As long as there has been cinema, there has been junk cinema: movies that fail on every artistic level, but are fun to watch and very easy to love. Here are some--but by no means all--important moments in the wonderful, wacky world of junk cinema.
1929--The big screen version of "The Taming of the Shrew" starring the movies' first super couple, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, featured the credit line "By William Shakespeare with additional dialogue by Sam Taylor". Anybody know who Sam Taylor is?
1933--The release of "Baby Face". Barbara Stanwyck is a tramp and who's to blame? Her father! Watch Babs climb the corporate ladder--even though she can't type--and nail every guy she meets(including an unknown actor named John Wayne). A prime example of PreCode Hollywood or "Dirties Thirties" sleaze, movies like "Baby Face" were why The Motion Picture Production Code finally had to be enforced.
1934--Katherine Hepburn has the role of a life time as the "lying, stealing, singing, preying witch girl of the Ozarks" in "Spitfire". The tag line for this flick memorably asked, "Low down white trash? Maybe s0--but let her hear you say it and she'll break your head to prove herself a lady!"
1936--The release of "Marihuana, The Weed With Roots in Hell". Hopheads beware!
The release of "Cocaine Fiends". Cokeheads beware!
1937--The release of "Sex Madness". The perfect movie for anyone who thinks sex is dirty.
1938--The release of "The Terror of Tiny Town", the world's only musical western with an all midget cast. Features the timeless toe-tapper "The Wedding of Jack and Jill".
1939--The release of "Child Bride". A crusading schoolmarm works to have under age marriage outlawed among our cracker brethren. This flick was advertised with the tag line "When lust was just!"
1944--Sonny Tufts is proclaimed "The Male Sensation of 1944!"
The release of "Mom and Dad". Hey, all you abstinence-only educators! Think premarital sex is a new invention? Think again! Even "The Greatest Generation" had to face the horrors of unplanned pregnancy and venereal disease, as this junk gem dared to expose. While the plot of "Mom and Dad" is old hat (a gal ignorant of "the facts of life" has a wild night of passion ad gets a bun in the oven), it's the presentation that makes this flick a classic. Bracketing this cautionary tale is a stirring rendition of the National Anthem, a lecture on syphilis, "Fearless Hygiene Commentators" hawking safe sex manuals during intermission and the piece de resistance: a live birth. Now that's entertainment!
1945--The release of "Salome, Where She Danced", junk icon Yvonne deCarlo's greatest film. Check out the wise old Chinese gentleman who speaks with a Scottish burr.
1946--The release of "Duel in the Sun" also known as "Lust in the Dust". Watch Jennifer Jones (who won an Oscar playing St. Bernadette) sashay around the old homestead and ask bad seed Gregory Peck, "I wanna be a lady! Will ya learn me!"
1947--The release of "That Hagen Girl". Shirley Temple is Ronald Reagan's out-of-wedlock daughter? Say it isn't so! A misconceived comedy/drama that wrecked Shirl's career and didn't do much for Reagan's, either.
1949--Bette Davis schemes and sneers her way through "Beyond the Forest", where she shoots porcupines and utters her signature line, "What a dump!"
1953--The release of "Cat Women of the Moon" featuring "The Male Sensation of 1944!" Sonny Tufts. Look out for "The Hollywood Cover Girls as The Cat Women".
The release of "Robot Monster", whose critical and commercial failure drove creator Phil Tucker to a nervous breakdown.
1954--"The Male Sensation of 1944!" Sonny Tufts is sued by stripper Melody Carol, who claimed he took a bite out of her thigh. They settle out of court for $600.
1955--Paul Newman makes his cinematic debut in "The Silver Chalice" as a Greek slave named "Basil the Defender". The New York Times raved that his performance was "rarely better than wooden."
1959--Ed Wood releases his masterpiece "Plan 9 From Outer Space", voted the highly coveted "Golden Turkey Award" as the worst movie ever made. Winner and still champ!
1960--Elizabeth Taylor wins an Oscar for Best Actress for surviving a bout of near fatal pneumonia and an emergency tracheotomy--it couldn't have been for her acting in "Butterfield 8"(where she gets to screech, "Face it, mama! I was the slut of all time!"
