The Gloriously Wonderful Bad List (The GWBL)

This list is my baby. I have a very soft spot for truly atrocious movies. You have to understand that these are not just bad movies, these are so amazingly awful that you just can’t take your eyes off them. Let me begin this by saying straight off the bat that this list is completely subjective. What is one person’s pudding is another person’s offal, so to speak. I have met many people who loved (in the proper way) some of the movies on this list, as I have also met others who can’t see or understand my fascination with these films. To each his (or her) own. I offer this list as an opening to my brain, enter at your own risk :-)

Let’s be clear here, I am not dissing these films, the films on this list I actually love because of their awfulness. To make this list, a film can’t just be bad (the list would go on forever) it has to be a monumental train wreck! It has to be so bad that it transcends bad and becomes a new creature all together. A creature so wonderful and beautiful in its awful glory that you cannot take your eyes from the screen and you can’t shake the smile from your lips. All of the films on the list are films that I can watch time and time again and they always cheer me up because they are so glorious in their ineptitude. We are not talking about straight B movies here (there are some) but A movies that had plans and high hopes of being the next masterpiece but failed miserably. Simply being a bad movie just won’t cut it – All of the films on this list are measured to the kings of my list – Lifeforce, Superman 4, Masters of the Universe and Invaders from Mars! (funnily enough all produced by the same people!). These are all films that I can watch over and over again and just laugh myself stupid.

To become a member of this list is difficult, as mentioned above, a film has to be truly awful but at the same time incredibly watchable! It has to pass through that strange 8th dimension of awful and come out the other side a mini masterpiece. These films almost deserve to have their own genre created for them. It is important to note that I am not a huge fan of films that are made just to be bad (eg. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, anything by Ed Wood, Robot Monster etc.), I find them stupid. For me, the term “it is so bad it’s funny” only works if the film was played dead straight to start with.

On slow news weeks we will try and slip tributes to these and other bad films of the world into the podcast. We will offer analysis as to why these films made the list. If you haven’t seen any of these films, go and rent them now, do not hesitate, just go.

One last note before we get to the list. If you want to email suggestions for this list, that is fine, but be warned, this list is MY list of bad films and I have to think the film is worthy. If I don’t agree with you, don’t be offended just as I won’t be offended by your choices. The list is for fun and completely subjective. That in mind, do not submit every bad movie you have ever seen, that just wastes time and don’t be predictable (I have read “The Golden Turkey Awards” and “The 50 Worst Films Of All Time” and don’t agree with all of the choices). But here is a thought, start your own list and send it in, I’d love to see what everyone’s “Gloriously Wonderful Bad List” is and we might even read it on the show. Come on, you know you all have one :-)

Now, on to the glorious goodness …

Lifeforce Poster

Lifeforce (1985)

Directed by Tobe Hooper
Produced by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus
Written by Dan O’Bannon and Don Jakoby based on the novel “The Space Vampires” by Colin Wilson
Starring Steve Railsback, Peter Firth, Frank Finlay, Mathilda May, Patrick Stewart, Michael Gothard, Nicholas Bell, Aubrey Morris

This is the Big Daddy of this list. Based on a book called “The Space Vampires” (I kid you not!), screenwriters Dan O’Bannon (“Alien”) and Don Jakoby (“Blue Thunder”) didn’t have much of a starting point. The film is a mishmash of ideas that starts with the space shuttle Churchill on a space mission to the tail of Halley’s Comet (very topical at the time) which discovers a naked Mathilda May (and two naked dudes that we don’t really care about).

On the Churchill’s return to earth we discover the horrible truth that the naked Mathilda May (and the two naked dudes that we don’t really care about) is really a space vampire who sucks life force. The naked Mathilda May (and the two naked dudes that we don’t really care about) escapes and turns everyone in London into Zombies!

Throughout all this nonsense we have Steve Railsback emoting, Peter Firth wondering what he is doing in this mess and Frank Finlay putting on his best Van Helsing impersonation. Did I mention that Mathilda May is naked through most of the movie? Tobe Hooper was one of the wonder kid directors of the 70s and early 80s after directing the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, “Funhouse” and “Poltergeist”. How he became the director of this film (and the next on the list) is a mystery.

