TRUST ME, alphabetically: F—-forthwith, fickle fans of the foolish, feel free to feast on the flops, flotsam, flim-flams and a fistful of frustrated F-words as they find their forte from the following 31 fudges…..
#1 FADE TO BLACK—-obnoxious movie nut is treated badly by everyone (understandable, given what a jerkweed he is) and takes revenge by dressing up as cinema villains and murdering those who have offended him. No-one to care for, beyond a neat turn by Australian actress Linda Kerridge looking and acting like Marilyn Monroe. Ineptly shot, and basically vile, with the resistible Dennis Christopher (like he wasn’t off-putting enough in Breaking Away), Tim Thomerson, Norman Burton, Morgan Paull, Peter Horton and a young Mickey Rourke. Directed in 1980 by Vern Zimmerman, who treated us to a mean little 102-minute dish of slop.
#2 FAIR GAME (1986)—-no, not the good movie with the same title (about Valerie Plame & Joe Wilson, with Naomi Watts & Sean Penn), or the not-good-at-all movie with the same title (with William Baldwin & Cindy Crawford) that some other person can write up if they get desperate, but the indefensible piece-of-s__t 1986 revenge-in-the-Outback flick that not only features kangaroo killings, but is infamous for a scene where the scuzzbucket bad guys tie the stripped heroine to their truck as a hood ornament and race around the desert. Great one to put on at Thanksgiving or Easter. Quentin Tarentino likes it–why am I not surprised? The star, singer Cassandra Delaney, was married to John Denver for a few years. Directed by Mario Andreacchio, soiling 90 minutes.
#3 THE FAN (1981)—-all gussied up with no place to go, this died with critics and at the box-office for several reasons. Blending older actors with a stalker-slasher story lost followers of each. Those who admired Lauren Bacall and James Garner were not likely to line up for knives and gore and those who craved mayhem were not interested in seeing it inflicted on victims over 30. Then, in a tragic turn of timing, John Lennon was killed just a few months before the film came out, in the same apartment building that leading lady Bacall (threatened here by the wacked-out fan of the title) lived in. Distaste all round. She was upset by the final product, as the script she’d seen had been changed to hype bloodshed. 95 minutes mis-directed by Edward Bianchi. With Michael Biehn, Maureen Stapleton, Hector Elizondo, Dana Delany and Griffin Dunne. Few autographs signed from this one.
#4 FAST BREAK—-Gabe Kaplan moved out of TVs moderately amusing Welcome Back, Kotter into this dormant attempt to crash the big screen. Basketball comedy pretty much dribbles. With Harold Sylvester, Michael Warren, Reb Brown, Bert Remsen and Larry Fishburne as ‘Street Kid’. Goes on for 107 minutes, directed by Jack Smight. From 1979.
#5 THE FIENDISH PLOT OF DR. FU MANCHU —-Peter Sellers’ last movie is an unfortunate sendoff to a great comic actor. He was ill, his flagged interest shows, the script is terrible, they changed directors three times. That honor is credited to Piers Haggard (got to be a joke), but the other hands on the
throat throttle were Sellers and Richard Quine. It’s a dud pure and simple. With Helen Mirren, David Tomlinson (final role), Sid Caesar, Steve Franken, John LeMesurier. Consuming 100 minutes, released in 1980, coming in 64th for grosses.
#6 FIGHTING MAD—-“They want his land”…wait..okay, “They want his Dad’s land”..they beat up his brother/dog/mailman/trampoline…he gets out his crossbow (“f—in’ cool,dude!”)…Peter Fonda this time, fighting The Man, with Lynn Lowrey, John Doucette, Philip Carey, Scott Glenn. One of the advertising tag lines was “He Chases Them Across The State And Wipes Them Off The Roads”, which makes me think I should give it another look. Directed by Jonathan Demme, so it’s a cut above the other fourteen hundred Peaceful Man Pushed Too Far movies. Out and mad in 1978, fighting through 90 minutes.
#7 FIRE AND ICE—-twisted animator Ralph Bakshi takes us to some silly make-believe sword and sorcery world. Time you could spend doing anything else: trapping beaver, cutting apples into sections, calling strangers and pretending you’re from the city, etc. Bakshi directed, it came out in 1983, and you will lose 81 precious minutes if you select it. Just..don’t.
