I’ve been terrible with my reviewing, but in that time I’ve been feverishly working on creating my top 20 best and worst films I reviewed this year. The criteria for the films that made this list are as follows: I had to have watched and reviewed them for this blog; they had to have gotten a C, D, or an F on their initial review; and I had to have felt that out of all the films I reviewed they were by far the bottom of the barrel in terms of time wasted. They’re ranked from the worst rating to the least worst rating (F-C). Clickable titles will lead you to my original reviews. I’ll post my 20 Best tomorrow. What were some of the worst films I endured watching as part of this blog? Any ones I should have included?
20. It’s Alive
It’s Alive just scraped the top 20, garnering a C- in my initial review. The movie is a cheap 1970s allegory on abortion, but in being told from the father’s perspective you’d expect the script to explain his actions. Instead, said parent goes on a murderous rampage to kill his own son for reasons unknown. Sure, the baby is a monster, but by the end the father changes to wanting to protect his kid; again, for reasons unknown. There were just too many questions presented that an exploitation film of its grade should not be covering.
It might be sacrilege to say this, but I consider An American in Paris to be highly overrated (and I do know classic films fans who secretly agree with me). My original review gave it a D+. The ending ballet is beautiful, but the story just becomes mired in the scenery of Paris, and combined with the dancing, the plot lacks focus.
18. Countess Dracula
Countess Dracula is another D+ film, and since I reviewed it so long ago I remember very little about it. Images of star Ingrid Pitt naked just swirl in my head. I do remember her wanting to be young, and being a vampire. That actually seems to be the entirety of the film itself: it’s about a naked vampire who wants to be young. I’m not sure that’s a premise worthy of a 90 minute movie.
My review of Female was written as part of my series spotlighting the Forbidden Hollywood collection, and it’s not the only film from that series to make this list, although this got a D+ upon review. Female tells the story of a businesswoman who can’t seem to make a man sleep with her. Of course, throughout the course of the story she finds her femininity (because she is, after all, FEMALE), and gives up everything to bear children and live in domesticity. Pre-Codes are frustrating to modern audiences, but this film annoyed me to no end. It presents an all or nothing attitude about women in the workplace, and by having the Ruth Chatterton character have a female-centric emotional outburst during a board meeting gives women the message that we’re obviously controlled by our hormones….dammit.
Alice, Sweet Alice is a frustrating experience because it sets up roads for the plot to follow, and then never goes down any of them. Is the film about the dangers of religion? No, apparently it’s about the sins of the parents being placed upon the children. So, because the mom didn’t marry the right man her child has to be killed and stuffed into a bench during her First Communion? Because that makes a heap of sense. Or maybe it’s about duality? I mean the mother and sister look the same, and Alice herself has a two-headed doll. Nope, that’s never discussed. In the end, I’m not sure what it was about, but the continuous comparisons to Don’t Look Now just made me want to watch that film instead of this one. I rated this with a D+, but the more I discuss it the more irritated I become.
Ah yes, the first film in my Biopic Theater series enters into the Top 20. Adding any of these movies might seem moot, but they really are some of the worst out there. Tommy Lee Jones looks like he’s pulling teeth in the role of Howard Hughes. The plot waffles between featuring Hughes the businessman, or Hughes the Hollywood playboy which draws out the runtime to two interminable hours. It’s not the worst entry in Biopic Theater, but it’s a far cry from good. It originally received a grade of D from me.
I seem to keep bringing up Beach Blanket Bingo within the last few days; it was just included in my most read articles list. The film got a D from me originally, and despite reviewing it in June I still can’t get the theme song out of my head (“Beach Blanket, BINNNGO”). I said a lot about this movie in the above mentioned article, so I won’t rehash everything, but suffice it to say that my thoughts haven’t changed.
13. Dr. Coppelius
Dr. Coppelius remains one of the weirder films I’ve reviewed in my entire blogging history. The movie is simply a stage presentation of Coppelia with crazy narrative choices like having the mad doctor shoot off fireworks for no reason. Underneath it all, the movie is simply boring with little momentum or anything to hold the audience’s attention. It got a D from me upon review, but I barely remember watching it, let alone reviewing it.
12. A Free Soul
A Free Soul was another entry in my review of the Forbidden Hollywood collection, and while getting a D, I actually found it to be far worse than Female. The issue is how damn confusing the plot is. I haven’t forgotten the opening scene featuring a father/daughter duo who are set-up like a couple. They kiss on the mouth people! I don’t know about you, but I’d be hesitant to ask my father for my “undies,” but Norma Shearer’s character doesn’t bat an eye. The plot is a goulash of different things, with characters changing their very personalities to suit the narrative. A simple line of dialogue makes an otherwise good character the embodiment of Satan by the end. It ultimately culminates with Shearer’s character’s father (Lionel Barrymore) declaring his failings as a father as part of his closing argument in a murder trial. Um, Lionel…you know you’re not on trial for being a crappy parent, right? If I was his client, I’d be suing him for false representation!
11. Let’s Make Love
Poor Marilyn makes her first of two appearances on this list, and this is the one where I actually fault her, as well as the film itself. Let’s Make Love was Marilyn’s last film, and her only appearance in the 1960s. If anything this implies the difficulties Marilyn might have faced entering into a decade that would bring rapid changes to the film industry, and the country. Marilyn seems lost within the narrative, and the plot features an uncharismatic leading man in Yves Montand. I remember little about Let’s Make Love, aside from not liking it, outside of Marilyn’s bored performance. It only got a D from me.
Upon review, The Polar Express snagged a D grade, and much like Beach Blanket Bingo this movie already got a lot of words hurled at it in my Most-Read article. I’ll just reiterate the following: the hot cocoa song is stupid, and the characters look like wax statues.
The last of the group to get a D grade is this 1974 made-for-television movie about Marilyn Monroe. Yes, this is another entry from Biopic Theater. The Sex Symbol is a terrible movie “inspired” by Marilyn Monroe. Our character here is celebrity Kelly Williams (Connie Stevens), which is good because Stevens looks as much like Monroe as I do. The script itself is a pure pity party about the problems of stardom that has little to do with Monroe’s life. Perhaps that’s why the opening credits include photos of other celebrities? All I know is The Sex Symbol is beyond boring, and is a repetitive series of lines that involve Stevens yelling at anyone she know that they’re “not there for her.”
Gable and Lombard is the first D- film and it’s only at number eight! The love story between these two icons of the golden age is presented as a dull screwball comedy, because of course they lived the same lives they did on film! Jill Clayburgh presents a crass and shrill Lombard that you want to harm even before her fatal plane flight, while you can physically see James Brolin trying to hold it together as Gable. It’s a mess of a movie that only presents these two as nitwits, and not the enduring lovers they really were.
I maintain that giving this a D- was kind! Yep, this is one of those films where I’ve gotten angrier about it as time has past. First off, I was cruelly duped into believing this was a Christmas film like, I don’t know, the play is meant to be! Instead, it’s set in July. Annie is a two-hour snooze-fest where everything requires a song and dance, right down to going to the movies. I can sing songs about every little thing in my life, but it doesn’t mean people want to hear them! We also have bizarre jazz influenced songs like the atrocious “We’ve Got Annie,” which is still one of the worst songs I’ve heard in a film. I got a few responses saying I judged this too harshly, and I chose to ignore them.
This film was painful to watch, only getting a D-, but I think it’s one of my funniest reviews. I had a lot of fun writing this and just noticing the bad 1990s trope of “more is more.” There’s little reason to have CGI or, despite being rated R, horrific deaths with little gore, but I guess that was the mentality of the 1990s. Keep in mind, this film was directed by John Carpenter whose other film, In the Mouth of Madness, was a dishonorable mention that came out around the same time. The remake of Village of the Damned is awful, but it’s fun to watch with friends and make fun of.
Another D- movie that was really fun to write. The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a cheap, Unsolved Mysteries-esque true story that cheapens all the deaths with laughter at the characters. The acting to the directing, is lowbrow and cheesy leaving you little room to take anything seriously. I do commend this review for giving me one of the best lines I’ve written: “One murder even has the killer stabbing a woman with her own trombone.” That says it all!
4. Liz & Dick
Liz & Dick put the final nail in Lindsay Lohan’s career. My only regret is that she had to take the late, great Elizabeth Taylor down with her. Liz & Dick is a Lifetime movie, so I shouldn’t have expected much, but I expected a modicum of research into the characters. Instead, we have a Richard Burton who talks ONLY in Shakespearean monologue, and the immortal lines of Lohan yelling “I’m so bored!” I’d like to think that whenever Lohan wins something (a pie eating contest at this point) that they’ll play that clip as a highlight of her “work.”
I was frustrated with director Ti West’s follow-up to House of the Devil to say the least. The Innkeepers is a long movie with the crawling pace of a snail that’s taken an Ambien. The plot is supposed to involve ghosts, but I was pretty sure they’d found the actors so boring that they’d decided moving on to the Great Beyond was a better option. Ultimately, I found myself wanting to take a nap at a hotel, far away from this movie. The first film rated F in the top three.
2. Bus Stop
I don’t blame Marilyn for Bus Stop being on this list. It’s the script and lead actor Don Murray that forced me to rank this so highly (it got a flat F). Bus Stop is a chore to sit through, mostly because Murray screams Monroe’s character’s name, Cherie, for the entire…run…time. To this day, the name “Cherry” makes me want to slam my fist through a wall. By making Monroe’s character end the film with discovering her love for Murray’s character Bo, the film’s message becomes “annoy a girl to the point of insanity…and she’ll most definitely return your affections!”
Goodbye Norma Jean isn’t just the worst movie I saw in 2012. I’d go so far as to call it the worst film I’ve seen, period! This is a scummy, exploitative, lie about Monroe’s life that feels happy watching her be punished for some invisible misdeed. Do you know any film fans that would love to see Marilyn Monroe be raped consecutively? If so, this is the movie for them! I almost abandoned Biopic Theater after this because it was just such a horrific experience. To this day, it’s the only film to score an F-, and I hope I never see another film rank so low.
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.