Invaders from Mars Poster

Invaders from Mars (1986)

Directed by Tobe Hooper
Produced by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus
Written by Dan O’Bannon and Don Jakoby based on the 1953 film of the same name
Starring Karen Black, Hunter Carson, Timothy Bottoms, Laraine Newman, Bud Cort, James Karen and Louise Fletcher

The same team that brought you Lifeforce were so good at their jobs that the producing team of Golan and Globus thought it would be a good idea to reunite them for this Thanksgiving dinner. I remember reading a review in the newspaper for this film when it was released theatrically stating that if this failed it would be the final nail in Tobe Hooper’s directorial career. I went straight out to see it that night. Pass me the hammer!

A remake of 50s Scifi nostalgia becomes 80s Scifi nonsense: the story of a boy who believes that aliens have landed in his small American town and have started to take over the people (a la Invasion of the Body Snatchers).

This concept and story worked in the 50s (the original film didn’t work very well, but that is a story for another time) as it was a time of paranoia in the States with the McCarthy witch hunts going on. In the 80’s version, no attempt has been made to make it relevant for the times, so the whole film just feels a little silly (no strike that, a LOT silly). This film would have benefited from a naked Mathilda May (and maybe even the two naked dudes that we don’t really care about)!

However, all that said, it is so much fun watching Louise Fletcher’s Oscar winning career go down the drain, and Karen Black trying to be the soft sympathetic character for the boy to relate to when she looks like an insane cross-eyed witch. And those aliens! What a completely hilarious group of latex puppets they are. Special effects by the team that brought us Spider-Man (John Dykstra) and The Terminator (Stan Winston)!

Superman IV - The Quest for Peace Poster

Superman IV : The Quest for Peace (1987)

Directed by Sidney J. Furie
Produced by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus
Written by Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal from a story by Christopher Reeve, Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal
Starring Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Margot Kidder, Mariel Hemingway, Jon Cryer, Jackie Cooper, Marc McClure, Sam Wanamaker and Mark Pillow as Nuclear Man!

What do you do if you are the producer of a very successful franchise that is loved by millions of adoring fans? Why you sell the franchise to Golan and Globus and watch them kill it first time out of the gate! Come back Alexander Salkind, we forgive you for Superman 3 and Supergirl! Well, maybe not Supergirl.

Superman is back in this woeful tale about Superman trying to rid the world of Nuclear Weapons while Lex Luthor is creating the perfect enemy, Nuclear Man, and it was concocted by the man of steel himself. That’s right, Christopher Reeve wrote the original story that it’s based on. The only way he would agree to star in the film was to have more creative input. Put down the pen, Chris, and put on the tights. Sidney J. Furie (Iron Eagle, Iron Eagle 2, The Entity) directs with the grace of a blunt instrument, unable to wring a single decent performance out of his cast – including Gene Hackman, no mean feat. On the DVD audio commentary it is claimed that the budget was slashed by half and they couldn’t finish the effects the way they wanted them… we would have forgiven bad effects if the drama and action kept us excited. All this film achieves in its audience is an uncontrollable urge to giggle. I think the audio commentary should just have been one long apology to the fans.

Masters of the Universe Poster

Masters of the Universe (1987)

Directed by Gary Goddard
Produced by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus
Written by David Odell based on the line of toys by Mattel
Starring Dolph Lundgren, Frank Langella, Meg Foster, Billy Barty, Courteney Cox, Robert Duncan McNeill, Jon Cypher, Chelsea Field, James Tolkan

Another of Golan and Globus’ later films when the crap had hit the fan and they were running out of money. What do you do when you are running out of money? Why you make bigger budget films!

Gary Goddard (who is a friend of X-Men director Bryan Singer) had never directed a major film before and it shows! On the DVD commentary he talks non-stop about how the film wasn’t how he wanted it to be. A good confident director at work.

