Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Sean Paul Murphy, Writer
Sean Paul Murphy, Storyteller

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

The 10 Worst Films I Paid To See

I've written a number of blogs about my favorite films in various genres. Now it is time to turn my attention to the worst. Rather than revisit many of the traditionally acknowledged worst films of all time, I am limiting this list to films I had paid to see in the theaters myself. So don't expect to see Plan 8 From Outer Space or Robot Monster. In fact, I doubt any of you have seen all of these films -- but I paid to see them all.

Director: J.J. Abrams
Screenplay by: Chris Terrio,  J.J. Abrams
Based on Characters by George Lucas

I loved the original Star Wars trilogy. I was extremely excited when the second trilogy was released. My affection for the original films helped me overlook the flaws of the second trilogy: the overcomplicated plotting, the wooden characters, the bad dialogue, the stilted performances and, of course, Mr. Jar Jar Binks. Sadly, my love affair with the original trilogy did not carry me through the third one.

I'm not going to go into the film's many problems. There are dozens of YouTube videos which do an admirable job of explaining them. My problem isn't even the wokeness that has absolutely plagued the series since it was acquired from Disney -- although that certainly didn't help. My problem is that I felt nothing about any of the new characters. No connection. No empathy. Nothing. After watching all three films, I have a problem even remembering their names. Forgettable characters are the hallmark of a bad film, but you have to be more than just bad to make it onto this list. 

I've sat through many bad films, but this final film in the trilogy made me angry. Why? Because it was a sloppy piece of work that broke the laws of the established Star Wars universe willy nilly. For people who have been watching these films for decades, the fictional universe is well-established. Suddenly, the filmmakers were changing the rules simply to service their half-assed, overblown plot. Geez, you had eight films to set stuff up. You shouldn't be inventing now. By the unsatisfying ending, I was steaming. (Somewhere, I'm sure George Lucas was too!)

I will never see another Star Wars film in the theaters again.


Written and Directed by Woody Allen

I don't watch Woody Allen films anymore. Sorry, but I believe the stories about him. That said, I acknowledge that he could be a brilliant filmmaker. My favorite Woody Allen films are Annie Hall and Crimes and MisdemeanorsAnnie Hall is a comic masterpiece. Crimes and Misdemeanors is also very funny, but it is also an insightful meditation on evil and sin.  I also have a soft spot for Radio DaysBroadway Danny Rose and Sleeper. Allen is a skilled filmmaker. There's no denying that. However, like in his private life, when the Woodman goes bad, he goes really bad.

His worst film are marred by self-indulgence, egotism, score-settling and pretension. Deconstructing HarryCelebrityHollywood Ending and Whatever Works are all prime examples. They're all bad, but I decided to go with Shadows and Fog instead. This black and white, Fritz Lang wannabe, about a nebbish clerk wandering around a vaguely European city terrorized by a serial strangler, is perhaps the most pretentious picture of his oeuvre. The all-celebrity cast is also a problem. Every familiar face -- oh, look, there's Madonna -- took me out of the film. This was his first film that I hated, but it wasn't the last.

Fortunately, I'll never hate another one in the theaters again.

Here's the trailer:


8. VINCENT & THEO (1990)
Directed by Robert Altman
Screenplay by Julian Mitchell

I am very hit and miss on Robert Altman. I appreciate him, but I don't necessarily like him. Nashville is a true cinematic masterpiece, and I really enjoy The Player. However, my feeling on practically every other film he directed is dependent on my mood. For example, I am often tempted to place McCabe & Mrs. Miller on my list of Top 10 Westerns. Other times I find it unwatchable. Sometimes I find M*A*S*H hilarious. Other times I find it mean-spirited and disjointed.

Based on my past track record, I might love this Vincent Van Gogh biopic if I gave it a second chance, but I am not inclined to do so. I saw this film as part of a double feature at my local Baltimore arthouse The Charles.  I can't remember what the first film was, but I wouldn't have seen it if they had played Vincent & Theo first. This is one of the rare films I walked out on. 

Here's the trailer:


7. OH, GOD! BOOK II (1980)
Directed by Gilbert Cates*
Screenplay by Hal Goldman and Fred S. Fox
Story by Josh Greenfeld

I enjoyed the first film so I happily took my girlfriend out to see the sequel. About halfway through we just looked over at each other and got up and left. This is the only film that I willing left with a date. The same woman made me leave Porky's -- but I snuck back later to see it.

Why did I like the first film and hate the second one? That is a question easily answered by the credits. The first film was directed by Carl Reiner and written by Larry Gelbart. Those guys could turn George Burns into a God I'd want to spend some time with -- bad theology notwithstanding.

How bad is this movie? I couldn't even find a decent sized .jpg of the poster!

