Quiet Desperation

Enjoy the journey on a search for the worst

Column by Craig Marshall Smith
Posted 2/16/21

Recently, Turner Classic Movies showed what many consider the worst movie ever made. “Plan 9 from Outer Space,” directed by Edward D. Wood Jr., and starring Bela Lugosi who died during …

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Quiet Desperation

Enjoy the journey on a search for the worst

Posted

Recently, Turner Classic Movies showed what many consider the worst movie ever made.

“Plan 9 from Outer Space,” directed by Edward D. Wood Jr., and starring Bela Lugosi who died during production.

Lugosi’s place was taken by Wood’s wife’s chiropractor who concealed his face with a cape.

Get the idea?

Pilots in the cockpit of an airplane are seated in lawn chairs. Behind them is a shower curtain that separates them from the passengers.

Low budget.

The film is so bad it’s good.

I own it.

“Ed Wood,” an excellent Tim Burton biopic about the director, starring Johnny Depp and Martin Landau, was released in 1994. Landau, as Lugosi, won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Is “Plan 9 from Outer Space” the worst film ever made? It’s close, but there are many to choose from.

Anything with Liza Minnelli in it. And her mother in “Meet Me in St. Louis,” singing the “Trolley Song,” is good for a few nightmares.

There’s one on my list that might surprise you: Billy Wilder’s “Some Like it Hot.” Notoriously, it required Marilyn Monroe 47 takes to read “It’s me, Sugar,” correctly.

“Plan 9 from Outer Space” is narrated by Criswell who was known for “wildly inaccurate predictions,” often appearing on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson.

Carson, in fact, developed a character based on Criswell and his loony predictions.

The film is a hodgepodge of continuity errors, low production values, and unrelated stock footage inserted at odd times.

It got me thinking about the worst television shows ever. Again, there are plenty to choose from, including everything that has a laugh track. Everything, including “M*A*S*H” and “Friends.”

Don’t make me watch “Friends” and I will be your friend.

“My Mother the Car” is right up there. It starred Jerry Van Dyke and a 1928 Porter touring car that, it’s learned, is his mother reincarnated.

“Reincarnated.” Get it?

The car talks to Van Dyke (it’s actress’s Ann Sothern’s voice) and tells him what to do.

My one and only lunch box featured a character on a show I watched long before I knew what “production values” meant.

“Captain Video.”

“Captain Video and His Video Rangers” aired between 1949 and 1955; there were an estimated 1,537 episodes.

How bad? To save money, each episode was “interrupted” for about ten minutes with old cowboy movies. The cowboys were Captain Video’s “undercover agents on Earth.”

During live broadcasts, actors often had to turn away from the camera so they wouldn’t be seen laughing about the script or the prop miscues.

The show’s prop budget was twenty-five dollars a week.

What did I know? I believed in Captain Video and I believed in Howdy Doody.

The program gets mentioned in a better Billy Wilder-Marilyn Monroe film, “The Seven Year Itch,” that also starred Tom Ewell as Richard Sherman.

Sherman’s son Ricky is shown wearing a space suit in one of the opening scenes.

When television was new it was a threat to filmmakers.

Outrageous films were made in the 1950s in an attempt to lure audiences back into theaters.

That’s when most of the best of the worst movies, often featuring horrific monsters, were made, including “The Creature from the Black Lagoon,” the movie Sherman and “The Girl” go to in “The Seven Year Itch.”

What are your worsts?

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.

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