Worst Movies Ever Made

Scraping the Bottom of the Cinematic Barrel

CATEGORY: Sci-Fi

Best Worst Disaster Movies Ever: The Swarm (1978)

41BX1BYY3BL_cropTitle:  The Swarm (1978)
Directed by:  Irwin Allen
Starring:  Michael Caine, Katherine Ross, Richard Widmark, Olivia de Havilland, Ben Johnson, Richard Chamberlain, José Ferrer, Lee Grant, Patty Duke, Henry Fonda, Slim Pickens, Cameron Mitchell, Fred MacMurray, Bradford Dillman
Buy here:  Amazon UK – DVD; Prime Instant Video

Big shot Hollywood producer Irwin Allen was known as “The Master of Disaster” back in the 70s because of his successful run of blockbuster disaster movies. A who’s who of Tinsel Town lined up to take the heat in The Towering Inferno and go glug in The Poseidon Adventure, but his most disastrous movie of all was the $20 million bee picture The Swarm.

Patrons who paid good bees and honey to see this really got stung!

Normal everyday bees just collect pollen from the flowers and help make honey to sell in shops. African killer bees, on the other hand, have a rather more sinister agenda, the clue being in their name. Having made enough mischief on the Dark Continent, this mutant strain of super-intelligent and frankly anti-social insects head for Texas on a mission to destroy Houston’s missile silos and nuclear power stations. Boy do they have a problem this time.

As usual Irwin recruited a lot of big stars, most of them down on their luck, to fill the minor roles. We’re talking about the likes of Fred MacMurray, Olivia De Havilland, Ben Johnson, Lee Grant, José Ferrer and Henry Fonda. The one big name still with a career to worry about was Michael Caine, who apparently used his inflated fee to buy a house. He is spectacularly miscast as a “brilliant entomologist” named Brad who munches on sunflower seeds and walks around like he has a broomstick lodged where the sun doesn’t shine. He also gets to say the film’s most quoted line: “Will history blame me or the bees?”

Not bad Michael, but it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as, “Bees! Thaaaasands of them!”

23513_cropCaine’s character is the first to recognise the imminent threat and puts it into words as eloquently as we expect of him: “We’ve been fighting a losing battle against the insects for fifteen years. But I never thought I’d see the final face-off in my lifetime. And I never dreamed that it’d turn out to be the bees. They’ve always been our friends!”

See, you learned something there – an entomologist is someone who fights insects.

The early part of the movie finds Caine in conflict with no-nonsense military man Richard Widmark as they try to thrash out a way to stop the bee invasion.

Caine asks him: “Are you endowing these bees with human motives? Like saving their fellow bees from captivity, or seeking revenge on Mankind?”

Widmark replies: “I always credit my enemy, no matter what he may be, with equal intelligence.”

Judging by Widmark’s performance we think that’s probably a fair thing to do.

Meanwhile, the sky is filled with what looks like badly back-projected coffee grounds as the bees make, er, a beeline for brightly coloured objects on the ground – those gaudy 70s fashions can be lethal. The scenes where the little buzzers attack people are seemingly accomplished by firing little black balls of fluff at the actors with an air cannon while they run around in a blind panic, realising their careers will be over when this film hits the screen.

Despite the film’s huge budget it has the look of a Roger Corman cheapie, with poor model work depicting helicopters and trains exploding. The film itself is the only convincing train wreck here and its failure affected poor old Irwin so much that he warned people never to mention it in his presence again – and walked out of an interview when one journalist did.

Strangely enough though, The Swarm still generates a bit of a buzz among bad movie buffs, and it has at least one classy thing about it, a rousing Jerry Goldsmith score which at one point cheekily borrows from Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee.” It also uses b-e-e as its primary musical notes…

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Worst Movies Ever: The Beast Of Yucca Flats (1961)

81vru5WAWTL_SL1500_cropTitle:  The Beast Of Yucca Flats (1961)

Directed by:  Coleman Francis

Starring:  Tor Johnson, Douglas Mellor, Barbara Francis, Bing Stafford, Conrad Brooks

Buy from:  Amazon UK – DVD; Amazon Instant Video

Anyone who thinks that Ed Wood was the worst director of all time needs to take a look at the movies of a certain Coleman Francis, a legendary boozer who graduated from acting in bit parts in other bad movies to making his own when nobody would employ him any more.

