TRUST ME, alphabetically : A launches a feature of this site which may satisfy/incense those with a completist sense, but it serves to spare your valiant host from cooking his already overheated brain writing full reviews of movies that don’t deserve it (shouldering aside Citizen Kane and The Killer Shrews in the process). Many websites exhaustively survey the most awful of offal, so if you really want to hone in on Hostel 2 and other bottom dwellers, do forge forth. In mini-whacks here, I’ll cut to the chase. Some bad movies are important enough to justify stand-alone inclusion in the regular parade I trot out, but as to the following and those in upcoming B thru Z, let me quote Lee Marvin from The Killers–“Lady, I don’t have the time…” Let’s start with 20 whacks at the A-Team….
#1 ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE —-if you were a kid in the late 50s-early 60s this 1953 entry, like most of the duo’s output, was passable fun, but it’s really a pretty tired exercise. Title tells all; London has fog, Boris Karloff gets hairy, Costello goes zany. Theatrical rentals of $1,200,000 off its $725,000 budget saw it open coffin #114 for the year. Craig Stevens, Reginald Denny and John Dierkes are on hand, directed by Charles Lamont (the sixth of eight he’d handle for the team). 76 minutes.
#2 ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE KEYSTONE KOPS—-the team’s formula was running on air by 1955, and their 34th outing was this flaccid attempt to bring in silent-era hi-jinks. It flails, even with a pro like Fred Clark and a cameo from Mack Sennett. Lynn Bari, Maxie Rosenbloom and Roscoe Ates help in chewing up 80 minutes and a budget of $743,000, economical enough that it could pay for itself from the faithful. Charles Lamont directed. Clowned out at spot #111 for the year.
# 3 ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE KILLER, BORIS KARLOFF —-like almost all their 42 films, this 1949 patchwork made money ($1,850,000 after an outlay of $744,000), but it’s only for A&C die-hards or uber-fans of a slumming Boris Karloff. Charles Barton manned the director’s chair; cast members include Lenore Aubert, Alan Mowbray, James Flavin, Roland Winters and Percy Helton. Their efforts saw it slink into spot #101 of the years releases. Pass.
#4 ABOVE THE LAW —-was successful at the till, making $19,000,000 in 1988, and is unfortunate in that it launched the movie career of the initially amusing, later disgusting Steven Seagal. Punches & kicks & Pam Grier & Sharon Stone. 99 minutes, with a script co-written by later-notable author Steven Pressfield (! ) yet, who ten years on would write the wonderful “Gates Of Fire”. Director Andrew Davis later helmed the pony-tailed actionistas two decent outings, Under Siege and Under Siege 2: Dark Territory. With Henry Silva (bad guy, of course) and Michael Rooker as ‘Man in Bar #1’.
#5 THE ADVENTURES OF FORD FAIRLANE —-shockjerk comic Andrew Dice Clay stars, which will be enough to keep most women who have regard for other women from watching in the first place, and there isn’t enough that’s funny in it even for men who think he was somehow clever. Flopped, bringing back scathing reviews and only $21,000,000 of a $40,000,000 spout. With Wayne Newton, Priscilla Presley, Lauren Holly (looking hot), Gilbert Gottfried, David Patrick Kelly, Robert Englund, Ed O’Neill and Sheila E.
#6 THE ALLNIGHTER —dullsville attempt to make cute-sexy Bangles lead vocalist Susanna Hoffs into a movie star. Hey, I liked The Bangles (and why not?) but this does her no favor. Her mom, Tamar Simon Hoffs, directed. Thanks, Ma, now people will forget me. With Joan Cusack (giving what she can), Dedee Pfeiffer (Michelle’s kid sis) and Pam Grier. Dead in the water for 108 minutes, straggling home with only $2,700,000 in 1987.
#7 AMERICAN ADOBO —there are over 3,500,000 Filipino-Americans, as long-standing U.S. ties with that super-friendly Asian country and the diaspora of its impoverished population sent smiling faces across the ocean in waves. The experience of so many transplanted hopefuls deserves a movie, or several, but this soggy cracker of a comedy crumbles from one end to the other. From 2001, directed by Laurice Guillen, with Christopher De Leon, Ricky Davao and Cherry Pie Picache. 104 minutes. “Paumanhin, ang aking mahal na mga kaibigan.”
