: Is there intelligent life out there? The late Patrick Moore insisted there was, and he should have known – he always looked like he’d come in from Saturn on the last shuttle. The answers lie in the future. In the meantime, just remember we are not alone. So lock the bathroom door.

New Trailer for Asylum actioner MERCENARIES

PrisonRaid_cropLow-budget “blockbuster” studio The Asylum may not be today’s Roger Corman outfit the way they think they are, but there’s no denying the success they’ve found churning out the likes of Sharknado, Mega Piranha and the Mega Shark vs. franchise.  When not making Nature’s Revenge pics for Syfy, they’re knocking off zero-budget versions of big-screen titles, often pre-empting those to the marketplace. The latest of these is their version of a distaff Expendables flick, taking off the Expendabelles before it even happens.

For those who have wallowed in low-budget actioners for decades now, this trailer really does hit some of the right notes, although CG explosions have replaced using stock footage or just doing them badly. And with Tarantino alumni Zoe Bell and Vivica A. Fox alongside Arnie alumni Kristanna Loken and Brigitte Nielsen, plus kung fu queen Cynthia Rothrock, all on screen, you can bet your bottom dollar we’ll be settling down to Mercenaries with a giant tub of popcorn and a lot to drink!

Worst Case of the Crabs On Screen: The Lost Continent (1968)

916R6Xtcs-L_SL1500_cropTitle:  The Lost Continent (1968)
Directed by:  Michael Carreras
Starring:  Eric Porter, Hildegard Knef, Suzanna Leigh, Tony Beckley, Dana Gillespie, Jimmy Hanley, Ben Carruthers, James Cossins, Neil McCallum, Nigel Stock, Victor Maddern, Michael Ripper
Buy here:  Amazon UK

As a general rule of thumb I have a soft spot (somewhere between my ears) for any movies involving giant spiders or giant crabs. And if they are both shoehorned into the same film then I’m on it like a car bonnet.

There’s only one giant crab in Hammer’s The Lost Continent, but it’s so big and so obviously fake that you’ve got no choice but to love it. This supremely bad but hugely enjoyable fantasy also features giant scorpions and seaweed that eats people – a nice switch from what usually happens in Chinese restaurants.

Hammer generally didn’t have the budgets to stray far from their cosy world of claustrophobic crypts and matte-painted castles, and therefore they usually came unstuck when attempting sci-fi spectacle (Moon Zero Two, anyone?) or jungle fantasies like the hilariously kitsch Slave Girls.

They splurged over half a million squid, sorry, octopus, on making The Lost Continent, which was a lot for them. For that money they could have had lobster as well as crab. The sets were relatively spectacular and the sea scenes were all done in a specially constructed 175.000 gallon tank at Elstree Studios.

hammer films lost continent DANA GILLESPIE 1Leslie Norman (the father of famed British film critic Barry) was hired to direct the picture, but he walked out after a week, leaving producer/writer Michael Carreras to take over. Barry was later asked why his dad had left the film and answered with a mysterious, “…and why not?`”

The storyline centres around an ill-assorted bunch of shady B-movie types who set sail on a ramshackle boat carrying chemicals which explode if they come in contact with water. Yeah, we can see the potential problems there.

The ship ends up stranded in an eerie, fog-enshrouded Sargasso Sea where giant crabs and jellyfish, prehistoric sharks and a lost race of Spanish conquistadors are among the local tourist attractions. There’s also a woman with very large breasts who walks around with marginally smaller balloons on her feet.

Aside from the balloon woman, played by sultry jazz singer Dana Gillespie, the other sizzling sexpot here is slutty blonde Suzanna Leigh. Her erotic seduction technique involves lighting a fag and blowing smoke right in a guy’s face, after which he grabs her and snogs her passionately. Yes, there’s something strangely irresistible about the smell of a Woodbine…

Suzanna is travelling with her dodgy dad Nigel Stock, a doctor with a very bent stethoscope, and Tony Beckley plays a drunken piano player who finally comes good under pressure and delivers an excellent version of Knees Up Mother Brown. Craggy-faced Eric Portman is the down-on-his-luck Captain and the exotic Hildegarde Knef is a shady lady with a past on the run from a banana republic – and not the one that makes women’s fashions.