1963--The release of "Cleopatra", starring Elizabeth Taylor and "the nympho of the Nile" Cleo and Richard Burton as Marc Anthony. This flick nearly drove studio Twentieth Century Fox into bankruptcy, spawned dozens of lawsuits, earned the condemnation of the Holy See (for the illicit Burton/Taylor affair) and handed Liz Taylor a million-dollar paycheck for her troubles.
The release of "The Rotten Apple"( AKA "Five Minutes to Love"), starring "Golden Girls" sexpot Rue McClanahan. The producers were so certain their leading lady was headed for super stardom, their ads screamed, "First Harlow! Then Monroe! Now McClanahan!"
1964--The release of Kroger Babb's "Kwaheri", the ultimate mondo documentary. This film was promoted with the fetching tag lines "The Film That Stretches Your Eyes" and "See Pygmies With fantastic Physical Endowments!"
1965--"Welcome to violence!" Russ Meyer releases his hot chicks from hell classic "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" featuring "Astro Zombies" starlet Tura Satana as the tough as nails leader of a gang of go-go dancing/drag racing/karate chopping psycho tramps. Watch her snap a guy's back in two like it was a bread stick!
The release of "Beach Blanket Bingo". Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello hit the beach for surfing, songs and plenty of sequels. Reportedly Walt Disney himself refused to allow "Mickey Mouse Club" star Annette to wear a bikini in these flicks.
1967--She's a grandma now, but back in the swingin' sixties Jane Fonda was "Barbarella", a dim bulb space case searching for mad scientist Duran Duran. The supporting cast includes Anita Pallenberg (sporting a black eye patch), John Phillip Law and mime Marcel Marceau as a dotty inventor.
1968--The release of "The Legend of Lylah Clare". Kim Novak plays a timid actress who becomes possessed by the spirit of dead actress Lylah Clare while playing her in the big screen adaptation of her life story. Confusing, badly dubbed and ends with the most terrifying dog food commercial you will ever see in your entire life.
A sad day in junk cinema: the release of "Cotton Pickin' Chickenpickers", the last screen appearance of "The Male Sensation of 1944!" Sonny Tufts. Features a gal named Susie Zickafoose and the song "Dirty Ole Egg Suckin' Dog".
Producer/director (and "Batman"s Mr. Freeze) Otto Preminger releases "Skidoo", a counter culture comedy where Jackie Gleason, Carol Channing and Groucho Marx(!) tune-in, turn-on and drop acid. A legendary fiasco--and you get to see dancing garbage cans!
1970--The release of "Myra Breckinridge". What do Raquel Welch, Rex Reed, Mae West, John Huston, Farrah Fawcett and Tom Selleck have in common? They all disgraced themselves in a flick hailed by Newsweek as "horrifying" and by Time as "so tasteless that it represents some sort of nadir in American cinema".
The release of "Love Story". Love may mean never having to say you're sorry, but the people behind this flick have a lot to answer for. Ali McGraw and Ryan O'Neil meet cute, marry, sweat the rent and when things finally perk up, she drops dead--of what, they never tell us. The only thing more nauseating than "Love Story" was its sequel "Oliver's Story".
1971--The release of "Fritz the Cat", the world's first X-rated cartoon. Promoted with the tag lines "He's X-rated and Animated!" and "We Ain't Restricted for Nothin' Baby!"
1973--The release of "Jonathan Livingston Seagull". I am not making this up: a movie about a malcontent seagull who wants to find the meaning of life. As our hero whines to his dad, "There's got to be more to life than fighting for fish heads!"
1974--The release of "Zardoz". Set in the not-too-distant future, Sean Connery (007 himself) runs around in a red jock strap while dodging Brutals, Immortals, Apathetics and a gigantic floating head, which spouts every gun nut's motto: "The gun is good! The penis is evil!"