Dolph Lundgren stars as He-Man (giggle) who joins up with Teela and her father, Man-of-War (snort giggle), to help fight against Skeletor (heehee) and his hench people Evil-Lyn (hahaha), Blade and Beastman (snort, giggle, hahahahaha) who are trying to take over Eter…. (breaks down laughing uncontrollably). I’m sorry, I can’t! What may have worked as a toy line and a cartoon series on Saturday mornings does not work as a feature film.

It is a silly affair that is only saved by the wonderfully hammy performance of Frank Langella as Skeletor (giggle) and an icy cold performance by the always creepy eyed Meg Foster as Evil-Lyn (snort giggle). Richard Edlund (Ghostbusters, The Empire Strikes Back) turns in surprisingly good special effects. This film was also a victim of Golan and Globus cost cutting and the result here is that the film has no real ending, just Skeletor (giggle) and He-Man (snort giggle) having a sword fight in the dark. I guess the set had to be pulled down early. Will the last crew member out please turn off the lights … ooops, sorry, didn’t know you were still shooting.

Howard the Duck Poster

Howard the Duck (1986)

Directed by Willard Huyck
Produced by Gloria Katz
Executive Produced by George Lucas (he can’t escape being mentioned)
Written by Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz based on the comic by Steve Gerber
Starring Lea Thompson, Jeffrey Jones, Tim Robbins and Ed Gale/Chip Zien/Tim Rose/Steve Sleap/Peter Baird/Mary Wells/Lisa Sturz/Jordan Prentice as Howard T. Duck

George Lucas claims he is a huge fan of the comic. I would hate to see him make something he hated!

You know the story: alien duck from another dimension/planet lands on Earth and has to do battle with a Dark Overlord while almost being seduced by Lea Thompson. What’s a duck supposed to do?

George Lucas spent a great deal of money to make this film. Why? If you don’t intend to stick to the source material, why make it in the first place? Howard of the comics is a rough, cigar chomping cab driver (this was no P.C. comic for kids). The film however is confused. On one hand it has been homogenized down to a very young market but then has really adult concepts that kids just wouldn’t get, like Howard working at a sleazy massage/sex club, Howard reads PlayDuck magazine (complete with nude ducks with exposed nipples), Howard has a duck sized condom in his wallet and to top it all off, Beverly (Lea Thompson) and Howard have a very awkward moment when she tries to seduce him dressed in panties and a very tiny singlet. This is supposed to be funny but just makes you kinda cringe at the bestiality implications.

A very young Tim Robbins hams it up and fails miserably, a very young Lea Thompson proved that she was incredibly hot in those days but she couldn’t act. The real saving grace is Jeffrey Jones as the Dark Overlord in human form; he alone is worth the price of admission.

The Punisher Poster

The Punisher (1989)

Directed by Mark Goldblatt
Produced by Robert Mark Kamen
Written by Boaz Yakin based on the Marvel Comics Character
Starring Dolph Lundgren, Louis Gossett Jr., Jeroen Krabbe, Kim Miyori, Barry Otto, Nancy Everhard, Brian Rooney

The Dolph Lundgren version …. ’nuff said! Not quite.

When Marvel optioned this to New World Pictures they should have had their hands slapped. Luckily for us, Marvel seems to have come to their senses and the new offerings from Marvel Productions are pretty good (Iron Man, X-Men, Spider-Man etc.). But before all the hype that is the new Marvel Productions there was this little turd!

Dolph Lundgren playing Frank Castle AKA The Punisher. He can’t act or talk! (And by the look of the bad dark makeup on his face, he can’t grow stubble either.) From the cheeseball, tacky opening (“Vertigo” inspired) credits, you know you are in for something special. This film bears no resemblance to the comic, a good thing I guess, because it has allowed them to go and remake it … no wait, the remake wasn’t very good either, so Marvel is now making “The Punisher: War Zone”, a kind of sequel re-imagining like they did with “The incredible Hulk”. If this fails, I really think it’s three strikes and you’re out for The Punisher on the big Screen.

Clash of the Titans Poster

Clash of the Titans (1981)

Directed by Desmond Davis
Produced by Ray Harryhausen and Charles H. Schneer
Written by Beverley Cross
Starring Sir Laurence Olivier, Claire Bloom, Dame Maggie Smith, Ursula Andress, Jack Gwillim, Susan Fleetwood, Harry Hamlin, Judi Bowker, Burgess Meredith, Sian Phillips, Neil McCarthy

Aging stars, soggy stop motion effects, a mechanical owl and a hero with no charisma all go to making this a mini classic!