#8 FIREBALL 500—-American International Pictures shows concern for the new scene in 1966 by moving away from beach party movies, with this announcement: “The next big thing for teenage films is protest. Teenagers empathize with protest because they are in revolt against their parents… These films represent a protest against society. These will be moral tales, there will be good guys and bad guys. But we will show the reasons for young people going against the dictates of the establishment. ”
Then they had to come up with a script, and this was it. Frankie Avalon, Fabian and Annette Funicello race cars, get mixed up with moonshiners, romp, fight, sing, act. With Chill Wills and Harvey Lembeck. Directed by William Asher, it laps 92 minutes. Follow-up Thunder Alley was marginally better (not a leap).
#9 FIREFOX—-Clint Eastwood has directed 35 movies. A number are excellent, most are at least pretty good, one or two stink. This 1982 skunk is in the bottom rung, just a notch over Absolute Power. Ex Nam vet, ex POW, Russian-speaking rogue pilot Eastwood (one of the 22 times he acted under his own direction) steals a Soviet super-plane prototype and tries to fly it out of Russia while being pursued by the KGB. Long (146 minutes), boring, with credibility holes you could ram the title jet through. Only some of the airborne scenes are moderately effective. Expensive ($21,000,000), it did lift $71,000,000 from Clint fans expecting something better. With Freddie Jones (awful performance), Ronald Lacey, Nigel Hawthorne.
#10 FIRE ON THE AMAZON—-corrupt cattle ranchers in Bolivia frame protesting Indians for a murder. Nosy American reporter Craig Sheffer and bereaved Sandra Bullock try to get the truth. Ever-timely storyline, but dead on arrival in this telling. Filmed near Iquitos in Peru, directed by Luis Llosa, it’s thankfully only 87 minutes long.
#11 FIREPOWER—-the crass director Michael Winner wastes the talents of good actors in this 1979 revenge blather, filmed in Curacao, Antigua and St, Lucia, so at least there is scenery. James Coburn, Sophia Loren, Eli Wallach, future murderer O.J. Simpson, Anthony Franciosa, George Grizzard, Vincent Gardenia, Billy Barty and Victor Mature in a cameo for his last film role. Also featuring Jake LaMotta: maybe he gave Simpson lessons on how batter a wife? The 104 minute item bombed out in 1979, coming in at spot # 108.
#12 THE FIRST DEADLY SIN—-dull detective drama about a search for a serial killer offers the last starring role for Frank Sinatra. He’s okay; the movie, directed by Brian G. Hutton is a 112-minute sleepthrough. With Faye Dunaway (wasted), Brenda Vaccaro, James Whitmore, David Dukes, Martin Gabel, Anthony Zerbe, Joe Spinell, Bruce Willis (debut in an uncredited bit). Frank had high hopes for the 1980 film (which he also produced), as it was the first time he’d been on the big screen as a lead for a decade, and the script was off a book by the popular Lawrence Sanders. It came in 103rd for the year. “That’s Life….”
#13 FIRST FAMILY—painful 1980 comedy thud from writer-director Buck Henry. Decisively losing a 97-minute battle with cheated audiences were Bob Newhart, Gilda Radner, Madeline Kahn, Richard Benjamin, Bob Dishy, Harvey Korman, Austin Pendleton, Rip Torn and Fred Willard. Sometimes just collecting a lot of talented friends is not enough. Engage the passenger ejector seat.
#14 THE FIRST TEXAN—-boring 82 minutes of nonsense about Sam Houston (Joel McCrea) and the Texan Revolution of 1835-36. One historical mistake after another, and no fun, either (the greatest sin). With Felicia Farr, Jeff Morrow, Wallace Ford, Abraham Sofaer, Jody McCrea, William Hopper, Rodopho Hoyos, Roy Roberts, James Griffith. The earlier Sam Houston biopic, 1939s Man Of Conquest, with Richard Dix, is a bit better, whereas this 1956 slog takes the drama out of the desperate contest waged for the northernmost province of Old Mexico, and dulls the can’t-lose personalities of Houston, Bowie, Travis, Crockett and Santa Anna (and Andy ‘by-God’ Jackson). Directed by Byron Haskin, who had done much better work. If you want error-riddled movies on the events, stick with The Last Command and The Alamo: at least you’ll get some big bangs for your bucks.