Between 1961 and 1965, Francis wrote and directed three absolutely abysmal Grade Z movies:  The Beast Of Yucca Flats, The Skydivers, and Night Train To Mundo Fine (also known as Red Zone Cuba). Every one of these makes Ed Wood’s Plan Nine From Outer Space look like a masterpiece by comparison.

Coincidentally, The Beast of Yucca Flats shares the same star as Plan Nine, 26-stone Swedish wrestler Tor Johnson, who famously broke Ed’s toilet just by sitting on it. Tor’s grasp of the English language was even more limited than his acting ability, but if you wanted your toilet trashed he was your man.

Tor is certainly cast against type here as, wait for it… a brilliant Russian scientist. Defecting to the West, this man has the fate of the world in his briefcase, along with a lot of sandwiches and crisps. He arrives at an airport and is met by a government escort, but before his bodyguards have time to say, “We should have brought a bigger car,” some trigger-happy KGB agents turn up, intent on kidnapping Tor and taking him direct to the Kremlin branch of Weight Watchers.

A very low rent car chase ensues, cutting between day and night repeatedly, and from desert to forest, to mountains and back. It ends with a pathetic shootout and Tor making off into the desert as fast as his bulky little legs will carry him. He somehow manages to outdistance his younger and fitter pursuers, but accidentally stumbles into a nuclear bomb testing facility just as there’s a jumpy cut to scratchy stock footage of an A-bomb explosion.

22742_2_cropThe radiation from the blast transforms Tor from an overweight, menacing scientist into an overweight, menacing scientist with what looks like a fried egg on he face. He shambles through the sagebrush in search of victims, and first to cop it are a couple whose car has broken down in the area. Somehow they don’t see this monstrous salad dodger bearing down on them until it’s too late. Then he picks up a stick and chases two young boys around for an interminable amount of time with absolutely no chance of catching them.

Meanwhile, two cops, named Jim and Joe, are on the trail of the monster. The narration reveals all: “Twenty hours without rest and still no enemy. In the blistering desert heat, Jim and Joe plan their next attack. Find the Beast and kill him. Kill, or be killed. Man’s inhumanity to man.”

When they eventually catch up with Tor they blast him with about fifty bullets without reloading. As The Beast slowly succumbs to his fatal wounds, a rabbit stumbles into the scene and he grabs it and kisses it. The rabbit takes a look at Tor’s frightening fizzog and seems as if it’s going to have a heart attack. Apparently the rabbit just came along while the cameras were running and Coleman didn’t want to waste film reshooting it.

It’s often quite difficult to tell what is going on here, because clumsy old Coleman lost the movie’s soundtrack and had to glue the movie together with his own nonsensical narration.

It doesn’t help that much of this narration bears no relation to the action (if you could call it that) onscreen. Out of nowhere, we get immortal dialogue like: “Flag on the Moon, how did get there?” or “Young boys feed soda to the thirsty pigs.” In one scene a shot of a guy sleeping in a hammock is accompanied by Coleman musing: “Nothing bothers some people, not even flying saucers.”

The most amazing thing about this movie is it runs just 54 minutes, yet after you’ve watched it you’ll feel you’ve lost hours of your life. Coleman Francis was eventually found dead in the back of a station wagon with a plastic bag on his head, but his legend lives on among bad movie buffs.

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Best Worst Movies Ever Made: Sharknado 2: The Second One (2014)

51jDpIWU3JL_crop Title:  Sharknado 2: The Second One (2014)
Directed by:  Anthony C. Ferrante
Starring:  Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, Vivica A. Fox, Mark McGrath, Kari Wuhrer, Courtney Baxter, Dante Palminteri, Judd Hirsch, Kelly Osbourne, Robert Hays, Billy Ray Cyrus, Andy Dick

It’s a general rule of thumb that movie sequels are never equal to the original, but when that original is as hilariously bad a movie as Sharknado, then it’s impossible for that sequel to jump the shark so to speak… it has nowhere to go but up.

The perils of climate change are again front and centre in Sharknado 2: The Second One, which is actually a much more fun movie than the original, though equally as daft. The opening scene sets the ludicrous tone nicely. If there’s anywhere that you might consider yourself safe from a shark attack it’s in a Boeing 747 aircraft flying well above the clouds, but the hero of the first film, Fin Shepard (Ian Ziering) is still in a state of high anxiety.

Mind you, with Robert (Airplane) Hays as the pilot, he may have a point.

His former wife April Wexler (Tara Reid) is his co-passenger, and she tries to calm him down and start to have some fun now they are heading to New York. “Two of my friends were killed, I almost destroyed Los Angeles and I got eaten by a shark,” he says. “How much fun do you think that was?” Fair point, actually.

Then in a direct pinch from the classic Nightmare at 20,000 Feet episode of The Twilight Zone, Fin spots a shark flopping about on the wing of the plane. Nobody believes him of course. They didn’t believe Bill Shatner either.

He has the last laugh though, as the plane is soon right in the middle of a wild and wacky CGI sharknado. Both pilots are snacked straight out of the cockpit and purple-haired stewardess Kelly Osbourne loses her head. April gets her hand bitten off while hanging out the plane door taking pot shots at the flying fish. Serves her right, really.

It remains for our hero to grab the controls and bring the 747 in to land explosively but safely at JFK airport. Who would have thought that a surfer bar owner would know how to pilot a jumbo jet? The passengers are screaming wildly one moment, smiling and clapping the next. All apart from April, who now only has one hand.

sharknado-2-enough-said_cropSafely on the ground, Fin tries to warn a bearded, bespectacled and rather effeminate New York policeman (comedian Andy Dick) that the events of the first Sharknado, a hurricane-related waterspout bringing shark-infused-flooding to the city streets, are about to repeat themselves in the Big Apple. “I can see you’re upset,” says the caring cop, looking like he’s about to offer to come round and redecorate Fin’s apartment.

April has gone off to the hospital to get a prosthetic limb fitted, and she’s worried that the sharks are targeting her personally. “It’s like he knew who I was”, she says of the one that attacked her. Surely everyone knows who Tara Reid is? Ever sympathetic, Fin tells her, “We’re gonna get past this.” Then he delivers the zinger: “The next time you offer to lend a hand, don’t be so literal about it.” She doesn’t return his high five.

This kind of groanworthy dialogue is all part of the film’s cheesy charm, and there’s plenty of it, but the key to Sharknado 2’s success is that everybody plays it absolutely straight, no matter how implausible things get on a minute by minute basis.

As for the plot, well it’s like that of the first film but amped up to eleven. This time there are two (count ‘em) sharknado twisters, and if they merge together then it will create the perfect shark storm, or to put it another way, a sharkopalypse. Can Fin and April stop it and pave the way for Sharknado 3? You betcha.

First of all our hero has to save his nearest and dearest, including old flame Vivica A. Fox and his brother-in-law (Mark McGrath), who has gone to a baseball game at a park right next to the river – I bet they get a lot of lost balls. Meanwhile, Fin’s sister (Kari Wuhrer) – who’s named Ellen Brody! – tries to keep her daughter and assorted pals from becoming shark bait. Also along for the ride is Judd Hirsch, a genial New York taxi driver with a wooden leg. Hirsch was of course the star of TV’s Taxi.

The playful, anything goes feel of the piece is evident from the start and culminates with Fin hopping from shark to shark the same way as Roger Moore negotiated alligators in Live and Let Die (though without the raised eyebrows). Swallowed by a giant shark he chainsaws his way out, striking a Bruce Campbell Evil Dead posture in the process.

The New York setting allows for some CGI fun with the local landmarks. We get to see the decapitated head of Lady Liberty bouncing down the streets of Manhattan, and since everybody knows the sewers of the Big Apple are full of giant alligators, they join the sharks in chomping on innocent subway bystanders – leading to the tempting prospect of an Alligatornado movie in the future. Get on Twitter now and demand it.

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

51WEKRN88WL_crop
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.

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WORST (BUT SEXIEST) SPACE GIRL MOVIES

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.

LUSTFUL ADVANCES
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.

91bj-XjKESL_SL1500_cropSEX-STARVED FEMALES
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.

Worst Movies Ever: Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)

91su-CyFDJL_SL1500_cropTitle:  Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)
Directed by:  Ed Wood
Starring:  Bela Lugosi, Gregory Walcott, Mona McKinnon, Tor Johnson and Maila “Vampira” Nurmi
Buy here:  Amazon UK

“Greetings, my friend. We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future.

