Dave's Progress. Chapter 120: The Worst Film...Ever.

Movies, as some of you will know, are one of my abiding interests, and I have sometimes told of the movies I like, such as "The Third Man", "The Godfather (part 1 & 2)", "Apocalypse Now", "Raging Bull", "The Searchers", "Taxi Driver", "Le Fue Follet" and "Le Mepris". These films are, probably without exception, regarded as "good", if not "great" cinema. So, I thought, as I have nothing else to write about, why not, for once, go to the other end of the scale and look at movies which are regarded as being perhaps the worst...ever.
It appears that one cannot do this without running into the figure of Ed Wood. Making films during the 1950s, Wood was a notoriously bad director and was responsible for such unbelievably laughable films as "Glen or Glenda" and "Plan 9 From Outer Space". Wood actually teamed up, also somewhat unbelievably, with the Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi, famous, of course, for previously playing Count Dracula. Wood apparently idolised Lugosi and he made his final appearance as an actor in Wood's "Plan 9...". Unfortunately, Lugosi died before shooting ended, so Wood replaced him with another actor who also happened to be his wife's chiropractor, but in the final film left in the previous footage of Lugosi. So, as one watches, it is obvious that two different people are playing the same character, being different in size, build, and even hair. While Lugosi retained a full head of hair until his death, the actor replacing him was almost bald.
However, such ineptitude does not, perhaps, inspire one's contempt, but rather, endearing laughter. Indeed, many seem to find Wood's films "so bad, they're good". One critic even remarked that "Plan 9..." was "far too entertaining to be considered the very worst film ever made", while another has stated that the film is "the ultimate cult flick".
Also, with "Glen or Glenda", a semi-autobiographical quasi-documentary about transvestism, some critics have sought to defend Wood's film-making, one saying that this movie, starring and directed by Wood, was, despite its ineptitude, a far more personal account than that given by many so-called auteurs.
Poster for Ed Wood's "Glen or Glenda".
So, for the truly contemptible, it seems one would have to look elsewhere. Indeed, Wood was even the subject of a biopic made by the "good" director Tim Burton, which was a rather endearing look at the director, his life, career and relationship with Lugosi. What comes over in the film is Wood's absolute enthusiasm for film and, despite being totally inept, his ultimate charm and goodness as a man. And, who could forget the line when Wood goes to see a premiere of his movie "Plan 9...": "I think this may be my masterpiece. The one everyone will remember me for". And, indeed, we do.
Perhaps, then, that which is regarded as being truly awful by some turns out to be not that bad in the end, probably reflecting the essential subjectivity of all criticism. Indeed, it seems that we would all have our favourite "bad film". Personally, I can't stand the modern horror genre's foray into so-called "torture porn", which appears to me to be just an excuse to portray needlessly gruesome and gratuitous violence. When seeing such things, one is reminded of Michael Haneke's movie "Funny Games", in which the director seems to veritably turn the lens on to the audience and ask the question, "why, exactly, are you watching this?"
So, how about John Travolta's "Battlefield Earth" as a candidate for "the worst film...ever". Or, perhaps, Paul Verhoeven's truly execrable "Showgirls". Whatever your taste, I'm sure you can find at least one movie which makes Ed Wood look like Jean-Luc Godard.


bazza said…
David, when you post stuff like this I find it really interesting. I know your blog has a clearly defined purpose and too much of this would dilute that purpose.
Maybe a second blog about movies would be a good idea!
My personal favourites are (all three) Godfather movies and a lot of modern French cinema - especially Jean de Florette and Manon des Source directed by Claude Berri.
As for the worst films, it's true that a film can be so bad that it becomes entertaining, even hysterically funny. A real 'bad' movie is almost unwatchable.
Did you ever see Tim Burton movie about Ed Wood with Jonny Depp?
Click here for Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’
David said…
Dear bazza,
I'm glad that you find such stuff of interest as, being a great film fan, it certainly interests me.
You are right to say that my blog has a clearly defined purpose, but when I am stuck for things to write, I tend to write about just what interests me.
Anyway, bazza, I also like a lot of French cinema and I have the two films you mention on tape somewhere. If I remember correctly, "Manon des Source" stars an (often naked) Emmanuele Beart, which in my book is a massive plus, being, as she is, perhaps the most beautiful woman I've ever seen on screen (or in real life, for that matter).
Also, I do mention Tim Burton's film "Ed wood" in my post. Have we not been reading closely, bazza?
Still, thanks, as ever, for your interest and comments.
Yours with Very Best Wishes,
I think it shows how 'quirky' public opinion can be, David. Ed Wood was given the Golden Turkey award for being the worst director of all time, but his eccentricity gave way to a certain popularity among cult followers. His work is not my cup of tea, but many, eventually, found a bit of humor in the way his movies were presented and filmed. I'm more of a 'feel good' movie person. Now, my daughter - she'd watch anything. I always tell her she should review movies for a living.:)

I enjoyed this post, David. It lends a little variety to your blog - it takes nothing away from your goals and interests in mental health. It's all good!:)

I'm very impressed with your knowledge on this subject.

