BOOK REVIEW: THE GREATEST BAD MOVIES OF ALL TIME

GreatestBadMoviesCoverPhil Hall decided to tackle a very difficult subject in attempting to write a book entitled THE GREATEST BAD MOVIES OF ALL TIME, because lets be honest—one man’s “bad movie” may be another man’s epic film. Granted, there are “bad movies” we love, but generally most people know those films are a guilty pleasure and one can discern a poorly done, possibly low-budget stinker that was entertaining to watch, but easily filled with pathetic acting, an abundant amount of errors on the technical level, and various other minor (or major) mess-ups like filming a jungle scene in an area dense with vegetation and foliage but the sounds of a nearby highway heard in the distance and trail signs marked in the distance.

Going into this book, published by BearManor Media, an independent book publisher specializing in titles related to all aspects of the entertainment world and founded in 2001, I was apprehensive because I was sure I would get all riled up on seeing some movies included in the book that I felt were not only entertaining films, but also of a decent quality and caliber. Granted, each individual has their own tastes, but MY personal opinion is ALWAYS correct, right? Or so many folks believe when they really enjoy a film that a small minority, or sometimes even greater majority think of as being a stinker.

I also took into consideration that maybe author Phil Hall, a contributing editor to the online film site (I remember when there was just a magazine for it!) Film Threat, where he is best known for his long-running weekly column The Bootleg Files. Not only that, Mr. Hall also has a few books published (The Encyclopedia of Underground Movies (2004), Independent Film Distribution (2006) and The History of Independent Cinema (2009)) and his film writing has also been published by the New York Times, New York Daily News, Wired and American Movie Classics Magazine. Did I mention Phil Hall has also served on the governing committee of the Online Film Critics Society and is the programmer of the New England Underground Film Festival. (I guess I better not piss Mr. Hall off if I ever want to be a member of the Online Film Critics Society, huh?!?)

So, with all that being said, does writer Phil Hall know more about what consists of a bad film? Honestly, I do not think he does any more so than the next guy, but with what appears to be a great deal of knowledge on the subject of film stored inside his noggin, I dare say his opinion might hold some greater validity than most others might hold.

Going into the book, I was curious as to how many movies reviewed within and deemed “worst movies” was I going to disagree with. I also wondered how many bad films chosen were also going to be the “usual suspects” and bad movies that most film buffs generally agree are well-known stinkers. Right off the bat, author Phil Hall sets the tone in his introduction stating “it is not a be-all/ end-all examination of the so-bad-it’s-good movie orbit. This book is a work of opinion, not encyclopedic fact, and the reader has the right to disagree with the observations presented in the following pages” and that “missing are films that were roundly denounced by critics at the time of their release, but have since generated significant love from intense cult followings”. With that being said, there is not going to be every single Ed Wood, Jr. flick covered in this book, or generally more than one film from any one particular director. I agree with this aspect of the book—if one has seen one z-grade film from Mr. Wood, Jr. then why does one need to read several reviews citing many of the same or similar flaws? Why not pick another bad film from another director and share the misery of some possibly new material from various directors one may yet to be familiar with?

While reading many of the 1-2 page reviews of terrible films, more often than not I found myself disagreeing with Mr. Hall or finding him to be too harsh in his criticism. After all, this review website that I have created and write all the content for generally do enjoy quite a few globally well-known “bad films” like THE ADVENTURES OF PLUTO NASH (mostly because of the many A-List stars associated with the project and I look at the film as a twisted, poor man’s script version of TOTAL RECALL or any other sci-fi film one can think of), GAMERA, and any of the GODZILLA films. In fact, I found it downright annoying that GAMERA and GODZILLA (any films in the series) were even mentioned because I have a great fondness for cheesy science-fiction monster films!

That being said, I did like that a fair amount of the films picked apart and ridiculed for their inadequacies I had not seen nor even heard of. I generally find it boring to read a film review book and not learning of a new film within. I give Hall credit for tossing in some very obscure movies, like the bestiality porn film starring Linda Lovelace entitled DOGARAMA, in which Linda Lovelace has performs fellatio on the canine, as well as letting it return the favor and even letting the rambunctious hound mount her! There are a good deal of the more well-known bad films like MANOS, THE HANDS OF FATE, made for $19,000 and directed by Texas fertilizer salseman Hal Warren with a 16mm camera or even SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS which Mystery Science Theatre 3000 devoted a whole episode to (as both tidbits of film fact are noted in Hall’s reviews).

I found much of the film trivia accompanying each review to be of the most benefit while reading the book and found myself at many points jotting down films that were made so anti-appealing that I just had to seek them out and view them. I guess if anything, Mr. Hall created a work of non-fiction that any film buff would enjoy and benefit from having in his film reference book collection. Granted, choosing only 100 crappy films and lumping them in a very authoritative and be all/end all title including THE GREATEST within it is quite a bold statement, but I found that Hall makes some pretty solid arguments supporting his reasoning as to why specific films should be included within this book. Only a few times did I so strongly disagree with Mr. Hall and have to ask myself, “Does this guy have a grudge against this particular director or something?!?!” after reading one of his reviews (MYSTIC RIVER comes to mind right away), but the author does justify his actions (whether one agrees with him or not).

One of my only concerns about the book was that there were no pictures within the whole book. I do enjoy reading a book and seeing a screenshot or artwork of the film’s cover to be handy while reading about the movie. Not asking for anything fancy, but a small b/w photo or movie cover accompanying the reviews would have been a very nice feature to the overall aesthetic of the book.

I found Phil Hall’s THE GREATEST BAD MOVIES OF ALL TIME to be an overall entertaining read if one is a big fan of movies, even more so entertaining if one is familiar with a majority of the films covered within because than I think that the fun aspect when reading this book will be guessing as to why one film or another made this list of 100 films and the reasons why? I recommend checking out this 258 page book  (priced at $21.95) for an entertaining look at and reminder that so many films categorized as “bad” are also ones that many consider “good”.

 

 

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