Monday, June 3, 2013

Book – 150 Movies You Should Die Before You See

No, that title is not a typo.  It is having fun with the 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die books.  The title appears on the cover as “150 Movies You Should See” then has the little insert here sign poking up between “Should” and “See” with the words “Die Before You” written below it.  It then has a circle that says “Includes such classics as: The Evil Bong, Monster a Go-Go!, and Cadaverella”.  This 2010 book is written by Steve Miller (not the musician) in an entertaining, fun, and very knowledgeable way.

Miller starts out by saying that he’s one of the people who enjoys watching movies that most people would consider bad.  He does this because they can be entertaining in a “so bad it’s good” way.  He writes that even he has trouble finding anything to like about some films, though.  He cautions that he is not trashing movies in this book; that in fact some of his favorite films of all time are in it.  He is doing the book more to have fun with these films than anything else.

The layout of each movie’s entry is done to be both informative and entertaining.  Each starts with the title, production company, year, producers, director, writers, and main cast.  He then has a brief overview of what the movie is about, followed by a section titled “Why It Sucks”.  He then gives a Thumbs Down rating from 1 to 5 thumbs (5 being worst).  The next section is “The Crappies” where he gives out humorous awards to the makers of the film.  “They Really Said It” contains a usually humorous for how bad it is quote from the film.  A “Betcha Didn’t Know” section follows with a couple items of real trivia about the film or participants.  Finally, he has a “Trivia Quiz” that provides some additional info.  There are also some movie posters shown, although not for every film.

Miller divides the 150 films into fifteen chapters, with differing amounts of entries in each one.  He has fun with the categories.  They are:

  1. Exhibits in the Bad Movie Museum – these are the ones most people would select if you asked them to name bad movies (i.e. Battlefield Earth)
  2. Big Budget Bombs – what you would expect (i.e. Heaven’s Gate, Howard the Duck)
  3. Creaky Classics – just because a movie is old, doesn’t mean it’s good (i.e. Creature from the Black Lagoon)
  4. Freaky Families – what you would expect (i.e. Amityville Dollhouse)
  5. Gory, Gorier, Goriest – movies that try to distract you from the fact that they are terrible by throwing lots of gore at the screen (i.e. Cannibal Holocaust)
  6. Happy Holidays! – holidays make film studios want to make a movie (i.e. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians)
  7. Inauspicious Beginnings – movies that later-famous directors and stars would like you to forget (i.e. Kiss Daddy Goodnight)
  8. It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time – big names, decent concept, terrible result (i.e. Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever, Batman & Robin)
  9. Kinda-Sorta Based on the Book – movies that are so far removed from the source material that you wonder why they even reference it (i.e. Moonraker)
  10. Monstrous Monster Movies – monsters so pathetic you laugh, or characters so unlikable that you hope the monster wins (i.e. Attack of the Giant Leeches – both the 1959 original and the 2008 remake)
  11. Mysteries of the Orient – maybe it’s the cultural difference or maybe it’s bad dubbing, but these movies make no sense whatsoever (i.e. Ninja Champion)
  12. Independent Oddities – just because a movie is from independent filmmakers doesn’t mean it’s good (i.e. Satanic Yuppies)
  13. Strange Superheroes – what you would expect (i.e. Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD)
  14. Awful Aliens – what you would expect (i.e. Killer Klowns from Outer Space)
  15. Test Your Stamina – movies so bad even Steve Miller had trouble finishing them (i.e. Freddy Got Fingered)

Like any other list of movies, you can debate what is and isn’t in the book.  The usual suspects like Plan 9 from Outer Space, Ishtar, and others are to be found in here.  Surprisingly, Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966), The Room (2003), Alien from L.A. (1988), The Avengers (1998), Kickboxing Academy (1997), Leonard Part 6 (1987), and several others I could name are not in it.

