Book Review “The Greatest Bad Movies of All Time”

BookCoverAuthor: Phil Hall
Paperback: 258 pages
Publisher: BearManor Media
Release date: July 4, 2013

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

Think you know what makes a bad movie? So did I until I read the latest from Film Threat scribe Phil Hall whose latest book, “The Greatest Bad Movies of All Time,” set me straight.

Hall has assembled an impressive list of 100 films that he isn’t very impressed with. Of course, the list contains some well known “bad” titles, like Ed Wood’s “Plan 9 From Outer Space” and the awful “Battlefield Earth.” But it’s not just bad directors making bad films that are taken to the woodshed here. The great John Huston, with fifteen Oscar nominations (and two wins) in his career, has placed two films on the list: “Beat the Devil” and “The Bible: In the Beginning.” Stanley Kubrick teamed up with Howard Sackler (creator of the Broadway show “The Great White Hope”) for the film “Fear and Desire.” It’s here as well. Other directors taken to task include George Cukor, Bob Rafelson and Michelangelo Antonioni. And, just so you don’t think Hall is picking on the early films of now renowned filmmakers, he also includes Clint Eastwoods’ Oscar winning “Mystic River,” calling the film “so incredibly off-kilter that it demands attention for its sheer awfulness.” Wow! I’m guessing that didn’t make Clint’s day.

Of course, “bad” is in the eyes of the beholder. There are actually a few films on the list that I enjoy watching when I catch them on cable, among them “Head,” starring the Monkees, “The Adventures of Ford Fairlaine” and the Neil Diamond version of “The Jazz Singer.” I know they’re not classic cinema fare, but something about seeing Sir Laurence Olivier weep and rip his clothes while Diamond intones, “Pop…pop,” in his deep voice makes films like this a guilty pleasure. I’m also sorry to see the Robert Altman- directed film “Health” on the list. Not because it’s a good movie but because a couple of friends and I staked out the hotel in St. Petersburg where it was filmed (the Don Cesar) in the hopes of meeting Lauren Bacall. How many teenagers in the 1970s even knew WHO Lauren Bacall was?

Like his Film Threat work, Hall packs his prose with humorous observations. One of my favorite comes from his review of “The Babe Ruth Story,” noting that though some of the Babe’s secrets were ignored “their absence was compensated by a surplus of jolly anachronisms, most notably with the presence of a beer advertisement on a billboard positioned in a stadium game that occurred during the Prohibition years.”

An enjoyable read from A (“Abbot and Costello Go to Mars” to Z (“Zabriskie Point), “The Greatest Bad Movies of All Time” is a must have for anyone that enjoys the movies…good or bad.

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