There are few things more inexplicably attractive than failure. Whether it’s the sinking of a much ballyhooed “unsinkable” ocean liner or the sky jumping exploits of Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, mankind has long held a fascination for shining examples of the futility of existence.
It’s very much the case in movies. In fact, cinema is a field of endeavour where this reverence of failure is considered legitimate. Beginning with Harry Medved and Randy Dreyfuss’ The Fifty Worst Films of All Time- and How They Got That Way and it’s follow-up (this time written by Harry and Micheal Medved) The Golden Turkey Awards, there has been a bona fide cottage industry devoted to the reverence of cinematic sins.
Regular columns have been published;Roger Ebert has collected three tomes of venomous reviews ; an award, the Razzies, are handed out annually; a movie, It Came from Hollywood was released and a TV series devoted to “riffing” bad films ran for ten years before spinning out into various incarnations ranging from live shows to DVDs to MP3s that poke fun of movies while they are still in theatrical release.
So what could Phil Hall’s The Greatest Bad Movies of All Time contribute to such a crowded field?
Plenty, as it turns out. The Medved’s Golden Turkeys are three decades old and there certainly is a need to upgrade the pantheon. Unfortunately, the contenders have been bit of a letdown – most notably one frightfully amateurish book whose title inferred you were better off dying than watching wretched films.
What makes Halls book so unique is how it respects the contract it makes with the reader in the title. It’s not “the worst”, or “the most painful”, it truly is a comprehensive list of GREAT bad films: movies we will actually enjoy “suffering” through.
The 100 film selection is one of the best I’ve ever seen. Hall lists all the “classics” (Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space is listed) but also replaces easily made assumptions with choices which betray his research. Thus the easy target of Phil Tucker’s Gorilla-in-a space-helmet epic Robot Monster is discarded in favour of an even more cringe-worthy slab of celluloid by the same director, Dance Hall Racket.
“Au Courant” afficionados will be happy to see Battlefield Earth, Birdemic and The Room included. I am also happy to report that the incredibly pathetic and unwatchable Troll 2 did NOT make the list.
Hall keeps the synopsizing short and tosses tidbits of information that suggest he took his research beyond wikipedia- unlike that “Die before you see”guy. Even a seasoned cinemasochist like me gets to learn a thing or two from perusing this tome- and that’s saying a lot.
The Greatest Bad Movies of All Time is definitely worth seeking out- and the films listed therein are worth hunting down.
A different review for this book