“You are interested in the unknown… the mysterious. The unexplainable. That is why you are here. And now, for the first time, we are bringing to you, the full story of what happened on that fateful day. We are bringing you all the evidence, based only on the secret testimony, of the miserable souls, who survived this terrifying ordeal. The incidents, the places.

“My friend, we cannot keep this a secret any longer. Let us punish the guilty. Let us reward the innocent. My friend, can your heart stand the shocking facts of grave robbers from outer space?”

planjul11_cropThese words signal the opening of Ed Wood’s infamous Plan 9 From Outer Space, delivered from a coffin by Mae West’s personal psychic, Criswell, the Liberace of fortune tellers. This is a man who once claimed that Denver would be struck by a ray from space that would cause all metal to adopt the qualities of rubber, leading to horrific accidents at amusement parks. He also predicted mass cannibalism and that world would end on August 18, 1999, Luckily, he was wrong on both counts.

Back to Plan 9 though, the magnum opus of cult director Ed Wood, a crossdresser who wore a bra and panties under his uniform in the fiercest battles of World War II. He was later portrayed by Johnny Depp in a Tim Burton movie that probably cost about a hundred times more to make than all Eddie’s films put together.

A man with boundless enthusiasm for making movies that was sadly not matched to an equal level of talent, Eddie used to knock around with drug-addled horror star Bela Lugosi. Ed was planning a new movie with him, variously titled Tomb of the Vampire or The Ghoul Goes West, and he filmed a couple of short sequences of poor old Bela wandering around looking confused in his Dracula cape. Then Bela inconveniently popped his clogs before any kind of plot could be constructed around these scenes.

Never deterred, Ed hit upon the genius idea of using the footage in a new movie, to be called Graverobbers From Outer Space, employing a double for the late horror star. These days it would be done with CGI, but Wood decided instead to hire a convincing lookalike. Er, strike the word convincing, and lookalike too. Ed settled on his wife’s chiropractor, Tom Mason, as a stand-in for Lugosi, even though Mason was a great deal taller than Lugosi and was a much younger man who bore no resemblance to him whatsoever.

The resultant mismatched footage was then shoe-horned it into a typically madcap Ed Wood storyline about flying saucer aliens invading L.A. Their dreaded Plan 9 involves reviving the dead in a cardboard graveyard  to conquer our world. They intend to do this with just three slow-moving zombies: Bela’s stand-in, horror hostess Vampira and hulking wrestler Tor Johnson, who was so big he once broke the toilet seat at Ed’s house.

Plan9-4_cropThere’s so much funny stuff going on here that it’s hard to believe Ed didn’t know he was making a comedy. From the flying saucers that are obviously hubcaps on strings to the way that scenes change from day to night without a moment’s notice, it achieves a level of ineptitude that borders on the sublime.

Then there’s Ed’s dialogue, which is not really designed to be spoken aloud. Take this exchange between two policemen:

Patrolman Larry: “Strange. If someone had broken in, the dirt should be piled up here somewhere. It looks like it’s fallen in, into the grave.”

Lieutenant John Harper: “Larry, you’ll be out of that uniform before you know it.”

Definitely the kind of stuff  that will leave you scratching your head – just like Tor Johnson does with a loaded gun in one hilarious scene!

In another,  a laser beam suddenly changes Bela Lugosi’s zombie into a skeleton, and a puzzled bystander is heard to say, “He wasn’t like that a minute ago!”

Strange to think that all these years after poor Ed died broke in a friend’s Hollywood apartment at the untimely age of 54, Plan 9 remains his most enduring legacy, restored to high definition for our home video collections and immortalised in popular culture.

The Seinfeld episode The Chinese Restaurant centred around Jerry and his friends eating at a Chinese restaurant before going to the movies to see Plan 9 from Outer Space. Explaining the appeal of the film to his companions, he says: “This isn’t like plans one through eight. This is plan nine, the one that worked! The worst movie ever made!”

Is Plan 9 the worst film ever? With Michael Bay in the world? We don’t think so. The truth is that Ed Wood’s no-budget sci-fi opus is bad in an amusing way, and therefore a lot more fun to sit through than the many hundreds of genuinely awful productions that have swamped cinemas and home video shelves in the years since poor old misunderstood Eddie shuffled off to that great cutting room in the sky.