#8 AMERICAN NINJA —yet another martial arts rumpkicker (Michael Dudikoff) fights his way through Philippines locations. It made a lot of money. So do cigarettes. Directed by Sam Firstenberg, who chose the struggling 31-year-old actor over 400 who auditioned ( Dudikoff started out in a Coppertone commercial and plugged away for eight years prior to this. One problem made for amusement: Dudikoff had…uh…no martial arts training. The 1985 body counter (one source says 114 people are offed during the 95 minutes) spawned four sequels, after taking in ten times the $1,000,000 cost. Can Commerce conquer Art? We mull.
#9 AMOS AND ANDREW —-painful comedy attempt to poke fun holes in racial attitudes brought no such healing to Nicholas Cage and Samuel L. Jackson. Backup from reliables Dabney Coleman, Michael Lerner and Brad Dourif didn’t help, as people stayed away in droves. A parody off the ancient ‘Amos & Andy’ shtick, as well as a sideswipe at The Defiant Ones, it misses by years, and the earned $9,746,000 sank against a cost of $17,000,000. Directed & written by E. Max Frye, who is allowed a pass on this turkey because he also wrote Something Wild and Foxcatcher: everyone makes some stumbles. Cage and Jackson likewise soldiered on, but this one is best left in the reject heap.
#10 ANDY WARHOL’S FRANKENSTEIN —this has its fans, who think the bloody spew is somehow funny. Gross, it naturally developed a cult following. Have at it: I’ll stick with Karloff. Directed by Paul Morrisey, ralphed upon the screen in 1974, besmirching 95 minutes. Cast: Joe Dallesandro, Udo Kier, Monique van Vooren, Arno Juerging, Dallila Di Lazzaro and— last-but-whatever– Srdjan Zelenovic. Warhol & Carlo Ponti produced it for $450,000 and squished in with $7,000,000 because a lot of people seem to like the idea of sex with a gall bladder. Degrading offal.
#11 ANGEL—Quoth the ads: “High School Honor Student by Day. Hollywood Hooker by Night.” Who doesn’t enjoy good, old-fashioned teen prostitute movies? Donna Wilkes was 24 when she played 15 here, and an effective ad campaign, plus a level of prurience out there in CineplexLand ensured a hit in 1984, earning $17,500,000 off $3,000,000 invested, spawning three sequels. Directed by Robert Vincent O’Neill, hooking for 94 minutes. Beyond a few laughs over awful dialogue, it’s minus merit, even though it features Dick Shawn (being bizarre) and an ossified Rory Calhoun. Also tagged for discredit are Susan Tyrell and John Diehl.
#12 ANOTHER 48 HOURS —-witless 1990 reteaming of Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy, eight years after their smash hit original. Murphy’s salary meanwhile had gone from $450,000 for 48 Hours in 1982 to $9,000,000 eight years on. The 118 minutes are a total waste, even when directed by Walter Hill, who guided them so well the first time. A squandered $38,000,000 showcased enough shattered glass for ten movies. It made a pile—$154,000,000– and who can remember a darn thing from it (one might guess Nick blotted it out in his own fashion)? Press SKIP.
#13 APACHE RIFLES —in the platoon of Audie Murphy’s three dozen westerns, and one of the weakest recruits. Mismatched stock footage from an earlier flick, soggy writing, the bored star looking puffy and tired of the treadmill. Directed in 1964 by William Witney, straining over 92 been-there minutes. With Michael Dante and L.Q. Jones. ‘Parade rest, trooper’..
# 14 ASSASSINS —-quick, how many lousy action flicks has Sylvester Stallone made? I did a quick count and this is one of nineteen among his output (as of 2016) that justify use of the word ‘sucked’. Wasting their time (and yours: they got paid) are Antonio Banderas and Julianne Moore. The 1995 slog is about competing hit-men: one wants to retire, is hamstrung by the new guy on the beat. Directed by Richard Donner, steering this $50,000,000 bore (30% going to Stallone’s salary) into the memory hole. 132 minutes worth of nonsense, turning $83,500,000 worldwide. Critics dissed, after they woke up from the screening.