1975--Dubbed "The Big Blooper of 1975", "At Long Last Love" unleashed the signing and dancing skills of Burt Reynolds and Cybill Shepard. Mastermind Peter Bogdonovich had his cast sing all their sons live and even considered playing the lead himself. His career has never recovered.
1977--The release of "The Exorcist II: The Heretic". The sequel to "The Exorcist" featured poor Linda Blair, Richard Burton, the demon "Pazuzu" and some deadly grasshoppers. This movie almost beat out "Plan 9" as the worst film of all time according to "The Golden Turkey Awards".
The release of "The Car". Future "Hotel" star (and Barbra Streisand hubby) James Brolin battles a demonically possessed car who chases after high school bands and spins donuts on peoples' lawns. UNFORGETTABLE HIGHLIGHT: Brolin screams to his hysterical wife, "The Car is in the garage!"
The release of "Empire of the Ants". Joan Collins is menaced by fiberglass ants and--the horror! the horror!--is forced to wear only one ugly outfit for the entire picture. Joanie admitted in her memoirs she did this movie for the money and even had to do her own stunts. What a trooper!
1978--The release of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band". Long hairs Peter Frampton and the BeeGees in a rock musical based on the same titled Beatles album. All four of them are promptly upstaged by the world's largest fake hamburger.
1980--The release of "Can't Stop the Music". The Village People, Bruce Jenner, Valerie Perrine and the relentlessly repulsive Steve Guttenberg in a disco disaster directed by Nancy Walker. Stupefying badness like this doesn't come along every day--catch it if you can!
The release of "Xanadu". Roller skating Greek muse Olivia newton-John crashes down to earth--and takes her film career with her. The really horrible part is watching Gene Kelly leading hordes of roller disco fanatics yelling "HO!" over and over again as they circle the roller rink. The ELO soundtrack is pure headache fuel.
Neil Diamond appears in the second remake of "The Jazz Singer". watching Neil croon "Love on the Rocks" is bad enough, but watching (and hearing) Laurence Olivier (as Neil's rabbi dad!) moaning, "I hef no zon!" in an outrageous Yiddish accent is too much.
1981--The release of "Mommie Dearest". Christina Crawford's tell-all comes to the big screen with Faye Dunaway in the title role as movie star/child abuser/monster Joan Crawford. Dunaway's career never recovered after she uttered the famous line, "No wire hangers--ever!"
1982--Pia Zadora (who made her cinematic debut in "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians") wins the "Best New Star" statuette at the annual Golden Globes ceremony.
The release of "Inchon". Lovingly conceived, written, produced, directed, financed and promoted under the watchful eye of Moonie leader Reverend Sun Myung Moon, this flick featured yet another outrageous Laurence Olivier performance: this time as Gen. Doug MacArthur! Newsweek declared "Inchon" was "a turkey the size of Godzilla".
The release of "Beastmaster". A true classic! Hunky Marc Singer (who's surrogate mother was a cow--honest!) can talk to the animals and "Charlie's Angels" also-ran Tanya Roberts is his slave girl true love. This flick played so much during the early days of HBO that wags claimed HBO didn't stand for "Home Box Office", but "Hey! Beastmaster's On!" The entire human cast of this film, which includes Rip Torn, are completely upstaged by the acting talents of Singer's pet ferrets.
1984--The release of "Dune". If anyone can tell me what the hell this movie was suppose to be about, I'd really appreciate it. Sting does appear in his underwear, however.
1986--The release of "Howard the Duck"--a truly fowl picture.
The release of "Under the Cherry Moon", starring Prince--a bad moon rising indeed.
The release of "Shanghai Surprise", starring Madonna (as a prim and proper missionary) and then-husband Sean Penn. Need I say more?
1988--The release of "Maximum Overdrive". Stephen King (who wrote and directed) called this flick "a moron movie"--but he's being way too generous. if you don't blink, you can catch the second Mrs. Donald Trump, Marla Maples, get offed by a watermelon.
1991--The release of "Hudson Hawk". A loud, smug, obnoxious, stupid, unfunny, vulgar, gross infuriating waste of film stock. Brought to you by the loud, smug, obnoxious, stupid, unfunny, vulgar, gross and infuriating Bruce Willis.