Worst Movies Ever: The Happening (2008)

51vj6LTZK6L_cropTitle:  The Happening (2008)
Directed by:  M. Night Shyamalan
Starring:  Mark Whalberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo
Buy here:  Amazon UK

Writer/director M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense made so much money at the box office that it pretty much gave him a license to do anything he wanted. Sadly he abused that right and the results were a series of totally ridiculous movies, some moderately successful (Signs, The Village), others a complete waste of time (Unbreakable, Lady In The Water, After Earth). The Happening is probably his worst movie, a dire effort that tries to be scary but ends up making you laugh out loud at the amateurishness of the acting, dialogue and storyline.

It all starts off so intriguingly, too, with a creepy bit where a girl in a park suddenly plunges her hairpin into her jugular, and a macabre scene where workers on a building site plummet from the rooftop enmasse like lemmings.

It seems that the rural state of Philadelphia is in the grip of an epidemic of suicides, and the reason? Well, High School science teacher Mark Wahlberg is busy warning his class about the mysterious disappearance of a strain of bees. Could this have anything to do with it, or is M. Night just trying to justify making a movie as bad as The Swarm?

Thinking that the city is in the grip of a terrorist attack, Wahlberg and his wife (Zoey Deschanel) plus his best pal John Leguizamo set off out of the city into the Pennsylvania farmlands, only to discover that things are just as bad out there. “We have to stay ahead of the wind,” warns Mark. Good luck with that one.

It’s basically M. Night’s attempt at an ecological warning tale. Nature is fighting back and making people top themselves in odd ways. Of course these grisly scenes help provide some entertainment value, our favourite being the guy who lies down under an industrial lawn mower – his arse is literally grass!

Mark Wahlberg may have nabbed an Oscar nomination for The Departed, but his performance here is straight out of an Ed Wood movie. The dialogue is worthy of Ed too.

Example: “You know, hot dogs get a bad rep. They got a cool shape, they got protein. You like hot dogs, don’t you?”

Or how about: “Ain’t no time two people staring at each other, or standing still, loving both with their eyes are equal.”

The most hilarious moment comes when Wahlberg tries to reason with a plant and doesn’t get much change out of it. If the trees wouldn’t listen to Clint Eastwood what chance has the former frontman of the band Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch got of getting his message across?

The plant that Wahlberg talks to is plastic but still manages to give a marginally more believable performance here than Almost Famous star Zoey Deschanel. Her mediocre bickering scenes with our hero are enough to make you want to top yourself as well.

I can’t think of a more rubbish big budget horror film in the annals of Hollywood, but on the plus side it’s certainly the funniest movie about mass death you will ever see.

Ten of the Worst Box Office Flops Ever

51I64Byt3jL_cropDanny Dyer’s recent movie Run For Your Wife only managed to muster a box office take of just over six hundred quid in its brief and very misguided theatrical run, but since it looked like it only cost about five hundred quid to make the producers probably weren’t suicidal. Danny wasn’t too worried either, since he was pulling pints in the Queen Vic by then.

There are some movies, however, which have so much dosh poured into making them that if they flop they can completely ruin the careers of their directors and stars, and even in some instances bankrupt the studio that backed them – as was the case with the bloated 1980 western epic Heaven’s Gate. United Artists rolled the dice on this one and they came up snake eyes.

Heaven’s Gate director, Michael Cimino, was on a roll after the success of The Deer Hunter, but he basically pissed on his chips (as they say in Tinsel Town, well Vinnie Jones does) overspending by $30 million and shooting 220 hours of footage to come up with what was called “an unqualified disaster” by respected New York Times critic Vincent Canby. Astute Vince also compared Heaven’s Gate to “a forced four-hour walking tour of one’s own living room.”

51yHeIaUDYL_cropIronically the movie was later praised by the likes of Martin Scorsese, but by that time UA was no more and a reconstructed Michael Cimino had salvaged what little was left of his reputation to team up with fellow plastic surgery fan Mickey Rourke on Year of the Dragon and The Desperate Hours. Kelly Lynch was one of the stars of the latter and recently revealed that Cimino wanted her to look like a drag queen in the film. “I didn’t know at the time that Michael was kind of … interested in dressing like a woman,’ she said. If only UA had known earlier that they were basically giving a shitload of cash to a modern day Ed Wood!

