Worst Movies Ever Made

Scraping the Bottom of the Cinematic Barrel

CATEGORY: Sci-Fi

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

Robowar – Bruno Mattei, Reb Brown, Catherine Hickland

Robowar aka Robot da guerra (1989)
Directed by: Bruno Mattei
Starring: Reb Brown, Catherine Hickland, Massimo Vanni, Romano Puppo, Claudio Fragasso, Max Laurel, Jim Gaines, John P. Dulaney, Mel Davidson

Robowar - Reb Brown fires gun

Pretty sure this situation calls for lots of machine gun fire.

Here’s the setup to Bruno Mattei’s Robowar: a bunch of melodramatic helicopter pilots are talking nonsense to their base command about some kind of malfunction, which is intercut with an opening title sequence over a red pixelated haze. Eventually we figure out that they have lost control of something called Omega-1, a robot/weapon that mumbles out electronic gobbledegook before blowing up the chopper. I know what you’re thinking – this calls for Reb Brown!

Star Odyssey – Malisa Longo, Yanti Somer

Star Odyssey (1979)
Directed by: Alfonso Brescia
Starring: Yanti Somer, Gianni Garko, Malisa Longo, Chris Avram, Ennio Balbo, Roberto Dell’Acqua, Aldo Amoroso Pioso, Nino Castelnuovo, Gianfranca Dionisi, Pino Ferrara, Aldo Funari, Cesare Gelli, Claudio Undari, Filippo Perrone, Franco Ressel

Star Odyssey - Light Saber Ripoff

A long time ago, in a galaxy not far away enough.


There was once this Italian guy named Alfonso Brescia who began directing movies in the 60s. He started out in the sword-and-sandal genre, moved on to low budget spaghetti westerns, then war films, some gialli, even the bizarre Three-Supermen/Amazon hybrid – 1975′s Super Stooges vs the Wonder Women (a movie I must track down one day). But Brescia was to become infamous for the four 70s-era sci-fi films that were complete, shamless ripoffs of Star Wars. These films were known as Battle of the Stars (1977), War Of The Planets (1977), War of the Robots (1978), and Star Odyssey (1979). The fact that this guy cranked out 4 films within the span of 3 years reveals a certain carefree “attitude” on the part of the filmmaker, does it not? (You will get four Star Wars ripoffs and like them!) Oh yeah, he also directed Ator 3 (aka Iron Warrior) which was not authorized by Joe D’Amato, who directed the other films in the series. But let’s not get off track – we’re here today to discuss Star Odyssey, an inept, hilarious piece of space trash that, if nothing else, establishes Brescia (who uses the pseudonym Al Bradly) as the Italian Ed Wood (well, at least until Bruno Mattei stole the crown).

R.O.T.O.R. (1988)

R.O.T.O.R. (1988)
Directed by: Cullen Blaine
Starring: Richard Gesswein, Margaret Trigg, Jayne Smith, James Cole, Stan Moore, Nanette Kuczek, Brad Overturf, Shawn Brown, Michael Hunter

L.A. Scientist: Who are we to create such a thing, heroes and villains?
Captain Barrett Coldyron: The only difference between a hero and a villain is the amount of compensation they take for their services. At our pay scale, I’d say we’re closer to heroes.

Gal: You know that this is an unofficial debriefing. Officially, not an arrest questioning. Then please state so for the record, doctor, unofficially.
Guy (interjects): Officially!
Gal: Officially…


You’ll hear a lot of this kind of talk in 1988′s R.O.T.O.R., an extremely low-budget mashup of The Terminator, Robocop, and Judge Dredd featuring silly talking robots, horrible acting, bad dubbing, and excruciating repetitive synth soundtracks. The fact that nobody in the film has any screen presence, acting skills, or camera-appeal only adds to the hilarity of watching “good guy” cowboy Captain Coldyron (Richard Gesswein) recite Milton in voiceover like a high school kid forced to read from his literature textbook. Characters mumble and stumble their way through nonsensical tech-speak and absurd philosophizing in such a way that it’s extremely difficult to tell whether the whole thing is a slick parody or it’s just dialogue written by people who have never picked up an ethics or philosophy textbook, and have never heard an actual scientist speak (or have seen one, for that matter – we’ll get to that in a minute). Perhaps I’m wrong though – perhaps writer/director Cullen Blaine is just putting us on – in which case I say well played, my friend. Brilliant, in fact.

Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus – Debbie Gibson, Lorenzo Lamas

Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus (2009)
Directed by: Jack Perez
Starring: Debbie Gibson, Lorenzo Lamas, Vic Chao, Sean Lawlor, Dean Kreyling

Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus - Opening Title

Contrary to what you think, this movie is about a mega shark and a giant octopus.


See, there’s this group of people who call themselves The Asylum. Their job is to take box office hits and copy them – poorly. The formula is simple – get crappy special effects people, crappy cameramen, crappy editors, throw in a dab of sex, unknown (crappy) actors, then run a movie title through a scrambler. If you so desire (and have a little extra cash lying around), you might be able to have a washed-up actor, TV performer, or pop music star in the main role. So, for example, Transformers becomes Transmorphers starring Amy Weber (Son of the Beach, WWE wrestling), Snakes on a Plane becomes Snakes on a Train, The Day the Earth Stood Still becomes The Day the Earth Stopped (with C. Thomas Howell and Judd Nelson!), etc. These films are affectionately termed “mockbusters” – they’re more like porno parodies of major hits (you know, like Pirates, Edward Penishands, Beyond Thunderbone, etc.), except without the porn part, which is kinda disappointing, but I digress.

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