Ray Harryhausen, the genius of stop motion who brought life to Jason and the Argonaughts, Earth vs. The Flying Saucers and the Sinbad movies proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the old ways are not the better ways with this mega budget fantasy epic.

How they managed to convince this cast to do this film is beyond me. They may all have just been a little senile and thought it was still the 1960s when a film like this was high tech.

Newcomer Harry Hamlin is dreadful as Perseus (and in his career he has never really improved) and Burgess Meredith basically does the same thing he did in Rocky but in a toga. “Perseus, you’re a bum! You’ll always be a bum!” Okay, not quite.

Clash of the Titans is an embarrassing mess from start to finish – god, I love this film! Now, there is no naked Mathilda May (or the two naked dudes that we don’t really care about), but there is briefly a naked Judi Bowker (and no naked dudes) and in a PG rated movie what more could we ask for?!

The Jazz Singer Poster

The Jazz Singer (1980)

Directed by Richard Fleischer
Produced by Jerry Leider and Martin Wiviott
Written by Herbert Baker based on a play by Samson Raphaelson
Starring Neil Diamond, Sir Laurence Olivier, Lucie Arnaz, Catlin Adams, Ernie Hudson, James Karen, Brion James, Franklyn Ajaye

With Neil Diamond as a Jewish cantor boy who wants to be a rock star and Sir Laurence Olivier as his orthodox Rabbi father who disowns him, “I Hafffffff no son!”, Sir Larry proves once again (as in The Marathon Man and The Boys from Brazil) that you can play any part if you have a generic European accent.

Neil Diamond is bearable when he sings his little heart out but please don’t give him dialogue! Good lord, the man cannot act – don’t let him speak!

Let Sir Larry handle the acting, because as a Rabbi, I believed him more when he played a Nazi. The only redeeming thing about this film is its soundtrack. If you don’t like Neil Diamond’s music, you can scratch that last sentence.

The Patriot Poster

The Patriot (1998)

Directed by Dean Semler
Produced by Steven Seagal, Howard Baldwin, Victor Hwang, Julius R. Nasso, Nile Niami
Written by M. Sussman and John Kingswell based on the novel “The Last Canadian” by William Heine
Starring Steven Seagal, Gailard Sartain, L. Q. Jones, Silas Weir Mitchell, Camilla Belle, Dan Beene, Damon Collazo, Whitney Yellow Robe

This film officially doesn’t qualify for this list as Steven Seagal hadn’t been able to open a film for several years, and this film basically went straight to video, but it is so much fun I had to include it. Steven Seagal is an immunologist who just happens to know how to kick serious ass! Seagal has been in some very bad films but this is my favorite. From its improbable start to its absolutely unbelievable ending.

Seeing Steven Seagal spout medical jargon while he single handedly cures an epidemic virus outbreak and kicks ass is wonderful. Of course, it is some mystical Native American flower nonsense that is the eventual cure that he finds, thus giving us a moral to take home with us. Mr. Seagal was much better when he didn’t preach. Somewhere along the line he got very “enlightened” and now he just can’t stop telling us all about it. This could very well be the “Billy Jack” of the 1990s!

Dean Semler is one of the most gifted cinematographers in the world; why he felt he should try and direct films (he directed two, this and “Firestorm”, in the same year) is a mystery. Luckily for us, he went back to being a cinematographer after this.

And The Rest:

Rambo III (1988)

Jaws 3 (1983)

Supergirl (1984)

Raise the Titanic (1980)

King Kong (1976)

Over the Top (1987)

Cobra (1986)

Cyborg (1989)

The Delta Force (1986)

10,000 BC (2008)

The Final Word

This list is not complete, there are others and I will add them as time allows. There are also many films that almost make the list but because I want to keep the list to 10 or 15 titles, they just don’t quite make it. Some these would include The Death Wish Series, The Missing in Action Series and Superman 3.

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