Sunday, August 18, 2019

Top Ten Anniversary: Guilty Pleasure Movies

Top Ten Guilty Pleasure Movies

As I've noted more than once over the years, "Bad Movies We Love" are actually among my favorite kind! I absolutely recognize the artistry and quality behind a number of great films, but the unintentionally rotten ones are usually far more entertaining to me personally. Continuing with our ten-year anniversary series of Top Ten lists, I now give you - in alphabetical order - my guiltiest of guilty pleasures when it comes to the cinema! Let's roll 'em...!
BEYOND THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1979) -- The Poseidon Adventure (1972) won my heart and enthralled me for all time when I saw it on TV for the first time in 1975. Clearly, the impact was profound if you've ever taken notice of the name of this blog! It's belated (and wholly unnecessary) sequel was so indescribably hackneyed and rotten it sank like a stone at the box office before I had ever even known of its existence. Nevertheless, like a poor wounded animal, I cannot help but feel for it in spite of its pronounced awfulness. I love almost anything with people versus water and the all-star cast calls me hither, especially dewy Veronica Hamel and the elegant Shirley Knight, who offers the same sort of graciously detached regality that Faye Dunaway had in The Towering Inferno (1974.) Problem is, Shirl is locked in a total dud of a film with Jack Warden scarcely comparing to the hot Paul Newman of TTI! You can read a lot more about this movie by clicking on the title and perusing its tribute here.
COLOR OF NIGHT (1994) -- Though I rarely mention it, this is one of my very, very favorite terrible movies. It's gorgeous to look at, is brimming over with all sorts of phallic imagery, contains a fascinating supporting cast (including a hysterical bit from the aforementioned Shirley Knight!) and is so bizarrely bent from frame one that its awfulness is unlikely to ever be duplicated! Reviled by critics and basically ignored by audiences, it slammed the lid on eclectic director Richard Rush's career and came perilously close to derailing Bruce Willis'. Infamous for the moment when he gets naked except for his sneakers in a pool with (always barely-dressed) Jane March, exposing the head of his penis, that's only one of several times he and March engage in crazed sex scenes. (And depending on the framing, widescreen or cropped for TV, he has additional nudity as well.) The movie operates at a fever-pitch, despite its length, and has at its core a truly lunatic plot "twist" that is obvious from the first few moments the groundwork is laid.
DINAH EAST (1970) - Completely unknown to me until the excellent blog Dreams Are What Le Cinema Is For profiled it to perfection, I knew I had to have a copy of it and made it happen post haste. Imagine my reaction when I watched the DVD and every male star in the movie proceeded to get completely naked one after another...! It's like the filmmakers spent their $16.98 budget doing everything they could to please me! LOL We need more movies like this, not that anyone today could really grasp that unmistakable verisimilitude that could only come with an earnest desire to be great mixed with only enough money to cover one decent dinner for ten. The movie is aggressively bad, but every participant's heart is in the right place. I utterly adore it.
DIE! DIE! MY DARLING (1965) -- I have been a diehard fan of all "hag horror" films since the day my mother introduced me to What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) one afternoon on TV. It kicked off an absolute slew of imitators and wannabes. This one is so terrific because legendary (and legendarily outrageous) stage actress Tallulah Bankhead not only plays against type as a dour, dowdy religious fanatic, but also gives every waking moment of her screen time 110% even though she was frail, sickly and approaching death within a few years! Her target is a young, pert Stefanie Powers, but there are other great performers such as Peter Vaughn, Yootha Joyce and Donald Sutherland as a special needs handyman. It's campy to start with, but the hooty music score puts it over the top even further. Most of all, it's unforgettably vivid and fun to take in.
HURRY SUNDOWN (1967) -- Another notorious howler is this southern-fried drama of racial tension from taskmaster Otto Preminger, who loved pushing the cinematic envelope when it came to hot-button subject matter. A dream cast of actors is saddled with some of the most jaw-dropping dialogue and situations, not the least of which is Jane Fonda getting on her knees and trying to blow Michael Caine's saxophone between his legs. Again, everyone seems to be trying his or her best, and some of the performances are indeed earnest, but the overall effect is one of startled disbelief at what is unfolding before one's eyes.
LADY CHATTERLEY'S LOVER (1981) -- For people of a certain age (around in cable TV's primary hey-day), there are movies we saw over and over that now seem to have receded from view. This is one that I could never, ever forget. Once glimpse of Nicholas Clay soaping up and hand-washing his beefy body, completely naked, was all I needed to make sure I was in front of the set, with no other pesky people around, for the first half-hour at least every time this flick was on! It's considered a low-rung, exploitative adaptation of the famed D.H. Lawrence, but I couldn't care less. Sylvia Kristel cannot act, but she knew how to play sexy and there aren't enough words for Clay, who also made an impression in Evil Under the Sun and Excalibur (both 1981.)
LOST HORIZON (1973) -- This was one of those bucket-list movies I figured I'd never see, especially in its original length with the infamous fertility dance intact. Thankfully, sometimes the universe is kind to the patient. I had been listening to a soundtrack cassette (!) from the film, purchased for $0.50, when one day in 1998 AMC ran it even though the description was for the original 1937 rendition and I was able to tape it. Later came a DVD with all the squalor included! This is one HOT MESS of a musical, brimming with stars who have no business singing (or pretending to be) and despite top names in every category, a creative fiasco. Bad movies are great, but bad musicals are a scream!
MAME (1974) -- I saw the stage musical Mame before I ever got the "chance" to see the film adaptation and I loved it. Like Lost Horizon, even though there are highly accomplished people involved in most areas of the film, it is a resounding dud much of the time, mostly because its star, Lucille Ball, was a little too old and a lot too vocally challenged to pull off the demanding role (which screamed out for verve, flair and exuberance.) Even the always reliable Bea Arthur is partially hamstrung, though she does provide a few deliciously funny moments. There are many terrific character people doing their best along the way in support (though Jane Connell knew herself that she was far too aged to still play her part effectively.) The lively songs are beaten up and defaced yet, even with Lucy, the title number is an eye-popper. 
THE CARETAKERS (1963) -- Progressive mental health is the subject of this disjointed drama which is punctuated by strreeennnuous overacting by several people, including Polly Bergen (who likes to tear her clothes apart) and Janis Paige (who makes the word manic seem sedate in comparison!) Then there are other performances more than a bit staid, such as from Robert Stack and the disinclined Diane McBain. However, on hand to make this dreary picture unforgettable is the silver-haired, dragon-like head of nurses played by Miss Joan Crawford. She (and her right-hand woman Constance Ford) are a hoot as severe overseers who don't believe in newfangled ways. One highlight is watching Crawford conduct a self-defense judo course to her new hires! Ahh... the likes of this (and her) will never be seen again...
WHERE LOVE HAS GONE (1964) -- A lurid soap opera (adapted from a novel inspired by Lana Turner and the death of her lover at the hands of her teenage daughter) is given incredibly glossy and tame treatment. But that's the way we like things! I don't want kitchen sink drama. I want a grand staircase, bouffant hair and gowns by Edith Head. Throw in, too, a velvety Jack Jones sung theme song over the opening credits. Some folks have snickered that Bette Davis (as Susan Hayward's mother) resembled George Washington, but I love her silvery, uptown look. You can keep yer Apple Annie...!
My list of favorite guilty pleasures goes far, far beyond ten! Some that aren't mentioned here are omitted simply because the film in question turns up for some reason in another Top Ten list. But these ten represented a pretty good cross-section of where my dubious taste in movies lies! Ha ha!