#15 FIRST TO FIGHT—-the building frenzy of the Vietnam War didn’t get any play in Hollywood until 1968s one-off with the lucrative, critically derided The Green Berets, as the studios were loathe to tackle the subject. In lieu there were a spattering of standard action flicks set in WW2, chiefly the Pacific. It was a sideways hook, using the Marines, fighting Asians, under the cover of a conflict everyone could agree on (well, maybe not the Japanese). Along with the nifty Ambush Bay and the daring and bloody Beach Red, came this 1967 fodder with Chad Everett. Directed by Christian Nyby, for 92 minutes it creaks with cliche, and repeats some action shots so often you feel like you have a relationship with the extras doing the stunts. Good supporting actors at least: Dean Jagger, Claude Akins, Gene Hackman, James Best, Bobby Troup, Norman Alden. One of four films 36-year-old struggling actor and ex-Marine Hackman appeared in during 1967. The last one was a little lark called Bonnie And Clyde and his days of toiling in the trenches were over. Everett’s movie career fizzled out and he did much better for himself on TV in Medical Center. Old pros Akins and Best likewise transitioned to the small screen with success.
#16 THE FISH THAT SAVED PITTSBURGH—-another dumb basketball-comedy dribble, this one with a disco soundtrack. Running 102 minutes, directed by Gilbert Moses in 1979, it’s developed a cult following due to its cast, the presence of some famous players and the music score. The actors: Jonathan Winters, Jack Kehoe, Margaret Avery, Michael V. Gazzo, M. Emmet Walsh, Stockard Channing, Flip Wilson, Debbie Allen, Harry Shearer. The players: Meadowlark Lemon, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Julius Irving, Jerry Chambers. The music: The Spinners, The Sylvers, The Four Tops, Loretta Lynn (huh?). They shoot—they don’t score—for me, but if you’re a fan, what the heck, enjoy away….
#17 FIVE CORNERS—-the Bronx, 1964. A rapist returns from prison and the neighborhood has to deal with him. Good actors–Jodie Foster, Tim Robbins, John Turturro–in a deeply unpleasant drama. Directed by Tony Bill, from 1987, running 90 icky minutes. Over the top. Didn’t buy it or like it. Few did: it made $970,000. Seek out The Wanderers if you want the Bronx in the 60s and unlike this, you won’t feel like you need a shower after it’s over.
#18 THE FIVE MAN ARMY—-terrible made-in-Spain & Italy western set in revolutionary Mexico. Peter Graves (looking like he just walked in off Sepulveda Boulevard), Bud Spencer, James Daly, Nino Castelnuovo and Tetsuro Tamba take on all comers, killing 79 bad guys. Music by Ennio Morricone is one plus. Directed by Don Taylor, from the depths of 1969, ruining 105 minutes.
#19 FLAME OF ARABY—-one of a slew of second-rate actioners that took up most of the 50s for each of its stars, Maureen O’Hara and Jeff Chandler. Set in make-believe North Africa of olden days, Bedouin sheikh Chandler and Tunisian princess O’Hara (tell me another one) are after a prized stallion, yet they—hold the pressed dates!— fall for each other. Bright Technicolor helps the 77 minutes of silliness go down, with Lon Chaney Jr., Buddy Baer, Richard Egan, Dewey Martin, Susan Cabot, Neville Brand, Royal Dano, Henry Brandon. Harmless old-fashioned lollygag was directed by Charles Lamont. It made $3,300,000.
#20 FLED—-is what you will have done after a few minutes of this derivative schlock starring Laurence Fishburne and Stephen Baldwin (spare us) as two convicts shackled together on the run. The Defiant Ones this ain’t, by a ripoff mile. With Will Patton, Robert Hooks, David Dukes and Salma Hayek. Junk from start to finish. Directed by Kevin Hooks, using 98 minutes, staining the record of 1996.
#21 FLESH + BLOOD—-equals ugliness from director Paul Verhoeven, set in Italy of 1501, with mercenaries, prostitutes and the plague making for a queasy night at the movies. Rutger Hauer, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Burlinson, Jack Thompson, Ronald Lacey, Susan Tyrell, Bruno Kirby and Brion James play the dirty,dangerous and diseased. Due to its sex & gore it’s now a cult favorite, which figures since we appear to be headed into another medieval period. Yuck, and 126 minutes of it. From 1985.
#22 FLESH GORDON—-nudie-decorated spoof of Flash Gordon generated a few cheap laughs back in 1974, but you’d have to be pretty wasted to spend any time with it. With Jason Williams, Suzanne Fields, John Hoyt and Candy Samples. Directed by Michael Benveniste and Howard Ziehm, it does its thing for 78 minutes. Are you this hard up?
#23 FLIGHT TO MARS—-early entry in the sci-fi space exploration cycle, shot in five days (and looks it), released in 1951, to panning then and since. Dullsville, with Marguerite Chapman, Cameron Mitchell, Arthur Franz, John Litel and Morris Ankrum. It flies for 72 minutes under the masterful direction of Lesley Selander. Only if you’re keen on notching all the oldies from the genre, but you’d be much better off with Rocketship XM.
