Without question, the worst movie I have ever seen -- the worst, I say -- is Frankenstein Island, which was released in 1981 but is so psychedelically awful that it comes across as if made in 1953…in Romania. Here is a seven-minute highlights compilation that does a pretty good job of capturing the horror.
Generally speaking, I think one gets past the age where it seems worthwhile to marvel/laugh at terrible films, but Frankenstein Island is truly jaw-dropping. Worse by far than Plan Nine from Outer Space, Frankenstein Island's every second of footage seems to contain some flagrant error of aesthetic judgment so astonishing as to make it barely believable that the whole thing's not a joke -- yet it's too humorless to be so easily explained. Simply mind-boggling.
By contrast, the more ambitious failures that were the Star Wars prequels have had the salutary side effect not merely of making me appreciate the 70s/80s ones more -- but even more so of making me appreciate Lucas's genuinely brainy and artful pre-Star Wars film THX 1138 more. Take this ninety-second scene, for example. I'd rather watch that a hundred times than see a Gungan ever again.
And here are trailers for films coming out in the next few months that inspire some hope:
17th Green Lantern
JULY (five geek films!):
1st Transformers: Dark of the Moon
15th the final Harry Potter
20th Another Earth
22nd Captain America
29th Cowboys and Aliens
5th Rise of the Planet of the Apes (they only recently decided to add the official "Planet of the" phrase to the title, which I will take as a sign that they have concluded this thing has franchise potential -- looks cool to me, and it amuses me that the official movie site's URL is ApesWillRise.com).
This may be the nerdiest thought of my entire "Month of Heroes," but it's true nonetheless: They could in theory remake all five Planet of the Apes movies (this one being a remake of #4) and simply go 4, 5, 1, 2, 3 this time, since that would actually put them in chronological order (in terms of the point in Earth's history when they occur, aside from 3 looping back to the present). That would be like performing a reverse-George-Lucas maneuver and rendering a series straightforwardly-chronological that used to involve some time-hopping prequel gymnastics (not that I really expect or want them to be so faithful).
And on that bioengineered note, let's a do a "Month of Animals" for May. But first:
Five Concluding Notes for the "Month of Heroes"
1. The movie They Live, coincidentally cited in my Book Selections entry for April, is apparently being remade.
2. Say goodbye to Sarah Douglas playing Ursa (a tough-dame Superman character I liked in Superman II) and say hello to German actress Antje Traue, who's playing the roughly-analogous (brutally-analogous?) character Faora in next year's Superman movie. Ja, und German.
3. After the summer swath above, November brings Ralph Fiennes' modern-warfare version of Coriolanus and…remember Tarsem Singh who did the R.E.M. video "Losing My Religion" and the visually stunning movie The Fall? Well, for good or ill, he's teaming up with the producers of 300 in November, with the combination looking more or less like Clash of the Titans (the actual sequel to which comes out a few months later): Immortals. We'll see.
4. On a similar note, here's an advance peek, at long last, at the cover of Grant Morrison's non-fiction book about superheroes as modern mythology, out in July.
5. And I'll have a note about the future of one set of heroes who helped inspire this month's hero-themed blog entries -- the characters of Atlas Shrugged -- on Monday, the same day the Ayn Rand Institute co-hosts a debate here in NYC about the morality of capitalism.
THX 1138 is awesome, and that scene you link to is important as a part of the ongoing dialog of “more reasons the Star Wars prequels suck” One of the criticisms is that the SW prequels are filmed in smallish rooms with green screens, which leads to scenes where the characters are in a huge area, and the dialog consists of something with the meaning of, “We have to hurry, because it is absolutely urgent that we get to our next destination as soon as possible” yet the characters will begin to slow down as they get to that point instead of speeding up or starting to run, because in reality, the actors were trying to finish the dialog before they walked into a wall.
In that clip, we see that there really are no excuses – that scene was pure green screen (or white screen) with no special effects, yet it was visually interesting, if incomprehensible. It used the setting well (and shows that Lucas can actually make effective use of limited space) Just as certain materials suggest different architectural uses, certain filming settings suggest different directorial approaches!
It’s nice to be able to compare Lucas to himself when criticizing him, lest anyone defend him as having done his best. But in reality, even the Wizard of Oz lets you think they’re outside, even though the painted background is obvious, because the director fades out before the actors come close enough to the wall to slow down. Lucas has no excuses. He either could have used the smaller area differently as he had done before, or simply followed the Oz director’s lead.
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