Another film that dragged a big studio to the wall and lined up the firing squad was Cutthroat Island (1995), which effectively put an end to Carolco, the company behind Rambo, The Terminator and Total Recall. Production problems spiralled the cost of this Geena Davis pirate epic to an estimated $115 million and Carolco got jolly rogered. It certainly put Hollywood off pirate pictures for a while, until Disney wisely signed up Johnny Depp for Pirates of the Caribbean.

Speaking of Disney, they have also made more than their share of megaflops in their time, which I suppose is appropriate for a Mickey Mouse outfit. John Carter (2012) wasn’t exactly a terrible movie, but it would have needed to make more than $600 million at the box office to repay its bloated budget. Only 63 movies have done this in the history of moviemaking, and John Carter wasn’t even in the race.

The failure of John Carter followed hot on the heels of Disney dropping even more filthy lucre on Mars Needs Moms (2011), an animated feature that proved the biggest box office failure in the company’s entire history. Walt’s accountants will probably now steer well clear of films with Mars in the title, but if I was them I‘d be asking how an animated film can cost $150 million to make and distribute in the first place!

81rrnkpeLHL_SL1500_cropThe strange thing is, nobody really knows when a movie is going to bomb at the boxoffice any more than they do when it is going to be a massive success. Look at the way Spielberg nearly got fired from Jaws, and even the stars of that one, Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss, went to the preview screening thinking they were going to be witnessing a big budget disaster.

There’s also a famous story that when George Lucas showed his director mate Brian De Palma (Carrie) an early cut of Star Wars, De Palma told him it was bound to be a flop. Lucas became so convinced it would that he went on holiday to Hawaii with his good friend Steven Spielberg instead of attending the premiere.

The problem with blockbusters today is that it isn’t just the lolly that’s spent making them that disappears down the U-bend. You’ve got to add the many millions more spent on promoting them and all the tie-in tat flooding the market that nobody then wants to buy. Even George Lucas is not always on the money – remember Howard the Duck?

Nobody is surprised when a film that’s utter rubbish proves a loser at the box office, but sometimes even good movies can flop if they’re not marketed correctly. In many cases however these will recoup their losses on DVD, Blu-ray and digital download. A good case in point is 2012’s excellent and vastly underrated Dredd, which earned $41 million at the box office on a budget of $44 million, but earned so much money on home video that a sequel now seems likely.

Brad Pitt’s World War Z is another great example of a film that was expected to tank and duly did so, even though it wasn’t half as bad as we were all expecting. In the end, with home video sales factored in, it has gone on to earn a tasty $540 million against a production budget of $190 million, again prompting demands for a sequel.

What will be the biggest financial disaster of 2014? It’s a bit early to say, but Hollywood pundits are already predicting box office meltdown for the $150 million Jupiter Ascending, the new science fiction epic from the Wachowski Brothers, er I mean the Wachowski brother and sister.

Apart from the fact that their last movie, Cloud Atlas, ended up with red ink on the balance sheet, and their 2008 Speed Racer left skid marks in the underpants of Hollywood studio bosses, there are two further clues this might be a disaster… Firstly, the film was originally going to be released this July, and now it has been delayed until February of next year. Secondly, it stars Channing Tatum.

Similarly, great things are not predicted for the $125 million Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, produced by Michael Bay and directed by the guy who gave us Wrath of the Titans (2012) and Battle: Los Angeles (2011). It stars Megan Fox, presumably because Meryl Streep wasn’t available. If this turns out to be a good movie, the pizzas are on me. As far as I can see it could very well figure prominently on the list below if we update it in 2015.

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1.  Heaven’s Gate (1980); estimated loss:  $120,953,664

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2.  Mars Needs Moms (2011); estimated loss:  $130,503,621

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3.  The Lone Ranger (2013); est. loss:  $95,926,537—121,237,25

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4.  Speed Racer (2008); est. loss:  $73,027,117

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5.  The 13th Warrior (1999); estimated loss:  $97,896,514—182,838,584

 

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6.  The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002); estimated loss:  $96,448,014

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7.  Cutthroat Island (1995); estimated loss:  $88,741,339

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8.  R.I.P.D. (2013); estimated loss:  $90,837,890—114,837,890

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9.  John Carter (2012); estimated loss:  $108,610,950

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10.  47 Ronin (2014); estimated loss:  $149,518,762