The Best Worst Movies That Deserve a Bigger Cult Following
After a while, all true film lovers go exploring. The good movies aren’t good enough anymore, and the bad movies aren’t bad enough, because once you’ve seen about twenty or thirty thousand motion pictures only the hard stuff really affects you anymore. At this point, you seek out “The Best Worst Movies.”
The term was coined by Best Worst Movie, a cheerful and supportive documentary about the infamous 1990 disaster Troll 2, which has earned its rightful place as one of the most entertainingly awful motion pictures ever produced. But the list of “Best Worst Movies” is long, and also includes films like The Room, Birdemic, Manos: The Hands of Fate, Plan 9 from Outer Space and Dangerous Men, an epic film of genuine awfulness that this week earns a theatrical release after a decade of languishing in obscurity.
And all of these films are great, in their own way. If you are a lover of cult cinema, they are “must see” movies. But once you’ve seen all of those stinkers, what’s then? Do you wait for the zeitgeist to swell up around another film like Miami Connection or do you go exploring on your own, and hope to find the next big turd?
Well, we’re here to help. We’ve seen a lot of spectacular crap over the years and we’ve got six films that haven’t yet reached their full potential as cult classic stink bombs. You may have heard of some of these, if you frequent the right communities anyway, but until these films are spoken of with the same hushed tones as Mommy Dearest, we won’t be satisfied.
The Oscar (1966)
About 35 years ago, The Oscar was widely considered to be one of the worst films ever made. Now, thanks to the fact that it’s almost completely unavailable on home video, it is hardly ever considered at all. Which is a shame, because if you can track to down this star-studded stinker, you will be privy to one of the most wrongheaded misfires in Hollywood history.
Spartacus co-star Stephen Boyd plays Frankie Fane, a lunkheaded thug who ditches his stripper girlfriend and abuses his best pal (Tony Bennett, the Tony Bennett, in his acting debut) for dreams of stardom. And because it’s a bitter Hollywood satire, he succeeds in the industry and even gets nominated for Best Actor, only to enlist the aid of a dubious shyster (Ernest Borgnine) to destroy his fellow nominees.
The Oscar was co-written by sci-fi legend Harlan Ellison, who may have been responsible for the non-stop torrent of unbelievable lines like, “You got a glass head, I can see right through it, that’s how I know you’re stupid.” It also features performances from a who’s who of mighty co-stars, including Milton Berle, Elke Sommer, Joseph Cotten, Jill St. John, Peter Lawford, Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, gossip columnist Hedda Hopper and costume design legend Edith Head.
It is a baffling kaleidoscope of bizarre cameos and terrible plotting, and if more people had the ability to see it, it might very well regain its former glory as one of the worst films ever made.
Nothing about this movie was a good idea. It is a tawdry and ridiculous fantasy “epic” that plays a little like a porno movie, if it removed all the sex and left in the shame.
Sorceress (which does not at any point have a sorceress in it) stars Leigh Harris and Lynette Harris as identical twin nymphettes who were raised to think that they were boys. Then they see a satyr’s penis (mercifully off-screen) and have no idea what to make of it, so they beat him up. It turns out that they are destined to fight off an evil warlock who needs to sacrifice one of them to reign supreme, but he doesn’t know which one. At one point their studly protector almost gets executed by a giant greasy wooden stake up the butt.
Somehow this Roger Corman disaster has its own Blu-ray special edition, so you can really see how cheap the whole thing is. It looks like most of the cast is wearing bath mats. And it ends when an evil head pukes onto a flying lion, so that’s something to look forward to. Sorceress is beyond stupid and utterly hypnotic from start to finish.
Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987)
Andy Sidaris is an incredible motion picture auteur whose works actually had a pretty sizable audience, but an audience that was too ashamed to admit that they’ve seen his films. Over the course of his 12-film (!) “Lethal Ladies” series, he wrote and directed one absurd, topless, action-packed adventure after another, all about sexy spies who work out of Molokai… which is, for those who don’t know, the Hawaiian island that also has a leper colony on it.
The second film in the series, Hard Ticket to Hawaii, is indisputably the “best.” It’s about a pair of blonde secret agents who lose track of a deadly snake (which return in the climax in the most incredible fashion), really enjoy a nice hot tub and run afoul of a villain whose henchmen like to roller blade down empty streets with blow-up sex dolls before getting blown up with bazookas. Also there’s a razor blade frisbee and some kind of subplot about a sports star who totally ruins a live interview. Like most of the things that happen in Hard Ticket to Hawaii, these things happen “just because.”