#24 A FORCE OF ONE—-“He hears the silence. He see’s the darkness. He’s the only one who can stop the killing. ” It’s with dismay that I realize I’ve seen eight Chuck Norris movies. One, Lone Wolf McQuade, gets a passing grade (not for his acting, be clear), but this turkey joins the others on the flunk-it file. Directed by Paul Aaron, in 1979, gouging for 90 minutes. It earned $15,300,000. With Jennifer O’Neill, Clu Gulager, Ron O’Neal and Pepe Serna. Whack! Bonk! Pow! Plop.
#25 FORCE 10 FROM NAVARONE —you couldn’t do a better job of making the 1961 epic The Guns Of Navarone look good than this 1978 spinoff, which also shows that it’s possible to forget a movie before you’ve finished watching it.
This time it’s Yugoslavia instead of Greece and a dam instead of cannons. Another team of mixed personalities (with little actual personality) are given the impossible task that will shorten the war (say under breath: “but–at what cost”?). It costs you 117 minutes of your life if you decide to see whether the mission succeeds (guess); it cost producers $10,000,000 to corral the cast and ship ’em to Montenegro and Bosnia.
Reviewers dismissed, and it didn’t make enough to recoup expenses. Not surprising, given how slack it all is, the writing, direction and acting tired. Guy Hamilton had long since lost the directorial mojo he’d once brought to Goldfinger: this is more like the dulled creak he dealt to Battle Of Britain. Robert Shaw looks contemptuous, Harrison Ford was still in his wooden period, Edward Fox tries hardest, Carl Weathers overplays, Franco Nero adds little, Barbara Bach offers a nude scene, Richard Kiel is brutish. It has action and effects but they don’t ignite into excitement. A dud. With Alan Badel.
#26 FRANKENSTEIN 1970—-ten Presidents later (and counting) and I can still recall how ripped off I felt when I fidgeted through this 1958 turd, which, since it starred Boris Karloff I naively assumed—as a Eisenhower-raised boy-next-door— might mean something. Poor Boris was just in need of rent money after all. Directed by Howard W. Koch, lasting 73 minutes, it was filmed in eight days with a budget of $100,000, proof you get what you pay for. Two bright notes: (1)the sound effects used to illustrate the dumping of body parts were deemed too grisly, so a toilet flushing was substituted, no doubt to audience approval. (2) co-stars Don Barry and Charlotte Austin were invited to a radio talk show to plug the film. They got hammered beforehand and spent the interview running down the movie.
#27 FRANKIE AND JOHNNY (1966)—one of Elvis Presley’s worst, and a money-loser to boot. Costing $4,500,000, it clawed $6,000,000, coming in 48th for the year. Damn, El, tell Col. Parker to beat it! Teaming with Donna Douglas (taking a break from ‘Elly May’) didn’t help, nor did backup from Harry Morgan, Sue Ane Langdon, Nancy Kovack, Robert Strauss, Anthony Eisley and Joyce Jameson. Directed by Frederick De Cordova. Lasts 85 charmless minutes. Presley looks glazed.
# 28 & 29 FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART 2 and PART III—-I’ll make note of the original kill-swill on another post, and do now note that I managed to avoid further sequels, but during service at a Tower Records Video Store I got my dose of these two majestic offerings. The second installment, directed by Steve Miner in 1981, ran 77 minutes, cost $1,250,000 (for blood, I guess, not talent) and made $22,000,000 (go team USA!); the third leg used up $2,300,000 (more blood) and grossed (the right word) $37,000,000 (let’s talk stoopid). It ran 95 minutes (more plot?), was also steered by Mr. Miner and came out in 1982. Oh, it was in 3-D. Awesome! Sex & sadism mixture does not speak well of society.
#30 FROM THE HIP—-must be how they wrote, directed and shot this courtroom dramedy that socked more holes in the foundering career of Judd Nelson. It came out in 1987, hobbles for 111 minutes and was directed by Bob Clark. Now, Bob could claim the great A Christmas Story, but he also had to take ownership of Porky’s and its sequel, plus Rhinestone andTurk 182—basically a whole lot of junk except for that one (marvelous) holiday classic. This turkey fits with his oeuvre. With Elizabeth Perkins, John Hurt, Darren McGavin. A flop with critics and normals. Smug.
#31 FRONTIER UPRISING—-cheapjack 1961 bottom-bill western wastes the likable Jim Davis and pro supporting players Nestor Paiva and Addison Richards. Sans merit, it claims direction by Edward L. Cahn and stays around for a scant 68 minutes… whew….