A (very) rare happy moment for Diahann Carroll, Jane Fonda and Faye Dunaway while on location for Hurry Sundown. The shoot was plagued by ill will from many local townspeople in the various southern cities in which it was shot and Preminger reportedly often took several of the less-powerful actors and crew to task, sometimes viciously.
A dazzling shot of Miss Joan about to set foot on the set for her judo instruction scene in The Caretakers. 5'3" she may have been, but she towered on screen!
The End!


A said...

Hi Poseidon, I'm loving this 10 Year celebration series. What a treat! I especially want to see Color of Night and Dinah East. I wish you had your own cable channel where we could see these.

normadesmond said...

I adored "Hurry Sundown" as a kid.
I also recall seeing the photo of Bruce's head somewhere.

There's a poster for "Die, Die My Darling" on my den wall.

hsc said...

Another great list! The book "Bad Movies We Love" is literally bedside at all times for an occasional re-read.

I'm sorry to admit I've only seen four of your ten-- DIE! DIE, MY DARLING! and MAME on TV, but actually paid money to see LOST HORIZON and LADY CHATTERLY'S LOVER in the theater. And I've caught bits of the others on TV through the years, but not a full viewing.

Bruce Willis' frontal nudity in THE COLOR OF NIGHT was much talked-up before release, largely by Willis himself. The movie got trimmed to avoid an NC-17 just before release, and both the director and Willis complained. There are/were framecaps on the internet that purport to show what was cut.

Huttonmy710 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan said...

I've not heard of many of these, have seen bits and pieces of a few, the only one I've seen from beginning to end is 'Mame', and that, for the first time, at Radio City Music Hall. It was, I believe, one of the last movies to play there before the hall went exclusively to live performances.
Ms Ball is totally out of her comfort zone, but 'Mame' fascinates me for its production design, about the best of any movie I've seen. I really admire its attention to period detail, especially in the evolution of the costumes (surely that red dress near the end was inspired by Charles James) and the townhouse decor over the years. There are so many subtle touches, like the push button light controls and the artwork that evokes real pieces by Braque, Mondrian, Hepworth, Tanquy, Klimt, Mackintosh. The only anachronism I've spotted is an untimely reference to Rhett Butler.