The next film, Oh, God! You Devil, written by Andrew Bergman, was a definite improvement. It was perhaps the best film in the series.


*Director Gilbert Cates once requested to read one of my scripts, so I absolve him of all sins regarding this movie.

6.  TARZAN, THE APE MAN (1981)
Directed by John Derek
Screenplay by Tom Rowe and Gary Goddard
Based on characters by Edgar Rice Burroughs

This film had a lot of buzz when it came out. Star Bo Derek had been declared the sexiest woman in the world and Playboy magazine featured a pictorial of stills from the film. Everyone wanted to see it.

I went to see it on the opening night at The Senator, an art deco theater in Northeast Baltimore. The first screening sold out so I went out to dinner while I waited for the second one. When I got back, there was literally a line around the block. The excitement was at its peak. Trouble arose when the customers from the first screening left. Many of them walked down the line warning us not to see the film. They said just buy the issue of Playboy instead.

They were right. The film was awful. This was the first film I remember heckling from my seat. At one point, there was a shot of a fire. I shouted, "I hope that's the negative of this film!" Huge laugh from the standing room only crowd.

Why was the film so bad? The poster tells the whole story: It's called Tarzan, the Ape Man and you don't even see freaking Tarzan on it. Miles O'Keefe, who played Tarzan, is fourth billed. This was just a vanity piece for Bo Derek. And it showed. Then again, so did she, but that wasn't enough.


Directed by Jennifer Lynch
Screenplay by Jennifer Lynch
Story by Philippe Caland

Remember when David Lynch was hot? Remember Blue VelvetWild At Heart and the television series Twin Peaks? He was so freaking hot that someone even let his daughter make a movie about a deranged surgeon who removes the limbs of a sexy woman he is obsessed with to hold her prisoner. Kim Bassinger was originally slated to star. She backed out and was successfully sued for eight million dollars. Trust me, it was eight million dollars very well spent.

Before I say anything more, I want to apologize to the opening night crowd at the Rotunda Theater in Baltimore where I saw the film. I was reasonably engaged at first, but I lost it completely in the third act when they revealed Sherilyn Fenn without her limbs. I found the image so absurd that I burst out into hysterical laughter. I know I was supposed to be horrified, but come on....

I mean, look at her:

Really? Was I supposed to take that seriously? The only way I could stop laughing was by closing my eyes and holding my hands over my mouth. Unfortunately, my laughter would begin anew every time I opened my eyes and looked at the screen again. At first my companions were mortified by my behavior. Soon, however, they joined me, as did most of the audience.

Here's the trailer:


I guess I found all of the laughs missing from Oh God! Book II...

Written & Directed by Meir Zarchi

My native Maryland was the last state to have a censor board. When it was finally abolished, I got a call from an old friend Bob Burgess. He said we had to go to the drive-in and see a film that the censor board had kept out of the state. That film: I Spit On Your Grave.

I love horror movies. Every kind of horror movie. Except torture porn. That's what this was. The first half of the film shows a woman being raped repeatedly by a group of men. The action is made even more disgusting by the prurient and drooling perspective of the filmmaker. The second half of the film consists of the woman taking extremely gruesome revenge on the men. I guess that's suppose to be female empowerment.

This film is reprehensible. I agree with Roger Ebert's review. He said everyone who sees this film should be followed home by the police.


So much for the films you might've seen. Here's ones you really have to search out.

Directed by Stephen Gibson
Screenplay by Mark Thunderbuns & Ann Onymous
Based on the novel (really?) by Felicia Bourdeaux

I am a huge 3-D fan. I'll see anything in 3-D. When I heard that our local arthouse, The Charles Theater, was playing this film I called my friend Bob Burgess to join me. He was wary, he thought certain private fluids would be flying at us in three dimensions. I told him not to worry. This was a Emmanuelle movie.

French actress Sylvia Kristel played a sexually curious character named Emmanuelle in a series of soft core films which were a staple of late-night programming on cable television and, if you lived in Baltimore, Super TV. They were classy stuff for the genre. You know, boobs and butts in beautiful locations.

Well, it only took a few minutes to realize this was no Sylvia Kristel movie. It was the kind of movie where private fluids would indeed fly at you. Not even my love for 3-D could keep me in my seat for long.

I could not find a trailer for this film, but here is an online review with clips:


Directed by John Corso & Joseph Ryan Zwick
Writers Unknown

Aliens take the place of wrestlers and actually kill their opponents in the ring while the frenzied crowd goes wild in this sci-fi, horror comedy.

Bet you never saw this film. And, if you haven't, I doubt you'll ever get your chance. I don't know whether it is "lost" or simply buried away -- hopefully somewhere very deep.