Lost Continet Lobby Card 01Comedian Jimmy Hanley is the cheery barman who always tries to look on the bright side and therefore has ‘victim’ written all over him. The poor sod duly falls into the clutches of one of the most ridiculous giant crab monsters ever put on celluloid. This big puppet creature obviously can’t do much on its own, so Hanley has to sort of wrestle himself to death in its papier mache pincers. Nice work there from Jimmy, who later got to wrestle with Giant Haystacks.

The film was based on a Dennis Wheatley novel called Uncharted Seas and was meant to cement Hammer’s ongoing relationship with the respected author, who had been delighted with Richard Matheson’s earlier adaptation of his novel, The Devil Rides Out.

Unfortunately for Hammer, Wheatley took one look at this movie and was horrified, but not in a good way. He promptly withdrew permission for the studio to film any of his other books, scuttling a planned adaptation of The Haunting of Toby Jugg, which has a giant spider in it but no crabs.

Despite what crabby old Dennis thought, The Lost Continent is a guilty pleasure worth repeating. It’s now readily available on DVD, and a Blu-ray release is planned. I still can’t figure out why it earned an ‘X’ certificate in its day, but the censor moves in mysterious ways. So do crabs, come to think of it.


Best Worst Spy-fi Movie Series Ever: The Matt Helm Films (1966-1969)

51YYRN45CXL_cropTitle:  The Matt Helm Collection (1966-1969)
Directed by:  Phil Karlson
Starring:  Dean Martin, Stella Stevens, Daliah Lavi,
Buy here:  Amazon UK

If Austin Powers had a favourite movie spy series it would have to be the Matt Helm movies made by Dean Martin in the 1960s. Matt was a hard-as-nails U.S. government counter-agent, hero of 27 books by Donald Hamilton. Dino played him as a lecherous, chain-smoking, permanently pickled lounge lizard who gets more crumpet than Greggs. Columbia Pictures originally planned at least five Matt Helm movies, starting with The Silencers (1966), where our hero is joined by sexy Stella Stevens on a booze-fuelled mission to prevent a baddie named The Big O (played by Batman villain Victor Buono) from creating a nuclear disaster.

Dino’s Helm is so laid back that even if a nuclear bomb went of behind him he wouldn’t drop his martini glass. He has a sexy secretary named Lovey Kravesit and a small harem of stunning ‘Slaymates’ ever ready to soap his back in his king-sized tub. He’s armed with a special gun that shoots backwards, a blade-firing camera and exploding buttons.

96JE9fN60EjjvfLiUwaOPNOw9zn_cropThis permanently sozzled superspy also has a fully stocked bar in his wood paneled station wagon so that he can get tanked up as he drives. Hey, it was the 60s, get over it and have one for the road.

Martin was 50 years old when he made his first Matt Helm flick and while he manages to bed every sexy woman he meets he’s not so energetic in the action scenes, But there aren’t that many of them here anyway. The critics hated this movie but Dino had the last laugh, it made a fortune at the box office and he ended up with a bigger payday than Sean Connery got from playing James Bond in the same year’s Thunderball!

Martin was back as Helm the very same year in Murderers Row (1966). The film was supposed to have been released in 1967 but Columbia’s big Christmas release, Casino Royale, was mired in production problems so the Helm pic took its place as a Yuletide treat.

Silencers-startled-Stella_cropThis second movie in the series saw our lackadaisical hero bedding sexy Ann-Margret and trying to stop her evil dad Karl Malden (who changes his accent in every scene) from melting Washington DC with his “helio-beam.” Dino didn’t exactly knock himself out making this one. He refused to travel for Europe to do any location filming, and therefore a good proportion of the movie involves the use of an unconvincing double!

Murderer’s Row took a tip from James Bond’s You Only Live Twice and opened with Dino supposedly being murdered in his bathtub, leading to an amusing scene where his countless girlfriends all turn up to his funeral in the same outfits. The fashions here are 60s kitsch at its craziest, and again Dino is obviously just playing himself, making jokes about fellow rat-packer Frank Sinatra and knocking back whisky on the rocks as he drives. The film features a bad musical number from the pop group ‘Dino, Desi & Billy’. One member is Dean Martin’s son, and we know this because he calls out “Hi Dad!”

The gadgets here include a gun with a delayed action, so that when a baddie uses it and it doesn’t go off they inevitably look down the barrel and… that’s their lot. Cunning.

The Ambushers came next in 1967, with more off-colour jokes, scantily-clad females and plenty of lovable sexism from Dino. Meeting one well-endowed female secret agent Helm comments: “When you say you’re a ‘38’ you ain’t just kidding.”