Enjoy the day,
dcrelief said…
Hi David,
Straight up, just so you'll know: I know nothing about film directors. But the worst for me was Woody Allen's "Hannah and her three Sisters'...yuck.

One of my oldie goldie faves was "Silent Running" with Bruce Dern. A serious scifi film with little robots.

I liked the old "Tron" better than the new "Tron". I loved "The King's Speech"; an amazing film. "The Black Swan" left me in shock at the ending.

Oh I liked Johnny Depp in "The Tourist" with the twist ending. "Despicable Me" is probably the latest philosphical analysis of childhood. Lastly, I love John Travolta in anything!

"Why exactly are you watching this?" Reminds me of seeing "A Clockwork Orange" or "The Crying Game."

That's enought to prove my point! Yes, you must do this again sometime, David.

Take care,
David said…
Dear M.,
Thanks for your comment and your own little bit of information on the "notoriously bad" director Ed Wood.
Personally I just love movies, so I think Wood's ineptitude is really quite charming, in a way. No wonder he has garnered a cult following with his own brand of awfulness!
Yours with Very Best Wishes,
David said…
Dear Dixie,
It seems one thing we don't share is a similar taste in movies. Personally I quite liked "Hannah and her Sisters" and love most Woody Allen movies, particularly "Annie Hall" and "Manhattan", which I think are both masterpieces. I also like "Clockwork Orange".
What we can agree on, though, is "Silent Running". I like that too.
Anyway, enough on such contentious issues. Thanks, as ever, for your continuing interest.
Wishing you all the best,
klahanie said…
Dear David,
Apologies for arriving to the cinema so late for your movie review.
Been somewhat busy getting ready to go somewhere.
A very interested read and in regards to Ed Wood, was, I believe, a man with sincere passion on a limited budget. I guess his films, almost, fit into the so bad, they are good category.
John Travolta's "Battlefield Earth". I was so hoping you might mention that abysmally bad film. Indeed, I must agree it's one of the worst films, if not the worst film, ever made. John Travolta's acting and the rest, were preposterous in that film. Maybe we are missing something. Maybe it was supposed to be that bad.
Kind wishes, your way, Gary.
David said…
Dear Gary,
No need to apologise for arriving late- I know how busy you are with your own blog.
Anyway, I don't think "Battlefield Earth" was intentionally bad, it was just bad. I also believe it had something to do with Travolta's "faith", i.e the "religion" of Scientology, based, as it was, on one of founder L. Ron Hubbard's books. I belive Hubbard once said, "to be really rich you'd have to invent a religion". So, he invented a religion and became REALLY rich. So, no one has been misled there, then!
Thanks, as always, for taking the time to comment.
Yours with Very Best Wishes and many spurious belief systems, your way,
GEM said…
Hi David

"Logans Run"!!sticks out as a really bad film, interesting concept but badly executed. Have not seen an Ed Wood film that i know of but am now intrigued.

Take Care

David said…
Hi Gem,
I would say that it is worth seeing an Ed Wood movie, just to see how bad they really are. As I say in my post, though, they're funny-bad rather than just bad-bad.
So, I hope you get to see one and enjoy the badness. If not, perhaps get hold of a copy of Tim Burton's biopic, "Ed Wood", which is also very entertaining, this time in a good way!
Yours with Very Best Wishes and Happy Viewing,
The Manic Chef said…
Greetings David, this article is totally differing from the main topic of your blog, but shows another side of you. Which I do like very much. Movies, yes, they can be life-savers, but at this very moment I can not for the life of me think which is my favorite, or one that had a profound influence upon my person. I just awoke and have not had my morning 'java' fix as of yet....COFFEE quick!!!!!! I remember when 'Godfather' first appeared back in the early 70's, I was so gripped with fear by the so-called reality of the film,that I thought the 'Mafia' was outside of the theatre taking photos of all the people exiting who saw the film, to eventually wipe them off the face of the earth! Can you believe it? Is that not hilarious? I was so naive and impressionable, I always get myself totally absorbed in a film. I'm a very vocal type of human, who expresses himself in any type of film when I get that absorbed, so thank your lucky stars you never have to sit next to me in a movie theatre! Thanks for the memories! Later.....

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