TRUST ME, alphabetically: C —follows in the trail blazed by entries A & B. Seek freedom from confusion by referring to brother “A” for the raison d’etre… meantime, let us crackdown on 25 that really are below C-level
#1 CALIGULA —-there is crap, and then there is Caligula. In an august lineup of nutjob Roman Emperors which included zanies like Nero and Commodus, he may have taken the cake, but this infamous 1979 bowl of sex as sewage from Penthouse pimp Bob Guccione is closer to the cake they put in urinals rather than on plates. Gore Vidal contributed a script, which was ditched (he sued), the director was a loon, the actors were lucky to recover. Like the title character, it’s sickly violent and aesthetically repellent. Coated in shame are Malcolm McDowell, Peter O’Toole, Helen Mirren and John Gielgud. Directed—if that word applies—by Tinto Brass, it consumed $17,500,000 and returned $23,000,000. It reigns an agonizing 156 minutes.
#2 CANNONBALL RUN 2 —-In the words of Roger Ebert “sheer arrogance made this picture.” Wit-free sequel to the not exactly bracing original still managed to cheat moviegoers out of $28,000,000 in 1984. Director Hal Needham and star pal Burt Reynolds drag nearly three dozen well-known actors down to their level, including the sad final feature credits for both Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Everyone connected should have ducked this cannonball. Besides Burt, Frank and Dean, wasting 108 minutes are Sammy Davis Jr., Shirley MacLaine, Dom DeLuise, Marilu Henner, Susan Anton, Telly Savalas, Jamie Farr, Catherine Bach, Foster Brooks, Sid Caesar, Louis Nye, Jackie Chan, Tim Conway, Don Knotts, Jack Elam, Ricardo Montalban, Richard Kiel, Jim Nabors, Molly Picon, Charles Nelson Reilly, Arte Johnson, Abe Vigoda, Mel Tillis, Henry Silva, Doug McClure, Dub Taylor, Marty Allen, Avery Schreiber, Cheech Marin and Michael V. Gazzo. What a shame.
#3 THE CAR—-a 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III goes on a rampage. It’s a testimony to actor James Brolin’s stamina that his career survived this wreck, coming right on the heels of the disaster Gable And Lombard. John Marley, Ronny Cox and R.G. Armstrong made it out as well. At 96 minutes, directed by Elliot Silverstein, the 1977 opus claimed ‘Church of Satan’ leader Anton LaVey as “technical advisor”.
#4 CARBON COPY—-Denzel Washington, 27, made his feature debut in this 1981 comedy drool (you have to start somewhere), playing George Segal’s long lost son. Already howling with laughter? With Susan Saint James, Jack Warden, Dick Martin and Paul Winfield. Those folks aboard, it was obviously intended as a racial-divide bridge statement with humor. Script is awful, by comedy vet Stanley Shapiro, who was clearly off his feed. Directed by Michael Schultz, it did earn $9,567,000. 92 minutes.
#5 CARRY ON NURSE —-the second of 31 entries in Britain’s ‘Carry On‘ series, and the most financially successful of the lot, the biggest hit in England in 1959, doing another $1,500,000 in the States. Only one of the series I ever caught, as a kid, and it bored me. With Kenneth Connor, Shirley Eaton (no doubt why I watched), Kenneth Griffith, Hattie Jacques, Joan Sims, Norman Rossington. Directed by Gerald Thomas, tittering through 86 minutes. To be fair, after decades, I owe it a fresh take, but suffice to say the series could be considered the British equivalent of ‘The Bowery Boys’ or the Police Academy movies (with a much greater range than either)—in other words silly and too inconsequential to plow into afresh when the planet is cooking. If you’re a fan, be my guest and laugh ’til your sides hurt. For a more informed opinion than this admittedly dismissive one, I suggest that from Stuart Galbraith IV over at DVD Talk.
#6 CATTLE KING —-moooo. Another footnote from Robert Taylor’s latter career: after a strong half-decade in the 50s ending with maybe his best performance in The Last Hunt, Taylor’s assignments and choices thereafter rarely worked; apart from a decent duo in 1958’s The Law And Jake Wade and Party Girl, and the colorful 1960 actioner Killers Of Kilimanjaro, after that he appeared in– by my count–fifteen duds and this 1963 snore is one of the weakest. Ex-wife Barbara Stanwyck had sashayed as the Cattle Queen Of Montana (bossing a ranch as ‘Sierra Nevada Jones’–don’t ask) so maybe this was return volley. His poor MGM swan song after 27 years of faithful toiling. 88 minutes, directed by Tay Garnett, with Robert Loggia (as ‘Johnny Quatro’), Robert Middleton, Joan Caulfield (bor-ing), Larry Gates, William Windom, Richard Devon, Ray Teal. moo….
#6 C.C. and COMPANY —dumbo 1970 attempt to cash in on Joe Namath’s football-pinup fame and suggest he could act (this and Norwood provide reverse proof). Joe’s biker gang rival William Smith (as ‘Moon’, leader of ‘The Heads’) kidnaps fashion photographer Ann Margret. This–the movie, not the kidnapping—was also an attempt by actor-tries-writing Roger Smith to get his wife Ann Margret some career traction, after a six-year slew of badly reviewed tankers. Another few seasons and she’d pull off a winner with Carnal Knowledge. This dopey thing, directed by Seymour Robbie, sputtered up a measly $1,100,000.
#7 CHAINED HEAT —-poor Linda Blair could never top The Exorcist, and this 1983 women-in-prison howler didn’t help. With the immortal Sybil Danning and John Vernon, and a lip-smacker lineup that includes Stella Stevens, Tamara Dobson, Henry Silva, Edy Williams and Michael Callan all is not lost in terms of head-shaking amusement. $1,300,000 ventured gained $20,000,000. When the warden’s office includes a bar, a tropical fish tank, shag carpet, a Jacuzzi, and mood lighting you know you’re in the right movie for demonstrating your taste to a prospective mate. A cult-camp classic, give it that. 95 minutes, piloted by Paul Nicolas.
#8 A CHANGE OF SEASONS—-the dependable mid-life crisis passage must have hit extra boink in 1980, with Loving Couples, Middle Age Crazy, The Last Married Couple In America and Serial competing for the bittersweet laughs. Worst reviewed of the lot was this, which capitalized as much as it could on the new flavor of the day, Bo Derek, topless and hot-tubby. Anthony Hopkins is always worth watching, but it’s a drag to get through this sorry film, which co-stars Shirley MacLaine—who Hopkins referred to as “the most obnoxious actress I have ever worked with.” Directed by Richard Lang, playing out over 102 minutes, with Michael Brandon and Mary Beth Hurt. It made $16,000,000 on a cost of $6,000,000, mostly thanks to Bo’s bod…
#9 CHARGE OF THE LANCERS —-sad comedown for once-big Paulette Goddard, reduced to playing a gypsy temptress in a Napoleonic era toss-off that doesn’t deliver much charge of any kind. From 1954, with Jean-Pierre Aumont, Richard Wyler and Karin Booth, directed by William Castle, dragging over 73 minutes.
# 10-13 CHEECH AND CHONG junk quartet—-their early albums were great fun if you were stoned and their first feature, 1978’s Up In Smoke, delivered a quantity of dumb laughs, but they went bottom-up like nobody’s business with Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie (1980), Cheech and Chong’s Nice Dreams (1981), Things Are Tough All Over (1982) and Still Smokin’ (1983). I endured these while working at a Tower video store. Some things are best left in the pipe.
‘Next‘ was directed by Chong, and made a bodacious 42,000,000. 99 minutes, with participation from Paul Reubens, Rita Wilson and a 32-year old wiseguy named Phil Hartman. ‘Nice‘ was also directed by Chong, rolled a wasted $37,000,000. 88 minutes, with Stacy Keach, Paul Reubens, Timothy Leary and Sandra Bernhard. ‘Things’ was directed by Thomas K. Avildsen and loaded $21,350,000 (slippage,dude). 90 minutes, with Evelyn Guerrero and George Wallace. ‘Still’ was directed by Chong again, toked out $15,545,000. 91 minutes, with no-one I’m bothering to list. Now, for some pizza, some chips, a burger, a few of those cookies….
#14 A CHORUS LINE —-thoroughly unmemorable 1985 do-up of the acclaimed Broadway play has a batch of hopefuls audition for grouchy director Michael Douglas. Richard Attenborough helmed it (his weakest ever), critics were barely lukewarm, audiences didn’t show up enough in numbers anywhere close to cover its $25,000,000 cost. Three Oscar nominations: Song (“Surprise Surprise”), Sound Mixing and Film Editing. The grosses were around $14,000,000. Flogging 113 minutes, with Alyson Reed, Terrence Mann, Sharon Brown and Audrey Landers (remember the Landers sisters?) You can have my ticket.
#15 CLASS OF 1984 —-indefensibly brutal exploitation film from 1982 has a cult following, judging by all the applause on scads of Net movie sites and comments from the goblin end of the public pool. Acted well enough by Perry King, Timothy Van Patten, Roddy McDowall, Michael J. Fox and Lisa Langlois, but it’s just too vicious, and whatever revenge catharsis is dished out can’t erase the wretched excess that precedes it. Directed by Mark L. Lester, all 98 mean minutes of it, which took in $4,300,000 and gestated two scuzzy sequels.
#16 THE CLEARING—-deadly dull kidnapping drama, with a wrap-up that is a major serving of non-delivery anti-climax. From 2004, The Worst movie of Robert Redford’s career, reflected in its box-office rank for its year–179th. With Helen Mirren, Willem Dafoe, Alessandro Nivola and Diana Scarwid.
Anesthetized directed by Pieter Jan Brugge, who makes 95 minutes go by with the urgency of a slug crossing a golf course. ‘Clearing’ is what it did to theaters.
#17 COACH—-recall the freshness of Cathy Lee Crosby? That sexy cuteness and athletic poise of the former tennis champion-turned actress was the only reason to sit through this nothing-happens piece of unbuttered toast back in 1978. Directed by Bud Townsend, taking the fit-for-TV blehdom 100 minutes to unravel. With Michael Biehn and Keenan Wynn. Lame.
#18 CODE OF SILENCE—too bad a code of silence wasn’t in effect when they shot this in 1985: listening to Chuck Norris deliver his lines with all the urgency of a wet log is down on the list of experiences to rack up before the rogue comet arrives. It made money and got positive reviews from a surprising variety of sources, so maybe I missed something? No, I didn’t. With Henry Silva, Bert Remsen and Dennis Farina (when he was still a cop on the force in Chicago, moonlighting in films). Cleaned up $20,346,000. Directed by Andrew Davis, in the 101 minutes I’ll allow it has one good line:”When I want your opinion, I’ll beat it out of you.”
#19 COLOR OF NIGHT—Bruce Willis has battered his way through a number of good action flicks and some decent dramas and comedies. He’s also lumbered across a slate of turkeys. Guess which stack this is hidden in?, moldering after it failed to attract praise or profit back in 1994. Directed by Richard Rush, it’s foul and stupid, with Ruben Blades, Lesley Ann Warren, Brad Dourif, Lance Henriksen, Jeff Corey and Shirley Knight. Absurd mystery does feature co-star Jane March disrobing and grappling like she’d never be famous for anything else and no less an august authority than “Maxim” magazine spluttered that this has “the best sex scene in film history.” Folks, I can assure you I would remember if that were really the case. Costing $40,000,000 (for, like, what?) it made back only half. Directors cut runs 140 minutes. I’ll get right on it…
#20 COLUMN SOUTH—-unexciting Civil War western with Audie Murphy trying to prevent fighting with the Navajos, stirred up by the Rebs. Flapjack without butter or syrup, with Robert Sterling, Joan Evans and Ray Collins. New kids in the 1953 supporting cast include Dennis Weaver, Russell Johnson, James Best, Gregg Palmer and Denver Pyle. Directed by Frederick De Cordova, of Tonight Show fame, it limps for 84 minutes.
#21 CONAN THE DESTROYER—-Arnold Schwarzenegger’s limited skills were digestible in 1982’s Conan The Barbarian thanks to the directorial flamboyance of John Milius and that movies production scale. Two years later, with Richard Fleischer at the helm of a more family-friendly product, Arnold sinks with the rest of the movie, including the plot, effects, action scenes and supporting players Grace Jones, Mako, Wilt Chamberlain, Tracey Walter, Olivia d’Abo, Sarah Douglas and Jeff Corey. Basil Poledouris recycles enough of his scoring from the first movie to pump it up, but that’s about it for plaudits. It made $100,000,000.
Only good joke is that Chamberlain’s character is assigned to protect the virginity of a princess. Wilt, you may recall, claimed to have had sex with 20,000 women, leading urgency to the phrase “He shoots! he scores!” 103 minutes.
#22 THE CREW—pathetic entry into the Old Guys Kick Butt field, this time with geriatric criminals showing young punks how it’s done. Richard Dreyfuss, Burt Reynolds, Dan Hedaya and Seymour Cassel do not remotely convince. With Carrie Anne Moss, Lainie Kazan, Jeremy Piven and Jennifer Tilly. Directed by Michael Dinner, this 2000 wank is an 87-minute ‘concept’ movie that was better left in the Desperation Drawer. They spent $38,000,000 and came back with $13,100,000.
#23 THE CROSS AND THE SWITCHBLADE—the 1962 salvation-through-conversion book sold 16,000,000 copies in 30 languages. This 1970 movie adaptation purportedly reached 50,000,000 people in 150 countries, apparently in church venues and youth centers, as the reported box-office take shows zilch. I read the book when I was fifteen, for reasons I don’t recall (it wasn’t religion, that—I can state categorically) and thought the first half, depicting scary gang violence, was effective, the second come-to-Jesus section less-so. The movie, directed by Don Murray and starring an earnest Pat Boone and a 20-year-old rowdy named Erik Estrada fails in every area. They don’t get much less-uplifting. 106 minutes.
#24 THE CURSE OF THE AZTEC MUMMY—with a title like that, you get what you ask for, in a 1957 Mexican horror zonker that looks like it cost sixty pesos. Direction is debited to Rafael Portillo, who employs in his cast the emotions of Ramon Gay, Rosa Arenas and Crox Alverado. 65 minutes to think about your choices.
#25 THE CYCLOPS—cheese-grater Bert I. Gordon followed his schlock triumphs King Dinosaur and Beginning Of The End with this 66-minute kiddie fave from 1957, laying a grotesque makeup job on actor Duncan Parkin as a one-eyed, 30-foot tall, radiation-mutated dude who growls a lot. Triple-threat writer/director/producer Gordon then economized by not shelling out any more on further production values than maybe the cost of gas for driving the actors to some caves a few miles outside of Los Angeles. With James Craig, Gloria Talbott, Tom Drake and a most-likely-sloshed Lon Chaney Jr. They cower, scream, run, hide, die, conquer. Never one to leave a gimmick or makeup go to waste, Gordon cranked it up again for the mightiness that was The Amazing Colossal Man and its mighty-bad sequel War Of The Colossal Beast.