“It’s not a gun, Mr. Helm,” she replies. “It’s the new weapon they gave me, developed right here in our labs.”

“Developed pretty well, too!” says our man with a wink to camera.

The plot of this one had Dino traveling to Mexico to retrieve a flying saucer stolen by a rogue beer manufacturer! At one point the baddies try to kill Helm by chucking him into a huge vat of ale. How daft is that? The guy who has been thrown in with him glugs frantically that he can’t swim, and Dino coolly advises him: “Drink your way to the bottom.”

Amazingly The Ambushers made a big profit at the box office and so the Helm bandwagon rolled on with The Wrecking Crew (1969). This time our hard-drinking hero linked up with sexy Sharon Tate (a tragic victim of the Manson murders only a few months after this hit cinemas) to save the world’s economy from the meltdown that seems imminent when dastardly crime baron Nigel Green hijacks $1 billion in gold.

Chuck Norris turns up in a small role and Columbia hired Bruce Lee to train Sharon for her kung fu fight with sexy Nancy Kwan – the undoubted highlight of the film. Otherwise it’s all extremely lame, with very tacky production values – at one point Dino lands on a lawn and it bounces!

While The Wrecking Crew was utter rubbish it was not much worse than previous entries, and the only reason it became the final entry in the series was because Dean Martin himself decided to call it a day.

It is believed that he was so distraught over the murder of his Wrecking Crew co-star and friend Sharon Tate that he abandoned the next already-announced Matt Helm motion picture series installment (to be titled The Ravagers), and never played the character again, though there was a short-lived TV series in the 70s starring Anthony Franciosa in the part.

If you’re a fan of Dino himself or maybe just of really trashy 60s spy flicks with swinging chicks and groovy tunes then you’ll probably get a kick out of the Matt Helm movies despite their ineptitude. All four movies are available as a box set from Amazon. Pour yourself a large martini and enjoy.

Worst TV Variety Show Ever: The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club (1974-77)

71iGFPwoJBL_SL1077_cropTitle:  The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club (1974-1977)
Produced by:  Granada Television
Starring:   Bernard Manning, Colin Crompton, and a host of “turns”
Buy here:  Amazon UK

Sometimes when you look back at really bad old TV shows from the 1970s it’s hard to believe that millions of people once used to tune in to watch them on a regular basis. The fact that there were only three TV channels to choose from undoubtedly had a lot to do with this, but it’s still quite inexplicable that so many people would choose to spend their Saturday evenings pint in one hand, fag in the other, wallowing in the dubious pleasures of The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club.

Produced by Granada Television from 1974 to 1977, the series was set in a fictional working men’s club up North, with that most un-PC of comedians, the overweight, sleazy Bernard Manning, leering at the busty barmaid amid a blue haze of cigarette smoke while announcing a series of ever more awful “turns”. Manning’s fellow Comedians star Colin Crompton was the club chairman, ringing a fire bell every now and then and uttering spoof resolutions “On behalf of the Committeeeeeeeeee… I should like to tell you we made a mistake in offering the raffle prize of a diving suit. It is in fact a divan suite.”

According to Manning, Crompton had “less meat on him than Lester Piggott’s whip”. He certainly looked like he’d just given the undertakers the slip, but fitted right in with the rest of the punters, who were a remarkably unattractive bunch. The only sure way to tell the working men from the working women was the latter were drinking port and lemon instead of pints of Double Diamond.

wheeltappers6bAs for the aforementioned “turns”, they were usually performers whose careers were in freefall, the likes of Bill Haley and the Comets, Kathy Kirby, Freddie Garrity (dressed as a chicken) and “Two Ton” Tessie O’Shea, who could always be relied upon to get a sing song going with “Knees Up Mother Brown.” Some of the imported acts who’d seen better days were clearly bewildered at finding themselves on a tiny stage performing for pissed punters munching on peanuts and pork scratchings. Their embarrassment was often compounded by the introductions they got. You could see that Gene Pitney wasn’t happy when Manning announced:  “It’s a good job he was nice to me on the way up because I’ve just met him on the way down.”