1995--Cindy Crawford adds her name to the always expanding list of super models who can't act by appearing in "Fair Game". She meets her match in Billy Baldwin, who can't act either.
1997--The release of "The Postman". Neither rain, snow, sleet, hail, high winds, burning sands, raging rivers, nuclear fall out or pot apocalyptic baddies can keep Kevin Costner from his appointed rounds. mark this movie "Return to Sender".
2000--The release of "Battlefield Earth". a deeply weird and often gross sci-fi fantasy brought to you by John Travolta with a little help from his good buddy (and Scientology founder) L. Ron Hubbard. it makes "Dune" look like "2001: A Space Odyssey".
2001--The release of "Glitter". Mariah Carey joins that elite sorority of female singers who can't act with this sappy film flop. This movie lasted ten seconds in theaters and that's 10 seconds too long.
2002--The release of "Swept Away". Madonna strikes again! The Material Girl is cast as a haughty heiress marooned on a deserted island with a studly deck hand in an ill-fated (but snicker filled) remake of the Line Wertmuller classic directed by then hubby Guy Richie.
2003--The release of "Gigli". it's a toss up which event was more welcomed by the beleaguered American public: the end of the Ben Affleck/Jennifer Lopez romance or the box office failure of their alleged comedy "Gigli". This film is simply beneath contempt. A plague on both their houses!
2004--The release of "Beyond the Sea". Crooner with a weak ticker Bobby Darin reportedly had a genius IQ, but you've never know it watching this bizarre vanity project by obsessive/compulsive fan Kevin Spacey. A better title for this flick would have been "The Toupees and I" because Darin is more traumatized by his receding hair line than learning his sister is really his mother. Besides butchering Darin's classics, "Beyond the Sea" features more crepe hair than a Shriner's convention and some of the spazziest dance numbers ever committed to film.
2005--The release of "The Dukes of Hazard". This movie, based on the car crashing TV series, is so rotten that my own brother could only stomach 20 minutes of it--an Arnold family record.
2007--The release of "Transformers". Once upon a time, in a land called Hollywood, people made movies with interesting characters, involving story lines and great dialogue. Not any more. This flick about a race of alien robots who disguise themselves as cars may have fancy CGI effects and explosions aplenty, but it is a prime example of how Hollywood has truly lost its way. Movies like "Transformers" are why I'd rather spend my time with Ed Wood: at least Ed cared about what he was doing!
The release of "The Invasion". Aliens have had many clever plans over the years to take over our planet, but conquering us through vomit is a first. This fourth quasi-remake of "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers" features Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig trying to stay awake while finding an antidote to defeat the puking hordes( hint: people who had a certain strain of chicken pox are our only hope).
The film career of Jessica Simpson. The long awaited successor to Pia Zadora has arrived! Any gal who considered the role of Daisy Duke in the big screen adaptation of "The Dukes of Hazard" a "dream role" is destined for junk cinema glory and the aggressively air-headed Simpson does not disappoint. Her movie "Blond Ambition" made a staggering $400 bucks after it was unleashed in 8 Texas theaters. Long may she reign.
The release of "10,ooo BC". Think our ancestors were stooped, grunting, hairy quasi-apes who picked lice off each other and flung pooh? Think again! They had six pack abs, cool dreadlocks, tweezed brows and refined speech. They hunted mastodons, befriended saber tooth tigers and fought against aliens who forced them to build the pyramids. Let me repeat the last part: they fought against aliens who forced them to build the pyramids. Fred and Wilma Flintstone, we hardly knew ye.
2008--The release of "Twilight". Fangs for the memories! Fashionably morose teenager Bella Swann falls in love with Edward Cullen, a "vegetarian vampire" with an aerodynamic bouffant, asymmetrical eye brows and ten tons of lipstick on his kisser. While the leads compete over who can be the most lifeless, viewers are treated to such zany highlights as a vampire baseball game. The laugh-till-you-snort dialogue includes such gems as "You are like my own personal brand of heroin!" and "I don't have the strength to stay away from you!"