The film was produced by convicted swindler Santo Rigatuso, aka Bob Harris, who sold gold-plated jewelry under the name of Santo Gold through tacky commercials on over 100 television stations throughout the country. He also ran a credit card company. He made millions. Unfortunately, everything he ever did was a scam or a fraud. Including this movie.

The film was shot in my native Baltimore and was notorious long before its eventual release. Filming a motion picture in a major civic arena with thousands of extras can be very expensive. Unless you're Santo Rigatuso. He turned the shoot into a profit center. He charged the extras to attend, promising them the most exciting and gruesome wrestling ever seen. Unfortunately, the paying extras soon discovered that film shoots are incredibly boring. I heard the crowd grew incredibly irate.

Needless to say, after hearing those stories, I couldn't resist rushing to the Patterson theater to see the film. I thought it would be bad, and it didn't disappoint. It was jaw-droppingly horrible. Sadly, I had to leave after about twenty. I went with a couple of friends and they couldn't take it anymore, and, since one of them drove, I had to leave with them.

Santo Rigatuso went to prison for some of his crimes, but, strangely, not for this film. The judge must not have seen it.

There is no trailer. Here's some clips:


It's hard to believe that I would actually pay to see a worse film than Blood Circus, but I did. Here it is....

1. AX'EM 1992
Written & Directed by Michael Mfume

Normally, I wouldn't pick on a low-budget, amateur project like this film. It's definitely punching down, but, hey, I paid to see it at the movies so I deserve a little payback.

This film got a lot of press when it was released in Baltimore. The filmmaker, Michael Mfume, was the son of United States Congressman Kweisi Mfume. The Sunpapers wrote a big story about the film on 22 March 1991 under the headline: "Mfume's son plunges into the world of horror." No, Mfume's son made a horror film. The audience experienced the horror.

I saw the film, when it was still entitled The Weekend It Lives, at the Westview Cinemas. I didn't go to mock. I genuinely went to support a fellow Baltimore filmmaker. However, nothing could prepare me for the complete and utter ineptness of the production. You had to see it to believe it. I didn't walk out, although the majority of the other patrons did. The usher seemed surprised when I was still there at the end. I asked him how the film was doing. He said, "Not good. Everyone expects a real movie." That about summed it up.

The film should have been allowed to die a peaceful death, but, no, it got released a decade later on DVD. It subsequently earned the well-deserved reputation of being one of the worst films ever made. I believe, at least for a time, Ax'em was the lowest ranked film on the IMBD. That is an accomplishment.

Here's the whole film for your viewing pleasure:


Honorable Mention:

The Happening, 2008. I gave up on M. Night Shyamalan and his increasingly absurd trick endings after The Village. I went to his later features to laugh. This one did not disappoint. Milk Money, 1994. In this film a group of suburban twelve-year-old boys hide Melanie Griffin, a prostitute with a heart of gold on the run for her life, in their tree house. How sweet...  Rent-A-Cop, 1988. Liza Minelli is another prostitute with a heart of gold who hires Burt Reynolds to protect her. Prostitution has never been kookier, or love more predictable! Doctor Detroit, 1983. I actually found this Dan Aykroyd vehicle worse than Nothing But Trouble. Aykroyd is a very talented man, but he's a supporting actor not a lead.  Exit To Eden, 1994. This supposedly kinky comedy is another Dan Aykroyd film, but this time they put Rosie O'Donnell in a dominatrix outfit too. That's enough to send anyone running for the exit. Batman & Robin, 1997. The Tim Burton Batman films had their charms, but the Joel Schumacher ones stunk. This one worst of all. And, speaking of Batman, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, 2016. I'm not as enamored of superhero movies as the general moviegoing public, but I like good ones. This one wasn't. When you're ninety minutes into a picture and they're still setting up characters THAT EVERYONE ALREADY KNOWS, it's time to go home. A rare 21st Century walk out for me. Jack, 1999. A weird disease ages a 10-year-old boy into Robin Williams in this mawkish comedy that never finds the right tone. This film would have never made this list if it hadn't been directed by the great Francis Ford Coppola. Man, he must've really needed some money. Battlefield Earth, 2000, is based on a L. Ron Hubbard novel and stars John Travolta. There's no need for you to see it unless you're trying to reach Operating Thetan. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, 1992, was written by the late, great Blake Snyder. Blake is the author of the book Save The Cat, the current Bible of screenwriting. I recently tried to watch the film again. Surely, I was missing something. I wasn't.

Here are my other lists:

My novel Chapel Street is now available! You can currently buy the Kindle and paperback at Amazon and the Nook, paperback and hardcover at Barnes & Noble.

Learn more about the book, click Here.

Watch the book trailer:


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