Mixed in with the more well known performers were the kind of acts that would have been buzzed off Britain’s Got Talent in five seconds flat, including a female Charlie Chaplin impersonator and glove puppets performing card tricks. There was also a bloke in a gold lame cowboy jacket playing tubular bells and a kettledrum, and some lunatic wrestling a discordant tune from glass bottles. Was there no care in the community back in those days? German Oompah Pah Pah bands and middle-aged pianists were also popular, and crowd participation was not so much encouraged as insisted upon, especially when Bernard launched into an old favourite like “Show Me The Way To Go Home.”

Most of the old Wheeltappers and Shunters shows are available on DVD from Network, but for sheer toe-curling awfulness I’d have to recommend you check out Series 5, containing an oily Patrick Mower hosting the Miss Nightclub 1977 beauty contest. This is not something to put on for feminists. The judges are Alvin Stardust, Corrie’s Bet Lynch and that, er, highly respected MP, Cyril Smith!

Yes, it was indeed another country.


Best Worst Movies Ever: Caligula (1979)

71wSwGqEY9L_SL1024_cropTitle:  Caligula (1979)
Directed by:  Tinto Brass
Starring:  Malcolm McDowell, John Gielgud, Helen Mirren, Peter O’Toole, John Steiner, Teresa Ann Savoy, Adriana Asti, Paolo Bonacelli, Lori Wagner
Buy here:  Amazon UK

Ah, the majesty of the Roman Empire! The marching legions of Julius Caesar, the breathtaking spectacle of the Circus Maximus, and the legendary debauchery of Rome’s most notorious Emperor, Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus – better known by his one-word moniker, Caligula. In Latin, the name Caligula means “little boots,” but there is nothing little about the boots any would-be successor of this pervert extraordinaire would have to fill.

Among Caligula’s most infamous exploits were a long-standing incestuous relationship with his sister Drusilla, an endless succession of sex partners of both genders and all ages, and the solid gold statue of himself he had built as an idol to be worshipped. He also had a penchant for carrying out prolonged, agonisingly inventive torture on his perceived enemies and once famously launched a massive military campaign against the sea god Neptune, ordering his Roman legions to hurl their spears into the ocean.

Historians have explained Caligula’s bizarre behaviour as a result of his childhood in an atmosphere of political intrigue and betrayal, his tainted family tree (both his grandfather Tiberius and his nephew Nero shared his unusual sexual tastes) and/or a craziness cocktail of epilepsy mixed with schizophrenia. Whatever the cause, the life and times of this imperial freak-show was the source material for the spectacular 1979 Caligula, a $22million flop that was the first step down the path of financial ruin for Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione.

The biggest-budgeted porn movie of all time, Caligula featured such established names as John Gielgud, Peter O’Toole (probably the most aptly named cast member), Malcolm McDowell and even our own dear Queen Helen Mirren cavorting amid a welter of happily fornicating bodies. Unsurprisingly, every major actor involved has since publicly expressed their regret at signing on for these Roman scandals. The A-list cast apparently only discovered they’d been in a porn movie after a bloke down the pub told them…

51arxUBqJ8L_cropGuccione hired Tinto Brass, helmer of Salon Kitty and numerous other Euro-sex masterworks to film all this, which seemed like a wise move at the start. After all, as the saying goes, where there’s muck there’s brass. Hiring acclaimed literary writer Gore Vidal to pen the screenplay took part of the gore side of the equation.

But it all went tits up, so to speak. Bob couldn’t resist meddling, and as the budget spiraled out of control Tinto got fired and Gore tried to get his name removed from the credits. It’s still not clear whether it was Bob or Tito who added the six minutes of hardcore porn involving Penthouse Pets.

Various lawsuits flew back and forth and the film was mired in litigation for two years. When it finally got released, Caligula was labeled a ponderous, campy mess by critics and played solely in one posh Manhattan locale, The Penthouse East, which was equipped with overstuffed upholstered chairs and a then-hefty ticket price of $8.

Since then there have been numerous versions of this notorious sex and violence epic in circulation, most trimmed of the best bits – and yes, we do mean the more extreme hardcore sex and violence. Regular cuts included a scene where a drunken soldier is force-fed wine through a funnel, and then spectacularly disembowelled, and a bit where a severed penis is thrown out as dog food after a torture murder.

Nowadays you can see the film totally uncut thanks to Arrow’s magnificent UK Blu-ray release. Yes, it’s still a total mess, but well worth watching as tribute to the late Guccione’s massive ego. One priceless extra includes a guided tour of the sets in Italy conducted by Bob himself circa 1976, wearing at least 6 pounds of gold chains around his neck!

Felliini would never have been so ostentatious.