With the sweet comes the sour and after recounting the 20 Best Movies I Reviewed for 2013, it’s time to explore the worst. All of these movies between .5-1.5 Ronnies although I did bump up or down certain movies from their original ratings if they stuck with me by year’s end. As always clickable titles will transport you to my original reviews. Feel free to defend a movie or bring up one I should have put on here.
20. Farmer Takes a Wife – 1.5 Ronnies
Actress Jane Withers is a treat to watch on-screen and I was fortunate to devote four days in 2013 to reviewing her films 20th Century Fox released as part of their Cinema Archives series. Unfortunately, The Farmer Takes a Wife not only suffers from an atrocious transfer but the script is filled with repetitious dialogue. Janet Gaynor repeats the same five words and was insufferably annoying, Henry Fonda came off as drugged out or bored depending on your interpretation, and Withers is only present for a few seconds. The child star’s done better work, as has Fonda and I recommend watching any other movie they’re in.
19. Immortal Sergeant – 1.5 Ronnies
Henry Fonda had three movies place on my Best of 2013, and he’s 3-3 here. It’s well documented that Fonda hated making this movie and was roped into it in order to do something else. Fonda gives the movie his all, but it’s a banal war story about masculinity and returning to the girl back home, played asexually by Maureen O’Hara (who even knew that was possible!). All the basic tropes are there with none of the stakes or momentum. You never root for the character which is the worst offense a war movie can commit. It’s a neutered tale and there’s far better in the genre, several starring Fonda himself, worth checking out.
18. Daisy Kenyon – 1.5 Ronnies
Okay, Henry, time to get your last movie out of the way and start 2014 fresh. Daisy Kenyon has the ingredients for a fantastic movie: the trio of Joan Crawford, Dana Andrews, and Fonda is enough to elevate any other movie. Daisy Kenyon is a cookie-cutter melodrama hoping to cash in on the success of Crawford in Mildred Pierce. Fonda is an adorable stalker while Dana Andrews is a cheating jerk, but one of them has to win the girl at the end, right? I wasn’t buying it and audiences shouldn’t either.
17. Golden Earrings – 1.5 Ronnies
The final movie in my Marlene Dietrich tribute was a mildly offensive stinker about accepting differences which weren’t different enough to begin with. Another patriotic war movie about gypsies and Nazis, Golden Earrings is a brownfaced soaked disaster that’s far too peppy about gypsies considering how many were slaughtered during the Holocaust.
16. Evelyn Prentice – 1.5 Ronnies
A mind-boggling moral treatise on the problems caused when women are left to their own devices, Evelyn Prentice lacks the heart, humor, or logic of past pairings between Myrna Loy and William Powell. The hackneyed plot involves a convoluted series of events which are never properly explained. Is there adultery? Maybe. Is there murder? Definitely. Why are Powell’s unexplained actions allowed but Loy’s equally unexplained actions condemned? Because she’s a woman. I’m not swallowing that bilge.
15. The Affairs of Annabel – 1.5 Ronnies
An early Lucille Ball comedy lacking any laughs. The Affairs of Annabel has the makings of a television show and not a movie with its episodic string of events all working under the thin premise of making Annabel (Ball) a star. Even worse is Ball is the co-star in this movie, playing opposite the hammy Jack Oakie. Thankfully, Ball found her niche and created a far more memorable string of characters than this movie did.
14. Let’s Scare Jessica to Death – 1.5 Ronnies
Let’s Scare Jessica to Death has a few good ideas here and there, mostly revolving around female friendships and 1970s gender dynamics. What it lacks is discernible scares. The movie is just too thin on plot and dated in its treatment of relationships to compel the audience to follow along. It isn’t the worst horror movie out there, but lacking in anything to make it memorable.
13. Treasure Planet – 1.5 Ronnies
The nadir of Disney’s descent into CGI hell is Treasure Planet, and it may not be the worst of Disney’s ouevre on this list but it’s certainly a failed literary adaptation for a studio which started out adapting classics. The early 2000s found the studio floundering to be at the forefront of technology within their movies, and the overabundance of CGI ended up smothering narrative. Treasure Planet fails to set-up the futuristic setpieces and would rather be cool with its ersatz hard-rock score and flashy visuals. The Treasure Island story has been done to death, setting it in space failed to inspire anything new.
12. Dinosaur – 1.5 Ronnies
Yep, Disney put out an even bigger stinker worthy of this list! Dinosaur was the studios first foray into CGI and if you love waxy looking dinosaurs on top of beautiful, photo realistic backgrounds, this is the movie for you. A heavy-handed attempt to explore social Darwinism, American history, and Christianity rolled up within an hour and a half story for children blew up in the studios face resulting in a near $200 million dollar failure at the time of release. When I saw the preview for Walking With Dinosaurs 3D last week I immediately had to say “They finally made that Dinosaur sequel, huh?”
