‘The Greatest Bad Movies of All Time’ collects the best of the worst

Film critic Phil Hall's latest book is "The Greatest Bad Movies of All Time." Credit: Provided
Film critic Phil Hall’s latest book is “The Greatest Bad Movies of All Time.”
Credit: Provided

Over the last several years, bad movies have made a comeback. Films like “The Room” and “Birdemic,” plus old discoveries like “Troll 2” have created a cottage industry around uniquely terrible films that hasn’t been this strong since the days of “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” With his new book, “The Greatest Bad Movies of All Time,” Film Threat critic Phil Hall, as per the title, chooses not to hang films he considers “anti-classics,” but celebrate them. These include not just terrible amateur productions, but lavish Hollywood bombs — and even established greats like Clint Eastwood’s “Mystic River.”

When did you become aware that movies could be bad?

I remember as a kid I went to see “Airport ‘75” in the theater. I was 9 years old and I remember, even back then, thinking, “There’s something wrong with this movie. This is not the way grown-ups are supposed to behave.”

Not long after that Michael and Harry Medved were releasing their run of books about bad cinema, like “The Golden Turkey Awards.”

I still have them. They’re all worn out by now. The Medveds can be a little catty and nasty in their writing. But they were the first ones to come out and say, “Yes, there are these ‘golden turkeys.’ And we love them.” Granted, they were making fun of them. I try not to do that. I try not to denigrate people’s work, and I don’t want to discourage people from seeing these films.

It’s a very subjective batch, and not all of the biggies are on here.

I didn’t just want to have all the big budget flops or the cheap horror films of the ‘50s. I wanted to show these wonderfully bad movies existed as far back as the silent era. They stretch through all genres. My favorite is the documentaries. I love the idea of nonfiction films that get their facts wrong.

And you include “The Room,” which is a trainwreck made by someone convinced it was a serious, mainstream drama.

That’s the beauty of it: Nobody actually was able to stop [filmmaker] Tommy Wiseau and say, “Tommy, you’re going in the wrong direction.” But he was working independently. A lot of the films in the book are studio releases, and there you’re going through committees and commissions and dealing with tens of hundreds of people in the creation. It’s almost impossible to imagine that some of these films got into release without anybody realizing they had a dud on their hands.

The scope of the film is wide enough that it includes Wiseau and not one but two films by John Huston: “Beat the Devil” and “The Bible…In the Beginning.”

It doesn’t matter who’s behind the camera. It could be someone of John Huston’s stature or a Tommy Wiseau — anybody can make an anti-classic. John Huston apparently once had a quote where he said, “We can make good films just as easily as we can make bad films. It’s just going to cost a little more.”

In one way, bad movies seem to unite audiences like no other kind of film. It’s actually a strong example of the magic of cinema.

I find sometimes that people are more enthusiastic talking about the great bad movies than the great films. We can have a discussion of Tarkovsky or Kurosawa, and it can be a very stimulating, cerebral conversation. But you start talking about “The Room” and “Mommie Dearest” and the enthusiasm level ratchets up dramatically. People become more viscerally engaged when discussing why they’re so enraptured by these films.

Were there films you would have loved to include but which you simply couldn’t find? The Holy Grail of this would of course be Jerry Lewis’ “The Day the Clown Cried.”

I would love to see the film. I have a sneaking suspicion it isn’t as atrocious as legend has made it out to be. I would love to see a movie called “Catch My Soul,” which was a musical and it played on Broadway and the West End. It was a contemporary retelling of “Othello.” The film version had Richie Havens in his only starring role, and it was directed by Patrick McGoohan, and it was the only time he ever directed a film. I’ve never been able to locate a copy. I know 20th Century Fox owns the rights, but because of music license issues they never put it out on DVD.

Oftentimes the amateur filmmakers of bad movies will embrace their notoriety. And then there’s Halle Berry and Sandra Bullock, who showed up at the Razzies to collect their trophies for “Catwoman” and “All About Steve.”

It goes with the territory. People who’ve been in the business for some time, they’re not that thin-skinned. They realize they’ll make great films, and they’ll make not so great films. But at the end of the day they’re making films. They’re doing what they love to do. Ultimately they have the last laugh.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

At 91, Marvel creator Stan Lee continues to…

By Piya Sinha-RoyLOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Marvel Entertainment's chief emeritus Stan Lee may be in his ninth decade, but it hasn't stopped him from adding…

National

Islamic State says beheads U.S. journalist, holds another

Islamic State insurgents released a video purportedly showing the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley, who had gone missing in Syria nearly two years ago.

Local

VIDEO: NYPD seeks shooter in East New York…

Cops are on the lookout for an unknown shooter who aimed and missed hitting a man on a bicycle, instead nearly striking a nearby officer in East New York.

Local

NYS state forces thrift shops comply with ban…

Nine New York City thrift shops were reprimanded by the state attorney general for selling children's clothes with drawstrings around the neck and waist.

Television

'Pretty Little Liars' recap: Season 5, Episode 11,…

Caleb's not a ghost. Spencer might still be an attempted murderer. And Hanna's going to die next week. In other words, we actually got some…

Movies

At 91, Marvel creator Stan Lee continues to…

Marvel Entertainment's Stan Lee is adding outposts to his creative empire to interest a new generation of children in super heroes of all shapes and sizes.

Television

Mira Sorvino explores immortality on 'Intruders'

Mira Sorvino's new show "Intruders" centers around a secret society that achieves immortality by taking over the bodies of other people.

Television

5 things you need to know about new…

"Doctor Who" returns Saturday with a new star, Peter Capaldi. Here's some things to know about him (mainly his turn as sweary spin doctor Malcolm Tucker).

MLB

Shane Greene travels unlikely road to Yankees stardom

Shane Greene was throwing a bullpen session on a quiet field at Daytona Beach Community College one day when the ball started moving.

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL tight ends (TE)

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: Angels supplant A's, Nationals climb

MLB Power Rankings: Angels supplant A's, Nationals climb

NFL

David Wilson returns to triple jump, sets sights…

Giants fans know David Wilson can jump. They are just more used to seeing him go for backflips, not distance.

Style

11 timeless gifts for registries or just because

Gifts to prove you're a style maven once and for all.

Parenting

How everyday moments can inspire kids' creativity

"The Artist's Way for Parents" author Julia Cameron gives advice on how parents and children can be creative together.

Tech

How to stay safe online

Stop worrying about keeping your online passwords safe, and start worrying about keeping your username a secret. Actually, worry about both. According to Shaun Murphy…

Tech

OpenTable now lets you pay your bill via…

The restaurant app OpenTable added the ability to pay your bill (and tip) with your phone, thus cutting back on a few dining annoyances.