#15 ATOR, THE FIGHTING EAGLE —can flap up some unintentional laffs from its badness, what with Miles O’Keefe (Bo Derek’s once-and-never Tarzan, The Ape Man ) attempting to perform the script. Sequels followed. Ator–you should know going in– is a scientist & scholar, an engineer & magician, an alchemist and of course, good with a sword. The movie emerged from Italy in 1982, directed by one Joe D’Amato, runs 92 minutes, and features Sabrina Siani (talentless disrober), Laura Gemser (exotic Indonesian scamp famed for a dozen Emmanuel movies–who knew there so many?…I better get on the ball…) and Edmund Purdom (a long fall from mid-50s stardom in The Egyptian and The Prodigal).
#16 ATRAGON —-a 94-minute blast of 1963 silliness from Japan, this has the undersea continent (yes, the under-sea continent) of ‘Mu’ threatening the world (of above-sea continents). The title refers to a mighty ship that does battle with Mu. A big hit in its native land (Japan, not Mu). Directed by the tireless Ishiro Honda, who brought us Godzilla, Rodan, The Mysterians, Mothra, Ghidrah, and at least seventeen other sci-fi demolition epics which ensured that reconstruction in Tokyo was a nonstop situation. Guy should have a statue on Mt. Fuji. I’m obviously relegating poor Atragon to the also-stomped category, but there are enthusiastic and detailed write-ups on this silliness cast elsewhere upon the Net, if you are so taken by such doings. I feel honor-bound to mention that while the title refers to a submarine, the requisite giant monster in question is named ‘Manda’. Cautiously emerge from your shelter when the all-clear sounds….
#17 ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES —a $100,000 in-joke sendup of B-movies was so successful it squished out three sequels, proof that what Lincoln actually said was “People can be fooled over and over again because they’re not all that smart to begin with.” Grown in 1978, this salad was the brain-vegetable of John DeBello, who directed, produced, co-wrote, edited and scored the 87-minute con. Variety called it: “…isn’t even worthy of sarcasm.” It’s the sort of aren’t-we-clever? project that smug clerks who think they’re superior to everyone else and bitch about their job will refer to and chuckle when they should be paying something like attention to the customer—all this I remember only too clearly….I’m not all that amazed by friggin’ tomatoes to begin with.
#18 ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE—with that title, you pretty much get what you pay for, in this 1958 foofer that had fussy John Hoyt using his doll-people to go after hapless John Agar. It has a following today, but so does the guy who runs North Korea. Directed by the unstoppable Bert I. Gordon in 1958, playing out over 79 minutes, with dramatic input from June Kenney as ‘Sally Reynolds’, heroine. Kids watching it late on Saturday night, back in the Kennedy era, realized they were ripped off and thus were planted the Seeds of Discontent. Historically, the beyond-criticism outing deserves credit as The Movie That Brought Down Nixon, since the lookout for the Watergate burglars was so enraptured watching this that he blew warning the other guys and they got caught.
#19 AVALANCHE EXPRESS—- sleeping aid from 1979 is noteworthy for wasting its cast but also as a sad final note for Robert Shaw who died of a heart attack (only 51) during production, as did veteran director Mark Robson (at 65). It’s disjointed and deadly dull for 88 minutes, and makes nothing of the work from Shaw, Lee Marvin, Maximilian Schell, Linda Evans, Horst Buchholz and Mike Connors. Plus Joe Namath, though I don’t think John’s Ford or Huston could’ve gotten much from Joe in the thespian arena. Expensive ($12,000,000), it slushed downhill to $2,200,000. An anti-thriller.
#20 THE AWAKENING —- a game Charlton Heston had done well by sci-fi, batting a triple with Planet Of The Apes, The Omega Man and Soylent Green, but a home run was denied in this 1980 horror flick about unlucky archaeologists reincarnating an Egyptian queen, with bad juju for all concerned. You’d think they would have paused when they read the helpful hint on the tomb: “Do Not Approach the Nameless One Lest Your Soul Be Withered”. Slow, murky, quicksand in general, it at least boasts decent production values. Directed by Mike Newell, with Susannah York, Jill Townsend and Stephanie Zimbalist, it eventually dug up $8,415,000, yet during its 101 minutes you may fight to remain awakened (ha! got that in, finally: my work here is done…).