The title makes no sense, but neither do many of the titles in the “Lethal Ladies” series, which also includes such nudity-spiked classics as Picasso Trigger, Savage Beach and Guns. They are all available in the indispensable DVD set Girls, Guns and G-Strings, which offers a dozen unforgettably awful films for less that $6 on Amazon. Make a weekend of this. You’ll be glad you did.
There are two kinds of action movie fans: people who love Gary Daniels, and people who don’t know who Gary Daniels is yet. This baby-faced action hero has starred in over 70 films since the late 1980s, and although fans may recognize him from bit parts in City Hunter (where he fought Jackie Chan dressed as Ken from Street Fighter) or the first Expendables, his piece de resistance is a spectacular stinker called Bloodmoon.
In Bloodmoon, the hulking kick boxer Gary Daniels plays a forensic psychologist on the hunt for a serial killer who only slays the greatest fighters in the world (all of whom live in the same city). So Daniels teams up with a high-kicking cop who won’t stop doing birthday party magic tricks to fight the killer to death. Oh yeah, and the killer has cybernetic fingers, because why wouldn’t the killer have cybernetic fingers?
What sets Bloodmoon apart from a lot of other wonderfully bad Gary Daniels movies (see also: Riot, co-starring Sugar Ray Leonard, and the “shot on shitteo” Full Impact) is that everyone in Bloodmoon can really fight. No joke, all of the action sequences in Bloodmoon are phenomenally choreographed and shot in long, impressive takes that prove that the actors really knew what they were doing. It’s like you were watching Dangerous Men but the action sequences were ghost directed by John Woo. It takes a lot of the guilt out of this guilty pleasure.
Ben & Arthur (2002)
Queer cinema is a respected institution that has brought a lot of worthwhile attention to the lifestyles of and issues surrounding homosexuals in a wide variety of cultures. It also its own version of The Room, and it’s arguably even worse than The Room.
Sam Mraovich stars (and also wrote, directed, produced, composed, photographed and edited) as Arthur, one half of a gay couple who dream of getting married, but run afoul of Arthur’s bigoted brother, Victor (Michael Haboush). Before long Victor essentially decides to become Ben and Arthur’s supervillain, trying to feed them Holy Water and hiring a private investigator, whom Victor himself actually kills for reasons that are never made clear. In fact, nothing is made clear throughout this entire naive and, apparently, sincere motion picture.
It’s a stunning feat, to put this much emotion into a movie and have it come out this hapless and wretched. In that respect Ben & Arthur is matched perhaps only by Tommy Wiseau’s notorious crapsterpiece The Room and Ed Wood’s seminal Glen or Glenda. You’ll laugh, and you may also cry, because bless this Sam Mraovich guy… he tried so hard.
Werewolf & The Witch (2007)
And so we come to Dave “The Rock” Nelson, aka “Rocky” Nelson, a filmmaker who genuinely idolizes Ed Wood (the so-called “worst filmmaker ever”). Nelson has spent the better part of his life producing cheap, shot on VHS monster movies in his own neighborhood. It sounds like he should be the subject of a charming Sundance drama about the beauty making motion pictures even though nobody wants to see them, except in this case maybe nobody should see them, because they play like the ravings of a madman.
Werewolf & the Witch is probably Rocky Nelson’s most ambitious work: a three-hour confessional nightmare about a werewolf and (eventually) a witch, with most of the parts played by Rocky Nelson himself with little or no change to his appearance. Also, he recorded over a lot of the original audio by yelling new plot points after the fact, so it sounds like he’s saying, “What do you think about the WEREWOLF?!?!?!”
There are long scenes of Rocky Nelson staring at his bare chest in the mirror while Rocky Nelson yells repeatedly in voice-over, “THE ROCK’S HARDCORE!” There are “cameos” from celebrities like Roger Corman and Tommy Chong, none of whom know they are in a movie, and were simply blindsided at conventions by Rocky Nelson with a video camera asking them questions about the plot (which he still recorded over later). And about two hours into the movie, Rocky Nelson pretty much stops the movie dead so he can rattle off his own personal enemies list, as a witch foretells that doom will come to all of them.
The Werewolf & the Witch is an endurance test. It may very well be the ne plus ultra of the “so bad it’s good” genre. If you think you’ve seen everything, and you haven’t seen this, then you’ve seen nothing yet. Get back to us when you have performed this challenge, because only only then can say that you are true cult movie lover. It is only available as a DVD extra on the documentary The Rock: Ed Wood of the 21st Century, and it will astound you.
William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and watch him on the weekly YouTube series Most Craved and What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.