11. Saturday Night Fever – 1.5 Ronnies
This review received several comments both agreeing and disagreeing with my take on the movie. I maintain I fail to root or care at all for Tony Manero (John Travolta) and his entire narrative just felt like the story of a misogynist who makes good at the end by doing absolutely nothing. Maybe my mind just isn’t hardwired to the mentality of the time or place because I didn’t live during that era but I never lived in the 1940s and I realize the changes in gender dynamics there. Either way, reviewing Saturday Night Fever gave me a lot of food for thought, and some fun discussions in the comments.
10. The Devil Is a Woman – 1 Ronnie
The first one-Ronnie rated movie is so unmemorable I had to reread my review to suss out what the plot was. This Josef von Sternberg film was neutered by the Production Code and its downfall is the result. A movie taking place at Carnivale and starring Marlene Dietrich with that title should be spicier and sexier than it ends up being.
9. The Devil Bat – 1 Ronnie
A ridiculously inept sci-fi/horror tale starring one-note Bela Lugosi. It’s in the vein of “so bad it’s good” but the bad far outweighs the good and results in a movie where people get slapped in the face with a rubber bat. Lugosi and his devil bat would definitely make a great episode of Rifftrax or Svengoolie.
8. Carol Lynley’s Harlow – 1 Ronnie
One of two Jean Harlow films I reviewed as part of Biopic Theater and each fails in its own special way. Carol Lynley is a classier Harlow than the next biopic, but the movie plays like a television production filmed in someone’s basement, “enhanced” by filming in something called Electronvision which was supposed to strengthen the film grain for reasons unknown. It’s inaccurate and doesn’t capture who Jean Harlow truly was, it just looks cheap.
7. The George Raft Story – 1 Ronnie
Another crappy biopic telling the story of actor George Raft (played boringly by Ray Danton). Apparently, Raft was so adept at playing a mobster because he really was one, and the movie can’t decide whether it wants to be a middling gangster noir or a biography of Raft’s life. In the end, it’s low-rent version of both genres. If you didn’t know about Raft before, you definitely won’t know about him after.
6. Gidget Goes Hawaiian – 1 Ronnie
The first Gidget ended up making my Best of the Year list last year, and after I received the box-set for Christmas I found Gidget Goes to Rome a fun semi-return to form. Unfortunately, Gidget Goes Hawaiian is a sequel undoing all that Francie Lawrence (originally played by Sandra Dee and played by Deborah Walley in this) stood for. The movie’s premise involves tired themes of slut-shaming and female divisions with Gidget turning into an obsessed boy chaser who never surfs one wave in the movie! Gidget became a cheesy series later on, but after the risque first movie, this turned the franchise into a bastard Frankie and Annette movie.
5. Carrol Baker’s Harlow – 1 Ronnie
This pulpy take on Jean Harlow’s life is just as grimy and sleazy as Goodbye, Norma Jean although never pushing the envelope into outright disgusting. Carroll Baker makes her first of two appearances in the top five and I can’t understand why she never found the right roles. She plays Harlow with a screech and a swagger akin to Marilyn Monroe more than anything. Considering her other appearance in this list, at least I didn’t start screaming during viewing.
4. A Summer Place – 1 Ronnie
Oh, Sandra Dee! A Summer Place left me uncomfortable because it swaps frankness for creepiness. Sandra Dee talking about her father’s sex life to her father? There’s no way to not come off as disturbing. The movie wants desperately to imitate a Douglas Sirk melodrama but comes off as an overly long After School Special.
3. Home on the Range – 1 Ronnie
The movie allegedly killed hand-drawn animation is fairly terrible. Weirdly adult jokes about women’s weight litter this musical “comedy” about a trio of cows attempting to save their farm. The songs are unremarkable, and the humor is sophomoric and moronic. I originally rated it a 1.5 Ronnie but downgraded it to one because it remains the worst Disney animated movie I’ve seen.
2. The House of Seven Corpses – .5 Ronnie
A horror movie where absolutely nothing happens! Technically, this received the lowest rating this year, but it didn’t anger me as much as my number one. Instead, The House of Seven Corpses is about a house where they talk about seven corpses but don’t bother to show one! If you’ve ever dreamed of John Ireland talking about orgasms it’s the movie for you. If you threw up in your mouth a bit, you should stay away.
1. The Carpetbaggers – .5 Ronnie
Ugh, what a sensationalist piece of crap. The Carpetbaggers is 150 minutes of watching a total jerk, incompetently played by George Peppard, throw money around and assault women because he loves them. A stew of characters of various acting talents populate this prestige picture with enough sap and grease to leave you sick to your stomach. If the movie’s about Hollywood expect it to be sleazy but this one takes the cake. This originally received one Ronnie at the time, but I downgraded it to .5 because I wanted to light it on fire by the end.
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.