I disagree with some of the ones he included.  For instance, I liked Kung Fu Hustle quite a bit.  He has it in his Mysteries of the Orient chapter because the pop culture references don’t translate well.  I also liked Moonraker.  He includes it because it bears no resemblance to the Fleming novel it was based on.  In both cases he gives them only one thumb down and even points out that each is entertaining.

For those 1,001 Movies folks who may be wondering: yes, there are a couple of entries common to both books.  1934’s The Black Cat is in the Kinda-Sorta Based on the Book chapter and Suspiria is in the Gory, Gorier, Goriest chapter.  There is also an entry in Creaky Classics titled Zombies on Broadway that is a spoof of the 1,001 Movies entry I Walked with a Zombie – right down to having Darby Jones and Sir Lancelot playing the exact same roles in both films.

This book will certainly have films that you have probably not heard about in it.  I can almost guarantee you that you will have seen some of the films in it, though.  In the interest of full confessions I did a count and I have seen a total of 25 of the 150 movies.  While I did watch some of them to find out if they were really as bad as people said they were (i.e. Ishtar, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians) I can’t say that about all of them.  I did rent some of them hoping for a good time (and for some I did have one.)

As much fun as it is to read about the movies I knew, it was even more fun finding out about movies like Monsturd, Creature with the Atom Brain, Trapped by Television, Die Hard Dracula, Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave, Werewolf in a Girl’s Dormitory, Suburban Sasquatch, and Rockabilly Vampire.

This isn’t the sort of book you pick up in order to find out what films to watch (unless you like really bad movies.)  I won’t be checking entries off in this one as I see them.  This is the kind of book you read if you like having fun with movies, like learning about things you do not know, and like sharing that fun with others, maybe by renting one of these entries and watching it as a group.

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  1. Kung Fu Hustle belongs nowhere near this list! That's a fantastic film--I've even used it for an intro to film class's final exam.

    Is it possible the author just needed another film to round out the category? I want to find this book and see a) how many of these I've seen and b) how many I've seen specifically because of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

    1. Steve, it's possible. He doesn't really say anything bad about the movie in the book. Here's what he's got in the "Why it sucks" section:

      "It has the feel of an old Shaw Brothers martial arts flick crossed with a Warner Brothers cartoon. Like all of writer/director/actor Stephen Chow's pictures, it leans heavily on Chinese pop culture references for its humor. The silliness translates to an international audience, but many of the actual jokes do not. Still, if you enjoy over the top action scenes, this might be for you."

      I've got links at the base of the post where you can get the book. You can buy it used for less than a buck.

  2. That title made me do a double take and sounds brilliant. I agree with SJHoneywell though, Kung Fu Hustle is one of my favorite martial arts movies.

    1. Seeing the title of the book in the store made me do a second look, too, and it's why I picked it up. See what the book had to say about Kung Fu Hustle in the response above.

  3. What an interesting twist, but I don't know about watching some of those titles. Bad is bad...even in the original 1001 book.

    1. I'm not planning to see any of the films I have not yet seen. That's why I haven't created a tracking sheet from it, unlike just about every other movie lists book I've picked up. What I was thinking is that some people might like to get together and as a joke watch one of these films purely for the purpose of making fun of it as it plays. Attack of the Giant Leeches (the original one), for instance, is described as simply having men in plastic trash bags playing the leeches.

  4. Sounds like a fun read, although I have to agree that Kung Fu Hustle doesn't belong here. I guess it just proves the old saying that one man's trash is another man's treasure. While it isn't exactly high art, Creature From the Black Lagoon seems out of place here, as well. I'm not ashamed to admit that I enjoyed Killer Klowns from Outer Space, too, but hey, that's just me.

    1. He doesn't necessarily dislike all the movies in his book; he just can point out areas where they come up short.

      He included Creature from the Black Lagoon because in the movie you want the creature to win because the "scientists" are so damn bloodthirsty and unlikable. I agree with him; I wanted the creature to win, too. I haven't seen Killer Klowns.