There seems to have been a vogue in the late 50's, early 60's for movies dealing with mental health care. 'The Caretakers' came out about the same time as 'A Child is Waiting' with Judy Garland and Burt Lancaster, and a few years after the all-star debacle 'The Cobweb', in which the choice of drapes for the office drives everyone to the brink of insanity. It is like watching an extended 'Carol Burnett' parody.

I have an edition of 'Lady Chatterley' labeled 'unexpurgated and not for sale in Great Britain or the United States'. It is shelved next to my Shirley Temple edition of 'The Little Colonel', illustrated with scenes from the movie. They seem to balance each other out.

'Dinah East' sounds marvelous, a real double dip mint chip kind of movie. Will I ever have the chance to wallow in it?

I have had a few chances to see 'Lost Horizon' but have never been able to make it all the way through. I just get so embarrassed for everyone involved I have to turn away in sympathy.

Gingerguy said...

The top 10 thrills continue! Because of this blog I bought the book recently "Bad Movies We Love" and it will be a source of much pleasure in years ahead as I track down the ones I haven't already seen. I am SO glad you listed "The Color Of Night" from the first moments with the lipstick tube, I knew I was in for a crazy ride. Absolutely bonkers.
I pretty much loved Dinah except when she gets treated rough (on a patio I believe?) and the necrophiliac mortician-but that's just me.
I have yet to see Hurry Sundown, will keep an eye out on TCM, Faye looks fab in that group shot.
Joan's Judo scene is pretty fabulous, and great point about her height. I always thought she was tall. What a movie star.
Where Love Has Gone has a favorite line in it "you're not a woman, you're a disease" words to live by. Joey before iconic haircut is cute but doesn't stand out. I love Bette's dowager look here too, she is probably 10 years older than her daughter Susan Hayward. Fabulous list Poseidon.

Poseidon3 said...

A, I'm so glad you are enjoying these! You are sweet to say I need my own channel. I'm no egomaniac like Oprah, though. LOL I'll just take a weekly show. Ha ha ha!! I doubt that the movies you mention will disappoint when you see them!

normadesmond, It took me FOREVER to get to see "Sundown." It was a movie I figured I'd never see. But then I finally did. It's not aired much now thanks to some of the language and situations. As for Brucie... in the widescreen print, he's cut off above the pelvis when dressing by a shower, but in the more square cropped version, there was brief frontal! This is apart from his pool peek-a-boo. Ha!

hsc, I've used "Bad Movies" as a map to all things hideous and have very rarely been let down! The authors' sensibility is so close to mine, though I tend to be more forgiving of some things because I truly buy in and become engrossed in the stories, even the over-the-top ones...

Dan, "Mame" has a glorious look to it. And most of Ball's costumes are wonderful (though I don't like the snowball one in the picture above.) That's neat about the production design and art. Thank you ! I remember "The Cobweb." Crazed storyline (and a great cast.) "Dinah East" became an instant favorite just a short while in... and you are right that "Lost Horizon" is embarrassing, but I cannot resist it's car-wreckiness.

Gingerguy, I felt the same way about the opening of "Color of Night!" The deal was sealed when Lesley Ann Warren was doing her thing and then of course the SCREAMINGLY FUNNY Shirley Knight sequence. I recall the writers in BMWL referencing Bette Davis complaining that, "Somewhere along the line the world lost all its taste" while sitting in the ugliest chair in Hollywood!!! Ha ha ha ha!!!!

Forever1267 said...

Make sure you get the DIRECTOR'S CUT of "Color of Night". And don't spoil yourself with the plot. It won't make any sense anyway.

Great choices, and more great recommendations. So much fun trash!

Poseidon3 said...

Forever1267, yes! I always got director's cuts of any movie from that era that was unrated, which, for a time, was a "thing." :-)

Alan Scott said...

I'm enjoying your Top Ten list, Poseidon! But "Beyond the Poseidon Adventure" was just so bad, it was painful. I saw it in the theater when it came out and found it excruciating.

But I will have to admit that one of my top guilty pleasure movies is "Cutthroat Island". Let the booing begin.

Poseidon3 said...

Alan, I'm sure seeing BTPA in the theater was a numbing experience, full of let-down. By the time I saw it, I already knew it had to be terrible, so there was no anticipation! LOL I have never tried "Cutthroart Island." I have a bit of an aversion to Geena Davis (which began about that time) and I just could never quite accept Matthew Modine and her as a proposed couple. Maybe someday if I ever see it airing again...

Unknown said...

I will never watch Cutthroat Island because Geena Davis got Oliver Reed kicked off the production because he showed her the tattoo he had on his plonker.