"Damned with(out) faint praise" movies: films that failed basic filmmaking.

I’m a fan of bad movies. 'Have been for a long time—call it enjoying them “ironically,” or appreciating the energy and spectacle of certain grades of “genre” pictures, or just a modern form of gawking at a freakshow.

However, I and other coniseurs of cinematic fromage are sometimes hard pressed to come up with “good” elements of certain truly execrable works…it sometimes comes down to, tongue firmly in cheek, a listing of qualities such as “is in color,” “has sound,” or “consists of moving pictures in a video format.”

Some films, however…can’t even manage that much. So I’ve started compiling a list of 'em, split along some major categories.

So far:

-Soundtrack dubbed in later because camera couldn’t record audio. (Manos: The Hands of Fate)
-Soundtrack redubbed because original audio got lost/stolen. (The Creeping Terror)

-Filmmakers ran out of money to film major scenes.
-Filmmakers ran out of money to film the ending. (Monty Python and the Holy Grail)
-Filmmakers forgot to film major scenes. (Tank Girl)
-Filmmakers use still images/drawings because they ran out of money to film real scenes. (Wizards; Tank Girl)

Special Effects
-You can literally see the zipper on the monster costume. (Attack of The The Eye Creatures)
-'Couldn’t get an exotic animal for filming, so painted a less-exotic one and filmed it. (Beastmaster; Sheena)

-Killed a cast or crew member during production (Flight of the Phoenix; The Crow; The Twilight Zone)
-Killed a child cast or crew member during production (The Twilight Zone)
-Killed multiple cast or crew members during production (The Twilight Zone)

-Animals harmed during production.
-Animals deliberately harmed during production. (The Andromeda Strain)
-Animals killed during production. (Beastmaster)
-Animals deliberately killed during production. (Heaven’s Gate; Cannibal Holocaust)

This is, of course, not to say that a film is necessarily bad for ending up on this list—I have a couple of genuine classics on the list already—but hey, there’s always room in the world for constructive criticism. And/or pointing and laughing at some poor schmuck pulling a pratfall.

So…anyone else have any suggestions? For films and/or categories.

I take issue with the FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX reference as far as “killing a crew member”. Stunts are an inherently dangerous business and even with the most incredible precautions, accidents can happen, including fatal ones. Deaths are tragic and should be scrutinized (and persons held responsible) when attributed to laziness, short cuts, or negligence. But not all filmmaking deaths fall into those categories and I’d argue Paul Mantz’s untimely passing is one.

True enough—and obviously, the Phoenix accident doesn’t truly fall into the ranks of the criminally irresponsible other examples—but I felt I should include it at least out of completeness.

That and, well, the fact that the accident involved an experimental aircraft literally Frankensteined together out of other aircraft, and built especially for the film, nudged it upwards on that notability factor.

I’ve seen two movies in the past couple years that had fully incomplete effects in them. One was terrible, the other was a great movie.

Terrible movie: London Has Fallen - I don’t mean bad effects. This movie has helicopters that are so badly rendered computer effects, it is obvious they just ran out of time/money and kept them in incomplete form.

Great movie - The Greatest Showman. This movie had great production, but the shot of Hugh Jackman going away on a train into a city is so incomplete, I would not be surprised if it is fixed on the DVD/Blu-ray. It looked almost as bad as Toy Story backgrounds, only with a live human actor in the scene.

Star Trek V, directed by Shatner, had severe budget cuts, due to many reasons such as the on-going writer’s strike, so advanced shots and entire scenes (such as the Rock Monster/Gods) were cut. It got (justly) panned for the poor special effects.

The movie that defines this genre: Overlords of the UFO from 1976, which was a staple of late night TNT in the 90s. This lengthy Agony Booth review points out all the problems with this “documentary”, but 20 seconds in the horrible animation tells you all you need to know about this garbage.


Do you have a cite for this? Several months ago I attended a showing of Holy Grail where John Cleese gave a talk afterwards. He went on at length about the ending of the movie, mostly complaining about how Gilliam dragged it out far too long with all the footage of the army buildup and preparation, and showed his own edited, tightened-up version of the ending. But not a word about running out of budget. From everything I’ve read, the abrupt, non-sequitur ending was planned all along. (The coconuts, on the other hand, were a direct result of not having enough budget for horses.)

Bad Meat. They literally ran out of money to finish it. Which is why the “end” makes no sense whatsoever.

AFAIK, Holy Grail had no financial issues; the ending was clearly planned and skillfully set up.

Life of Brian did have financial troubles when a backer dropped out, but George Harrison stepped in to make up the shortfall.

The Jules Verne adaptation From the Earth to the Moon (1958) ran out of money due to RKO shutting down during production. The live action scenes are adequate, but the special effects are laughably crude and amateurish—like something from an Ed Wood movie.

Noah’s Ark (1928) – from IMDB:

“When cameraman Hal Mohr was shown how the climactic flood scene was to be shot, he objected on the grounds that it would place many of the extras in jeopardy. Mohr told the executives that while the trained stuntmen knew what to expect and could prepare for it, the ordinary extras would have no idea what was coming, and many would be hurt. When his objections were overruled, he quit the picture, and was replaced by Barney McGill. During filming of the scene, the huge torrents of water overwhelmed the actors; three were drowned, one was so severely injured his leg had to be amputated and almost a dozen had broken limbs and other serious injuries.”
Secret File: Hollywood (1962) – Microphones visible throughout most of the film.

There should also be a category for “utterly bastardized the source material.”

Starship Troopers, Bonfire of the Vanities, Lawnmower Man, I’m sure I could think of many others if I spent some time at it.

The Giant Claw was a typical 50s Monster Movie. The beginning was quite effective - passenger planes being knocked out of the sky by some mysterious. shadowy force. The tension built up quite well - and then they showed the monster in ALL ITS FEARSOME AWESOMENESS!!! Toy trains and plastic planes on fishing lines are no match for this Mega-Monster from Beyond the Galaxy!


(Warning: May frighten children under the age of 5. OK, 3).

I had also heard (perhaps from Graham Chapman himself, in a talk I attended back in the mid 80s) that Gilliam used up a pretty good chunk of the budget for “The Meaning of Life” on his “Crimson Permanent Assurance” short, forcing shortcuts elsewhere in the film.

Top Gun

(I thought “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” belonged here as well, but I just checked IMDb. The helicopter crash at the beginning of the film was an accident, but it doesn’t look as though it killed anyone.)

Apocalypse Now

Of course, The Killer Shrews is the poster film for this.

Slight variation: The Giant Gila Monster did, indeed, use a gila monster. But it rampaged through obviously model towns. And, of course, gila monsters, despite being venomous, aren’t particularly scary.

From IMDB:

“The ‘Gila Monster’ in the movie is actually a Mexican Beaded Lizard.”

Oh, Lord, that was bad!! LOL

I like the old Japanese “monster movies”. I mean, they were pretty darn bad! :slight_smile: